The official start of the Atlantic hurricane season doesn’t start until June 1, but the first named storm (Andrea) already formed this week. Across the central U.S., storms brought more than 130 tornadoes and more flooding to already drenched states.
BILLION DOLLAR DISASTERS
So far in 2019, the U.S. has already seen two weather events that will cost over a billion dollars each. Both events caused severe flooding. Not only did the March Midwest flooding devastate farmers, it also caused widespread damage to roads, bridges, levees, and dams. The U.S. Coast Guard had to shut down a five-mile stretch of the Mississippi River due to rising waters in St. Louis, a transit hub for $1 billion in goods and cutting off a major commercial artery for Midwest farmers and other industries.
ARE YOU GOING TO MENTION NFIP AGAIN?
Of course. Due to expire at the end of May, the House recently voted to extend the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) until Sept. 30, which is the end of the fiscal year. It’s unclear if the Senate will reauthorize the flood program before it expires. Ninety percent of all natural disasters involve flooding and all 50 states have experienced floods or flash floods in the past five years.
PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
A new bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate that would require future disaster funding to fall within the budget instead of borrowing billions each year. In the last five years alone, Congress has spent more than $173 billion outside of the budget in emergency spending and disaster aid. Last year, 14 different natural disasters cost the U.S. $91 billion. Be safe.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) announced that his panel plans to take up autonomous vehicles and push for previously failed legislation that would create a federal framework for the safety and security of self-driving cars. Last Congressional session, two bipartisan self-driving bills stalled much to the disappointment of transportation industry leaders. Currently, there are 29 states that have laws regulating self-driving vehicles with different approaches.
The U.S. Postal Service started a two-week test transporting mail across three Southwestern states using self-driving trucks. The long run is across multiple states and seen as a test because it’s beyond the range of a single human driver. The trucking industry has seen many constraints with the truck driver shortage and the federal ELD requirement. The American Trucking Associations estimates a driver shortage of as many as 174,500 drivers by 2024. We’ll keep reporting on this as this affects all industries.
Making Our Way Across the Country
The Oklahoma House of Representatives advanced a compromised workers’ compensation bill to the State Senate this week. To address worker benefits, the bill increases benefits for both temporary and partial total disability and extends the weeks an injured worker could receive benefits. Another change addresses the “course and scope of employment” as the new legislation would add the words “unless the employer owns or maintains exclusive control over the area.” The reforms did not make the Official Disability Guidelines (ODG) the mandatory guidelines for injured workers. The compromise bill provides solvency for the Multiple Injury Trust Fund and extends the Court of Existing Claims to 2022.
Gov. JB Pritzker signed legislation that allows workers who have been exposed to toxic substances to pursue claims in Illinois civil court. The new law lifts the 25-year statute of limitation on claims for employees who were injured or died resulting from an occupational disease. As to any such injury or occupational disease, the employee, the employee's heirs, and any person having the standing under law to bring a civil action at law has the nonwaivable right to bring an action against any employer.
Millions of people are expected to travel this Memorial Day weekend, which means being extra cautious while driving. The National Safety Council estimates almost 400 people may be killed and an additional 43,300 people may be seriously injured during the long weekend. If traveling with a mobile virtual presence device (MVPD), make sure there’s not an override switch. #Bazinga – we’ll miss you Big Bang Theory.