Business won some and lost some in the just-completed legislative session, but the final tally won't be seen until later this month as Gov. Pete Wilson considers whether to sign the measures into law or exercise his veto.

Business groups are pushing Wilson to turn thumbs down on AB 1100, which would require health plans to cover severe mental illness, and SB 1909, which would hike state unemployment insurance.

The National Federation of Independent Business issued a statement last week saying AB 1100 would hike health care premiums by up to 10 percent.

"How much mental illness coverage to provide should be left up to the employer, just as physical health care coverage is," said Shirley Knight, assistant state director for the NFIB.

Proponents, including the bill's author, Assemblywoman Helen Thompson, D-Davis, countered that premiums would not increase.

Knight said the NFIB did support another bill that would allow more businesses to qualify for the state's small-business health pool. Currently, companies with two to 50 employees qualify; this bill would allow self-employed persons to qualify.

Business groups also want Wilson to veto SB 1909, saying the increased unemployment insurance costs will be borne by employers.

Passage of SB 1909 was a victory for organized labor, which also saw legislation passed that would increase state disability benefit levels and that would ban employers from requiring employees to resolve workplace disputes through arbitration.

"Labor had an ambitious agenda," said Elizabeth Ecks, a lobbyist for the California Labor Federation. "We did manage to put a number of bills on Gov. Wilson's desk that will protect workers' rights. We are hopeful that he will sign these bills."

Even so, labor's top initiatives reinstatement of daily overtime pay, higher wages and benefits for part-time workers and increased benefits for injured workers were all defeated in the Legislature.

"This was a moderately good session from the business perspective," said Fred Main, vice president of the California Chamber of Commerce and a co-chair of the Coalition for California Jobs, a business advocacy group. "Of the 63 bills we defined as 'job-killers,' 52 were defeated. Eleven went to the governor, yet even those were not the worst of the worst."

In addition, two other measures passed by the Legislature this year are expected to have a business impact: the $1 billion cut in vehicle license fees and the $9.2 billion school bond that will be placed on the Nov. 3 ballot.


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