Policy committees have passed three bills this week related to workers' compensation for essential workers during the pandemic. Recent amendments indicate the bills will continue to evolve, with authors saying negotiations with stakeholders are ongoing.

The bills seek to extend Gov. Newsom’s executive order in May, which removed the burden from workers for having to prove a COVID-19 infection took place at the worksite. Instead, the order allowed employers a 30-day window to dispute the claim.

One bill being proposed is similar to that order. Another, Assembly Bill 196, includes a “conclusive presumption” clause, which would remove the opportunity for an employer to dispute a claim. It also extends the time period included in a claim to 90 days after leaving a job.

A number of agricultural and business groups oppose both bills. They argue AB 196 in particular is much broader than the governor’s action and would “create an astronomical financial burden” on businesses.

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The third bill focuses more specifically on firefighters. Debates over bills addressing leave time during the pandemic have also been continuing.

Meanwhile, a bill related to notifying H-2A workers of their rights has passed a powerful committee, Assembly Appropriations. And a bill that divided the ag community over byproducts used for cattle feed has been pulled ahead of its committee hearing Friday.