H.B. 2155 would have given Oklahoma businesses the option of setting up their own workers' comp systems, as long as they were subject to the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act. After the state Senate's approval, the House ultimately rejected the measure.
"While we were disappointed with the final outcome this year, we are encouraged with our prospects for 2013," said Becky Robinson, assistant vice president for Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby."Very few expected us to go as far as we did, and we came within one vote of sending the bill to Gov. Fallin for her signature."
Had it been adopted, the legislation would have made Oklahoma only the second state to give employers the choice of inclusion in the state program or forming their own. The Texas opt-out system has recently generated substantial interest among some workers' comp stakeholders who are increasingly frustrated by the state-based systems.
Opponents say the idea would result in fewer benefits and protections for injured workers. Supporters argue that in addition to lowering costs for employers, the plan would provide for expedited medical care for injured workers.
"I think there were two things we learned," Robinson said. "One, there is strong support in the Oklahoma legislature for the Oklahoma Employee Injury Benefit Act and that support is growing; and two, we also learned that special interests who want to preserve one of the worst workers' compensation systems in the country were willing to spend seemingly unlimited sums of money and misrepresent facts in order to maintain the status quo."
Robinson thanked the General Assembly leaders who shepherded the measure through the legislative process. "To continue our progress, it will take vigilance and support from employers that want relief to Oklahoma workers' compensation system," she said. "We are fortunate in Oklahoma to have leaders who are willing to take a bold step to do what is right for Oklahoma employers and employees."
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
May 14, 2012
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