The week was kicked off by Governor Bill Lee delivering his first State of the State address at the Capitol on Monday during a joint session. In his address, Gov. Lee laid out his focus on, and additional requested funding for, mental health treatment, criminal justice reform, and several education initiatives. The Governor announced additional funding for teacher compensation, Basic Education Program (BEP) Funding, charter schools, school safety, and education savings accounts. Governor Lee also said that his budget will make the largest ever deposit of $225 million into the State’s Rainy Day Fund.
Here are some bills of interest for the week:
- IRS Test for Work Comp – A bill has been filed to change the test for determination of employee status for the purposes of worker’s compensation, as well as other labor laws such as unemployment insurance and wage regulations, from the seven point test to a 20 factor IRS test. The stated goal of SB 446 by Senator Roberts and HB 539 by Rep. Howell is for “harmonization” amongst the various labor laws that employers have to comply with; so that they will only have to comply with one test. Insurors lobbyists, as well as other stakeholders, have been engaged on this bill because we fear potential disruption to the system. Worker’s Compensation has been very successful recently and this change could be a significant disruption. The bill could upset decades of court precedent about the 7 factor test. The bill was on calendar in Senate Commerce and Labor this week but was rolled until March 19th. Our most immediate goal is to have the Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council review the legislation before it moves forward and, pending that review, to have worker’s compensation removed from the bill.
- Association Health Plans – As many of you may know, the US Dept of Labor issued new regulations in 2018 to allow for greater access to association health plans. HB 1126 by Rep. Tillis and SB 1227 by Sen. Nicely seeks to address one issue related to AHPs by clarifying that paying a fee to a 501(c) trade or professional association does not constitute a rebate. Both bills progressed through the legislature this week and will be heard on the floor in both chambers next week.
- Accident Reports – HB 1107 by Rep. Powell and SB 1346 by Sen. Massey has to do with redacting certain information from vehicle accident reports for the purpose of public records requests. A number of legislators have heard from constituents who have been harassed by attorneys or healthcare providers who have obtained copies of accident reports (despite it being against their professional code of conduct) and been solicited for services due to the personal information contained on the report. We are tracking this bill closely and keeping an eye on amendments, but are confident that it will not affect the way insurance companies and agents operate.
- Declaratory Judgment Actions – HB 348 by Rep. Cepicky was heard in committee this week. It allows an insurance company to determine its obligations under an insurance policy as to all parties through a declaratory judgment action, an interpleader claim or action, or both, and creates a rebuttable presumption the insurance company is acting in good faith if the company files such an action or claim. The companion bill, SB 413 by Sen. Stevens has already passed the Senate Floor.
Gov. Bill Lee has signed an executive order to enable federal highway emergency relief and facilitate smoother recovery. You can view the order here .
We are approaching the time of year where session starts to get hectic, but we are ready. Don’t forget to make your contributions to InsurPac to assist with our legislative efforts!