Business and labor leaders met behind closed doors at the statehouse Monday, trying to hammer out an agreement on Iowa’s worker compensation laws. One of the major obstacles holding up talks on restoring Vision Iowa, the state’s leading economic-development program, is the subject of injured workers. Republican Christopher Rants of Sioux City is speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives. In some cases, he says a worker who’s been hurt and returns to the job gets injured again — and he says they shouldn’t get compensated for the second injury and the first one again, too. He gives the example of a worker whose first on-the-job injury leads an administrative law judge to declare him or her 20-percent disabled, before returning to the job. Now Rants says they’ve been compensated for that 20-percent, and when a new injury makes them 30-percent disabled he says they should get ten-percent compensation, not thirty, and says under law, both the first and the total disability rate are added all together giving fifty-percent compensation. He says that’s “double recovery.” Rants claims people acknowledge that’s happening, and says it’s caused skyrocketing rates for Workers Compensation insurance premiums, leaving businesses with less money for salaries or expansion. Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, citing concerns that workers might be shortchanged by a solution, proposed putting labor and business leaders in a room with lawyers to hammer out a compromise. Speaker rants agreed and offered up his office for the negotiations, though he did not attend. Rants says if they can compromise, he’s willing to abide by it and he hopes the governor will too, since it’s the group he suggested. Rants says when the group emerged they said progress had been made. They’ll return Wednesday for another closed-door meeting. Last week the governor set a Tuesday deadline for legislative leaders to accept his proposal on the Iowa Values Fund, which includes language on the state’s worker’s compensation laws. But now Vilsack’s staff says that deadline may be flexible if negotiations are continuing.
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