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Kent's Keiser calls state Senate worker comp bills 'bad news'

Sen. Karen Keiser  - Courtesy photo
Sen. Karen Keiser
— image credit: Courtesy photo

State Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, called two worker compensation bills "bad news" after the new Republican majority passed both bills Monday in Olympia on a 25-24 caucus-line vote.

“These bills are bad news for any middle-class worker in our state who gets seriously hurt on the job,” Keiser said in a media release. “All these bills do is lower costs for businesses by taking benefits from those who need it most — the nurse whose back goes out lifting a patient, the delivery man who slips and shatters a hip, the logger who loses an arm or leg and his ability to take care of his family.”

Senate Democrats also ripped the partisanship of the Republican majority that took control when Democrats Rodney Tom of Medina and Tim Sheldon of Potlach crossed lines to form the new majority.

“They can talk all they want about collaboration, but the math speaks louder,” said Sen. Steve Conway, D-Tacoma. “Last week these bills passed out of committee on straight caucus-line votes, and today (Monday) they moved off the Senate floor the same way. This isn’t bipartisanship; this is just one side wielding its one-vote majority to pass partisan legislation that hurts the middle class.”

Senate bills 5112 and 5128 would make numerous changes to a state worker’s compensation system that recently underwent reforms that are still in the process of taking full effect.

Among other things, the bills allow employers to influence what criteria is used to determine the extent of a worker’s injury and fitness to return to work; and open to workers of all ages an option that was originally designed for older workers near retirement to settle claims rather than undergo costly retraining for new career fields.

“These bills won’t help injured employees get healthy and back to work; they don’t create jobs at all,” said Sen. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle. “This is just a plan to shift costs from businesses onto the backs of injured employees and their families. These aren’t jobs bills. They’re anti-jobs bills.”

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