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March 3, 2013

Legislators discuss worker’s compensation at Chamber coffee

DUNCAN — Oklahoma businesses and residents could see some massive changes in worker’s compensation, if a reform on the policy makes it through both chambers of state legislature.

Sen. Don Barrington, Sen. Corey Brooks, Rep. Joe Dorman and Rep. Dennis Johnson answered questions about items facing Oklahoman way of life and petitions moving through both chambers, during Friday’s legislative coffee at Cameron University-Duncan. The meeting was sponsored by Duncan Chamber of Commerce & Industry with, and about 25 people attended.

Worker’s compensation was one of three items asked about by emcee Deno Cox. Other topics included income tax reform and water.

“We’ve been working on worker’s comp since I’ve been at the Capitol,” Barrington said. “We want to get the injured employees back to work and save the employer some money. People have taken advantage of it in the past.

“Our challenge now is throwing it over to the House and seeing where it goes.”

Barrington said the State Senate has already approved the worker’s comp reform, which he hopes the House approves soon. Dorman said worker’s compensation is one of the main topics on the State House of Representative’s agenda.

If the House approves the petition as written, it’s accepted. If changes are made, it goes back to the Senate to be accepted.

“We are all aware there are problems with worker’s comp,” Dorman said. “I’m worried about the opt-out system. It’s a high risk pool.

“You’ll start to see the larger employers opt out, which drives rates up for small businesses.”

Johnson said the opt-out provision is being looked at closely by the House. Johnson, a small business owner, said his rates have tripled in the past four of five years.

He said something needs to be done because the current worker’s compensation program is not working.

“Businesses have left our state because worker’s comp rates are double what they can get anywhere else,” Johnson said. “I’m glad to see something being done about it, not just nibbling around the edges.

Brooks, who was elected to the State Senate in November, said, he has done a lot of research on the worker’s compensation system. He has found work being done as far back as 10 to 15 years.

“This is truly an overhaul of the worker’s comp program,” Brooks said. “Anybody who owns a business will be impacted in a positive way. We’ll see a positive change.”

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