Winter (Er... I Mean) Spring Is Here
Apr 10, 2019


It must be spring as the New York State Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo passed a balanced budget for the new fiscal year last week and held spending growth at 2%.  The $175 billion package includes numerous economic incentives for employers, expands access to medical providers for injured workers, as well as changes that benefit the environment that could impact how retailers do business. 



The bill expands the Employee Training Incentive Program to provide more training options to more industries by enabling employers with dedicated training shops to draw on in-house expertise in delivering approved training.  The bill also launches a $175 million workforce initiative that will support strategic regional efforts that meet businesses’ short-term workforce needs, improve regional talent pipelines, expand apprenticeships, and address the long-term needs of growing industries. 



The bill did not legalize recreational marijuana use.  Gov. Cuomo made this a top priority in his State of the State address but the details could not be worked out in time for the budget bill.  However, the legislators agreed to tax opioid manufacturers as a way to pay for addiction treatment.  Learning from a failed attempt to do this last year, the cost of the tax can be passed on to consumers.  This is expected to bring in $100 million a year.



The bill expands access to medical providers for injured workers by adding three new types of medical professionals as providers under the workers’ compensation system: nurse practitioners, acupuncturists, and licensed clinical social workers.  By increasing the number and types of medical professionals that care for injured workers, the legislature expects it will lower the anticipated cost and duration of care and better serve injured employees.



Beginning in March 2020, single-use plastic bags provided to customers (think grocery stores and retail stores, but restaurants are exempt) are banned.  New York is the second state, after California, to ban them outright.  Counties will have the option to charge a 5-cent fee on paper bags.  Click here for more highlights.  The bill is awaiting Gov. Cuomo’s signature.


The Debate Continues


Colorado lawmakers are about to join the fray over whether student athletes should be paid and plan to introduce legislation this week that would let the state’s colleges pay their athletes and let the student athletes accept endorsement deals – both illegal under the NCAA, which governs college sports.  Bills in North Carolina and California were introduced to allow student athletes to be paid for use of their name, image, and likeness.  In 2018, March Madness generated $1.32 billion in national TV ad revenue.



The NCAA is appealing a judge’s recent ruling in a federal antitrust lawsuit that allows athletes to be compensated for education-related expenses beyond current caps.  NCAA President Mark Emmert said the judge’s ruling reinforced that college athletes are students not employees.  Current NCAA rules allow schools to provide athletic scholarships, unlimited meals, guaranteed four-year scholarships, and the vast majority of educational supplies.  He believes student athletes benefit when schools compete on having the best athletic facilities and educational experience.  In case you missed it, check out the latest One Shining Moment.


Making Our Way Around the Country


The 1st District Court of Appeals upheld the denial of mental health treatment as part of a workers’ compensation claim.  The ruling upheld the constitutionality of statutory caps on mental health treatment for psychiatric injuries related to a workers’ compensation claim, which currently cuts off temporary benefits six months after a claimant reaches maximum medical improvement (MMI).  The court emphasized that Florida does not recognize stand-alone mental injuries without a physical injury, and the injured worker’s psychiatric injury arose more than a year after he reached MMI.



A bill (H.B. 1909) passed the Washington Legislature that would fine employers $1,000 for disclosing information on a claim file regarding the mental health condition or treatment to an unauthorized person.   It requires the Department of Labor and Industries to ensure that employers and workers are notified of their rights and responsibilities regarding claim files.  The bill is now with Gov. Jay Inslee, who is expected to sign it.



More and more companies are adopting technology to help their business – including the emerging trend of microchipping employees.  Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a bill that will regulate microchipping employees in Arkansas and gives workers the right to opt out without the threat of being fired.   Speaking of chipping, congrats to the all the players who competed in the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship, the first time women have been allowed to compete at the club. 


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