Tort reform measure and bill to repeal prevailing wage clears full Senate

02/05/2015 10:58 PM

FRANKFORT — Two major Senate bills concerning repealing prevailing wage on local government and school construction projects and legislation setting up panels to review medical malpractice cases before they can be tried in court passed by identical 24-12 votes on Thursday in the Senate chamber.

Senate Bill 9 , sponsored by Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, would repeal prevailing wage on certain government and school projects.

Schroder said that the main purpose of the bill is to save school districts money that they can use for additional projects or other resources.

“Based on LRC research, this exemption would decrease construction projects to elementary and secondary education by 7.6 percent,” Schroder said.

Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville opposed the bill saying it could lead to less than quality construction.

“I’ve always believed when you reduce the wages of working people that the final product is not going to be what you bargained for,” Jones said on the Senate floor.

Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, who owns a concrete company, says the concerns over less than desirable construction are without merit.

“I would argue that the 89 percent of the construction work force, who, everyday, is not on a prevailing wage job site cares every bit about quality and safety,” McDaniel said.

Senate Bill 6 , sponsored by Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, would form a review board of three physicians and one attorney to review cases to determine if they have legal merit.

Alvarado says that the legislation is needed to protect medical providers from frivolous law suits which are costly and add to a shortage of physicians in the state.

“The actions of a few bad apple personal injury lawyers increases healthcare costs for all Kentuckians, contributing to our states provider shortage and unfairly criminalizing the very people who care for our families,” Alvarado told fellow lawmakers.

Sen. Ray Jones, who opposed the bill, said that he’s concerned about how the legislation interferes with due process in the courts.

“So what this bill says and the people that support it is basically saying is we don’t trust people on juries to make decisions hearing objective evidence from both sides,” Jones said.

Jones, a Pikeville trial attorney, has fought hard against medical review panels — bringing full color poster sized photographs depicting gruesome nursing home negligence in past sessions.

Sen. Reggie Thomas, D-Lexington, who also voted against the bill, is concerned about the makeup of the review panel.

“The panel consists of a chairperson, who’s an attorney, but is a non-voting member,” Thomas said. “The other three voting members are health care providers. What that means is if you have a medical claim against a physician, you’re going to have physicians determine whether that physician should be sued.”

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, supported the legislation because it he feels it’s about having appropriate checks and balances in place.

“It puts expert advice in where expert advice should be from experts, not hired experts that attorneys shop for till they find the expert to say what they want them to say,” Carroll said.

The bills will now move on the House for consideration. In past legislative sessions the House has not considered the bills.


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