State Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) today voted “no” on the Republican-led charge to restrict worker’s access to healthcare and benefits through the state’s Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) budget bill, House Bill 27. The bill passed the House Insurance Committee and the House Finance Committee on a party-line vote Tuesday.
GOP lawmakers undertook a significant rewrite of what is typically a noncontroversial budget bill to include benefit restrictions on firefighters with cancer, a loophole for big corporations who hire undocumented workers, and a legal nod to the state’s largest failing online charter school and GOP campaign fundraiser, ECOT.
New restrictions also halve the amount of time workers currently have to file a claim, something Democrats say could economically destabilizes thousands of Ohio families.
“It’s clear that GOP leadership were having second thoughts about House Bill 27 as they broke with standard House procedures to get the bill passed,” said Smith. “Instead of rushing an important budget bill through the process, Republican leaders should be working diligently to secure the paychecks of Ohio’s working people.”
Though Democratic lawmakers were able to push GOP lawmakers in committee to remove greater restrictions on benefit coverage for firefighters with cancer and their families, majority party lawmakers maintained barriers to coverage for firefighters by requiring firefighters and their families to prove their specific type of cancer does not stem from causes other than exposure to toxic fumes, carcinogens and hazardous chemicals.
The new restrictions on BWC coverage for firefighters with cancer weakens the legislature’s bipartisan “Michael Louis Palumbo Jr. Act,” legislation signed into law in January that ensures benefit coverage for firefighters who develop cancer in the line of duty.
Democratic lawmakers offered amendments to preserve the Palumbo Act, extend post-traumatic stress disorder coverage to first responders, remove the ECOT language, and hold corporations that hire undocumented workers accountable. All were defeated along party lines.