GB's Weekly Governmental Briefing
Through our Governmental Affairs practice, GB is helping to shape the laws and regulations that will define the times ahead. Acting on behalf of the best interests of our clients and our industry.
Each week, we bring it all into focus.
Climate Issues Open the OlympicsAug. 10, 2016
THE LEAD STORY
Last week, a group of more than 450 scientists from 62 countries released the annual "State of the Climate" report, led by NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, confirming that 2015 was the warmest year on record with record or remarkable rises of sea levels, tropical storm activity, wildfires, and ice loss. The same week, Brazil highlighted global warming and climate change during the Olympic Opening Ceremony showing a video with graphics depicting the rapid rise in the Earth's temperature, the drastic reduction of the Antarctic ice sheet, and the rise of seas around the globe.
Brazil is home to about one-third of the world's rainforests and has been hit harder by the Zika virus than any other country with almost 166,000 recorded cases of Zika this year. Researchers state that climate change may have fueled the outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus. Record-high temperatures in Brazil, Ecuador, and other South America countries created ideal conditions for the mosquito that transmits Zika.
If the greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked, scientists estimate that sea levels could rise more than six feet by 2100 and the rising sea level would swallow about 1.9 million U.S. homes worth a combined $882 billion. Nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population lives in coastal counties. Florida is projecting year after year premium increases on flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) of nine percent to more than 20 percent.
Although the NFIP is authorized through September 30, 2017, it's already on Congress' radar. The Housing and Insurance Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee have already held multiple hearings this year on this issue and the House approved H.R. 2901, which encourages more private insurers to write flood insurance. Major industry organizations, such as RIMS, have also made NFIP reauthorization a top priority. We'll keep you informed of these ongoing discussions.
Another Idea for Illinois
A report by the Illinois Policy Institute, a research and education organization, suggests that it's time for the Illinois' workers' compensation system to evolve to include the option of employers to opt-out of the workers compensation system as a means to reduce costs and protect injured employees. Earlier this year the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Commission ruled the Oklahoma opt-out option unconstitutional. In response to the report, the American Insurance Association (AIA) stated that the report represents the wrong approach to reforming Illinois' workers' compensation system.
Recently the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) recommended a premium rate reduction of 12.9% for Illinois employers. The report noted large reductions in the workers' compensation costs in Illinois since enacting workers' compensation reform in 2011. However, Illinois has the highest workers' compensation costs in the Midwest and the seventh highest rate in the country. Governor Bruce Rauner has been pushing for workers' compensation reform since elected and hadn't approved a budget for nearly a year trying to address reform. In an effort break the stalemate, Gov. Rauner agreed to approve a six-month stopgap budget and postpone his reform efforts until after the election when the stopgap budget expires.
Making Our Way Around the Country
The Department of Labor (DOL) launched a new competition called "Hear and Now - The Noise Safety Challenge" to address workplace noise exposure and work-induced hearing loss. The DOL estimates $242 million is spent annually on workers' compensation for hearing loss disability. The DOL is looking for folks to design new technology as a solution to workplace hearing hazards. The top ten finalists will be invited to present their ideas to a panel of judges and investors on October 27. Submissions are due September 30.
The Nevada Division of Insurance DOI announced it was holding a workshop on August 24 to solicit public comments on proposed rules concerning captive insurers and required industry reports. The captive insurer proposed rules would revise financial reporting and audit requirements and amend provisions overseeing service provider and reinsurance contractors. The required industry reports proposed rules would require the filing of actuarial reports by December 31 each year, as well as other proposed reports for life insurance, long-term health care coverage, and Medicare supplemental coverage policies. Written comments will be accepted until August 17.
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