Tony Pascarella Senate Hearing HB 5456

Sen. Shirkey: Good morning everybody. Thank you for your patience in delay of the committee meeting this morning. Welcome to the Michigan Competitiveness Committee in the Senate. I ask the clerk to please call roll.

Clerk: Chairman Shirkey?

Sen. Shirkey: Here.

Clerk: Senator Stamas?

Sen. Stamas: Here.

Clerk: Senator Robertson?

Sen. Robertson: Here.

Clerk: Senator Proos?

Sen. Proos: Here.

Clerk: Senator Warren?

Sen. Warren: Here.

Clerk: Mr. Chairman, there are five members present. There is a quorum.

Sen. Shirkey: Looking for a motion to adopt our meeting minutes from February 28th. Senator Proos makes the motion. Without objection, those amendments are adopted. Please note to members and guests that this committee meeting is being videoed.

We will begin today with testimony, particularly for those who were here last week that did not have a chance to give their testimony. We’re going to go through those first. First up is Tony Pascarella. Tony, I believe this is the United Steel Workers retirees, is that correct? Okay, awesome. Wishes to speak, opposes the bill. Press the button there so that the red light comes on on the microphone. Little bitty button right by the microphone. Right there, you got it. Okay, somebody got it for you, all right.

Pascarella: Thank you. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee. My name is Tony Pascarella. At the end of this month, I’ll be 77 years old, and I’m a Vietnam Veteran. I served in the military during the Vietnam War from 1962 to 1965. I fought in ‘nam for one year, and part of my duties was as a helicopter gunner for H-21s in Huey aircraft. While over there, my pregnant wife and then child waited for me to come home.

After I got back to America, I began my career as a steelworker at McLoud Steel, where I worked for 31 years. I worked there for almost my entire career and have assumed a leadership with the retirees. Many are veterans, and many became sick, and some have died from exposure from asbestos. I’m here today to speak on their behalf and on my own behalf.

I’ve been diagnosed with asbestosis, and thankfully, it’s a noncancerous disease of the lungs. I do have symptoms of shortness of breath that I live with every day. Even though I quit smoking in 1965, I am at a much higher risk to develop lung cancer or mesothelioma due to my asbestos exposure.

I am in full agreement that plaintiffs in asbestos cases and their lawyers should be transparent and should turn over to defendants, the courts, and the juries all information they have regarding their claims made to bankruptcy courts. My understanding is that this has always been required by Judge Colombo and other judges in Michigan. This is only right. However, in a proposed bill before the committee and the full Senate, plaintiffs are required to do this within 30 days after they file their cases. This is impossible to do because, in my own case, it took more than a year to gather medical evidence, Social Security employment records, and investigate exposures that took place 25 or 30 years or more throughout my lifetime.

Since cases generally take two years, the logical and fair thing to do would be to allow the victims sufficient time to gather evidence and investigate and require them to turn it over several months before the trial. This would be better for all concerned, and fairness and transparency would be preserved. If your goal is to pass a law to require transparency, don’t do it at the expense of fairness to the victims, when transparency can easily be achieved by requiring disclosures four, five, or six months before the trial instead of just 30 days after filing. Other states have adopted a much fairer process, and so should the state of Michigan.

I thank you, Mr. Chairman, and committee, for your time and letting me express a view of great importance to all that were exposed to asbestos. It takes a toll on those injured physically, mentally, financially, and emotionally. When a worker or veteran comes home from work, he brings the exposure to his family on his clothes and in the car he drives daily.

If you are a member of the Armed Forces, you sign a blank check to fight, protect, and serve your country, up to and including your life. Think about what you’re voting on. This is not a partisan issue; this is a human issue, and many are your constituents that you represent. I know you’ll do the right thing. Thank you.

Sen. Shirkey: Mr. Pascarella, yes, a couple of things. First of all, thank you for your service.

Pascarella: Thank you.

Sen. Shirkey: Second, you can tell your retiree friends that you represent them, that they can be very proud of you for doing so and how you presented yourself. Third, you look like you could probably get back in your same uniform that you had when you were in Vietnam, so…

Pascarella: I don’t want to go back!

Sen. Shirkey: [laughs] Thank you for your testimony.

Pascarella: Thank you.

Sen. Shirkey: Any questions? Thank you. Thank you, sir.

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