The Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce Industry is far from
"married" to the workers compensation bill passed this week by
the state House of Representatives Judiciary Committee _ but it's
not ready for a divorce.
Mike Seney, manufacturing director of the chamber, pointed to
a number of provisions he said were repugnant to the business
community. A lot could change by the time House Bill 2576 gets to
The objective of business was to get a "vehicle" passed by
this week's deadline to report bills from committee. A vehicle is
any bill on the subject of interest which can continue to be
amended and acted on. Therefore, any workers compensation measure
technically could serve as a vehicle.
Since the Senate passed Senate Bill 752, which contains Gov.
David Walters' workers compensation reform plan, there are two
House Bill 2576 is 57 pages long and definitely loaded. It
combines the eight to 10 workers compensation bills filed in the
House into one measure. Seney was kind of irked about it, after
it failed to pass an initial vote Monday.
"I looked at this bill like a pickup truck," he said. "It was
a good pickup truck, but just before the committee meeting it got
loaded up with a lot of garbage. I have absolutely no problem
with anybody voting against that bill," he said the next day.
Judiciary Chairman Bill Settle, D-Muskogee, made the decision
to have a single bill.
"If I had afforded a hearing to each and every author, we
probably wouldn't have had time to hear more than half the bills
we were able to hear," Settle said. "It would not have been fair
to the authors.
"I do this quite often, if several bills can be combined, to
save time and provide room for other members' bills to be heard,"
The chamber's problem wasn't just with the size of the bill,
but a number of amendments Settle put in it, according to Seney.
"If those amendments had stayed in there, we would have had to
ask for votes against our own bill," Seney said Tuesday. By
Friday, thanks to a petition signed by a majority of committee
members, House Bill 2576 was brought back to the committee and
passed by 6-5.
Now it's pending in the full House, and if Seney was true to
his word, there'll be a whole lot of amending going on.
One of the Settle amendments objectionable to the state
chamber is a provision that deems it "unlawful for a corporation,
employer, agent of an employer or manager. . .to engage in
neglect or reckless conduct by allowing or creating a situation
of unreasonable risk and probability of death or great bodily
harm." It carries up to a $1 million fine.
"A manager at a McDonald's or Sonic drive-in could be held
personally liable over this," Seney said. The terms "neglect,"
"reckless conduct" and "by allowing" "could never be defined in
20 years in courts of this state," he said. He also cited the
phrase "great bodily harm."
"You could `allow' somebody to drive with a broken seat belt
that you didn't know about" and be liable, Seney said.
Settle, a lawyer, said: "These types of problems are currently
defined by law in many cases on a daily basis. It therefore would
not create new definitions or cause someone not to understand
what they mean under the law."
Seney said: "The employees who also create dangerous
situations for others are not involved in this."
Settle said: "When you sue a corporation or company, if an
employee has been part of the negligence, you always name the
employee. The wrongful acts of an employee or agent can be
imputed to the employer."
Another amendment that Seney found bothersome would restrict
workers compensation insurance coverage to the State Insurance
Fund or to self insurance associations. The state fund is a
quasi-state agency that originally was an insurer of last resort,
but has grown exponentially in the coverage it provides today. …