Workers’ comp reform, Ag Commission budget cuts addressed at Good Morning Santa Paula

April 07, 2004
Santa Paula News

Workers’ compensation reform and the state of agriculture were on the menu of March’s Good Morning Santa Paula!

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesWorkers’ compensation reform and the state of agriculture were on the menu of March’s Good Morning Santa Paula!Union Bank/Jackie Crave hosted the Chamber of Commerce sponsored event held at Logsdon’s at the Santa Paula Airport.Susan Graham and Dan Lyon of the Workers Compensation Task Force said rising costs are forcing California businesses to downsize or even close, “not good for employers or employees.”Study of the issue has revealed that the system needs improvement, said Graham. In fact, aspects of workers’ comp was found to be “truly broken, fraught with fraud and abuse not only be employees by also physicians and healthcare providers,” as well as applicant attorneys.Key issues include injury identification, medical fee schedules and other areas that need reform, she added.Pending legislation would impact health insurance, workers’ comp limits, determination of permanent disabilities and vocational rehabilitation, but without change a November ballot issue could reform workers’ comp, she added.“Workers’ comp is a very serious issue for business,” said Lyon, the former owner of a staffing company “that had to shut down” due to workers’ comp system failure.
Changes in local agriculture will put the pressure on providing more farm labor housing said Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner Earl McPhail.“Ag is obviously alive and well and still changing rapidly,” as seen from Highway 126 where “no longer profitable” river valley Valencia’s are being replaced with row crops.The county is now the second largest in strawberry production and “ag continues to evolve. . .the types of crops we’re growing are more labor intensive than in the past,” noted McPhail. “We have a lot of work to do,” providing housing for the rising number of farm laborers that will be required for the new crops.The state fiscal crisis is trickling down and could mean a 40% cut to every county department except public safety, said McPhail.“I would have to cut $450,000, at least six to seven people, out of my small department. . .the governor better rethink cutting the state deficit on the back of the counties,” a message sent in a letter from alarmed local elected leaders.McPhail said he might even have to close the Camarillo office of the ag department: “All the farmers would have to come to Santa Paula. . .and I would not have as many people,” to serve the needs of county growers. I have an obligation to let you know your services be impacted. It’s not scare tactics on my part but reality. Ag will continue and we try to do the very best job we can but things will be slower.”Former city council members and supervisors now serving on the state level have not been helpful: “Once they get into the Beltway they forget,” their roots and those that elected them to higher office.Farmers must now be more political active, “take 25% of your time for politics,” by lobbying and being involved in the issues, said McPhail.

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