The pair of state Senate bills would have changed two areas of workers’ comp legislation, with one increasing permanent disability payments and the other adding various qualifications to apportionment calculations.
Supporters of the legislation said the measures would ensure that workers with permanent disability injuries are justly compensated and not unfairly denied benefits.
S.B. 1717 would have doubled permanent disability benefit payments by increasing, over three years, the number of weeks injured workers receive benefits. It also would have repealed a portion of a return-to-work incentive employers sought as part of workers’ comp reforms signed into law in 2004.
In vetoing the bill, Schwarzenegger said he could not justify a “billion-dollar benefit increase” at a time when medical costs in the workers’ comp system continue to climb. He noted the state Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau’s recommended 16 percent increase in premiums in 2009.
S.B. 1115 would have prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, age, gender, marital status, sex or genetic predisposition when doctors apportion a claim’s medical causation for the purpose of determining an employer’s liability for permanent disability awards.
Schwarzenegger said that although he supported the intention of the measure, he did not view it as necessary.
“Current law, as well as court rulings, adequately protects injured workers from inappropriate application of apportionment statutes,” he said, noting that he was concerned the bill would have inadvertently created new ambiguities and result in increased litigation.