March 16, 2017 10:13:21 AM
JACKSON -- Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is nominating a longtime Republican lawmaker to the three-member Workers Compensation Commission.
Rep. Mark Formby of Picayune has served in the House since 1993 and helped push a 2012 law that tightened rules about how the commission awards compensation to workers injured on the job.
Among other things, the 2012 law specified that money would not go to a worker hurt while being drunk, using illegal drugs or misusing prescription drugs. It authorized employers to test injured workers for drugs and alcohol. Before the change, state law did not specifically mention drugs or alcohol but said no compensation was owed "if the intoxication of the employee was the proximate cause of the injury."
Formby said during the 2012 debate that courts had liberally interpreted the law to favor workers, and a new law would restore balance between workers and employers. Critics predicted the changes could make conditions worse for workers.
"The only thing that I have ever expected from workers comp is that it be fair to the employer and the employee," Formby, 60, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "I think our workers comp commission has been reputable over the years."
Formby also said that cases might be complicated with questions about where and how a worker was hurt, but the process for the commission to handle them typically is not.
"We will help you if you are hurt -- that's the premise," Formby said.
If confirmed to the commission by the state Senate, Formby would resign from the House and Bryant would set a special election for the District 108 seat in Pearl River County. The current House term ends in January 2020.
"It's bittersweet leaving a job that I've loved," Formby said.
He is nominated for a commission term starting the middle of next month and ending in December 2022. He would succeed Liles Williams, another businessman and longtime Republican. Two commissioners are paid $119,568 and the chairman is paid $123,680. Williams is the current chairman, and Bryant will choose the next chairman, said the governor's spokesman Clay Chandler.
Formby graduated from Mississippi State University in 1979 and has worked for family retail businesses and in real estate. He also worked on the Washington staff of U.S. Sen. Trent Lott from 1987 to 1991.
The first stop for his nomination is the Senate Finance Committee, where Chairman Joey Fillingane said he considers Formby a friend.
"He is, in my opinion, highly qualified," said Fillingane, R-Sumrall.
Formby is the second House member from Pearl River County chosen by Bryant for a higher-paying state job. Last year, the governor named then-Rep. Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, to run the state Department of Revenue.
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