Dont Adjourn without Workers Comp Reform!
House members have been waiting for weeks to take a vote on the bi-partisan Engrossed Senate Bill 5566 making much-needed equitable changes to the states workers comp system. Thus far the bill has been held up in committee by Rep. Mike Sells (D-38 Everett) and House Speaker Frank Chopp (D-43 Seattle) without so much as a hearing.
Now with just days to go in the regular session House lawmakers have a chance to help injured workers and employers with another version of the same bill. Rep. Deb Eddy (D-48 Kirkland) has introduced a striking amendment that would add even MORE protections for injured workers and move ahead with reforms that will keep costs down for employers and increase savings for the state.
Key differences from the Senate’s Bill
1. Removes medical benefits from settlements allowing continued care
2. Establishes a 6-month waiting period after injury before settlement rather than the 12 weeks in the Senate version
3. Prohibits those who have already received a pension award from converting it to a lump-sum settlement
4. Requires a more robust review process before a Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals (BIIA) judge of proposed settlements for unrepresented workers
5. Clarifies that the existing cap on attorney’s fees applies to work on settlements
6. Directs a study by the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Committee (JLARC) rather than L&I (in the Senate version) with recommendations by JLARC to the Legislature on the program
7. Delays the start date for settlements from Sept. 1 2011 to Jan. 1 2012
8. Directs the BIIA to adopt rules and gives rulemaking authority to L&I to implement the procedures for settlements
It also makes a couple minor technical tweaks to satisfy L&I concerns. Bottom line this is still very close to the existing structure of ESB 5566 with some additional sideboards. The majority of fiscal savings set forth in the L&I fiscal note should remain intact (approximately $1.2 billion savings in the first two years).
The Eddy striking amendment to ESB 5566 co-sponsored by Reps. Deb Eddy (48-Kirkland) Troy Kelley (28- Tacoma) Dean Takko (19-Longview) Fred Finn (35-Shelton) Kathy Haigh (35-Shelton) Judy Clibborn (41- Mercer Island) and Larry Seaquist (26-Gig Harbor) is a fair and voluntary settlement option that would be available in the workers’ comp system. It borrows every conceivable sideboard that is working among the 44 states allowing these settlements. It will reduce the cost curve on long term disability claims in our system and contribute to its long-term sustainability. It does not include benefit reductions present in other legislative proposals. It needs to be brought up quickly for a floor vote in the House.
Time is literally of the essence. AGC needs you to contact Speaker Frank Chopp and your House members TODAY and ask them to move the Eddy striking amendment to ESB 5566.