The Assembly sent to the governor today legislation that would double the statute of limitations for families of police and firefighters to file for job-related death benefits that can exceed $300,000.
Assembly Bill 2451 cleared its final legislative hurdle, 51-18, when the Assembly concurred in amendments. Most Democrats supported the measure, while many Republicans opposed it.
The bill by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez would allow families to file for death benefits for up to nine years after the diagnosis of a job-caused illness or injury to a public safety official.
AB 2451 would apply to deaths from cancer, tuberculosis, blood-borne infectious diseases and what are commonly called MSRA skin infections, ailments presumed by law to be job-related when they afflict police or firefighters.
The bill is meant to target situations in which a public safety official suffered a fatal illness or injury while employed, but battled it, living longer than the 4 1/2-year statute of limitation for seeking death benefits.
Pérez, in floor debate, characterized the bill as a fitting response to job-related deaths of heroes who routinely risk their lives performing dangerous tasks for the public - charging into burning buildings or drug labs containing dangerous chemicals, for example.
"Assembly Bill 2451 honors the courage and memory of our state's fallen public safety officers, and the perseverance and sacrifice of their surviving family members," he said.
Opponents countered that AB 2451 could cost local governments hundreds of millions of dollars in years or decades to come. Government simply can't afford padding benefits in an era of economic distress, they noted.
Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, R-Costa Mesa, called the bill "a slap in the face to voters" and "a slap in the face to taxpayers."
"This is fiscal suicide, this is fiscal insanity," added Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks.
Assemblyman Chris Norby, R-Fullerton, said the vote could come back to haunt Democrats as they push for voters to pass Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed tax increase on the November ballot.
"This is definitely the wrong message to send politically," he said.