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Senate Eyes Bill to Overhaul Workers’ Comp System in Iowa

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DES MOINES, Iowa – Just hours after Iowans crowded a meeting room at the Iowa Statehouse to debate a controversial voter ID law, more gathered in the same space to debate a proposed overhaul to the state’s worker’s compensation system.

The bill, SSB 1170, seeks to change Iowa’s workers’ compensation laws in a number of ways. Supporters of the bill told a Senate subcommittee Wednesday the bill would help businesses grow; a representative from Tyson Foods told lawmakers the business looks at states’ workers’ comp laws to decide if growth there is possible. But opponents of the law, including attorneys who represent injured employees, said it would leave many disabled Iowa workers without the benefits they’re entitled to.

“Make no mistake when you take a look at this legislation, these are not tweaks. These are not little fixes. This is a major overhaul of our workers’ compensation system. If you look at pages four through seven, you’ll see nothing but cutbacks in the benefits that are owed to workers who sustain a permanent on-the-job injury,” said Jason Neifert, an attorney. “And let me stop there for a second – I’m talking about an injury that we’ve established happened, we’ve established caused a permanent disability, and a permanent loss of use – if not total loss of ability – to go back to work. And every single one of the sections on those pages takes benefits away from those workers.”

Many union workers turned out to the meeting to show their opposition; these citizens say this proposal is comparable to the recent collective bargaining changes made by Iowa lawmakers.