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April 25, 2013

Workers’ comp. bill approved

NORMAN — The Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act, Senate Bill 1062, fundamentally changes the workers’ compensation system in Oklahoma.

It transitions the state from a judicial workers’ compensation court to an administrative system. Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman’s workers’ compensation overhaul, authored in the House by Speaker T.W. Shannon, passed the House by a vote of 74-24. The bill now returns to the Senate for final approval before being sent to the governor.

Bingman called the measure’s passage a historic moment.

“Putting the brakes on the runaway cost of workers’ compensation is the single most important thing we can do to encourage job growth and economic development,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “Our court-based system has been one of the most expensive in the nation. The costs to small businesses fluctuate wildly, often from year to year. If we are serious about bringing good manufacturing jobs to Oklahoma, we have to bring these costs in line with the rest of the country and offer certainty to job creators. I applaud the House for passing this bill so we can finally send a historic reform to the governor’s desk.”

Sen. Anthony Sykes, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has worked closely with Bingman to develop SB 1062. Sykes praised the House for passing SB 1062 and highlighted the need to care for injured workers in a prompt manner.

“Oklahoma’s judicial system has done a lot more to help trial lawyers than it has done to help injured workers,” said Sykes, R-Moore. “The focus of the Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act is helping injured workers get quality care without delay. Our hurt workers need better health outcomes and they need a system that treats them fairly without pitting them against their employer in a courtroom.

“I want to applaud the House for passing this bill, and I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to advance this historic reform to the governor’s desk.”

Under SB 1062, an administrative workers’ compensation system would be structured with three commissioners, subject to Senate approval, appointed by the governor for six-year staggered terms. The commission will then appoint administrative law judges to hear all claims for compensation.

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