Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Proponents of CA Reform Lack Muscle Man Strategy

The drama of California reform efforts is increasing with the cancellation of a hearing that was set for this afternoon before the Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations.

The Committee was to take into consideration the proposed draft legislation that many were expecting would be amended into SB 863, a bill authored by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, on Tuesday. As of Tuesday afternoon though, no reform legislation had been introduced.

The California Workers’ Compensation Services Association (CWCSA) called the proposed bill “the most harmful attacks on our industry since SB 899,” a reform measure passed in 2004 under the administration of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA) said the reform proposal was “worse than SB 899.”

The California Society of Industrial Medicine and Surgery (CSIMS) suggested that it would be preferable to hold off on introducing a bill this year, hold a series of stakeholder meetings throughout the rest of the year and, if necessary, introduce a measure with an urgency clause when lawmakers convene the 2014 legislative session in January.

And Voters Injured at Work (VIW) criticized while Angie Wei, legislative director for the California Labor Federation, who negotiated on behalf of labor, for consulting with VIW about any of the proposed changes and did not provide a copy of the draft legislation.

“I had to get a copy from somebody else,” Jesse Ceniceros, president of VIW told WorkCompCentral. “We’re not even considered a player in this. I guess we’re the uninvited guest.”

Proponents of the proposed bill are much more muted than the opposition.

One person in the WorkCompCentral Forums took on the opposition:

"I fail to see all - or much of anything - horrible, drastic, or making huge, radical changes, much less anything really "bad" in the proposed changes, as described by the list. 

"At some point, all those hollering so loudly need to look at how our closer neighbors - Oregon and Washington - handle comp claims and what the worker gets out of it. We've been riding a workers' and provider's gravy train here, and I've been wondering for years and years when it was all going to collapse. 

"And IMHO, most of the long-overdue collapse is due to the extent to which every reasonable change of any kind is litigated to the death, over and over, in every possible way, by those who stand to benefit, or lose, depending. As witness the outcry over the death of the ancient monster of LC 5814 when SB 899 passed. "

But as reported repeatedly in various media outlets, the proposed bill's chief negotiators, Grimmway Farms' Sean McNally and Wei, have remained silent. Both Wei and McNally are members of the Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation which Wei currently chairs.

And other than the conclusory statement by Department of Industrial Relations Director Christine Baker that the changes would increase permanent disability indemnity by $700M and reduce overall costs by $1.5B, there has been very little other marketing attempts to make the changes seem more palatable.

This is hard scrabble politics. From my chair, proponents' strategy appears to come from the "armstrong" school of thought: ram the law through via secrecy, subterfuge and brute force.

While this may indeed be a viable strategy out of the politician's playbook, it broods distrust and contempt.

Or maybe proponents just don't have their script together yet. Maybe they aren't ready to debate the merits of what was put together.

But one would think that there is some data, some study, some information somewhere that can logically support the proposed changes because that information will need to go to legislators for there to be an informed vote.

If there is, proponents should share it now - unless their strategy is indeed the "armstrong" method.

An alternative that no one is willing to debate is a complete dismantling of the system. It seems that SOME workers' compensation system is better than none.

SB 899 was passed because of the threat of voter initiatives should the Legislature take no action. Laws created by an initiative can not be changed by the Legislature - only the voters can do so - and that is a huge threat because system tweaks can not be accomplished. 

What if the proposed changes were backed by a voter initiative that got rid of work comp?

Now THAT would be an "armstrong" strategy - perhaps that's why it took a Muscle Man to push through SB 899.


  1. Didn't know until now, that you had a blog as well as Work Comp Central, David! Nice to see it, and I like the writing.

  2. And nice to see also that you chose to select my posting to include in your blog. I will keep on posting on WorkCompCentral.
    signed, Ozzie

  3. Thank you Unknown and many thanks to you Ozzie for providing some early morning inspiration!

  4. As corrupt as CA legislature is, I'd like to have Ted Lieu investigated. The proposed reform isn't balanced and almost seems unconstitutional to my lay-person eyes.