2020 Legislative Trends Recap: Top Takeaways

NCCI released its 2020 Regulatory and Legislative Trends Report in August 2020, providing an overview of key legislative, regulatory, judicial, and other developments impacting the workers compensation system this year.

This article follows up on that report with some updates as of December 1, 2020, including key takeaways as we close out 2020.

NCCI Monitored Almost 1,200 Bills

In 2020, NCCI tracked 1,196 state and federal bills, including 579 bills in states where NCCI provides ratemaking services. To date, 124 bills were enacted. In addition, NCCI monitored 312 regulations of which 179 were adopted.

Many of the 2020 legislative and regulatory themes were similar to prior years, including first responders, independent contractors, and medical cost containment measures. However, COVID-19 was the focus as reflected in workers compensation legislation and regulatory actions related to presumptions of compensability for contraction of or exposure to COVID-19.

Nine States Enacted COVID-19 Workers Compensation Presumptions of Compensability

In 2020, 22 states considered legislation to establish workers compensation presumptions of compensability for COVID-19 for certain employees (i.e., a presumption that the contraction of or exposure to COVID-19 is a compensable injury or arises out of the course and scope of employment).

The 9 states that enacted COVID-19 presumption legislation are: Alaska, California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

In addition, several states issued executive orders, directives, and adopted emergency rules related to COVID-19 presumptions and/or compensability. The additional states that established workers compensation presumptions through regulatory activity are Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, and New Mexico.

Many of the COVID-19 workers compensation presumptions are temporary, meaning the presumption is applicable for a certain period of time or expires when the state’s state of emergency ends. Next year, states may take additional action to extend and/or expand their existing presumptions. In addition, new states may consider workers compensation presumptions for COVID-19.

Additional States Legalized Marijuana

During the November 2020 elections, 5 states approved ballot measures to legalize marijuana:

  • Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota legalized recreational marijuana via ballot measure
  • Mississippi and South Dakota legalized medical marijuana via ballot measure

There are now 15 states plus DC that have legalized recreational marijuana and 35 states plus DC that have legalized medical marijuana.

While marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, the US House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would remove marijuana from the list of scheduled substances in the federal Controlled Substances Act. The MORE Act would also eliminate criminal penalties for individuals who manufacture, distribute, or possess marijuana. However, Senate leadership has indicated it is not likely to consider marijuana reform legislation during the remainder of 2020.

Legislation Addressed Workers Compensation for Workplace-Related Mental Injuries

Workers compensation for workplace-related mental injuries continued as a hot topic in 2020:

  • Legislation addressing workers compensation coverage for mental injuries was enacted in 5 states including Colorado, Nebraska, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming
  • Vermont enacted legislation requiring a report on workers compensation claims submitted by state employees in relation to post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental conditions
  • NCCI monitored more than 50 bills related to post-traumatic stress disorder

California Enacted Legislation and Approved Ballot Measure Addressing Independent Contractors/Gig Economy

California continued to actively consider the issue of gig workers and whether certain workers are employees or independent contractors.

In 2019, California enacted legislation (AB 5), which codified a three-part test (known as the “ABC” test) to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor.

Several bills were introduced in California this year that addressed the test from California AB 5. Some of the bills created exceptions to the ABC test for certain workers and/or industry groups, while others proposed to repeal the ABC test and replace it with a different test for determining employment status. Two bills were enacted (AB 323, which exempts certain newspaper carriers from the ABC test and AB 2257, which creates exceptions for certain workers such as artists, musicians, and photographers).

In addition, California voters approved a ballot measure (Proposition 22) to classify drivers for app-based transportation (rideshare) and delivery companies as independent contractors instead of employees.

Several States Proposed Single-Payer Health Insurance Programs

This year, 14 states considered legislation to establish a single-payer health insurance program. Four of those states—Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York—specifically mentioned workers compensation or injured workers medical benefits in their proposals. To date, no state has passed single-payer health insurance in 2020.

NCCI Created New Resources

Check out the Related Content section for additional information including NCCI’s new Legislative Activity page and COVID-19-related resources.

​This article is provided solely as a reference tool to be used for informational purposes only. The information in this article shall not be construed or interpreted as providing legal or any other advice. Use of this article for any purpose other than as set forth herein is strictly prohibited.