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Judy Greenwald

Oklahoma Supreme Court upholds state's workers comp reform law

December 17, 2013 - 3:30pm

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of a controversial workers compensation reform law in a divided ruling.

The law allows employers to adopt an employee injury benefit plan as an alternative to mandated benefits typically provided through the state's workers comp system. It also creates several other changes to Oklahoma's workers comp system, such as establishing an administrative dispute resolution process to replace a court-based adjudication system.

A lawsuit challenging the law's constitutionality was filed by the Professional Fire Fighters of Oklahoma, state Sen. Harry E. Coates, R-Seminole, and state Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman.

In its 7-1 ruling on Monday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court said “the central constitutional challenge” to the bill is that it contains multiple subjects, in violation of the state's constitution.

“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,” said the majority ruling.

The opinion said the determining factor in deciding whether there is such a constitutional violation is whether the bill's multiple provisions reflect “a common, closely akin theme or purpose.”

That is the case here, said the ruling. “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 … on grounds of log-rolling,” said the court, in ruling in favor of the law's constitutionality.