SAN DIEGO (AP) â¿¿ Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bipartisan bill Tuesday intended to reduce workers' compensation costs for California businesses while increasing benefits to people injured on the job.
His office said statewide changes were needed because the cost of workers' compensation insurance has risen from $14.8 billion to $19 billion for California businesses in the past two years. Supporters said by making the system more efficient and limiting litigation, the bill, SB863, will save businesses $1 billion next year and allow increased payments to disabled workers.
Opponents, including some chiropractors and attorneys for injured workers, argued that limiting litigation would mean fewer benefits for people who are unable to return to work. According to the insurance-run Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California, there were 527,000 workplace injuries reported in 2011, about 174,000 of which resulted in temporary and permanent disability or death.
Brown â¿¿ who was joined by business representatives, labor leaders and legislative leaders â¿¿ said the bill is an example of what can be achieved when Democrats and Republicans work together. Democratic Sen. Kevin De Leon, of Los Angeles, carried SB863 and lawmakers approved it with bipartisan support last month.
"We're saving hundreds of millions of dollars for businesses, we're getting workers back to work faster and we're getting them the kind of medical care they need," Brown said before signing the bill inside a family-owned printing shop in San Diego's Barrio Logan neighborhood. Later in the day, the governor promoted the legislation at a Walt Disney Co. studio lot in Burbank.
Rebecca Aguilera-Gardiner, who runs Diego & Son Printing with her brother, said changes in the bill "not only helps the worker, it helps the small-business owner." The shop started by their father is celebrating its 40th anniversary with banners that read, "Old fashion service with the latest technology."