State Supreme Court referee hears workers' compensation arguments

Oklahoma Supreme Court justices will meet Nov. 25 to discuss whether to assume jurisdiction over a case challenging the constitutionality of a law creating Oklahoma's new administrative workers' compensation system.
by Randy Ellis Modified: November 14, 2013 at 10:18 pm •  Published: November 15, 2013
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Oklahoma Supreme Court justices will meet Nov. 25 to discuss whether to assume jurisdiction over a case challenging the constitutionality of a law creating Oklahoma's new administrative workers' compensation system.

Attorneys argued high points of the constitutional challenge Thursday before Supreme Court referee Greg Albert.

“There are some very, very disturbing aspects,” Oklahoma City attorney John McMurry said of the new law, arguing that it should be found unconstitutional on multiple grounds.

Local attorney Robert McCampell countered that the law should be found “constitutional in all respects.”

However, he urged the court to keep the bulk of the law in place and only strike down objectionable portions if it finds any part of the law to be unconstitutional.

Under law, employers could opt out

The new state law would convert Oklahoma from a judicial workers' compensation system to an administrative one and allow employers to opt out of the system as long as they provide equivalent benefits to injured workers.

Proponents of the law say it is needed to make Oklahoma more business-friendly, while opponents claim it is unfair to injured workers because it would reduce their benefits.

McMurry argued the law violates a state constitutional prohibition against logrolling by including more than one topic in a single statute.

He contended the statute covers three major topics — the creation of an administrative workers' compensation system, the adoption of an opt-out provision for employers and the creation of an arbitration dispute resolution system.

McCampbell disputed McMurry's argument, contending all three parts of the law fall under the single topic of workers' compensation reform and simply represent alternate approaches to handling workers' compensation claims.

McCampbell represents the State Chamber of Oklahoma, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce and the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce, which asked to intervene in the case to represent the interests of member businesses that would be affected by the new law.


by Randy Ellis
Capitol Bureau Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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