Legislature(2017 - 2018)BARNES 124

02/24/2017 03:15 PM LABOR & COMMERCE

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Audio Topic
03:18:08 PM Start
03:18:42 PM HB38
04:19:03 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
*+ HB 38 WORKERS' COMPENSATION: DEATH BENEFITS TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
+= HB 2 PRIV EMPLOYER VOLUNTARY VET PREFERENCE TELECONFERENCED
Scheduled but Not Heard
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
          HOUSE LABOR AND COMMERCE STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                         
                       February 24, 2017                                                                                        
                           3:18 p.m.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Representative Sam Kito, Chair                                                                                                  
Representative Adam Wool, Vice Chair                                                                                            
Representative Andy Josephson                                                                                                   
Representative Louise Stutes                                                                                                    
Representative Chris Birch                                                                                                      
Representative Colleen Sullivan-Leonard                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Representative Gary Knopp                                                                                                       
Representative Mike Chenault (alternate)                                                                                        
Representative Bryce Edgmon (alternate)                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
HOUSE BILL NO. 38                                                                                                               
"An  Act relating  to  the calculation  and  payment of  workers'                                                               
compensation   benefits  in   the  case   of  permanent   partial                                                               
impairment; relating  to the calculation and  payment of workers'                                                               
compensation death  benefits payable  to a  child of  an employee                                                               
where there is  no surviving spouse; relating  to the calculation                                                               
and  payment  of  workers' compensation  death  benefits  for  an                                                               
employee without a surviving spouse  or child; relating to notice                                                               
of  workers' compensation  death benefits;  and providing  for an                                                               
effective date."                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     - HEARD & HELD                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
BILL: HB 38                                                                                                                   
SHORT TITLE: WORKERS' COMPENSATION: DEATH BENEFITS                                                                              
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) JOSEPHSON                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
01/18/17       (H)       PREFILE RELEASED 1/13/17                                                                               
01/18/17       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
01/18/17       (H)       L&C, FIN                                                                                               
02/24/17       (H)       L&C AT 3:15 PM BARNES 124                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
KEVIN DOUGHERTY, General Counsel                                                                                                
Alaska Laborers                                                                                                                 
Eagle River, Alaska                                                                                                             
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 38.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MARIANNE BURKE                                                                                                                  
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 38.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
RONALD ROSS                                                                                                                     
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 38.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
DON ETHERIDGE, Lobbyist                                                                                                         
Alaska American  Federation of Labor  and Congress  of Industrial                                                               
Organizations (AFL-CIO)                                                                                                         
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 38.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
3:18:08 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SAM KITO  called  the House  Labor  and Commerce  Standing                                                             
Committee  meeting  to  order  at   3:18  p.m.    Representatives                                                               
Sullivan-Leonard, Stutes,  Josephson, Wool, Birch, and  Kito were                                                               
present at the call to order.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
          HB 38-WORKERS' COMPENSATION: DEATH BENEFITS                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
3:18:42 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR KITO  announced that  the only order  of business  would be                                                               
HOUSE  BILL NO.  38,  "An  Act relating  to  the calculation  and                                                               
payment  of  workers'  compensation   benefits  in  the  case  of                                                               
permanent  partial impairment;  relating to  the calculation  and                                                               
payment  of workers'  compensation  death benefits  payable to  a                                                               
child  of  an  employee  where  there  is  no  surviving  spouse;                                                               
relating to the calculation and  payment of workers' compensation                                                               
death  benefits for  an employee  without a  surviving spouse  or                                                               
child;  relating   to  notice  of  workers'   compensation  death                                                               
benefits; and providing for an effective date."                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
3:19:20 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON, as prime sponsor  of HB 38, stated that                                                               
as a  legislator he hears  many legislative ideas and  culls them                                                               
based  on merit.   He  noted  that he  found merit  in the  issue                                                               
proposed  in HB  38 and  brought it  forward in  the Twenty-Ninth                                                               
Alaska State Legislature.   He explained that  bill addresses two                                                               
concerns:    First,  that  the   estate  of  someone  single  and                                                               
childless who dies  in a workplace currently has  no remedy under                                                               
the  law;  and  second,  that the  value  in  Alaska's  Permanent                                                               
Partial Impairment (PPI) rating is declining.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON  explained that  under current  law, the                                                               
estate of  a single  person who  dies at work  can receive  up to                                                               
$10,000 for  funeral expenses.   After such a death,  work safety                                                               
investigators  would  ascertain   whether  negligence  or  unsafe                                                               
practices were involved.  Other  than the funeral expenses, there                                                               
is no  remedy for  the death of  a single,  childless individual.                                                               
He  mentioned  that  a recent  finding  showed  that  substantial                                                               
penalties can create an incentive to have a safer workplace.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
3:23:00 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   JOSEPHSON  noted   that  workers'   compensation                                                               
provides  the  only remedy  employees  can  receive if  they  are                                                               
injured or die while working;  the estate cannot sue for wrongful                                                               
death.   He concluded that  such restrictions create  a situation                                                               
where individuals who  haven't married and or  had children don't                                                               
get the  same respect and treatment  under the law that  a person                                                               
who has dependents would receive.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON asked whether, in  the event of a death,                                                               
workers'  compensation is  about helping  the injured  worker and                                                               
his/her dependents or just the  dependents.  He demonstrated that                                                               
some states award  payment to the estate of  a single, childless,                                                               
deceased worker.   He characterized that  a progressive workplace                                                               
would be sympathetic  to a person who mourns the  loss of a loved                                                               
one.  He offered an example  that under current law, parents of a                                                               
single,  childless, deceased  worker would  only receive  funeral                                                               
expenses  in the  event of  an object  falling and  killing their                                                               
child; he  explained that if the  same injury happened to  a non-                                                               
worker, such  as a customer  in a restaurant, then  many remedies                                                               
to  recover  and  claim  negligence would  be  available  to  the                                                               
estate.  He noted that many  states have expanded payments to the                                                               
estates  of  single,  childless  workers.   He  stated  that  the                                                               
National Conference of State Legislatures  (NCSL) and the Council                                                               
of State  Governments (CSG) corroborate the  supporting documents                                                               
[included in the committee packet].                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
3:26:36 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JOSEPHSON explained  that when  an [employee]  is                                                               
injured, he/she  receives a  percent of  what his/her  wage would                                                               
have  been:   Payments received  by  [the estate  of a  deceased]                                                               
worker with children and/or a  spouse can accumulate to over half                                                               
a  million dollars.   He  remarked,  "The system  is generous  if                                                               
there are significant  injuries."  He expressed that  HB 38 would                                                               
require a payment  of damages reflective of the harm  caused in a                                                               
circumstance where a  worker dies.  He drew  attention to Section                                                               
4 of  HB 38, which makes  no change to the  first subsections and                                                               
paragraphs of AS  23.20.215 but outlines what  death benefits get                                                               
paid  to  dependents;  the  benefit can  exceed  half  a  million                                                               
dollars.    He  explained  that [paragraph]  4  of  AS  23.20.215                                                               
outlines that  the benefit  is only  $20,000 for  workers without                                                               
dependents; HB 38 would increase that benefit to $255,854.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JOSEPHSON  expressed that  in  order  to cover  a                                                               
single, childless  person, there must  be a formula  that relates                                                               
to situations  listed in  [paragraph] 4.   He explained  that the                                                               
formula in HB  38 would grant half of the  PPI value described in                                                               
Section 2  as payment to the  estate of a single  person who dies                                                               
and has no direct family dependents.   He remarked, "If you think                                                               
that  that  expands  workers'  compensation  beyond  its  bounds,                                                               
recall that other  states say, 'No, we're going to  do that.'  So                                                               
we would not be an outlier in that respect."                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JOSEPHSON offered  his  opinion  that a  wrongful                                                               
death  suit   should  be  allowed   under  AS  23.30.055   as  an                                                               
alternative to the  benefit payment.  The proposed  bill would no                                                               
longer preclude  the estate  of a  single, childless  person from                                                               
filing a wrongful death lawsuit;  although the estate would still                                                               
bear  the burden  of demonstrating  evidence.   He added,  "You'd                                                               
still  have  to show  that  it  was  the  boss's fault,  not  the                                                               
decedent's."                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
3:32:31 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON moved onto  the second concern addressed                                                               
in HB 38.  He stated that  in 2000, Alaska set the PPI whole-body                                                               
rating at  $177,000; it  has not  been adjusted  since then.   He                                                               
expressed that  the proposed  bill would,  along with  offering a                                                               
remedy for workers,  tie the PPI whole-body rating  to a consumer                                                               
price index and set it to "where  it should have been."  He noted                                                               
that   the  Department   of   Commerce,   Community  &   Economic                                                               
Development (DCCED)  has voiced its  concern about the  effect of                                                               
HB 38 on state workers.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JOSEPHSON  asked,  "What is  the  alternative  to                                                               
increasing the  PPI?"   He proposed that  if the  legislature set                                                               
the  PPI  at an  appropriate  level  in  2000 at  $177,000,  then                                                               
$255,000 would  be appropriate  today.   He mentioned  a document                                                               
[included in the committee packet]  that shows Alaska ranked 33rd                                                               
in the  country on the  PPI "care index":   For the same  type of                                                               
injury, Pennsylvania  would pay  $389,000 while Alaska  would pay                                                               
$71,000.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JOSEPHSON concluded  that  there  are two  issues                                                               
addressed by HB 38:  First,  current law treats people who aren't                                                               
married  as   second  class  citizens  and   values  their  lives                                                               
economically different;  and second,  the PPI rating  hasn't been                                                               
changed for 17 years.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
3:36:50 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH  asked if Representative Josephson  works in                                                               
this area.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON answered no.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH  noted that  people are concerned  about the                                                               
rising costs  of delivering workers'  compensation.   He reported                                                               
that  workers' compensation  is  intended to  be  a mechanism  to                                                               
restore a worker back to  health and into the workforce; however,                                                               
he expressed  that HB 38 seems  like a life insurance  issue.  He                                                               
asked, "When does this migrate  over into a life insurance policy                                                               
..., as opposed  to if somebody wants life insurance  they go buy                                                               
it, as opposed  to restoring a worker back to  health and putting                                                               
them back on the job and putting them back in the workforce?"                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
3:38:36 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON  responded that other states  do what HB                                                               
38 proposes.  He  drew attention to language on page  3 of HB 38,                                                               
lines 12-17,  which provides  a benefit  of $20,000  for deceased                                                               
workers  with dependents  who "aren't  even their  own children."                                                               
He presumed  that in a trial,  the estate would have  to prove an                                                               
individual's dependence on  the deceased.  He argued  that if the                                                               
committee  doesn't  feel it  is  appropriate  to expand  workers'                                                               
compensation as provided  in HB 38, then  such individuals should                                                               
be  offered an  opportunity to  sue the  employer.   He observed,                                                               
"People shouldn't have  to go to work and die."   He acknowledged                                                               
that   accidents   happen,   but  current   law   treats   people                                                               
differently.  He characterized that  not having a spouse or child                                                               
is penalized  in current law.   He expressed that current  law is                                                               
an economic insult to those without familial dependents.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JOSEPHSON explained  that  HB 38  would not  cost                                                               
much;  of all  the  deaths  in 2015,  only  two  would have  been                                                               
impacted  by  HB 38.    He  noted that  the  estates  of the  two                                                               
deceased  workers  only  had funeral  expenses  covered  and  the                                                               
employers  had  no  retribution.    He  mentioned  that  workers'                                                               
compensation   is   being   reformed  currently   through   other                                                               
legislation.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
3:41:59 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON,  in response  to a  question, clarified                                                               
that HB 38 would apply to more than just state employees.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  BIRCH  asked how  the  half  million cost  figure                                                               
would be paid.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JOSEPHSON  offered  his interpretation  that  the                                                               
estimation of costs  in the fiscal note provided  by the Division                                                               
of  Risk  Management showed  what  could  happen to  the  state's                                                               
bottom line  in the event of  a worker's death.   He stated, "You                                                               
have  to have  some number  to pay  for the  death benefit."   He                                                               
presumed  that the  division multiplied  the  whole-body rate  of                                                               
$255,000  by  the average  number  of  deaths annually  to  reach                                                               
$515,000.   He  acknowledged that  HB 38  could have  a financial                                                               
impact on  the state.   He  offered his  view that  the committee                                                               
should  give  people like  Marianne  [Burke]  a chance  to  prove                                                               
wrongful  death  in  court  if   the  committee  determines  that                                                               
financial  impact of  HB  38  is too  extreme  given the  state's                                                               
financial situation.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
3:43:31 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH  asked how HB  38 would impact  the workers'                                                               
compensation   rate.     He  mentioned   that   there  has   been                                                               
unconstrained growth in  workers' compensation.  He  asked how HB                                                               
38 would affect the state and the rest of the economy.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JOSEPHSON  directed  attention  to  a  report  of                                                               
similar  legislation [included  in the  committee packet],  which                                                               
read as follows:                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     In  a report  to the  Oregon Legislature  in 2009,  the                                                                    
     Workers'    Compensation   Management-Labor    Advisory                                                                    
     Committee  estimated such  a change  in benefits  would                                                                    
     not "materially affect" workers' compensation premium                                                                      
      rates, due to the small number of compensable deaths                                                                      
     each year.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON  added that the change  mentioned was to                                                               
the  extension  of coverage  to  single,  deceased workers.    He                                                               
commented  that  HB  38  might impact  rates  "on  the  margins";                                                               
however,  Alaska has  averaged  15-17 workplace  deaths over  the                                                               
years and  is already insuring  12-15 of those deaths  each year:                                                               
HB 38 would  cover the 2-3 workers  who die each year  who do not                                                               
get the same treatment.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
3:45:12 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SULLIVAN-LEONARD  asked if there is  a delineation                                                               
between someone who dies  as a result of an injury  at a job site                                                               
and someone who  dies as the result of a  heart attack at his/her                                                               
desk.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JOSEPHSON offered  his  understanding that  there                                                               
would  be  no death  benefit  in  the  second circumstance.    He                                                               
remarked,  "I  think that  there's  got  to  be some  showing  of                                                               
causality ....   If you're  sitting at a  desk, and you  die, and                                                               
nothing  fell on  you,  I think  there's no  remedy  there."   He                                                               
offered his understanding  that if someone died at  worksite as a                                                               
result of a  faulty ladder, then the estate might  be able to sue                                                               
the ladder manufacturer:   The estate could not  sue the employer                                                               
unless the employer failed to pay the appropriate benefit.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
3:47:39 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WOOL  asked whether HB  38 would raise  the whole-                                                               
body compensation rate  from $177,000 to $255,000.   He said that                                                               
the rate  is not necessarily  a death  benefit; it is  more along                                                               
the  lines of  assisting a  worker who  is impaired  beyond being                                                               
able to work.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON  agreed.   He explained that  the whole-                                                               
body compensation  rate is the  economic value the  system places                                                               
on  a  human  being  and  is  the  base  rate  from  which  other                                                               
impairments are divided.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   WOOL   offered   his  understanding   that   the                                                               
compensation rate  is offered  to support  an injured  worker and                                                               
his/her dependents.   He  expressed that if  an employee  with no                                                               
dependents dies,  then HB 38  would cut the compensation  rate in                                                               
half; however, there would be  no survivability or medical costs,                                                               
et cetera, because the compensation is to the estate.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON responded, "Precisely  right."  He noted                                                               
that  under  the  proposed  bill,  the  estate  would  get  about                                                               
$122,000.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
3:50:14 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WOOL  suggested that  the reason [the  benefit] is                                                               
currently only $10,000 is that there  are no costs for a deceased                                                               
person without a  spouse or child.  He asked  whether HB 38 would                                                               
allow the [parents] of an  employee with no dependents to receive                                                               
money for purpose of compensation for the death of their child.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON answered yes.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WOOL  commented  that  in order  to  receive  the                                                               
workers'  compensation  death  reimbursement,   a  death  in  the                                                               
workplace would  have to be  the result of  someone's negligence.                                                               
He  assessed that  anyone who  receives the  award agrees  not to                                                               
sue; he asked if HB 38 seeks to change that.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON answered  no.  He expressed  that if the                                                               
committee doesn't  want to expand workers'  compensation to cover                                                               
single,  childless people,  then  the committee  could allow  for                                                               
wrongful death  action.   He noted  that HB 38  aims to  offer an                                                               
award, but  there could  be other options  of remedies,  such as:                                                               
allowing the  estate to sue  for wrongful  death or setting  up a                                                               
trust  fund.   He  noted  that  separate  from the  expansion  of                                                               
workers' compensation, another aspect  of the bill would increase                                                               
the PPI.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WOOL asked  how many  other states  offer such  a                                                               
benefit.  He asked whether it  is currently possible to sue after                                                               
a death in the workplace.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
3:54:25 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON  stated his understanding  that although                                                               
workers'  compensation litigation  does  occur,  the program  was                                                               
designed  to  provide  a  remedy  for  employees  while  limiting                                                               
litigation.  He said, "What  you hear about is people, generally,                                                               
who  aren't  working  and  die  ...  [in]  car  accidents,  plane                                                               
crashes.    They're  not  working,   they're  a  customer."    He                                                               
mentioned that circumstances that would  be affected by HB 38 are                                                               
not heard  about as  frequently; although  there was  coverage of                                                               
the  death  of  Abigail  Caudle.   He  explained  that  Abigail's                                                               
mother,  Marianne  Burke,  has  taken a  claim  to  the  Workers'                                                               
Compensation  Board and  will be  taking the  case to  the Alaska                                                               
Supreme  Court.   He  read from  page 6  of  the Alaska  Workers'                                                               
Compensation Appeals  Commission Decision No. 215,  which read as                                                               
follows [original punctuation provided]:                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
          There are three primary reasons why an award of                                                                       
     benefits  should  be  made,  according  to  Ms.  Burke.                                                                    
     First, she  asserts, the absence  of a  financial award                                                                    
     devalues  the  life of  a  loved  one, depriving  their                                                                    
     family of a sense of  justice.  Second, she argues, the                                                                    
     absence  of a  financial  consequence  to the  employer                                                                    
     removes  an incentive  to keep  the workplace  and work                                                                    
     practices safe.   Third, Ms. Burke argues,  to deny any                                                                    
     compensation   to  the   family  is   counter  to   the                                                                    
     fundamental    constitutional    promises   of    equal                                                                    
     protection under  the law  and due  process of  law, in                                                                    
     that it  treats a  person without  financial dependents                                                                    
     unfairly  as compared  with  others,  and denies  their                                                                    
     estate  the  right  to sue  the  employer  for  damages                                                                    
     resulting from the employer's negligence.                                                                                  
          These policy arguments must be directed to the                                                                        
     legislature, as  they no doubt will  in connection with                                                                    
     currently pending legislation  introduced following Ms.                                                                    
     Caudle's death.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
3:57:46 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR KITO opened public testimony on HB 38.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
3:58:10 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
KEVIN DOUGHERTY,  General Counsel, Alaska Laborers,  testified in                                                               
support  of HB  38.   He stated  that he  had read  about Abigail                                                               
Caudle's  case and  he expressed  the case  "should prompt  us to                                                               
take  the bill  seriously and  move it  forward."   He asked  the                                                               
committee for  support for  the families of  those killed  on the                                                               
job in  Alaska.   He noted that  he is glad  not many  people are                                                               
killed on  the job  in Alaska  and the number  of such  deaths is                                                               
declining; currently  it is between  20-30 deaths each year.   He                                                               
acknowledged  that  public  policy requires  balancing  different                                                               
interests and economic considerations.  He said:                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     Representative   Birch  asked  a question  that can  be                                                                    
     precisely  answered in  terms of  what is  the cost  of                                                                    
     this bill in  relation to ... having  a fair-minded ...                                                                    
     civil respect  for families of  people that  get killed                                                                    
     on the  job.  Thankfully  the answer is:  we're talking                                                                    
     less than one percent.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.  DOUGHERTY commented  that the  Alaska Division  of Insurance                                                               
communicates with the National  Counsel of Compensation Insurance                                                               
(NCCI)  and  determines a  precise  financial  analysis of  every                                                               
proposed bill.   He remarked, "I can  bet my life on  it, it will                                                               
be  a lot  less than  one  percent."   He stated  that the  death                                                               
benefit is  a minimal piece  of the equation:   there are  only a                                                               
few deaths and 30,000 injuries each year.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. DOUGHERTY mentioned that he  submitted documents [included in                                                               
the  committee  packet] about  some  workplace  deaths in  Alaska                                                               
where the  deceased workers' families  received zero  or $20,000.                                                               
He asked,  "Is that ...  an indignant  position for the  state to                                                               
take?"   He  offered  his  opinion that  in  1915, when  workers'                                                               
compensation  laws went  into  effect,  Alaska [territorial  law]                                                               
appropriately balanced  the relationship between money  and human                                                               
life.   He remarked, "If  we take that really  direct, practical,                                                               
respectful perspective,  I think  we can say  this bill  is worth                                                               
it."   He  added  that economics  are  important and  fortunately                                                               
workers'  compensation  [costs] have  decreased  in  the last  12                                                               
years.    He  expressed  that he  would  appreciate  having  "the                                                               
legislature do it right, 'cause we  did not do it rightly for the                                                               
people the last session the bill was up."                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
4:03:06 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MARIANNE  BURKE testified  in support  of HB  38.   She described                                                               
that  her daughter,  Abigail Caudle,  was killed  June 20,  2011,                                                               
while working overtime.  She recounted:                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     She was  put on  lighting, she  used her  tester twice,                                                                    
     which showed  green.  She  had gotten down  because the                                                                    
     journeyman told her  to go turn the light  switch off -                                                                    
     they didn't  even turn  the circuit  breaker off.   She                                                                    
     turned  the  light switch  off,  came  back, tried  the                                                                    
     tester for at  least the second or third time  - it was                                                                    
     green,  and  that's  when she  inadvertently  hit  live                                                                    
     wire.  She got locked up,  twisted as she fell down the                                                                    
     ladder.  ...  The paramedics  came;  she  was alive  at                                                                    
     first;  ...  they  used   the  defibrillator;  ...  she                                                                    
     eventually faded.   ...  To hear  in the  police report                                                                    
     she  was in  seizure during  that time.   Details  have                                                                    
     been  really,  really  difficult  for  me  as  you  can                                                                    
     imagine.  I  heard from the owner that  night that when                                                                    
     the accident happened that the  people were actually in                                                                    
     the other  room -  the journeymen  - they  weren't even                                                                    
     right there with her.   I've heard from journeymen that                                                                    
     a journeyman  is always responsible for  an apprentice,                                                                    
     and she was a new apprentice.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MS.  BURKE  remarked  that  accidents   similar  to  Abigail's  -                                                               
involving taking  down and putting  up lighting - are  common and                                                               
represent  most of  the deaths  of [working]  electricians.   She                                                               
explained that Abigail likely hit  440 voltage because of a "live                                                               
neutral."   She  asked  the committee  to  imagine how  traumatic                                                               
Abigail's death  has been for  their family.  She  expressed that                                                               
Abigail's  sister just  had a  baby two  weeks ago,  and she  now                                                               
doesn't  have a  sister.   Abigail's brothers  no longer  have an                                                               
older sister  to look  up to.   She commented,  "I don't  have my                                                               
daughter to  talk to, and  to come over and  visit me, and  to be                                                               
there at holidays."   She asked the committee  members to imagine                                                               
going into a  hospital, lifting the white sheet off  of their son                                                               
or daughter, and finding that he/she has died.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MS.  BURKE  noted that  the  state  has  awarded nothing  to  the                                                               
family.    She  stated  that   the  insurance  company,  not  the                                                               
employer,  paid  $10,000  to  the funeral  home  and  a  "measly"                                                               
$11,000 fine  from Occupational Safety and  Health Administration                                                               
(OSHA).   She offered her  understanding that after  three years,                                                               
OSHA's "books  are wiped  clean" and  in the  event of  a future,                                                               
identical accident,  the employer would  be treated as  though it                                                               
were  the  first  incident.    She stated  that  OSHA  gave  five                                                               
citations,  of which,  four contributed  to Abigail's  death; she                                                               
described  the conditions  as "gross  negligence."   She said  no                                                               
lawyers  were  willing  to  represent the  family's  case.    She                                                               
remarked, "They said to me we've  gone through this up to the ...                                                               
Supreme Court, and we cannot get justice."                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
4:07:12 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. BURKE  aired that she  cannot sue  through civil court.   She                                                               
declared:                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     Where do  I get  justice?   Where would  you go  to get                                                                    
     justice? If  this was you,  and you were trying  to get                                                                    
     justice  for  your  daughter  or   son  killed  in  the                                                                    
     workplace, single  with no dependents, and  nothing was                                                                    
     given  for   their  life,  and  the   employer  had  no                                                                    
     consequence whatsoever,  what would  you do?  Well, I'm                                                                    
     giving my life to get justice for her.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS.  BURKE  added  that  the   employer's  attorneys  argue  that                                                               
workers' compensation gives an exclusive  remedy for death in the                                                               
workplace.   She  related that  there has  been no  remedy.   She                                                               
stated  that the  attorneys say,  "We're providing  provision for                                                               
you."  She  related that there is no provision.   She stated that                                                               
she has submitted  her arguments to the committee  in response to                                                               
the attorneys'  claims.  She offered  her belief that there  is a                                                               
scheme hidden  behind the  legal terms  that doesn't  make sense.                                                               
She expressed  that she must try  to get justice.   She asked the                                                               
committee  to listen  to their  hearts and  to value  human life.                                                               
She remarked:                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     If we don't value human  life, look what happens in the                                                                    
     workplace.   If there's  no liability to  the employer,                                                                    
     nothing is  paid out  for the  people that  are single,                                                                    
     without any dependents,  and so little is  paid for the                                                                    
     ones that  are killed,  even with dependents,  then you                                                                    
     get  the owners  thinking  to themselves,  "Well, do  I                                                                    
     need to pay that extra  money for the safety equipment?                                                                    
     Well,  no there's  nothing that  really happens  to me,                                                                    
     so, I guess I don't.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS.  BURKE   concluded  that  "it   all  comes  down   to  money,                                                               
unfortunately."  She  asked the committee to give  value to human                                                               
life  in  Alaska.    She  analyzed  that  penalties  would  force                                                               
employers to keep  safety standards.  She stated  that a previous                                                               
safety  commissioner told  her  that he  was  willing to  testify                                                               
about the poor  safety conditions in the state.   She offered her                                                               
understanding that Alaska has more accidents than other states.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
4:11:18 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH  stated he  is sorry  for Ms.  Burke's loss,                                                               
which  he  characterized as  "a  tragedy  that should  befall  no                                                               
parent."  He  asked how health and insurance  programs work under                                                               
the  [International Brotherhood  of  Electrical Workers]  (IBEW).                                                               
He  stated  that most  employees  sign  up  for health  and  life                                                               
insurance on the first  day at a new job.   He asked if insurance                                                               
is typically  provided by the  union or  the employer.   He asked                                                               
whether [insurance] was available to Abigail.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS. BURKE  stated that  although Abigail had  tried, she  was not                                                               
with the  union.   She offered her  understanding that  the union                                                               
takes  better care  of their  people than  Raven Electric,  Inc.,                                                               
Abigail's  employer,  does.   She  mentioned  hearing from  other                                                               
individuals  who  had  claimed  that  Raven  Electric,  Inc.  was                                                               
considered a poor  employer and they had hoped  that the accident                                                               
would  bring  [the  poor  working  conditions]  to  light.    She                                                               
analyzed  that  unsafe  practices  of a  poor  employer  have  no                                                               
consequences; consequences might prevent further accidents.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH asked whether  Abigail had an opportunity to                                                               
have a benefit  program.  He stated that he  is not interested in                                                               
disparaging any employer.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS. BURKE  responded that  she does  not know.   She  offered her                                                               
opinion  that providing  life insurance  to workers  in dangerous                                                               
jobs should be mandatory for  [employers] or, alternatively, that                                                               
workers' compensation  should cover  death benefits.   She stated                                                               
that she is  sorry to disparage Raven Electric, Inc.,  but she is                                                               
upset at the  lack of consequences and the  poor supervision that                                                               
led  to Abigail's  death.   She  remarked, "I  know there's  good                                                               
people  over there  and  they  were very,  very  sorry about  the                                                               
death, so I don't mean to bring the whole company down."                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  KITO thanked  Ms. Burke  for her  testimony and  expressed                                                               
condolences on behalf of the committee.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
4:14:45 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
RONALD  ROSS testified  in support  of HB  38.   He informed  the                                                               
committee  that his  granddaughter, Abigail  Caudle, was  killed.                                                               
He remarked:                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
     I am appalled,  really, ... that a  company like [Raven                                                                    
     Electric, Inc.] - and I  don't know all the answers ...                                                                    
     I've been  an employer  around and I  know ...  I never                                                                    
     had a  death thing in  my thing  - but some  young girl                                                                    
     going up the  ladder and touch a live wire  - and I'm a                                                                    
     contractor - I mean, I think  they'd hang me by my feet                                                                    
     out  in the  courtyard.   I mean,  this is  ridiculous.                                                                    
     ... You guys  get away with ten grand ...  I think your                                                                    
     laws  stink,  I'm   sorry.    But  this   is  just  ...                                                                    
     outrageous that a  person - a young employee  - and the                                                                    
     journeyman's  on the  ground having  tea with  the boys                                                                    
     ... and  she's up there  grabbing a live wire  and lose                                                                    
     her life.   She pays half the rent of  Betty Caudle and                                                                    
     she supplies  the food and  the stuff there  with Betty                                                                    
     at her  apartment and she  gets nothing.   Nothing goes                                                                    
     to  her.   What's going  on with  this state?   I  just                                                                    
     can't believe it.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
4:17:00 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
DON ETHERIDGE, Lobbyist, Alaska  American Federation of Labor and                                                               
Congress  of  Industrial  Organizations (AFL-CIO),  testified  in                                                               
support of HB 38.   He explained that if someone  dies on the job                                                               
and the death  was not job related, then  the individual's estate                                                               
would get nothing.   He mentioned that he saw  such an example in                                                               
Juneau when a  foreman had a heart attack, his  family claimed it                                                               
was  stress  related, and  the  family  was denied  any  worker's                                                               
compensation.   He explained that  some units of  AFL-CIO provide                                                               
life insurance, but the majority do  not.  He commented that when                                                               
he first started  he had young children and  couldn't afford life                                                               
insurance in  addition to  daily living  expenses.   He remarked,                                                               
"Not everybody  can afford it,  sir."   He mentioned that  he got                                                               
life insurance  when he could  afford it.   He urged, "We  got to                                                               
have something for the families that are left behind."                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
4:18:43 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR KITO announced that HB 38 was held over.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
4:19:03 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                              
ADJOURNMENT                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
There being no  further business before the  committee, the House                                                               
Labor and  Commerce Standing Committee  meeting was  adjourned at                                                               
4:19 p.m.                                                                                                                       

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB038 Sponsor Statement 2.9.17.pdf HL&C 2/24/2017 3:15:00 PM
HB 38
HB038 Sectional Analysis 2.9.17.pdf HL&C 2/24/2017 3:15:00 PM
HB 38
HB038 Fiscal Note DOLWD-WC 2.17.17.pdf HL&C 2/24/2017 3:15:00 PM
HB 38
HB038 Fiscal Note-DOA-DRM 2.23.17.pdf HL&C 2/24/2017 3:15:00 PM
HB 38
HB038 Supporting Document - Research Report 2015 2.9.17.pdf HL&C 2/24/2017 3:15:00 PM
HB 38
HB038 Supporting Document - Research Report-Similar Legislation 2.21.17.pdf HL&C 2/24/2017 3:15:00 PM
HB 38
HB038 Supporting Document - Letters of Opposition 2.24.17.pdf HL&C 2/24/2017 3:15:00 PM
HB 38
HB038 Supporting Document - Letters of Support 2.24.17.pdf HL&C 2/24/2017 3:15:00 PM
HB 38