Yesterday afternoon the Tennessee House Consumer Affairs Committee cancelled a hearing related to proposed workers' compensation Opt Out legislation, and took the bill off "notice". That means it has been removed from the legislative calendar for this year and likely will not come up for a vote.
This represents the second failure for SB721 and HB997, which were originally put forth in last year's legislative session but did not gather enough support to move forward. This is a huge loss for proponents of Opt Out, who had openly targeted Tennessee as a state likely to approve the concept, and as such had boldly predicted success there.
My sources close to the legislative process in Tennessee told me that there was some last minute maneuvering to save a bill in trouble, with a pro Opt Out lobbyist promising a significant amendment by Monday that did not materialize. They also said “the sentiment toward the concept has been shifting away from opt out for several months. As the positive effects of the 2013 reforms began to become more apparent and the concerns about the real effect of opt out received more publicity, legislators became wary or definitely opposed.”
What they were really confirming is that the legislators in Tennessee are paying attention, and should be applauded for recognizing a concept that would hurt both employers and workers in their state. They recognize that their efforts in 2013 to fix the workers' compensation system are beginning to take fruition, and further tinkering with the system - especially in this manner - is not necessary. Kudos to them for taking their job and responsibilities so seriously.
One person there with whom I communicated last night called the last minute maneuvers to save the bill a “distraction”, but said the ultimate problems for the proposed legislation “were in the substance of the bill” itself. I completely agree, and many of us who have been following this effort understand exactly what they mean.
Opt Out, as it is being implemented and proposed, is a bad idea that just got what it deserved. Congratulations to the citizens of Tennessee. Opt Out's loss is a big win for them.
Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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