OK WC Reform Should Soon Go To A Vote Of The People

Tulsa, OK (CompNewsNetwork) - Legislation requiring Senate confirmation of Worker's Compensation Court judges to bring added accountability to the system passed the House today and should soon go to a vote of the people.

House Joint Resolution 1041 would require that gubernatorial appointments to the Workers' Compensation Court be approved by Senate confirmation.

If passed by the Senate this week, the constitutional change would be placed on the ballot for voter consideration. The resolution is needed after Gov. Brad Henry's veto of similar legislation, Senate Bill 609, earlier this session.

"This is an issue that could affect every injured worker in this state, and we feel like this reform is important enough to take directly to the people," said House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa. "Requiring Senate confirmation of Worker's Compensation Court judges is a reasonable reform that adds accountability to the current system."

Currently, District Court judges are directly elected and Civil and Criminal Appeals Court and Supreme Court judges all appear on a retention ballot at the end of their appointed term. The Workers' Compensation Court judges are the only ones who never appear on a ballot.

"Worker's Compensation judges are the only judges to never appear on a ballot," said Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa and author of the resolution. "This legislation will help ensure injured workers across the state are given their day in court in front of judges that are approved by their representative government."
Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee said Jolley's legislation brings reform to a Workers' Comp system in much need of overhaul.

"We have worked very hard to bring responsible reform and increased accountability to the Oklahoma's Workers' Compensation system and it is encouraging to see the beginning of this process today," said Pro Tem Coffee.

"The Senate confirmation process provides a system of checks and balances our forefathers believed was better," said Jolley. "The State Senate's role in this legislation is to advise and consent in a bipartisan fashion which removes politics from the judicial nominating process."

Jolley added this legislation is not unique, as Oklahoma will join numerous other states in having systems with Senate confirmation.
The resolution passed the House today with a vote of 60-37 and will now return to the state Senate for final consideration. If approved there, the change would go to a vote of the people.

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