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Oklahoma workers' comp bill 'unworkable' as written, advisory board says

The advisory board appointed to oversee Oklahoma's workers' compensation court said they don't necessarily disagree with the policy changes in Senate Bill 1062, but language problems left uncorrected could create chaos.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD Modified: March 7, 2013 at 7:47 pm •  Published: March 8, 2013

Carter, an attorney in Oklahoma City, said because Title 85 is repealed in its entirety under the proposed legislation, mere establishment of a dual system is not enough. The proposed law would need to include some actual language that would give the temporary court system its basis for functioning, including rules, funding, fees and administration.

Current rules in which self-insured employers are required to pay to insure against cases where one employer does not meet its compensation obligations would no longer exist beginning Jan. 1, 2014, Carter said.

“And all of the other statutes are completely repealed,” he said. “Administrative operations, administrative funding mechanisms, authorities for fines and fees, authorizes existence of a multiple-injury trust fund — that is now gone.”

And unknown is the amount of time it would take after Jan. 1, 2014 — when the current system would close and Gov. Mary Fallin could begin appointing commissioners to the administrative system — for those commissioners to be approved by the Senate, hire staff and get started.

“It seems like that when you want to do such a total change like this that you would need to phase it in to cost the least amount of money to the state and not leave any gaps — and there's no phasing in. It's just one day it's gone, and the next day we start over again,” Carter said.

A spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, who authored Senate Bill 1062, declined to comment specifically on the board's complaints other than to say Bingman, R-Sapulpa, supports the policies of the bill.

“The pro tem is focused on solutions,” said Nathan Atkins. “He believes the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act will lower costs, provide certainty to Oklahoma businesses, and help injured workers get quality care in a timely manner.”

House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, said last week that the bill will be slowed down in the House for a closer look.

The bill would ultimately need approval from Fallin to become law.