Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

`Common Ground' Stressed for Workers Compensation

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

`Common Ground' Stressed for Workers Compensation

Article excerpt

By Lou Anne Wolfe Journal Record Staff Reporter Oklahoma's workers compensation system is superior to systems in some other states, but it's not perfect and ought to be improved, Gov. David Walters told the Governor's Task Force on Workers Compensation Monday.

"We have a good system that works well, but it can work better _ that's what your task is," Walters told the 11-member panel.

At the same time, Walters acknowledged that Oklahoma had "made a lot of hay" in Texas-based business recruitment, competing favorably with the Texas system.

The governor said he would put a priority on workers compensation reform and "business environment" issues during the 1992 session of the Oklahoma Legislature, although he stated last week his top priorities will be the corrections system, environment and rural economic development.

Walters said he hopes the work of the task force will result in a package he can take to the Legislature that would include proposals to improve benefits to injured workers and make the system more cost-effective and efficient.

Walters said he had watched a series of workers compensation reform bills undergo the legislative process, and he recognized the controversy they generate.

"My hope is that this task force can find a common ground," he said.

"We can't have either one side or the other side completely prevail." Typically, representatives of business, trial lawyers, and labor are hard-put to find a common ground.

Walters said he "wants to make progress on it, and I hope we can make it in the regular session." Tomy D. Frasier, a Tulsa attorney, said he was concerned that if the current system is good, the task force might recommend a change that would hamper it.

"It's a system that is not worthy of being thrown out the door," Walters said, "but it's not perfect." The governor said workers compensation rates for small businesses are too high, and workers don't get the kind of benefits they need, and benefits are delayed.

Pat Ryan, Oklahoma City attorney, said of 35 to 40 amendments to the state's workers compensation statutes since 1978, none were to change the status of workers, with the exception of a change in the statute of limitations. …

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