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NC General Assembly Removing Judicial Independence of Workers' Compensation Judges in the State

The State House budget bill today includes provisions that will remove all the existing Deputy Commissioners from their jobs within the next 18 months and replace them with political appointees who serve for the next eight years.  This is clearly an effort by the current legislature to appoint Deputies that fit a certain ideological profile and allow them to serve into the next Gubernatorial administration, without the next administration having any say in the matter.  This Bill also takes the Deputies out from under the State Personnel Act, which means that they will be "employees at will," serving at the pleasure of a political appointee.  That means that the Deputies will have no protections from being fired for making a decision that is unpopular with the appointing authority.  That is no way to run a court system!    The Bill is the House committee version of the budget bill, and can be viewed at this link.   The Industrial Commission gutting provisions appear on pages 147-48.   Here is the link:    http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Budget/2014/S744-CSLRxf-33-v-5.pdf

Senate Bill 614 Affects Rights of Truck Drivers in NC

NC Senate Bill 614, filed April 4, 2013, would affect the ability of truck drivers injured at work to obtain workers' compensation benefits.  The Bill would make it much harder for drivers to prove that they are "employees" rather than "independent contractors."   Employees are covered by workers' compensation but independent contractors generally are not covered.  This bill appears to be an effort to reduce trucking company costs by minimizing their responsibilities to their drivers.  The Bill tries to shift the responsibility to an "occupational accident insurance policy" that the driver may have to pay for himself.  This Bill is sponsored by two Republican Senators, Harry Brown of Jacksonville and Brent Jackson of Autryville.  Here is a link to the Bill:   http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/Sessions/2013/Bills/Senate/HTML/S614v1.html         

NC Legislature Will Reverse its Decision to Hide Insurance Coverage Information

It looks like the Legislature has reconsidered and will reverse its earlier decision to hide insurance coverage information from the public.  

Reform Issues: Oklahoma and "Opt-Out"

I have linked this post to an enlightening paper by the former Secretary of State of Oklahoma, Bob Burke, explaining why "opt-out" is bad for almost all of the stakeholders in a workers' compensation system.  Mr. Burke explains why small and medium businesses would be hurt by it, doctors and other medical providers would be harmed, and injured workers would be hurt by it as well. 

Will Governor McCrory support extreme Workers' Compensation changes?

Pat McCrory of Charlotte was elected NC Governor last week, and one question as we transition to his administration is this:  What will be done to the NC Workers' Compensation Act during his tenure?  

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