AB 76 is a 120 page trailer bill that made it through the legislature to the Governor's desk without a public hearing. Trailer bills are expected to be limited to technical changes and are not expected to contain substantive language that should be presented in public hearings.
AB 76 was introduced on January 10, 2013 by the Committee on Budget. It was amended in the State Senate on June 12, 2013. In between these dates there were no public hearings.
On page 61 there is mention of "a return-to-work program administered by the director, funded by one hundred twenty million dollars ($120,000,000) ... for the purpose of making supplemental payments to workers whose permanent disability benefits are disproportionately low in comparison to their earnings loss. Moneys shall remain available for use by the return-to-work program without respect to the fiscal year."
The bill then says "eligibility for payments and the amount of payments shall be determined by regulations adopted by the director ... subject to review at the trial level of the appeals board upon the same grounds as prescribed for petitions of reconsideration ... on or after July 1, 2013, all civil penalties collected pursuant to this chapter shall be deposited in the Labor Enforcement and Compliance Fund."
AB 76 deprives injured workers of benefits if they were injured prior to 2013. The bill states re eligibility that "this section shall apply only to injuries sustained on or after January 1, 2013."
We are at a loss to explain why language of this importance wasn't deemed worthy of a public hearing. We notice that all of the Democrats voted for the bill while all of the Republicans voted against it. So the bill passed on partisan or strict party lines -- nothing astonishing about that, is there? What's quizzical in this instance is that organizations representing injured workers did not testify at public committee hearings since there weren't any. All of the Democrats voted for the bill, all of the Republicans voted against, a traditional and routine party-line vote. Pundits who find that the language on page 61 is harmful to injured workers should seek comment from organizations that represent injured workers such as the California Labor Federation.
In the meantime, it can be stated with reasonable political probability that page 61 and the interests of injured workers weren't of top concern in the consideration of this bill. Injured workers took back seat to everything else in the other 119 pages.