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Workers’ comp presumption legislation updates

VACo raised concerns over Workers’ Comp Presumptive Illness legislation at a January 23 Senate Finance Committee meeting. As previously reported two pieces of legislation concerning workers’ compensation for firefighters and other public safety employees with potentially massive local fiscal impact were referred from the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee to the Senate Finance Committee.  One bill advanced and the other was passed by indefinitely and referred to study.

SB 1030 (Cosgrove) adds cancers of the colon, brain, or tests 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. The bill also removes the compensability requirement that the employee who develops cancer had contact with a toxic substance encountered in the line of duty. SB 1030, companion to HB 1804 (Hugo), incorporated identical legislation – SB 1022 (Chase), SB 1172 (McPike), and SB 1528 (Vogel).

SB 1465 (McPike) 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. SB 1465 is a companion to three House bills – HB 2281 (Filler-Corn), HB 2513 (Hugo), and HB 1706 (Kory).

In a packed room, VACo staff expressed concern to the Committee 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. If enacted, this legislation will likely lead to higher employer premiums paid by localities to cover the expanded liabilities.

In a series of action-packed votes, the Committee first failed to pass SB 1030 by indefinitely and refer to JLARC on a 7-9 vote. The Committee then failed to report the bill with a financial enactment clause on a tie 8-8 vote. Finally, the Committee reported the bill 14-2.

On SB 1465, the Committee followed the recommendation of VACo’s testimony and passed the bill by indefinitely with a referral to the JLARC study on a 10-5 vote.

In the House, VACo testified before Commerce and Labor Committee’s Subcommittee #2 on January 15 with similar concerns. The bill advanced out of both the Subcommittee and the Commerce and Labor Committee with a referral to the House Appropriations Committee unanimously.  On January 22, Subcommittee #2 voted 4-1 to recommend laying HB 1706 on the table. The Subcommittee has yet to hear HB 2513 and HB 2281.

VACo will continue to weigh in on these bills and recommend delaying major policy changes to presumptive illness law until JLARC completes its study.

VACo Contact: Jeremy Bennett

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