Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Sunday, Sep. 2, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Sunday, Sep. 2, 2012 – 10:32 am

A 170-page overhaul of California’s multi- billion-dollar workers’ compensation system – hammered out during months of secret negotiations between business and labor union lobbyists – was dumped on the desks of 80 Assembly members late Friday after being whisked through two perfunctory committee hearings.

It would, if enacted, affect the lives of countless thousands of workers who sustain job-related injuries and illnesses, but just how was a matter of great dispute.

The proponents said it would raise cash benefits by as much as 30 percent to those with permanent disabilities and speed medical treatment, but to pay for the expanded benefits, eligibility would be tightened. Lawyers who specialize in such cases and some medical care providers were opposing it.

Legislative leaders of both parties were exhorting their members to back the overhaul. But it was too much for one San Diego County Democrat.

“I can’t vote for something I can’t explain,” Ben Hueso told his colleagues, who were looking forward to a midnight adjournment after a hectic last week of the 2012 session. “Let’s conduct ourselves with more honor and more dignity. Let’s involve our community in our decisions.”

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