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FootballPlayers.JPGProfessional athletes will have to prove they played a substantial chunk of their career in California to claim disability benefits under a law Gov. Jerry Brown signed Tuesday.

Supporters of Assembly Bill 1309, by Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, argued that professional athletes have exploited California's overly generous worker's compensation system, seeking disability benefits even when they played for out-of-state teams and rarely took the field in California.

Under the new law, former athletes will need to prove they played for California-based teams for either two years or 20 percent of their career in order to claim worker's compensation.

"Our workers' compensation system will no longer be unfairly targeted by out-of-state professional athletes and California businesses will finally be protected from these claims," Perea said in a statement. "This legislation has come a long way from its introduction and provides a fair, balanced and practical approach which still allows former California athletes to file here."

An alliance of different California teams backed the bill, from the Oakland Athletics to the Los Angeles Clippers to the San Diego Chargers. Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League and the National Hockey League also came out in favor.

On the other side of the debate stood unions representing professional athletes, including the National Football League Players Association, the National Basketball Players Association and other major labor organizations. In an unsuccessful campaign to defeat the bill, current and past professional football players gathered at the State Capitol earlier this year.

PHOTO: Former Oakland Raider Nick Bell, left, waits for former Cincinnati Bengals Reggie Williams, using crutches, as he walks to the podium to talk about his opposition to Assembly Bill 1309 at the California state Capitol on April 15, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.


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