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Workers' comp issues on table

February 04, 2004

Ryan Carter

Tips on how to combat skyrocketing state workers' compensation costs

that are forcing businesses out of state and prompting fraud concerns

will be the topic of a round-table discussion this week in Glendale.

Assemblyman Dario Frommer (D-Burbank) will join state Insurance

Commissioner John Garamendi and others to talk about the issue and

take public feedback from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Friday at the Glendale

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Central Library, 222 E. Harvard St.

Other panelists in the round table will include Christine Baker,

executive director of the Commission on Health, Safety and Workers

Compensation; Frank Neuhauser, project director for UC Berkeley's

data-survey research center; and Betty Jo Toccoli, president of the

California Small Business Assn.

The discussion will include policy initiatives and how to further

trim the state's $29-billion workers' compensation system, which Gov.

Arnold Schwarzenegger said is a major part of bringing California

back to fiscal health.

"The issue is huge for local businesses," said Frommer, chairman

of the Assembly Health Committee. "I've been hearing from local

constituents about it for some time. This round table is about the

opportunity for business to hear what is being proposed in terms of

remedies. But it is also about business people sharing their stories

and their thoughts for how they think we as policy makers should

proceed to fix the problem."

Last year, Frommer helped push through legislation that skimmed

billions out of the bloated workers' compensation system.

"Last year we cut about $5 billion in costs from the system," he

said. "But what has happened is that businesses have not seen their

premiums decrease."

Committees of the Burbank and Glendale chambers of commerce have

already started meeting jointly to discuss how to lobby local

legislators such as Frommer for more reform.

Garamendi, meanwhile, has called the system "distorted," and in

his workers' compen- sation savings plan has suggested that he could

"expose" insurance companies that do not pass along savings from

reforms to businesses.

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