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California labor unions and a few employers are pushing for an end-of-session bill that would change the workers compensation system by increasing payments to permanently injured workers and limiting the fees that can be charged in processing claims.

"A group of representatives from labor and management are negotiating a deal to bring better efficiencies and benefit delivery to the workers comp system," said Angie Wei, a lobbyist with the California Labor Federation.

"We're going to find cost savings in the system by establishing fee schedules where they didn't have them before."

The bill is not yet in print, but Wei said she expects one to be introduced shortly. She said her group has been in talks with the chairs of the Senate Labor and Assembly Insurance committees. Unions and employers had been negotiating over the issue for months, Wei said, though just three and a half weeks remain in the legislative session.

California has overhauled its workers compensation system about once a decade for the last 30 years. The last time was in 2004 under then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"Injured workers have suffered under the deep cuts in benefits that were never expected and never intended under the Arnold Schwarzenegger reform," she said. "The time is long overdue to rectify the injustice for these injured workers."

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed several workers comp bills last year, writing messages that wanted to see comprehensive changes to the system, not a piecemeal approach. In vetoing Assembly Bill 947 he wrote:

"Workers compensation reforms ... need to be addressed on a broad and balanced scale -- ensuring workers receive adequate and timely benefits and treatment, while also ensuring that the costs of the system are sustainable."


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