Bill to help sick Hanford employees dies in Senate - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Bill to help sick Hanford employees dies in Senate

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RICHLAND, WA - The House Bill offering increased protections for Hanford workers will not make it out of Senate committee. Reporter Rex Carlin learned today that although House Bill 1723 would have established the presumption of occupational disease for workers at the site, it not only didn't pass in the Senate...it didn't even make it out of committee for a vote.

Rex Carlin spoke with State Senator Michael Baumgartner's staff today. Baumgartner is the chair of the committee on commerce, labor, and sports. His staff told Rex the bill didn't make it out of committee because it's too broad; the criteria for being covered in this bill is working just one eight hour shift on the Hanford site.

The wife of one sick former Hanford worker who testified last week in Olympia says Baumgartner's mind was made up before the hearing that he wasn't going to let the bill out of committee.

"He was too busy, too bothered, didn't really want to hear anything, in a rush," said Melinda Rouse. "He told us that right up front. It was pretty much, I believe, decided at that point, well before we got up before him."

Rex didn't get a response from Baumgartner on those allegations. Baumgartner's staff also mentioned the federal government's involvement at Hanford as reason to hold off on sending the bill for a vote on the Senate floor.

This bill passed in the House 69-29, and Rex reached out to other members of the committee today, but did not hear back from them as of now.

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03/29/17 UPDATE:

OLYMPIA, WA (AP) - A bill that would have helped the sick employees of a nuclear site in southeastern Washington has died in Legislature.

The Senate Labor, Commerce and Sports Committee chose not to vote on House Bill 1723 after its hearing last week, which automatically caused the bill to die. The bill would have granted a presumption of occupational illness for certain conditions including cancer for people who got sick while working at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

The reservation was a site where the federal government produced plutonium for nuclear weapons for 45 years.

Committee Chair and Republican Senator Michael Baumgartner of Spokane says the bill covered an important issue, but it was one that required additional discussion and fact finding with the federal government and elected officials.

The bill had passed in the House with a 69-29 vote early March.

More stories:

Rep. Klippert explains his stance on Hanford Occupational Disease Bill

Hanford Tank Farm workers and families testify

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03/06/17:

OLYMPIA, WA (AP) - Legislation that could allow ill Hanford workers to more easily get worker compensation claims approved has been passed by the House.
 
Substitute House Bill 1723, which still must be considered by the Senate, is modeled after similar protections given to firefighters in Washington who develop serious illnesses. It was introduced by Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, a former Hanford nuclear reservation worker.
 
Under the bill, many conditions would be automatically assumed to be caused by working as little as one eight-hour shift anywhere on the site, instead of workers having to prove that a medical condition was caused by a specific exposure at Hanford.
 
Covered conditions would include respiratory disease, neurological disease and a wide range of cancers.
 
The bill says the presumption that conditions were caused by working at Hanford could be refuted by other evidence, like smoking, physical fitness, lifestyle and family history.

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