Oklahoma State Senate President Pro Tempore Cal Hobson announced the Senate Judiciary Committee will not hear House Bill 2619, which addresses the state’s workers’ compensation system. Without a hearing in the committee, the measure is effectively dead.
According to the State Senate Communications Division, Hobson said the bill would further disadvantage workers injured on the job and end up costing employers and taxpayers millions of dollars more each year.
HB 2619 was sponsored in the Senate by Senator Scott Pruitt, R-Broken Arrow. It passed the House of Representatives by a 95 to 1 vote.
Hobson stated he believes it’s possible for the Legislature to address workers’ compensation reform before the end of the Second Session of the 49th Oklahoma Legislature in May, “but we’re not going to do it with this bill.”
“The proponents of House Bill 2619 have tried to extort support for the bill out of members of the State Senate. But the bill is so bad that their efforts have backfired. Their campaign materials ask Oklahomans to tell Senators to ‘start listening to Oklahoma workers.’
“Our members have been listening and workers are telling us they don’t favor House Bill 2619 because it doesn’t do anything to benefit injured workers and includes a number of provisions that would make it harder for workers to be justly compensated when they are injured on the job,” Hobson said.
The section of law that House Bill 2619 amends contains dozens of pages that spells out the benefits to injured workers for a long list of enumerated injuries.
Republican leaders in the Oklahoma Senate said by killing the bill, Hobson destroyed the chance for meaningful reforms to Oklahoma’s expensive, pro-lawyer workers’ compensation system. They say he has yet to offer alternatives for fixing the system’s problems.
“Somehow I find very little comfort in hearing Senator Hobson say, ‘Trust me, and I’ll fix workers comp,'” stated Sen. Pruitt. He accused Hobson of trying to mislead the public about the content of the bill.
Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry has expressed interest in creating a working group to seek workers’ compensation reforms and wants to make sure all interested parties are included.
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