Legislature(2019 - 2020)ADAMS 519
02/27/2020 01:30 PM FINANCE
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HOUSE BILL NO. 30 "An Act relating to the exclusiveness of liability of an employer in the case of death; relating to the payment of workers' compensation benefits in the case of permanent partial impairment; relating to notice of workers' compensation death benefits; relating to the payment of workers' compensation death benefits payable to a child of an employee where there is no surviving spouse; relating to the payment of workers' compensation death benefits for an employee without a surviving spouse or child; and providing for an effective date." 2:52:54 PM Co-Chair Foster MOVED to ADOPT proposed committee substitute for HB 30, Work Draft 31-LS0280\R (Marx, 01-31-20). Co-Chair Johnston OBJECTED for discussion. 2:53:43 PM ERIN SHINE, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE JENNIFER JOHNSTON, reported that she had worked with Representative Josephson's staff to produce the version of the draft Committee Substitute (CS). She reviewed the changes in the CS. She reported that on page 1, lines 1 through 5 the title was changed to reflect the changes in the CS. On page 1, line 7, Section 1, the prior Section 1 was removed that included the short title of the bill. She explained that new Section 1 included all new language and added a requirement for notification of workers at time of hire. The notification described the compensation generally available and specifically required that employees be informed about compensation available in the case of death for workers who are unmarried and lacked dependents. Section 3 included 2 edits of conforming language corresponding to changes in other sections in the bill. She noted that new Section 4 eliminated AS 23.30.215 (a) and created a new subsection (j) on line 9 that contained the following conforming language: continues until the child reaches the 23 years of age unless extended Ms. Shine read the prior language as follows: shall terminate five years after the person is no longer considered a child Ms. Shine concluded that the effective date was changed from January 1, 2020 to January 1, 2021. Co-Chair Johnston WITHDREW her OBJECTION. There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered. 2:56:18 PM ELISE SORUM-BIRK, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE ANDY JOSEPHSON, addressed the current version of the bill. She explained that the bill updated the permanent partial impairment rates and the language had not changed in the CS. The rates had not been adjusted since 2000. The state was ranked as one of the lowest in the country regarding permanent partial impairment rates. She pointed to page 2, line 15 of the CS and noted that the impairment rate rose from $177 thousand to $255 thousand, which was the national average rate. She reported that new Section 1 required notification of employees regarding death benefits. She indicated that the original bill added a death benefit for single workers and recalled that the issue was discussed in committee in the prior session. The provision was withdrawn from the CS due to philosophical issues among some committee members. She relayed that Representative Josephson felt that it was imperative that employees were made aware of the disparities between the amount a single childless worker would receive in death benefits versus a married worker with dependents. She cited an additional provision in Section 3 regarding death benefits, which stated that a personal representative of a deceased employee would be notified regarding available benefits. She moved to Section 4 and related that the provision pertained to orphans who were parentless. She recounted that an issue regarding the definition of child arose in the prior session. The current version of the bill allowed for benefits until the age of 23. Therefore, an orphaned child would continue to receive death benefits until 23 years of age. 3:00:21 PM Representative Knopp inquired whether the orphaned childs age limit was specified in the prior legislation. Ms. Sorum-Burke replied that a specific age was not provided. However, the provision stated that if a person was attending college full-time, they were still considered a child. She remarked that the language created a gray area that the sponsor was not comfortable with. Representative Knopp clarified that the change meant the benefits ceased at the age of 23 regardless of what the individual was doing. Ms. Sorum-Burke articulated that the reason for the age 23 was that an individual might still be dependent on their family. She provided an example of a young person in the military whose parents died and would not receive a benefit. Representative Knopp wondered what the allowable extension under AS 23.30.395(8) was. Ms. Sorum-Burke responded that it applied to children with intellectual or physical disabilities considered a dependent. Representative Carpenter asked for clarification on Section 1. He ascertained that the employer must notify the employee of the death benefits available for single and married employees. He asked if he was correct. Ms. Sorum- Burke responded that his assessment was generally accurate. She delineated that an equal protection issue was discovered while drafting the legislation. Therefore, all employees regardless of their marital status had to receive notification concerning single and childless employees benefits. Representative Carpenter was trying to understand the reason for the notification. 3:03:39 PM Representative Josephson provided the example of a 19 year old man working in Prudhoe Bay without a wife and family who died on the job. He indicated that under current law nothing was available to the worker, even if his death was due to gross negligence on the employer's part. The family had no recourse; they could not sue the employer nor could they collect workers compensation. He believed that notification would provide the worker the insight to purchase life insurance. He added that the intent was to provide notice to the workers that they were on their own. Co-Chair Johnston would be setting the bill aside. HB 30 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further consideration.