Legislature(2021 - 2022)BARNES 124
03/17/2021 05:45 PM LABOR & COMMERCE
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HB 45-WORKERS' COMP. AND CONTAGIOUS DISEASES 7:08:18 PM CO-CHAIR FIELDS announced that the next order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 45, "An Act relating to presumption of compensability for workers' compensation claims related to contagious diseases; and providing for an effective date." 7:09:09 PM The committee took an at-ease from 7:09 p.m. to 7:12 p.m. 7:12:29 PM REPRESENTATIVE SCHRAGE moved to adopt the proposed committee substitute (CS) for HB 45, Version 32-LS0304\I, Marx, 3/16/21, as a working document. 7:12:38 PM REPRESENTATIVE KAUFMAN objected. 7:12:48 PM A roll call vote was taken. Representatives Spohnholz, Fields, Schrage, and Snyder voted in favor of adopting the CS for HB 45, Version 32-LS0304\I, Marx, 3/16/21, as a working document. Representatives Nelson, Kaufman, and McCarty voted against it. Therefore, by a vote of 4-3, the CS for HB 45, Version I, was before the House Labor and Commerce Standing Committee as a working document. 7:13:57 PM The committee took a brief at-ease. 7:14:30 PM REPRESENTATIVE NELSON asked Representative Josephson to explain the current workers' compensation pathways. He asked how a worker is meant to explain what happened to necessitate a claim and how a worker would move through the process to obtain compensation. 7:15:12 PM REPRESENTATIVE ANDY JOSEPHSON, Alaska State Legislature, as prime sponsor of HB 45, responded that there is a report of harm that gets filed within 30 days of the incident. If it is not filed, the injured employee could file it administratively. REPRESENTATIVE NELSON asked about the infectiousness of "this disease" and if [infections] were attributable to work conditions. REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON responded that it is attributable not in the same way that a trade injury would be, but that it is still attributable. He explained that the idea behind the bill is that there are essential workers that have been identified, which is a policy call, and these workers are "out there" working because of the essential nature of the work. The theory is that these workers are subject to more exposure than "the rest of us." 7:17:14 PM REPRESENTATIVE KAUFMAN asked why the fiscal note would be zero. REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON responded that the fiscal note is zero because it represents "one agency speaking about what it knows," and in this case, the agency is the Department of Revenue (DOR). He deferred the question to his staff, and asked if DOR used the term "indeterminate" when referencing the DOR fiscal note. 7:18:07 PM ELISE SORUM-BIRK, Staff, Representative Andy Josephson, Alaska State Legislature, on behalf of Representative Josephson, prime sponsor of HB 45, responded that the only fiscal note attached is the one from DOR, though it is possible that there will be more from the Department of Administration, Department of Corrections, or Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOTPF). 7:18:46 PM REPRESENTATIVE NELSON noted the complexity of workers' compensation. He shared his understanding that currently, the employee has to prove that the employer did not provide a safe working environment to receive workers' compensation. If this bill were to pass, he shared his understanding that an employee would simply have to prove employment at a workplace during the time the employee contracted the infection and the employee would receive compensation. He asked if this is correct. REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON responded that the second part of Representative Nelson's statement is correct, and the first part is less so. He explained that currently, employees are not required to prove that working conditions were unsafe to receive compensation. It is a "no fault" system and accidents happen, he said. Regarding the second part of Representative Nelson's question, he stated that it is correct that a worker would simply have to prove employment during the time of infection to receive compensation under the proposed legislation. He explained that this would be sufficient to create a burden. REPRESENTATIVE NELSON asked if that proof is all an employee would need. REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON responded yes. 7:20:15 PM REPRESENTATIVE SCHRAGE offered his understanding that the bill would be relevant only during a time when a disaster has been declared. He said that the bill would simply supply some benefit of the doubt to an employee who is providing an essential service during a disaster. He asked Representative Josephson if his understanding is correct. REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON responded that is correct. 7:20:52 PM REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTY asked Representative Josephson whether he has "any numbers as to what ends up in liability lawsuits" and whether this could cause a rise in potential lawsuits to employers. REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON responded that there's no potentiality for that because an employer cannot sue in a personal injury action, or "tort". The only exception to this would be a situation where there's third party liability, he said. He shared that the whole system began at the turn of the 20th century with [Chancellor Otto von] Bismarck, an early champion of workers' compensation, and is not based on liability or fault, but is instead based on a contract called the "Great Bargain." 7:22:34 PM CO-CHAIR FIELDS shared that the entire purpose of workers' compensation is to shield employers from tort liability. 7:22:48 PM REPRESENTATIVE SCHRAGE moved to report CSHB 45, Version 32- LS0304\I, Marx, 3/16/21, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. 7:23:00 PM REPRESENTATIVE NELSON objected. 7:23:16 PM A roll call vote was taken. Representatives Schrage, Snyder, Spohnholz, and Fields voted in favor of the motion to move CSHB 45, Version 32-LS0304\I, Marx, 3/16/21, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. Representatives McCarty, Nelson, and Kaufman voted against it. Therefore, CSHB 45(L&C) was reported out of the House Labor and Commerce Committee by a vote of 4-3.