BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                    AB 2493


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          Date of Hearing:  May 4, 2016


                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS


                               Lorena Gonzalez, Chair


          AB  
          2493 (Atkins) - As Introduced February 19, 2016


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          Urgency:  No  State Mandated Local Program:  NoReimbursable:  No


          SUMMARY:


          This bill increases temporary disability benefits for all  
          rank-and-file and supervisory firefighters employed by the  
          Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFIRE), regardless  
          of their work assignment, such that the employees receive 100%  
          of their gross pay while on disability leave, for up to one  







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          year. 


          FISCAL EFFECT:


          1)Increased workers compensation cost to CalFIRE in the range of  
            $850,000 GF to provide a higher level of temporary disability  
            benefits based on the number and duration of current claims. 


          2)To the extent there is a behavioral response to the increased  
            benefits that either results in more claims or longer periods  
            of disability, the state would incur additional costs both for  
            (1) the higher level of benefits as well as (2) overtime  
            payments to cover for injured workers who are on leave.  The  
            extent to which this would occur is difficult to predict, but  
            for each ten additional FTEs annually who are out on leave,  
            costs would increase by $350,000 GF for overtime coverage as  
            well as the marginal cost of the higher benefit amount for the  
            ten disabled workers.  


          3)Based on the higher benefit amount, CalFIRE indicates it would  
            likely request an increase in administrative staff to provide  
            additional oversight and management of disability cases and  
            claims.  The number of staff would need to be justified based  
            on workload, commensurate with additional claims or additional  
            length of claims as a result of this bill.  One staff would be  
            $120,000 per year and three staff would be $350,000 GF.   


          COMMENTS:


          1)Purpose. This bill seeks to provide state-employed  
            firefighters with similar benefits available to local  
            firefighters. This bill is sponsored by CalFIRE Local 2881,  
            which represents CalFIRE firefighters.








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          2)4800 and 4850 time.  Current law grant special benefits to  
            certain employees of Department of Justice, California Highway  
            Patrol, and Department of Fish and Wildlife (Labor Code  
            sections 4800 and 4800.5) and local public safety and  
            firefighters (section 4850).  These sections provide for a  
            year of leave at full salary if the individual is injured or  
            becomes ill on the job, before temporary disability (TD)  
            benefits commence.  This year is commonly called "4800" or  
            "4850 time"  The salary is not subject to state or federal  
            taxes, meaning an employee can take home substantially more in  
            weekly benefits than they normally earn while working.  Public  
            employers have noted this creates a disincentive for injured  
            public safety officers to return to work, even if they are  
            able, due to the financial loss they would suffer when they  
            return.  In the case of CalFIRE, firefighters who often are  
            eligible for substantial overtime, the extent to which this is  
            the case is unclear because it is not clear how 100% of gross  
            salary available through "4800 time" would compare to the  
            average take-home pay of firefighters that is inclusive of  
            overtime. 


          3)Covered employees. This bill provides an enhanced benefit for  
            all firefighters employed by CalFIRE, regardless of their  
            regularly assigned duties. Some statutes require "active" law  
            enforcement or firefighting duties in order to qualify for the  
            enhanced benefit.  For example, local firefighters have access  
            to the enhanced benefit pursuant to Labor Code 4850, but  
            unlike the provisions in this bill, employees of local fire  
            agencies whose functions do not clearly fall within the scope  
            of active firefighting and prevention service are excluded. 


          4)Current CalFIRE benefits. Temporary disability (TD) is  
            available for all employees for a maximum of 104 weeks of  
            benefit.  TD pays two-thirds of gross wages on a tax-free  
            basis, up to a maximum of $1,128 in 2016.  Benefits in  
            addition to TD are addressed through collective bargaining.  
            The current MOU between the state and Bargaining Unit 8, which  







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            represents CalFIRE firefighters, provides for Industrial  
            Disability Leave (IDL), which provides 2/3 of gross pay for  
            on-the-job injuries for up to a year and Enhanced IDL (EIDL),  
            which provides the net salary for up to a year.  EIDL only  
            applies to firefighters with serious physical injuries and any  
            complications directly related medically and attributable to a  
            fire, inmate assaults, and emergency medical responses,  
            experienced in the course of fighting an active fire.  An  
            additional length of benefits applies to burn injuries. The  
            largest cost of this bill is the differential between EIDL  
            "net pay" benefits and the larger "100% of gross pay" benefits  
            that would be required by this bill.    


          5)Recent legislation.  In 2013, SB 527 (Block) was signed into  
            law.  SB 527 added lifeguards employed by the City of San  
            Diego to the list of public safety employees entitled to 4850  
            time.  Proponents of that bill argued that the San Diego  
            lifeguards performed duties comparable to Los Angeles County  
            lifeguards, who already have this benefit.



          Last year, AB 1451 (Chavez) sought to provide 4850 benefits to a  
            class of lifeguards employed by the City of Oceanside, arguing  
            that other lifeguards employed by San Diego and Los Angeles  
            who performed comparable duties already receive this benefit.   
            Governor Brown vetoed AB 1451.  The veto message stated:
               


               "This bill adds full-time lifeguards employed by the City  
               of Oceanside to the list of employees who are entitled up  
               to one year of leave, paid at full salary without payroll  
               tax deductions, if they suffer an illness or injury that  
               arises out of their job duties.
               Recent data indicates public employers' costs related to  
               this disability leave benefit have increased at an alarming  
               rate.  These cost figures give me pause to extend this  
               benefit further in state law.  If the City of Oceanside  







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               wishes to offer full salary in lieu of temporary disability  
               for one year to their regular full-time lifeguards, they  
               are free to do so by means of the collective bargaining  
               process.  Eligibility for this benefit is best left to the  
               City of Oceanside, not the state, to determine."



          Analysis Prepared by:Lisa Murawski / APPR. / (916)  
          319-2081