House Judiciary Committee approves Speaker’s workers comp reform, 11-4
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Published: 10-Apr-2013

The Oklahoma House Judiciary Committee sent to the House floor Senate Bill 1062, a proposal to bring major changes to Oklahoma’s workers compensation system.

S.B. 1062 will convert the state’s workers compensation coverage to an administrative system. Oklahoma is one of the states still using a judicial system, and a frequent target of criticism from the business community. Insurance premiums in Oklahoma are comparatively expensive, and implementation of judgments often slow. 

Critics of S.B. 1062 say it will cost millions of dollars to shift the system toward an administrative structure; they also contend that reform enacted over the last years have not had time to go into effect.  House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, has made the legislation the focus of most of his discussions with reporters this session.

It’s time Oklahoma solves an old problem with a modern solution, said House Speaker T.W. Shannon, the author of S.B. 1062. “We need a strong system that protects workers and drives down costs, and I applaud my fellow legislators for taking on this massive effort.

The time for baby stepping our way to reform is over, said Rep. Leslie Osborn, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Oklahoma needs to take decisive action and S.B. 1062 does just that.

Under the administrative system proposed in SB 1062, workers compensation cases will be heard by an administrative judge, and cases will receive quick resolutions.

The old system neither benefited the worker nor the employer,” said Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City. “This new administrative system is designed to help workers get back on the job through therapy and vocational rehabilitation.

The current judicial system is a huge stumbling block for workers and businesses in Oklahoma, said Osborn, R- Mustang. Right now, Oklahoma has one of the highest work comp insurance rates in the nation because of its inefficiency.  Workers deserve a better process and businesses do not need to be scared away by overwhelming insurance costs.

The measure cleared Osborn’s panel on a vote of 11-4. S.B. 1062 now moves to the House floor.

On behalf of the State Chamber of Oklahoma, President Fred Morgan issued this statement to CapitolBeatOK:

"This is the most important piece of reform legislation to our state’s workers’ compensation system in more than two decades. Moving to an administrative system will help reduce out-of-control costs, while improving the process and experience within the system for the employer and employee alike.

Tens of thousands of businesses across Oklahoma are desperate for this legislation now. Negotiations are ongoing to ensure the bill passed by the House Judiciary Committee is improved upon and I am confident that lawmakers will answer the call of businesses and all Oklahomans who know our costly system is broken and hurting our state’s ability to compete economically. We are confident a meaningful reform bill will pass the House that is able to head to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk for signature as soon as possible. We cannot afford to wait."

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