Welcome back! The federal government shutdown has entered its second week. The shutdown has been underway since December 21, approaching some of the longest shutdowns in American history, although not quite as long as one that lasted 21 days from December 1995 to January 1996.
BORDERING ON IMPASS
President Trump and congressional Democrats are still at an impasse largely over funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall. Presumed incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicates that the House Democrats will propose a government funding bill as soon as Democrats take the majority on Thursday. Even so, it’s uncertain whether a Republican-controlled Senate would pass a funding bill without money for the wall. The continued impasse can significantly affect existing government agencies, federal workers, and federal services. Federal employee paychecks are set to be delivered on Jan. 11, the first paychecks that will cover the days affected by the shutdown. However, if no deal is reached by then, the paychecks will not be sent.
That said, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has resumed the sale of new flood insurance policies and the renewal of expiring policies even during the partial government shutdown. The agency reversed its position on issuing policies after it was met with a criticism by the insurance and real estate industries. Shortly before the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was due to expire on December 21, President Trump extended it through May 31, 2019. After the partial government shutdown, FEMA ruled on December 26 that NFIP could not be renewed while the government is shuttered. This week FEMA reversed its position and advised all insurers to resume normal operations immediately and advised that the program will be considered operational since December 21, 2018, without interruption.
In other federal news, President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill, which allows for hemp cultivation and the transfer of hemp-derived products across state lines for commercial or other purposes. As we previously reported, Jeff Sessions, one of the Trump Administration's biggest opponents to legal marijuana, is no longer the U.S. Attorney General. Based on this, coupled with the removal of restrictions on the sale, transport, or possession of hemp-derived products, pundits expect a rise in the marketplace of CBD products. CBD is the chemical generally associated with the neuro-relaxant properties of Cannabis. Hemp and marijuana are both Cannabis plants, but hemp has less than 0.3% of THC, the psychoactive chemical often associated with the sense of euphoria or the sense of “getting high.” We will be keeping a close eye on these developments in 2019.
Bureau of Labor Statistics
FATAL OCCUPATIONAL INJURIES
The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics released its Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) for 2017. There were a total of 5,147 fatal work injuries recorded in the United States in 2017, down slightly from the 5,190 fatal injuries reported in 2016. Fatal falls were at their highest level in the 26-year history of the CFOI accounting for 17% of all worker deaths. Violence and other injuries by persons or animals decreased 7 percent in 2017, with homicides and suicides decreasing by 8 percent and 5 percent, respectively. However, unintentional overdoses due to nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol while at work increased 25 percent from 217 in 2016 to 272 in 2017. This was the fifth consecutive year in which unintentional workplace overdose deaths have increased by at least 25 percent.
TRANSPORT & TRUCKING
Transportation accidents were the most frequent fatal events in 2017, with 2,077 occupational fatalities, or 40% of all incidents. Truck driver occupational fatalities rose in 2017 to the highest number since at least 2003. BLS reports that the 840 truck drivers killed in 2017, up from 786 in 2016, represented 77 percent of the 1,084 motor vehicle operators killed on the job last year.
Making Our Way Around the Country
Eleven states revamped sexual harassment laws in the workplace this session. California now bans so-called “secret settlements” and non-disclosure agreements involving employees in sexual misconduct cases. Under the law, the identity of the accused will be made public. The victim can choose to remain anonymous. A second California measure closes a loophole that allowed employers to avoid sexual harassment and discrimination laws by requiring workers to sign releases of liability as a condition of employment or in exchange for a bonus. Both bills were signed by retiring Governor Jerry Brown in the wake of the 2018 #MeToo movement.
Addressing violence prevention in healthcare, a new law in Illinois establishes violence prevention programs to protect medical staff and protects healthcare workers considered “whistleblowers” who may otherwise face retaliation for sharing information. In related healthcare news, Illinois now mandates doctors who are able to prescribe controlled substances – including opioids – must complete at least 10 hours in continuing education regarding the safety measures in prescribing potent drugs.
The Kentucky Department of Workers' Claims (DWC) reminds all stakeholders that all settlement agreements, filed on Form 110, must be submitted electronically, effective yesterday. The DWC will no longer accept paper agreements. The department has created an on-line resource to explain how to use the litigation management system. For additional questions, the department invites direct email inquiries.
Even as the powers that be in Washington, D.C., seek out a continuing resolution to reopen the government, we’ve got no time to lose on our New Year’s resolutions. Whether your resolutions involve the office, or to become more tech-savvy, or spending more time at the gym, we wish you the best in keeping them top-of-mind. Good news. Research shows that we have a better chance of getting and staying motivated in a year ending in a nine. Happy #2019 from all of us at The Way!