A legislative task force began work Thursday to find the best way to privatize the state agency that provides workers’ compensation insurance. "We have an organ of the state that is competing with private insurers for premium dollars for workers’ comp,” said Rep. Dan Sullivan, co-chairman of the Task Force on the Privatization of CompSource Oklahoma. "It’s a fundamental issue of what is the proper function of government,” said Sullivan, R-Tulsa. "Is it to compete with private enterprise? We think not.” A state law passed this year states it is the intent of the Legislature to privatize CompSource no later than Dec. 31, 2010. Options include selling CompSource, which has about 300 employees, or mutualizing it, meaning it would be owned by its members, said Sen. Cliff Aldridge, R-Midwest City, task force co-chairman. "All of those options are on the table,” Aldridge said. But state Finance Director Michael Clingman, a task force member, questioned whether the state actually owns CompSource. While it’s a state agency, its holdings may be owned by policyholders.Comments
About CompSourceCompSource was formed by the Legislature in 1933. It formerly was known as the State Insurance Fund. It does not receive a state appropriation. It provides workers’ compensation insurance for state, county and municipal employees, as well as many private employers across the state. It initially provided workers’ compensation insurance to businesses that couldn’t afford the required coverage. Over the years it expanded to also provide coverage for employers that meet its eligibility criteria. Sullivan said CompSource has about a 5 percent advantage over private carriers because it doesn’t have to pay premium taxes and doesn’t have to contribute to the state’s guarantee fund, which covers the costs of claims of an insolvent insurance company. "That automatically gives them a competitive advantage,” he said. CompSource officials said the agency has about 26,000 policyholders and writes about 35 percent of the workers’ compensation policies in the state. Other employers are self-insured or are insured by private companies. The task force is required to make a report to legislative leadership by Dec. 1. Information in the report could lead to proposed legislation. "What we have to look at during this privatization is: How do we continue to cover those people that cannot purchase policies on the open market?” Sullivan said. The incentive behind the privatization is to lower workers’ compensation insurance rates, Sullivan said. Rates should fall because of increased competition, he said. It’s too early to determine what effect privatization would have on the fate of CompSource’s employees, Sullivan said.
Civil court upholds ruleThe Civil Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling in a dispute over whether a Texas mining company should have access to water from the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer. In a 3-0 decision, the court ruled the Oklahoma Water Resources Board had "no jurisdiction to require a permit for the use of a groundwater trapped in the quarry pit.” Meridian Aggregates had sought a permit to use water at its quarry in the Mill Creek area where the company drills for rock used in Texas road construction projects. Several cities in the area, including Tishomingo, Ardmore, Davis, Durant and Sulphur, opposed the project, saying it took an excessive amount of water and could damage the aquifer’s supply. JULIE BISBEE, CAPITOL BUREAU