Workers' Comp Cuts Are Pushed

By July, many California employers could be paying less than half what they paid three years ago for workers' compensation insurance, although the dramatic decline in premiums finally may be coming to an end, the Los Angeles Times reports. On Wednesday, state Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi recommended that workers' comp insurers cut their premiums 16.4 percent for policies that begin or renew during the second half of the year. If companies follow Garamendi's nonbinding recommendation , as most have tended to do in the past , it would bring to 55.1 percent the cumulative reduction in premiums since the Legislature overhauled the workers' comp system in 2003 and 2004. But those savings could be the last substantial drop in rates for a while, industry experts said. And some insurers are balking at cutting their rates by the full recommended amount this time around.

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Gambling Takes Off as Tribes' Casinos Increase
California's gambling revenue exploded to more than $13 billion in 2004, fueled by a rapid expansion of tribal casinos, according to a wide-ranging report released Wednesday by the California attorney general's office, the Sacramento Bee reports. The 56 tribal casinos operating in the state in 2004 took in $5.78 billion that year, up nearly 37 percent from 2002. But Californians spread their bets beyond Indian casinos: In 2004 $2.97 billion was spent on the lottery; almost $4.1 billion was wagered on horse races; and $656 million fed the pots in card rooms, the report found. The growth in recent years puts gambling among California's largest industries. Agriculture, by comparison, is a $32 billion business in the state. Gambling is as hot a topic in Washington, D.C., and Sacramento, where lawmakers are pondering measures aimed at stopping "reservation shopping" -- tribes going off reservation to set up casinos -- and a ban of online gambling. Casinos have boosted tribes and local communities, providing jobs and encouraging investment. Gambling has also helped pad government coffers. But that gain has come with a hefty price tag.
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State Guard Border Stint Could Last Until End of '08
California National Guard troops would be sent to the border nearly six months longer than originally envisioned, with an untold number of soldiers being asked to sign up for yearlong durations, under a deployment plan unveiled at a special state Senate committee hearing Wednesday, the Sacramento Bee reports. Maj. Gen. William Wade told the committee that if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger agrees to the deployment requested last month by President Bush, California would send up to 1,000 troops to the Mexican border beginning in mid-July and that the forces would remain in their supporting role to stem the flow of illegal immigration through Dec. 31, 2008. A report prepared by the California Guard for the hearing also says the troops would be deployed as part of a "duration" or "rotational" force. A Guard spokesman later said the "duration" forces, to be made up "predominantly" of volunteers, would be posted at the border for up to a year.
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MTA Ideas May Ad Up
Hoping to replicate the success of transit agencies nationwide, the financially strapped MTA is looking for innovative ways to sell space on its buses, trains and stations to bring in more advertising revenue, the Los Angeles Daily News reports. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, desperate to avert a fare hike, has directed its staff to report back later this month with ways to increase advertising, with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa telling fellow board members it's time to "think outside the box." Other agencies around the country already have been doing that. On the BART system in San Francisco, passengers will soon be seeing ads on the back of their rail tickets and are being offered credit cards with transit rewards for spending. But while ads touting everything from iPods to attorneys can rake in millions of dollars, it's only a small fraction of what the MTA and most other agencies need to fill funding gaps.
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