California’s Legislators Commandeer Workers Comp in Coronavirus Fight

Down in Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti is deploying informers against those who dare violate stay-at-home orders. “You know the old expression about snitches, well in this case snitches get rewards,” Garcetti told reporters. “We want to thank you for turning folks in and making sure we are all safe.” Over in Malibu, police are busting surfers and hauling them away in handcuffs. Up in Sacramento, Gov. Gavin Newsom is taking coronavirus spending to a new level.

Back in March, legislators allowed Gov. Newson to spend more than $1 billion in the coronavirus emergency, with $500 million available immediately, before suspending public hearings and floor votes for a month. The governor seized the opportunity to strike a $1 billion deal with Chinese company BYD for 200 million masks a month, in a state with some 40 million people.

Gavin Newsom wasn’t revealing details of the $1 billion deal, which as John Myers of the Los Angeles Times noted, “will cost taxpayers 30 percent more than the governor’s January budget allotted for infectious diseases for the whole fiscal year.” Holly Mitchell, chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, fired off an official letter demanding details, but at this writing the governor is still holding off, as legislators shift to other fronts.

Senate Bill 1159 by Sen. Jerry Hill, notes Katy Grimes of the California Globe, has been “gutted and amended” to define injury for “critical workers” to include illness or death that results from exposure to coronavirus. The employee’s “injury” will be presumed to be the result of an employment “injury.” The bill is limited to “critical workers,” the public or private-sector employee who is employed to combat the spread of COVID-19.

“California employers already pay some of the highest workers’ comp insurance premiums in the country,” Grimes explains. “Will this end up running some employers out of business as medical malpractice insurance did for OB/Gyn doctors, with premiums in the hundreds of thousands of dollars annually?” And “will the coronavirus crisis be precedence setting for future seasonal flues and all contagious viral illnesses? And why again is this the fault of the employer?”

Good questions, but right now everything is about the coronavirus. Taxpayers and business owners bear the brunt but as Mayor Garcetti said, “snitches get rewards.” Stay safe everybody, and keep an eye out for surfers.

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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