Cabinet Personnel And Policy
Dec 14, 2016


President-elect Donald J. Trump has nearly completed selecting his slate of nominees for Cabinet positions in the new administration. We are tracking the potential policy implications of these personnel decisions on the risk and insurance industry. This week, we pay particular attention to the decisions affecting the protection of the American worker and the proliferation of marijuana utilization for the treatment of injury.


Mr. Trump selected retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly to lead the Department of Homeland Security. General Kelly (Ret.) has spent much of his career in regions of the country affected by the illegal drug trade. He is critical of the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, calling it a gateway to harder drugs. He does, however, support the use of medical marijuana. In the General's words, "if it helps people, veterans or otherwise, then fine ... [m]edicine is medicine." 


Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has been critical of marijuana legalization efforts. Although Representative Sessions has not yet publically shared his plans on marijuana enforcement, the new attorney general would have the authority to arrest growers, retailers and users, even in states where legislatures approved the drug. The President-elect's top health policy nominee, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) is poised to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Like Senator Sessions, Representative Price has cultivated an anti-marijuana record in Congress


This week, the President-elect chose restauranteur Andrew F. Puzder, CEO of the company that franchises Hardee's and Carl's Jr., to be Secretary of Labor. Commentators suggest Puzder's nomination may call into question the Labor Department's policies on overtimeincreases to the minimum wage, and federal oversight of workers' compensation. On the other hand, the so-called "gig economy" could see a boost through this nomination. Puzder credits start-ups as the driver of the U.S. economic engine, calling "entrepreneurial vision and ambition" the invisible hand of America's economy. We'll be keeping watch as these and other Cabinet nominees make their way to the U.S. Senate for confirmation hearings.



Earlier this year, the Florida Supreme Court declared sections of the Florida Workers' Compensation Actunconstitutional. This week, freshman Representative Cord Byrd (R-Neptune Beach), released a proposal that would allow businesses to decide whether to provide work comp coverage to workers at all. In a statement, Rep. Byrd pointed to an optional WC system in Texas that he said, "has worked well." The proposed legislation, which is now circulating months before the Florida legislature convenes in March, should foreshadow the key role workers' compensation will play in the state's legislative agenda in 2017.


The state's high court heard arguments this week on the constitutionality of a 2013 medical-malpractice law. The law allows for ex parte communications when physicians' defense attorneys gather information in medical-malpractice disputes. The communications would involve defense attorneys speaking with doctors who have treated the complaining patient. The justices questioned whether such communications violate a patient's constitutional expectations of privacy. Constitutional checks and balance are in full swing in Florida.



Against the backdrop of the Automotive Hall of Fame, Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation this week allowing for the testing of self-driving cars without a steering wheel, brake pedal, or a human driver in the front seat. The law also allows companies to use self-driving cars for ride-sharing services. The Michigan law will allow self-driving cars to be sold to the public once the technology is tested and certified. The law will establish the Michigan Council on Future Mobility, an arm of Michigan's Department of Transportation (MDOT), to recommend policies setting industry standards.


Governor Charlie Baker announced a new voluntary program to assist injured workers who have settled workers' compensation claims, but still need treatment for pain management. The program seeks to resolve court cases more swiftly by assigning a care coordinator to mediate treatment options between an injured worker and employers paying for medical care. Massachusetts is one of the first states to implement this type of program for workers' compensation cases involving long-term opioid use.


As the 114th Congress draws to a close, House Speaker Paul Ryan signed the final versions of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and the 21st Century Cures Act. President Obama signed the bill into law yesterday afternoon. This bipartisan legislation will have far reaching effects, including $1 billion over the next two years to support necessary state programs to address the nation’s opioid addiction crisis. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that overdose deaths soared to all time levels in 2015. The funding will be used for expanded treatment and prevention, enhanced drug monitoring programs, and training for health care providers.


Lastly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell renamed a key section of the 21st Century Cures Act that provides $6.3 billion to fund the eradication of cancer through research and study in honor of Vice President Joe Biden's son Beau, who died of brain cancer less than a year ago. Biden will continue to preside over the "Cancer Moonshot" after he leaves the administration. And, we cannot invoke the cosmos this week without offering our Godspeed to the iconic John Glenn.


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