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Legislation will restore fairness to state's workers' compensation system, Blunt says


April 06, 2005 - Gov. Matt Blunt recently signed into law Senate Bills 1 and 130, keeping his promise to restore fairness to Missouri's workers' compensation system by protecting rights of injured workers without threatening Missouri jobs, according to a news re-lease.

"This meaningful piece of legislation will bring fairness to our state's workers' compensation laws and help free employers from frivolous rulings that hinder economic development," Blunt said. "I am grateful to Sen. John Loudon and Rep. Steve Hunter for their tireless efforts in getting this legislation to my desk."

The law introduces several improvements to the workers' compensation system. It will control premium increases by ensuring employers are liable only for injuries for which they are directly responsible.

Senate Bills 1 and 130 require the workplace accident or occupational exposure to be the "prevailing" factor in causing the injury or disability.

The new law also limits benefits available to employees found to be under the in-fluence of alcohol or illegal drugs at the time of their accident. If the employee fails to obey the employer's policy on alcohol and drug use in the workplace in conjunction with the workplace injury, the benefits will be reduced by 50 percent. If the alcohol or drug use is found to be the proximate cause of the injury, the benefits will be forfeited.

The bills also will increase penalties against those who seek to abuse Missouri's Workers' Compensation laws.

Anyone who attempts to defraud the system can be charged with a Class D felony, according to the release.

Administrative law judges will now be subject to performance audits and retention votes, promoting their neutrality so claimants are not unfairly favored over defendants. These and other provisions will bring comprehensive reform to Mis-souri's workers' compensation laws and will benefit all Missourians through job retention, expansion, and employee betterment, according to the release.

"These needed changes will help Mis-souri compete more effectively with other states for good family supporting jobs," Blunt said.

The law is effective Aug. 28.

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