The chance for meaningful reforms to Oklahoma’s expensive, pro-lawyer workers compensation system has been killed for the legislative session by Senate President Pro Tempore Cal Hobson, D-Lexington, who has chosen to obstruct reforms by not allowing a committee hearing on a landmark workers comp reform bill that sailed through the House of Representatives on a vote of 95 to 1.
“Senator Hobson is quick to be critical of the sensible reforms contained in HB 2619, but he offers no alternatives to fix the growing workers compensation insurance crisis. If he has a top secret plan to fix the workers comp system, I wish he would let the rest of us know. Somehow I find very little comfort in hearing Senator Hobson say, ‘Trust me, and I’ll fix workers comp,’” stated Sen. Scott Pruitt, R-Broken Arrow, the bill’s Senate author and assistant GOP floor leader.
“By attempting to mislead the public about the bill’s content, Senator Hobson has resorted to reading the talking points provided by the trial lawyers. The fact of the matter is that HB 2619 holds employees’ benefits harmless while saving employers upwards of $115 million by reducing litigation. The reason the Democrat leadership team opposes HB 2619 is because the bill helps employers and employees at the expense of the trial lawyers who are getting rich off the current system,” Pruitt said.
“By refusing to allow a debate and a vote on meaningful workers comp reform, Senator Hobson and the Democrat leadership are putting their trial lawyer allies ahead of employees, ahead of new jobs for our state, and ahead of our state’s businesses and employers,” stated Senate Republican Floor Leader James A. Williamson, R-Tulsa.
“The decision to not even allow a committee hearing is a slap in the face of every business and worker in the state, and is going to result in more jobs leaving our state. The suggestion that we follow the lead Governor Henry and the Senate Democrat leadership in fixing the workers comp problem is laughable – they’re the ones whose so-called ‘reforms’ have given us the 6th most costly workers comp insurance in the nation with the 47th lowest benefits to employees,” stated Assistant Republican Floor Leader Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City.
HB 2619 passed the House of Representatives by a 95 to 1 vote. It includes major reforms such as eliminating “dueling” doctors, requiring mediation, and only allowing attorneys fees on the amount of an award above an employer’s settlement offer.