Golden State Lawmakers Send Workers Comp Bill to State House

April 16, 2004 ( - California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger got his wish Friday as state lawmakers gave overwhelming approval to comprehensive workers' compensation reform heralded as a money saver for employers.

>The bill, which Schwarzenegger has promised to sign into law on Monday, also reduces insurance benefits and treatment options for injured workers. The state Assembly voted 77-3 to adopt the measure and Senate followed suit with a 33-3 vote in favor, according to a Los Angeles Times report.

>In expectation of the bill’s passage, Schwarzenegger Thursday withdrew his workers’ compensation ballot measure that he had threatened to put before the voters in case the legislature had failed to act.

>The Democratic leadership praised the workers’ comp bill, which was crafted after weeks of intense, closed-door meetings, as one that was more palatable than what was proposed in the Schwarzenegger’s ballot measure. However, Democrats and union officials warned that the measure failed to cap insurance company premiums and didn’t guarantee that insurance companies pass along any savings to employers.

>The reform legislation also cut some disability payments and benefits for workers who are able to return to work, even for light duty. Employers would also be allowed to create a network of doctors to treat injured workers and insurance companies would face fewer penalties for late payments.

Sources involved in crafting the bill have spoken about a “ballpark” estimate that the proposed reforms could cut $4 billion to $7 billion in costs out of the state’s $22-billion system for aiding injured workers.