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Saturday, Sep 23, 2023


By HOWARD FINE Staff Reporter With Democrats in control of Sacramento for the first time in 16 years, labor and trial lawyer lobbyists are pushing their advantage by sponsoring scores of bills that business groups say they will try to dilute, if possible. “There is a really big push by labor and trial lawyers right now to move their agendas,” said Fred Main, senior vice president of the California Chamber of Commerce. Among the most significant bills are: a $1 billion-plus workers’ compensation benefit increase; repeal of the 2-year-old ban on daily overtime pay; a ban on arbitration agreements; and a bill restoring the right of employees to sue their employers on grounds of age discrimination. There is also a whole raft of managed care reform bills that would increase the liability of health plans and require more treatments to be covered by insurance. The state’s major business groups, which in previous years could rely on a Republican governor to veto such bills, are being forced to the negotiating table earlier in the game as they attempt to water down what they see as the most egregious provisions in the bills. “Even though a lot of these bills are retreads from previous years, it is now more important than ever to reach compromises with the authors,” said Gavin McHugh, senior vice president of government affairs for the California Manufacturers Association. “The fact that there is no reliable veto from Governor Davis is forcing people to the table.” Already, business groups are trying to hammer out compromises on the workers’ comp benefit increase, managed care reform and some environmental legislation. Just last week, the California Association of Health Plans announced it was willing to accept legislation that would allow for independent review of treatment decisions and allow consumers to seek second opinions in a bid to head off some of the more sweeping reforms. Business groups, though, have conceded one big-ticket item the repeal of the ban on daily overtime because Davis has said he would sign it. Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa said he has talked to both labor and business groups, urging them not to take extreme positions. “I have said to the California Chamber and the L.A. Chamber that we are willing to listen and work with them to make sure that some of these new initiatives don’t hurt business,” Villaraigosa said. “The voters want us to tread these waters carefully. They are enjoying the economic boom and don’t want us to interfere with that.” “But,” he added, “as the economy gets stronger, we must make sure that all the boats are rising together and that we maintain a safety net.”

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