Okla. Lt. Gov. Calls for Special Session on Comp

May 27, 2005

Time has run out for workers’ compensation reform in the state’s legislature, according to Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin, who says a special session will be need to work on the issue.

Fallin and Senate Republican leaders announced they were right when they predicted four weeks ago that Gov. Brad Henry would attempt to water down workers’ compensation reform if the issue went to a conference committee instead of receiving an up-or-down vote in the Senate.

Now it is too late in the legislative session for a good workers’ compensation reform bill to be produced – meaning the issue will have to be resolved in a special session of the Legislature this summer, the Republican leaders said.

“I commend Sen. Morgan for recognizing that the negotiations process has been flawed, and I agree that a special session is needed for workers’ comp reform. But real reform can only happen when Gov. Henry stops trying to protect the trial lawyers,” stated Senate Republican Leader Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City.

“I am disappointed but not surprised that we find ourselves at the eleventh hour without a meaningful workers’ compensation bill in front of us. There has been a lot of talk and posturing, but the trial lawyers are using the same game plan they used for lawsuit reform last year – delay and deliver a watered-down proposal at the last minute in a conference committee. I took the chair in the Senate earlier this month to try to avoid exactly the situation that exists today,” Fallin stated.

“Gov. Henry has chosen to protect trial lawyers instead of helping injured workers and creating jobs. It is far better to wait and do workers’ comp reform right during a special session than it is to allow Gov. Henry to rush through a watered-down bill late in the legislative session like he did with lawsuit reform last year,” said Sen. Scott Pruitt, R-Broken Arrow, the Senate GOP’s point person on workers’ compensation reform.

The Republican leaders said that even if there is a last minute agreement, there is not enough time remaining in the legislative session for legislators to thoroughly review a bill before a vote.

“Any agreement reached at this late hour will be watered down and mediocre, at best. We’re going to have to come back this summer for special session if we want to do the job right,” predicted Coffee.

The Senate GOP leader said Senate Republicans will oppose a last minute, watered-down workers’ compensation bill.

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