Man the Battle Stations
Only two weeks into the new legislative session, the battles over insurance are already forming along familiar lines.
On one side is Republican Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush, whose office serves as the headwaters of a stream of industry-friendly policy and legislation. On the other side is Sen. Herschel Rosenthal, the North Hollywood Democrat who chairs the Senate Insurance Committee and revels in the role of industry watchdog and consumer advocate.
Each side is planning a major offensive with potentially dramatic consequences for business and consumers.
Rosenthal has introduced two emergency financing bills to beef up the Insurance Department's consumer services unit, which investigates complaints against insurance companies. Once boasting a staff of 131, the unit is being cut to 74 positions, prompting criticism from consumer groups who fear complaints will go uninvestigated.
Rosenthal's bills would funnel about $24 million to the unit--$10 million the state took away from the department to help balance the 1992-93 state budget and $14 million in excess Proposition 103 refund money.
State insurance officials and industry representatives say they back Rosenthal's bills "in their current form." Translation: The first hint that insurance companies would have to pony up money to support the consumers unit will produce formidable opposition.
"We believe the people who use this service should support it," said Barry Carmody, president of the Assn. of California Insurance Companies.
For his part, Quackenbush made headlines this week for his plans to let insurance companies slash benefits in their long-term- care policies, which typically provide health-care services at home and nursing home care for the elderly who become disabled.
* Karl W. Jaeger of Covina. Jaeger, 60, has been named a Superior Court judge for Los Angeles County. He had been a Municipal Court judge for the county since 1987 and has worked as an attorney for Weiner & Weiss in Covina and for Coyle & Deuford in Hollywood. No Senate confirmation. Salary: $107,390.
* Melody A. Henriques of Highland. Henriques, 38, has been reappointed to the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, which is responsible for water quality and use. She is a Realtor and a broker for Lois Lauer Realty in Highland. Senate confirmation required. No salary.
* Euiwon Chough of Anaheim. Chough, 65, has been reappointed to the Fair Employment and Housing Commission, which is responsible for enforcing civil rights laws in employment and housing. He is the owner of C. Printgraphics, an Anaheim-based printing business, and has worked as a technical specialist for General Dynamics and a research specialist for Rockwell International. Senate confirmation required. No salary.
These appointments were made this month by the governor.
A quick look at some business-related bills recently introduced:
* Small-Business Incentives (AB 66)
Would grant small businesses a five-year exemption from paying property taxes on the first $100,000 worth of their property. The bill, an attempt to encourage small-business start-ups, is likely to win support from the California Small Business Assn., which backed a similar measure last session. Likely opponents include the California State Assn. of Counties, whose members would see their tax revenue drop. Author: Joe Baca (D-San Bernardino).
* Tobacco Liability (SB 67)
Would eliminate a 9-year-old state law granting tobacco companies immunity from product liability lawsuits. That protection has made it virtually impossible for people suffering from tobacco-related illnesses to sue tobacco companies. Supporters include the American Heart Assn. of California and the American Lung Assn. of California. Author: Quentin Kopp (I-San Francisco).
* Employee Time Off (AB 47)
Would allow employees to take off up to 40 hours a year toparticipate in the activities of their children at day-carecenters. Employees would be limited to eight hours a month. Likely supporters include child advocates, whilebusiness interests are expected to fight the proposal.Author: Kevin Murray (D-Los Angeles).
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