A Trio of Problematic Bills Heads to Committee Hearings Next Week
April 15, 2016
CSAC is opposing three bills that are all coming up in committees on Wednesday, April 20. CSAC will keep counties apprised of any developments.
AB 1643 Would Remove the Science in Workers’ Compensation Apportionment
A coalition of 22 organizations have joined together to oppose AB 1643 (Gonzalez), which would prohibit apportionment of workers’ compensation benefits from being based on pregnancy, menopause, osteoporosis, or carpal tunnel syndrome, or for a psychiatric injury occurring from disability or impairment caused by any of these conditions. CSAC and its partners oppose AB 1643 because it undermines objectivity based on scientific, medical facts. California’s current workers’ compensation system uses the American Medical Association (AMA) guidelines for determining impairment as the basis for establishing permanent disability awards. The AMA provides an objective, peer-reviewed, and nationally recognized methodology for measuring permanent impairment; this bill, on the other hand, would edit the guidelines on a non-scientific basis, resulting in a nonsensical system.
Proponents of the bill argue that the current system is biased against women, and the changes included in the bill would help provide a level playing field. However, the current system does not allow for discrimination in any way, and there is no evidence that women receive lower permanent disability ratings due to their gender. The California Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the current system of apportionment is legal when supported by sufficient evidence. This bill will be heard by the Assembly Insurance Committee.
AB 2577 would extend presumptions for respiratory illnesses
AB 2577 (Chu) would extend a presumption under the state’s workers’ compensation law to active firefighters and peace officers who develop a respiratory illness or disease in the course of employment. Current law provides some peace officers and firefighters this type of presumption that cancer, heart trouble, pneumonia, and hernias are work related, meaning that the burden of proof is shifted to the employer to prove that the injury did not happen at work. This type of case must be handled through the court system, creating a great deal of cost and time for public employers.
CSAC is opposed to AB 2577, along with other local agency associations. The opposition is not aware of any analysis that would illustrate a need for this expansion, and current law would already allow individuals with respiratory illnesses make a case for workers’ compensation in the current system. This bill would add costs and burdens to employers unnecessarily. This bill will be heard by the Assembly Insurance Committee.
AB 2257 would require redundant website work
AB 2257 (Maienschein) would add several requirements regarding online posting of local meeting agendas. Specifically, agendas would have to be posted on the local agency’s homepage accessible through a prominent, direct link to the current agenda, and the agenda would need to be posted in an open format that meets a variety of technical requirements, including retrievable, downloadable, indexable, and electronically searchable by common search engines; platform independent and machine readable; and available to the public free of charge and without any restructure that will impede the reuse or redistribution.
CSAC currently has an “oppose unless amended” position on this bill. Many counties have already invested time and money to create centralized agenda management portals to provide easy access to agendas and content. The purpose of this method is so the public is directed to one central webpage where they can find agendas and materials for any public meeting under the county’s purview. Requiring each board and commission with a website to post a direct link to its agenda on its homepage would be redundant and likely confusing, given the information already available. AB 2257 would also require many counties to perform technological changes to meet the requirements in the bill. Counties strive to provide citizens with information in the most current and technologically savvy methods, but it is important to note that this work is no longer reimbursable. Finally, the January 1, 2017 date presents an unreasonably short timeline for such major technical changes.
This bill will be heard by the Assembly Local Government Committee.