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The WSIA Weekly, 3.31.17

Occupational disease expansions die in legislative cutoff
This past Wednesday marked the deadline for non-budgetary bills to be voted out of committee in the opposite chamber from which they were first passed. We're pleased to report that two bills of significant concern to WSIA, and that we took a leadership role in opposing, did not make it out of committee, and in the ordinary course of the legislative process would be considered "dead" for the rest of the session. Specifically, House Bill 1655, creating a stress-based psychological occupational disease claim for police and firefighters, and House Bill 1723, creating a broad presumption of occupational disease at the U.S. Department of Energy Hanford site, did not emerge from the Senate Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee by Wednesday's deadline. These bills would have imposed massive new costs on impacted employers, and would have created very difficult precedents in state policy.

The only bill in workers' compensation currently still moving in the session is House Bill 1755, a modest proposal requiring notice to State Fund employers when Labor & Industries is entertaining settlement discussions in a third-party claim. WISHA-related bills are still alive, including House Bill 1953, raising maximum penalty levels to OSHA levels, and House Bill 1629, extending the timeframe within which L&I may reassume jurisdiction over a WISHA penalty appeal in order to pursue settlement. 

Paid family leave insurance gains momentum in Olympia
While workers' compensation policy idles in the legislative session, a tangentially related social insurance issue has picked up major steam. Bipartisan talks between legislators and business and labor stakeholders are underway to develop a funding and implementation model for a paid family leave insurance system in Washington, with an eye toward passing an agreed-to bill this year. If passed, such a proposal would make Washington the fifth state in the nation to have some form of social insurance system funding paid family leave. Major unresolved issues under discussion involve which employers and employees would be covered under such a model, what ratio of employer to employee dollars might fund the benefits of the system, and under what circumstances an employer might opt in or out of the system.

WSIA Regional Meetings start next week
Don't forget our regional meetings set for April, starting next Tuesday in Olympia and Renton and featuring a free CEU presentation on common spinal injuries from both a medical and legal standpoint along with time for networking. The Olympia meeting is at the WSIA office at starts at 8:00 a.m., while the Renton meeting is at Valley Medical Center and starts at 11:00 a.m. Please note the Renton meeting has been moved to the Hospital Board Room. These meetings are free to attend, we only need your RSVP for our count. Click here for the Olympia meeting or here for the Renton meeting; the links include a button to RSVP and directions. 

L&I announces new web portal for self-insured workers
Yesterday, Labor & Industries unveiled its new customer service website for workers of self-insured employers. Part of the new Self-Insurance Risk Analysis System (SIRAS), which in turn is part of the new audit/oversight model for self-insured employers, the portal is intended to allow workers or health-care providers to report claims issues for resolution. Workers who have an issue with their claim are encouraged to contact their employer or claims manager first before accessing the system. For more information or to offer feedback on the system, contact L&I's LaNae Lien.   

What would you ask L&I Director Joel Sacks?
At this year's Annual Conference, we're switching up the traditional agenda item welcoming the Labor & Industries Director, and instead setting the stage for a sit down Q&A interview between me and Director Sacks to kick the conference program off Thursday morning. I have a few things I want Director Sacks to discuss with our community, but I'm also actively soliciting questions to moderate in advance from conference attendees. Drop me a line with what topics you would like to hear from the Director at the conference. Also, don't forget to make your hotel reservation -- both hotel's room blocks expire next Friday, April 7th. Click here for conference hotel information, here for the conference agenda, and here to get your conference registration in.   

Fall protection rulemaking meetings start next month
Labor & Industries DOSH program distributed a reminder this week that efforts to update state fall protection rules covering all industries begin in earnest next month with a series of six stakeholder meetings being held around the state. The first is April 24th in Tukwila, and future meetings come to Bellingham in May, Vancouver in June, and Wenatchee, Yakima, and Spokane in July. For more information on the rule development and stakeholder meetings, click here

Congress repeals OSHA Volks rule; Trump expected to sign
Using the law that allows Congress to review and invalidate federal agency regulations, the U.S. Senate voted last week to repeal OSHA's so-called Volks rule, an Obama administration rule that eliminated the six month statute of limitations for issuing a citation for problems with injury/illness recordkeeping or reporting, imposing penalty liability for up to the full five years of record retention. The U.S. House had previously passed the measure, and it heads to President Trump, who has indicated he will sign it into law. The effect is to reinstate the six month statute of limitations for recordkeeping/reporting citations. Read more about the issue here.

Wage Calculation workshop series starts next week
If you're interested in tackling the major topics of wage calculation in Washington with an array of experts, our five part, ten hour series on wage calculations gets underway next Thursday, April 6th with the first installment on arriving at the right wage. The subsequent programs take place each Thursday morning through May 4th. Members can register for just one topic, or save by registering for all five, and can attend the workshops either in person at Archbright in Kent, or by live webcast from home or office. Get all the info on registration right here.  
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