SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown is personally lobbying lawmakers, businesses and labor unions to round up enough votes to pass a major overhaul of California’s $17-billion workers’ compensation insurance program.
Brown and top aides held a series of midday meetings Friday in the office of Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. Players in the complex deal point to the Senate as a potential stumbling block in getting a workers’ comp bill approved before the Legislature adjourns for the year Friday night.
“I am now an advocate,” said Steinberg (D-Sacramento), who had been noncommittal toward the bill, SB 683, over the last three weeks.
Another powerful Capitol interest group, the California Chamber of Commerce, also came out in favor of the proposal, which would boost benefits for permanently disabled workers at the same time it cuts costs for business employees by streamlining the provision of medical care and compensation to victims of on-the-job injuries and illnesses.
The bill’s major opponents are advocates for some injured workers and the lawyers who represent them. They fear that the legal rewrite is being rushed and could create unintended consequences that could actually reduce benefits.
The bill by Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles), which first emerged three weeks ago, is expected to get a first vote from the Assembly Insurance Committee on Friday afternoon. If approved, as expected, it would go first to the Assembly floor and then to the Senate for final consideration.
The bill has made a spectacular turnaround since being considered almost dead late Thursday when numerous senators criticized it during a closed-door meeting of the Democratic caucus.
That’s when Brown personally entered the fray by holding meetings with stakeholders, including doctors, insurance companies, unions and business trade groups, until after midnight.
In a statement released Friday, Brown called the workers’ compensation proposal “an extraordinary bill that will avert an imminent crisis where workers suffer and rates will skyrocket...
“We have the chance to fix a problem before it becomes a crisis.”