Ohio House Democratic lawmakers today applauded the passage of House Bill (HB) 80, the two-year state Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC) budget, which contained a number of Democratic priorities, including benefits for first responders with PTSD and reforms to the state’s employee misclassification laws.
“Part of Ohio’s fundamental promise is that everyone should be able to live, work and retire here with safety and security, and the work our Democratic members put into this bill brings us one step closer to keeping that promise to everyday Ohioans,” said Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron). “This budget delivers real results for working people and families by extending benefits for our first responders and better protecting Ohio workers.”
Key Democratic priorities, like allowing first responders suffering from work-related PTSD to be recognized in a BWC claim and protecting workers by prohibiting employers from misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor, were included in the bill.
“Ohio is stronger when we stand with working people,” said Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire), the lead Democrat on the Finance committee. “Democratic priorities like benefits for first responders with PTSD and commonsense employee misclassification protections strengthen working people and families, and give more Ohioans a shot at a better life and brighter future.”
Democrats objected, however, to a last minute GOP-backed provision that would make it harder for undocumented workers to file a BWC claim, a move they say could encourage employers illegally hire more undocumented workers, threaten workplace safety, and be costly to Ohio taxpayers who would have to foot the bill for non-citizens injured or killed on the job.
State Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) countered the provision, offering an amendment to put the responsibility to verify an employee’s legal status back on the employer, which would better protect workers and save taxpayers money. Republicans tabled the amendment.
“We need to place the liability of hiring an employee back where it belongs - on the employer. We cannot give law-breaking corporations a free pass and expect taxpayers to cover the cost,” said Rep. Galonski. “Every Ohio worker deserves to feel safe on the job and secure that they’ll be fairly compensated if they get injured through no fault of their own. That’s the Ohio promise. We cannot turn our backs on working people.”
HB 80 includes $319.8 million in BWC funding for Fiscal Year 2020 and $324.8 million for Fiscal Year 2021.
The Ohio BWC is the exclusive provider of workers’ compensation insurance in Ohio. The agency also provides workplace safety consulting services, safety and hygiene training, and other programs for Ohio employers to support safe and healthy workplaces.
After passing the House, the bill moves to the Senate for consideration.