Democratic and Republican Senate members realized they had to compromise to fix the troubled Second Injury Fund. The Department of Labor announced this year that the fund was $28.1 million in debt and had 30,000 pending workers compensation cases.
Senators gave preliminary approval to a bill about the Second Injury Fund that increases how much businesses pay toward it, decreases the amount of eligible workers, sets a time period for workers to file for money, and adds the term occupational disease.
The Second Injury Fund pays workers with a preexisting injury who received a second injury on the job. Employers currently pay for the fund with a surcharge as part of their worker’s compensation package, but a 2005 law capped the surcharge at 3 percent resulting in the fund not having enough money to pay injured workers.
Rupp said both sides are not completely happy but the bill is a solution to the distressed fund. He started the senate session Tuesday by telling a story of his kids each wanting something different for dinner and ending up with empty bowls in front of them.
“Everybody in the last four years has been coming forth saying I just don’t like this piece can you take it out,” Rupp said. “The last four years we’ve had empty bowls in front of us.”
Sen. Jamila Nasheed, D-St. Louis thanked Rupp for his hard work on the bill and said compromise is needed to get things accomplished.
“The art of compromise is what makes the Missouri legislature work,” Nasheed said.
The bill’s compromise includes increasing business’s surcharge to 6 percent when needed, workers with permanent partial disabilities can no longer benefit from this fund, and after July 1, 2013 workers will have one year from the date they are diagnosed with an injury to file for money under the fund.
Rupp offered an amendment substitute to the current bill so only ten listed toxic exposed occupational diseases would qualify for money under the Second Injury Fund. The list includes mesothelioma which is a rare form of cancer usually caused by jobs where employees inhaled asbestos. If the diagnosed worker passes away then the spouse would receive 66 percent of those benefits.
Occupational diseases are defined as an identifiable disease caused by employment with or without human fault.
The last compromise to be made for the bill’s perfection was between Sen. Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis, and Rupp, a Republican.
Sifton asked to come to some type of mutual agreement on the amount of benefits for workers diagnosed with mesothelioma whose employer is a manufacturer of asbestos. Rupp did agree to compromise and proposed an amendment to increase the benefits for workers diagnosed with mesothelioma to $600,000 which was passed along with the bill’s perfection.
The bill will go through a final vote in the Senate before moving to the House.