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Wed., Feb. 6, 2013, 5:33 p.m.

WA Lege Day 24: Inslee says skip more workers comp reforms

OLYMPIA -- Gov. Jay Inslee thinks the Legislature should leave the state's workers compensation system alone and work through the reforms approved in 2011.

House Republicans and the GOP-dominated Senate majority think the state needs to reform the reforms.  

Although not terribly surprising, they managed to highlight their disagreement rather pointedly Wednesday.To read more about it or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

After a passionate debate earlier this week, the Senate passed three bills that would make some changes to the system, including opening up the "structured settlement" option which allows some injured workers to volluntarily accept a payment to settle their claims for a set amount and get off the state system.

Voluntary structured settlements were added in 2011, but only for workers who are 55 or older. A bill that passed 25-24 in one of the first key tests of the coalition majority's hold on power would open voluntary settlements up to workers of any age. Another bill, which would drop the age limit to 40, along with some other changes to the system, passed with a much larger 30-17 vote.

Inslee called those "unnecessary reform". Asked if he would veto them if they came to his desk, he replied: "The third week of the session is probably too early to be waving around a red pen...but my comments should be clear."

An hour later, Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, was citing the votes on workers comp reform reform as a success an early success the coalition had. House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, said they'd like "to get these workers comp bills out and on the governor's desk as soon as possible."

Setting aside the question of whether those bills can even pass the Democratic-controlled House -- and that's questionable at best -- how did they plan to get around the fact that Inslee all but threatened to veto the bills?

They'll have to have businesses lobby the governor that this is a "jobs issue", and press him on claims that jobs are his number one priority, Tom said.

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Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981. He is currently the political reporter and state government reporter in the newspaper's Olympia bureau office.

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