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House passes its version of fix for Second Injury Fund

Legislation aimed at fixing the so-called Second Injury Workers Compensation Fund continued its trek through the state legislature Thursday.

House substitute language for Senate Bill 1 was given final passage in the Missouri House of Representatives by a 109-51. The bill now goes back to the Senate, which is likely to ask for conference committee to be formed to come up with a compromise bill.

The Senate version of the bill was unacceptable to employers and Associated Industries of Missouri expressed opposition to the bill in the House committee hearing.

“The Senate version of the bill mandates every employer to pay into a fund to compensate workers that have been exposed to toxic chemicals,” said Ray McCarty.  “This approach is not fair to those employers that have never exposed employees to toxic chemicals and will never have one of these claims.  Associated Industries of Missouri is helping lead a coalition of employer representatives to fight socializing these costs.”

The House version passed Thursday is very different from the Senate version.  The bill provides a guaranteed benefit for workers contracting toxic diseases, but the costs are not socialized – each employer’s workers’ compensation insurance would pay any claims.  The “guaranteed benefit” approach is in contrast to the “additional benefit” that was included in the Senate version of the bill.

The House version also addresses several important technical changes suggested by Associated Industries that will lessen the chance of misinterpretation by the courts, restricts access to the Second Injury Fund, and provides a temporary increase in the surcharge that supports the ailing Second Injury Fund.

“The House version of Senate Bill 1 is much fairer to employers and we are in support of this version of the bill,” said McCarty.  “Associated Industries of Missouri will continue to work with other employer representative organizations to make sure the final bill is fair for all employers.”

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