Behind the Curtain - How Changes are Made to Georgia's Workers' Compensation Act

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You may already be familiar with how a law is passed in Georgia.  First, a bill is passed by both parts of the state legislature (House of Representatives and Senate).  The bill is then sent to the governor to sign.  If the governor signs the bill, it becomes law.   This is same method established by the Georgia Constitution in 1789 (with minor changes made since that time).  It is a tried and true method, but have you ever wondered how a bill makes it to the legislature to begin with?  Below is a description about how changes to the law involving Georgia's Workers' Compensation Act occur and the people responsible for submitting those changes.

Chairman's Advisory Council History & Purpose

In 1992, the Georgia General Assembly endured a particularly divisive legislative session when multiple issues emerged in competing bills filed on behalf of stakeholders with opposing interests in the Georgia workers' compensation system. Governor Zell Miller responded by calling then State Board of Workers' Compensation (SBWC) Chairman Hal Dawkins to ask if there could be a better way to evaluate proposed legislation on workers' compensation. This incident gave birth to the current Chairman's Advisory Council, replacing the prior 10-member statutory Governor's Workers' Compensation Advisory Council. The newly formed Advisory Council, with a membership that today includes 91 people, is organized around six committees which focus on specific areas of Georgia's approximately $2 billion workers' compensation industry and its administration. Members of the Advisory Council are well versed in one or more aspects of workers' compensation and bring their individual expertise to the table to discuss and vet workers' compensation legislation, rules, medical treatment/expenses, and all other issues that impact injured workers, employers, insurance companies, and claims/benefit levels.

  • The Advisory Council serves as an excellent resource for the Georgia General Assembly and the SBWC on issues that can be quite complex and potentially divisive.
  • The Advisory Council offers advice to both legislators and SBWC members, yet it does not cast up or down votes on issues like a legislative body. Instead, the Advisory Council strives to reach consensus on the best course of action for the overall benefit of Georgia's workers' compensation system. The Advisory Council through collaboration has vetted potential legislative drafts and ideas at the request of members of the Legislature many times over the years. It has been highly successful for 30 years and helped Georgia earn a national reputation for having a fair, balanced and well-run workers' compensation system.
  • The Advisory Council members understandably bring their own perspectives and unique expertise into discussions, but they are expected to work collaboratively with other members towards continuous enhancement of the overall health of the system.
  • The pursuit of individual or specific stakeholder agendas to the detriment of the collaborative approach towards system enhancement is discouraged, as is working around or outside the Advisory Council to pursue legislation that has not been thoroughly reviewed or on which there has not been consensus. The makeup of the Advisory Council includes professionals who possess characteristics that allow them to work together. Advisory Council members include claimant attorneys, defense attorneys, physicians, nurses, large and small employers, governmental entities, medical and hospital associations, insurers, third party administrators, rehab suppliers, managed care consultants, and various workers' compensation group funds.
  • Advisory Council members serve at the pleasure of the SBWC Chairman and Chief Appellate Judge. To ensure fresh perspectives on complex matters, new members are periodically added to replace existing members or sometimes members are moved between committees of the Advisory Council. To continue service on the Advisory Council, a member should demonstrate a commitment of time towards making meaningful contributions to the shared mission and a willingness to pursue collaborative approaches to complex issues. Collectively, members invest hundreds of hours per year serving on Advisory Council committees. This level of time commitment and sharing of expertise reflects each member's appreciation of not only the work product of the Advisory Council but of its history, process, and importance to the Georgia workers' compensation system.

The six committees and their mission statements are:

  1.  Legislative Committee

To propose and advance legislative enhancements to the Georgia workers' compensation system, to oppose unwise legislative initiatives adversely affecting the Georgia workers' compensation system, and to assist the Georgia Legislature and SBWC in otherwise reviewing, considering, and taking appropriate action on legislative proposals. The Legislative Committee keeps the House and Senate Committee of jurisdiction apprised of the work of the Advisory Council.

  2.  Rules & Mediation Committee

To improve and enhance the Georgia workers' compensation system by continually reviewing and recommending necessary changes to the Rules and Forms of the SBWC and by facilitating the Alternative Dispute Resolution process to assist in the more efficient and effective administration of the Workers' Compensation Act. The Rules & Mediation Committee also keeps the House and Senate committees of jurisdiction apprised of the work of the Advisory Council.

  3.  Medical Committee

To advise the SBWC on the best ways to establish and maintain a system that provides excellent, timely and cost-effective care for the injured workers in Georgia, while also balancing the needs of the employers, employees, and providers.

 4.  Licensure & Self-Insurance Committee

To be an advocate and consultative resource for the licensure and self-insured employer programs and the SBWC. To work in collaboration with the SBWC to advocate for the accountability, efficiency and security of the licensure and self-insured employers in Georgia. To propose changes and recommendations in the processes, procedures, rules, statutes, and licensure matters to provide for a more efficient workers' compensation system for medical providers, insurers, and employers in the State of Georgia.

 5.  Rehabilitation Committee & Managed Care Committee

To provide advice to the SBWC regarding statutory & regulatory initiatives that support and encourage the appropriate utilization of rehabilitation and managed care to provide the most effective medical care and path to return to work for Georgia's injured workers.  One of our own lawyers, Joseph Brown, has proudly served on this committee for the past 5 years.

 6.  Public Education Committee

To provide positive and proactive education to the participants in the Georgia workers' compensation system through all available forms of communication and to prepare regional educational seminars on an annual basis.

If you have been injured at work, give our lawyers a call today at 770-214-2500 for a free consultation.


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