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If current conventional wisdom prevails, workers’ compensation legislation will take a back seat to more pressing economic issues on both the state and federal levels this year. Case in point: A bill calling for the creation of a commission to study the effectiveness of state workers’ compensation laws was introduced by U.S. Rep. Joe Baca D-California on Jan. 22 — in 2009. H.R. 635 has gained such little traction in the past year that few people are even blogging about it — the ultimate 21st century sign of ennui. The bill, which now has 13 co-sponsors, was introduced by Baca then quickly referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor, where it remains today, relatively undisturbed by its proponents and opponents.

The bill may be a victim of the large to-do list facing the country. The same issues that are focusing lawmakers’ attention at the national level — notably health-care reform, housing, and the economy — also are occupying state legislators’ time. It is difficult for elected officials to spend valuable session time tinkering with workers’ compensation laws that are for the most part actually working when their constituents are homeless and jobless.

However, while major reforms may be few this year, courts and state officials continue to expand or retract workers’ compensation laws, rules, and regulations through narrow rulings and targeted bills. A sampling of some recent activity that may portend larger issues in the future:

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