Sunday, 25 September 2022

Senate Appropriations Committee approves Wiggins bills

SACRAMENTO – The Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday approved the following bills by Senator Patricia Wiggins (D – Santa Rosa):


– SB 557, which seeks to include qualified doctors of audiology among those medical professionals who may be appointed by the administrative director of the Division of Workers' Compensation as qualified medical evaluators.


The bill’s sponsor, the California Academy of Audiology, asserts that an audiologist is the most qualified professional to determine whether a hearing loss would impair a worker's ability or whether a hearing loss was secondary to noise exposure on the job.


– SB 565, which would create the position of hospital and health services director at the Yountville Veterans’ Home.


Yountville is the only state veterans’ home with a hospital. Yountville has an emergency room, skilled nursing facility, pharmacy, and an Alzheimer unit. Yountville has a medical director and a nursing director but no one to administer and coordinate the medical care and medical personnel for all the facilities on the property.


Veterans and veterans’ advocacy groups believe that patients would be better served with a hospital and health services director on-site.


– SB 581, which would transfer the Volunteer Firefighters Length of Service Award System away from CalPERS and direct administrative responsibilities of the program to the California State Fire Employees Welfare Benefit Corporation.


Currently there are approximately 54 fire departments participating in the program, and 128 volunteer firefighters who are receiving monthly payments and who are eligible for the death benefit. The total membership is comprised of 3,983 volunteer firefighters and the balance in the fund is approximately $2.6 million.


In 1998, CalPERS changed the methods and assumptions it used in determining the administrative costs of the VFLSA. Since that time, the administrative costs have increased from $10,000 to an estimated cost of $139,025 for 2007-08.


The system is funded entirely by contributions from contracting fire entities and investment earnings.


– SB 861, which would authorize the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) to use $5.5 million in previously allocated state funds for environmental cleanup of rail lines.


Specifically, this bill would allow the NCRA to use $5.5 million in funds allocated through the Transportation Congestion Relief Program to meet cleanup obligations under an environmental remediation consent decree ($4 million), along with some administrative responsibilities.


The authority would be prohibited from spending more than $500,000 annually on administrative expenses.


Monday's actions mean that all four bills are now eligible for a vote by the full Senate.


Wiggins represents California’s 2nd Senate District, which stretches from Solano County to Humboldt County and includes part or all of Lake, Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma Counties as well. Visit her Web site at http://dist02.casen.govoffice.com/.


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