The bill calling for a major overhaul of Oklahoma's workers' compensation system is going through a major rewrite, House Minority Leader Scott Inman said Thursday.
House Democrats last week raised constitutional questions about Senate Bill 1062. The bill was scheduled to be heard earlier this week by the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, but it was pulled from the agenda.
“I've spoken with several House Republicans, who will remain nameless, and asked about the progress of amendments to Senate Bill 1062, and they agreed — their owns words to me were there were multiple parts of the bill that were unconstitutional,” said Inman, D-Del City. “There were parts of the bill that completely ignored volunteer firefighters; there were parts of the bill that were onerous to people who were injured; and it's my understanding that they're going to try to make some of that better.”
Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, Judiciary Committee chairman, said earlier that SB 1062 was not heard because GOP legislative leaders were reviewing it “to make it a stronger system that protects workers and drives down costs for business.”
Changes to SB 1062 may be ready in time for next week's Judiciary Committee meeting, Inman said.
The advisory board that oversees the workers' compensation court criticized SB 1062 earlier this month and asked legislators to take another look. Board members called the legislation unworkable.
SB 1062 would replace the court-based system with an administrative one and would allow employers to opt out of the system and provide their own form of coverage.
Firefighters last week rallied against the bill because it would reduce benefits available to injured workers.
Inman said House Democrats would oppose an opt-out provision. A bill that would have allowed certain employers to opt out of the workers' compensation system failed last year in the House.
“Whatever savings you see may be reducing benefits, and moving to an administrative system on one side may be offset by allowing a large group of employers to be pulled out of the system, and thus mitigating whatever savings you might have in the workers' compensation bill,” he said. “My instincts tell me that if they separate the opt-out from the other parts of 1062, the other parts would pass easier. ... And I think the people who are really pushing the opt-out know that.”
Backers of SB 1062 have said the bill would bring system costs and compensation benefits in line with neighboring states, with savings derived by going to an administrative system instead of the present adversarial court system, which can lead to delays in cases.