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December 17, 2013

Oklahoma Supreme Court passes down decision on workers’ compensation law

NORMAN — Oklahoma’s new workers’ compensation law will stand. Business leaders and a strong Republican contingent touted the decision as a victory for Oklahoma on Monday after the Oklahoma Supreme Court dismissed a constitutional challenge to Senate Bill 1062.

“I think that this is a fitting and worthy end to the workers’ compensation debate,” Norman Chamber of Commerce President John Woods said. “I think we needed to have a final answer and stability to the system. We will see reduced workers’ compensation costs and a less burdensome system, which is a win for Oklahoma.”

The court ruled that Senate Bill 1062 “is not unconstitutional as a multiple-subject bill” and further stated “the Legislature has exercised proper authority in a matter over which it has power to act by adopting a code for future execution of workers’ compensation law.”

“The ruling today is great news for economic development and jobs in the state of Oklahoma,” State Insurance Commissioner John Doak said. “Oklahoma currently has one of the highest average costs of workers’ compensation benefits in the nation, which has had an enormous impact on our state economy.”

Most Republicans supported the bill, calling it badly needed reform, but some Democrats said they feared workers would not get the relief they need following job injuries.

The legislation was signed into law May 6 by Gov. Mary Fallin. It was passed in the House by a 74-24 vote on April 24. The final vote in the Senate was 35-12 on April 30.

Voting against in the Senate were 11 Democrats and a single Republican, Sen. Harry Coates. Sen. John Sparks, D-Norman, was one of the dissenting votes, as was minority leader Sen. Sean Burrage, D-Claremore.

The legal challenge came from Coates, R-Seminole, and Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, along with the Professional Firefighters of Oklahoma.

Sparks said it will be interesting to see how the change in handling workers’ comp claims performs in the long run.

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