Workers’ Comp Conference Committee Members Appointed

By Loretta Macktal, Executive Assistant to the Vice President, Government Relations

Capitol Update, Aug. 1, 2003 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

Now that a state budget has been passed, perhaps the Legislature will turn its full attention to another issue in crisis, workers’ compensation, when they return from summer recess on August 18. Republican Leaders of both houses, Senator Jim Brulte (Rancho Cucamonga) and Assemblyman Dave Cox (Fair Oaks) sent a joint letter to Governor Gray Davis asking him to call a special session for workers’ compensation. Word from the governor's office is the request will be considered.

On July 24, the Senate appointed the following to the workers' compensation conference committee: Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee Chair Richard Alarcon (D-Sun Valley), Senate President pro Tempore John Burton (D-San Francisco) and Charles Poochigian (R-Fresno). The Assembly Speaker appointments, announced July 31, were: Assembly Insurance Committee Chair Juan Vargas (D-San Diego), Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) and Ken Maddox (R-Garden Grove).

Employers are eagerly awaiting the announcement of meeting dates. There are twenty workers’ compensation bills with Legislative intent language covering a broad range of issues that were referred to the conference committee, so employers believe that all issues are on the table. With insurance premium increases averaging 30-50% annually and medical costs almost doubling over the past three years, it is clear that some substantive changes must be made to reduce costs. As a result of high workers’ compensation costs, many employers have been forced out of business, have reduced hours and number of workers, delayed raises, eliminated health care programs, or delayed contributions to pension plans etc. to reduce operating costs in order to stay in business. Other businesses have given up on California and relocated to other states with the subsequent loss of good jobs for many Californians. Employers are now encouraged because every member of the legislature has heard from their constituents who are complaining about the extremely high cost of workers’ compensation and the negative impact it is having on their business. As a result, every legislator has a stake in the work of this committee and the reforms that they will put into their report to reduce workers’ compensation costs.

Many experienced lobbyists believe that a conference committee created solely for the purpose of dealing with workers’ compensation reform provides an opportunity for employer success. A major advantage is that the committee can meet as often and as long as the chairs deems necessary without concern for bill deadlines. Parties at interest will have more opportunities to present their position, offer alternative solutions and perhaps even observe the development of the final report.

No meeting dates have been announced publicly. CMTA's best information is that upon their return from summer recess on August 18, the committee will meet several times over the last two weeks of August and use the early part of September to prepare their committee report to the full legislature. The Legislature is schedule to adjourn on September 12, 2003.
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