Back on the table

Apr 13, 2012

Negotiations to overhaul California's multibillion-dollar workers' compensation insurance system are currently under way, as the major players meet under the radar. Because the dollars are so huge, the three-pronged fight between insurers, employers and unions is all be certain to be extraordinarily intense.


From Marc Lifsher in the LA Times: "The two biggest players in California's workers' compensation system — labor unions and large employers — are quietly crafting the biggest overhaul of the mandatory insurance program in a decade."

"The goal: provide more care to injured workers without raising premiums for businesses."

"The negotiations are focused on squeezing waste from California's $15-billion system, which, while huge, often delays or denies compensation and medical care that could get injured workers back on the job."

"Average compensation paid to California workers in cases of permanent partial disability was $12,000 last year. That's down more than half from $25,000 in 2004, according to the UC Berkeley Survey and Research Center."


Directors of the HIgh Speed Rail Authority gave their final approval to the project, which means a new phase of the furious political fight over the controversial bullet train will begin as early as next week in the Capitol.


From Mike Rosenberg in the Mercury News: "Even as the California High-Speed Rail Authority unanimously approved the massive project's final blueprint Thursday, supporters led by Gov. Jerry Brown began a fast-and-furious sales campaign to convince skeptical lawmakers to jump on board."


"And the clock is ticking. Only two months remain before the Legislature votes on whether to start building the railroad, a decision that will seal the train's destiny after 16 years of preparation."


"The hearing in San Francisco, a rare Bay Area board meeting for the project, carried little drama, since the rail authority produced the plan. But it provided the agency its only opportunity to defend the latest plan before it begins a gauntlet of what promises to be a grueling series of legislative hearings starting next week."


The president of the State Fish and Game Commission violated ethics laws when he shot a mountain linon in Idaho during a hunt that was financed by a local club, the state's political watchdog has ruled.


From Paul Rogers in the Mercury News: "Even so, Richards will not face fines that could have totaled $5,000 because he repaid the Flying B Ranch in Idaho the $6,800 fee that other hunters are charged for a mountain lion hunting trip on the property, although critics note he did it after being hit with an ethics complaint."


"California law prohibits any public official from taking gifts worth more than $420 a year. The law also requires that any larger gifts be repaid within 30 days. Richards shot the lion in mid-January."


"Because you did repay the donor relatively soon after the receipt of the gift, although after the 30-day window for repayment prescribed by the act, we have decided to close the case," wrote Gary Winuck, enforcement chief of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, in a warning letter to Richards on Thursday.


The tale of Nadia and Bill Lockyer is taking still more twists and turns, this time with the unveiling of a disputed email from Nadia's private email account. The authenticity of the email appears suspect, however, so you decide. 


From Josh Richman and Julia Prodis Solek in the Mercury News: "The tragic unraveling of Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer took a disturbing turn this week when a message from her personal email account landed in a reporter's inbox: Her husband, California's Treasurer Bill Lockyer, the message said, bought and gave her drugs years before she wound up in rehab."

"In an apparent call for help, the message also said she could no longer stand the torture and harassment of an ex-lover she says beat her in a motel room two months ago."


"I simply can't bear this any longer," the email said. "Goodbye to everyone." Fearing for her safety, this newspaper called police, who found her safe at the family's Hayward hills home Wednesday afternoon...."


And in Berkely, the venerable student newspaper, the 141-year-old Daily Californian, is trying to survive. Fellow students rejected a $2-per-semester fee to keep the publication going, and now the paper is hunting other sources.


From Matt Krupnick in the Mercury News: "The newspaper, which was founded as the University Echo in 1871 and became independent exactly a century later, is one of the country's few student newspapers that do not rely on university funds."


"That independence has prevented administrators and student leaders from pressuring Daily Cal journalists to write or hold off on certain stories, but recent advertising declines across the newspaper world have hurt the student paper more than most."


"Asking students to pay for the Daily Cal could put the newspaper on shaky ground, said Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Virginia-based Student Press Law Center."

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