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Published: Saturday, 1/19/2008

Proposal would drop stevedores from Ohio workers' comp system


Stevedore companies in Ohio pay two workers' compensation premiums - one to the state Bureau of Workers' Compensation, the other to the federal government under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act.

But injured workers can claim benefits under only one program or the other, which two Toledo-area legislators believe makes the dual premiums redundant expenses for their employers.

During a news conference yesterday, state Sen. Mark Wagoner (R., Ottawa Hills) and state Rep. Matt Szollosi (D., Oregon) said exempting Ohio's port employers from paying into the state workers' compensation program will promote the state's Lake Erie and Ohio River ports without harming the state program.

"The dollars that employers pay into the system in premiums are supposed to be paid back out in claims. From an actuarial basis, it shouldn't have much of an impact," said Mr. Wagoner, who introduced a bill as a House member last month and pledged to introduce a companion bill in the Ohio Senate.

"I'm going to push it pretty hard in the Senate," Mr. Wagoner said. "We need to stop those dollars from needlessly going down to Columbus."

There are 75 to 100 employers potentially affected by the proposal, Mr. Szollosi estimated.

The bill would give them the option to provide only the federally mandated coverage, for which benefits are generally more favorable but which has a shorter statute of limitations - one year to file instead of Ohio's two, he said.

Both legislators characterized the proposal as "an economic development bill," since the current situation discourages port employers from hiring and may even impede capital investment in Ohio's port facilities.

"We'd be the first Great Lakes state to do this. It would make Ohio an even more attractive place" for developing maritime terminals or other shipping-related business, Mr. Wagoner said.

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