At the 2018 SAWCA All Committee Conference, Laura Hart Bryan from NCCI discussed her thoughts on how the recent election will impact workers’ compensation systems around the nation.
One of the key things to note about the 2018 mid-term election was the high voter turnout. Around 113 million people voted, which was a 30 million voter increase compared to the last midterm. This is still less than half the eligible voters.
Polling and reporting numbers showed a sizable increase in the number of women and younger voters compared to prior elections. These two groups tended to favor Democratic candidates. There will be a record number of women serving in Congress, and there will also be more ethnic and religious diversity in Congress than ever before.
Although the US House of Representatives changed to Democrat control, the US Senate remained in control of the Republicans. There was no “blue wave” as some predicted. Instead we probably have a purple puddle with lots of gridlock because neither party can push their agenda. It was noted that most of the Democratic candidates considered “extreme” left lost their election. Does this show that voters prefer more moderate candidates?
The change in control of the House of Representatives means a change in control of committee leadership. This is significant because the committees control the introduction of legislation to the House membership. From a workers’ compensation perspective, one of the key people on these committees is the person who co-authored the 2016 Department of Labor memo that was critical of state workers’ compensation laws. Will we see the House taking a look at state workers’ compensation issues again?
There are 14 NCCI states that elected new governors. Whenever there is a change in governor, there is potential for a change in who will be the appointed leaders in state workers’ compensation agencies along with the appointed administrative law judges. Changes in agency leadership or in the makeup of the judiciary can significantly change the landscape of workers’ compensation in the state. Illinois is a state of focus in this area as there had been a contentious relationship between the departing Republician governor and the Democratic legislature over workers’ compensation issues.
It is interesting to note that Minnesota is the only state with a divided state legislature. In all other states, both branches of the legislature are controlled by one party. This is the first time since 1914 that this has happened.
Finally, there were ballot measures on marijuana in several states. Michigan approved recreational use and Missouri and Utah approved medical marijuana. North Dakota defeated a recreational marijuana bill.