Workers' comp issues dominate business discussions for the week
Monday, March 4, 2019
Although marijuana and workplace harassment issues continue to be a priority for legislators, workers' compensation issues managed to consume business discussions last week.
SAIF, our state’s employer-funded workers' comp agency, is being considered as a partial solution to the major Public Employees Retirement System debt in Oregon. Public records indicate that Gov. Kate Brown is considering tapping into $1.4 billion of SAIF’s capital surplus to help cover the PERS debt. Although the PERS debt is considerable and in need of a solution, many groups are concerned that this sweep will substantially increase workers' comp rates.
House Bill 3022, a bill that makes various changes to workers' comp laws, also garnered significant attention during the House Business and Labor public hearing Wednesday. Proponents testified that the current law is too broad, making it hard for workers to file an injury claim. Opponents countered that the proposed changes would push Oregon laws back 30 years to a more expensive and complex workers' comp system. Legislators are looking to the Oregon Management-Labor Advisory Committee (MLAC) to provide an analysis of the proposed legislation. MLAC has formed a subcommittee to review.
The primary workplace harassment bill, Senate Bill 726, continues to be thoughtfully deliberated among stakeholders. Business groups are working hard to balance employer and employee rights. Negotiations are ongoing.
Public testimony has stalled on HB 2655 and SB 379, two identical bills that would make it unlawful for employers to prohibit employees from using legal substances, including marijuana. A work group has been formed for the Senate version of the bill to encourage further discussion between stakeholders. It’s unclear whether the work group will result in legislation this session.