The Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council (WCAC) held its November meeting on the 30th in Baton Rouge and introduced new draft by-laws (see full document below) for the Council.
The by-laws restate the purpose of the Council to “review and make recommendations to the Governor, through the Louisiana Workforce Commission, on any proposed rules affecting the administration or resolution of claims provided for in the Workers’ Compensation Act” plus recommendations to the Legislature on proposed legislation. Further, the by-laws address the makeup of the seventeen members of the WCAC by affiliation (of which three vacancies currently remain) and code of conduct. Several members offered technical corrections.
Regarding the content of the by-laws, Council member Michael Morris of the Homebuilders SIF voiced concern over language in the document in Article VIII Section 1. The section reads:
“Representations. No member of the council shall either take any action or make any representation on behalf of the council which is incompatible with the council’s objectives.”
Morris said that he would like to make clear that lobbying in the Legislature by WCAC members is allowed and occurs with regularity. Julie Cherry chimed in on this point, suggesting that the matter can be handled as it has been in the past, that when testifying in Committee, any WCAC members must make clear that they do not represent the Council.
Another point of contention in the draft was related to voting in Article VIII Section 7, which states:
“Voting. All business of the council shall be determined by the majority vote of the council members present.”
Morris said that this provision would be departure from previous policy, which dictated a supermajority (three-quarters vote) instead of a simple majority for voting, including when the Council votes favorably or unfavorably on pending legislation before it reaches Committee. “I think of benefit of doing [a supermajority vote] is that our success rate on that legislation is very good,” Morris explained. OWCA Director and WCAC Chair Sheral Kellar said she open to either option, but that supermajority would need to be defined. However, a simple majority was preferred by some members, including WCAC Vice-chair Chuck Davoli.
“That’s the way we’ve been doing it but I’ve never liked it,” Davoli said. “The trouble that I have with [the supermajority policy] is that the only bills that would ever have a firm recommendation to the legislature are the ones that have a supermajority. So most of the bills, the Council took no action, or at least that’s how it’s interpreted by the Legislature.”
In response to the concerns, Director Kellar said that she will accept recommendations and that the Council will not vote on the by-laws until the next meeting set for January 26th, 2017.
The Council also added an agenda item regarding information requests about workers’ comp claims and a proposed change of policy at the OWCA. Kellar explained that the Office frequently receives public information requests from recruiters about workers’ compensation matters tied to job candidates. Since anything with a judge’s signature, including settlements which can include medical information, is technically public information, the OWCA is concerned that it is aiding violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). To remedy this, the Office is working on a form for these requests that would inform the worker that someone is seeking information about them from the Workforce Commission. Kellar also said that her office is considering a $25 fee for these requests to defray the cost to the agency.
Additional announcements included:
- OWCA Fraud section manager Kaye Fournet is retiring.
- Attorney and former WCAC member Greg Hubachek and OWCA Judge Charlotte Bushnell will be on Director Kellar’s personal Advisory Council. Three additional appointees will be named next year.
- The next three meetings of the WCAC are tentatively set for January 26th, February 23rd and March 23rd, 2017 at the LaSalle building (617 N 3rd St) in Baton Rouge.
Image Credit: NPR/KUT 90.5 “The Psychology of Voting“