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Workers’ Comp Presumption legislation moving towards JLARC Study

VACo thanked members of the House Appropriations Committee on February 1 for unanimously reporting with enactment clauses two pieces of legislation related to Worker’s Comp Presumptive Illness legislation. As previously reported, legislation concerning worker’s compensation for firefighters SB 1030 (Cosgrove) / HB 1804 (Hugo) adds cancers of the colon, brain, or testes to the existing list of conditions currently presumed to be an occupational disease when developed by firefighters and certain public employees and therefore covered by the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act.

VACo has repeatedly expressed concern in public testimony and in meetings with legislators regarding the potential fiscal impact of the bills on localities and cautioned that any major legislative action on Workers’ Compensation Presumption issues should wait until the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission (JLARC) completes its study of the issue as this legislation will likely lead to higher employer premiums paid by localities to cover expanded liabilities.

On a 22-0 vote and under the leadership of House Appropriations Committee Chair Delegate Chris Jones, the Committee reported both pieces of legislation with enactment clauses stipulating that, 1) the provisions of the legislation shall not become effective unless reenacted by the 2020 session of the General Assembly, and 2) such legislation shall consider any research, findings, and recommendations of the JLARC study. The legislation cannot take effect unless these actions occur. Chair Jones invited Director of JLARC Hal Greer to confirm that JLARC will study the issue and release an expedited report to the General Assembly by December 2019.

Both bills now go to the full House, while the amendments to SB 1030 must be confirmed by the Senate if and once SB 1030 is enacted by the House. As the language of the JLARC study stipulates, VACo stands ready to assist JLARC in the completion of its work on this issue.

A third bill, HB 2513 (Hugo), was left in House Appropriations Committee with no action taken. HB 2513 establishes a presumption that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an occupational disease for firefighters, law-enforcement officers, 9-1-1 emergency call takers, and other first responders and is therefore covered by the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act. The Senate companion to this bill, SB 1465 (McPike), was previously passed by indefinitely by Senate Finance with a referral to the JLARC study on a 10-5 vote.

VACo Contact: Jeremy Bennett

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