The Assembly Insurance Committee and Senate Labor Committee recently heard three bills (summarized below) relating COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims and creating a “presumption” of work relatedness. While all three bills passed committee vote by a wide bipartisan margin, it is uncertain which ones will reach the Governor’s desk or if they are consolidated into one measure.
Continued posturing by organized labor with the bills authors and the Administration have made it difficult for insurers and employers to reach a reasonable solution for these bills:
- AB 196 (Gonzalez) would require a “conclusive presumption” for any COVID related illness claimed by the employee to be work-related. This is the worst of the three measures for our industry.
- AB 664 (Cooper) would allow first responders and health care workers to have a “rebuttable presumption” of communicable disease for COVID claims. It does not apply to construction or other industries. It has bipartisan support, including its coauthors.
- SB 1159 (Hill) would create a rebuttable presumption of a COVID related illness for all employers with a 2024 sunset date. Bill language is still in flux, and AGC advocates spoke directly with the author who indicated a goal of incorporating language that would create less damage for employers.
AGC’s advocates are working to ensure AB 196 (Gonzalez) dies, leaving SB 1159 (Hill) as the primary legislative vehicle. Senator Jerry Hill’s (D-San Mateo) bill is seen as a vehicle for compromise. Claim’s under Governor Newsom’s Executive Order 62-20, which expired in early July, have not skyrocketed and costs reportedly have been relatively contained. In addition, should claims arise such costs are not experience rated to individual contractors and absorbed as overall costs to the system. The debate over remaining details continue, such as how long the sunset should last (currently 2024), and other issues. Due to the unusual political climate of an election year during a pandemic, some Republicans have chosen to side with voters over employers and support a compromise bill.
It is also possible AB 664 (Cooper) may remain a standalone bill. The bill’s focus is on protecting public safety employees and healthcare workers, drawing significant bipartisan support from both houses for that very reason. Assembly member Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), is an advocate for law enforcement and former Sacramento Sheriff’s Department commander.
AGC’s advocates and Government Affairs Team continue to monitor and engage in legislation impacting the industry and will update members as more information is available.