Thursday, March 06, 2008

Business as usual at the Arizona legislature...

...With the emphasis on 'business'.

In the conflicts and controversies surrounding the state's budget deficit and the harsh nativist measures proposed by Russell Pearce (R-National Alliance) and his fellow travelers, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that even the so-called "moderate" Republicans in the lege don't care about their constituents, just their campaign contributors.

From -
Arizona businesses are pushing state legislators to alter workers' compensation laws in ways they say will save them money.

One measure set for House debate would allow the Industrial Commission to reduce an injured employee's benefits if he or she were fired for misconduct. Rep. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, said this is designed to prevent what she said are abuses of the system by some workers.
The article goes on to describe some of the more regressive measures in the bills, HB2828 and HB2829. They would...

...allow companies to compel workers' physicians to disclose their patients' private medical info;

...allow an employer to decrease an injured worker's benefits if it can find a lower-paying job for that injured worker to do (they would get to pay benefits based on the lower paying job, not the job the worker was doing when he/she was injured);

...greatly broaden the definitions of "misconduct" or other reasons that employers can terminate employment and employees' benefits.

In short, there's nothing in the bills that even hints of concern for the average Arizonan or of simple fairness. The bills are strictly brazen gifts to business interests, especially the insurance industry.

Is it any great surprise that the campaign finance reports of the two people that the article cites as pushing these measures (McComish and Reagan) show that they've each received thousands of dollars from industry PACs or that their lists of individual contributors read like "who's who" lists of lobbyists, lawyers, and CEOs, especially for those in the insurance industry? And that's just in their current reports?

Interestingly enough, McComish *did* propose one bill modifying workers' comp in a way that seems to favor workers, HB2835. The provisions of the bill would make heart disease and certain other related cardiovascular issues covered under workers' comp.

Of course, other provisions in the bill would apply the changes only to firefighters/EMTs, and then only to those working for the "state or any political subdivision of this state".

FF/EMTs who work for Rural/Metro or private ambulance services?

They're screwed - they work for private employers.

In the interests of openness, I should note here that the bill that actually helps Arizona's workers (or at least a miniscule percentage of them) isn't going anywhere - it hasn't even been assigned to a committee, much less heard in committee. Generally speaking, if that hasn't happened by the end of February, a bill is dead.

The Arizona AFL-CIO's February 25, 2008 Legislative Update is here; an evaluation of HB2829 is halfway down the page.


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