Workers' Compensation Reform Act vote a legislative victory for all of us
by KEVIN BROOKS, State Rep.
Apr 13, 2013 | 437 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cleveland and Bradley County residents who follow the work of their legislators in the ongoing 108th General Assembly, which is approaching the close of another historic session in Nashville, know that last week we took a variety of actions, one of which involved the Workers’ Compensation Reform Act of 2013.

As your representative from the 24th Legislative District, I had a personal interest in this integral piece of legislation because I believe it will help to balance the playing field for Tennessee in its competition with neighboring states for incoming companies, new business and industry.

Additionally, it will benefit existing employers and employees because it will better streamline an otherwise complicated process.

As sponsor of this Worker’s Compensation Reform Act, I was proud — and humbled — by its passage last week by the Tennessee House of Representatives. Likewise, I was especially pleased that the bill enjoyed bipartisan support from state lawmakers.

Much needed changes in Worker’s Compensation were a part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s legislative agenda. For this reason, I was honored to accept the governor’s task of shepherding the bill through the House committee, and to do the same in the full floor process by House Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga.

Workers’ Compensation is an insurance program, adopted in Tennessee in 1919, that compensates employees for injuries they suffer on the job. Employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover the costs of medical expenses and lost wages of employees when they suffer work-related injuries.

As passed, the Workers’ Compensation Reform Act (House Bill 194) reforms the workers’ compensation system in Tennessee to provide more certainty for businesses while also protecting interests of employees across the state.

As the bill’s sponsor, I felt all along — as I still do — that this is a mindful piece of legislation that meets our overall goal of ensuring the most efficient and fair workers’ compensation system for both employers and employees. Overall, we believe our new system can be a model of excellence that will help our state become an even more attractive place to work and do business.

Once signed by Gov. Haslam, HB 194 will reduce the time it takes to receive permanent workers’ compensation benefits and improve injury medical treatment. In addition, the process for resolving workers’ comp disputes will be streamlined, allowing injured workers to receive compensation and return to work quicker.

I would like to thank Gov. Haslam and House Leader McCormick for allowing me to carry this important legislation. As well, special thanks to Abbie Hudgens, Warren Wells and the rest of the Haslam team for their excellent work on this much-needed reform bill.

So often those who work behind the scenes fail to receive the credit they truly deserve. This is the case with Abbie and Warren, and the governor’s entire team of workers whose efforts are always geared toward what is best for the state of Tennessee, and for Tennesseans.

Our legislative session will be concluding soon so please allow me to again invite your input, as well as your questions, suggestions and concerns. As I have said before, as well as members of the entire Bradley County legislative delegation, we can’t always solve everyone’s problems overnight. But, we can certainly do all that we can to make Tennessee an even better place to live for all our citizens.

And for when we can’t resolve your issues immediately, we can at the very least give you a listening ear and our undivided attention.

Thank you for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers as we approach the end of another successful, history-setting legislative session.

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(Editor’s Note: State Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, serves the 24th Legislative District in Cleveland and Bradley County. Brooks and his wife, Kim, are actively involved in their community and local schools. Their son, Zach, attends Lee University, and their daughter, Elizabeth, attends Cleveland High School).