by Alissa C. Atkins, Esq.

Late last month, House Representatives Jason Shaw and Chad Nimmer, along with four others, submitted HB 818 to the 2015-16 regular session of the Georgia General Assembly. The bill seeks to do the following:

• Increase the maximum average weekly wage from $550 to $575 per week (but maintain minimum TTD exposure at $50 per week, unless the weekly wage is below $50)
• Increase the temporary partial disability maximum from $367 to $383 per week
• Increase total compensation payable under O.C.G.A. § 34-9-265 for compensation in a death claim from $220,000 to $230,000
• Make the Board’s Administrative Law Judges subject to the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct
• Require employers seeking to be designated as self-insured to provide the Board “sufficient information for the Board to make an adequate assessment of the employer’s workers’ compensation exposure and liabilities”
• Make additional revisions to the Self-Insurer’s Guaranty Trust Fund

The bill was created with the assistance of the Advisory Council to the State Board, and came out of the Industry and Labor Committee, of which Mr. Shaw is the Chairman and Mr. Nimmer the Vice Chairman. From what I am hearing down at the Capitol, since the bill has the support of the House Industry and Labor Committee and the Board, it is likely to pass.

There are two other bills, SB 29 and its companion HB 216, which seek to create a rebuttable presumption that “diseases of life” suffered by firefighters are work-related. The bills seek to revise occupational disease provisions to cover such diseases as high blood pressure, heart attacks, respiratory diseases and cancer which manifests after exposure to a known carcinogen. These bills were previously introduced last year and were withdrawn. Both pertain only to firefighters in their current form. We have heard talk suggesting that the bills may be amended to apply to all workers, but to date this has not happened and given that the bills failed to pass last year, it seems unlikely that the legislature would approve an even more controversial version this session.

We will of course keep you updated. Should you have any questions regarding these bills or any pending Georgia legislation, please contact me here.