Maine Panel Advances WC Board Restructuring

March 31, 2004

The Maine Legislature’s Labor Committee has reported unanimous support to pass a bill proposed by Governor John Baldacci that will amend the structure of the state’s Workers’ Compensation Board. Frequent deadlocks resulting from the current eight-member board prompted the governor to propose the emergency bill.

LD 1909, “An Act to Promote Decision Making Within the Worker’s Compensation Board,” restructures the board from eight members down to seven. The revamped board will consist of three representatives from management and three from labor, who will be appointed by the governor, and an executive director, who is also appointed by the governor.

“The bill is another step in Maine’s continuing process to improve the efficiency and workability of the state’s workers’ compensation program,” said House Majority Leader John Richardson, D-Brunswick, who co-sponsored the bill. “It’s both pro-business and pro-labor. Making the process smoother and faster will be beneficial to both sides.”

Once regarded as one of the worst workers’ compensation systems nationwide, Maine implemented major overhauls in the mid-1990s. Maine’s workers’ compensation rates went from among the highest in the nation to around average. However, members of the legislature appear to agree with the governor that there is still work to be done and further improvements can be made.

“Ultimately, the end result of restructuring is that the people who need the money they are entitled to will get it more quickly,” Richardson said.

“Something must be done to break the current deadlock, and this legislation is the key,” said Senate Labor Committee Chair Beth Edmonds, D-Cumberland County, who presented the bill to the committee. “I am very pleased to see that members of both labor and management support this bill.”

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