These are selected comments from the June 19, 1996 debate on Senate Bill 801, the Worker's Compensation Reform Act. In addition to comments the comments that follow, I also contend that this bill, later Act 57 of 1996, was passed using unconstitutional methods.
As originally introduced, Senate Bill No. 801, was narrowly drafted as an amendment to the State Workman's Insurance Fund Act, an act relating to the creation and operation of a State fund for the compensation of injuries to employees and subscribers. Unfortunately, the bill was amended in the Senate Committee on Rules and Executive Nominations, while on concurrence in House Amendments, to remove the entire contents of the provision and replace it with a lengthy 100 page amendment that substantially alters the State Workers' Compensation Act, a distinctly different act than the one originally contained in Senate Bill No. 801.
The bill was approved by a vote of 27-22. All the Democrats and one Republican voting against the bill.
We now have before us a substantial change in the Pennsylvania workers' compensation law. However, because of the tactics of the Majority party, most of the Members of this Chamber will neither have an opportunity to amend the bill not alter it in any fashion. This bill, although despite the arguments of my sincerely good friend on the other side of the aisle, the gentleman from Lancaster, Senator Armstrong, returns this Commonwealth back to the days of Charles Dickens, where we no longer care about workers. We treat workers as commodities to be expended when necessary, and woe be they if they get hurt on the job. Throw them away and get someone new.
Mr. President, I heard similar arguments when we were asked to reduce corporate taxes by $286 million, that it would inure to the benefit of the Pennsylvania citizens because jobs would be created. In fact, the exact opposite happened. Now, Mr. President, we are being told that was not enough. Now we must take away the human dignity of our workers and submit them to harsh treatment by employers, make them servants and slaves and serfs, if you will, to the rich, and that will bring jobs back to Pennsylvania.
Mr. President, I submit it will not. People want to locate businesses where there is a happy, intelignet, and well-motivated work force. The days of slavery are gone. We have seen that these procedures do not work in other countries, yet we here continue to penalize the Pennsylvania worker because big business is more affluent, has more money, can give more money to campaigns, and control the legislative process.
Mr. President, I know that this bill will help greedy employers. It will do nothing to help the working men and women in Pennsylvania, and I hope now that they have begun to see the reactionary policies of this Governor, that they will be very sorry for what they did 2 years ago in electing him, and that in the next election the issue will no longer be the release of a convicted felon, but it will rather be the health of the economy of the State and so many other important issues that are not kneejerk, sexy, volatile issues but are the bread and butter of what life is about. I hope that you will see a revolution in this Commonwealth of working men and women rising together with the poor and the people who are going to lose their jobs, not only as a result of this but as a result of the other legislation that has been enacted by this Republican administration, and they will revolt and drive you from your seats and install into this government Senators and House Members and a Governor who care about people and not just the wealthy.
Mr. President, this bill is going to pass tonight, but I am proud to say that every Democrat here is voting "no," and for those people who do not know the difference between the democratic and Republican parties, this is one of those defining issues. We care about people, they car about factories and big wealthy owners.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo