Members of the Senate’s new Republican-controlled majority coalition say the delay of a floor vote on a package of controversial workers’ compensation bills is proof they are willing to listen to all sides of the debate.
On Wednesday, the coalition held off on the bills they say are aimed at controlling costs. One bill would give injured workers an incentive to take a lump sum settlement in lieu of traditional state pensions. Anther bill would alter the way an injured worker’s benefits are calculated, including the compensation a surviving spouse would receive.
Senate Democrats say the legislation would restructure the workers’ comp system and should not have been rushed through Senate’s Commerce and Labor Committee without proper consideration.
“We listened to the minority. They said they needed a little more time. We are trying to work with them in a bipartisan effort,” Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom (D-Medina) said Wednesday.
Rep. Steve Conway (D-Tacoma) argued against the proposals in the Senate committee. The measures passed on a 4-3 vote along party lines.
“The worker comp system is designed to help injured workers get back on the job. But the Republicans’ changes only make it harder for middle class workers to regain their health and get back to work,” he said in a statement on the Senate Democrats website.
“We are looking to help contain worker compensation costs,” Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville) said. “We are open to compromise to get the end result. This isn’t a political statement. We listened.”
Leaders of the Majority Coalition, which holds a 25-24 seat advantage in the Senate, are hoping the additional time will be enough to convince some Democrats to support the legislation, improving its chances when it heads to the House.
Lawmakers are scheduled to re-convene on the Senate floor at 10 a.m. Friday, but it is unclear when the bills will get a vote.