Monday, September 9, 2013
Oklahoma Commerce Department Executive Director Jonna D. Kirschner will work on changing the court-based system to an administrative one.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin announced today that Jonna D. Kirschner, executive director of the Oklahoma Commerce Department, will serve on a transition team to establish a new workers’ compensation system authorized by state legislation passed and signed into law earlier this year.
Kirschner was appointed by Fallin in November to the top Commerce Department position after serving as deputy director and general counsel for the agency since 2003.
She starts her new duties Sept. 19.
The governor named Vaughn Clark, the Commerce Department’s director of community development, to serve as interim executive director. Clark, of Oklahoma City, has been community development director since 2003 and has been with the agency since 1994.
Kirschner will join Troy Wilson Sr., who was previously appointed by the governor as chairman of the new workers’ compensation commission, on the transition team. They will work to implement changes in the workers’ compensation court system called for in Senate Bill 1062. The measure is intended to overhaul the workers’ compensation system, which has been called a detriment to business and industry to the state.
Wilson and Kirschner will develop rules by Nov. 1 for the new system, which is to be up and running by Feb. 1. Wilson will serve as a commission chairman for the new system and Kirschner will be one of the system’s administrative law judges.
“As the executive director of the Commerce Department, a business lawyer and civic leader, Jonna Kirschner understands how important it is for Oklahoma to have a business friendly environment,” said Fallin. “Her work will help to establish a system that treats injured workers fairly while reducing costs for businesses and helping to grow Oklahoma’s economy.”
Kirschner received her Juris Doctorate from Boston College Law School and Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College. She became a corporate attorney in 1987 in London, England, where she worked with international and American energy companies, as well as international corporate clients. In 1994, she returned to Oklahoma primarily focusing on corporate acquisitions and corporate healthcare practices, being responsible for all aspects of business including human resources, productivity, accounting, statutory compliance issues and insurance.
“This presents an opportunity to be part of a new team to help guide a state agency from the ground up,” Kirschner said. The governor said Kirschner and Wilson “will be tremendous assets to helping us set up one of our very most important entities. Getting worker’s compensation right is a big priority for my administration.”
Oklahoma, one of just two states with a workers’ compensation court system, has the sixth-highest workers' compensation rates in the nation for employers, which business leaders say is a major deterrent to businesses operating in the state.
SB 1062, among other things, establishes a three-member commission to be appointed by the governor. Commissioners, who must be confirmed by the Senate, will hire the administrative law judges. A court of exiting claims would be created to handle claims filed before Feb. 1.