When I wrote about AB 2451 about a week ago, it had just passed out of the State Assembly on a lopsided bipartisan vote. This legislation, by Assembly Speaker John Perez, could only be characterized as a “give away” of public funds to satisfy the state’s greedy public safety employee unions. As we sit here in the midst of a fiscal crisis, with several cities already in the midst of bankruptcy and a whole host of others in very poor fiscal condition, Perez’s bill represents a significant increase in survivor benefits after the death of former public safety workers. Since I have already extensively written on this legislation here, and since we already featured a column from our friend, and C.P.A. Bruce Bialosky exposing this terrible legislation, I will pick up where I left off.
This legislation seeks to enhance a benefit that public safety retirees should not have in the first place. No, I’m not saying that if you die as a result of your public safety job that there should not be some sort of “life insurance” type benefit for survivors. But the problem is that over the years, the legislature has been doing the bidding of unions by creating within the law presumptions that literally put the government (at every level) in the position of having to disprove that a cause of death was work related, rather than the burden of proof being the other way — like it is in the private sector. Under current law in most cases if a public safety worker does within 240 weeks of leaving the job, and they die of certain sicknesses (many of which are quite broad, such as “cancer”) then the survivors can file a posthumous workers comp claim and they are off to the bank. Not only should responsible legislators be opposing any legislation that expands this use of the ‘political presumption’ (my choice of words) but should actually be supporting legislation to undo this sort of presumption. While the original bill extended the period of time that you could file a workers comp claim from 240 weeks to within a year of the former employee’s death, no matter how late in life. Seriously. The bill has been amended so that instead of an indefinite benefit, it would double the existing period in which a claim could be filed to 480 weeks from the date of injury. While this amended bill removes “heart trouble,” pneumonia,” and “hernia related issues” from the list of causes of death that are presumed to have been work related, but leave in place, “cancer,” “blood-borne diseases,” ”MRSA,” and “tuberculosis.”
Even since its passage out of the Assembly, AB 2451 has taken a lot of flack as the subject of numerous editorials in MSM newspapers around California. Heck, the Sacramento Bee (not exactly known for having conservative points of view) has editorialized against this bill at least three times – twice in the last week (most recently here). Facing a lot of heat, Perez amended his bill to make it less egregious — but with all of attention on this bill, Republicans (and some Democrats) have woken up to how bad it is. The newly amended bill no longer enjoys bipartisan support — not a single Republican voted for this bill in the Senate late last week. Not one. And, frankly, not one Republican should vote for it when it comes up in the Assembly (nor should Democrats, but I just assume that when it comes to giving public money away to public employees, they just can’t stop themselves).
Actually, after I ran my first column on this bill, I heard from a number of Assembly Republicans who actually make it clear that they had made a mistake in voting for the bill the first go-around, and they were hopeful it would be amended and require a concurrence vote in the Assembly so the they could vote against it — well, they have all gotten their wish. This is a terrible piece of legislation and should be killed in the Assembly when it comes up.
I will close by asking aloud why public safety workers, many of whom have already benefited by retroactive pension enhancements, should be getting more compensation from government at a time when everyone pretty much acknowledge that the pendulum has swung so far in the direction of the government worker that its time to start it swinging back the other way?
Venerable Sacramento Bee Columnist Dan Walters opines on this bill today in his column.