February 9th, 2018 Legislative Update

The fifth week of the 2018 legislative session comes to a close today, and on the 33rd day, the session is now more than half over.

This week featured another important legislative deadline, as bills with fiscal impact were supposed to be voted out of either the House Appropriations Committee or Senate Ways & Means Committee by this past Tuesday to stay moving. The next important deadline is next Wednesday, February 14th, in which all non-budgetary bills must pass their chamber of origin in order to remain alive. 

What that means is for the next several days, the House and Senate will be on the floor voting on bills to send to the other chamber, before resuming committee work later next week.

Highlights from the week:

- Occupational disease presumptions. HB 2633, expanding existing firefighter cancer/infection/cardio presumptions and adding in law enforcement for several conditions, was voted out of the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday evening, but not before being amended to remove stroke as a presumed condition for police and fire. The removal of stroke lessens the fiscal impact of the measure, but by how much is still being studied. WSIA, along with the associations of counties and cities, is attempting to position an amendment that adds no new conditions or presumptions but instead creates an epidemiological review board at the Department of Labor & Industries to review the scientific studies and make recommendations for future presumptions based on them. Meanwhile, SB 6214, which creates an occupational disease presumption of PTSD for police and fire, is sitting on the Senate floor and may be voted on as early as today. Looking at the bleak political reality of this bill -- it's going to pass by a large bipartisan margin, just as its companion, HB 1655, passed in the House -- WSIA is attempting to position an amendment that would allow coverage, but not presumption.

- 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 with a vote of 65-33 on Wednesday. It's reasonable to believe this might be the year this one passes both chambers.

Other issues we're working on right now:

- 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 will need to be voted out of one or both chambers by next Wednesday to keep moving. We are working with Labor & Industries to keep the bill moving. 

- IMEs. While we could live without it, WSIA has helped amend SB 6226, which is the bill directing how medical records are provided between a self-insured employer and an IME provider, as well as directing the development of telemedicine IMEs. We placed an amendment in committee to add some flexibility to the 10-day rule for transmitting records. This bill also has until next Wednesday to get voted out of the Senate to keep moving.

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.