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Godfrey Named Workers’ Compensation Commissioner

Posted on Thursday, November 27th, 2008 at 11:27 am    

As they say on The Insider, “this just in” from Bret Hayworth of the Sioux City Journal:

Iowa Senate Republicans backed away from opposition to the appointment of Sioux City native Chris Godfrey as commissioner of the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Division.

Days after the Republican caucus threatened to bury Godfrey’s nomination, an about face occurred Wednesday and Godfrey’s nomination, stalled since January 2006, was approved by the Senate on a 48-2 vote.

The two Republican senators voting against the nomination were Ron Wieck of Sioux City and David Hartsuch of Bettendorf. The other five senators from Northwest Iowa, Steve Warnstadt, D-Sioux City; David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan; Steve Kettering, R-Lake View; Dave Mulder, R-Sioux Center; and Jim Seymour, R-Woodbine, voted to confirm Godfrey.

On Friday Wieck said he had concerns about Godfrey’s fitness for the office, and added Republicans were disgruntled on having little influence on legislation in the 2007 year, so they might scuttle his and other pending nominations.

Speaking by phone, Godfrey said being in the Senate chambers as the vote unfolded was pleasing.

He said he wasn’t sure why Republicans vowing to block his appointment relented, but said perhaps it was his testimony on April 4 to the Senate Labor and Business Relations Committee. Godfrey said he’d highlighted the work he’d done since holding the office on the interim commissioner basis since being nominated by then Gov. Tom Vilsack in January 2006.

Godfrey touted moving cases more speedily through the division over the last 16 months, and improving morale in the Workers’ Compensation Division.

He also noted that after his committee testimony last week, Republican Sen. Pat Ward approached him and told him she thought he’d done a fine job. Perhaps his appointment being approved was “a testimony to the sway Senator Ward has within her caucus,” Godfrey offered.

The Republicans, while in the minority since Democrats hold the chamber on a 30-20 count, were in a position to block the appointment, since Senate confirmations require a two-thirds vote, or 34 votes.

A 1991 Sioux City East High graduate who later worked for IBP, Godfrey said the Senate vote “was a relief. It is nice to know you’ve got this chapter behind you and can focus on other things.” He said his parents, Jim and Kay Godfrey of Sioux City, were enthused to have their son fully in the state post.

In discussing his opposition to Godfrey last week Wieck said, “there are some issues with case history.” Wieck gave the example where a division deputy commissioner ruled a fine of $300 to a business, but then Godfrey reviewed it and increased that amount to $20,000.

Warnstadt said Godfrey, who holds undergraduate and law degrees from Drake University, was a deserving candidate, since he had the backing of both labor unions and business groups.

At the time he appointed him, Vilsack said Godfrey’s “expertise in working with both plaintiffs and defendants in the area of workers’ compensation law makes him an ideal candidate to take on the responsibility of leading the Workers’ Compensation Division.”

Iowa employees have been covered by the workers’ compensation law under most employment relationships since 1913, and the division is responsible for reviewing cases in which employees claim injury while working.Bret Hayworth may be reached at (712) 293.4203 or brethayworth@siouxcityjournal.com

Thanks to Barry Moranville of the Iowa Association of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Inc. for providing this article.

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