Saturday, March 11, 2006

HB 461 moves forward

Labor is an incredibly weak force in Kansas. Kansas is a "right to work" state, and unions have a hard time getting any traction here. That's why it isn't entirely surprising that no one but labor seemed interested in decrying HB 461. I hadn't heard about it until Washington Day.

Randy Dall, President of Machinists' Local 2799Randy Dall of the Wichita based Machinists' Local 2799 talked about it with me. The fact that the Machinists had some truly excellent food in their hospitality room had nothing at all to do with my interest in what he was telling me.

HB 461 would re-write the state's workers' compensation for injuries. In a state that already has the lowest payments for on-the-job injuries, it would make it even easier for employers to escape responsibility for unsafe conditions. A person who has worked at a job for decades can have his compensation denied or slashed because of an old football injury, or a wound suffered in the military decades earlier.

The bill is now moving on to the full House:
Some workers injured on the job could collect significantly less money under a bill passed by a House committee Friday.

The proposal would cut workers' settlements based on the percentage of their injury that a doctor believes resulted from a pre-existing condition.

Labor leaders say that means in some cases injured workers' compensation would be reduced based on problems they didn't know they had.

Kansas already allows employers to reduce compensation settlements for previous health problems, but only if they can provide proof of that with the worker's prior medical records.
Workers' comp hasn't risen in Kansas since 1987, and compensation for injuries on the job ranks among the bottom 5 nationwide. That's a problem. Let's work on it, rather than trying to scam working men and women out of their health and money.