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Controversial Injured Workers Measures Pass Washington Senate

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The new Republican-dominated majority in the Washington state Senate has approved a series of controversial measures that deal with injured workers. The votes Monday were a key test of the Majority Coalition’s one vote advantage.

The most controversial of the proposed laws would lower the age when permanently injured workers are eligible to choose a lump sum insurance payout. Jason Speicher hurt his back on the job and is getting retrained. At a labor-backed press conference, he said taking a one-time payment is risky.

“Just because you get that settlement, you can end up using up all that money before you’re even done with school, depending on what the settlement is,” Speicher said.

Business groups and members of the Senate’s majority coalition argue that younger injured workers should have the option to choose a final settlement, in lieu of ongoing disability payments. Republican State Senator Janea Holmquist-Newbry initially proposed there be no age threshold.

“Washington will still be the only state in the nation that offers any sort of voluntary settlement agreements with an age limit,” she says.

Currently in Washington, only workers 55 and older can choose a settlement option. Under this new proposal that age limit would drop to 40. These changes will bring down the long term costs of the state’s workers compensation program.

On the Web:

SB 5127: Structured settlements (Washington Legislature)
SB 5128: Injured workers' compensation (Washington Legislature)