Legislature(2003 - 2004)

2004-02-16 House Journal

Full Journal pdf

2004-02-16                     House Journal                      Page 2613
HB 490                                                                                            
HOUSE BILL NO. 490 by the House Rules Committee by request of                                       
the Governor, entitled:                                                                             
     "An Act relating to the release of employment security records, to                             
     the admissibility of determinations and decisions regarding                                    
     unemployment compensation benefits, and to contributions,                                      
     interest, penalties, and payments under the Alaska Employment                                  
     Security Act; providing that property under the Alaska                                         
     Employment Security Act is not subject to the Uniform                                          
       Unclaimed Property Act; and providing for an effective date."                               
was read the first time and referred to the Labor & Commerce and                                    
Judiciary Committees.                                                                               
The following fiscal note(s) apply:                                                                 
1.  Zero, Dept. of Labor & Workforce Development                                                    
The Governor's transmittal letter dated February 13, 2004, follows:                                 
"Dear Speaker Kott:                                                                                 
Under the authority of article III, section 18, of the Alaska                                       
Constitution, I am transmitting a bill relating to the: (1) the release of                          
employment security records for law enforcement purposes; (2)                                       
administrative hearing decisions on unemployment benefits; and (3)                                  
federal compliance and other technical corrections to the Alaska                                    
Employment Security Act.                                                                            
This bill would allow the Department of Labor (DOL) to release                                      
employment security records to a state district attorney, a municipal                               
attorney, a United States attorney, and the Federal Bureau of                                       
Investigation for use in criminal investigations and prosecutions.                                  
Under current law, employment security records are confidential for                                 
criminal investigation and prosecution purposes.                                                    
This bill would codify the Alaska Supreme Court's decision in                                       
Manning v. Alaska Railroad Corporation, 853 P.2d 1120 (Alaska                                       
1993).  In that case, the court held that the commissioner of DOL's                                 

2004-02-16                     House Journal                      Page 2614
decision granting the plaintiff unemployment benefits did not                                       
automatically require a finding of wrongful termination in a later court                            
case.  Unemployment claims rarely provide an incentive for the                                      
employer to participate, much less spend a significant amount of time                               
and money investigating the facts and bringing those facts to the                                   
attention of the hearing officer.  Employers have little incentive to                               
participate in an unemployment benefits claim hearing since their                                   
bottom line is only marginally affected by the outcome.  This gives an                              
employee the opportunity to receive a favorable decision in an                                      
uncontested unemployment benefits claim and unfairly leverage that                                  
decision against the employer in a later court case.                                                
Finally, the bill makes a number of changes to bring Alaska law into                                
compliance with federal law, resolves conflicts in Alaska statutes and                              
makes other technical amendments.  Other changes include provisions                                 
dealing with payment and collection of unemployment taxes by DOL                                    
from employers, expanding the ability of DOL to collect                                             
overpayments of unemployment compensation benefits on behalf of                                     
other states, clarifying which health professionals are excluded from                               
the Alaska Employment Security Act, and clarifying that the definition                              
of "wages" does not include education assistance.  Of these, the                                    
principal change would remove the requirement that unemployment                                     
compensation be deposited into the unclaimed property fund.  Federal                                
law requires such funds to be deposited into the unemployment                                       
insurance trust fund.                                                                               
I urge your prompt and favorable action on this measure.                                            
                                Sincerely yours,                                                    
                                Frank H. Murkowski