A bill to improve Oklahoma's workers' compensation system by ditching the current broken system is nearing the finish line. Now it just needs to cross it.
Senate Bill 1062 by Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, gained easy passage in that chamber but has been undergoing revisions in the House, in order to address concerns raised by members of that body. Along the way, the bill's title was removed. This is a procedural step that could wind up waylaying the effort, because bills that are approved without their title are dispatched to conference committees — which is where, sometimes, legislation ultimately goes to be gutted or dismissed altogether.
Tuesday is the deadline for the House Judiciary Committee to approve the bill and send it on for a future vote by the full House. It's vital that the bill's title be restored, so that once the bill is approved (a virtual certainty in the Republican-controlled House), it can be sent back to the Senate for consideration of House amendments.
The last place this bill needs to go is to a conference committee. Oklahoma has for years needed sweeping changes to the workers' comp system. This bill would provide them by getting rid of the expensive, adversarial court-based system and replacing it with an administrative system.
The bill would reduce the system's costs, which now are the sixth-highest in the country and far higher than our neighboring states, while providing for injured workers. Oklahoma remains one of the few states that don't use an administrative system; it's long past time we turn that page and move on.
SB 1062 can't get sidelined by political gamesmanship or egos. It needs to make it through the House with the title intact, clearing the way for significant and truly meaningful change to a system badly in need of it.