Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Walters' Workers Compensation Bill Revised

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Walters' Workers Compensation Bill Revised

Article excerpt

Journal Record Staff Reporter

A revised version of Gov. David Walters' workers compensation proposal passed the Oklahoma House Judiciary Committee Monday by voice vote, and now goes to the full House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, the other workers compensation reform bill, House Bill 2576, appears dead for the session. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Billy Mickle, D-Durant, said the bill would not be considered today at his committee's final meeting.

House Bill 2576 was the vehicle of choice for the proposals of the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce Industry.

Senate Bill 752, the governor's proposal, was coauthored by Sens. Ben Robinson, D-Muskogee, Ted Fisher, D-Sapulpa, and Rep. Gary Stottlemyre, D-Tulsa. It would be effective Sept. 1. The bill is still considered fluid, because it is likely to go to a joint House-Senate conference committee for further fine-tuning.

House Bill 2576 originally contained provisions supported by the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce Industry, but was amended to toss out most of the bill. That amendment, by Rep. James Sears Bryant, D-Enid, would outlaw the workers compensation system and instead require employers to carry liability insurance on employees.

Rep. Jim Maddox and Sen. Roy Hooper, both D-Lawton and the authors of the bill, had prepared substitute legislation reinstating much of the chamber language. Nevertheless, Mickle stood by his decision not to consider House Bill 2576 today.

Had there not been a Senate bill, Mickle said he would have heard House Bill 2576.

"I think it's vitally important that a workers compensation bill remain alive," he said. "I have, and will, support having a workers compensation bill out here, be it a House or Senate bill."

Mickle said he thought "everybody should be realistic and fully honest. When House Bill 2576 was considered by the full House, there was an amendment that deleted all that language, and basically did away with workers compensation.

"It would appear that the House has voted on the base bill, and passed it 99-0."

Senate Bill 752 came through Mickle's committee, and he supported it there and on the floor, he said. "The author is Ben Robinson (D-Muskogee), an insurance agent."

Mickle suggested the state chamber try to have its proposed amendments heard either in the House Judiciary Committee or the full House.

"If the House has changed its position, they can either adopt those amendments or reject them," he said.

"It should be pointed out that there is a workers compensation bill I have supported. I have always supported, and I will continue to support making a better business climate in this state, be it in workers compensation or any other area."

Mickle said the ultimate bill would be written by a joint House-Senate conference committee.

"A version they can agree on will be hammered out and re-presented to the Senate and House," he said. "I anticipate during the conference committee, all parties to the effort of making a better workers compensation system will have input. …

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