Lawmakers Dismissed for Recess Without Agreement on Workers’ Compensation Reform Bill
Leaders in the Legislature on Wednesday dismissed lawmakers for their spring recess, "ending any chance" for passage of a workers' compensation reform bill before the Friday deadline established by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), the Sacramento Bee reports. However, Senate President Pro Tempore John Burton (D-San Francisco) and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) told lawmakers to remain on 24-hour notice to return if negotiators reach an agreement on legislation during the recess (Chan, Sacramento Bee, 4/1). Schwarzenegger said that without an agreement in the near future, he will increase his efforts to qualify a Republican-supported workers' compensation reform measure for the November statewide ballot (California Healthline, 3/30). Schwarzenegger on Tuesday predicted that negotiators could reach an agreement on a bill by the end of the week, and other state officials have indicated that negotiators could reach an agreement by Thursday. However, Republican leaders said that they "aren't close to ironing out differences," the Bee reports. In the event that negotiators fail to reach an agreement on legislation by April 16, supporters of the ballot measure will submit signatures to qualify it to appear on the statewide November ballot (Sacramento Bee, 4/1).
The following are summaries of three editorials on workers' compensation reform.
Bakersfield Californian: The "vital reforms" needed for the state workers' compensation system "are too complex to be left to the bumper sticker/sound-bite oversimplification" of a ballot initiative, a Californian editorial states. "The only thing that would be worse" than Schwarzenegger's campaign pledge to put the issue on the ballot would be to "do nothing," and "if the Legislature hopes to preserve its credibility, members of both parties must pass a workers' compensation reform law by next week," the editorial says (Bakersfield Californian, 3/29).
Los Angeles Times: "There's no reason the governor and state Legislature can't fix" the state workers' compensation system; the "hard part is shutting out the noise generated by insurance companies, doctors, lawyers, unions and others with a financial interest in the outcome," a Times editorial states. Schwarzenegger's slogan of "join Arnold, fix workers' compensation and terminate fraud" is "simplistic," and any successful solution to the problem will have to avoid "hasty, one-sided 'reforms,'" the editorial concludes (Los Angeles Times, 3/31).
San Diego Union-Tribune: Lawmakers "should delay their Easter recess and stay in Sacramento until" they reach a deal on a workers' compensation reform bill, a move that is "fundamental to California's economic recovery," the Union-Tribune states in an editorial. Schwarzenegger promised to create a "rational system that provides savings to employers and improved care for injured workers," and to do that, "lawmakers on both sides of the aisle" must "stop posturing," agree to an objective medical standard, and "overcome a gauntlet of howling special interests," the editorial says (San Diego Union-Tribune, 4/1).
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Wednesday reported on the recent focus that Schwarzenegger has placed on the passage of a workers' compensation reform bill. According to NPR, Schwarzenegger is "spending both his time and political capital" on the effort, as well as the ballot measure campaign. The NPR segment includes comments from Nunez; Jack Pitney, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College; Schwarzenegger; and Samuel Sorich, president of the Association of California Insurance Companies (Myers, "All Things Considered," NPR, 3/31). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer. KQED's "California Report" on Wednesday also reported on workers' compensation reform. The segment includes comments from Assembly members John Campbell (R-Irvine), Ray Haynes (R-Temecula) and Juan Vargas (D-Chula Vista) and Schwarzenegger (Myers, "California Report," KQED, 3/31). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.