Savings to the workers’ compensation system in Senate Bill 1062, at an unwieldy 317 pages, will come solely at the expense of workers’ benefits, said House Democrats Wednesday.
“Monumental reform, indeed,” said Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman. “When we passed worker’s compensation reform in 2011, it was supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread. Yet, here we are again. Some of the 2011 law’s biggest fans are the ones saying it still needs to be fixed. This bill does nothing to control medical costs. The only thing monumental about this bill is the reduction in worker’s benefits.”
“We represent the 37,000 people in our districts, not just businesses,” said Democratic Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City. “We have been sold a bill of goods because House Republicans are unable to tell us that the only savings in this bill aren’t through reductions in benefits to workers. House Democrats agree that the system could still use some improvement. Medical costs need to be controlled. But the rationale that ‘other states are doing it this way’ doesn’t mean cutting worker’s benefits by 30 percent, as this bill does, is the best way for Oklahoma workers. The Arkansas way, or the Texas way, isn’t necessarily the most cost efficient system for Oklahoma. And it is unconscionable that the only place we can find savings comes on the backs of workers, who are hurt on the job through no fault of their own.”
“This Worker’s Comp bill is anti-worker and anti-family,” said Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City. “In the 9 years I’ve been out here, I’ve never dealt with anything as reprehensible. Any member readily voting for this did so without fully understanding its intent and when you don’t know all of what’s in a bill you vote “no”, unless your kneejerk vote is one to serve special interest. A great disservice has been done and those who supported this thing should be ashamed and embarrassed.”
The current version of worker’s compensation passed the House Judiciary Committee on a partisan 11-4 vote. At the end of a four-hour session Tuesday afternoon, questions on the measure were eventually limited to one question and one follow-up despite the vast changes to the system and the substantial length of the bill.