MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

November 14, 2013

Attorneys argue over state compensation lawsuit


— OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)  — Oklahoma’s new workers’ compensation law violates the state Constitution in several ways and should be struck down, an attorney for two state lawmakers and a firefighter’s organization told a state Supreme Court referee Thursday.

“There are some very, very disturbing aspects,” Oklahoma City attorney John McMurry said during oral arguments before referee Greg Albert. “There is a lot before the court in this particular case.”

Among other things, McMurry said the law unconstitutionally delegates legislative powers and amounts to unconstitutional logrolling, or combining multiple subjects into one bill.

But Oklahoma Solicitor General Patrick Wyrick and an attorney for business groups defended the law, saying it should be given a chance to work.

“The common theme is apparent here. ... How are we going to handle workers’ compensation cases?” said attorney Robert McCampbell, who represents The State Chamber, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce and the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Albert said he planned to condense the attorney’s arguments into a report he will present to the state’s highest court next week.

He said the court could decide whether to take up the case before the end of the month.

Legislation to overhaul the state’s workers’ compensation system was signed into law by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin in May.

It was a top priority for Republican leaders who say the state’s previous system was a detriment to business and industry in the state.

The new law was challenged in a lawsuit filed in September by state Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole, Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, and the Professional Firefighters of Oklahoma and its president, Rick Beams.