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May 1, 2013

Workers’ comp. overhaul advances

NORMAN — The state Senate moved Tuesday to abolish Oklahoma’s judicial workers’ compensation system.

Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman’s Senate Bill 1062, the Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act, replaces Oklahoma’s adversarial court process with an administrative system.

Oklahoma and Tennessee are the only two states left in the nation currently employing a judicial process for the resolution of workers’ compensation claims.

The Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act passed the Senate by a vote of 35-12 and now heads to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk.  The measure will become law pending the governor’s signature.

“The implementation of an administrative workers’ compensation system will finally give our state a modern process that will enable injured workers to get treatment and get back to work quicker,” said Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman. “It will also remove a primary roadblock to job growth in our state. Our outdated system is one of the country’s most expensive and has failed us for too long.”

Oklahoma’s court-based system, ranked the sixth most expensive in the country, has been often cited by state business leaders as the single greatest impediment to continued job growth and economic prosperity.

“In a number of surveys, Oklahoma employers have identified our workers’ compensation system as a primary barrier to job growth,” Standridge said.

“Passage of this proposal will finally address this problem with the sort of top-down restructuring we need. I’m grateful that my colleagues came together behind this measure and I look forward to seeing it signed into law.”

Bingman lauded the measure’s passage as a historic moment for the state.

“This is the single most important achievement to come out of the state Capitol in years,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “Replacing our broken workers’ compensation court is historic, and the benefits of what we’ve done here today will be felt by Oklahomans for generations to come. By finally putting the brakes on the runaway costs of Oklahoma’s comp system, our state is sending a clear and unmistakable signal to job creators.

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