A major insurance industry group is staying out of the Senate confirmation fight over Gov. Schwarzenegger’s workers’ comp director, another possible indication the appointment could be in trouble.
The Assoc-iation of Calif-ornia Insurance Companies said March 15 that it rarely takes positions on gubernatorial nominees and was concerned that if it endorsed Andrea Hoch it could skew the debate.
“For us to weigh in politically gives it more attention than it deserves,” Theo Pahos, a lobbyist for the association, said in a conference call with reporters. “We don’t want to play in that sandbox. We don’t want this to be insurer versus injured workers because it is not.”
But two other groups that represent workers’ comp insurers said they strongly support Schwarzenegger’s nomination of Hoch to head the state Division of Workers Compensation.
“We think she has done a great job under difficult circumstances and has worked hard to get complicated regulations done,” said Nicole Mahrt, a spokeswoman for the American Insurance Association.
Hoch’s appointment has generated heated opposition from labor unions and groups that represent injured workers and workers’ attorneys, and some of her supporters say the nomination could be in trouble.
Critics say she’s adopted regulations that harm injured workers and go beyond the scope of the workers’ comp system overhaul that lawmakers approved in 2003 and early 2004.
“This system now is just in chaos,” said David Schwartz, president of the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association, a group who represents injured workers.
The Senate Rules Committee canceled a hearing on the appointment last month and a new hearing hasn’t been scheduled. Hoch needs to be approved by May 3 to remain in office, said Alicia Dlugosh, a spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland.
She said Perata, who chairs the Rules Committee, wanted to give opponents and supporters more time to stake out their positions on a “very controversial” appointment.
ACIC’s president, Sam Sorich, said the association doesn’t have a problem with Hoch’s work but didn’t want to break with its tradition of staying out of confirmation fights in her case.
“I think we generally feel she is doing a good job in a very difficult situation,” he said. “We’re just staying neutral on her confirmation.” He said if Hoch isn’t confirmed Schwarz-enegger would nominate someone else who is “conversant enough to carry forth the program.”
A spokesman for Schwarz-enegger, Vince Sollitto, called the ACIC’s neutrality a “tangential irrelevancy” that wouldn’t hurt the nomination. “Her nomination hinges on whether opponents of reform will be able to win back what they lost in a broad, bipartisan vote last year,” he said.
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