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A workers’ compensation bill that’s provoked a high-stakes lobbying fight between professional sports teams and players unions has passed a key hurdle in the California legislature. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the deal strikes a strong balance “between protecting California’s employees and closing what we believe is a very egregious loophole that allows out-of-state claims to be filed here in California.” says Ed Lamb, the Chief Financial Officer of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers.

The amended AB 1309 by Assemblyman Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno) was approved Wednesday by the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee. “This bill was strengthened to ensure out-of-state non-specific injury claims have no business being filed in California, while we safeguard the rights of injured workers who are substantially employed here,” Perea said. The bill would also close the loophole that allows out-of-state athletes to place 100% of the cumulative trauma liability on California-based teams even if they played a small amount of time for that team and most of their career out of state. “The amended bill strikes a fair and equitable balance between protecting California’s employees and closing an egregious loophole that allows out-of-state claims to be filed in California,” said Ed Lamb, chief financial officer for the Los Angeles Clippers.

But critics say they still can’t support the measure. “We don’t understand why professional athletes are being singled out for disparate treatment as opposed to that for any other employee in the state of California,” says NFL Players Association Associate General Counsel Ned Ehrlich.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said the proposal would allow claims for cumulative trauma suffered over the course of a career as long as an athlete played at least two seasons for a professional team based in California. “The essence of the agreement is to limit the ability of athletes who have never played for a California team to use the cumulative trauma portion of the workers’ compensation law” to file a claim, Steinberg told reporters.The Times reported in February that California has paid millions of dollars in workers’ compensation claims to professional athletes, including some that played only a handful of games in the Golden State but spent their careers on out-of-state teams.

The bill must still be approved by the full Senate.