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California Legislators Wind Up 2003 session

California legislators wound up their 2003 session with action on several major bills during Assembly and Senate sessions that lasted into early this morning.

Sweeping bills to deal with the state´s troubled workers´ compensation system and to provide health insurance to more than a one million Californians were approved and sent to Governor Gray Davis.

Other bills would provide new privacy rights for consumers and would help rid the environment of electronic waste and spilled rocket fuel.

Shortly before midnight Assembly Republicans briefly stalked off the floor when the majority Democrats voted to shut down debate on one seemingly minor measure. Action on bills finally ended in the Senate at 1:35 a.m. and in the Assembly at 3:46 a.m.

The package of eight bills to improve the state´s workers´ compensation system is designed to cut the cost of treating injured workers by 20 percent and ease burdens on California businesses that fund the system. Republicans called the changes too little and said the system was still bloated with excessive costs.

The health insurance bill would require employers with at least 20 employees to help provide their workers with health insurance by 2007. Those companies with more than 200 workers would be required to offer health insurance that also covers´ workers´ families by 2006. Minority Republicans who opposed the bill say it is another burden on businesses during rough economic times.

One of the three consumer privacy bills prohibits retailers from asking for customer´s personal information, such as zip code, social security number or telephone number as a condition of a transaction.

An environmental bill establishes fees of six dollars and ten dollars on new computers and televisions to launch a recycling program for old computers and TVs beginning next year. And another bill approved and sent to the governor companies that do business with the state to offer the same benefits to domestic partners as they do to married couples.

On the Net:

Read the Assembly bills at: assembly.ca.gov

Read the Senate bills at: senate.ca.gov