As in past session, several bills have been filed that would amend the Workers’ Compensation Act, specifically impacting county employees and insurance systems. A brief overview of such legislation is listed below.
HB 1631 (Bulova) / SB 1088 (Ebbin) would allow dispatchers to claim workers’ compensation benefits relating to post-traumatic stress disorder under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Currently, only law-enforcement officers and firefighters may claim such benefits. This bill would result in higher insurance costs to local governments. VACo does not oppose the policy intent of the bill but is opposed to the legislation as it is a significant unfunded mandate. SB 1088 was heard in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. Despite VACo and other stakeholders voicing concern over fiscal impact, the bill reported from Committee and was referred to Senate Finance and Appropriations on a vote of 12-3. HB 1631 has not yet been heard in committee, but has been referred to the House Commerce and Energy Committee’s Subcommittee #2.
HB 1905 (Batten) would establish a workers’ compensation presumption for back, hip, knee, and neck injuries that cause the death or disability of law-enforcement officers, as defined in the bill, who have completed five years of service and are required to wear a duty belt, as defined in the bill, as a condition of employment. This bill would significantly increase local government risk insurer liability, which would in turn result in higher insurance costs to local governments. VACo does not oppose the policy intent of the bill but is opposed to the legislation as it is a significant unfunded mandate. The bill has also been referred to the House Commerce and Energy Committee’s Subcommittee #2.
HB 1408 (Brewer) / SB 906 (Saslaw) as originally drafted would expand the workers’ compensation presumption of compensability for certain cancers causing the death or disability of certain employees who have completed five years of service in their position to include melanoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and bladder and thyroid cancer. The presumption for these cancers does not apply for any individual diagnosed with such a condition before July 1, 2023. VACo did not oppose the policy intent of the bill but was opposed to the legislation as in its original form, it is a significant unfunded mandate. VACo is grateful to the patrons and community stakeholders who agreed to amendments, which removed melanoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma from the list of proposed presumptive illnesses and thereby addressed the majority of VACo’s concerns over fiscal impact to local governments. VACo staff testified our appreciation of these changes. Both bills have advanced on unanimous votes to the respective House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Appropriations and Finance Committee.
HB 2322 (E. Campbell) / SB 904 (DeSteph) as originally drafted would provide that an anxiety disorder or depressive disorder, as both are defined in the bill, incurred by a law-enforcement officer, public safety telecommunicator, or firefighter is compensable under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act on the same basis as post-traumatic stress disorder, among other provisions. The addition of public safety telecommunicators to the list of current employee categories eligible for compensation under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act would likely increase risk insurance premiums for this category of employees by almost 3,000 percent. VACo is grateful to Senator DeSteph for negotiating with stakeholders to amend this legislation to remove public safety telecommunicators from the bill as this was the principal driver of local fiscal impact and testified to that effect when the bill was heard in Senate Commerce and Labor. The amended version of the bill was unanimously reported and referred to Senate Finance and Appropriations on a vote of 15-0. VACo is also grateful to Delegate Campbell who tabled her bill. SB 904 is now nearly identical to HB 1775 (O’Quinn), which VACo does not oppose.
VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett