WSIA Week 6 Legislative Update (2/17/17)

It was a notable week for workers’ compensation legislation in Washington, because today marks the first major cutoff deadline of the legislative session, by which bills would have to be voted out of their initial committee in order to advance in the process.

On our blog yesterday, I briefly noted the advancement of one such bill, Senate Bill 5822, which is the multi-issue reform bill that the employer community has rallied around, addressing occupational disease causation, structured settlement age, Tobin, and self-insured authority. This bill was formally introduced on the same day it was voted out of committee, with a remarkable 23 (out of 25 possible) sponsors from the Senate’s Majority Coalition Caucus. These issues invariably draw incredible controversy on “the Hill,” as the union and claimants’ lawyer mount opposition, so our combined lobbying efforts as an employer community will now be focused on keeping the bill moving on to the House and toward a priority in the end-of-session tax, budget, and policy negotiations.

 Other bills, pro, con, and neutral, that came out of committee by today’s deadline:

  • HB 1227, clarifying that Dept. of Corrections bears the burden of insuring workers’ comp for offender work groups, affecting local governments and ESDs
  • HB  1336, removing the social security offset for certain time loss/pension claimants, who were receiving/applied for social security retirement pre-injury
  • HB 1629/SB 5460, the L&I-originated bill on extending the timeframe for reassuming DOSH appeals
  • HB 1655, allowing occupational disease claims for stress for police and fire, and presuming that PTSD is an occupational disease for police and fire
  • HB 1723, allowing a broad presumption of occupational disease for workers who have worked at the Hanford nuclear site
  • HB 1755/SB 5670, requiring notice to State Fund employers when a third party settlement is in the works
  • HB 1953, the L&I-originated bill to increase WISHA-DOSH penalties to the OSHA maximum levels
  • SB 5719, creating a L&I Ombuds for small employers in the state Department of Commerce

The main victory at this point in the session has been the evident stoppage of SB 5477, which was a significant occupational disease presumption for police and fire. The measure did not emerge from its Senate committee, but the House presumption bills do continue to move.

The next significant deadline is, for bills that were referred to the House Appropriations or Senate Ways & Means committees for further work, they have to now be voted out of those committees by next Friday, 2/24. Otherwise, all bills have to be voted out of their chamber of origin by March 8th