BILLION DOLLAR LOSSES
As of early October, there have been 11 weather and climate-related disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This number does not include the recent wildfires in California, which are now the most destructive on record with losses expected between $9 billion and $13 billion. At last count, the Camp Fire had destroyed more than 13,600 homes and other structures and claimed at least 77 lives with nearly 1,000 people still missing.
HURRICANES AND TROPICAL STORMS
The 2018 hurricane season is the most active season ever recorded. To determine the strength of a given season, scientists use an index that adds together the intensity and duration of all the tropical storms and hurricanes that formed. Hurricane Florence, the first major hurricane of the Atlantic season, slammed into the Carolinas in September and caused more than $17 billion in damage. Hurricane Michael was the strongest storm to hit the U.S. in a quarter-century, and the strongest on record to hit the Florida panhandle.
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is set to lapse Nov. 30 unless Congress acts to extend the program. Lawmakers introduced another six-month short-term bill to reauthorize the program, which does not include any reforms. Previous legislation included reforms to update the flood maps and help communities with adequate mitigation measures. Congress has passed seven short-term extensions in the last several years and allowed the program to lapse in 2017 and 2018. Currently, the program is over $20 billion in debt.
Especially this week, a shout out of thanks to all the first responders who put themselves in harm’s way to protect communities in our greatest time of need. Thank you.
Drug formularies seem to be on the mind with a number of states passing legislation to create a workers’ compensation drug formulary. In Indiana, the state legislature passed a drug formulary, which will prohibit WC reimbursement for any "N" drug in the Official Disability Guidelines Drug Formulary (effective Jan. 1, 2019). In Kentucky, as part of the Bluegrass State's headlining workers' compensation reform, the Labor Cabinet will adopt an evidence-based pharmaceutical formulary and medical treatment guidelines (effective Dec. 31, 2018). The Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission announced a drug formulary that will regulate all outpatient medications prescribed as a result of work-related injuries. The rule applied to new injuries occurring on or after July 1, 2018. However, Pennsylvania lawmakers hoping to pass a drug formulary were defeated when Gov. Wolf vetoed the bill.
Marijuana reigned high two weeks ago during the midterm elections. Michigan became the first Midwest state to legalize recreational marijuana, joining nine other states and the District of Columbia. Missouri and Utah approved medicinal marijuana measures, becoming the 32nd and 33rd respective states to do so. However, North Dakotans blocked a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana (medicinal marijuana has been legal since 2016). Our eye is turning to the East Coast. In New York, the State Assembly held a series of public meetings seeking feedback on full marijuana legalization. New Jersey legislators scheduled a hearing and voting is expected to begin next week to legalize recreational marijuana. These states, as well as Connecticut, are watching Massachusetts as it just began selling to recreational customers yesterday.
Making Our Way Around the Country
In recognition of the occupational hazards and disease conditions associated uniquely to fire departments, police officers, and other first responders, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law S.B. 376 that allows first responders to claim post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a compensable condition for workers' compensation. We saw similar legislation succeed in Washington State but efforts in six other states were not successful. Both Hawaii and New Hampshire enacted workers’ compensation presumption bills this year for firefighters battling certain types of cancer.
Cybersecurity continued to be a top priority for state and federal government. States addressed cybersecurity through various initiatives, such as providing more funding for improved security measures, requiring government agencies or businesses to implement specific types of security practice, and addressing threats to critical infrastructure. At least 22 states enacted 52 bills so far in 2018. On the federal side, President Trump just signed a bill into law last week, approving the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). President Trump also officially signed off on the National Standards and Technology (NIST) Small Business Cybersecurity Act and the National Cyber Strategy for U.S.A. As the federal government continues to address cybersecurity standards, states are urging Congress to avoid preempting state data breach and data security laws.
CHECKS AND BALANCES
In October, the United States Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh as the 114th justice of the Supreme Court, filling retired Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat. The Supreme Court is poised to hear several cases with implications for state and local governments; the status of independent contractors, which could affect the trucking industry and virtually every sector, and how that could affect arbitration agreements; and the application of antitrust law to e-commerce.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the U.S. We extend our warmest gratitude to our readers and the industry in recognizing The Way as a 2018 Digital Award Finalist for PR News' email newsletter. We appreciate your feedback, support, and loyal readership. From all of us at The Way, have a blessed holiday. (And enjoy the Tiger vs. Phil match!)