Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb wants to see three reforms made to the state's worker compensation program.
He told a crowd of Northeast Oklahoma A&M College students, staff, area residents and City of Miami staff Thursday at NEO that the first thing needed is the appointment of conservative judges to the Workers' Compensation Court.
"The current WCC judges are out of control, and the rate of awards is going up," he said.
Lamb also wants a fraud unit in the Oklahoma Attorney General's office that just deals with worker compensation fraud cases.
"We have a lot of retired law enforcement people in Oklahoma who would like some supplement income. The AG could contract with them to take files and see if there is any fraud involved," he said.
The third worker comp reform he'd like to see made is to allow businesses with no worker comp claims the opportunity to opt out of the system. Under state law, businesses are required to be in the workers comp system.
Workers comp needs revamped to help keep businesses here in Oklahoma, he said.
Lamb visited Miami as part of his third time to visit all 77 of the state's counties and learn what residents think the state can do to be more competitive in economic development and put that in the Lt. Gov.'s Policy Issue Report he is preparing to give to Gov. Mary Fallin and the Legislature.
He has visited 59 counties so far, so only has 18 to go.
Under the portfolio of the lieutenant governor in Oklahoma, Lamb said, he has three areas of responsibility.
Under the first one, he is chairman of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Board, which is appointed by the governor. However, he does not oversee the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. He is also on the Board of Equalization and several other commissions.
Under the second one, he takes assignments from the governor.
Economic development comes under his third area of responsibilities.
He told those present that California and Illinois are increasing taxes, which are getting firms like Caterpillar and Sears to look for new sites for their headquarters.
In May, he said, Sears sent a letter to the Illinois governor that it is interested in leaving Illinois because of all the new taxes.
Lamb, who believes in Oklahoma, said in graduation speeches that Oklahoma is on the cusp of a renaissance or rebirth. "Now is the time to be engaged in Oklahoma's economy. Don't leave now as its time for opportunity," he said.
One of Lamb's goals is to make Oklahoma more attractive to businesses than Texas. Texas has many public policies to aid business, he said, of which Oklahoma needs more.
Lamb also stressed that the sun does not rise or set in Tulsa or Oklahoma City. "We've got to have a rural economic development policy in Oklahoma," he said.
When asked how he proposed to increase the number of Oklahomans with a bachelor degree as only 22 percent currently have one, Lamb said Fallin was unveiling her higher education inititiative as he spoke.
He said one challenge the state faces is the high percentage of its residents who started towards their associate or bachelor's degree and never finished it.
Jeff Hale, NEO president, said 75,000 people in Oklahoma with 90 hours of higher education under their belt.
Lamb said someway has to be found to get them to finish their education.
When asked if there was anything on the table to help preserve the last three miles of Route 66 in Oklahoma in Ottawa County, Lamb said he's been to this area before and this is the first time he has heard about this.
He said Route 66 is a great tourism draw, especially with Europeans.
"Tourism is the third highest industry in Oklahoma," he said.
Lamb also stressed that oil, gas and agriculture remain the economic backbone, but the state needs to diversify its economy.