The Way

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.

State of the States

Jan. 18, 2017
LEAD STORY

Governors across the country addressed state assemblies this week to lay out their legislative and policy agendas for 2017. We examine some of the major themes affecting our industry.

TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS

Delivering his unconventional State of the State Address through a multi-city tour, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo touted a plan to build jobs and reform worker's compensation through a series of measures to shorten claim duration. Associations of business in the Empire State supported Governor Cuomo's initiatives citing well-publicized premium hikes for workers' compensation coverage in 2016. On the other hand, Florida Governor Rick Scott did not address workers' compensation, or the 14% rate hike expected to hit the Sunshine State in 2017. Then again, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) reported this week on the stability of WC rates in Florida, at least during the pending appeal between the state and its main rating bureau.

DRUG POLICY

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie passionately laid out a plan to attack the opioid epidemic that is "ripping the very fabric" of the Garden State apart. Governor Christie proposed an aggressive approach to limit and curtail prescription opioid drugs. Across the country, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper focused his address on the impact of marijuana use, with special emphasis on the tax implications and public funding attributed to legalization. That said, the governor empowered the legislature and his agencies with more than $6 million in new funds to step up enforcement of state marijuana restrictions.

TECHNOLOGY

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal took a different approach, ranking cybercrime ahead of the global black market for marijuana and opioid drugs combined. In his address, Governor Deal announced $50 million in funding to establish the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center in Augusta, a state-owned cyber range that brings together academia, private industry and government to establish cybersecurity standards across state and local agencies to develop and practice protocols for responding to cyber threats.

PAYING FOR HEALTH CARE

And in California, Governor Jerry Brown said the state is projected to run a $1.6 billion deficit by next summer - a marked shift in the state's fiscal stability. What's more, state leaders in Sacramento estimate that Congressional repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), without a plan to sufficiently replace federal funding for state healthcare, could exacerbate the state's budget shortfall by as much as a $22 billion. We'll be following these major state initiatives throughout the year.

Affordable Care Act

REPEAL...

In a procedural move last week, the House of Representatives cleared the way to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The House voted strictly along party lines Friday to approve a budget resolution that would allow Republicans to push a repeal bill through the Senate without having to face a Democratic filibuster. Four committees - two in the Senate, two in the House - will write language to repeal major provisions of the ACA.

...AND REPLACE

House Speaker Paul Ryan insisted last week that Republicans are not beholden to hard deadline for passing a new law, but will insist on a thoughtful process to replace 2010's ACA. At the same time, Senate Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is urging Republicans to send to the President legislation by the end of February. This story has a long way to go.

Making Our Way Around the Country

ILLINOIS

The Illinois Senate is vowing to act quickly this session to break the log jam in the Land of Lincoln's two-year budget impasse. The Illinois Senate introduced 13 measures, dubbed "2017's Grand Bargain." Included in the package of bills are measures supported by the Democrats, such as a minimum-wage hike and an income-tax increase and GOP-backed bills to tighten compensability rules under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act. There is skepticism on both sides of the aisle of the General Assembly about the Grand Bargain.

MISSISSIPPI

This session, Mississippi is a so-called, "trifecta state." One party, the GOP, holds the majority in the House and Senate and controls the Governor's mansion. Lawmakers in the House are eyeing workers' compensation reform. A measure (H.B. 186) introduced by a Republican lawmaker would give the Workers' Compensation Commission (WCC) exclusive jurisdiction over claims for alleged bad-faith claims handling and intentional torts by employers and workers' compensation insurance carriers. Such cases would be removed from the civil court docket. In exchange, the bill would give the WCC authority to levy a "reasonable penalty" in the form of increased compensation to the claimant if it finds wrongful conduct or intent to cause harm.

OSHA

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced the details of the government website that will be used to report electronic incidents. Users will be able to manually enter data into a web form, upload a .CSV file, or transmit data electronically through an application programming interface (API). The site is scheduled to go live in February 2017. OSHA also provided additional guidance for employers related to post-accident drug testing and compliance with the anti-retaliation provisions of Final Rule on electronic recordkeeping.

INAUGURATION DAY

Friday is Inauguration Day. President-elect Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. On a regular day in Washington, navigating the purposely designed angular streets, public squares, and traffic circles can be challenging and intimidating. Here is some valued travel assistance for those attending the Inauguration. Additionally, the District of Columbia anticipates a number of protests before, during, and after the ceremony on the National Mall. At the same time, a growing number of Democratic lawmakers vow not to attend the events altogether. The eyes of the world will once again be on Washington this week-including ours.

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