[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Newly elected Torrance representatives made their Capitol debut this week for the commencement of the 2015-16 legislative session.  State Senator Ben Allen was officially handed the political reins of the 26th district replacing long-time Torrance Politician, Ted Lieu, while David Hadley was sworn-in as the 66th State Assemblyman. Despite the Legislature’s kick-off, residents of North and East Torrance are still without representation in the State Senate following Rod Wright’s official resignation from office earlier this fall. Wright’s conviction of voter fraud led California Governor Jerry Brown to call for a special election to fill the vacancy. Affected Torrance voters will head back to the polls on December 9th for a special primary election to determine Wright’s successor. Should one candidate not receive a majority of the vote (50% plus 1) then voters will return to the polls again in early February for a special general election.

Coming off of a two-month recess period, California policymakers will have ample work to address pressing issues facing the state. With Democrats losing their super-majority stronghold in both the Senate and Assembly, Legislators on both sides of the aisle will attempt to work together to set policy that continues to resuscitate the state’s gradually improving economy.

California’s economy saw gradual improvement in 2014 and is steadily gaining traction. The state’s unemployment rate of 7.3% is a twelve-month improvement of 1.3% according to data published by the Employment Development Department (EDD) this past October. California’s unemployment rate is a little less than two percentage points higher than the national average of 5.8%. Politicians will look to sustain economic growth through policies advantageous for job creation. Functioning contrary to job growth goals is the state’s costly workers’ compensation system that continues to limit businesses hoping to expand or, for some, just trying to keep their doors open. Many California businesses are hopeful policymakers will continue to monitor system concerns heading into 2015-16.

According to a recent study released by the Oregon Department of Business and Consumer Services, California employers shell out the highest workers comp costs in the country. California nabbed the top spot two years after implementing the state’s largest reform to its workers’ compensation system in some time. In 2012, Governor Brown signed into law, a bill that sought to address both labor and employer concerns with the deteriorating system. In short, the law addressed bipartisan concerns with permanent disability compensation by establishing higher benefits for permanently disabled workers while reforming the system to reduce unnecessary litigation and system costs for employers. With a more efficient system, policymakers are banking on employer cost-savings to offset the increased benefit package for permanently disabled workers.

The bill, still novice in its implementation, does not self-enact the employer’s cost-savings but rather, sets policy to reform the system. In order for employers to see any cost-savings, a series of second and third order regulatory effects need to occur.  Conversely, the benefit increase was self-enacting, increasing permanent disability benefits immediately. Business leaders and politicians are hopeful the intrinsic value initially assessed with the reform will serve to be true; however, the difference in the legislation’s authority to self-enact benefits versus cost-savings could serve to be costly. 

Legislative roll-back attempts to the 2012 bill could place the system’s reform at risk. If legislation should pass in 2015-16 that attempts to limit the cost-saving benefits for employers, the bill’s intent to improve the volatile system could have an adverse effect. Without the forecasted savings for employers and an already enacted cost increase, California’s workers’ compensation costs could continue to rise in 2015. The TACC is advocating for continued reform of system costs affecting employers and the proper regulation of enacted policy to create a more efficient, cost-effective system.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_separator height_2=”25″ height=”25″ show_border=”yes_border”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_column_text]brandon-matson[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_column_text width=”1/1″ el_position=”first last”]

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Brandon Matson

Brandon is the Governmental Affairs Coordinator for the Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce. His primary responsibilities include facilitating the Chamber’s Governmental Affairs Policy (GAP) group, planning Chamber events with legislators, and facilitating the Chamber’s Political Action Committee (PAC). Feel free to contact him at any time.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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