Alexander Pope said: “To err is human, to forgive divine.”
We say: To err is understandable, to fix your mess smart.
The General Assembly erred last summer in passing a worker’s compensation bill that did the opposite of legislator intentions. It matters not whether legislators, lobbyists or the Perdue administration were at fault when important information was hidden from public view. What counts is that the Legislature is about to fix things.
Bills conceived last fall by a legislative panel are likely to pass. They will assure that workers, the state and the public can determine whether businesses are obeying their legal requirement to insure their employees for worker’s compensation.
The mistake took place late in the 2012 session when, as part of a reform of the system, legislators inadvertently closed access to what should be public insurance records.
That’s dangerous, because reporting by McClatchy Newspapers in 2012 determined that 30,000 North Carolina employers were cheating, leaving their workers uncovered. That meant workers hurt on the job were often burdened with the costs of their own medical treatment or had to rely on public assistance.
In the process of making that information available to workers, the Legislature also is expected to help various state agencies communicate as they collect the records needed to find employers who are shirking their responsibility. That should improve compliance significantly.
Finally, a third bill will aim to improve state government’s own record when it comes to worker’s comp claims, a move that should both save money and, we hope, reduce injuries.
Adequate enforcement of the worker’s compensation insurance requirement is essential for several reasons. First, no one should be allowed to flout the law. Second, workers need that protection so they aren’t hit with medical bills that can destroy their lives. Finally, this is a fair business issue, too. Employers who shirk the law get an unfair competitive advantage over those who obey it.
The Legislature is on the way to fixing this problem. That is good news.