Calif. Business Entities Unite Behind Single Ballot Measure to Overhaul Workers’ Comp

February 4, 2004

Key business organizations from across the state have joined forces to support a single ballot measure on the issue — the Workers’ Compensation Reform and Accountability Act.

The Small Business Action Committee (SBAC), the Independent Business Coalition (IBC) working with the Printing Industries of California and the California Small Business Alliance, and Grimmway Farms, each of which had drafted separate initiatives to address the serious flaws in the state’s workers’ comp system, will work together as the Committee for Workers’ Compensation Reform and Accountability. The committee puts the full weight of thousands of business owners and workers behind the initiative.

The initiative would achieve the kind of structural reforms necessary to fix California’s broken workers’ comp system. While proponents support Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Legislative efforts on the issue, they are preparing to take the issue directly to voters if the Legislature fails to act by the Governor’s March 1 deadline. Supporters emphasized that if the Legislature misses this deadline, petitions will hit the streets immediately to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

“California employers pay the highest workers’ comp costs in the nation while our employees don’t receive the level of benefits they deserve. In fact, costs have increased more than 150 percent in the last four years which is why we have to act now to get them under control or tens of thousands of California businesses won’t be able to afford to do business in California,” said Tom Hagerman, chairman of the Independent Business Coalition, a grassroots political action network of business interests.

The IBC, along with Ted Costa, CEO of People’s Advocate, was pursuing a worker’s comp reform measure when the opportunity to marshal forces with the SBAC and Grimmway materialized.

“There is great strength in numbers and we’re very pleased today to partner with the Small Business Action Committee and Grimmway Farms to put the pressure on the Legislature to pass these reforms or bring it directly to the people in November,” said Costa.

“This is not a big business issue or a small business issue,” said Chris George, CEO of CMG Mortgage and a member of the Board of Directors of the SBAC. “This is a California issue that affects every employer and employee, and undermines the state’s overall competitiveness to create and retain good jobs for all Californians. This initiative will crack down on the kind of fraud and abuse that’s plagued the workers’ comp system for decades.”

Joel Fox, president of the SBAC added, “Today, we see successful family-owned businesses being destroyed by government actions and — in the case of workers’ comp reform — inaction. Only by working together can we make the necessary changes to the system and to the overall public policy process in California.”

“To achieve both balance and fairness, employees have a right to receive exactly what they are entitled to based on the specific type and extent of their workplace injury – nothing more and nothing less. This initiative will protect both injured workers and their employers,” said Jeffrey Green of Grimmway Farms.

According to recent polling, an overwhelming number of Californians believe that that state’s workers’ comp system must be overhauled in a significant way. Key elements of the Workers’ Compensation Reform and Accountability Act would:

·Correct insufficient safeguards lacking in the present system against over treatment by utilizing recognized diagnostic and treatment guidelines, making sure that treating physicians are approved by both employer and employee and ensuring that all findings are supported by evidence;

·Correct the current lack of separation between work and non-work related factors that contribute to an injury by requiring apportionment between those related factors;

·Replace the current dispute resolution system that is overly complex and adversarial with an independent medical review process.

“We believe in a balanced, commonsense approach to workers’ comp that upholds the rights of employees to receive fair compensation for on-the-job injuries while protecting Californians from the damage caused by rampant fraud and abuse in the system,” said the SBAC’s Fox.

The Committee for Workers’ Compensation Reform and Accountability has raised more than $1.6 million in the week since its formation and is continuing its efforts to secure the necessary funds to qualify the measure for the November 2004 ballot and aggressively campaign for its approval by the voters.

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