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.
Louisiana Flood of 2016Aug. 24, 2016
Louisiana suffered the worst natural disaster in the United States since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The US Coast Guard, National Guard, local emergency responders, and neighbors helped rescue more than 30,000 residents and the Red Cross estimates the cost of the flood will be at least $30 million. Thirteen people were killed.
Approximately 6.9 trillion gallons of rain fell in Louisiana between August 8 and 14. More than 31 inches of rain fell in one day. Over 60,000 homes were damaged by the floods and 106,000 individuals and households have registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for assistance.
Flood insurance is underwritten by FEMA and homeowners who live in designated high-risk flood zones are required to carry flood insurance if they have a federally backed mortgage. However, only 12.5% of homeowners in low and moderate-risk zones carry flood insurance. Many of the hard hit areas in the flood were not considered to be in a high-risk flood zone.
FEMA has approved more than $55 million in aid so far. The maximum FEMA grant is $33,000, which can be used for temporary lodging, home repairs, and personal items. However, the average grant after Hurricane Katrina was just over $6,000 and just under $8,000 after Superstorm Sandy. For those who have flood insurance, FEMA announced this week a 120-day extension to the grace period for expiring flood insurance policies in order to avoid a lapse in coverage.
Self-Driving Meet Ride-Hailing
Uber announced that passengers in Pittsburgh will soon be able to hail a (free) autonomous car this month. Passengers can opt to test a self-driving car, which will come with a human backup driver to handle situations the autonomous car hasn't seen yet. Uber's Advanced Technologies Center is located in Pittsburgh, where its autonomous research operations are headquartered. Uber is partnering with Volvo to develop fully autonomous cars by 2021. Lyft has previously reported a partnership with General Motors and will be testing autonomous cars by mid-2017 in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Anthony Foxx previously stated that federal regulations will be forthcoming in the first half of the year. The federal regulations were supposed to help state policymakers address issues of testing and operational deployment of vehicles and offer a nationally consistent approach to autonomous vehicles. The DOT has been working with Google, BMW, and General Motors, as well as other companies, in developing the guidelines. The proposed regulations are now planned to be released by the end of summer.
Making Our Way Around the Country
The Department of Industrial Relations Director Christine Baker issued a statement in support of legislation that would make substantial reforms to the utilization review process used to contest care to injured workers. The legislation (S.B. 1160) will stay liens filed by physicians or providers who are criminally charged with workers' compensation, insurance, or medical fraud, as well as clarify the prohibition on the assignment of liens as accounts receivables. These changes can potentially save up to $818 million in the workers' compensation system. The bill passed out of the Senate and is now with the State Assembly.
Last week the Florida Office of Regulation listened to hours of testimony to decide whether to approve a 19.6% in workers' compensation insurance rates. Both sides came out to speak on how the recent Florida Supreme Court rulings have affected the workers' compensation system. The office may approve the requested rate amount or determine a different amount. The Office of Regulation said there is no defined period for review and the office will take the necessary time to come to an informed decision.
CONGRATS TO THE ATHLETES
The Summer Olympics wrapped up this week. While we've seen athletes realize their dreams, we also witnessed the agony of defeat, and above all we've seen people come together. Congratulations to all the summer athletes.