WSIA's Week 4 Legislative Update (Week of February 1-5)

Friday February 5, 2016 marks the first major cutoff, or deadline, of the legislative session, by which bills introduced previously in the session must be acted upon by their committee -- voted out -- in order to be considered alive for further consideration. The exceptions to this rule are tax, fiscal policy, and transportation related budgets, and bills considered necessary to implement those budgets.

But for the most part, workers' compensation and workplace safety issues had to be acted upon today to still be alive.

Workers' Comp:

At this first cutoff, here are the main bills still moving in workers' compensation:

  • SB 6602, self-insurance allowance and interlocutory orders, but in an amended form that removed authority to issue denial orders from the original bill. While this amendment secured a bipartisan vote out of the Senate Commerce & Labor committee, WSIA is evaluating whether the proposal is still a worthwhile step in the direction of greater self-insured authority.
  • SB 5509, last session's bill tightening occupational disease coverage, did not receive a hearing this year but has been voted out of committee and is eligible for further consideration. WSIA supports.
  • SB 5513, last session's bill lowering the age limit for structured settlement agreements, also did not receive a hearing this year remains eligible for further consideration from last year. WSIA supports.
  • HB 2441, which eliminates the social security offset against time loss benefits for those workers already receiving or having applied for social security retirement benefits prior to being injured. WSIA is monitoring; the bill received a bipartisan vote out of the House committee and has a limited fiscal impact.
  • HB 2806, which substantially expands the presumption of occupational disease for firefighters by including new cancers and infections, and extends the presumption to fire investigators. WSIA opposes.
  • SB 6321, which clarifies the construction industry's 7-part test for determining whether an individual is an independent contractor or covered employee for purposes of workers' compensation coverage. WSIA supports.  

These bills would be considered "dead" at this point, although no bill is truly "dead" until the session adjourns. The main ones:

  • HB 2336, which would have required the Department adjudicate a self-insured employer's request for claim closure within 90 days of the receipt of a request with medical report seeking closure.
  • HB 2337,  which would have capped time loss payments at 60 months.
  • HB 2338, which would have ended time loss payments when the injured worker reaches maximum medical improvement (medical fixity), as opposed to when a disability is adjudicated closed (legal fixity).
  • HB 2383, which would have required the Department and self-insurers to treat accupuncture services are covered treatment for injured workers.
  • SB 6597, which would have established a joint legislative task force to study and report back on various issues concerning the use of Independent Medical Examinations in workers' comp. There may be a push to require formation of this task force as part of Labor & Industries' final budget appropriation at the end of the legislative session, so we'll be watching it.

Workplace Safety:

Thus far, all four workplace safety related bills are continuing to move through the process:

  • HB 2805, which would require Labor & Industries to adopt rules for mandatory hazardous exposure reporting for employers of firefighters. WSIA opposes.
  • SB 6386, which would require the adoption of safety standards for public school districts whose facilities include retractable basketball hoops and the equipment to operate them. WSIA is monitoring.
  • HB 2484, which places a fairly stringent safety training, inspection, and regulation regime on the state's dairy farms. WSIA opposes.
  • HB 2917, which would require Labor & Industries to conduct a study of safety and health issues in the commercial janitorial industry. WSIA is monitoring.

As always, please contact us with any questions, concerns, positions, or comments on any of these matters.

Click below for downloadable bill tracking sheets, current through this week: