January 17, 2020 Legislative Update

The first week of our 2020 legislative session concluded today with a number of bills introduced within our purview. Downloadable below is a bill tracking sheet that will be updated weekly with the progress of these bills as the session goes on.

Here are the main issues introduced this week in comp and safety:

Penalties, insurance bad faith, and self-insurance registration. HB 2409, brought forward by the claimants’ bar and sponsored by former workers’ comp AAG Christine Kilduff, D-University Place, would hike employer penalties across the board, hike the unreasonable delay/denial penalty on self-insurers and overturn Department policy that such penalty attaches to orders, not occurrences, tie future penalty levels of wage inflation, adopts a new administrative cause of action for bad faith in the handling of claims, and requires Department licensure of self-insured claims handlers. This bill will have its initial public hearing next Tuesday afternoon in the House Labor Committee. We strongly oppose.  

IME restrictions and regulations. SB 6440, also brought forward by the claimants’ bar and sponsored by Sen. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell, would place numerous limitations on the number and kind of IMEs that may be ordered on a workers’ comp claim, imposes stringent regulations on the conduct and reporting of IMEs, on the geography and remuneration of IME providers, requires that the Department schedule self-insured IMEs, weakens the ability to charge no-show fees, requires the possibility of a specialist consultation prior to IME scheduling, and so on. This bill will have its initial public hearing 1/28 in the Senate Labor Committee. Again, we strongly oppose.  

Self-insurance allowance orders. In an effort to be reasonable, WSIA has brought forward a modest proposal again, SB 6373, sponsored by Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, that would implement the 2015 JLARC performance audit recommendation to extend self-insured authority to allowance orders and get the Department out of that business. This bill is receiving a hearing on 1/28 in the Senate Labor Committee.

CRSSA expansion. Similarly, SB 6372, also sponsored by Sen. King, would implement the 2019 Upjohn Institute recommendation in its study of Claim Resolution Structured Settlements in Washington to start liberalizing the availability of the settlement program. Specifically, SB 6372 removes the age limitation and allowed claim restriction. This bill is receiving a hearing on 1/28 in the Senate Labor Committee.

Mandatory construction worker training. HB 2564, sponsored by Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, would require mandatory safety and health training of all construction workers and supervisors in Washington prior to working in construction, or within two  years if already working in construction. The bill is set for hearing in the House Labor Committee next Tuesday.   

Captive insurers. Self-insured (and other) large employers with captive insurance subsidiaries have come under tax scrutiny of the Office of Insurance Commissioner. OIC has introduced HB 2291/SB 2689 to recognize the use of captive insurance by Washington-based companies, but charge a two-percent premium tax on captive premium for all risk throughout the country. A coalition of impacted employers, of which WSIA is a part, has counter-proposed HB 2493/SB 6331, which calls for registration of captive insurers with OIC, but no premium tax. A work session is set for next Tuesday morning in the Senate Financial Institutions committee to explore the issue and competing proposals.

Call to action: To the extent you have not already, please let me know your thoughts, comments, positions on any of these proposals as we factor them into our lobbying positions and strategy. Please share with your clients, workers’ comp program experts, or advisors for awareness/comments. And please pass concerns/positions to your government relations colleagues and encourage them to coordinate with WSIA as we work these bills with legislators.