Friday, September 10, 2010, 08:10 AM - Political developmentsPolitics is a rough sport, and money is the lifeblood of politics.
No one understands that more than the folks at the Chamber of Commerce. For those readers not following California politics, the Cal Chamber has been a big player in Sacramento. With its "job killer bill" strategy, the Cal Chamber and its allies have had a laser focus on workers' comp along with anything other issues perceived as critical to business interests.
So it's no surprising to see that the Chamber of Commerce is opening its deep pockets to support candidates that it believes will support its anti-regulatory agenda:
-the Cal Chamber has dumped almost $2 million into ads against Democratic candidate for Insurance Commissioner, Dave Jones. The Cal Chamber supports Assemblyman Mike Villines of Fresno. The Insurance Commissioner post has oversight functions over the California workers' comp industry and the next insurance commissioner post could have an important role to play in future debates over the future of workers' comp in California.
-the Cal Chamber ran a TV campaign against Jerry Brown costing more than $1 million, eliciting a complaint to the FPPC due to the links between Whitman campaign official Pete Wilson and the the Cal Chamber:
http://www.kintera.org/site/apps/nlnet/ ... ct=8158729
-on a national level, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has launched a multimillion dollar ad effort against Senator Barbara Boxer.
Given the state of the economy and concern about the direction of the country, there's a lot of political fatigue out there.
The Cal Chamber is obviously energized.
Thursday, September 9, 2010, 08:46 AM - Political developmentsYesterday the California Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the legality of furloughs.
According to reports from observers who were there, it seems likely that the court will rule that the furloughs are legal.
The debate centered on issues as to whether the governor has implied furlough power and whether legislative budget actions bestowed the furlough powers.
Here's a link to a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle by Bob Egelko that recounts key portions of the oral argument:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... ss.bayarea
And here's a link to a piece in the Sacramento Bee by Jon Ortiz, who also covered the oral arguments:
http://www.sacbee.com/2010/09/09/301532 ... 20Politics
Governor Schwarzenegger has repeatedly refused to exempt user-funded agencies such as the WCAB from the furloughs.
Whether our next Governor will continue furloughs and, if so, exempt user-funded agencies is an unknown.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010, 12:41 PM - Understanding the CA WC systemWorkers' Compensation Appeals Board court administrator Keven Star apparently has plans to require all attorneys become e-filers.
That's the word in a piece written by Greg Griggs, an editor at Workcompcentral.com.
Griggs quotes Star from a visit Star made to the Oxnard WCAB.
Currently there are under 500 e-filers. Most attorneys still participate in the computerized WCAB system, EAMS, by filing optical character recognition documents which must then be scanned by WCAB staff.
Any mandated transition would be a ways off, however. Regulations must be drafted. There would be a comment period, and possible re-drafting.
And all of this will be in the hands of a new administration. While it's possible that there will be some hold-overs, it's safe to guess that there will be a new court administrator and new faces at the DWC, whether Brown or Whitman prevail.
Like many in the comp community, I've always thought that EAMS had many problems. The rollout of EAMS was rocky. Some of the EAMS spokespeople were arrogant and in truth stirred up resistance to the project by refusal to acknowledge concerns of the community.
Some problems persist. Forms are still too way long. Sorting through documents and handling online documents and exhibits at a trial is cumbersome. Bulk lien filing has been an issue.
But Boxer & Gerson has participated as e-filers. There are advantages, including being able to check liens easily, being able to select court appearance dates, being able to set up walk-thrus quickly, and being able to get application numbers quickly.
Firms that specialize in comp who aren't e-filers may end up finding it to their liking, somewhat to their surprise.
But care needs to be taken with the transition. Some small firms are not tech savvy at all, and the process will be hard for those dabbling in comp.
Sunday, September 5, 2010, 10:19 AM - Political developmentsDoes China offer California a model for jobs?
That's the title to a piece by Dan Morain in the Sacramento Bee. Morain reflects on an interchange between Senator Barbara Boxer and challenger Carly Fiorina in last week's Moraga senatorial debate.
In a world where, as Fiorina noted, jobs can be moved anywhere, should Americans just suck it up and adopt labor standards closer to Chinese standards?
If American workers live under the fear of outsourcing or corporate "rightsizing" by CEOs making huge pay packages, should American workers just get over it? Is the problem with our system, or theirs?
Granted, the Chinese are very industrious and hard working. China's educational system has made great strides along with its infrastructure system. Centralized decisionmaking facilitates decisive planning for transit and development projects.
But is the problem really with American laws giving too many rights to workers, and with government demanding too much from industry?
Fiorina seems to favor larding businesses with tax relief packages. It's not clear whether she would favor rolling back OSHA safety regulations, wage and hour regulations, most environmental protections, or other worker rights laws.
Is this really the problem?
Should American politicians be delivering a harsh message to American workers this Labor Day? A message that you're not so special, so suck it up, expect less, get real.....The world is gaining on you.
Morain's piece can be found here:
http://www.sacbee.com/2010/09/05/300470 ... ia%20Forum
Thursday, September 2, 2010, 01:15 PM - Political developmentsAmong the workers' comp measures headed to Governor Schwarzenegger's desk is SB 1254.
Sponsored by Mark Leno of San Francisco, SB 1254 is a bill worthy of the Governor's signature.
Anyone paying the least attention to workers' compensation over the last few years has to have noted the recurring problem of uninsured employers. Failure to secure worker's comp coverage has been endemic in certain industries such as car washes and restaurants.
The construction industry is another area where there are major problems with uninsured employers or misclassified employees. Many of these employers are also unlicensed. And such employers frequently violate other labor standards laws.
A study prepared by Frank Neuhauser and Colleen Donovan at UC Berkeley for the California Commission on Health Safety and Workers' Compensation has noted that employer fraud imposes huge costs on the system and honest employers:
Here's a link to a piece I did several years ago on employer fraud:
http://www.workerscompzone.com/index.ph ... 818-110358
SB 1254 would put more teeth in anti-fraud efforts. It would provide that a stop-work order be issued to unlicensed contractors who have failed to secure comp coverage. Increased inspectors would be used to do Contractors State License Board investigations. It's a step in the right direction.
Here's a link to the text of SB 1254:
http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/09-10/bil ... rolled.pdf
The measure passed in the California Senate with no opposition. Only one vote against the bill was noted in the California Assembly, Assemblyman Diane Harkey of Dana Point, a proponent of "rightsizing the government".
It's likely that the Governor will sign the bill.
Here's the official analysis:
http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/09-10/bil ... _floor.htm