Stranger Things - Sunshine Edition
Oct 30, 2019


We’re going to the Sunshine State to look at the latest developments in the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, a proposed minimum wage constitutional amendment and its impact on the restaurant industry, and the 2020 legislative preview day.



Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier issued an order last week that would decrease workers’ compensation insurance rates by 7.5% in 2020.  Altimer rejected the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) proposal decreasing rates by 5.4%.  This is the third time in four years the Florida Insurance Commissioner disapproved of the NCCI recommendation.  NCCI needs to amend its proposal by Nov. 4 for the rate decrease to be effective on Jan. 1, 2020.



Gov. Ron DeSantis questioned a proposal to increase Florida’s minimum wage through the constitutional amendment process.  Proponents of the constitutional amendment are seeking to increase the state’s minimum wage from $8.46 an hour to $10 an hour on Sept. 30, 2021 and increase it by $1 each year until it hits $15 an hour on Sept. 30, 2026.  DeSantis is worried about effects on the restaurant industry.  Currently, restaurants receive a “tip credit” for tipped employees at $3.02, which would remain under the constitutional amendment.  However, the tipped credit would not increase as the minimum wage increases.  The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association stated that most tipped employees earn more than $15 an hour and the proposal would result in shifting tipped employees towards automation or employees at fixed hourly rates.  Currently, the proposal is less than 200 valid signatures away for being eligible for the Nov. 2020 ballot.



Even though the 2020 legislative session is still two months away, Florida officials and lawmakers are busy laying the groundwork for the next session.  The legislature is facing across-the-board agency reforms, including the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Department of Corrections, and other programs.  During yesterday’s AP Legislative Preview Day, Gov. DeSantis signaled another push for an E-Verify system for Florida employers to verify the immigration status of job applicants.  Mirroring California, DeSantis also recently endorsed several bills that would allow student athletes to profit off of their likenesses and images.  In a major shift, the NCAA announced yesterday it will allow athletes to profit from their names, images and likenesses.  We’ll keep tracking how that will be structured and the impact on higher education.




The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals recently ruled that an employee was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits even though he admitted to smoking marijuana the night before his arm was crushed in a workplace accident.  The court agreed that the injured worker overcame the presumption his marijuana use caused his injury.  The injured worker argued that none of his supervisors or co-workers claimed he acted impaired and no one challenged his testimony that his mind was clear and unaffected at the time of the accident.



Marijuana drugs tests are in the works and could be here as early as 2020.  There is no recognized test that can pinpoint when an individual consumed marijuana.  But that might be changing.  A company has developed a breathalyzer that does not measure the actual THC level but can determine whether an individual ingested, smoked, vaped, or dabbed within the past few hours.  Research suggests that individuals are most impaired between two and three hours after taking marijuana.  Employers are in desperate need for reliable marijuana impairment testing so we’ll be keeping this on the forefront.


Making Our Way Around the Country



Two members of the U.S. House of Representatives recently introduced a bill intended to cut costs for and increase the longevity of federally funded water-based infrastructure projects. The Sustainable Municipal Access to Resilient Technology in Infrastructure (SMART Infrastructure) Act was introduced by Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Calif.) and Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas). The bipartisan legislation seeks to update federal laws that require iron pipes be used in public water infrastructure projects and to "open competition” to allow for an unnamed array of "more cost-effective and innovative" materials to be implemented. A study by the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) found that, if alternative materials are selected in the procurement process for public water projects, they'd likely result in longer-lasting structures, and could therefore save more than $371 billion in federal replacement costs. 



Mimicking Texas’ effort in changing the definition of first responder to include dispatchers, a county in Colorado voluntarily elevated dispatchers’ status to first responders this month.  First responders who suffer from PTSD are covered under workers’ compensation.  The U.S. government classifies dispatchers as administrative and clerical in nature.  The 911 Saves Act that is stalled in Congress would upgrade the classification of 911 dispatchers to match that of all first responders.  Colorado State Rep. Jonathan Singer recently stated that he will work to close the loophole in Colorado to change the status of dispatchers throughout Colorado so they can also receive treatment for PTSD under workers’ compensation.



A new Brexit delay was granted until Jan. 31 by the European Union this week.  Prime Minister Boris Johnson negotiated a new exit deal that Britain’s Parliament still needs to ratify.  If this happens before Jan. 31, the United Kingdom can withdraw early.  Financial Services Minister John Glen said on Monday that Britain will do whatever it can to ensure that its financial sector remains a major global player after Brexit.  If Britain leaves the bloc with a deal, it would have a transition period until the end of 2020, meaning business as usual for banks.



Halloween is tomorrow so beware of ghost busters, goblins, and demogorgons.  For those who like to get spooked and visit haunted houses, be prepared that some risk management practices have guests signing a 40-paged waiver, a doctor’s release, and a background check.  Remember to use extra caution while driving and check out these other safety tips for Halloween.  I still have a pumpkin carving to do so check out my Twitter for my family’s final product. 


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