OLYMPIA -- Major changes to the state's workers compensation system passed the House Monday on a 69-26 vote.
Most proposed amendments were ruled out of order by Speaker Frank Chopp, and debate centered around whether injured workers would be helped or hurt by a change that would allow them to take "structured settlements" rather than take part in state retraining programs and go on a pension program.
Rep. Chris Reykdahl, D-Tumwater, said the changes were part of a "relentless pursuit to take on workers". Businesses will be helped at the expense of workers, he said.
Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee, insisted it was a "creative and somewhat experimental" change to the state's century-old system designed to protect injured workers. "If I were an injured worker, I would want this option. If there are problems, I'll be the first to come back and fix them."
Rep. .Tami Green, D-Lakewood, acknowledged the plan was controversial, but should be given a chance to work. "I guess I would ask us to all calm down a lilttle bit," Green said in opening the debate. "If there are problemls, we can come back and fix them."