Full Reform of Workers Compensation Plan Pushed

By Wolfe, Lou Anne | THE JOURNAL RECORD, February 8, 1992 | Go to article overview

Full Reform of Workers Compensation Plan Pushed


Wolfe, Lou Anne, THE JOURNAL RECORD


Workers compensation junkies might remember a $170,000 consultant's study of Oklahoma's system, commissioned by the state Legislature in 1989. Recommendations of the study were incorporated in a huge bill that passed the House of Representatives by 92-3, but it was rendered unrecognizable in the state Senate.

The portions of that measure, House Bill 2257, which failed to be enacted into law have been resurrected this session by Rep. Jim Reese, R-Deer Creek, and introduced as House Bill 2370.

Reese, and some of his constituents, say they're mad about the lack of workers compensation reform and they don't want to take it anymore.

"Just about every legislative session I've been here, someone has proposed a study on the workers compensation system," Reese said.

House Bill 2257 was off to a great start when it sailed through the House by 92-3, he said, "and then it just goes over to the Senate and `wallers' in the Judiciary Committee that's stacked with attorneys.

"So, I just proposed to continue to keep the bill in front of them and hope that someday the Judiciary Committee will decide that workers compensation is an issue we need to do something about." Reese produced a letter written to a Blackwell banker from a customer, Pierce Marshall, chairman of the board of the Electron Corp. The company operates foundries in Littleton, Colo. and in Blackwell.

"I mentioned earlier that we employ about 200 people in Blackwell," Pierce's letter said. "We employ 350 in Littleton at the plant-corporate headquarters. Workmen's compensation payments are a problem in Littleton as well, but Littleton's equivalent liability is slightly less than Blackwell's, with 75 percent more people." Marshall said it's been Electron's experience with the Oklahoma system that if an employer contests a worker's claim, "the employer's chances of having a claim denied by the state, no matter how frivolous the claim, are small indeed.

Liberal courts and administrative law judges side with the employee and against the employer a very, very high percentage of the time," the letter said.

"Most employees know this. They also know that aches and pains are very difficult to verify, and it is very easy to claim disability, valid or not," the letter said.

Reese said he's aware that Gov. David Walters has endorsed a task-force inspired bill introduced by Rep. Bill Settle, D-Muskogee, and the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce & Industry is working on a bill introduced by Rep. Jim Maddox, D-Lawton.

"It's just an issue that's always been brought to my attention in my campaigns in my district," he said. "Businesses are crying out for some kind of relief.

"I just think we need to get a comprehensive bill to the Senate and force them to deal with the consequences of not passing one . . ." State Chamber to Host Legislators The Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce & Industry's 1992 Legislative Caucus and Reception is scheduled Tuesday afternoon at the Marriott Hotel.

Caucus begins at 2 p.m., and the reception follows at 5. Program includes a legislative leadership session featuring Sen.

President Pro Tempore Bob Cullison, D-Skiatook; House Speaker Glen Johnson, D-Okemah; Sen. Minority Leader Charles Ford, R-Tulsa; and House Minority Leader Larry Ferguson, R-Cleveland.

Issue panels will be conducted on the recommendations of the State Ethics Commission and the impact of State Question 640 on local government.

The question, scheduled for a March 10 vote, would require all tax increases to be approved by voters. The Legislature could get around the requirement by approving a tax increase proposal with a three-fourths vote.

After the issue panels, the chamber will present its 1992 legislative agenda. …

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