Second Worker’s Comp Bill with Second Injury Fund Fix Clears Missouri House
April 11 – The Missouri House today passed an AIM-supported bill to the Senate that will address two important issues in worker’s compensation and implement reforms for the Second Injury Fund. CLICK HERE FOR THE RECORDED VOTE (Note: Page 1 is the vote on the “emergency clause” and Page 2 is the vote on the passage of the bill).
The bill, HB 1403, sponsored by Representative Dave Schatz, would prevent co-workers from suing each other in workplace accidents and continue to provide coverage for occupational diseases under the worker’s compensation system. Recent court decisions have threatened to exclude occupational diseases from worker’s compensation coverage. “Occupational diseases” include repetitive motion diseases and other conditions that develop over time, as contrasted with “workplace injuries” that are the result of a single event in the workplace. While worker’s compensation has always covered occupational diseases, recently the courts have held that these diseases are not covered under the worker’s compensation system, leaving employees without coverage and employers with expensive legal bills when these cases are moved into the civil court system.
The bill also would reform Missouri’s failing Second Injury Fund by making sure the original injuries are work related, eliminating permanent partial disability cases that allow workers to be more than 100% “disabled” and still able to work, and denying benefits to incarcerated individuals and other common sense reforms. The bill would also increase the surcharge cap to pay down some of the pending claims against the fund. Employers may have to pay 9% interest on these claims, so all the business representatives endorsed a temporary increase in the surcharge to 4.5% next year and up to an additional 1.5%, if the latter increase is endorsed by a three-fourths vote of the Governor, Attorney General, President Pro Tem of the Senate, and Speaker of the House. The surcharge cap would return to 3% in 2020.
Governor Jay Nixon vetoed legislation earlier this year that would have fixed the two problems in worker’s compensation. The bill now heads to the Missouri Senate for further deliberation. Associated Industries of Missouri will continue to work on arriving at a compromise that will improve the situation for employers and secure either a signature by the Governor, or allow us to obtain the necessary votes to override a veto.