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Oklahoma workers' compensation bill makes it past Senate committee

An Oklahoman Senate Judiciary Committee approved workers' compensation reforms 8-2, despite objections from Democratic members that they were not given time to read the 260-page bill. The bill now heads to the full Senate as early as next week.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD Modified: February 19, 2013 at 8:51 pm •  Published: February 19, 2013

An amendment approved during Tuesday's committee meeting would take the system's fraud investigative unit out of the Oklahoma Insurance Department and place it within the Attorney General's office instead.

Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman said the bill was sent to Ivester and other lawmakers Monday morning.

He said workers' compensation reforms passed by the Legislature two years ago were “nibbling around the edges.”

“We have a lot of options for businesses; this is wholesale reform,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “The cost savings that we expect from this bill will be tremendous. We have to put the brakes on our runaway workers' compensation system if we are serious about growing our state's economy.”

Ivester, D-Sayre, said he was concerned with a portion of the bill that allows employers to opt out of the system and that there is no appeals process to federal court for employees who are unhappy with how their claim was handled.

He said he and other Democratic lawmakers will likely spend the weekend reading the bill and that he expects more debate once it goes before the full Senate.