Months of heavy lobbying by the National Football League and other professional sports team owners paid off when lawmakers gave final passage to a bill to limit most workers’ compensation claims by out-of-state professional athletes.
The bill, AB 1309 by Assemblyman Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno), cleared the Assembly on a 66-3 vote and was sent to Gov. Jerry Brown. The governor is expected to sign the bill into law, Perea’s office said.
The Los Angeles Times says that last week, the measure received an overwhelming endorsement in the state Senate with a 34-2 vote. Perea’s proposal, which was opposed by the NFL Players’ Assn. and the AFL-CIO, would close a provision in California law that allowed players from out of state to file workers’ compensation claims for so-called cumulative trauma, including head injuries that manifested themselves years after their careers had ended.
Many of those players may have participated in just a handful of games in California over the course of their careers.
During the bill’s eight-month transit through the Legislature, team owners argued that California had become a de facto forum for claims filed against football, baseball, basketball, hockey and soccer franchises and their insurance companies.
Players unions countered that the employers don’t want to be responsible for their former workers’ head injuries and other ailments.
Former athletes have filed more than 4,400 claims involving head and brain injuries since 2006. This bill would not affect pending claims. Provisions that initially would have had a retroactive effect were removed by a September 5 amendment to the bill. The bill now contains language in paragraph 3600.5 (h) tat says “the amendments made to this section by the act adding this subdivision apply to all claims for benefits pursuant to this division filed on or after September 15 2013.” The previous version of the bill had provisions that would have applied retroactively to all pending claims not yet adjudicated. Thus thousands of these claims already in the system will continue to move forward.
Pundits say that Governor Brown will sign this bill into law. The governor has until Oct. 13 to sign or veto the bill.