Legislation that limits the amount an injured employee can be compensated has passed the Iowa House along party lines. Republicans say changes to Iowa’s more than century-old workers’ compensation law are needed to keep the state's business climate competitive.
"I believe it’s a situation where we’re seeing rates go up across industry sectors," says GOP Representative Gary Carlson of Muscatine. "If I look at where Iowa used to be at the fifth or sixth lowest in the United States, and now we’re up in the 24th highest."
Democrats argue that just because other states have lowered workplace injury compensation, that doesn’t mean Iowa should too. And they say if Republicans are so concerned about high compensation rates, then the legislation should focus on making workplaces safer instead of penalizing workers.
The legislation does include a provision for vocational training, but Rep. Abby Finkenaur says that’s not a realistic solution for older workers.
"So you're expecting the 55-year-old janitor who might have an eighth grade education to go back to school," says the Dubuque Democrat. "What if you already put in your time at the job you're at right now...you’ve worked really hard, you have good wages. But now you get hurt and now, what you’re going to have to be a secretary and make minimum wage now?"
The National Council for Compensation Insurance reports that premiums for Iowa businesses actually dropped by 4.7 percent in the past year.