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JV_042814_RAINY_DAY_FUND080.JPGA day after he stepped down as Assembly speaker, John A. Pérez received a parting gift from Gov. Jerry Brown: A long-awaited signature.

For three consecutive years, Pérez authored bills giving the loved ones of fallen firefighters more time to file worker's compensation claims for workplace-related fatal diseases. Pérez argued that survivors should be compensated for diseases, like tuberculosis and cancer, that deceased public workers contracted on the job.

The governor was not convinced. He vetoed the measures in 2012 and in 2013, both times questioning if denial of benefits was a big enough problem to merit legislation.

This time, Pérez appears to have at last persuaded Brown. In his signing message for Assembly Bill 1035, the governor referenced a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study that better illuminated the scope of the problem.

"A review of this data anticipates that fewer than 20 cases a year throughout the state
would be affected if the provisions only apply to diseases diagnosed during active
service," Brown wrote.

Once the law takes effect, survivors will have 420 weeks from the date of injury to file a claim - far longer than the current 240 week cutoff. The extra filing time ends at the start of 2019 and, in the meantime, the Division of Workers' Compensation will be compelled to collect more data on the repercussions.

The California League of Cities remained opposed to the measure, arguing it would saddle local governments with increased costs.

PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown and Speaker of the Assembly John Pérez speak to an Assembly committee on April 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee.Jose Luis Villegas.


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