Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Workers' Compensation Measure Captures Okla. Gov. Henry's Attention

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Workers' Compensation Measure Captures Okla. Gov. Henry's Attention

Article excerpt

Gov. Brad Henry continued his policy of saying little on Thursday about Republican agenda bills making their way toward his desk. But one measure elicited a response from Henry's spokesman, Paul Sund - the one requiring Senate confirmation of Henry's appointments to the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court.

The new Republican majority in the Senate has this year joined forces with the Republican majority in the state House of Representatives to pass bills that never would have received a hearing in past years, under the former Democrat majority.

Bills nearing successful completion of the legislative process include House Bill 1570, which would require anyone filing a professional liability lawsuit to first obtain an affidavit from a qualified expert attesting to the lawsuit's merit. A similar measure that only required a certificate of merit for medical malpractice lawsuits was struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court on the grounds that the measure created an unconstitutional special law. HB 1570 would remedy the problem with the previous measure by requiring a certificate of merit for lawsuits against all professionals, not just physicians.

Henry last year vetoed a bill that contained the certificate-of- merit provision, though his veto message encompassed several provisions of the bill that he found troublesome. HB 1570 would send the issue of certificates of merit to the governor as a stand-alone issue. The bill was approved by both the House and Senate, and requires only a few procedural steps before it can reach the governor.

The Senate recently approved HB 1601, which would prohibit lawyers from withholding part of their clients' awards for political contributions - a measure inspired by a group of workers' compensation attorneys' efforts to raise money for a Democrat- focused political action committee.

The year's comprehensive measure to alter Oklahoma's tort laws, HB 1603, is under negotiations, said Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City. …

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