AFTER years — decades, really — of passing bills that mostly tweaked Oklahoma's workers' compensation system, the Legislature this year approved a total overhaul. On the way out is the court-centric model, to be replaced with an administrative system.
The change is already paying dividends. Last week the National Council on Compensation Insurance projected that departing from a court-based system will push workers' comp loss costs down by 14.6 percent beginning Jan 1.
Most insurers use the NCCI projections to set rates for workers' compensation insurance employers. The projected reductions reflect the part of a workers' comp insurance premium for indemnity and medical payments and associated claim adjustment expenses. They don't reflect overhead and profit.
Senate leader Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, who made work comp reform his No. 1 issue in 2013, said lower rates “mean more money for investment, expansion, wage increases and job creation for businesses here, and a more competitive economic climate for companies looking to expand and relocate to Oklahoma.”
Parties opposed to this change are sure to challenge the law's constitutionality. For now, we'll celebrate the news that it apparently will do exactly what was intended — drive down costs that for too long have burdened Oklahoma businesses large and small.
Not much help
As Syria burns, it's nice to see that an official with the United Nations is concerned about ... an adoption case in Oklahoma. James Anaya, who focuses on the status of indigenous peoples, issued a statement this week urging the state, tribal and federal authorities involved in the Baby Veronica case to make sure her rights are considered. “Veronica's human rights as a child and as (a) member of the Cherokee Nation, an indigenous people, should be fully and adequately considered in the ongoing judicial and administrative proceedings that will determine her future upbringing,” Anaya said. “The individual and collective rights of all indigenous children, their families and indigenous peoples must be protected throughout the United States.” Thanks for that, Mr. Ayana. Very helpful.
For the past several years, Oklahoma's economy has significantly outperformed the national economy. The state's unemployment rate has been among the nation's lowest and Oklahoma City's rate has been especially low. Now there's an early sign that this could soon change. A new survey of Oklahoma City employers finds them less optimistic about job growth for the fourth quarter of the year than they were three months ago, even though metro-area hiring remains upbeat. A poll of companies conducted by Manpower Inc. found 6 percent of Oklahoma City employers plan to reduce staff, while 73 percent expect no change, and 4 percent were undecided. This could be just a blip, but we can't help but note: Obamacare, with all its regulatory headaches, will become a much larger issue in 2014, so it may not be surprising that Oklahoma City employers might begin to view the future with a little trepidation.
On second thought ...
For the past two years, on the anniversary of 9/11, Tumbledown Trails Golf Course near Madison, Wis., offered patrons nine holes of golf for $9.11. Owner Marc Watts said that when he started the promotion on the 10th anniversary, it was meant as a way to ensure that people never forgot that day. And he says the effort was warmly received in 2011 and 2012. But not this year. After the special was advertised Monday in a local newspaper, news of it spread on social media. The golf course's Facebook page subsequently was filled with negative comments and the clubhouse phone lit up. Watts says he even received death threats and threats to burn down the golf course. He was so upset, he said, that he spent much of Monday night throwing up over the backlash. He apologized and for a time considered closing the course for a while due to safety concerns. “We could close, but then all these people with their negative attitudes, they win,” he said.
Democratic primaries in blue states rarely warrant local comment, but New York City voters' praiseworthy rejection of former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner and former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer is an exception. Both scandal-plagued officials insisted they were new men worthy of new positions of power: Weiner (sexting) wanted to be New York City mayor; Spitzer (prostitutes) wanted to be Gotham comptroller. Weiner received just 5 percent of the vote; Spitzer lost narrowly. Oklahoma politicians with similarly indecent scandals have had the decency to disappear. In 2004, a state lawmaker was accused of drunkenly groping a woman (he was eventually convicted). He didn't run for re-election. His legislative colleagues responded by proposing a constitutional amendment that prohibited paying incarcerated legislators. Voters approved it. If you're like most Oklahomans, you can't recall that lawmaker's name today. Hopefully, New York voters can soon say the same thing about Weiner and Spitzer.
As goes Norway?
Following election returns, Norwegian center-right leader Erna Solberg is set to form a new government. Among other things, Solberg has called for lowering taxes and diversifying the economy, and she has endorsed increased privatization. At the same time in Australia, voters have replaced a liberal Labor government with a conservative Liberal-National coalition. Opposition to global warming dogma played a major role in the election. Australia Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott has vowed to repeal carbon pricing and a mining tax the prior government enacted as part of a “climate change” agenda. Abbott also wants to lower the business tax rate, reduce the civil service by at least 12,000 positions, lower subsidies for carmakers, and return the budget to a surplus. We note this because President Barack Obama and Democrats often hold up other countries as a model for the United States. Perhaps, in this one instance, voters should follow that advice.
Children behaving badly
A few hours before leaping from an abandoned building to her death this week, 12-year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick sent a message to a boy she had met through social media. “I'm jumping, I can't take it anymore,” she wrote. The “it” was cyber bullying. Investigators in Lakeland, Fla., say more than a dozen girls had posted repeated, nasty messages about Rebecca online — she had been “absolutely terrorized,” the sheriff said. Parents of the other girls reportedly are cooperating with the investigation. Those girls face the possibility of being charged with felony cyber stalking. “If you bully somebody online and it's reported to us and we can build a credible case, we will charge you,” the sheriff said. Amen to that. Cases like this should leave any parent to wonder: Do I really know how my child is using social media? And if not, why not?