Topic: workers compensation
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February 6, 2013 at 2:46 PM
Gov. Jay Inslee warned Senate Republicans on Wednesday he opposes several bills they’ve introduced on energy and the state’s workers’ compensation system, and is concerned by their reluctance to embrace the national health care law.
It’s the first time the new governor has weighed in on legislation proposed by the GOP-led majority in the state Senate.
“I’m very concerned the Senate has gone backwards in two areas,” Inslee said at a news conference Wednesday. He then criticized moves by the Republican-led majority in the Senate to amend Initiative 937 and to revamp the workers’ comp system.
Inslee’s staff said he was particularly concerned by a proposal that would change I-937 to recognize hydroelectricity as a renewable resource.
The initiative requires about a third of the state’s utilities – those with at least 25,000 customers – to get 15 percent of their power through renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2020.
Most of the state’s energy comes from hydroelectric power, but existing hydroelectric power isn’t considered renewable energy under I-937, because the initiative was aimed at spurring development of new clean energy.
Inslee said he did not support the GOP proposals regarding the initiative arguing, “It would take us backwards instead of forward.”
He also jumped on plans by the Senate majority to revamp the state workers’ compensation system, saying they would “reduce protections for workers and their families. I think they are unnecessary.”
And the governor urged the Senate to move quickly to expand Medicaid as called for under the national health care law.
If states expand Medicaid programs to cover low-income people now left out, the federal government will pick up the full cost for the first three years and 90 percent over the long haul.
Inslee called that a good deal that will save the state both now and in the future. “This is a no-brainer,” he said.
Leaders of the GOP-led coalition in the Senate dismissed his criticism, saying the changes they’re proposing for I-937 and workers’ compensation are needed to help the economy.
Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said the caucus (made up of 23 Republicans and two Democrats) is open to the idea of expanding Medicaid, but they want to make sure there is a way to back out if state costs for the program increase too much in the future.
February 4, 2013 at 8:00 AM
This week, legislators will address some old topics, such as workers compensation and abortion, and open up some new ones, such as marijuana legalization.
Senators could debate three of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus’ worker compensation bills on the floor today. One of the bills is Senate Bill 5128, changing compensation for injured workers. The bill sponsored by Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake, was passed out of committee last week and amended on the Senate floor last Friday.
The Senate Law & Justice Committee will begin discussing Senate Bill 5156, requiring parental notification for minors seeking abortions. The bill was revised last week after Republicans faced criticism for a clause apparently repealing laws making abortion legal in Washington. A public hearing for the bill will be held on Feb. 6.
Members of the House will begin to address marijuana legalization this week with a work session on impaired driving in the Public Safety Committee on Feb. 6. Legislators will also polish the marijuana law with House Bill 1597, which makes technical corrections to the law. Public hearing on the bill will take place in the Committee on Government Accountability & Oversight on Feb. 7.
January 30, 2013 at 1:58 PM
By JONATHAN KAMINSKY
The Associated Press
OLYMPIA — The Washington state Senate on Wednesday passed its first bills of the 2013 legislative session, but put off a vote on a set of controversial 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.
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.
January 28, 2013 at 7:00 AM
With the session in full-swing, Washington state legislators will consider bills on issues from wolves to elections – and everything in between. Here’s a look at this week’s big topics:
Senators will look at several bills regarding worker compensation throughout the week. Today, the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor will hold a public hearing regarding Senate Bill 5159, which would repeal the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act. It was enacted in 2007 and is scheduled to go into effect in 2015. The act would provide benefits of up to $250 per week to workers who are unable to perform their customary work because they are on family leave. SB 5159 is sponsored by Sen. John Braun, R-Centrailia, and has the support of 10 other Majority Caucus Coalition members.
Also on Monday, the committee will hold hearings on Senate Bill 5128, sponsored by Sen. Janea Holmquist-Newbry, R-Moses Lake, that would make changes to the workers compensation system, and on Senate Bill 5275, also sponsored by Holmquist-Newbry, that would allow employers to pay their employees a training wage as low as 75 percent of minimum wage during a specified period.
Representatives will consider multiple K-12 bills this week in the House Education Committee, as legislators attempt to comply with the McCleary decision made last year by the Washington Supreme Court. The committee will hold hearings on three different bills on Thursday: House Bill 1252, House Bill 1304 and House Bill 1283.
HB 1252, sponsored by Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, would establish an online professional development program for K-12 teachers to use free of charge. HB 1304, sponsored by Rep. Mark Hargrove, R-Covington, would allow certain private K-12 schools to offer online-only education. HB 1283 would lower the age of compulsory school attendance from 8 years old to 6 years old.
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