Governor Newsom has vetoed his first workers' comp bill, AB 346 (Cooper).
AB 346 would have expanded fully paid leaves of absence due to occupational injury to police officers employed by a school district, community college or county office of education. They would have been eligible for up to a year of Labor Code 4850 leave.
Under current law, no school police officers are eligible for 4850 benefits except the Los Angeles Unified School District police officers.
AB 346 passed out of the Assembly 75-0 and on a 39-0 vote out of the California Senate.
Labor and peace officer groups supported the bill, arguing that these police officers respond to school shootings and gun violence situations like others who enjoy 4850 wage protection.
Opposition came from groups such as the Association of California School Administrators, cities and counties, and CCWC, the employer-led California Coalition on Workers' Compensation. They cited cost concerns and as noted in the Senate Floor Analysis, they argued that “Local agencies typically fund workers' compensation costs out of their general fund, and every dollar spent on special enhanced benefits must come from somewhere.”
But overwhelming bipartisan legislative support did not translate into a win for this bill.
The bill's opponents seem to have gotten their points across to the governor.
Here is what Newsom said in his veto message:
“While I appreciate the Legislature's intent, and do not take lightly the important public service provided by police officers in education settings, this bill would significantly expand 4850 benefits that can be negotiated locally through the collective bargaining process. Many local school districts face financial stress, and the addition of a well -intentioned but costly benefit should be left to local entities that are struggling to balance their priorities.”
This may give us a clue regarding Newsom's take on workers' comp policy. Despite overwhelming support for the bill, Newsom is looking at the financial implications for employer stakeholders. Supporters of bills to expand workers' comp coverage will need to convince the governor on the fiscal impact issues.
Stay tuned. Newsom has now acted on all bills. In coming posts I will provide in-depth analysis on some of the bills that were signed.
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