Haslam Worker’s Comp Bill Gets Just Two ‘No’ Votes in Senate

Gov. Bill Haslam’s bill to overhaul the state’s workers’ compensation system was approved 28-2 by the Senate on Monday evening and now needs only an expected favorable House floor vote to reach his desk.
The bill (SB200) makes multiple changes to current law, including directing disputes over claims by workers for on-the-job injuries from the courts to a new administrative system. Norris, sponsoring the bill for Haslam, said Tennessee is now one of just two states that still adjudicates such claims in courts and currently has higher rates for workers’ compensation insurance than neighboring states.
“I feel confident these reforms are not only going to keep Tennessee competitive but will benefit employees as well,” said Norris.
The two no votes came from Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney of Jackson and Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, both lawyers.
Overbey gave the only speech in opposition, saying he approved of most changes but is “troubled” by the creation of 20 new state government positions in the new “court of workers’ compensation claims” and various other new administrative jobs in the new system. Court clerks and judges across the state are already familiar with handling claims and could continue, he said.
The senator also said that, under the bill, there is little difference between what a worker is paid if he or she returns to work and payments if he or she does not. The bill could thus reduce incentives for injured workers to return to work, he said.
Norris said most of the newly created positions will be covered by eliminating current jobs in the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Some state employees in those jobs may get positions in the new system.

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