Oklahoma lawmakers reforming their reform of work comp law

| 3/14/2006

Oklahoma legislators are working to undo their previous handiwork and reinstate a program that allows the state to issue Certificates of Non-Coverage to self-employed people – including truckers.

The certificates enable truckers and others to prove to those they contract with that they are exempt from workers’ compensation coverage requirements.

Monday night, March 13, the Oklahoma House approved the measure 94-7.

Sponsored by Rep. Fred Morgan, R-Oklahoma City, and known as HB3003, the bill has been sent to the state Senate where Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, is its “principal author” or sponsor.

An aide to Leftwich told Land Line that the bill would likely be assigned to a Senate committee next week. That committee will have until April 6 to advance the bill to the full Senate.

If approved, the bill will effectively reverse a legislative reform that ended the Certificates of Non-Coverage program, commonly known to truckers base plated in Oklahoma as the CNC program. The CNC program went the way of the dinosaurs July 1, 2005, sending independent contractors into limbo.

The CNC cards provided Oklahoma truckers and other self-employed people with an inexpensive way to prove they were exempt from workers’ compensation coverage requirements. They paid $10 for a one-year card or $20 for a two-year card. The CNC cards were issued by the state after people provided proof that they were self-employed.

The legislative reform that killed the CNC program sparked a rash of concerns and speculation. Some Oklahoma officials said without the CNC cards, independent contractors and self-employed people would have to buy workers’ comp policies for an estimated $350 a year and then check the “opt out” box on their policies.

Fears of that extra expense sent a flood of truckers and others to state offices at the last minute on June 30, 2005, so they could secure two-year CNC cards for $20. The state offices were kept open until after 8 p.m. to serve those in line for CNC cards. An attorney general’s opinion stated that cards issued that night and any other existing CNC cards are valid through their expiration dates.

In July 2005, state Sen. Cliff A. Aldridge and the deputy commissioner for the state Department of Transportation told Land Line that the reform was creating more problems than it resolved.

Pat McGuigan, deputy commissioner for the state Labor Department, said in July 2005 that “the most efficient solution would be to bring back the CNC program.”

That is exactly what HB3003 would do. And the bill includes a provision that earmarks it as “emergency” legislation. That means it would go into effect immediately upon approval, rather than being delayed until July 1, which is the standard procedure for Oklahoma bills after they are signed into law.

– By Coral Beach, staff editor