While the House of Representatives came knocking in its ongoing impeachment inquiry, some risk management-related legislation got a leg up this week. The Way takes a closer look at some areas where changes may be coming around real soon.
PAPER IN FIRE
The House of Representatives passed the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which aims to protect banks and credit unions serving cannabis companies. Currently, financial institutions in the cannabis industry face legal exposure because the drug remains federally illegal, even as states legalize it. Supporters of the measure emphasize that cannabis businesses operate largely in cash, making them targets for robberies and crime. The SAFE Act passed the Democratic-controlled House 321-103, with 229 Democrats, 91 Republicans and one independent supporting it. One hundred two Republicans and one Democrat voted no. The bill moves on to the Senate.
WHEN I FIGHT AUTHORITY
House lawmakers also voted 225-186 last week to pass the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act, a far-reaching bill that bans companies from requiring workers and consumers to resolve legal disputes in private arbitration. Supporters of the measure suggest the FAIR Act could affect more than 60 million US workers. While the bill is likely to face resistance from Republicans in the Senate and the White House, pundits note this is the first time a bill like this has passed the House. The FAIR Act would only invalidate arbitration clauses signed after the effective date of the legislation.
AUTHORITY ALWAYS WINS
Also this week, the House members passed the Advancing Innovation to Assist Law Enforcement Act. The bill requires the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to conduct a study on the use of blockchain, AI, and other technologies. FinCEN would be required to provide a report to the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee to raise concerns about the technologies, identify best practices, and determine how blockchain and other technologies could be used to fight financial crimes.
CHECK IT OUT
Bipartisan lawmakers introduced legislation called the “Hotel Advertising Transparency Act of 2019" this week. The proposed law would prohibit hotels and other places of short-term lodging from advertising a rate that does not include all required fees, aside from taxes and fees imposed by the government. The Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general would have the ability to enforce the statute. State attorneys general and other authorized state officials would also be able to bring civil lawsuits on behalf of their residents once they notify the FTC of their intent.
COME CRUMBLING DOWN?
And finally this week, Congress and the White House avoided a government shutdown. The House and Senate passed a seven-week continuing resolution to fund the government. President Trump signed it into law before the Sept. 30 funding deadline. The so-called continuing resolution funds the government through Nov. 21, setting up another potential showdown over spending just a week before Thanksgiving. But for now, life goes on.
ENDORSEMENTS FOR COLLEGE ATHLETES
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation on Monday allowing college athletes to hire agents and to be paid for endorsements and the use of their images. NCAA regulations ban athletes from signing endorsement deals or accepting any payment for the use of their images. The California law, which is scheduled to go into effect in 2023, would let them do so, and it would specifically prohibit the NCAA from punishing them. Newsom said the law would "change college sports for the better by having, now, the interest, finally, of the athletes on par with the interests of the institution.”
TWO BALLOT INITIATIVES
A proposed California ballot initiative would let patients get more money in medical malpractice lawsuits. California law caps damages for pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits at $250,000. The cap was set in 1975 and has not increased. The “Fairness for Injured Patients Act,” filed last week, would tie the cap to inflation, which would raise it to more than $1.2 million. In a second move, Alastair Mactaggart, drafter of the 2018 California ballot initiative that served as the basis for the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (“CCPA”), filed a new ballot initiative for California’s November 2020 ballot called the, “California Privacy Enforcement Act” (CPEA). It would add more restrictions to the sale of health and location data, increase fines for violating children's privacy, and create a new state agency to enforce privacy regulations. The 2020 election season starts early.
Making Our Way Around the Country
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration launched the OSHA Weighting System (OWS). OWS will encourage the appropriate allocation of resources by weighting certain types of inspections based on the time taken to complete the inspection, the impact of the inspection on workplace safety and health, and the types of hazards inspected and abated. The new system will also add enforcement initiatives such as the Site-Specific Targeting to the weighting system. In related news, OSHA named its new Directorate of Construction and the Senate confirmed Secretary of Labor, Eugene Scalia.
Staying at the federal agency level, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will issue its long awaited rule process for Civil Money Penalty (CMP) this month. The rulemaking will be consistent with Section 203 of the Strengthening Medicare and Repaying Taxpayers Act of 2012 (SMART Act), which eliminated the strict liability penalty standard to a merit- based standard. CMS will be soliciting public comment on proposed safe harbor criteria and practices for which CMPs would (or would not) be imposed under the Act. Stay tuned for more information on this important development.
The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) proposed new rules for carriers in the Lone Star State. Under the rule, which was mandated by SB 417, all notices of “material change” to an insurance policy must be displayed clearly, shown conspicuously, and written in plain language. The rule requires insurers to provide the notice at least 30 days before the renewal date. One of the more significant changes in the rule states that changing property coverage from replacement cost to actual cash value is a material change that requires notice under SB 417.
WE COULD SHAKE THIS WORLD
October is #BreastCancerAwarenessMonth, an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year in the United States 245,000 women develop breast cancer and more than 40,000 women die from it. Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older, but breast cancer also affects younger women. About 10% of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45 years of age. Together, let’s hope, fight, and win.