The latest version of a bill that would overhaul significantly how the state processes on-the-job injury claims is expected to be heard by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
The revised version of Senate Bill 1062 maintains the most dramatic components of the initial one — a switch from a court-based to an administrative system, an opt-out option for employers that qualify — but alters some of the amounts workers would be compensated if injured.
Its title now stricken, House lawmakers have set the bill up for further amendments and discussions on conference level as they work with the Senate to reconcile the different bills into a single one that would be put before Gov. Mary Fallin for signature.
Michael Clingman, administrator of the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court, said he takes that as a sign that lawmakers are still wrangling with key components of the proposed law change.
“I think it indicates there needs to be a lot more work done on the bill before it's in its final form,” he said.
The court's advisory board, which opposed the Senate draft of the bill, will meet Thursday to determine if the House draft is more acceptable.
Backers of the different proposals said either version will successfully reduce system costs and get injured workers treated and back to work at a faster pace.
A spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, said the important thing is that an overhaul plan continues to move forward.
“We're still optimistic that at the end of the day we're going to see a significant change, but this is the legislative process,” said the spokesman, Nathan Atkins.
But critics said they will work to block the reform plan so long as the brunt of cost savings comes in the form of compensation reductions for injured workers.
Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, said lawmakers and “special interests” who are pursuing the overhaul have not given reforms passed in 2011 a chance.
“You have to let them set a while so you can see if they work,” Morrissette said. “Those reforms we initiated two years ago are in place and they're working. Claims are down and judges are more conservative than they were under (former Gov. Brad Henry).”