March 8, 2019 Legislative Update

Today marks the end of the 8th week of the Legislative session, at which point we’re just past halfway through the 105-day regular session.

The next main legislative deadline we are watching is the House of Origin cutoff, 5:00 p.m. March 13th, which is the last day to pass bills in their house of origin to be considered still alive.

For the most part, all of the main workers’ compensation bills we’ve been working and tracking have already passed their House of origin if indeed they are likely to this session:

-- WSIA’s Dolph fix: SB 5474 passed the Senate Wednesday morning with almost unanimously (Senator Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle, who does not believe there should be self-insurance in Washington, was the lone “no” vote). This bill allows self-insurers to verifiably serve department-issued closing orders.

-- Claim file privacy: HB 1909 passed the House Thursday evening unanimously. This police/firefighter union bill, which WSIA helped negotiate down a bit, would impose a $1,000 fine upon investigation and citation should an employer or authorized representative allow unauthorized access to information in a claim file related to mental health conditions or treatment. The Senate companion to the bill, SB 5844, has not yet received a floor vote but is likely to before the 03/13 cutoff.

-- Firefighter/Police occupational disease presumption: HB 1909, adding the new cancers and conditions to the police/fire occupational disease presumption, passed 89-5 last Friday afternoon. The bill as passed the House contains a WSIA-brokered provision creating (as far as we know) the country’s first epidemiological/clinical advisory committee for the consideration of adding any future conditions to the presumption.

-- Wage calculation model/benefit increase: SB 5217 is in the Senate Rules committee and although nothing is truly “dead” until its cutoff has passed (and for that matter, the session has finally adjourned) this bill appears to have lost steam for the session. Earlier this week, the Department at long last filed the fiscal analysis of the bill, which projects between $635 million and $1 billion in increased State Fund time loss and pension payments over the next three biennia should the bill become law at a 70 percent flat rate. 

The bills that have passed out of their "house of origin" still have to pass out of the other chamber without amendment in order to go on to the Governor for signature or veto. If a bill that has passed the Senate, for example, is amended in the House, then the Senate has to concur in the House amendment or negotiate their differences to an agreement before the end of session.

With the three bills above that have passed one chamber, we do not anticipate further amendments in the other chamber but anything can happen during session.