Rolling back federal regulations has been among the leading initiatives during President Trump's first months in office. The administration and its supporters maintain that overregulation is costly to business. Through the Congressional Review Act (CRA), a 1996 law that allows Congress to overturn rules within 60 legislative workdays of their adoption, the administration has pushed to roll back more than a dozen federal rules, purportedly resulting in regulatory cost reduction of nearly $4 billion.
DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
This week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) within the Department of Labor (DOL) announced it will indefinitely delay the July 1, 2017, compliance date for the electronic submission of the 2016 injury reporting Form 300A. As part of the Obama administration's final rule entitled, "Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses," employers were to move into an electronic submission of recordkeeping forms. According to OSHA, the secure website it intended to use for the submission of these recordkeeping forms is not yet ready.
OSHA also dropped specific "walkaround" privileges for outside unionists, notably safety and health experts, who were permitted to accompany agency inspectors in non-union shops. The new directive reverses a guidance letter the Obama administration issued four years ago. This week, leading safety consultants issued an eight-page document detailing priorities and a vision for OSHA amid sweeping political change. The proposal calls for OSHA to emphasize the management of risk, sharpen focus on productivity, and fill regulatory gaps as the agency looks to evolve.
Supported by the energy sector, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) postponed a long-planned rule requiring companies to retrofit drilling equipment to prevent leaks of methane gas and to collect more data. Even as the Senate narrowly blocked a resolution to repeal an Obama-era rule restricting methane emissions from drilling operations on public lands, the Interior Department announced that it would reconsider a separate, similar rule. And, earlier this year, agriculture groups lauded the repeal of restrictive water permitting. We're keeping watch as the administration's commitment to a regulatory rollback in pursuit of industry, economic, and job growth continues.
In a 2-to-1 vote along party lines this week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorized a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to undo the 2015 decision to enforce open internet rules under Title II of the Communications Act. The FCC will seek public comment through August 16, and could vote on the matter as early as October. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai seeks to reduce the agency's authority to regulate internet service providers.
KLAATU BARADA NIKTO
As the FCC comment period opened, internet bots flooded automated comments to the FCC website. More than 400,000 comments, all with eerily similar wording, descended on the FCC site. The FCC Chairman said he will consider these robot voices in the rule making process. Net neutrality proponents argue that no content provider should be able to, for example, charge more for faster access to certain data. Earlier this month, the FCC was targeted by a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, an emerging form of protest, which caused the agency's comment system to stand still. The event followed a public appeal by political comedian John Oliver, who urged viewers of his show to post comments against the proposals on the FCC's website. We expect this battle for the internet will continue to wage this summer.
Making Our Way Around The Country
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this week that workers' compensation insurance will cost employers about $400 million less in 2017-18. The nongovernmental New York Compensation Insurance Rating Board recommended a 4.5% rate decrease this week. The recommendation was based on workers' compensation reform measures in the Empire State's budget, including limits to temporary benefits paid to injured workers, updated guidelines for medical impairment determinations, and ways to reduce prescription drug costs. The Governor expects the Department of Financial Services will approve the rate decrease, and that business should begin to see savings through the 12 month period ending Sept. 30, 2018.
One week after declaring portions the Alabama Workers' Compensation Act unconstitutional, the same Jefferson County Circuit Court issued an indefinite stay, limiting the reach of the order. The stay will now give the Alabama Legislature a chance to convene to address the court's concerns. The Alabama state legislature is scheduled to adjourn at the end of the month. Earlier this month, the court declared the $220 a week cap in compensation and the 15 percent cap on attorneys' fees unconstitutional, effectively nullifying the entire act.
The Ohio House voted this past week on a state budget provision that would block workers living in the country illegally from obtaining workers' compensation benefits. The bill drew debate from both sides of the aisle. Democratic opponents to the measure say the proposal would lead to unsafe working conditions and make it cheaper for businesses to hire workers who are in the U.S. without legal permission. GOP supporters state that the bill only requires the Bureau of Workers' Compensation to verify an injured worker's legal status. The proposal is headed to the Ohio Senate.
Monday marks Memorial Day in the United States, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. This week, we at The Way pause to remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to this nation. We also hope all of our readers enjoy the Holiday weekend, which customarily marks the beginning of the summer. For those driving this weekend, buckle up and please be careful out there! You will be sharing the road with 39 million other drivers, the highest volume in the past 12 years, and the second highest volume of Holiday traffic ever anticipated.
About The Way
The Way is Gallagher Bassett's weekly governmental briefing on state and federal affairs that affect our industry. We thank you for starting your Wednesday morning with us. Please be sure to follow #GBTheWay for additional news and updates as we make our way throughout the country on the issues affecting our industry. For more information, please connect with GB on LinkedIn, follow us on Twitter, or contact the authors, Greg McKenna or Cari Miller, directly.