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Working Alaskans and businesses should be very concerned about Gov. Murkowski's plans to revisit his workers' compensation bill during the special session.
A key provision of the bill sets up an "appeals commission" composed of three highly paid political appointees. This appeals commission will cost over $300,000 per year under the auspices of "more consistent decisions." That sounds like making sure injured workers receive smaller claims, less often or making sure businesses may need an inside track to receive a fair decision.
No longer will injured workers and businesses have the right to appeal decisions of the Workers' Compensation board to a superior court judge. This new in-house appeals commission will do the job instead. They will not be independent, like real judges; rather, they will owe their jobs to the governor.
Moreover, these new political appointees won't have to work very hard. Right now, about 30 workers' comp cases a year get appealed to superior court. So even if that doubles under the new system, you'll have three political appointees, making an average of $90,000 each, hearing sixty cases. That is one-tenth the case load for one superior court judge.
The only way this new system saves money is at the expense of injured workers. The appeals commission is wasteful, and dangerous for what it could do to injured workers' and businesses' rights to due process under the law. That's why you will see us fighting this appeals commission every step of the way.
Sen. Hollis French