Gov. Rick Snyder signs legislation protecting workers' compensation benefits

Also signs bills reducing driver responsibility fees, streamlining regulations, supporting good government

Friday, June 27, 2014

LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Rick Snyder today signed a package of bills designed to help workers receive compensation benefits.

The 12-bill package is designed to help Delphi Co. reimburse employees who did not receive full and proper benefits following the company’s bankruptcy filing in 2005. Delphi stopped payments in 2009 leaving 352 Michigan employees without adequate reimbursements.

“These bills will help Delphi workers receive the benefits they earned and deserve,” Snyder said. “Reimbursing these claims is the right thing to do in support of Delphi, their employees and for Michigan.”

HB 5478 and 5479, sponsored by state Rep. Joe Graves, creates the Private Employer Group Self-insurers’ Security Fund (PEGSISF). The group will support employers who group together to self-insure their workers’ compensation liability and will cover payments from members of the group if they are otherwise unable to pay.

The bills are now Public Acts 228 and 229 of 2014.

The governor signed 10 other bills supporting Delphi Co. employees:

HB 5480, also sponsored by Graves, allows the Funds Administration Trustees to authorize payments on behalf of the PEGSIFS. It also establishes the methods to make a workers’ compensation insurance claim. It is now PA 230.

HB 5481, sponsored by Graves, provides that the PEGSISF is eligible to receive reimbursements if an injured person is only eligible for a compensation rate less than 50 percent of the state weekly wage. They may petition for a higher disability compensation following two years of continuous disability. It is now PA 231.

HB 5483, sponsored by state Rep. Harvey Santana, allows the PEGSISF to assess the group self-insurers in the event of insolvency. It also allows the Workers’ Compensation Act director to determine whether there are sufficient funds to secure payment of benefits and administrative expenses of the trust. It is now PA 232.

HB 5484, sponsored by Santana, states that the PEGSISF will be represented by the Attorney General. It is now PA 233.

HB 5485, also sponsored by Santana, provides that the PEGSISF can file for liability recoveries against the employer members of an insolvent insurer group. It is now PA 234.

HB 5486, sponsored by Santana, allows group self-insurers to stop paying assessments to the Self-insurers’ Security Fund (SISF).

HB 5487, sponsored by state Rep. Phil Phelps, creates an assessment system to allow the SISF to address unpaid worker liability claims resulting from the Delphi Co. bankruptcy. The bill temporarily raises the assessment percentage from 3 percent to 3.5 percent providing the fund with more adequate funding to pay off remaining liability claims. It is now PA 236.

HB 5488, sponsored by state Rep. Robert Kosowski, restricts liability reimbursement for all carriers who are delinquent on assessments and payment of workers’ compensation benefits. It is now PA 237.

HB 5489, sponsored by Brad Jacobsen, allows trustees of the SISF to authorize payments requested by a disabled employee or his or her dependent if the employee was entitled to unemployment benefits between May 18, 1999, and Oct. 7, 2009. It also requires any unspent money be returned to the general fund if the SISF has sufficient funds to cover claims. It is now PA 238.

HB 5490, sponsored by state Rep. Frank Foster, ensures that any funds created under the Workers’ Disability Compensation Act are protected with the same rights as funds held by an employer or provider. It is now PA 239.

The governor also signed 12 other bills:

HB 4003, sponsored by state Rep. John Walsh, allows the Michigan Department of Treasury to forgive taxes if the taxpayer did not owe the amount initially due or is unable to pay the tax. They may also be forgiven if the taxpayer received a federal tax compromise. The bill aligns Michigan with tax laws in 20 other states. It is now PA 240.

HB 4958, sponsored by state Rep. Frank Foster, exempts employers from paying unemployment taxes on individuals working under certain temporary visas who are living in the U.S.. It is now PA 241.

HB 4964, sponsored by state Rep. John Walsh, allows public employers to automatically enroll employees in the company retirement plan. The employer must notify the employee within two weeks of enrollment and provide an opt out option should the employee wish not to participate. It is now PA 242.

HB 5039, sponsored by state Rep. Kenneth Kurtz, will improve Michigan’s child fatality review process and bring better outcomes for child welfare by allowing the Office of Children’s Ombudsman to more efficiently review files related to a child fatality. The bill gives permission for the OCO to request documents for review in the same manner as the Department of Human Services. It is now PA 243.

HBs 5131 and 5132, sponsored by Santana, allow a board member to be appointed as a public official and clarify that an appointed board members term would end in conjunction with the end of their term in public office. The bills create consistency between the Brownfield Redevelopment Financing Act, the Economic Development Corp. Act and the Downtown Development Authority Act. They are now PAs 244 and 245.

HB 5168 and 5169, sponsored by state Reps. John Walsh and Wayne Schmidt, respectively, authorize the Regional Transit Authority to acquire a nonprofit street railway system with a majority vote of seven out of nine board members. The bill allows the board to enter into agreement with a street railway to secure federal funding for a street railway project. As a result the RTA will be able to oversee the M-1 Rail Project while avoiding legacy costs associated with the project. They are now PAs 246 and 247.

HB 5261, sponsored by state Rep. Kevin Cotter, simplifies the process of transferring ownership of a vehicle to in-laws. The bill will save money for both vehicle owners and the state by eliminating the use tax collection for these transactions. It is now PA 248.

HB 5332, sponsored by state Rep. Matt Lori, requires the Michigan Department of Community Health to establish and maintain credentialing standards for statewide Substance Use Disorder service systems. The bill is a direct result of recommendations made by the Mental Health and Wellness Commission. It is now PA 249.

HB 5414, sponsored by state Rep. Joe Haveman, lessens and will ultimately eliminate driver responsibility fees. Violations that trigger the fees will remain the same, however, any fees will be reduced and eliminated over a five-year period of time by Oct. 1, 2019. It is now PA 250.

HB 5558, sponsored by state Rep. Tom Leonard, clarifies the original intent of the legislature that insurance companies actions are governed by the Michigan Insurance Code, and not the Michigan Consumer Protection Act. It is now PA 251.

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