Oklahoma: Veto prompts Senate to let voters decide on comp measure
The referendum will send the proposed workers' compensation reform to the voters next year.
In his veto message, Henry claimed that Senate Bill 609 would politicize a nonpartisan process. The legislation, he said, would have replaced a successful judicial appointment process with the "gridlocked, highly politicized process of Washington, D.C., where partisan disputes in the Senate often delay judicial appointments and hinder the delivery of swift and effective justice."
"In the workers' compensation system, such delays will ultimately cause undue expense and burden on injured workers and Oklahoma businesses, alike," Henry said. "Furthermore, S.B. 609 violates the Oklahoma Constitution by impermissibly abolishing the offices of two judges on the workers' compensation court before their terms of service have expired. Such an action would result in the elimination of a vested property right, which is specifically prohibited by the constitution."
Shortly after Henry's decision, the Senate passed House Joint Resolution 1041, which will take the reform measure to Oklahoma voters. The resolution mirrors the provisions in S.B. 609, yet sends the legislation as a referendum to the vote of the people.
"We are disappointed in the governor's veto because we've worked very hard to bring responsible reform and increased accountability to the Oklahoma's workers' compensation system," said Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City. "Contrary to what the governor said, this legislation removes the politics from the process, and we look forward to sending this to the people for them to have the final say."
Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, and sponsor of H.J.R. 1041, said the legislation is necessary to make the state government more accountable.
"Both of these pieces of legislation remove politics from the judicial nominating process that is currently dominated by the trial bar, by promoting a checks and balances system our forefathers believed was better," he said. "Upon passage of H.J.R. 1041, Oklahomans will determine the final verdict on workers' compensation reform."
Proponents of the reform said that the changes in the nominating process and the reduction in the number of judges on the Workers' Compensation Court will save Oklahoma taxpayers more than $400,000 in the first year it is enacted.
May 7, 2009
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