House passes comprehensive workers’ comp reform measure

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published: 21-Apr-2010

Legislation that advocates assert would improve the Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system for injured workers and reduce costs for Oklahoma employers passed the House today (Wednesday, April 21).

Senate Bill 1973, by Rep. Dan Sullivan, makes a number of changes to the state’s workers’ comp system, including:

•                Decreases the number of Workers’ Comp Court judges from 10 to 8;

•                Increases terms of judges from six years to eight years, limiting to one term;

•                Qualifies current judges for reappointment to one eight-year term;

•                Defines “major cause”:

•                Exempts employers from liability for injuries arising outside the course of employment.

“Our workers’ compensation system is broken for employees and employers alike,” said Sullivan, a Tulsa Republican who is chairman of the House Economic Development Committee. “These are common sense changes that will improve fairness in the system for workers while having the added benefit of driving down costs for employers. Such cost reductions are critical if we expect economic growth in our state, including job creation.”

Workers’ compensation reform is one of the top priorities this legislative session for House and Senate Republicans. The state Senate on Monday passed and sent to the House three other measures.

“Especially given this economic climate, we must do all we can to encourage economic growth. This legislation will help create a business-friendly environment in Oklahoma that will help current businesses expand and attract new companies to our state,” said House Speaker Chris Benge, also a Tulsa Republican. “The legislation also streamlines the system for injured workers, helping them return to their livelihood as soon as they physically can.”

The bill passed the House with a vote of 64-33 and now goes to a conference committee for further consideration.