Workers compensation reform and employer-provided health care were among the major topics of discussion Thursday at a regional business summit in Lawton.
About 60 business people and business advocates attended the session, which was sponsored by the State Chamber of Oklahoma and the state Department of Commerce.
Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb opened the session and helped moderate the proceedings with the assistance of Chad Warmington, chief operating officer for the state chamber.
Lamb said Oklahoma's economy has been doing well, maintaining a low unemployment rate and creating new jobs. But there's always room for improvement, he said, and the goal of the regional summits Lawton's was the fourth is to develop goals that can be presented to the state Legislature next session.
Lamb said he visited all 77 counties last year and has been in 65 so far this year, and workers compensation cost and health insurance are frequently mentioned as impediments to growth.
Frank Burch of Southern Machine Shop in Duncan said those are two of his major concerns. He would like to be able to allow small businesses to pool into a larger group for health insurance; that would help stabilize rates and make planning easier.
On workers compensation, he said "the system seems to be broken" and it's too litigious and it benefits neither workers nor employers.
That's a complaint Lamb said he's heard many times and asked if Burch was concerned about fraud or the adversarial nature of the system.
There may be some fraud, Burch said, but the problems go far beyond that. The process takes so long that employees become embittered and a morale problem.