NC Advocates for Justice Hails Collaborative Effort, Reaches Agreement on Consensus Bill

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Workers’ Compensation Reform Believed to Be Fair for Workers and Employers

“It seems to me that collaboration is the way to go with other bills pending in the legislature,” said Dick Taylor of North Carolina Advocates for Justice.

An agreement has been reached on specific adjustments to HB 709, commonly referred to as the Workers' Compensation Reform Bill. Parties including politicians, the NC Chamber of Commerce, the NC Advocates for Justice, the North Carolina Republican Attorneys Association, and the North Carolina AFL-CIO agreed to a consensus bill which was jointly presented at today's meeting of the NC Select Committee on Tort Reform.

Speaker Pro Tempore, Representative Dale Folwell, is the bill’s primary sponsor, and was instrumental in bringing all parties together.

The road to consensus had many of what Rep. Folwell described as "marathon" meetings. Though all parties vigorously advocated their respective positions, negotiations were described by Dick Taylor of the NCAJ as "courteous and open," to which he added, “There were passionate and reasonable people at the table who were able to work collaboratively to reach a consensus on some difficult issues. It seems to me that collaboration is the way to go with other bills pending in the legislature.”

Attorney Gina Cammarano, who is a North Carolina State Bar Board Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialist, as well as a former Special Deputy Commissioner at the North Carolina Industrial Commission, said, “The NC Chamber fought hard and won major concessions, and yet the common ground preserved in the consensus bill allows North Carolinians to retain a fair workers' compensation system.” Cammarano and Hank Patterson, representing the AFL-CIO, spearheaded extensive negotiations on behalf of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice and its members who represent injured workers from across North Carolina. Throughout negotiations, NCAJ supported changes to the existing law that:

· Incentivize people to return to suitable employment;

· Protect the most seriously injured workers at a cost reasonable for business; and

· Retain a fair approach toward injured workers and employers.

Dick Taylor, of NCAJ, said, “Many may feel that the bill does not go far enough to reduce costs and others will feel the provisions fall short of protecting the interests of injured workers, but in times such as these all sides made compromises, and overall we feel the changes preserve the backbone of our Workers’ compensation system that pays fair compensation to injured workers at a reasonable cost to the employers.”

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Todd Barlow
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