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.

The Full Strength of the Bench

Oct. 04, 2017
LEAD STORY

The first Monday in October marks a new term for the U.S. Supreme Court, and Justice Neil Gorsuch's first full term on the bench. The court began its new term hearing a case about workers' rights that could affect an estimated 60 million workers. The issue is whether businesses can force employees to individually use arbitration to resolve disputes.

CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET A LONG

The Supreme Court has previously ruled that arbitration agreements, contracts that require people to waive their right to sue and instead seek redress through arbitration, is legal when applied to consumers. However, the National Labor Relations Board (NRLB) has ruled that employment contracts are different and that forced arbitration clauses are an illegal labor practice because they restrict workers' rights to engage in "concerted activities" - a guarantee some judges have said includes class actions.

SIDE NOTE - NEW YORK

New York City's public advocate, Letitia James, recommended this week that both the city and state of New York should stop doing business with companies that require their employees to use mandatory arbitration to resolve workplace disputes. James is also calling for the creation of a registry so workers can see which companies have this policy and to disclose this in job postings. The Public Advocate's office will begin working on drafting legislation addressing these recommendations.

MOMENTOUS

In a term being called "blockbuster", the Supreme Court is poised to hear a case about whether mandatory union dues violate the Constitution, which could be a big blow to public sector unions. In a case that could affect a variety of industries, including tech and retail, the court will hear arguments about whether a method to challenge patents unconstitutional deprives a patent owner an alleged property right without a jury trial. The court will also hear cases about data privacy, voting rights, gerrymandering, immigration, and religious freedom, just to name a few. Scheduled - packed.

Healthcare

CHIP

Congress allowed the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides low-cost health insurance to 9 million children, to expire on Sept. 30. The impact of delay varies by state and is dependent on the state's reserve; some states will run out of money next week while other others report they could make it until early 2018. Both the Senate Finance and House Energy and Commerce Committees have scheduled votes this week to extend CHIP funding.

HOSPITALS & PROVIDERS

The Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) grants was another program that lapsed on Sept. 30. This program provides additional support to hospitals for high levels of Medicaid and uninsured and underinsured patients and faces a 20% cut in funding. Some members of Congress are looking into delaying the $2 billion cut in funding when it takes up the legislation to renew the program.

Making Our Way Around the Country

CALIFORNIA

California has set rigorous goals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and California Gov. Jerry Brown indicated he wants to ban the sale of gasoline-powered cars in California. China will likely order an end to sales of gas-powered cars by 2030 whereas France and the United Kingdom have announced 2040 as their end date for fossil fuel-powered cars. Californians account for approximately 20% of national sales so the industry designs American vehicles to meet California standards. The ban could come as early as 2030. Following Gov. Brown's intention, Assemblyman Phil Ting plans to introduce legislation this January.

RHODE ISLAND

Gov. Gina Raimondo vetoed legislation that would have guaranteed disability pensions to firefighters with heart conditions. In her reasoning, Gov. Raimondo noted that this legislation would require the Municipal Employees Retirement System and the Workers' Compensation Court to disregard relevant evidence, including the opinions of examining physicians. The legislation would have paid pensions at two-thirds, tax free for life. The state treasurer warned this legislation could cost upwards of 2.8 million in additional costs on cities and towns.

IDAHO

The Idaho Department of Insurance (DOI) announced workers' compensation rates will decrease 5.8% effective January 1, 2018. The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) recommended the decrease based on a decline in both the frequency and the average cost per claim.

NEW YORK

Ticketmaster is suing brokers who use illegal 'bots' to purchase sought after tickets. The lawsuit claims a broker used computer programs to illegally buy as many as 40% of the Broadway show Hamilton. A bot is an application that performs an automated task and more businesses are turning to bots to help get things done faster. In case you missed it, registration to buy tickets to the Broadway premiere of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child began this week and closes Oct. 5. I'm so excited.

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