California Governor Jerry Brown has formally signed a bill limiting professional athletes from receiving workers’ compensation benefits in California if they live and play predominantly outside the state.
The bill, AB1309, which received bipartisan support as well as that of sports organizations such as the National Football League, was proposed in 2012 by Assemblyman Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno) to prevent out-of-state athletes from “unfairly targeting” California’s WC system.
“This new law sets reasonable standards to close an expensive loophole unique to California and to professional sports,” says Dennis Kuhl, chairman of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. “This change isn’t just good for California baseball teams—it’s good for all California businesses and their workers and ensures that our workers’ compensation system is there for in-state players.”
Supporters of AB1309 say out-of-state athletes are taking advantage of a “loophole” in California’s WC system that allows them to file claims, long after retirement, in their home state and in California, where they may have played as little as a portion of one game.
The bill’s detractors, including players’ representatives, say it is a ploy by the state and by professional sports teams to get out of the enormous financial burden of paying for injured and mentally declining former athletes.
A study by the NFL showed that up to 4,000 WC claims remain open in California with a cost that could come to $1 billion. New claims are accumulating at a rate of about 30 per month, according to the study. The California Insurance Guarantee Association has paid more than $41.7 million in losses on professional-athlete claims since 2002.
The bill is retroactive to Sept. 15.