Legislation that would revive Missouri's ailing Second Injury Fund and seek to reduce the number of occupational disease lawsuits was passed Thursday by the Missouri House. It had already passed the Missouri Senate during pre-dawn hours on Wednesday.
Early this morning, the Missouri Senate passed legislation that would fix the state's ailing Second Injury Fund.
The fund is designed to help disabled workers who suffer a second work-related injury. It began running out of money after lawmakers eight years ago capped the surcharge businesses have to pay into it. Senate Bill 1, sponsored by State Senator Scott Rupp (R, Wentzville), would temporarily increase the surcharge.
The Missouri Senate on Tuesday night gave first-round approval to a workers’ compensation bill that includes a proposed fix for the state’s ailing Second Injury Fund.
Senate Bill 1 would replenish the fund by temporarily doubling the fees business may be charged, while restricting the types of injuries that would be covered. The sponsor, State Senator Scott Rupp (R, Wentzville), calls it an ideal compromise.
The measure would bar employees from suing each other over workplace injuries and illnesses, but it leaves occupational disease claims within the court system and does not address the state’s ailing Second Injury Fund. State Rep. Dave Schatz (R, Sullivan) sponsored a different workers’ comp bill that addresses the fund and would move occupational disease claims to the workers’ comp system. He hopes it will pass, too.
The vote again fell mostly along party lines, passing 92 to 56, with one lawmaker voting "present." The measure would place occupational disease claims back within the workers’ comp system and would bar employees from suing each other over workplace injuries and illnesses. Democrats, including Kevin McManus of Kansas City, objects to moving claims out of the courts and back to workers' comp.
Governor Jay Nixon (D) vetoed a similar bill last month that originated in the Senate. The House version contains most of the same provisions – it would bar employees from suing each other over workplace injuries and illnesses, and it would restore occupational disease claims within the workers’ comp system. State Rep. Jacob Hummel (D, St. Louis) debated with the bill’s sponsor, Dave Schatz (R, Sullivan).
But the likelihood that the House will also override the Governor’s veto is virtually nonexistent, according to Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones (R, Eureka). He says they just don’t have the votes, even within their own party.
“We would have to first convince our caucus," Jones said. "And even if we did, we’re still simply three votes short on a bill that no Democrat, I believe, has supported to this point…that’s a tough vote.”