Over two hundred years ago, our founding fathers extolled the virtues of the U.S. Constitution in the Federalist Papers. Writing like they were running out of time, they advocated for our federalist system of government that not only preserves state sovereignty, but also empowers the federal government to act firmly and coherently in the national interest. This week, we are tracking several critical interactions between state and federal law affecting the risk and insurance industry.
This week, U.S. Representative David Kustoff (R-TN), introduced H.R. 3363, the Claims Licensing Advancement for Interstate Matters Act (CLAIM Act). This legislation will help independent insurance adjusters resolve insurance claims more efficiently, ensuring consumers expeditiously receive the funds needed to repair and rebuild communities - particularly in times of disaster. This bipartisan bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Representatives Bill Foster (D-IL), Ed Royce (R-CA), Steve Stivers (R-OH), Rod Blum (R-IA), and Phil Roe (R-TN). The CLAIM Act was referred to the House Financial Services Committee.
The CLAIM Act's sponsor, and leading associations in the sector, laud the bill's respect to states' rights by ensuring that each state keeps its independence to adopt rules as it sees fit. Currently, 34 states require independent adjusters to hold operational claims licenses. But, inconsistencies within state requirements expose all adjusters to licensing and regulatory barriers when working across state lines. The CLAIM Act empowers the states to adopt uniform and reciprocal licensing laws for independent claims adjusters and will fix this process so it is consistent, cost-effective, and non-discriminatory.
A FRONT ROW SEAT
Your authors at The Way have proudly advocated in D.C. alongside our industry colleagues in support of this legislation. We will most certainly keep you apprised of its progress.
Other Federalist Papers
DRIVER LICENSES AND REGISTRATIONS
The U.S. House Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection (DCCP) unanimously approved this week a legislative measure to advance self-driving vehicle technology. As if on cue, the ride haling service Lyft announced its ambitious plan to offer driverless cars to its customers by year's end. Traditionally the federal government is charged with regulating vehicle design, construction, and performance. States regulate the requirements for who is doing the driving. As vehicle becomes the driver, there is a debated brewing in Congress as to how states should regulate their own roads and how self-driving vehicles operate. Washington lawmakers heralded the potential safety impact and opportunities for increased mobility for the elderly and individuals with disabilities. The measure would direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop a regulatory plan for autonomous vehicles and to begin writing the first of those new rules within 18 months.
AND, WELL... PAPERS.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled this week that an employee can state a claim against her former employer after she said she was fired for legally using state sanctioned marijuana to treat her Crohn's Disease. Writing the court's unanimous decision, Justice Ralph Gants reasoned that the employee's possession of medical marijuana, even in violation of federal law, did not make it per seunreasonable as an accommodation. In a similar case, Coats v. Dish Network, the Colorado Supreme Court in 2015 oppositely decided that companies were not required to accommodate workers taking medical marijuana in violation of corporate drug policies. What's more, we expect a report later this week from the Justice Department urging additional changes to the federal drug enforcement policy. Federalism is still very much on the marquee.
Making Our Way Around The Country
The New York Workers' Compensation Board finalized regulations this week regarding Paid Family Leave. The regulations will take effect Jan. 1. The rules will allow most workers to take up to eight weeks off at 50 percent pay to deal with family matters. The benefit will ramp up over four years, reaching 12 weeks leave at 67 percent pay by 2021. At present, the mandatory regulations apply only to New York's commercial employers, but are voluntary among public employers in the state. Two of the main public sector union contracts do not currently authorize deductions from employee compensation to fund the program.
Restaurant owners around the country may soon have more ways to distribute tips among staff. The Labor Department is expected to recommend an end to an Obama administration rule, first instituted in 2011, that prevents employers from pooling or sharing tips between employees who traditionally receive tips (servers, bartenders), and non-tipped employees (cooks, dishwashers). The 2011 rule deemed tips the sole property of the employee.
LOGISTICS AND SUPPLY CHAIN
Through an agency budget bill, the House Appropriations Committee ordered the U.S. Department of Transportation to study whether a “full or targeted delay” of the federal electronic logging device mandate for small carriers, such as owner-operators, is warranted. The appropriation bill, if enacted, would create a compliance extension for livestock haulers. It does not offer any broader relief from ELD compliance. As-is, truckers must begin using electronic logging devices by Dec. 18, 2017.
Texas lawmakers are in the midst of a special legislative session. There are more than 20 issues on the agenda, including construction based permitting. H.B. 164 would accelerate permitting processes in cities and towns across the state, and also bar cities from requiring companies to follow regulations known as “better builder” rules. Earlier this year, Austin enacted an ordinance which requires builders on large commercial projects to follow a set of better builder protections, pay workers at least $13.50 an hour, follow certain safety standards, offer training, and provide worker's compensation insurance.
Many of the stories we are tracking this week appeal to the various industries across the risk and insurance marketplace. So, we opted for more of an industry-based approach to The Way this week. We'll return to our more traditional geographical format next week. But in the meantime, we'd certainly appreciate your industry-based feedback as we continue to build and refine our own news supply and delivery system!
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.