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Perez.JPGGov. Jerry Brown will once again consider a bill to give more time for survivors of firefighters and peace officers felled by job-related diseases to apply for benefits.

The Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to advance Assembly Bill 1035, by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles. The legislation nearly doubles the amount of time after a worker falls ill in which family members can seek workers' compensation for work-spurred cases of tuberculosis, cancer and bloodborne infectious diseases.

The legislation addresses the "very real increased risk of certain job-related diseases contracted by California's front-line public safety personnel," Pérez said on Thursday.

Brown rebuffed Pérez's attempts in 2012 and 2013, in both cases citing increased costs and wondering how often family members are locked out of benefits. He said in his veto message last October that the measure was "identical to the one I vetoed last year."

"At that time, I outlined the information needed to properly evaluate the implications of this bill," Brown wrote last year. "I have not yet received that information."

In 2012, Brown questioned whether the instance of family members being denied benefits because the window had closed "occurs other than rarely, yet tragically."

Amendments in the 2014 bill lower the statute of limitations for filing a claim from 480 weeks, the benchmark in last year's bill, to 420 weeks. It also contains language sunsetting the measure in 2019 and directing the Division of Workers Compensation to collect data on whether the bill's window works in the interim.

Otherwise, Pérez said, it is "the same bill that this body passed last year." The measure passed 65-0.

Local government groups were not swayed. An opposition letter signed by the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties said the legislation would "create major financial liabilities" and would treat death benefit claims as "a life insurance policy for public safety officers."

PHOTO: Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez speaks about Gov. Jerry Brown's 2014 State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014 at the Capitol. THe Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.


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