SACRAMENTO (AP) — A major business group, the California Manufacturers & Technology Association, is refusing to testify under oath to a Senate committee investigating workers’ compensation costs, lawmakers said Monday.
The CMTA sent a letter to members of the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee late Friday announcing that its representatives would not testify under oath because much of their information comes from outside sources, such as magazine articles and people who work in the workers’ comp insurance industry.
“The point is there is no way of guaranteeing the truth and accuracy of the information that could be presented by our representative that could be used at some future date to his detriment,” Jack Stewart, the association’s president, said in the letter.
The committee’s chairman, Sen. Richard Alarcon, D-Van Nuys, said the association was the only organization that had notified the committee so far that it would not testify under oath.
Another committee member, Sen. Joe Dunn, D-Garden Grove, said he hoped the association would reconsider its decision and the “unfortunate signal such a decision sends.”
Committee members didn’t say if they planned to subpoena CMTA representatives to force them to testify.
Consumer activist Doug Heller of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights called the CMTA’s position “incredible” and said it raised questions about claims by business groups that lawmakers need to find more ways to cut workers’ comp costs.
“If they don’t trust their own data they should not be using it,” Heller said. “if they believe that some of the information that they’ve been using is false or untrustworthy they should publicly state that.”
Stewart said the association has been providing credible testimony to the Legislature for 85 years but that Alarcon’s committee seemed to be playing “some kind of gotcha game.”
“I’m just not interested in putting my lobbyists in some kind of legal jeopardy because they say something that at some point may be found to not be factually correct,” he said in an interview.
Asked what kind of jeopardy that might be, Stewart said, “That’s what we don’t know. I’m not an attorney. My lobbyist is not an attorney. The oath requirement made us all nervous. Why in November are they requiring people to testify under oath when from January until November it wasn’t necessary?”
The committee is holding a series of hearings on the impact of workers’ comp cost-cutting legislation adopted earlier this year and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s demand for another $11 billion in cutbacks that opponents say could harm injured workers.
So far at least six witnesses have testified under oath, including Mark Sektnan, assistant vice president of the American Insurance Association, who told the committee Monday that there is a “great deal of uncertainty” among workers’ comp insurers about the impact of this year’s cuts.
On the Net: http://www.senate.ca.gov and http://www.insurance.ca.gov