-Sen. Nick Harper
When they took over the Senate, the makeshift Republican majority promised to collaborate and build bipartisan support for its legislation. But their methods in ramming major worker compensation bills through committee tell a very different story.
Their Commerce & Labor Committee chair shoe-horned five major bills into a single hearing on Wednesday, limiting testimony to two minutes from those who have the most to lose with the bills - middle-class workers who risk life and limb on the job - while letting numerous proponents of the bills testify for four and five minutes at a time. In the same hearing, the chair refused to let the knowledgeable staff from the Dept. of Labor & Industries testify and answer questions about the potential real-world impacts of the bills.
It’s worth noting that these major changes are being proposed before we’ve had a chance to see how recent reforms play out. Some reforms implemented in 2012, in fact, are still in the evolutionary stage. In that light, I take great interest in what this year’s committee chair — Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake — had to say during a hearing in 2012 when other proposed changes to the worker compensation system were made:
“Even if it is just a perceived tweak, I have a real concern with us moving forward with workers comp bills when we’ve just had a historical workers comp reform that has just been in place since Jan. 1 of this year. And for those reasons, I will be a ‘no.’ ”
What’s more, these bills propose more than “tweaks.” These are extreme bills that radically restructure our long-proven worker comp system. And they’re being rushed through the legislature without a full or fair hearing on their consequences.
Sen. Steve Conway speaks to the problems with the Republicans’ worker compensation proposal in an accompanying blog. The policy aspects of their proposals aside, the Republicans’ frenzied rush to move legislation that makes radical changes to longtime state systems is the furthest thing from collaboration or bipartisanship. It’s just old-fashioned partisan power politics.