The Missouri General Assembly has sent its first bill to Governor Jay Nixon (D) this year, which would revamp the state’s workers' compensation system.
The House passed the bill today, while the State Senate passed it last month -- it passed both chambers on partisan votes. The bill would bar employees from suing each other over workplace injuries and illnesses, and would restore workers’ comp coverage of occupational diseases. State Rep. Dave Schatz (R, Sullivan) argued that it would give Missouri a more business-friendly climate that would be less subject to massively expensive court judgments.
“What we’re trying to accomplish here does not spit in the face of families, it’s not about big corporate profits," Schatz said. "This bill is about putting occupational disease, co-employment liability, back into workers’ compensation where it has been, and been the exclusive remedy, for years...for 84 years, up until 2005.”
Opponents say the bill would not fairly compensate victims of illnesses caused by asbestos or other toxins. In addition, State Rep. Sylvester Taylor (D, North County) took lawmakers to task for passing basically the same bill two years in a row and not seeking more bipartisan input.
“We’re one of three legs of government," Taylor said. "The problem that we have is that a lot of times we think we’re the only leg, and then we spend a whole ‘nother year not getting anything done.”
Governor Nixon vetoed a similar bill last year and has given no indication yet if he’ll veto this year’s version.