Iowa Workers Compensation laws were created to to protect the injured worker. This is the reason the workers’ compensation laws were enacted and it is the responsibility of the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner to protect the injured worker. The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner is appointed by the Governor and approved by the State Senate. Our current Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Christopher Godfrey was appointed by Governor Vilsack in 2006. Since his appointment Commissioner Godfrey was re-approved by the Iowa Senate to retain his post until April of 2015. Because Commissioner Godfrey’s term continues for another 4 years, our current governor does not possess the ability to simply remove him and appointment someone Branstad ideologically wants in the position. To circumvent this road block Branstad has cut Commissioner Godfrey’s pay.
Articles by various news agencies cite reasons for Branstad’s attempt to force Commissioner Godfrey out. Branstad himself stated that the Iowa Assoication of Business and Industrywanted an alternate commissioner, though the association denied it. Branstad’s lieutenant governor, who ironically affirmed Commissioner Godfrey in 2009 while she was a member of the Senate stated that times have changed and Commissioner Godfreys removal now is warranted because the cost of business has changed and she had a different agenda.
That is correct, a “different agenda.” It is clear that Branstad’s attempt to force Commissioner Godfrey out of office is an attempt to place an employer oriented person into the position. By no means am I conveying that Commissioner Godfrey is anti-business, or, conversely, pro-worker. However, I would venture to guess that if Brandstad were successful in his attack upon the Commissioner, that he would appointment a person who does not fulfill the real purpose of the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner; to protect the injured worker.
Our workers’ compensation system is not perfect. Sometimes it is unfair to the injured worker, a defense lawyer would tell you that sometimes it is unfair to the employer. Our system in Iowa is one of the best in the country. Iowa’s injured workers’ generally have higher weekly benefit rates than other states and better rules regarding weekly benefits. At the same time we have some of the lowest insurance premiums.
Through all the polictical maneuvering and actions, focus should be on whats really important, the protection of the injured worker. This is the Commissioner’s obligation to the people of Iowa. If protection of the injured worker is motivation to replace a commissioner then I would not have issue, however, the current adminstration’s focus is to protect businesses, which I do have a problem with.