AIM president testifies against SB1
Saying he “doesn’t want to set up a baby second injury fund” Associated Industries of Missouri President Ray McCarty told a House committee Wednesday that the association and its members cannot support Senate Bill 1 in its current form.
”AIM supports legislation that properly reforms and provides responsible additional funding for the Second Injury Fund,” McCarty said. “However, the bill, as amended by the Senate is unacceptable in its current form. Therefore, we regretfully must oppose the bill in its current form.”
McCarty told the House Workforce Development and Workplace Safety Committee that the bill would lower the threshold for accessing the fund to an unacceptable level, doesn’t limit a special surcharge that would be used to remedy 10 toxic exposure diseases, and allows workers with a previous injury of any kind to become eligible for the fund.
In addition, McCarty argued that occupational diseases are already covered under the exclusive remedy provisions of the workers’ compensation law.
“This is an opportunity to bring some real change to the second injury fund,” said McCarty. “But we don’t want to set up a baby second injury that in ten years from now we’ll be back here trying to figure out how we can find additional resources for that.”
The bill would eliminate permanent partial disability claims against the fund. But McCarty told committee members the bill lowers the threshold for accessing the fund through permanent disability claims to an unacceptably low level of 50 weeks’ disability.
Senate Bill 1 also establishes an enhanced remedy for 10 toxic exposure diseases to be paid from a subaccount of the fund, subsidized by a special surcharge with no limit. If that surcharge goes into effect, McCarty maintained a limit needs to be set in writing so that it is not subject to expansion or elimination by the courts or future legislatures.
McCarty said language in the bill would lead to an expansion of eligible cases for the fund by allowing workers injured on the job to access the Second Injury Fund if they have previous injuries that aren’t work related.
“The bill allows workers injured on the job to access the fund if they have previous injuries that are work comp compensable injuries, or the result of military service, and we agree with allowing such access,” said McCarty. “However, the bill also allows a worker who has a previous injury from any source that significantly aggravates or accelerates a work related injury to access the Second Injury Fund.”
Finally, McCarty told committee members that the occupational diseases language in the bill may be unnecessary because it is AIM’s position that current workers’ compensation laws cover occupational diseases.
“We believe the language in the bill should clearly state the legislature is not adding a new provision, but clarifying the existing one to avoid misinterpretation by the courts,” said McCarty.