Gov. Jerry Brown signed an overhaul of California's workers' compensation system Tuesday in San Diego, hailing it as a win-win for employers and employees alike.
The legislation, Senate Bill 863, was hammered out in months of private negotiations between employer and labor union representatives. It was formally carried by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, and passed the Legislature in the final hours of the 2012 session despite late-blooming opposition from lawyers who represent injured workers and some medical care and rehabilitation groups.
The legislation promises a 30 percent increase in cash benefits for permanently injured workers and enough procedural changes and eligibility tightening to more than pay for them, thus freezing or reducing employers' workers' compensation insurance costs.
"These significant reforms save hundreds of millions of dollars for California's employers while preventing an imminent crisis of skyrocketing rates that would have hurt both injured workers and businesses," Brown said in a statement. "It's extraordinary to see Republicans and Democrats come together to solve a problem before it becomes a crisis."
Brown was scheduled to conduct a second bill-signing ceremony for the legislation later Tuesday in Los Angeles.
Enactment of SB 863 continues an ongoing tradition of once-a-decade overhauls of workers' compensation, the multi-billion-dollar system of support and treatment for those with job-related illnesses and injuries. The syndrome began in 1982 when Brown, during his first stint as governor, signed a hefty increase in benefits after failing to win approval for reforms.
Major changes were enacted in the early 1990s and again in 2004, when then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and employers won approval of tightening eligibility for benefits. The latest changes partially undo the 2004 version.