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May 4, 2014
Editorial: John Pérez's third strike on a bad bill

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(May 4 — By the Editorial Board)

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez has resurrected a bad bill that died twice before at the hands of Gov. Jerry Brown. Perhaps he thinks the third time will be the charm for this expensive handout to firefighters and police officers.

Rather, it's a third strike and should be thrown out.

Assembly Bill 1035 extends the time the family of a police officer or firefighter can file a claim for lump-sum death benefits, from 240 weeks to 420 weeks, in cases of cancer, tuberculosis, blood borne infection diseases or staph infections contracted while on duty. It passed both the Assembly and the Senate and is now before the governor.

We opposed the earlier versions of this bill. Brown didn't like them either, vetoing the first bill in 2012, saying it was a potentially pricey solution to a problem that doesn't appear to exist. Brown vetoed the legislation again in 2013, noting that the bill was virtually the same as the year before.

Pérez, who is running for state Controller, has pared down the bill each time he's brought it back to life, and in this case added a provision that it sunset in 2019 and the results be studied.

But it remains an unnecessary excess that could add tens of millions in costs to cities. Cities, we should add, have long been generous to firefighters and police officers and are facing huge unfunded pension liabilities. Even during the lean years of the recession, public safety workers and their families still received pension benefits of as much as 90 percent of their pay.

Current law and benefits are more than adequate to fairly compensate the families of those killed in the line of duty, including from exposure to disease and carcinogens.

This undead bill shambled its way out of the grave twice, Brown should put it down again - hopefully, for the last time.