MIASF supports workers’ comp changes in Congress

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A Florida congresswoman introduced bipartisan legislation last week that would enable recreational boat repair workers to get workers’ compensation coverage through states rather than the federal government.

The bill introduced Thursday by U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz, D-Fla., would amend the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act.

"We are pleased that Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz and a group of representatives from both sides of the aisle have taken this step in a bipartisan manner to provide this benefit for our industry's repair work force,” Marine Industries Association of South Florida president Kristina Hebert said in a statement.

Hebert testified before Congress on behalf of MIASF to urge the enactment of the measure.

Members who co-sponsored the bill include Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., Lois Frankel, D-Fla., Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., Thomas Petri, R-Wis., Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Frederica Wilson, D-Fla.

Additional Republicans and Democrats are expected to add their support as the bill progresses.

Duncan Smith, who represents the MIASF in Washington, D.C., said "the bipartisan support for this measure is very encouraging and will be the key to its eventual passage."

In 2009, Congress passed Section 803 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which allowed the entire recreational repair industry to substitute state workers’ compensation coverage rather than require the purchase of federal workers' compensation insurance under the Longshore Act.

To take advantage of this alternative, a repair worker must in fact be covered by state workers’ compensation insurance. The reason for making the change was because many repair workers were unable to buy policies to comply with the federal Longshore Act and were not covered, according to MIASF.

The bipartisan bill just introduced would correct the regulatory definition of recreational vessel for purposes of the Longshore Act and restore the ability to get state workers’ compensation coverage.

The MIASF said the House is expected to take up the measure as early as possible during the current session.

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