Washington State House Speaker Frank Chopp Obstructs Workers’ Comp Reform

Updated May 19, 2011

Reform is drastically needed for workers’ compensation in Washington state. Workers’ comp costs threaten to kill the state budget and business, as companies face the prospect of double-digit workers’ comp increases.

That’s been the judgment of this Seattle business-news portal, the Association of Washington Business (AWB), and other business leaders. It might surprise you to learn that most state lawmakers want workers’ comp reform, too.

But debate is being stymied in the Legislature. Bills would continue protections for injured workers without further decimating the state’s operating budget. Plus, reform would give the workers an option to take a lump-sum payment.

Yes, it would be voluntary. The idea is patterned after successful workers’ comp systems in our neighboring state, Oregon, and 43 other states. But reform is stalled. Yes, Washington remains in the Neanderthal Age while the reform ideas are continuing to work in 44 other states.

Why doesn’t common sense prevail?

“It is House Speaker Frank Chopp (D-Seattle) and a group of union and trial attorney supported Democrats in the House who are blocking a vote on voluntary settlements,” writes AWB President Don Brunell.

“Remember, the bill passed the Senate with a bipartisan 35-14 vote,” adds Mr. Brunell.  “Gov. Gregoire, in her press conference yesterday, again called for the legislature to address workers comp and said it is imperative to prevent another round of double-digit rate increases in 2012.”

Not only has Speaker Chopp and the Legislature failed to act in the best interests of the state in workers’ comp reform, state residents face the prospect of a suspension of most state-government services in the near future.

“There are only a few days left in this special session and there is no budget,” warns the AWB president. “What appears to be happening is a stalling tactic by the Speaker until the July 1 deadline approaches and then only leave time to address the budget.  The budget must be adopted by July 1 or state government shuts down.”

The issue has drawn the attention of the state’s largest newspaper – a brilliant Seattle Times editorial entitled, “Speaker Chopp: Who is running your House? | Kate Riley.”

Ms. Riley’s editorial astutely disparages the stonewalling by Speaker Chopp:

“Washington state’s Speaker of the House Frank Chopp is outvoted on much-needed workers’ compensation reform.

“You wouldn’t know it though, because he won’t allow a floor vote on the bill.”

Despite overwhelming support in the Legislature for workers’ comp reform, the newspaper sheds further light on the disingenuous behavior in the Legislature, specifically regarding a reform bill in the House:

“So, House leadership referred HB 2109 to the black hole of the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee. On this issue, it’s a ‘black hole’ because the Democratic majority on the committee is stacked with union-friendly members, including some who are labor officials in their own right.

“According to his bio, Chairman Mike Sells has been the elected secretary-treasurer of the Snohomish County Labor Council since 1976 — the position became full-time in 1998. Of the seven Democrats serving last year, five have 10-for-10 voting records on the Washington Labor Council’s 2010 Legislative Voting Record. One each scored nine and eight.”

So, organized labor is the culprit behind the scenes. The unions would rather see a hike in workers’ comp rates.

That’s unacceptable. What we need is Speaker Chopp’s empathy for Washington state’s overall welfare to accelerate economic recovery. Washington needs a healthy economic environment for the creation of jobs. Let’s join Ms. Riley is demanding a solution. Speaker Chopp: Who is running your House?

From the Coach’s Corner, here are workers’ comp resource links:

AWB: ESB 5566 Will Minimize Sting in Workers-Comp Rates




“Now there sits a man with an open mind. You can feel the draft from here.”
– Groucho Marx


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.