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Special session update: Day 28

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on May 23, 2011 at 7:52 am | No Comments »
May 23, 2011 1:31 pm

UPDATE 11:20 a.m.: You still can’t comment on the worker’s comp bill, but now you can read it. Reps. Tami Green, D-Lakewood, and Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee, filed it this morning.

Three days are left until scheduled adjournment, and finishing a budget by that deadline doesn’t look so unlikely anymore now that lawmakers have a deal on workers’ comp.

That deal will be the main focus in public today as the House, then the Senate, plan to give quick endorsements to the compromise ”structured settlements” plan.

No public hearings are planned, even though structured settlements for workers (without the option to take a lump-sum settlement) are a new idea that seems to exist nowhere else in the country.

The public didn’t see details until Sunday’s 6 p.m. press conference. But Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire, House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt and others said there already have been plenty of chances for the public to weigh in on worker’s comp.

Somehow I suspect the State Labor Council will find a way to make its opposition well known today.

Here are some details of the proposal at a glance: 

  • WHO’S ELIGIBLE: Injured workers older than 55 whose claim against their employer is more than six months old. Starting in 2015, workers age 53 and up could apply. After 2016, it would be 50 and up.
  • WHAT YOU GET: A settlement of any size, approved by the state then paid out over months or years. Each installment could be no smaller than $982 and no larger than $5,976, after an initial lump sum of up to $24,000.
  • WHAT YOU GIVE UP: The value of the injury claim, including job retraining or long-term benefits that could eventually turn into a lifetime pension with restrictions on going back to work. But the right to seek payment for future medical care wouldn’t be given up.

Also today, budget negotiators should figure out whether they can wrap up the last few details of a deal.

We’ll see whether lawmakers can come to any agreement on remaining points of contention in the budget, like new charges for environmental permits, or outsourcing of back-office functions including printing and information technology. On the latter issue, SB 5931 is up for a vote today in House Ways and Means.

But some of those side issues may be cast aside in the stampede for the exits.

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