Senate Hearing on Ergonomics Planned, Democrats Skeptical
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who along with other Senate members voted last week to repeal the Clinton administration's ergonomics rules, is planning an April 5 hearing to determine "what can be done" with the issue, CongressDaily/A.M. reports. The Clinton regulations, which the Senate and House voted to repeal, would have required businesses to establish programs to "address ergonomic injuries" and compensate workers "apart from state workers' compensation laws." During the Senate debate last week, Specter had suggested lawmakers delay the rules' implementation to give Congress "more time" to examine the issue. For his part, Sen. John Breaux (D-La.), one of six Democratic senators to vote for repeal, had expressed concern that the Clinton-issued rule would affect state laws and allow workers to collect higher payments from employers.
He called for new regulations that would "relate directly to injuries that occur in the work place" and require the Labor Department to certify that companies comply with the rules, but would not expand workers compensation laws, CongressDaily/AM reports. Because the rule was repealed using the Congressional Review Act and, thus prevents the Labor Department from issuing a rule "substantially similar" to the Clinton rule, some Democrats are "discouraged" about the prospects for a new rule. House Education and Workforce Committee ranking member George Miller (D-Calif.) said, "If [Republicans] wanted to just do something to change the rule, they could have (without passing the repeal)." Now, any directive requiring a rule would face a court challenge, he said. As for the Bush administration, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao had "assured" lawmakers last week that she would investigate the issue and possibly issue new rules. Democrats, however, "privately" maintain that "she will be allowed to treat the issue aggressively in a Republican administration that has listened intently to the businesses that lobbied against the Clinton rule," CongressDaily/AM reports (Fulton, CongressDaily/AM, 3/13).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.