Monday, April 21, 2014

The Gremlin of Reform

A few years ago I participated in a fly-in to Mexico.

To those of you unfamiliar with aviation parlance, a fly-in is where a bunch of pilots fly their airplanes to a common destination to socialize.

When flying into Mexico, this generally means staying a few nights because of the length of the journey.

Consequently it thus means drinking beer and tequila, and eating too much food.

For this particular Mexico fly-in I was renting a nice Cessna 182. Renting a plane is fine, but you never really know what you're getting.

Planes are complex machines, and each one is very different even if it is the same model number because airplanes are like houses - generally hand built. The volume of sales of planes does not warrant investment in automated manufacturing techniques such as used in automobiles.

Regardless, like I said, flying to Mexico is always an adventure because one never knows what is going to happen.

And this trip happened to be accompanied by a gremlin that was mysterious and shy. While not causing any great havoc, this little guy would show up every once in a while to test me and make sure I knew that I wasn't in Kansas anymore.

The gremlin in Mexico captured on film!

Or maybe Oklahoma...

California isn't alone in constitutional challenges to recent, radical, workers' compensation reform.

And just as those who fostered SB 863 in California forged ahead with knowledge that there'd likely be challenges to the new law (albeit I don't think they fully appreciated all of the consequences), proponents of Oklahoma's changes are also finding out that there's some gremlins lurking.

Because like airplanes, workers' compensation law is complex and hand built. One doesn't really know what one is getting until you start flying.

For instance, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled last week that the Workers’ Compensation Court of Existing Claims will still handle appeals from cases over which it had jurisdiction when it was still the Workers’ Compensation Court despite that it’s being slowly phased out.

For the uninitiated, last year's Senate Bill 1062 transitioned adjudication of workers’ compensation claims to an administrative court operating under the new Workers’ Compensation Commission, effective Feb. 1. The old court, renamed the Court of Existing Claims, still handles claims for injuries occurring before that date, and will do so until all those claims are resolved.

But SB 1062 directed appeals of the court's rulings from cases before Feb. 1 to the new Workers’ Compensation Commission.

The Supreme Court ruled in Carlock v. Workers’ Compensation Commission that the provision was unconstitutional and that appeals of Workers' Compensation Court decisions fall under the jurisdiction of the old court and thus must remain there.

This in itself isn't really a big deal, except perhaps that the cost of maintaining two separate claims administration systems wasn't contemplated by SB 1062 proponents. 

The Oklahoma WCC doesn't seemed phased.

Commissioner Robert Gilliland told WorkCompCentral the commission was “respectful” of the ruling, and that it would give the commission more time to focus on the appeals from cases filed after Feb. 1.

“So we’re good with that,” Gilliland said, “because we’re dedicating a lot of time and effort to setting up the commission, getting rules and regulations into place, information out to the shareholders.”

But according to the WorkCompCentral report this morning, there's more on the way as challengers to SB 1062 see a number of state constitutional issues.

Though the court in December rejected a challenge to Senate Bill 1062’s overall constitutionality, when the Professional Firefighters of Oklahoma and two legislators contended that the law violated a constitutional ban on bills containing multiple subjects, plaintiff's lawyers in the Carlock case believe that the law has at least 20, and perhaps up to 50, unconstitutional provisions.

They're waiting for the right cases, of course, to make these challenges so appeals to the Supreme Court will occur over time. Nevertheless there is going to be unsettling activity in Oklahoma for some period which means that the people of the state won't be able to rely satisfactorily on the law until those challenges have been vetted.

Reform gremlins - that's what they are.

Gremlins lurk everywhere. Not just in Mexico, or California, but in the Mid-West too!

When that little pesky creature tormented me in Mexico I simply acknowledged his presence and carried on.

He disappeared with a little beer, tequila and food. That's the way things happen in Mexico.

We need to remember that stateside too, whether in California or Oklahoma: Carry On. Beer, tequila and food will make things seem okay. It just takes time.

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