Key Bills Headed to Governor's Desk
While Nothing Approaches Magnitude of 2012 Reforms,
Four Notable Measures Clear the Legislative Process
California’s legislative session concluded at approximately 12:30 a.m. on Friday, September 13. While it was a comparatively quiet year with respect to legislation on the topic of workers’ compensation, several important bills are on Governor Brown’s desk awaiting a signature or veto.
Workers’ compensation bills on the Governor’s desk include:
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). Prevailing wage disputes can be quite complex, and CCWC was opposed to burdening claims administrators and the appeals board when a process is already available through DIR.
CCWC worked with the author and sponsor to craft a bill that would expedite the existing process in situations where an injured worker had a prevailing wage dispute. CCWC removed its opposition based on these amendments. DIR unfortunately tagged that version of the bill with a $250,000 implementation cost, which forced the author to once again amend the bill to eliminate cost and get it passed out of the fiscal committee. The version of AB 454 that ultimately went to Governor Brown once again requires the appeals board to make a determination where there is a prevailing wage dispute.
CCWC is actively seeking a veto of AB 454.
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.
CCWC has 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.
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 have not asked the Governor to sign or veto the legislation.
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 continues 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.
CCWC has asked Governor Brown to sign SB 809.
Governor Brown has until October 13 to sign or veto bills on his desk. Any bill that is not signed or vetoed automatically becomes law