Oklahoma workers' comp bill to be unveiled this week

The measure will call for changing Oklahoma's system that handles cases of workers hurt on the job from a judicial one to an administrative one.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: February 17, 2013
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Legislation changing the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court from a judicial to an administrative system will be released this week, a key lawmaker says.

Republican Gov. Mary Fallin and Republican leaders in both GOP-controlled legislative chambers are supportive, House Speaker T.W. Shannon said.

“An administrative system is the focus of discussions,” said Shannon, R-Lawton. “We've worked pretty closely with the Senate and the governor's office and the governor has given us the green light to work … together and send a plan. I'm confident it's going to be one she can sign.”

The measure, a product of months of discussions between business and political leaders, also will include an opt-out option for certain companies, he said. “It will be the centerpiece for comprehensive reform.”

Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman has called the state's workers' comp system “very adversarial” and told the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce last month he is optimistic lawmakers will change the system to an administrative one.

Bingman's spokesman, Nathan Atkins, said the legislation “is truly a comprehensive, holistic approach to replacing our system. There will be many moving parts to it.”

Atkins said there's also “broad support for the Oklahoma option — an alternative for employers to create their own workers' compensation plan.”

A bill that would have given large employers that option narrowly failed to pass the House last year. “Many of the concerns that we heard at that time have been addressed in the revamped and updated Oklahoma option,” Atkins said.

Fallin's office was less specific.

“The governor believes excessive workers' compensation costs are a barrier to growth for Oklahoma businesses,” press secretary Aaron Cooper said. “The governor supports reforms to the … system that will reduce costs for businesses while also treating injured workers fairly.”

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