Senate Overrides Nixon’s Workers’ Comp Veto; House Oks New Bill

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Workers’ Compensation on Thursday, April 5, 2012

Two weeks after Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed a bill that would have limited potential compensation for workers who develop chronic illnesses on the job or are injured due to a co-worker’s negligence, the Missouri Legislature is working to override that decision. With the state Senate already having voted to overturn the veto on March 29, the House may be in the process of passing a bill that is very similar to the one rejected by Nixon on March 21.

While both houses of the Legislature are controlled by Republicans, who supported the bill, the House’s majority is slimmer. The original workers’ compensation reform bill passed that chamber by less than the two-thirds majority that would be required to override the veto. So it appears that House Republicans are looking to push through a new — though substantially identical — bill rather than risk a failed override vote.

Like the earlier bill, the new legislation would force people who develop chronic illnesses such as mesothelioma due to exposure to toxic substances at work to seek damages through the Missouri’s workers’ compensation system. Following the passage of a 2005 bill, sickened workers could sue their employers in civil court. Employers, through organizations such as the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, pushed Republican lawmakers to close off that option.

The vetoed legislation would also have prevented injured workers from suing co-workers who were negligently responsible for the injuries and reduce the number of qualifying pre-existing conditions that would qualify injured workers for compensation from the Second Injury Fund. The new House bill includes similar provisions related to the Second Injury Fund, but it is not clear from a report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch if it deals with the co-worker question.

The bill passed an initial approval vote, but the House must hold a final vote before sending it to the Senate. If it passes that chamber, it is not clear whether the new bill would have enough support to override another veto by Gov. Nixon.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Missouri House takes another swing at workers’ comp effort,” Elizabeth Crisp, April 3, 2012

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