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The WSIA Weekly, 1.8.16

Washington Legislature’s 2016 session starts Monday; what’s the outlook?
Lawmakers convene in Olympia on Monday for a scheduled 60-day session. What are the big ticket items confronting the state Legislature, and where will workers’ compensation and workplace safety fit in? Take a look at our extended legislative preview, and get ready for an interesting session. Bottom line – tax, fiscal, and education issues will predominate, but workers’ compensation is always top of mind as a major business climate issue in Washington.      

 Last Call for Winter West, Winter East Conferences

We are excited to see many of our members in the new year next Friday, January 15th for our Winter West Conference at the Great Wolf Lodge conference center near Centralia, and in Spokane for our Winter East Conference the following January 21st at the Davenport Hotel in Spokane. We have a great agenda planned for members at both conferences – “The Well Managed Claim” -- and we look forward to day of networking and professional development. There are a limited number of seats remaining at both conferences, so if you’ve considered coming, please register here for Winter West or here for Winter East. Special thanks to Zounds Hearing of Spokane, the presenting sponsor of this year’s winter conference.

Labor & Industries adopts new pension discount rate
Late last month, the Department of Labor & Industries formally adopted a rule establishing a new rate by which it discounts the value of its pension reserves to account for anticipated investment returns. L&I hopes to reduce the so-called “pension discount rate” from its historic level at 6.5 percent to 4.5 percent over the next several years, to align with more conservative investment expectations. The issue for self-insured employers is a reduction in expected returns increases the present size of pension reserve liabilities, and the difference has to be paid up front. The Department was proposing a rate as low as 6.1 percent for 2016, but working closely with the agency, WSIA was able to successfully encourage adoption of a 6.3 percent rate, lessening the impact on self-insured pensions.  

Important OSHA-WISHA issues up for discussion in next Tuesday’s webinar

WSIA members have been contacting us expressing alarm at the greatly increased amounts of some of the penalty citations L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety & Health (DOSH) has been issuing recently, following the adoption last fall of an updated penalty matrix. To explain what’s going on, as well as explore best practices for avoiding and dealing with safety penalties, attorney Jennifer Truong of Reinisch Wilson Weir is presenting “Better Safe Than Sorry” online next Tuesday, January 12th at 10:00 a.m. Last minute registrations can be made at this link.     

WSIA Board of Directors to meet next week
WSIA’s Board of Directors, chaired by Sheri Sundstrom of Hoffman Construction, holds its next quarterly meeting next Wednesday in Olympia. In addition to continuing to set policy and guide the association, the Board will be hearing a guest presentation from Labor & Industries’ chief financial officer on the above-mentioned pension discount rate issue and potential options to reduce impacts of L&I-driven reductions on self-insured employers’ programs. If you are interested in the work of WSIA’s Board or have an issue you would like to body to consider on behalf of the association, please contact Kris Tefft.

Friday Funny:

Our friend Bob Wilson of put out his Top Ten predictions for workers’ compensation in 2016. Take a look at Bob’s crystal ball here.

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