Thursday, House members narrowly passed Senate Bill 2576 (SB2576) by a vote of 60-56. The bill’s proposed revisions to the existing Workers’ Compensation law sparked intense debate among House members. Several weeks ago, the original House version of the bill, House Bill 555, died on the House calendar. Proponents of changing the law argued that the primary purpose of SB2576 is to pay the temporary and permanent disability benefits to every worker who legitimately suffers a work-related injury or occupational disease arising out of and in the course of employment, to pay reasonable and necessary medical expenses resulting from the work-related injury, and to encourage the return to work of the worker. Provisions include restoration of “fair and impartial interpretation;” requirement of workers to provide medical proof of injury that occurs on the job; stronger measures related to drug and alcohol usage; clarification of an employee’s choice of physician; and significant increases in benefits for surviving spouses and funeral costs. Opponents, however, vigorously contended that the bill would unnecessarily restrict the opportunity of injured employees to collect benefits owed to them and that it would represent a negative change to current law. The bill was held on a Motion to Reconsider, which will be taken up at a later date.
House Speaker Pro Tem Greg Snowden