Cast Your Net (Neutrality)
Jun 20, 2018

LEAD STORY

Two California state lawmakers combined two net neutrality bills introduced separately this year to require internet service providers, or ISPs, to treat all web traffic equally. Both bills - S.B. 822 and S.B. 460 - would actually go beyond the original protections granted under the 2015 Open Internet Order, which established the federal net neutrality rules. Now since repealed.

 

10 SECONDS

Last week, the net neutrality repeal officially took effect. Originally approved by the Federal Communications Commission in 2015, it prohibited ISPs from blocking websites or charging for higher-quality service or certain content. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said rolling back the rules would help consumers because ISPs could offer people a wider variety of service options.

 

WHO'S TAKING ACTION?

Washington State became the first state to enact its own law requiring ISPs to observe net neutrality with the Oregon right behind. Five states have issued executive orders prohibiting their state from doing business with any broadband company that violates the principles of net neutrality. More than 20 states have filed a lawsuit to stop the net neutrality repeal. A total of 29 states have proposed their own net neutrality legislation.

 

HARD STOP

The California Assembly Communications & Conveyance Committee will hold a hearing today on the combined net neutrality bills. However, the committee chair might not accept the amendments to combine the two bills and instead, propose his own amendments. Another bump in the road - the FCC order that repeals net neutrality specifically asserts authority to prevent states from pursuing laws inconsistent with the net neutrality repeal. I better binge-watch Game of Thrones one more time.

 

A Battle is Brewing

MARIJUANA

The Maine Supreme Court ruled employers do not have to pay for medical marijuana under the state's workers' compensation system. The court ruled that federal law takes precedence in a conflict between the federal Controlled Substance Act and Maine's Medical Use of Marijuana Act. The court found that the employer would be forced to commit a federal crime if it followed the directive of the Workers' Compensation Board. The ruling vacates a previous Appellate Division's decision.

 

REVERSE COURSE

Four other states - Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New Mexico - have found that medical marijuana is a permissible workers' compensation reimbursement. However, a handful of states passed laws stating that medical marijuana is not reimbursable for workers' compensation. Most likely, this issue will continue to be pushed to the forefront with our Canadian neighbors passing a bill legalizing recreational marijuana. The providences would have 2-3 months to comply. President Justin Trudeau and his administration will decide a date that would legalize it. 

 

Making Our Way Around the Country

AIR AMBULANCE

The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act (H.R. 4) recently passed by the U.S. House would require air ambulance providers to distinguish between charges for air transportation and medical services in the bills they send to patients and insurers. The bill specifies that “non-air transportation services” of air ambulance providers, and the prices attached to those services, are neither services nor prices of an air carrier for purposes of the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA). This is crucial as states have tried to regulate the fees charged by air ambulance providers. Just recently the Kansas Court of Appeals ruled the Division of Workers' Compensation has no authority to intervene in a fee dispute between an air ambulance provider and an insurer. This bill has the potential for a lot of states to change their regulations - we'll keep this on the radar.

 

FIRST RESPONDERS

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu signed into law S.B. 553, which creates a commission to study the incidence of PTSD in first responders and whether it should be covered under workers' compensation. A new study found that first responders' post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression rates were five times higher than the civilian population. Other first responder bills are moving in Michigan (extending cancer presumption to forest firefighters) and New Jersey (shifts burden of proof in cases of workers' compensation from the employee to employer).

 

POOL SAFETY

According to the CDC, drowning is the number one cause of unintentional death for children between the ages of 1 and 4, after congenital defects. Things that can help prevent accidental drownings: take shifts and designate an adult to watch kids near water; teach kids to swim; wear life jackets; install a fence around pools; and put away pool toys when not being used. With an active 3-year-old constantly on the move, just wanted to remind folks to have fun and stay safe. 

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