TRYING HARD NOW
As the Trump administration continues to develop its enforcement policy on existing marijuana law, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced a package of legislation trying to establish a pathway to marijuana reform. The multi-part reform package includes the Small Business Tax Equity Act that that would allow cannabis-based businesses to take normal business tax deductions. The reform package would also include the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act, which would remove the drug from the Controlled Substance Act's schedule, tax the drug, and regulate it federally.
The centerpiece of the Wyden / Blumenauer bill is the Marijuana Policy Gap Act, which would help fill the current gap between federal marijuana laws and state laws. In particular, it would remove federal criminal penalties and civil asset forfeitures for businesses that are in compliance with their state's cannabis laws but not federal law. It would also grant access to basic banking services for pot businesses and ensure that veterans around the country have access to state-legal medical marijuana.
IN THE RED CORNER
Medical marijuana was legalized in Pennsylvania one year ago this week and the Keystone State is fighting hard to complete a regulatory scheme for the drug. The Department of Health (DOH) regulators will complete work this week on a proposed online registry that would connect patients seeking medical marijuana with certifying doctors. The DOH also released a regulation that would bar physicians from advertising that they are able to prescribe medicinal marijuana. Across the state, some 1500 registrants are ready to attend the World Medical Marijuana Conference and Exposition in Pittsburgh this weekend. Incidentally, we expect that neighboring West Virginia's Governor Jim Justice will sign his state's medical marijuana bill into law this week and commentators estimate that GOP led North Dakota is less than one year away from legalization.
AND IN THE BLUE CORNER
New York Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo published guidance stating that all insurers authorized to write accident and health insurance in New York State, including health maintenance organizations, student health plans and municipal cooperative health benefit plans, must provide coverage for office visits for covered services, including those that may result in a medical marijuana certification, if the visit was not solely for the purpose of the certification. We're sitting ringside for these significant developments.
A HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT
The Texas House of Representatives unanimously passed the Texas Cybercrime Act (House Bill 9), which would make it a third-degree felony for a person to deliberately interrupt or suspend access to a computer system or network of another person or corporation. This Texas criminal sanction, pegged to be one of the harshest in the country, reflects the growing corporate resentment and intolerance of ransomware. The FBI estimates that ransomware is a billion dollar criminal enterprise, with more than $200 million paid out already this year.
A ransomware attack last month in the Pennsylvania State Senate targeted the 16 Democrats in the 50-member chamber. It knocked out access to their computer system and forced them to rely on alternative communication channels, including phones, faxes and social media sites. "We may be down, but we're not out!" said Sen. Vincent Hughes of Philadelphia. The risk extends beyond the public domain. Risk managers in the health care space are tracking the rise of a targeted spear-phishing virus under the name, "Philadelphia," which is known as RaaS, or "Ransomware as a Service." In 2016, according to FBI reports, ransomware landed powerful hooks into U.S. businesses every 40 seconds.
Making Our Way Around The Country
CUT ME, MICK.
Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller and Labor & Industry Secretary Kathy Manderino announced that the rates employers in the Keystone State will pay for workers' compensation insurance will be cut by 6.21 percent this month. Pennsylvania employers can expect savings on the order of $150 million in premium through these cuts. The state's business associations uniformly laud Governor's Tom Wolf's efforts to protect workers and improve the business climate in the state.
BEAT LIGHTNING AND TRAP PLUNDER
As part of Governor Wolf's ongoing consumer protection initiative, the state's Department of Insurance released new guidance to homeowners filing insurance claims after storm damage and on avoiding home repair scams. The guidance bolsters the Pennsylvania's Four Star insurance rating for consumer protection, as judged by the Rutgers Center for Risk and Responsibility at Rutgers Law School. According to the Rutgers report, Pennsylvania homeowners have more protection against having their homeowners' insurance policies cancelled or having their rates raised when they file a claim than homeowners in 40 other states.
GONNA' TRY NOW
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard oral argument in an insurance bad faith claim, Rancosky v. Washington National Insurance. The justices will now consider whether the requirements for trying an insurance bad faith claim, first articulated in the 1994 case, Terletsky v. Prudential Property & Casualty Insurance. The justices will determine whether a finding that the carrier acted out of "self-interest or ill-will" is a discretionary, or a mandatory element for proving a case of insurance bad faith.
GO FOR IT, ROCK!
Are you going the distance to The Risk Management Society (RIMS) Annual Conference and Exhibition in Philadelphia next week? We'd love to see you in the Exhibit Hall. Please make your way to GB Booth #2527 and to the RIMS Advocacy Center at Booth #1657, where we will be going a few rounds with the RIMS federal agenda and hitting the core legislative and regulatory issues affecting our industry.
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.