• News
  • SAN DIEGO
  • Government

Wash. Senate delays workers' compensation vote

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) -- The Washington state Senate on Wednesday passed its first bills of the 2013 legislative session, but put off a vote on a set of contentious measures intended to save businesses money by changing workers' compensation rules.

Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville said the five bills dealing with workers' compensation, which passed out of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee Monday, will likely come to the floor soon.

“We heard the minority's concerns about being rushed and we decided to respect them,” Schoesler said.

Senate Minority Leader Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said his caucus would not have stood in the way of a vote on the bills Wednesday but objected to an attempt to push action on them to Friday.

“We believe this needs to happen on a day when people will actually read about it in the newspaper,” Murray said.

Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, a centrist, said he would have voted against all the bills had they come up Wednesday, but could envision revising that stance.

“Giving more time lets me figure out what is in there which means that potentially there would be one that I could vote for,” Hargrove said.

One of the measures, Senate Bill 5126, would reverse a recent Washington Supreme Court ruling that barred the state from compensating itself for benefits paid to an injured worker by taking a cut of the pain and suffering damages awarded to the worker suing a third party for his or her injury.

Another, Senate Bill 5124, would change how an injured worker's benefits are calculated, in part by excluding the value of his or her health benefits.

Two of the bills, Senate Bills 5127 and 5128, would make “compromise-and-release” settlement agreements available to all workers - they are currently limited to those 55 and older - and make it easier for the state to approve such deals, respectively.

The bill lifting the age restriction on such deals has a companion bill in the House, House Bill 1097, sponsored by Rep. Chris Hurst, D-Enumclaw.

At a Wednesday afternoon news conference, Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake, said that expanding access to such agreements would be good for both business and workers.

“This is an additional option and choice for that injured worker, where they can go through the settlement agreement and start a small business if they like, or they can go back and return to work,” she said.

The proposed changes to the workers compensation system come in the wake of a raft of reforms passed in 2011 meant to rein in costs to a system widely viewed as overburdened.

The state's Department of Labor and Industries recently proposed a series of tax increases, mostly aimed at employers, to raise $1.1 billion over the next decade in order to further shore up its reserves.

Among the five bills passed Wednesday with broad support were Senate Bill 5052, which would allocate an additional superior court judge to Whatcom County and Senate Bill 5021, which would change the name of the crime of rioting to that of criminal mischief.

Those bills will now be transferred to the House.

___

Follow Associated Press writer Jonathan Kaminsky at http://www.twitter.com/jekaminsky

Leave Your Comment

Comments are moderated by SDDT, in accordance with the SDDT Comment Policy, and may not appear on this commentary until they have been reviewed and deemed appropriate for posting. Also, due to the volume of comments we receive, not all comments will be posted.

SDDT Comment Policy: SDDT encourages you to add a comment to this discussion. You may not post any unlawful, threatening, defamatory, obscene, pornographic or other material that would violate the law. All comments should be relevant to the topic and remain respectful of other authors and commenters. You are solely responsible for your own comments, the consequences of posting those comments, and the consequences of any reliance by you on the comments of others. By submitting your comment, you hereby give SDDT the right, but not the obligation, to post, air, edit, exhibit, telecast, cablecast, webcast, re-use, publish, reproduce, use, license, print, distribute or otherwise use your comment(s) and accompanying personal identifying and other information you provide via all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, worldwide, in perpetuity. SDDT Privacy Statement.

User Response
0 UserComments

Leave Your Comment

Comments are moderated by SDDT, in accordance with the SDDT Comment Policy, and may not appear on this commentary until they have been reviewed and deemed appropriate for posting. Also, due to the volume of comments we receive, not all comments will be posted.

SDDT Comment Policy: SDDT encourages you to add a comment to this discussion. You may not post any unlawful, threatening, defamatory, obscene, pornographic or other material that would violate the law. All comments should be relevant to the topic and remain respectful of other authors and commenters. You are solely responsible for your own comments, the consequences of posting those comments, and the consequences of any reliance by you on the comments of others. By submitting your comment, you hereby give SDDT the right, but not the obligation, to post, air, edit, exhibit, telecast, cablecast, webcast, re-use, publish, reproduce, use, license, print, distribute or otherwise use your comment(s) and accompanying personal identifying and other information you provide via all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, worldwide, in perpetuity. SDDT Privacy Statement.