2023 Legislative Session Update

Apr 20, 2023
Written by WR Communications

Hands of Governor Jay Inslee signing a document


Last Wednesday, April 12, was the last opportunity for bills to pass from the opposite House, except for initiatives, alternatives to initiatives, budgets, matters necessary to implement budgets, and differences between the houses.

Just four days remain for the 2023 Legislative session, which is expected to finish on schedule. The WR government affairs team continues to work diligently, addressing issues on several bills of great importance as well as ORC Task Force funding which will hopefully be contained in the final operating budget.


SB 5352 — Concerning vehicular pursuits

Senate Bill 5352 addresses the 2021 legislation HB 1054, which increased the criteria for police pursuits from reasonable suspicion to probable cause that an individual has committed specific crimes before initiating a chase.

The bill left the Senate in March and was watered down significantly, excluding property crimes. The bill passed out of the House on Monday with amendments that modified the evidentiary threshold required for engaging in a vehicular pursuit. The amended version allows an officer to conduct the vehicular pursuit if the officer has reasonable suspicion—rather than probable cause—that a person has or is committing vehicular assault. Officers may also pursue in situations where the subject of the vehicular pursuit poses a serious risk of harm to others.

Early Tuesday morning, the House of Representatives passed a version of a bill that would lower the threshold for police to pursue a suspect from probable cause to reasonable suspicion. Pursuits would only be permitted for limited crimes, including a violent offense, sex offense, an escape, a DUI, vehicular assault, or domestic violence assault in the first, second, third, or fourth-degree offense.

Under existing legislation, pursuits are permitted solely when an individual presents an “immediate danger.” At the same time, the House’s proposal broadens the criteria to include cases where a person poses a “significant threat of harm to others.” The bill was voted out of the Senate after a vote to concur and is now off to the Governor for signing.

WR is disappointed that the legislation does not allow police to chase retail thieves. We will be back next session to ask for its inclusion.


HB 1068 — Injured workers’ rights during medical exams

House Bill 1068 addresses the issue of injured employees during independent medical evaluations. Within the workers’ compensation framework, a claims manager representing either a State Fund or self-insured employer can request that an injured worker undergo an independent medical evaluation (IME). An IME aims to determine whether a claim should be approved or reopened, address new medical concerns, support appeals, assess case progression, and evaluate the extent of a worker’s permanent disability or work limitations. IME assessments are conducted by licensed doctors authorized by the Department of Labor and Industries.

HB 1068 would allow an injured worker to record video of IMEs using their phone or any other recording device during an exam by one person of the worker’s choosing.

As amended, the bill: 1) specifies that the worker may not materially alter the recording, 2) prohibits the worker from posting the recording on social media, 3) requires the worker, no less than seven calendar days before the exam, to provide notice to the scheduling entity indicating that the exam will be recorded, and 4) requires the Department of Labor and Industries to adopt rules regarding the notification process.

WR opposes this bill as L&I predicts it may result in scheduling delays if a provider refuses to grant permission for audio or video recordings, particularly among mental health professionals. Moreover, the bill could contribute to escalating expenses, as any postponement in delivering services to injured employees could result in long-term disability and claim-related costs.

The bill was voted out of the House last month, out of the Senate the week before last, and returned to the House for concurrence. The House concurred, and the bill now goes to the Governor for consideration.


SB 5217 Ergonomics

This bill repeals the voter-approved ban on rulemaking on musculoskeletal injuries. It authorizes the Dept. of Labor and Industries to promulgate one rule per year for an industry or sector with more than twice the rate of musculoskeletal injuries compared to the state’s overall rate. The bill includes WR-supported amendments to delay rule implementation for three years and to exclude sub-sectors of an industry that are not meeting the threshold rate of injuries. The intent is to focus on those sectors and businesses incurring high rates of injuries and not include those operating safely.

As passed, the bill only allows for one rule per year. With somewhat ambiguous language, it will not impact most of the businesses because few have a claim performance of twice the state’s rate. The bill was delivered to the Governor for his consideration. WR opposed this bill because musculoskeletal injury rates have been trending down, and rulemaking will yield limited results.


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