House Passes Workplace Violence Bill

The House of Representatives has passed bipartisan legislation that would establish standards for the health care and social services industries to develop comprehensive workplace violence prevention plans. The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1309) would require the Department of Labor to issue regulations within 42 months of the bill’s enactment to prevent violent attacks in the workplace, defined as any act or threat of force against an employee that could result in physical injury, psychological trauma, or stress. The bill requires that the plan would provide at least the same level of protection as provided by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-approved state workforce violence plans. Employers would have to implement the plan for covered employees within six months of the rule being issued. The legislation was passed by a vote of 251-158, with more than two dozen Republicans crossing party lines to support the measure. The White House has threatened to veto the bill. Opponents argue that it is too burdensome for industry and would circumvent the traditional rulemaking process.

Energy and Commerce Advances Maternal Mortality Bills

The House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced two bipartisan bills aimed at addressing the nation’s maternal mortality rate last week. The Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act (H.R. 4995) would combine the provisions of the Excellence in Maternal Health Act, to authorize grants to identify, develop, and disseminate maternal health quality best practices, support training for health professionals, and authorize grants for operating innovative, evidence-based programs that deliver integrated services to pregnant and post-partum women, and the Rural Moms Act, to provide funding for the establishment of rural obstetric networks for improving outcomes in birth and maternal morbidity. The Helping MOMS Act (H.R. 4996) would give states the option to cover pregnant and postpartum women for a year instead of 60 days. Both bills passed the panel by voice vote. They have not been scheduled for a floor vote yet, but Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has said that they are a priority for Democrats. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee is reportedly in conversations with Energy and Commerce to ensure that the measures reach the President’s desk.

Vaping Remains at the Center of Bipartisan, Bicameral Attention

Efforts to address the rising number of teenagers using vaping products as well as incidents of lung illness and deaths tied to e-cigarettes have been energized in light of recent reports that seem to indicate that the White House is retreating from its earlier proposal to ban flavored e-cigarette products. Chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) has written to the White House and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requesting an update on the status of the rule on vaping flavors. President Trump and administration officials had previously pledged to remove all flavored vaping products from the market, but the latest reports imply that the White House is reconsidering such policy. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) completed its review of an electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) proposed rule on November 4, but the rule has yet to be published.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act (H.R. 2339) last week. The bill would ban all flavored tobacco products, raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21, and prohibit the online sale of e-cigarettes. It would also require graphic health warnings for product packaging and advertising. The legislation was advanced by a vote of 28-24. Panel Republicans argued that the legislation goes too far in restricting legal products for law-abiding adults, fearing that it will send individuals to the black market while not doing enough to address the sale of illegal products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Some Democrats also expressed concerns about the discriminatory impact of banning menthol-flavored products. Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), one of the bill’s sponsors, has said that the legislation will see a House floor vote by the end of the year. It is unclear how the bill will fare in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) focus is limited to raising the purchasing age to address the increase in youth vaping rates.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) also released its cost estimate of H.R. 4742 last week. The bill, which was reported out of the Ways and Means Committee by a vote of 24-15, would levy a tax on vaping products that would produce $9.9 billion in revenue over the next decade.

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