A bill that would eliminate the Workers' Compensation Court and
replace it with the Workers Compensation Agency headed by a
governor-appointed administrator was killed for this legislative
session in the Senate Judiciary and Retirement Committee Tuesday.
By a vote of 9 to 6, the members voted to report progress on
House Bill 1459, known as the Workers' Compensation Act, which
basically kills it for this session of the Oklahoma Legislature.
However, the committee did pass another workers' compensation
bill which provides that an employee's benefits could be cut off if
he "unreasonably refuses" to accept medical rehabilitation or
Though Rep. Michael Hunter, R-Oklahoma City, had counted on a
Senate rule which allows report progress bills to be reconsidered
for a vote before committee deadlines, Sen. Stratton Taylor,
D-Claremore, said the rule is different in Senate Judiciary
Taylor explained that a committee member who voted for report
progress would have to ask for reconsideration on the vote and the
majority of the members who voted for report progress would have to
agree to the reconsideration vote - making chances for House Bill
1459 being reconsidered this session extremely slim at best.
"Because of the tremendous work load in that committee, we just
can't be resurrecting bills that have been killed," said Taylor.
He stated judiciary has 50 more bills to consider before the
April 23 deadline for House bills, including the extensive Oklahoma
Economic Recovery Act of 1987.
House Bill 1459 is a request bill by Gov. Henry Bellmon. It
provides that the present Workers' Compensation Court would be
abolished and replaced by the Workers' Compensation Agency.
The administrator would be appointed by the governor and
confirmed by the Senate. There would also be a three-member appeals
board and a five-member medical appeals board.
In the discussion of the bill, Sen. Jerry Smith, R-Tulsa, was
asked if there had been any studies that revealed making workers'
compensation an administrative system would lower insurance rates,
to which Smith replied there had been no hearings on workers
Sen. Ged Wright, R-Tulsa, said that after the hundreds of hours
spent in conference committee last year developing changes in the
workers' compensation system it would be "just crazy" to scrap the
present process and set up an administrative system.
Wright added that administrators of workers' compensation
agencies in other states had voluntarily contacted him, saying the
administrative system was "burdensome" and would cost hundreds of
thousands of dollars to maintain.
Hunter was not at the committee meeting but later said he was
surpised the bill was voted upon Tuesday. It was his understanding,
Hunter said, the measure was to be laid over to give the members a
chance to review it further.
Hunter said he had heard "second hand" that Senate Majority
Leader Sen. John Luton, D-Muskogee, was determined to kill the bill
in committee. …