Senate deadlocks over workers' comp change



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A deadlocked New Hampshire Senate did not approve a bill Tuesday that would eliminate a workers' compensation fund for the disabled, despite the recommendation of its commerce committee to do so.The fund involved is known as the "second injury" fund, created back in the 1970s to encourage companies to hire veterans. The idea was to motivate employers that might be reluctant to hire a worker with a pre-existing condition, worried that its workers' compensation rates might increase because of the hiring. The fund essentially took insurance companies off the hook.But, argued Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Henniker, the fund has become obsolete. Insurance carriers say they don't need the fund to cover workers who have been injured before, either while serving on military duty or on another job. The fund has become a "regulatory burden," he said. Besides, the Americans with Disability Act protects employers from discriminating against the previously injured, Sanborn assured them.However Sen. Matthew Houde, D-Plainfield, said it would be "premature" to conclude the program is obsolete. Employees might be covered, but that doesn't mean that some employers might not shy away from hiring them without the protection of the fund. As for the ADA, it only applies to workplaces with more than 15 employees.The Senate committee had voted to pass the bill by a 3-2 vote. The full Senate vote was even closer -- a 12-12 tie. The Senate wound up sending the bill to interim study, effectively killing it for this year. -- BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

 

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