Week 13 Legislative Update

Today is the 89th day of the Legislature’s regular 105-day session. Budget negotiators are working on a two-year state budget, and the House and Senate are on the floor considering bills from the opposite chamber. The next major deadline in the session in April 15, when non-budgetary bills from the opposite house need to pass out to be considered still alive. In workers’ compensation, we’re down to four bills and one budget item we are working on. Here’s the status since the last update:

  • ESB 5510, creating the Benefit Accuracy Working Group at L&I to tackle wage simplification issues is in the House Rules Committee. There is no longer any controversy among stakeholders on the proposal to pull a business-labor collaborative together on the wage calculation, however the bill has not advanced to the House floor for consideration yet despite several business groups lobbying to that end. We’re continuing to lead the effort and hopefully will get this bill moving by the 4/15 deadline.
  • HB 1496, L&I’s Preferred Worker Program/Vocational Rehabilitation Bill. This bill is awaiting a vote in the Senate, and must be voted on by 4/15. While it is likely to pass, it appears idled for a while the Senate waits to see if the House moves on ESB 5510, above.
  • SB 5468, L&I’s request to spend money on self-insurance and other projects without prior legislative appropriation. This bill is in the House Rules Committee, and would need to be pulled to the floor and voted on. It is unclear how much momentum this bill has in the House.
  •  HB 1604 creates a L&I business-labor working group to report back on whether the Legislature should create hazardous exposure reporting requirements for firefighters. This bill is eligible for a floor vote in the Senate, but like HB 1496 above, is idled a little bit while the Senate waits to see what happens with ESB 5510.
  • Budget Item. L&I has asked for appropriation of about $2.5 million over the next two years to develop the Self-Insurance Risk Analysis System (SIRAS) to support the new audit model for self-insureds and connect to a national claims data collection interface. This appropriation is included in the version of the state budget passed by the House; it was not included in the Senate version. To pass, it will need to be included in the final negotiated budget. However, if SB 5468 passes, the Department would be able to develop the system without regard to legislative appropriation.

In other news:

  • ESB 5418, the catastrophic claims management pilot program. This bill, backed by Paradigm Outcomes, appears dead for the session. It was amended in the House Labor Committee to make utilization of an outside vendor for catastrophic claims management optional, and then it was referred to the House Appropriations Committee. It never came up for a vote in Appropriations.
  • ESB 5513, lowering the structured settlements age limit to 40. As previously reported, this bill is dead for the year. Although it received a bipartisan majority vote in the Senate, it did not so much as receive a hearing in the House Labor Committee.