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The state Senate on Monday approved a measure that would give families of deceased firefighters and police officers more time to file for workers’ compensation death benefits. This bill provides an extension for dependents of deceased firefighters and peace officers to file for workers’ compensation death benefits if the death resulted from any of the following: cancer, tuberculosis, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) skin infections, or bloodborne infectious disease. This extension is for up to 420 weeks from the date of injury, but in no case more than one year from the date of death, as specified. This bill requires the extension to sunset on January 1, 2019.

According to the Senate Appropriations Committee, this bill results in an increase in workers’ compensation costs related to state employees who are firefighters and peace officers. The specific state departments that would be impacted are the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the California Highway Patrol. The amount of the increase is unknown.

Assemblyman John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) wrote the measure that would give families an extension of 420 weeks from the date of injury but no more than one year from the date of death to file claims.

“The families of fallen public safety officers face an extraordinary emotional and financial toll when they lose a cherished loved one,” said Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres). “Simply put, AB 1035 is the right thing to do.”

The bill is supported by a host of public employee unions, and opposed by the California Association of Joint Powers Authorities, the California Coalition of on Workers’ Compensation California, the State Association of Counties, the County of Los Angeles, CSAC, the Excess Insurance Agency League of California Cities and the Rural County Representatives of California

Opponents argue that this bill will increase costs on local governments and counties at a time when budgets are limited and the full impact of the 2012 Workers’ Compensation reform is unknown. Opponents also argue that this bill is being considered at the same time as other bills which add to the number of peace officers who qualify for existing presumptions, and that these bills could increase the fiscal impacts of this bill. Opponents also maintain that the recent National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health study only noted increases in some cancers, while the existing workers’ compensation presumption covers all cancers.

The bill now goes back to the Assembly for a vote on amendments. It was backed by public employee unions but opposed by groups such as the League of California Cities and the California State Assn. of Counties.

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar measure last year, but Cannella said changes have been made to address the governor’s concerns, including a Jan. 1, 2019, sunset date for the extension.