Compromise needed on workers compensation bill
Fri, 03 May 2013 09:00:00 GMT — The Missouri House rewrote a Senate bill Thursday on workers compensation, setting up the need to negotiate a compromise before the legislative session ends in two weeks.The legislation structures the salvage the bankrupt second injury fund, but that's not what inspires passion and anger in the debate. The emotion comes from the plan to end occupational disease lawsuits with a formula-driven cap on damages. Proponents say that will halt frivolous litigation and inflated jury awards.Rep. Todd Richardson, a Republican from Poplar Bluff, said, "We need to put occupational disease back in comp, where it has been for 80 years."The idea infuriates House Minority Leader Jake Hummel, whose grandfather died alone from complications of mesothelioma, which he contracted through workplace exposure to asbestos."He didn't smoke," Hummel said. "He didn't do anything other than go to work and provide for his family. And he dies because these companies poisoned him."The senate proposes to create a new damage awards fund, financed with a new surcharge on all businesses. House Republicans say that isn't fair to small employers in Missouri.Rep. Kevin Engler of Farminginton said, "Charging everybody in the state that didn't cause the problem doesn't make much sense to me."The second injury fund is $25 million dollars in the hole and the deficit is growing.The legislation does increase the business fee paid for that and restricts the claims that can be made for second on-the-job injuries.