Washington, D.C. -- Senator Mike Enzi chided opponents for their delay of an important piece of legal reform legislation designed to protect volunteers from frivolous lawsuits.
Enzi said this legislation, the Volunteer Protection Act, is a positive step toward revitalizing volunteerism in America, one of the root principles on which our country is based.
"I'm a cosponsor of this bill because it will protect one of the democratic bulwarks of our government," said Enzi. "I know Wyoming sent a delegation to the recent volunteer summit in Philadelphia, an event designed to energize volunteers across the nation. The conference was part of the effort undertaken to gain back some of the momentum that our forefathers had in the area of volunteerism. This legislation is also part of the movement to awaken volunteerism."
He said fear is a driving force behind the dwindling number of volunteers in our communities.
" I volunteered for 10 years as a youth soccer coach. I'm not sure I would do that now because of the liability that comes along with it. One of the reasons the number of people willing to volunteer their time has been lessening is because Americans are afraid. They're afraid of getting slapped with a multimillion dollar lawsuit," said Enzi. "Service is the price that you pay for the space you take up on this earth. The service concept in this nation is the foundation that we have to continue to promote and our system of litigation is taking that away from us. The Volunteer Protection Act will help change that and restore service and volunteerism in this country."
The act would relieve a volunteer from liability if the volunteer is acting within the scope of his or her responsibility. It also limits the punitive damages that may be awarded against volunteers and nonprofit organizations for the actions of volunteers. It does not protect volunteers from liability for actions which are willful or criminal, or which involve gross negligence.
A delay in the vote
Enzi argued against the delay tactics opponents of the bill are using.
"I've had the opportunity to preside over the Senate more than any other senator and this week one opponent after another has paraded onto the floor to discuss matters absolutely unrelated to achieving meaningful legal protection for volunteers," he said. "Instead we've had a filibuster on a motion to proceed. This isn't even the bill itself. It's time to get serious about helping our nation's volunteers and this is not going to happen by wandering into these other sundry tangents."
Two cloture votes, or votes that would allow the Senate to proceed on the act, have failed. Another cloture vote is scheduled for tomorrow. Once a cloture is invoked, then Senators will debate the bill and can actually vote on the act itself.