Senate panel sides with Saints on workers comp bill

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wwltv.com

Posted on May 22, 2014 at 6:25 PM

Updated Thursday, May 22 at 6:25 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

BATON ROUGE -- Louisiana's two favorite spectator sports, politics and football collided at the state capitol in Baton Rouge.

State Representative Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond, brought his controversial Saints backed workers comp bill to a Senate labor committee.

The NFL Players Association claims the proposed law limits the amount of compensation professional athletes can receive. The house passed measure makes it clear that benefits would be calculated based on earnings at the time of a player's injury.

Broadwater amended the bill to consider the player's previous year's contract.

"And, include in that, any of those signing bonuses which would boost the players average weekly wage," said Broadwater. "I brought this amendment to try to show you that we are trying to come up with a reasonable compromise."

Former New Orleans Saints tight end Ernie Conwell and NFL veteran Kevin Mawae, the past president of the NFLPA appeared before the committee to lobby against the bill.

"As soon as we start threatening anything with professional athletes or any worker, I think you need to be careful," said Conwell.

"I think this is wrong," said Mawae. "I think a bill that is supposed to protect all of the people has now excluded certain people, particularly professional athletes."

They also argued players hurt in off season workouts and training camp would be compensated based on $900 a week per diems, rather than their regular season pay checks which kick in the first game of the season.

"If I go to a state where I know workers comp will adversely effect my rights and my health benefits beyond my playing career, that's something I will look at and decide whether or not it makes sense for me to go play in that state," said Mawae.

"It really does hurt the least among us as far as the player's perspective," said Conwell.

After 3 hours of debate, the bill passed 4 to 3 with Chairman A.G. Crowe, R-Slidell, casting the deciding vote.

"The issue is an important issue and I thing there's room for both sides to come together," said Crowe. "We have a break down in our legal system, apparently that's cause this issue to wind up here."

As the workers comp bill heads to the full Senate for more debate all sides are hoping there will continue to be compromise before the bill hits the Senate floor.

"So that we put two things to rest, both the legislative fights and the litigated fights," said Broadwater.

"I thought we gave some compelling arguments," said Mawae. "It will be interesting to see how this plays out. We're always open for compromise. Always open to negotiate."

The bill could be debated by the full Senate as early as next week.

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