Kentucky lawmakers pass bill revamping black lung system

(Public Domain)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) – The Latest on the Kentucky legislature’s action on a bill dealing with black lung disease (all times local):

8:25 p.m.

Kentucky lawmakers have completed quick work on a bill sought by the Senate’s top leader to reduce the coal industry’s costs to cover claims by workers suffering from black lung disease.

The measure won final passage in the House on an 86-3 vote Thursday evening.

The plan surfaced earlier in the day when Senate President Robert Stivers presented it to a Senate panel. A few hours later, it cleared the Senate on a 38-0 vote.

In a sign of the bill’s bipartisan support, House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins told colleagues he has a “comfort level” with the changes. He said he received assurances that current and future black lung claims won’t be jeopardized.

The measure now goes to Gov. Matt Bevin.

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4:50 p.m.

The Kentucky Senate has unanimously passed a proposal to reduce the beleaguered coal industry’s costs to cover claims by workers suffering from black lung disease.

The plan offered by Senate President Robert Stivers surfaced Thursday, the final day of the legislature’s 2017 session. A few hours after the plan was endorsed by a Senate panel, the proposal cleared the Senate on a 38-0 vote. It still needs House approval to win final passage.

Stivers told his colleagues that the failure to act on the bill would result in “another nail in the coffin” for the state’s coal sector. And he says it could leave the state facing a potential liability exceeding $100 million as more former coal workers file black lung claims.

Stivers’ plan would alter how future black lung claims are paid, with the goal of reducing and phasing out assessments paid by coal companies to help cover claims. Future claims would be covered completely by workers’ comp insurance policies purchased by coal companies.

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11:50 a.m.

The Kentucky Senate’s top leader has presented a last-minute plan to reduce the beleaguered coal industry’s costs to cover claims by workers suffering from black lung disease.

Senate President Robert Stivers’ plan would alter how future black lung claims are paid, with the goal of reducing and phasing out assessments paid by coal companies to help cover claims. As the coal sector has shrunk, it has left fewer businesses to pay higher assessment rates.

Supporters say there would be no changes in benefits paid to ailing coal workers.

The proposal was attached to a bill that won approval from a Senate panel on Thursday and faces a tight deadline. It has to clear the Senate and House by the end of Thursday, the final day of this year’s legislative session.

(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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