Talks Breakdown
Feb 27, 2019


The Trump administration announced that negotiations with the state of California have ceased over the Golden State’s clean car standards, and they will move forward in finalizing a rule that would roll back Obama-era fuel efficiency measures.  The dispute is over California’s authority to set its own auto emissions standards that would be stricter than the Trump administration’s proposal. 



Not necessarily.  Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), California has a waiver that lets it set stronger standards than the federal government.  The CAA also permits other states to follow California’s rules.  Thirteen other states and the District of Columbia choose to follow California’s lead – they collectively make up almost 40% of the U.S. market for new vehicles.



Under the new proposed rule, the Trump administration is working to roll back greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards applicable to most automobiles in the U.S. and freeze the standards completely for model years 2021-2025 vehicles at 2020 emission levels.  The Obama administration, along with California and automakers, agreed that cars must reach almost 55 mpg by 2025.  The new proposed rule would set the standard at about 37 mpg.



With talks cut off, automakers are caught in regulatory uncertainty with the potential of having two different standards.  California has already sued the Trump administration alleging it wrongly decided to review the emission standards, and the state said it would litigate the final rule if it is different than the Obama-era standards.  The Trump administration has also proposed yanking California’s Clean Air Act waiver.  The final rule is required to be released by April 1, 2020. 


Safety is a State of Mind



The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) is requesting a nine percent increase in its budget, saying it’s crucial to encouraging safety and wellness among workers while keeping rates down for employers.  The BWC also voted to drop the powerful opioid drug, OxyContin, from its drug formulary and replace it with an equally effective but harder-to-abuse drug.  Beginning July 1, OxyContin will no longer be newly prescribed for injured workers.  The agency will phase out the use of OxyContin and generics over time, following best clinical practices and consultation with prescribing physicians.



The NYS Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) decided to limit the frequency that a physician can conduct a urine drug test on a patient from “at least” three to four times a year, to a max of three to four times.  This will be for patients using drugs to manage pain.  Physicians worry that this will make monitoring an individual on opioids much more difficult.  The WCB stated that this is not a policy change but taken from the Workers’ Compensation Non-Acute Pain Medical Treatment Guidelines and adopted into regulation in 2014.  They also stated that rules regarding urine drug testing are specific to a patient’s clinical circumstances and determined by a medical professionals and billing.  The plan is scheduled to take effect April 1.


Making Our Way Around the Country


A bill that would have allowed police to pull over Florida drivers who were texting while driving as a primary offense (meaning police don’t have to have another reason to pull over the driver) has expanded and aims to include all distracted driving.  The legislation also classifies holding a phone, putting on makeup, petting your animal, or even reading and writing as distracted driving.  A similar bill is moving in Arizona.  The proposed bill would prohibit any kind of distracted driving, but only if the officer finds the driver has created an immediate hazard to someone or something, or failed to have reasonable control of the vehicle.



The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the ability of employers to withdraw job offers of at-will employees who fail a pre-employment drug test, even if they are a legal user of medical marijuana.  The decision clashes with recent court rulings in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, where judges have sided with employees’ rights to use medical cannabis.  We’ll keep watching for when the Supreme Court might weigh in. 



Montana’s Insurance Commissioner Matt Rosendale approved the largest reduction in workers’ compensation loss costs since 2011.  The 17.2% overall average decrease filed by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) will take effect July 1, 2019 and does not include any reduction in benefits to workers.



Chicago, the third largest city in the U.S., is poised to elect its first African-American female mayor as Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle advance to an April runoff election.  Fourteen candidates were vying for the throne (GOT can’t come fast enough).  Thanks to all who threw their hat in the ring and all those who voted in this election.


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