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TNT: Workers' Compensation Reform Has Votes in House

By Andrew Calkins May 18, 2011

Jordan Schrader over at the Tacoma News Tribune's Political Buzz blog has the latest on workers' comp reform negotiations between the house and senate. The two sides—the conservative senate, which wants to include a one-time settlement option for workers, and the more liberal house, which is against the idea because they say it will shortchange workers with long-term injuries—have been working with the governor's office (who's compromise narrows the reform to impact only older workers who are close to retirement). The senate, though, has already passed its workers' comp  proposal that includes the one-time settlement option.

Specifically, under the senate's settlement proposal,  workers would be able to settle their disputes with a one-time, lump sum payment, rather than the current system's series of payouts. From the TNT piece:
The settlements appear to have the votes to pass on the House floor. Rep. Chris Hurst, a conservative Enumclaw Democrat, says he thinks if House members were forced to vote, as many as 18 Democrats would join Republicans, easily passing the bill designed by business-friendly House Democrats. Even if his count is high, nine Democrats including Hurst have officially signed on in support of the bill, enough to squeak it through.

But as it turns out, the vote count inside House Democrats' private caucus room is what counts. Rep. Tami Green, D-Lakewood, said a majority of House Democrats -- 45 of the caucus's 56 members -- oppose the centrist Democrats' bill. It won't go to the floor with that kind of opposition, Green said: "It will blow up our caucus if that happens."

[...] But House liberals maintain workers would be pressured into settlements. They have offered three alternative bills intended to save money on the worker's comp system, but aren't touching settlements. "We already said we're not going to do it, and we mean it," Appleton said.

Over the weekend, a stakeholders meeting on workers' compensation reform at Governor Christine Gregoire's office got a surprise visit from an injured worker — Steve Marquardt, a beneficiary of the current system.
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