December 23, 2009

Lawmakers to suspend new Workers Compensation requirements for further study in the legislature

Workers comp law change eyed
Lawmakers meet with contractors upset over measure
Knoxville News Sentinel

When they return to the Capitol next month, state lawmakers will be under pressure to change a workers compensation law that takes effect on Dec. 31.

At a breakfast meeting on Tuesday, a trio of local legislators heard from contractors who are upset about a provision that places new insurance mandates on certain businesses. The meeting was co-hosted by the National Federation of Independent Business, and featured Knoxville Reps. Harry Tindell, a Democrat, and Bill Dunn, a Republican, along with Sen. Doug Overbey, a Maryville Republican.

Jim Brown, NFIB's state director, said he's been told by members of the legislative leadership that a suspension of the law should happen quickly after lawmakers resume their business on Jan. 12. Brown also said the Department of Labor has indicated contractors who are found to be in violation before the law is suspended will be given 60 days to come into compliance.
But Overbey pointed out that it's dangerous to predict legislative action, saying "how long it will take and what it will do I wouldn't start to predict." The senator also said he's getting an equal number of letters from people who say the law should be left alone, as from those who are calling for a suspension.

Sam Sole, a local siding contractor, attended the meeting and said the law will put him out of business. His two biggest customers, Sole said in an interview, typically build 150 to 180 homes a year between them, but through the first six-and-a-half months of this year had only built six. His gross profit on six homes, Sole said, adds up to around $6,000, making it impossible to afford the new insurance mandate.

And the possibility that the law will be suspended? "How can I trust the same people that put it in as law (in the first place)?" he said.

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