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Oklahoma workers' comp law challenged

Two legislators and firefighters group call workers' comp law unconstitutional.
by Nolan Clay Published: September 19, 2013

The Oklahoma Supreme Court is being asked to throw out a new law that overhauls Oklahoma's workers' compensation system.

State Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole, state Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, and the Professional Fire Fighters of Oklahoma filed the challenge Tuesday. They gave the Supreme Court almost a dozen reasons why they think the law is unconstitutional.

“It's wrong that a firefighter or any other injured worker should have to pay back benefits after returning to work. This is just one of many problems with this new law,” Coates said.

A key argument in their challenge is that the changes violate a state constitutional requirement that a bill cover a single subject. Justices repeatedly have tossed laws because of this issue.

Most recently, legislators met in special session to address lawsuit reform after the Supreme Court ruled a 2009 tort reform law was unconstitutional because of the single-subject rule.

Gov. Mary Fallin signed the workers' compensation bill in May. It changes the workers' compensation system from a judicial system to an administrative one. It also allows businesses to opt out of the workers' compensation system as long as they provide equivalent benefits to injured workers.

Opponents said it is unfair to injured workers because it will reduce their benefits. The law is set to be in effect in full on Feb. 1.

The State Chamber of Oklahoma claimed Wednesday that attorneys for injured workers actually were behind the challenge.

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by Nolan Clay
Sr. Reporter
Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,...
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