Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Workers' compensation changes draw ire

Workers’ compensation is a perennial issue at the Capitol – a complicated web of competing interests that emerges again every few years to fix what one side or the other said was screwed up the last time.

The Legislature last took it up in 2012 with an overhaul of the system that promised to increase permanent disability benefits for injured workers by clamping down on administrative and medical costs for the program. It was pushed through on the last day of session after lawmakers struck a private deal with labor and business leaders, despite the fierce objections of disability lawyers and some medical care providers.

The complaints haven’t subsided in the two years since the bill passed. The Injured Workers National Network, a workers’ advocacy group, plans to protest outside the meeting of the Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation, 10 a.m. at the Elihu Harris State Building in Oakland, where the commission will hear an update on the law’s implementation. Protest organizers have labeled it “pro-insurance legislation” and a “frontal attack” on injured workers and Cal/OSHA, the workplace safety protections agency.

A study released earlier this year by a Massachusetts research institute concluded that it was still too early to determine whether the changes to California’s workers’ compensation system will have their intended effect.

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IT’S OH SO QUIET: With a water bond deal hammered out and the lengthy suspense files sorted through, it’s the calm before the storm at the Capitol. Most legislators have headed home to their districts for the weekend, gearing up for the madness ahead in the final weeks of session. In the meantime, the most action you’ll likely see around these parts is a “die-in” on the south steps, starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, to celebrate National Honey Bee Day and to raise awareness about pesticides and other man-made threats to bees.