Governor Terry Branstad on Thursday said he is “pleased” to see an overhaul of the state’s workers compensation system advancing through the legislature. Branstad says the system is out of whack due to new regulations and recent court rulings.
“What they’ve done is taken the original concept of workers comp with is instead of fight over who’s at fault, compensate the worker and try to help them so they can get back to work as quickly as possible to making it kind of, some cases, almost kind of a long-term disability thing,” Branstad said during an interview with two statehouse reporters.
Republicans on committees in both the Iowa House and Senate approved the overhaul Thursday afternoon. Democrats on the committees voted against it.
“To my fellow senators around this table, pause and think about what message we are sending to our workforce today,” said Democratic Senator Nate Boulton, a lawyer from Des Moines who has represented injured workers.
Boulton called the bill an “unforgiveable” attack on Iowa workers in both private sector and and government jobs.
“If we pass this in its current form, we are going to be truly dismantling a system that is designed to protect Iowa workers who suffer disabling injuries at their workplace,” Boulton said.
The bill would take steps to reduce potential compensation for repetitive motion injuries as well as injuries tied to pre-existing conditions. It also would cut off workers comp checks when an employee reaches the age of 67.
Iowa business groups say the system has gotten out of balance and the bill will help address “significant” premium hikes. Representative Peter Cownie, a Republican from West Des Moines, said those concerns need to be addressed.
“If someone gets injured at work, they deserve to be compensated and this bill allows that to happen absolutely,” Cownie said. “But the fact of the matter is there has been abuse in the system. It cannot be denied.”
A hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Monday in the statehouse to give the public a chance to comment on the legislation.