Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 211

03/10/2009 01:30 PM LABOR & COMMERCE

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                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
          SENATE LABOR AND COMMERCE STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                        
                         March 10, 2009                                                                                         
                           2:21 p.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Joe Paskvan, Chair                                                                                                      
Senator Joe Thomas, Vice Chair                                                                                                  
Senator Bettye Davis                                                                                                            
Senator Kevin Meyer                                                                                                             
Senator Con Bunde                                                                                                               
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
SENATE BILL NO. 39                                                                                                              
"An Act extending the termination date of the Board of Public                                                                   
Accountancy; and providing for an effective date."                                                                              
     HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                             
SENATE BILL NO. 14                                                                                                              
"An Act expanding the motor fuel tax suspension period."                                                                        
     HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                             
SENATE BILL NO. 86                                                                                                              
"An Act establishing requirements and limitations related to the                                                                
payment of sick leave by certain employers; and providing for an                                                                
effective date."                                                                                                                
     HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                             
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
BILL: SB  39                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: EXTEND BOARD OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTANCY                                                                                 
SPONSOR(s): SENATOR(s) THERRIAULT                                                                                               
01/21/09       (S)       PREFILE RELEASED 1/9/09                                                                                



01/21/09 (S) PREFILE RELEASED 1/9/09




01/26/09 (S) L&C, FIN 03/10/09 (S) L&C AT 1:30 PM BELTZ 211 WITNESS REGISTER SENATOR GENE THERRIAULT Alaska State Legislature Juneau, AK POSITION STATEMENT: Sponsor of SB 39. TOM OBERMEYER Staff to Senator Davis Alaska State Legislature Juneau, AK POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 14 for the sponsor. JOHANNA BALES, Deputy Director Tax Division Department of Revenue (DOR) POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 86. SENATOR JOHNNY ELLIS Alaska State Legislature Juneau, AK POSITION STATEMENT: Sponsor of SB 86 NICK MOE Staff to Senator Ellis Alaska State Legislature Juneau, AK POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 86 for the sponsor. STEPHANIE STERN Work and Family Policy Analyst National Partnership for Women & Families Washington D.C. POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 86. ACTION NARRATIVE 2:21:32 PM CHAIR JOE PASKVAN called the Senate Labor and Commerce Standing Committee meeting to order at 2:21 p.m. Present at the call to order were Senators Thomas, Davis, Meyer and Paskvan. SB 39-EXTEND BOARD OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTANCY CHAIR PASKVAN announced SB 39 to be up for consideration. 2:22:59 PM SENATOR BUNDE joined the committee. SENATOR GENE THERRIAULT, sponsor of SB 39, said it asks to extend the termination date for the Board of Public Accountancy. The Legislative Audit Division reviewed the board to see if it was following its statutory mandate, and recommended some changes to improve the function, but none of them require statutory change. He explained that the auditor recommended that the board come up for review in four years instead of eight, because of its interaction with national entities and changing the way they do business. CHAIR PASKVAN said he would hold SB 39 until Thursday. SB 14-EXTEND MOTOR FUEL TAX SUSPENSION 2:25:55 PM CHAIR PASKVAN announced SB 14 to be up for consideration. TOM OBERMEYER, staff to Senator Davis, sponsor of SB 14, said it extends the motor fuel tax suspension period. The governor originally suspended the tax to help stimulate the economy in Alaska. However, Alaska continues to pay some of the highest motor fuel prices in the nation; it affects the price of all goods that have to be shipped here. Air and cruise travel to Alaska is also declining because of the current recession. Extending the suspension of the motor fuel tax will have a major impact on the enormous quantities of fuel consumed in the transport of goods and people in Alaska. It will encourage cargo carriers to maintain flights and cargo hubs in Alaska, and it will encourage air and cruise lines to reduce fares to stimulate demand. 2:28:39 PM SENATOR MEYER asked if the gist of the bill is to give some relief to their constituents who are suffering with the recession and to help tourists come to the state, which helps the economy. Last year the gist was that the state had plenty of money, but constituents were still suffering because they were paying high prices for motor fuel. He is perfectly okay with helping constituents, and, "Folks do need every break that they can get." He wanted to know if the suspension affects the state's ability to receive any federal highway funds. MR. OBERMEYER answered that the tax affects not just to the average consumer, but also to people in the Bush. It affects aviation and water craft fuel prices, as well. These are very substantial amounts of money; they have just heard that 28 pilots are being transferred from FedEx and fuel usage in Alaska is being reduced due to the current recession. This measure will help maintain the economy as well as helping the average consumer. 2:31:36 PM JOHANNA BALES, Deputy Director, Tax Division, Department of Revenue (DOR), said the previous legislation required motor fuel dealers to continue to report the amount of fuel used to the department so it could provide the information required by the U.S. Division of Highways. Some of the information is estimated, but the federal Department of Highways is fine with that, and said the state does not have to impose a fuel tax, but it still has to provide them with the amounts of fuel used on the road. SENATOR MEYER said last year this was the administration's proposal and asked if the governor still supports it. MS. BALES answered yes. 2:33:56 PM SENATOR BUNDE said the sponsor statement talks about cruise lines and asked if they pay a gas tax on their bunker fuel. MS. BALES answered that it's possible for the ships to have enough fuel if they take it on in Washington. The state doesn't have actual data that shows the end users; they only get information from the qualified dealers. SENATOR BUNDE asked if the highway tax is imposed on bunker fuel. MS. BALES answered no. SENATOR BUNDE said, then, that if a cruise line bought fuel in Alaska, they wouldn't pay the tax because they use bunker fuel. He wanted to know how this would change the state's revenues. CHAIR PASKVAN said he just got the fiscal note, and he didn't intend to pass the bill today. SENATOR BUNDE asked how the fuel tax impacts the state's budget for upgrading roads. 2:36:30 PM MS. BALES said the fuel tax doesn't cover the total amount needed to upgrade the state's roads. SENATOR BUNDE said he saw how this bill would reduce income, and asked how the cost of maintaining roads would be funded without the motor fuel tax. CHAIR PASKVAN also asked if the proceeds of the motor fuel tax are a "pass through" from the Department of Revenue directly to the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities for road maintenance and repair. MS. BALES answered that tax revenue is deposited into the general fund. 2:37:59 PM CHAIR PASKVAN asked if the money is identified for road maintenance and repair. MS. BALES replied, "Not that I'm aware of." MR. OBERMEYER inserted that AS 43.40.010 indicates that the proceeds of the taxes go into a specific highway fuel tax account in the state's general fund. SENATOR THOMAS asked if the change in revenue between 2010 and 2011 in the fiscal note were based on the expectation the state will have fewer travelers in 2011 than 2010. MS. BALES answered that the department already prepared a fiscal note that addressed the first two months of 2010. So, the new fiscal note represents just this piece of legislation. The total change in revenues would be approximately $40 million if you add the amount from the previous fiscal note for FY2010. SENATOR THOMAS asked if she knew the per capita impact this has on the driving public. MS. BALES answered that it is a savings of approximately $50/year for a normal commuter. 2:41:00 PM CHAIR PASKVAN asked the sponsor if AS 43.40.010(f)(g)(h)(j) allocates tax money to the account for water and harbor facilities for direct expenditure by DOTPF or is it matched by available federal aide highway money. So, if there is no money in that fund, is there a potential risk for losing matching federal dollars? MR. OBERMEYER responded that someone else could better answer that question. He also said the governor's office indicated support of this bill. 2:43:05 PM SENATOR MEYER asked if they thought about not putting an end date on it. How did they come up with two years? SENATOR DAVIS said she came up with two years as an arbitrary time for reviewing how the missing revenues are affecting the state. CHAIR PASKVAN said he would hold SB 14 for another meeting. SB 86-PAID SICK LEAVE 2:44:34 PM CHAIR PASKVAN announced SB 86, version R, to be up for consideration. SENATOR ELLIS, sponsor of SB 86, said the paid sick leave issue is important to thousands of Alaskans. The U.S. Department of Labor statistics estimate that 120,000 Alaskans work without the safety net of a paid sick leave policy, and are often forced to choose between coming to work sick and losing their employment. Many of these workers have jobs in places such as restaurants, nursing homes and child care facilities where a sick employee is not only a threat to other employees, but a threat to the public's health as well. He encouraged them to read a January 27, 2009 Forbes article that encapsulated how this view is friendly to employees, businesses and the public health and safety. Businesses can benefit and often save money by offering paid sick leave programs, because when an employee comes to work sick, they expose other employees to the illness. Because of this, more workers need to take time off and recover from their illness instead of just the person who started the illness in the workplace. Federal inaction on this issue to date has inspired dozens of local governments to pass paid sick leave laws. About 15 states currently are considering this nearly identical legislation. Three cities have already passed paid sick leave laws of their own. 2:47:39 PM SENATOR BUNDE said the article says $180 billion a year is being lost from non-productive and absent employees, and asked if that $180 billions isn't also lost when employees are absent because they are on sick leave. SENATOR ELLIS responded that the reference is to the other folks who are infected in the workplace and what that does to productivity. SENATOR BUNDE said he remembered when he was a teacher they went through "the game of sick leave" where people were sick because of sunburn or something. In many instances it's called personal leave because that more accurately reflects what really happens - you had to take a day off because someone else was sick or something like that. Had the sponsor thought about calling it personal leave instead of sick leave? SENATOR ELLIS answered that he would appreciate that discussion, because there could be a more accurate way to refer to this. 2:49:11 PM SENATOR MEYER said he supports the idea of sick leave, but even their own employees come to work if they just have a cold or a sore throat, because they want to cash in their sick leave. In theory it sounds good, but the culture in the market place has to also reflect that. SENATOR ELLIS said he hoped to discuss those practical considerations with introduction of the bill. 2:51:22 PM NICK MOE, aide to Senator Ellis, sponsor of SB 86, explained section 1 on page 1, line 4, says that all employers must post sections of this law in a conspicuous location at the workplace, and the state will offer copies at no additional cost to them. Sections 2 and 3, beginning on page 1, line 10, describe the action taken if an employee is not given proper paid sick leave saying the employer will be liable for the amount of unpaid minimum wages, unpaid overtime compensation or unpaid sick leave. Section 4, on page 2, line 14, establishes the paid sick leave itself saying for every 40 hours of work an employer will provide one hour of sick leave to employees residing in the state of Alaska as well as to those employees who aren't under a collective bargaining agreement. Section 4, on page 2, line 21, states if an employer already has paid sick leave for their employees this doesn't apply to them. Section 4(d) on page 2, line 30, describes what the paid sick leave may be used for. It may be used for the prevention, diagnosis, or the treatment of the employee and paid sick leave may also be permitted for a member of the employees' immediate family for a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition. 2:53:32 PM Section 4 on page 3, line 7, goes on to explain the potential employer violations of the section. Section 5 provides an effective date of October 1, 2009. 2:53:54 PM SENATOR BUNDE asked if people can cash out sick leave and remarked that some places have a use it or lose it sick leave policy. MR. MOE answered that this bill doesn't allow cashing out sick leave. SENATOR BUNDE asked if this requires an employer to pay for sick leave at the time of termination. MR. MOE answered no. 2:55:16 PM STEPHANIE STERN, Work and Family Policy Analyst, National Partnership for Women & Families, Washington D.C., supported SB 86. She said she had submitted written testimony. MS. STERN said one of their proudest accomplishments is leading a nation-wide movement to ensure that all workers are guaranteed paid sick days to use when they are ill or need to care for a sick family member. They lead a broad coalition of over 150 groups dedicated to advocating for paid sick days at the federal level, and they also support advocates who are working at the state and city level to advance the issue through their legislative bodies and on the ballot. She said chances are that each of us will get sick or need to take care of a family member this year, but not all have the option to take time off from work to get better. In the U.S. today, nearly half of the private sector workers don't have a single paid sick day. Currently no state or federal law insures that workers have paid sick days when they need them. Three localities, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and Milwaukee, have passed paid sick day standards to date. 2:58:32 PM Low-wage workers a hit hardest by the lack of paid sick days; only 1 in 4 low-wage workers have access to paid sick leave and they often hold jobs that require frequent contact with the public. Paid sick days are also important for public health. When people have no choice but to go to work sick, they risk infecting others. For example, only 1 in 5 food service or hotel workers has any paid sick days, and child care, retail and nursing home workers are also very unlikely to have paid sick days. This policy is also incredibly important for children. Research shows that children get better faster with a parent at home to take care of them. This benefits older relatives the same way, as well. MS. STERN said that paid sick leave is also important for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Approximately 7.6 million people per year are the victims of intimate partner violence. Paid sick and safe days will insure that all survivors of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault are guaranteed paid sick time when they need it most to leave a violent situation and access necessary services without risk of losing their jobs or their paychecks. Finally, she said, they know that paid sick days are good for the U.S. economy. Those workers who have no paid sick days go to work sick and spread sickness to their colleagues lowering their overall productivity and cost the employer greatly. When workers are guaranteed paid sick days, employers benefit as healthy workers are more productive and spread of illness is reduced. Employers also reap savings by having reduced turnover, the costs of which include advertising, interviewing, and training replacement workers. These costs are generally far greater than the cost of providing paid sick time to retain existing workers. She also added that paid sick days are critically important during times of economic downturns. Losing pay for even a day can be a blow to a family's budget that is already stretched to the limits. Losing a job due to missing work can result in financial catastrophe. 3:01:14 PM In a recent poll, 1 in 6 respondents reported that they or a family member had been fired, suspended, punished or had been threatened with being fired for taking the time off for personal illness. CHAIR PASKVAN said he would hold SB 86. SENATOR BUNDE asked that they address the "safe" language, because Ms. Stern mentioned it and it wasn't in the title. 3:04:59 PM There being no further business to come before the committee, Chair Paskvan adjourned the meeting at 3:04 p.m.

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 14 Bill Packet.pdf SL&C 3/10/2009 1:30:00 PM
SB 14
SB 14 Fiscal Note.pdf SL&C 3/10/2009 1:30:00 PM
SL&C 3/24/2009 1:30:00 PM
SB 14
SB 39 Bill Packet.pdf SL&C 3/10/2009 1:30:00 PM
SB 39
SB 86 Bill Packet.pdf SL&C 3/10/2009 1:30:00 PM
SL&C 3/24/2009 1:30:00 PM
SB 86
SB 86 Back-Up Steffany Stern Testimony.pdf SL&C 3/10/2009 1:30:00 PM
SL&C 3/24/2009 1:30:00 PM
SB 86