Workers’ Compensation reform scores major legislative victory
by Capitol Hill Review State Rep. Eric Watson
Mar 17, 2013 | 813 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Workers’ Compensation Reform Act of 2013, an initiative that is part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s legislative agenda for the year, easily passed the House Consumer and Human Resources Committee last week.

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

If passed by the Legislature, 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.

According to critics, the current workers’ compensation process in Tennessee is unpredictable, cumbersome for determining benefits, and employees are often unable to receive benefits and return to work in a timely manner. Tennessee is one of only two states with a courts-based system. As a result, opponents of the system say, workers’ compensation premium rates for employers in Tennessee are higher than the national average.

The legislation will next be heard in the House Government Operations Committee on March 19.

Statewide partnership

addresses human sex

trafficking in Tennessee

House lawmakers joined law enforcement officials from across the state last week to address the issue of human trafficking in Tennessee. In addition, the Women’s Fund of Greater Chattanooga, the Women’s Fund of Middle Tennessee and the Women’s Fund of Greater Memphis officially launched a public campaign to increase awareness and offer resources to prevent human trafficking statewide.

Present at the event were Mark Gwyn, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and Alberto Gonzales, former United States attorney general, as well as various lawmakers from the Tennessee House of Representatives and Senate.

In 2010, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation conducted a study regarding human sex trafficking in Tennessee. The results of the study found trafficking and sex slavery in Tennessee is more common than previously known. The report cited that one in four children who run away from home are approached for commercial sexual exploitation within 48 hours of running away. In addition, the average age of a sex trafficking victim is 13, according to the study.

By working together with various anti-trafficking groups in the state, lawmakers hope they will be able to shine a spotlight on the disturbing crime trend of sex slavery and human trafficking in Tennessee.

Annexation legislation

continues building

statewide support

A package of pro-property rights legislation related to the annexation of land in Tennessee continued building support last week as Tennesseans from across the state joined in to back the effort.

The trio of bills, which are currently making their way through the House committee system, seek to make the overall annexation process more fair and efficient for all interested parties.

As introduced, the legislation requires that:

n A local referendum vote be held to ensure property owners have a voice in the process of a city-initiated annexation;

n A municipality first annex all territory within its urban growth boundary before being allowed to expand further; and

n A municipality must provide all promised public services to areas that it is already supposed to serve before annexing more property.

Currently, Tennessee is one of only three states in the nation that allows a city to seize the private property of an individual without that individual having any say in the process.

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(Editor’s Note: This week’s “Capitol Hill Review” by State Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland representing the 22nd Legislative District, will continue in Tuesday’s edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner. It will focus on legislators’ continuing efforts in education, as well as a summary of other ongoing actions by state lawmakers. District 22 is comprised of Meigs and Polk counties, and part of Bradley County.)