Moderate Democrats get workers’ compensation reform bill moving again

Yesterday’s move by moderate Democrats in the House to amend the bipartisan workers’ compensation reform bill passed by the Senate has revived prospects for legislative success in the waning days of the legislative session. This is an issue the Research Council has followed closely for a long time. Most recently, we published The Time Has Come to Fix Workers Compensation and, with the Washington Roundtable, released the Thrive Washington report Employment Cost Drivers in Washington State.

Voluntary settlement options are a critical, commonsense, and mainstream element of workers’ compensation policies in 44 other states, as AWB president Don Brunell writes in this column.

By opposing the voluntary settlement option, labor leaders and their legislative allies are saying they don’t want injured workers to have a choice — even if it means double-digit rate increases for employers and the eventual collapse of the workers’ comp system.

Erik Smith covers the policy and political backdrop well in Washington State Wire.

A new workers’ comp proposal from moderate Democrats stunned the state House Tuesday and shut down debate on the Legislature’s capital budget. And it looks like they’ve launched the last major battle of this year’s regular legislative session.

Eight moderate Democrats signed onto the proposal – the magic number required to bring this year’s big reform bill back to life. They threatened to withhold votes on a must-do bonding bill.

He quotes one of them, Rep. Deb Eddy:

“The hyperbole around this issue just goes beyond the pale,” Eddy said. “People are making allegations about throwing workers under the bus. That’s just not true.”

And AWB’s Kris Tefft:

Perhaps most important, Tefft said, is that the measure now addresses the biggest arguments that opponents have expressed publicly, by incorporating all the various “best practices” now in use in the 44 states that permit settlements. It will make Washington a national model, he said.

“If this doesn’t go far enough, I don’t know what more we could do,” he said.

It goes far enough. As I write in my column on the waning days of the session today, House leaders should permit a floor vote.

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