Governor Acts on Workers' Comp Bills
Signatures and vetoes signal continued vigilance by Brown Administration
Several pieces of legislation impacting California’s workers’ compensation insurance environment were sent to Governor Jerry Brown in the closing days of the 2013 legislative year. The deadline for Governor Brown to sign or veto those measures has now passed and Governor Brown has once again demonstrated his pragmatic approach to this issue.
AB 454 (Dickenson) – Temporary Disability and Prevailing Wage
Sponsored by the California Applicant Attorneys Association (CAAA), AB 454 was first introduced to require TD benefits to be paid based on the prevailing wage (as opposed to the actual wages of the injured worker) in cases where the injured worker was inappropriately paid less than prevailing wage.
CCWC and our coalition partners aggressively opposed AB 454 because it would have required appeals board judges, or potentially claims administrators, to make determinations on the applicability of prevailing wage orders even when the wage dispute had not been adjudicated through the existing process at the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR). CCWC worked with the author and sponsor to craft a workable compromise, but the version of AB 454 that ultimately went to Governor Brown does require the appeals board to make a determination where there is a prevailing wage dispute.
Governor Brown VETOED AB 454 on October 13, 2013. The veto message indicated that the Governor supported the stated intent, but that the approach was unworkable.
AB 607 (Perea) – Workers’ Compensation: Dependent Children
This bill, which was sponsored by the Police Officers’ Research Association of California (PORAC), clarifies eligibility of death benefits for the totally disabled children of deceased workers. Existing law limits the scope of a death benefit to cases where there is a merely partially dependent surviving spouse, denying the expanded "disabled child" a death benefit where there is a fully dependent surviving spouse. AB 607 would ensure that a totally disabled dependent child, regardless of age or status of their surviving parent, obtains the death benefits they are entitled to a disabled child of an employee who dies as a result of a job-related injury.
CCWC took no position on AB 607 because our membership was not concerned with any portion of the legislation. Governor Brown SIGNED AB 607 on October 13, 2013.
AB 1373 (Speaker Perez) – Public Safety Offer Death Benefits
Sponsored by the California Professional Firefighters, AB 1373 would extend the statute of limitations for filing a death claim related to certain public safety officer presumption claims to 480 weeks.
This is the second time this legislation has been attempted – in 2012 Governor Brown vetoed AB 2451 (Speaker Perez) because of the lack of objective evidence justifying the bill and identifying the related costs. There continues to be no new evidence supporting this legislation, but there are two studies underway that may help inform future efforts on this subject.
A NIOSH study due out in 2014 will help shed light on the question of need by examining whether firefighters have a higher risk of cancer than the general public. A CHSWC study due out in the next six months will shed light on the potential cost of the policy change anticipated in AB 1373. A recent update on the NIOSH study does indicate that firefighters do indeed have a higher rate of cancer than the average population.
CCWC asked Governor Brown to stand by his earlier veto of AB 2451 and once again reject this policy change until objective evidence establishes a need and identifies the cost to local governments and the state. Fortunately, Governor Brown VETOED AB 1371 on October 13, 2013. The veto message was simply a brief restatement of his previous concerns about cost and need.
AB 1376 (Hernandez) – Interpreter Certification Compliance Date
Sponsored by Voters Injured at Work, AB 1376 was gutted and amended at the end of the legislative session. The bill extends the deadline for interpreters to be certified by three months in order to give interpreters time to comply with recently finalized regulations.
Proponents of the measure indicated that confusion over implementation of the interpreter certification regulations caused the need for the minor delay in this requirement. CCWC worked with the members of our Government Relations Committee and Board of Directors to determine that there was no cost associated with this requested change.
CCWC currently has no position on this bill and we did not request a specific action from Governor Brown, who SIGNED the bill on October 13, 2013.
SB 809 (DeSaulnier) – Controlled Substances: Reporting
Sponsored by the California Attorney General, SB 809 initially would have provided a consistent funding stream for the CURES Program and required physicians to register for and utilize the CURES database when prescribing certain drugs. Unfortunately, the bill was whittled down to focus purely on funding and no longer requires physician use of the program.
CCWC continued to support SB 809, even with its reduced scope, because it is a step in the right direction. Prescription drug abuse takes a heavy toll on injured workers and results in massive costs for employers. A financially stable prescription drug monitoring program is a necessity if we are to one day require physicians to engage in due diligence prior to prescribing dangerous drugs to injured workers.
Governor Brown SIGNED SB 809 on September 27, 2013.