Ohio Senate strips PTSD coverage for first responders from workers' comp budget
The Senate wants more time to study the issue and other provisions passed by the House as part of the workers' compensation budget
Akron Beacon Journal
AKRON, Ohio — The Ohio Senate balked at mandates in a House-passed budget to provide workers' compensation for first responders diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and to make all injured workers declare their immigration status.
With those and other policy measures stripped from the bill, the Senate voted unanimously Thursday to approve the budget of the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, which is funded by employer premiums.
But minutes later, House Speaker Larry Householder said his chamber will not concur with the Senate-passed bill, meaning that a conference committee will have to reach an agreement. The Glenford Republican said he has prepared an amendment to extend the budget of the Bureau of Workers' Compensation for 90 days beyond Sunday's expiration of its two-year budget.
"They pulled all of our language out," Householder said, pointing in particular to post-traumatic stress disorder being covered for first responders. "This is an issue in the state that's been debated for a number of years. I don't think there is any more debate to be had."
He also was displeased with the Senate killing provisions to more clearly distinguish independent contractors from employees.
Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, indicated that he personally supports PTSD coverage for police officers, firefighters and others — even if they have no physical injury — when they develop a psychiatric disorder after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event on the job.
However, the Senate wants more time to study the issue and other provisions passed by the House as part of the workers' compensation budget, which would increase 5% to $319.8 million in the fiscal year that begins Monday and 2% to $324.8 million the following year.
The Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio said it is "disappointed" and will continue to fight for the PTSD language. The FOP and other groups long have lobbied to gain PTSD coverage for medical bills and wage replacement through workers' compensation. State retirement funds grant disability benefits to public employees for PTSD on a case-by-case basis.
"If a police officer breaks his leg carrying an injured child to safety, workers' comp is there to help him heal," the Ohio FOP said in a prior statement. "If that same child dies a painful death in the officer's arms, and the officer isn't otherwise injured, there is no help for the officer to process and cope."
The House budget drew the ire of Democrats for moving to require those filing injury claims to list their citizenship and immigration status and reveal whether they were an undocumented worker. Falsifying such information would have constituted criminal workers' compensation fraud. The Senate has balked at such language before.
The Senate also voted 32-1 on Thursday to send a bill to the House that would remove utility knives, box cutters and similar sharp instruments from the definition of "deadly weapons," allowing them to be carried and concealed by trade workers and others who regularly use them on the job.
The bill also would repeal a state ban on the manufacture and sale of spring-loaded knifes such as switchblades and other devices such as brass knuckles and similar weapons.
©2019 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)