Last-Minute Vote Expected on Workers’ Compensation Reform Bill

Legislation that would overhaul the state’s complex workers’ compensation system is expected to be heard on the Assembly floor today, the final day of the legislative session.

If approved there, SB 863 (De Leon) would move immediately to the Senate floor. Legislative leaders in both the Assembly and Senate have signaled they are open to passing comprehensive reforms.  Gov. Jerry Brown has signaled he will sign the legislation if it reaches his desk.

Last year, the governor vetoed multiple pieces of legislation on workers’ compensation and called for a more comprehensive approach. “Workers' compensation reforms need to be addressed on a broad and balanced scale – ensuring workers receive adequate and timely benefits and treatment, while also ensuring that the costs of the system are sustainable,” Brown said stated in his veto message. He went on call on the Legislature to send him a comprehensive overhaul of the workers’ compensation system.

This year’s bill, SB 863, would reduce costs in the system by more than $1 billion. For workers, the bill would increase benefits for injured workers by 30%, provide for higher quality medical treatment and speed up dispute resolutions. For employers who face an 18% increase in workers’ compensation insurance next year, the bill would cut costs by reducing litigation expenses, expediting resolutions and providing an objective benefit delivery system.

Workers’ compensation has long been a hot issue. In 2004, Governor Schwarzenegger signed SB 899, which made comprehensive changes that reduced benefits to workers by 60% and added many legal and medical costs for employers.