Decrease in workers comp costs projected

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

The National Council on Compensation Insurance has announced a projected double digit decrease in workers’ compensation costs. The NCCI reported industries will see a projected average of 14.6 percent decrease in loss costs starting Jan. 1, 2014. The NCCI credited the decrease to the workers compensation reforms the legislature passed in Senate Bill 1062 last session.

Senate Bill 1062 replaced Oklahoma’s judicial workers’ compensation system with an administrative system. The new system is overseen by three commissioners appointed by the governor. These commissioners in turn appoint administrative law judges to hear claims for workers’ compensation.

The decrease in workers’ compensation costs will help the state appeal to job creators and manufacturing jobs. The new system would allow for workers to get back to their job more quickly after being treated and would reduce the average weekly wage of the injured employee from 100 to 70 percent. These cuts in cost would allow for quality care for those injured employees while still effectively cutting costs for employers faced with workers’ compensation system fees. Giving adequate health care to those injured workers is a priority and it is important that they get the care they need quickly and efficiently so they can return back to work promptly.

Two lawmakers have announced a lawsuit against the workers’ compensation reform legislation on the grounds of it violating the single-subject rule among other things. The single-subject rule allows for multiple subtopics, but the court has ruled inconsistently on this issue, so it is possible that they would throw out the workers’ compensation reform legislation. I know how important workers’ compensation reform is for small business owners, and my colleagues and I will run the legislation again if the court rules it unconstitutional.

Changing gears, I also want to tell you about the studies currently being undertaken by House committees. Legislative studies are approved by leadership and frequently lead to legislation. They are open to the public and available online at www.okhouse.gov. One recent study examined state laws regarding raw or unpasteurized milk. Currently, it is legal to sell raw milk outside of city limits, but it cannot be delivered. Dairy cow owners also cannot advertise that they have raw milk available.

There were also studies conducted on the state pension systems. We continue to look at this system to ensure we are managing and structuring it in the optimum way to ensure that state employees and other groups supported by the system receive the benefits they are promised. I will continue to keep you posted on the studies.

In the coming weeks, I will be undertaking a business tour in the district to get more input on what can be done to improve Oklahoma’s business climate. I will be meeting with the district’s top employers including the US Gypsum Company in Southard, Mountain Country Foods in Okeene, Pioneer Telephone in Kingfisher and OEM and Temtrol in Okarche. I hope that next year’s tour will include a Watonga corrections facility.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be contacted at my Capitol office at (405) 557-7407 or mike.sanders@okhouse.gov.

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