House Bill 1182 (Worker’s Compensation), authored by Rep. Matt Lehman (R-Berne), achieved final passage this week with a successful concurrence vote along party lines, 65-29. This Chamber-supported bill does two important things: 1) clarifies who is responsible for worker’s compensation for volunteer firefighters (it’s not employers but the fire department); and 2) increases the burial amount an employer must pay from $7,500 to $10,000 in the event an employee dies during an on-the-job accident. The Senate had lowered the burial amount from $12,500, determining the $10,000 figure was more in line with the average funeral/burial cost. House Democrats were not pleased with the reduction and wanted to send the original House-passed version to conference committee and seek restoration to $12,500.

As reported previously, this would have been the vehicle bill to make additional changes to worker’s comp benefits; a 2% increase had been discussed. The Chamber advocated against this move unless there was a corresponding benefit for employers. With the final passage of HB 1182, the Chamber believes that there will be no further discussion of benefit increases this session.

House Bill 1444 (Taxation of Electronic Cigarettes), authored by Rep. Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville), was originally slated to be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday. However, the bill was removed from the calendar. While the Legislature is poised to pass a bill on this topic, it’s taking a longer time to come to a consensus of how exactly to tax e-liquids. The Chamber believes at the retail level would be best and has conveyed that message to the committee and bill authors. Look for HB 1444 to jump back on the committee agenda next week.

Senate Bill 99 (Wage Assignments for Clothing and Tools), authored by Sen. Phi Boots (R-Crawfordsville), was not listed this week on the Senate calendar for a final vote as expected. We still anticipate Sen. Boots will file a concurrence in the near future. This Chamber-backed measure provides, among other things, that a wage assignment may be made for the rental of uniform shirts, pants and job-related clothing. It also states that a wage assignment may be made for the purchase of equipment or tools necessary to fulfill the duties of employment.

Senate Bill 162 (Chronic Pain Management), authored by Sen. Mark Messmer (R-Jasper), passed the House Insurance Committee unanimously. The Chamber testified that while we recognize the benefits of what is being attempted in the bill – to address the opioid crisis – it is still a mandate, which we oppose, and will have little impact on much of the marketplace. The Chamber communicated that we supported the committee chairman’s amendment to remove language that gave parity to lifetime limitations, co-pays and deductibles that apply to physical illness. The committee did not accept the amendment but indicated that language might be tweaked on second reading, which will happen next week.

A follow-up on substance misuse guidelines and protection in the workplace. As mentioned last week, currently only employers who adhere to the state’s new employee substance abuse treatment guidelines AND do not have an employee assistance program for the employee(s) would receive civil immunity protection for a negligent hiring (as outlined in 2018 legislation). This year’s fix of removing the employee assistance program criteria was offered by Rep. Steve Davisson (R-Salem) and unanimously passed the House. We expect the language will be taken out in a Senate conference committee and then added to one of Rep. Davisson’s bills that will go to a House conference committee. The Chamber will be working with Rep. Davisson, who is committed to making this happen and opening up the program to all Hoosier employers.

Resource: Mike Ripley at (317) 264-6883 or email: [email protected]