Workers' Comp Reform Appears Dead; Legislature Offers More Study

Workers’ compensation reform legislation backed by AGC and a broad business coalition appears to be dead for this legislative session bottled up by Rep. Steve Conway in his House Commerce and Labor Committee. (For previous article on the reform bill click here.)

As discouraging as this is the “compromise” offered by the Legislature – to study the matter – is not much better. SB 6775 creates a taskforce to study workers’ compensation and AGC is opposed to it.

“AGC is frustrated that this bill is the Legislature’s response to the urgent reasonable call for system improvements that the employer community has made this year” said AGC Government Affairs Manager Christine Swanson. “We are seeking leadership and action not further discussion. The failed history of exactly these kinds of studies isn’t promising.”

Swanson cited studies going back as far as 2004 including:

  • In 2004 Governor Gary Lock appointed the “Blue Ribbon Commission” on workers’ comp reforms which didn’t go anywhere.
  • In 2006 then-director Gary Weeks attempted a comprehensive improvement initiative with input from business and labor which didn’t go anywhere.
  • The Workers’ Comp Advisory Committee has been in place for decades. But it is a deeply polarized and dysfunctional forum and its statutory charge and composition is very similar to what this study bill contemplates.
  • Finally there was the brief effort last fall and winter led by the Department under the auspices of the Governor’s office that is almost identical to what this bill intends. Its short time frame notwithstanding the Governor’s effort was structured in such a way as to produce a successful negotiated outcome yet it did not.

“The bottom line is we can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result” said Swanson.