Reform of workers' comp law dies in Oklahoma Senate

| 4/14/2006

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

However, after breezing through the House 94-7, the bill – HB3003 – stalled in a Senate committee, where it remained, missing the April 6 deadline to advance to the full Senate for consideration. A renewed effort could be launched in the next legislative session, which begins in February 2007.

If approved, the bill would 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 have done.

– By Coral Beach, staff editor