That was the mantra of the Tennessee House Republicans before we achieved a majority and we were asking Tennesseans to place their trust in us. We pledged that if given the monumental task of governing, we would implement reforms that taxpayers deserved and demanded. We promised to make government more efficient, to streamline our operations, and to continually strive to make improvements to the overall legislative process.
Tennessee is one of the most fiscally conservative states in the nation, with low taxes, very little debt and a balanced budget every year. Because of that, our state has done an excellent job of attracting new businesses and inspiring local entrepreneurs. This year, we built on those good policies by reforming Tennessee’s workers’ compensation laws to ensure the system is fairer, more efficient and provides better outcomes for both employers and employees.
When Gov. Bill Haslam and lawmakers met with small business owners all across the state prior to this year’s legislative session, they were in agreement that the top issue was Tennessee’s worker’s compensation system. Workers’ Compensation is an insurance program, adopted in Tennessee in 1919, that compensates employees for injuries they suffer on the job. Employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover the costs of medical expenses and lost wages of employees when they suffer work-related injuries. There is no question, the workers’ compensation system itself is something our state needs and will always have in case a worker is injured on the job.
Recently, however, both employers and employees have discovered numerous problems with current workers’ compensation laws. Indeed, the current process for determining benefits is cumbersome for determining injury benefits, unpredictable and time-consuming, and employees are often unable to receive benefits and return to work in a timely manner. In addition, workers’ compensation rates for employers in Tennessee are higher than the national average and higher than all eight of our bordering states.
With these issues in mind, Tennessee Republicans committed to creating a workers’ compensation system that provides protection and faster service for employees, while creating a more fair and predictable environment in which to conduct business and create jobs. The Workers’ Compensation Reform Act of 2013 will give all Tennesseans a more fair and streamlined system of reconciling workers’ compensation claims.
Under the new system, workers will see a reduction in the time it takes to receive permanent benefits and will also experience an improvement in medical treatment. The process for resolving disputes will be quicker, allowing injured workers to receive compensation and return to work sooner so they can continue to earn a paycheck and provide for their families. In addition, injured workers will have the services of an ombudsman whose role is to answer questions, explain the workers’ compensation process, and help employees complete paperwork.
On top of the improved benefits for employees, employers will also see a system that aids in creating an environment where businesses can grow and thrive. By making our workers’ compensation system more fair and efficient, Tennessee will continue on its path of becoming the number one state in the Southeast for high-quality jobs.
Your Tennessee General Assembly is committed to crafting a fiscally responsible, balanced budget, streamlining government, cutting taxes, and reforming the overall governmental process. This year, we are building on our prior successes by spearheading efforts like the Workers’ Compensation Reform Act to make Tennessee an even better place to live, work and raise a family.
(Editor’s Note: State Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, serves the 24th Legislative District which is comprised of the city of Cleveland parts of its Bradley County perimeter. Brooks and his wife, Kim, are actively involved in their community, as are their children: Zach, a student at Lee University, and Elizabeth, a student at Cleveland High School.)