Monks state affairs

Rep. Jason Monks, R-Meridian, addresses the Senate State Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

Rep. Jason Monks, R-Meridian, was up next in the Senate State Affairs committee this morning to present HB 417, the workers compensation bill, which would require Idaho’s workers compensation system to cover claims from workers who suffer adverse consequences from employer-required vaccines.

Several senators had questions about how the bill would work, its wording, and how it would affect Idaho's existing workers compensation insurance system; and noted that it would deal with all vaccinations, not just COVID-19. Monks said his co-sponsor, Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, would field legal questions about the bill.

Skaug told the committee, "The people that are injured by vaccines, it's not many but it's happening, they need help now. ... We get calls from people who have been injured or had reactions from vaccines, most recently the COVID vaccine. They're not big cases." He said they might include lost wages for time off work recovering from side effects.

He said sometimes insurers pay the claims; sometimes they don't. "This just lowers the bar," he said.

"It is a bipartisan bill; it passed the House 67-3," Skaug said. He also said there are seven attorneys on the House Judiciary Committee, which heard the bill, to the point "that we're starting to call ourselves a law firm." All backed the bill, he said.

Sen. Kelly Anthon, R-Burley, also an attorney, said, "The one question I have about the language is on line 17. It says it is an injury that 'is or may be related to the employee's experience in the receipt of the vaccine.' Can you help me understand why those words were used, in particular, 'may be related.'"

Skaug said it's because there's no certainty, and would allow for "common sense" if it may be related. "It's not perfect," he said. "But if it's out of line, the defense will stand up and say this doesn't make any sense at all if it's not logical, and they'll have that defense."

Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, said, "This seems to potentially upend our current case law," with regard to level of proof.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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