The State Senate will fight a lawsuit designed to derail mandated payments to injured workers and halt insurance refunds to thousands of Oklahoma businesses, according to Senator Brad Henry.
Henry was the author of SB 680, a law approved last year by the Legislature and Governor Keating that would bail out the Special Indemnity Fund and order a refund to State Insurance Fund customers.
"The Legislature is going to vigorously defend the statute in an effort to keep the promises made to injured workers and to get businesses the refunds they deserve. They shouldn't have to wait a minute longer to get their money," said Senator Henry.
The Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging the law, claiming the Legislature didn't have the authority to order the State Insurance Fund to rebate surplus funds to its customers.
Among other things, the new law requires the State Insurance Fund to rebate up to $150 million in surplus funds to its policyholders, which constitute approximately one-third of Oklahoma businesses. The state planned to use its portion of the rebate to bail out the Multiple Injury Trust Fund, formerly known as the Special Indemnity Fund, and pay off approximately 6,000 injured workers, many of whom have been owed money for several years.
An actuarial study completed this year declared that such a refund could be made without harming the State Insurance Fund in any way.
"I don't think the Chamber lawsuit has any merit. There's no question that the Legislature and Governor Keating acted properly when we approved this action last year," said Senator Henry.
"All the Chamber is doing is needlessly holding injured workers and business people hostage in some kind of political gambit. The Chamber really ought to put politics aside and let those people get their money as ordered by the Legislature and Governor Keating."
The Shawnee legislator said he found it ironic that the State Chamber was trying to block an action that would return millions of dollars to the very people it is supposed to represent - the businesspeople of Oklahoma.
"I think it's surprising that the State Chamber is trying to overturn a law that would deliver a multi-million dollar refund to Oklahoma businesses. For an organization that purportedly represents business owners, the State Chamber is doing everything it can to take money out of the pockets of its members. Maybe the Chamber can explain that to business people, but I sure can't," said Senator Henry.