Big Business Lobbyist Cannot Guarantee "truth and accuracy of the information that could be presented"
Santa Monica, CA -- The California Manufacturing & Technology Association (CMTA) said that it would not testify under oath during Senate hearings that are scheduled to continue as part of Governor Schwarzenegger's special session on workers' compensation insurance, in a letter to Senator Richard Alarcon Friday. The CMTA is one of the key special interests that stand to gain from the workers' comp reform package proposed by Governor Schwarzenegger.
According to the letter from CMTA President Jack Stewart, "The point is there is no way of guaranteeing the truth and accuracy that could be presented by our representative that could be used at some future date to his detriment."
The CMTA, which has argued that skyrocketing workers' compensation premiums have devastated California's business climate, had been expected to testify under oath on the Schwarzenegger proposal this week. The group calls for stringent limits on the rights of injured workers among other changes to the workers' comp system. Last Friday, CMTA's chief lobbyist, Willie Washington, told the Orange County Register that he would testify under oath; the CMTA letter appears to have been sent after Washington's statement. Consumer advocates said that any group that is unwilling to ensure the accuracy of its testimony should not be allowed to participate in any of the workers' comp debates or negotiations.
"It is incredible that a group that has been among the most outspoken on the need for workers' comp reform, can not promise that its lobbyist will tell lawmakers the truth," said Doug Heller, senior consumer advocate with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR). "If business groups want to change the workers' comp system, they ought to be able to explain why under oath. If they refuse to tell the truth, they should not be allowed to participate in the process."
All Testimony in Sacramento Should Be Conducted Under Oath
FTCR said that the letter from CMTA points to a potentially larger problem in Sacramento concerning the influence of special interests. Specifically, the consumer group said that the letter suggests that there may be rampant dishonesty in the legislative process and will call on Governor Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders to require all testimony at every hearing in the future be conducted under oath.
"It is one thing to lobby, it's another thing to lie. Swearing in lobbyists costs the state nothing, but it could save the state billions by holding special interests accountable when they ask for help from the legislature," said Heller.
Earlier this year, lawmakers in Florida learned that the scope of that state's medical malpractice crisis was less severe than was perceived after doctors, insurers and state officials were called to testify under oath in the Florida Senate. During the Florida hearings it became clear that the insurers, doctors and hospitals, which asserted that doctors were leaving the state and health clinics were closing down at an unprecedented rate, had mislead lawmakers. While under oath they had to admit that doctors were not actually leaving the state and that insurers were, in fact, very profitable in Florida.
"When there are real consequences for lying, even lobbyists are forced to tell the truth," said Heller.