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Bill gives businesses more sway appointing unemployment, workers compensation judges

  • Eagle Topeka bureau
  • Published Friday, Feb. 17, 2012, at 1:13 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, April 16, 2013, at 9:24 a.m.

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— The House gave tentative approval Friday to a move that changes the nomination process for administrative law judges, who decide the fate of workers compensation and unemployment claims.

Democrats decried the bill, saying that the proposed nominating committee is loaded with business interests and would be against workers with claims.

Currently, the nominating committee is made up of one person appointed by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and another appointed by the Kansas AFL-CIO.

The proposal would replace that with a seven-member panel that includes the secretary of the Department of Labor, representatives of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Businesses, Kansas AFL-CIO, Kansas State Council of the Society of Human Resource Management, Kansas Self-Insurers Association and someone appointed by the secretary of the Department of Labor from an employee organization.

“We’re going to stack the deck,” said Rep. Tom Burroughs, D-Kansas City.

“I just think that’s totally unfair.”

Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said the system created in 1993 balances the interests of businesses and workers.

The bill makes an abrupt turn from that, he said.

In a media briefing earlier in the day, Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said that if the system isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

“If it ain’t broken, don’t break it,” Davis suggested.

Rep. Rob Bruchman, R-Overland Park, said the proposal broadens the base of those nominating judges and gives employers who self-insure more of a voice.

“I think in this situation we have a broad base of organizations with many viewpoints and have qualified individuals,” he said.

Reach Brent Wistrom at 785-296-3006 or bwistrom@wichitaeagle.com.

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