“Virtual” 2021 Legislative Session to Get Underway on Monday, January 10
Although House and Senate leaders previously anticipated that the 2022 Legislative Session would be able to operate under a “hybrid” model, with most legislators working on the House and Senate Floors “in person”, increased risks associated with the Omicron COVID-19 variant have caused leaders to change their minds. Accordingly, House and Senate leaders have announced that the 60-day 2022 Legislative session will be convene almost entirely in “virtual space”. For at least the first two weeks of the 2022 Legislative Session, operations will be conducted in much the same way as the entire 2021 Legislative session was handled.
The Capital Campus, including the Legislative Building and all House/Senate office buildings and hearings rooms, will be entirely closed to the public, and all “in person” meetings with the public have been suspended. All hearings will be conducted through Zoom or other virtual formats. Last year’s process for the public and interested stakeholders to register to provide testimony at hearings will remain unchanged. It already appears that many legislators have made it clear that they will not be physically in Olympia for the start of the 2022 Legislative session, and that they will participate in hearings and Senate/House floor activities from their home offices. Only a small handful of legislative leaders will likely be in Olympia—primarily for procedural purposes on the House and Senate floors in the Capital Building, but almost all actual activity will be handled remotely. Senate leaders have indicated that a maximum of 15 of the Senate’s 49 Senators will be allowed on the Senate floor—8 Democrats and 7 Republicans. It will be very similar to how the 2021 Legislative Session was handled.
Due to these circumstances, legislative leaders in the House and Senate have advised legislators that there will simply not be the ability to consider and process the same number of bills as would normally be considered during the 2022 60-day legislative session. Accordingly, legislators have been asked to limit the number of bills that they introduce, and Committee Chairs have been asked to focus on top priorities for the session—establishing supplemental budget; racial equity; COVID-19 response; economic recovery; and global climate change.
Senate Committee to Consider Bill Allowing Insurers to Use Credit-Based Insurance Scores, But Only if the Credit Information Improves the Consumer’s Rate
The Senate Business, Financial Services & Trade Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday, January 11 at 8:00 a.m. to consider SB 5623—a measure that has been introduced Senator Mark Mullet (D, 5th District). The bill would establish a “better only” structure for the use of credit-based insurance scores, modeled after legislation that has been enacted in Oregon. The bill would allow Credit-Based Insurance Scores (CBIS) as a factor in rating new personal lines policies, but for renewals, CBIS would only be able to be used as a factor if it improves the consumer’s rate.
On his website, Insurance Commissioner Kreidler, continues to express support for SB 5010, which was introduced in the 2021 Legislative Session. As introduced, SB 5010 would have banned the use of CBIS in personal lines of property and casualty insurance. Following hearings on the bill, the measure was amended to provide that CBIS could be used, but only if it improves a consumer’s insurance score and lowers premiums. Commissioner Kreidler expressed vigorous opposition to the amended version of the bill. The amended bill died on the Senate floor at the end of the 2021 Legislative session, when it was not brought to a vote on the Senate floor. The measure has been referred to the “X file” in the Senate Rules Committee, and it appears unlikely to be considered during the 2022 Legislative session.
New Prejudgment Interest Bill Introduced in the House
Rep. David Hackney (D, 11th District) has pre-filed for introduction HB 1754—a measure that would establish prejudgment interest on most actions accruing from the date of the cause of action at two points above the prime interest rate. For medical malpractice claims, interest would bear interest from the date of entry of judgment at two points above the prime interest rate.
The bill is similar to SB 5155, which was considered and approved by the Senate Law and Justice Committee in the 2021 Legislative session. The measure died in the Senate Rules Committee, and it is unclear whether it will be considered again in the 2022 Legislative Session or if a new Senate bill will be introduced on the issue.
Various Issues Likely to be Considered in the 2022 Legislative Session
In addition to bills on credit-based insurance scoring and prejudgment interest, insurers expect legislators to consider an array of other issues:
-Possible consideration of two bills on “Extraordinary Life Circumstances” (HB 1351/SB 5409) that were considered, but not passed, during the 2021 Legislative Session. Both are available to be considered in the 2022 Legislative Session;
-An OIC request bill seeking to enact the NAIC Cybersecurity Model Bill. Insurers have informally offered the OIC a series of suggested revisions to the draft. The OIC has yet to respond to the suggested revisions;
-Legislation on data privacy may again be considered. Efforts to enact a California-based data privacy measure have failed in each of the last three years. It’s possible that proponents may break the issue into several small bills in an effort to move pieces of the larger bill forward;
-A bill on auto insurance claims, repair, and appraisals is likely to be considered. An informal draft has been circulated, and remains under review;
-Plaintiff lawyers are expected to introduce a bill that would increase the dollar threshold for matters that are subject to Washington’s Mandatory Arbitration requirements. The issue is certain to be objectionable to insurers, defense lawyers, and others.
OIC Prepares Legislative Proposals
Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has prepared a package of legislative proposals that he intends to submit to the 2022 Legislature. A link to the OIC’s legislative priorities can be found at https://www.insurance.wa.gov/legislative-priorities .
The OIC’s request bills include:
-Updates to the Balance Billing Protection Act (SB 1688 Protecting consumers from charges for out-of-network health care services). Insurance Commissioner Kreidler is proposing legislation to align state and federal law, while preserving critical consumer protections in Washington’s Balance Billing Protection Act.
-Washington Life and Disability Insurance Guaranty Association (SB 5508 Concerning the insurance guaranty fund). The OIC’s proposal expands the Washington State Life and Disability Guaranty Association membership, adding HMO’s and Health Care Service Contractors to the membership of the WLDGA to provide for larger assessment capacity. The measure also provides equitable distributions of assessments, in order to protect Washington state insurance policyholders.
-A proposal to prohibit property and casualty insurers from using credit-based insurance scoring in personal lines of insurance. See SB 5010;
-Insurance Data Security. Insurance Commissioner Kriedler is proposing legislation to enact the NAIC cybersecurity model act.
Legislature to Consider Cut-Off Resolution for the Consideration of Bills
During the first few days of the 2022 Legislative session the Senate and House will consider a cut-off resolution establishing dates for the consideration of bills. The proposed cut-off dates that are likely to be included in this resolution are as follows:
February 3—the last day for committees in the House of origin to take action on bills;
February 7—the last day for Fiscal committees in the House of origin to take action on bills;
February 15—the last day for the House of origin to take action on bills;
February 24—the last day for committees in the opposite House to take action on bills;
February 28—the last day for Fiscal committees in the opposite House to take action on bills;
March 4—the last day for the opposite House to take action on bills (except exempt bills and bills passed by both Houses in different forms);
March 10—the last day of the 2021 Regular Legislative Session