Politics

The state House of Representatives has passed a bill that would overhaul the state’s workers’ compensation laws.

Under the proposal, workers who are partially disabled as the result of a job-related injury would only be able to receive benefits for 15 years; after that point they would have to reapply.

The bill is supported by business groups who say it would help reduce workers’ compensation insurance costs.

Rep. Al Gentry, a Democrat from Louisville who lost his arm in a work-related accident, said the bill would shift costs onto injured workers.

“For those who are cut, a portion of them will require additional treatment at a later date,” Gentry said. “And at that time, the burden of this medical liability will have been shifted directly back to them. And if they’re on Medicare or Medicaid at the time, it’s shifted directly back to the taxpayer.”

House Bill 2 would only apply to future workers’ compensation claims and would not affect workers with “permanent-total disabilities” who can’t return to work.

The legislation would also prevent workers compensation cases from being reopened more than four years after a claim is made and workers would have to file claims for cumulative trauma — injuries that build up over time — within five years of the most recent injury.

The bill is opposed by the Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police, which says it would hurt first responders who are injured on the job and experience ongoing injuries.

Rep. Matt Castlen, a Republican from Maceo, criticized those who said the bill was anti-worker.

“What about the people like myself who employ 70-plus people that give back to the economy every day?” Castlen said. “Am I criminal because I want to vote for this bill because I feel like we have to do things to be more competitive?”

A similar version of the bill passed out of the state House last year, but stalled in the Senate.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.