Workers’ compensation bill awaits governor’s action

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A speedier resolution to claims is just one of the goals of a workers’ compensation bill headed for the governor’s desk.

Sponsored by Rep. Andrea Kieffer (R-Woodbury) and Sen. Ted Lillie (R-Lake Elmo), HF1362/ SF1159* would enact the recommendations of the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council.

The House passed it 126-4. The Senate passed it 59-0 on May 20.

The council is made up of representatives of the state’s major business and labor organizations, and recommends changes to statutes governing the workers’ compensation program. The legislation they propose is usually noncontroversial. Kieffer called it a “peace-in-the-valley bill.”

Among the changes proposed in the bill:

  • clarifying who may serve as a workers’ compensation judge, and that only compensation judges may conduct workers’ compensation proceedings;
  • establishing a new timeline for settlement and pretrial conferences; and
  • modifying provisions related to the remodeling of a residence of a disabled employee, including a $15,000 increase on the limit to an employer’s liability.

Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul) said he generally supported the provisions in the bill, but criticized the council itself as “broken” and “co-opted” by special interests. He said injured workers are forced to wait too long to have their claims resolved, and that the board had made little progress in addressing the issue.

“Someday soon, we as a body, we as a government need to revisit the workers’ comp board,” Mahoney said.

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