Taking a Cue From The Potheads, Business Interests Pledge to Bring Workers' Comp Reform to the Voters

Courtesy of History Channel
This guy wants workers' comp reform. And we're not sure we want to fight him on that.
Like supporters of pot legalization, who saw their legislative agenda go down in flames already, and so are turning to a voter initiative, advocates of workers' comp reform--subject of our cover story this week--are taking matters into their own hands.

The Building Industry Association of Washington has notified the Secretary of State's office that it will start collecting signatures for an initiative requiring the legislature to allow private insurers to compete with the state-run system. Republicans have already introduced such a bill, but it stands no chance with the Democrats.

The BIAW's had plenty of success getting initiatives on the ballot in the past, but a mixed record on getting them passed.

In 2003, the homebuilders group sponsored an anti-ergonomics initiative to repeal legislation requiring that employers buy equipment to make hard-on-the-back jobs like horticulture and construction easier on the body. Fifty-three percent of the voters agreed it placed too high a burden on businesses.

But in 2006 the BIAW co-sponsored an initiative to require the government to pay land-owners when it passes restrictions on how they can use the land. Voters said no.

According to Seattlepi.com the homebuilders' lobby needs over 240,000 signatures to get this one on the ballot.

The other reform bill in Olympia would allow companies to settle out of long-term claims, require additional proof that an injury is job related, and plug injured workers into a pre-approved medical provider network.

That legislation has Democratic sponsors, but yesterday, the Association of Washington Business complained on its blog that the Governor and Democratic leadership want to put off making changes this session in favor of convening a task force on the issue after the session ends.

A spokesperson for Gregoire says the Governor hasn't actually declared her position on the workers' comp bills yet. But AWB is making a preemptive play for public support, saying reform has to be passed now. AWB Director of Government Affairs Kris Tefft notes that the Governor convened a similar group last fall, but both labor and business dug in their heels and negotiations went nowhere.

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