Senate Committee Votes To Recommend Confirmation of Hoch
The Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday voted 3-2 to recommend the confirmation of Division of Workers' Compensation Administrative Director Andrea Hoch, despite protests from workers' compensation claimants and union leaders, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Ainsworth, San Diego Union-Tribune, 4/28).
Hoch is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate on Tuesday, the Sacramento Bee reports.
DWC has 1,172 employees and a budget of $135.3 million for fiscal year 2004-2005 (Chan, Sacramento Bee, 4/28).
Hoch has been criticized for her role in implementing new workers' compensation rules Jan. 1 that changed the formula for calculating permanent disability payments. Under the new rules, some payments will be reduced by as much as 70%.
During the hearing, Hoch said, "We need to redirect our focus on the ability of workers to return to work."
During more than four hours of testimony on Wednesday, Art Pulaski, executive secretary of the California Labor Federation, and attorneys for workers' compensation claimants said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) had not fulfilled pledges he made to Democrats in negotiating the reform law, SB 899 (Lifsher, Los Angeles Times, 4/28).
Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D), who cast the deciding vote in favor of Hoch, said he will ask Schwarzenegger to restore payments to permanently disabled workers (San Diego Union-Tribune, 4/28). Perata also said he would re-evaluate options for paying injured workers with the governor and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) (Lohse, San Jose Mercury News, 4/28).
Pulaski said, "Today Don Perata joined Gov. Schwarzenegger in abandoning workers who are plainly disabled" (Los Angeles Times, 4/28). He added, "The governor has demonstrated he is not interested in a bill that protects injured workers. Sen. Perata turned a blind eye to injured workers" (Sacramento Bee, 4/28).
Allen Zaremberg, president of the California Chamber of Commerce, said, "Hoch has done an excellent job carrying out the reforms. Your vote in favor of her confirmation is a vote that will deliver more cost savings to employers" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 4/28).
Regarding workers' compensation insurance benefits, Schwarzenegger spokesperson Vince Sollitto said, "If statistical evidence shows that the regulations are not meeting the desired public policy goal, of course, the administration will be willing to discuss how to improve them. The law requires it" (Sacramento Bee, 4/28).
Several broadcast programs reported recently on workers' compensation insurance costs. Summaries are provided below.
- KCRW's "Which Way, L.A.?": The segment includes comments from Susan Gard, public information officer for the Division of Workers' Compensation; Pete Moraga, spokesperson for the Insurance Information Network of California; and Rick Wooley, past president of the California Applicants' Attorneys Association and a practicing workers' compensation attorney (Olney, "Which Way, L.A.?," KCRW, 4/26). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- KPBS' "KPBS News": The segment includes comments from Steve Hopcrat with CAAA (Goldberg, "KPBS News," KPBS, 4/26). The complete transcript is available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- KQED's "The California Report": The segment includes comments from Dave Bellusci, senior vice president of the Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau; Liz Doyle, policy director for the California Labor Federation; and Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi (D) (Musiker, "The California Report," KQED, 4/26). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.