Workers' Compensation Proposals Heard in Senate Labor Committee

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

Capitol Update, April 25, 2003 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

On April 23rd, the Senate Labor & Industrial Relations Committee heard several bills aimed at reforming California's problematic workers' compensation system. In particular, Senator Chuck Poochigian (R-Fresno) presented SB 1010, which would roll back workers' compensation increases enacted in 2001-2002 until Governor Gray Davis declares the state's economy fully recovered from a recession that began in 2000.

With current workers' compensation costs at an unprecedented high, "SB 1010 would provide immediate action and relief to businesses, which is absolutely necessary as we begin to deal with this issue," explained Senator Poochigian.

Also testifying was Jack Stewart, CMTA President. "This legislation needs to address the skyrocketing costs of the work comp system and the impact that it is having on jobs and economic growth", said Stewart.

As expected, the hearing was attended by small business owners who came to share their workers' compensation stories. Many of them echoed tales of increased work comp fees, some up 400% from the previous year, while most businesses had not experienced increased claims.

It has been CMTA's position that if these increases continue to rise, businesses will be forced to lay off employees, cut back or eliminate benefits to their employees, and/or cease operations. Recent increases have simply become too much to absorb for most.

Despite substantial testimony from supporters of SB 1010, the committee ultimately defeated the bill. "We simply will not repeal any work comp benefits away from hard working individuals", said Senator Richard Alarcon (D-Sun Valley).

Out of the 14 workers' compensation bills brought before the Senate Committee, only four of them were passed, which signals to businesses that no substantial workers' comp reform is on the horizon.

Regardless of the outcome on SB 1010, California's legislature has a responsibility to enact reforms to the current workers' compensation system this session, which at the moment is a spiraling, defunct mess.
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