Workers' Comp Reform

Oklahoma Supreme Court Upholds New Law

By: | January 21, 2014

Nancy Grover is the president of NMG Consulting and the Editor of Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected]

Senate Bill 1062 is “not unconstitutional as a multiple-subject bill and … the Legislature has exercised proper authority in a matter over which it has the power to act by adopting a code for the future execution of workers’ compensation law” which comports with the Oklahoma Constitution, said the Oklahoma Supreme Court. With that, the law allowing Oklahoma employers to opt out of the workers’ comp system was upheld.

The suit, brought by Oklahoma state Sen. Harry E. Coates and others against Gov. Mary Fallin and the state’s attorney general, challenged the constitutionality of the new law. But the court said the legislature and governor were within their constitutional rights in enacting the law.

“In its wisdom, the Legislature has repealed the Workers’ Compensation Code and replaced it with the Administrative Act effective Feb. 1, 2014. The central constitutional challenge to the legislation is that the Legislature, in so doing, acted outside its constitutional authority by enacting a bill containing multiple subjects in violation of the Okla. Const. The practice is often referred to as ‘log-rolling’ in which unpopular causes are joined with popular policies on an entirely different subject in the same legislative measure,” the court explained.

“In determining whether there has been a constitutional violation of the single-subject rule, we determine whether the bill contains multiple provisions reflecting a common, closely akin theme or purpose. As all sections of the new law are inter-related and refer to a single subject, workers’ compensation or the manner in which employees may ensure protection against work-related injuries, we disagree with the constitutional challenge to the Administrative Act on grounds of log-rolling.”

The court went on to say that protecting employees from employment hazards is a proper subject for legal action. The court did, however, leave the door open for future challenges. “Until such time as a case or controversy or a justiciable issue is presented to this Court, we are without jurisdiction to rule further with regard to this Act,” it said.

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