February 16th, 2018 Legislative Update

The sixth week of the 2018 legislative session comes to a close today, and on the 40th day, the session is now on the glide path to ending in under three weeks.

Another major legislative deadline passed this week -- all bills not related to passage of the state budget had to pass out of their chamber of origin, the House or the Senate, by 2/14. Valentine's Day, Ash Wednesday, and the house-of-origin cutoff, all in one. The deadline for these bills to then be voted out of the opposite chamber 

Here's what made it past the cutoff, and in what form:

- Occupational disease presumptions. HB 2633, the first responder occupational disease presumption expansion for cancers, cardiac, and infections, did not pass the House. However, the companion measure, SB 6213, did pass the Senate (near unanimously), and is now set for House consideration. After WSIA and others lobbied hard over the significant costs associated with these expansions, the Senate amended the bill on the floor to remove stroke, and impose certain pre-employment testing requirements, as well as ask L&I to study the development of a scientific review panel that future requests for presumed conditions would go through. Meanwhile, SB 6214 and HB 1655 have both passed their house of origin, the former dealing with a PTSD presumption specifically, the latter in its current form apparently allowing occupational disease coverage (but not presumption) for *any* contended stress based occupational disease for law enforcement and firefighters. We continue to lobby against SB 6213, 6214, and HB 1655, but have to acknowledge that they all have significant political winds behind them. Finally, the Hanford occupational disease presumption bills, HB 1723 and SB 5940 long since passed their chambers of origin and are sitting in the opposite house awaiting further action.

- Social Security Offset. HB 1336, the bill that would eliminate the social security retirement benefit offset against time loss or pension for a worker who has applied for or is receiving SSR prior to being injured passed out of the House of Representatives and remains alive; the Senate companion bill did not.

- Pension Discount Rate. The WSIA-supported bill to bifurcate the pension reserves to allow for different discount rates between the State Fund and the self-insured pensions was voted out of the Senate (SB 6393) by the cutoff, but not out of the House. The Senate bill is now under consideration by the House.

- IMEs. SB 6226, the electronic records/10-day rule on IME medical records + exploring telemedicine in IMEs also survived the cutoff and remains in play. It will be considered by the House.

- WISHA Penalties. HB 1953, the Department of Labor & Industries' bill from last year to increase statutory maximums and minimums for WISHA penalties to conform to recent federal OSHA levels, passed the House and remains alive for consideration by the Senate.

Here are some notable issues that did not survive the 2/14 cutoff and can now be considered dead for the session:

- Hearing Aids. As previously reported, a campaign to require new hearing aids at least every five years was snuffed out pretty quickly, however the proponents of the law were successful in forcing L&I to start a rule making proceeding to reconsider the circumstances under which they will allow a hearing aid to be replaced as opposed to repaired.

- Mental Health Providers. Also, as previously reported, bills to open up masters-level mental health counselors of various licensures to serve as attending providers fell flat this session. 

For the status on these and other bills, as well as links to the latest bill language, click below to download our latest bill tracking sheet.