Take Two for July 11, 2013

California moves to close worker's comp loophole for athletes

Super Bowl XLVII - Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers

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Josh Bynes #56 of the Baltimore Ravens tackles Ted Ginn Jr. #19 of the San Francisco 49ers during a kick return on the final play of Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

For years, professional athletes have been filing workers' compensation claims in California. That would be normal, except for the fact that some athletes who have played just one game in California are technically eligible for worker's compensation in the state. 

For example, former Dallas Cowboy Michael Irvin was awarded $249,000 despite playing his entire career in Texas. 

"It piles hundreds of millions on insurers and teams that are based on California, because its their insurance that gets claimed," said Dan Walters, political columnist for the Sacramento Bee, on Take Two. "When you have a certain number of claims, it affects your insurance premium down the line."

According to the LA Times, $747 million in claims from 4,500 athletes have been awarded since 1980. 

This loophole might be closed soon, if lawmakers get their way. 

On Wednesday, a bill proposed by Assemblymember Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno) was unanimously approved by the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee. The bill, compromised after some debate, will prevent athletes from filing in California if they haven't played two seasons for a California team, among other provisions. This applies only to non-specific injury claims, known as "cumulative trauma" that occurs over the period of a career. 

With the new legislation, only athletes who have played at least two years for a California-based sports team are eligible for non-specific injury compensation. Known as Assembly Bill 1309, the proposed legislation would also set jurisdictional standards on claims from professional athletes. 

The money paid in to fund these claims comes from insurance companies and professional sports teams, who are fed up with the current structure. Not only can athletes file in California even if they play there just occasionally, but they can double up and apply for compensation benefits in their home state as well. 

This doesn't just apply to professional athletes, as workers who travel across the country, such as truck drivers, can apply for compensation in California and their respective states.

For now, the bill's approval by the Senate committee means it's well on its way. "With this compromise, it appears that it's on track to go through," said Walters. "The President Pro Temp, Darrell Steinberg, announced the compromise this week and gave his seal of approval to it, and that indicates that the labor opposition would be removed."

Athletes and their representatives are opposed to the measure, which would go into effect in 2014 if passed in the California Senate.


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