Senate Bill 358 – Worker’s Compensation
Authored by Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage)   

Increases benefits for injuries and disablements by 10% each year for three years, beginning on July 1, 2019.

Chamber Position: Oppose

The Latest: The chairman of the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee, Sen. Phil Boots (R-Crawfordsville), took a vote on the bill and it failed 5-5. It is uncertain whether we will be hearing more of this issue before the committee deadline.

Chamber Action/Commentary: Senator Tallian stated that there was an increase in benefits each year from 2014-16. She indicated that employers’ premium rates had lowered over the last three years. Chairman Boots amended the bill and reduced the increase to 2% each year before the final committee vote.

The Indiana Chamber stated its opposition to the increase unless there is a package deal that assists employers along with the benefit increase for employees.

House Bill 1341 – Occupational Safety and Health
Authored by Rep. Martin Carbaugh (R-Fort Wayne)

As introduced, provides that if an employer willfully violates any standard, rule, order or provision of the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Act and the violation results in the death of an employee, the commissioner of labor shall assess a civil penalty of $100,000 for each employee whose death results from the violation.

Chamber Position: Neutral

The Latest: The bill was amended so that an employer who knowingly violates any standard, rule or order that involves an employee fatality shall be assessed a civil penalty of not less than $9,472 for each violation and may be assessed a civil penalty of up to $132,598. Previously in the bill, the $100,000 amount was a flat fine; this new figure will be based on an investigation and could be less or reach a maximum of $132,598. The bill unanimously passed the House Labor Committee.

Chamber Action/Commentary: The bill attempts to address a tragic death that occurred in January 2018 at the now-closed Fort Wayne Plastics (which was later bought out by a St. Louis firm). Shacarra Hogue (age 23) was on her third day on the job when she was crushed by a press that she stepped up into as a co-worker started the machine. Fort Wayne Plastics had removed safety features from the press and Hogue used a stepladder to enter it. The company received a $6,300 fine for the violation. Hogue’s parents, who supported the bill, testified that she was hired as a temporary worker and had no training or supervision.

The Indiana Chamber testified that the actions of this company were indefensible and offered condolences to the family. We appreciate the discussion that we have had with Rep. Carbaugh, who is trying to do something helpful for employee safety that does not hurt business in the process. The Chamber recommended changes to the amendment that was offered and Chairman Heath VanNatter (R-Kokomo) made those changes via a chairman’s amendment. As passed by the committee, the Chamber is officially neutral on the bill.

Resource: Mike Ripley at (317) 264-6883 or email: [email protected]