Workers Comp Zone


The 2013 California legislative season is over.

This year it ended with Governor Brown nixing six bills that either involved workers’ comp or had workers’ comp ramifications.

Here is a list of the six vetoed by Brown:

1. SB 258 (Lieu). Brown’s veto message indicated that he did not oppose the bill’s provisions that relate to assignment of medical liens and the prospective nature of the those changes. The Governor objected to the postion of SB 258 that would have required that all seven members of the WCAB be attorneys. Brown noted that “The existing option to appoint qualified non-attorneys to two of the seven slots is reasonable. I see no reason to limit future Governors in their authority to appoint members of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board.” Interestingly, SB 258 had been approved by the legislature essentially on a party line basis, with the GOP in opposition. Several slots on the WCAB have been vacant for some time.
In vetoing this bill Brown leaves himself the option to appoint non-lawyers to the WCAB.

2. SB 36 (Hueso) This bill would have required the California Department of Insurance to include on its Internet Web site a dedicated web page on workers’ comp data. The bill had sailed through the Assembly on a 78-0 vote and had the support of Voters Injured at Work and various physician groups, among others. Brown’s veto message said this:
“The information required to be posted online by the bill is already available publicly, including online, through the California Department of Insurance, the Department of Industrial Relations, the Workers’ Compensation Insurance rating Bureau and the Commission on Health, Safety and Workers’ Compensation. A new law is not required.”

3.AB 888 (Dickinson) AB 888 contained various provisions to give the California State Bar stronger enforcement tools to deal with the unauthorized practice of law. Brown’s veto stressed that in his view there were already adequate mechanisms and remedies to stop the unlicensed practice of law.

4. AB 1373 (Perez) AB 1373, sponsored by the Assembly Speaker John Perez, woud have extended the statute of limitations in certain circumstances to allow dependents of public safety officers to file a workers’ comp death claim. Sponsored by the California Professional Firefighters, the bill was aimed at protecting workers who survive more than 240 weeks after a diagnosis such as cancer or a blood borne illness, but who ultimately succumb to the disease. Brown’s veto message said as follows:
“This measure is identical to the one I vetoed last year. At that time I outlined the information I wanted to see before I would be in a position to properly evaluate the implications of this bill. The information is still forth coming.”

5. AB 454 (Dickinson) This bill would have required the average weekly earnings for an employee injured on a public works project to be taken at wages actually paid or the prevailing wage that was applicable to the work performed by the employee, whichever is greater. Brown’s veto message stated the following:
“I agree disability payments should be determined on the lawful wages paid, or that should have been paid, to an injured worker. I am not convinced that this is not the existing practice. Further, requiring a claims administrator to make prevailing wage determinations as this measure proposes is a bad idea.”
In vetoing the bill, Brown again shows that he will paddle a bit to the left and a bit to the right. AB 454 had been supported by Democrats and opposed by legislative Republicans.

6. AB 1165 (Skinner). This bill was aimed at requiring an employer to abate an alleged safety order violation while appealing an OSHA citation. Brown sided with the California Chamber of Commerce in opposing the measure.
Brown’s veto message indicated he shares concern about workplace safety risks, but opposed the measure because in his view it would “require the creation of a separate hearing process at the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, duplicating an expedited Cal/OSHA Appeals Board process which was recently adopted”.

In coming posts I will discuss some of the bills that were signed by Brown.

Stay tuned.

Julius Young

Category: Political developments