Legislature(1995 - 1996)

01/24/1996 03:12 PM House L&C

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
          HOUSE LABOR AND COMMERCE STANDING COMMITTEE                          
                        January 24, 1996                                       
                           3:12 p.m.                                           
 MEMBERS PRESENT                                                               
 Representative Pete Kott, Chairman                                            
 Representative Norman Rokeberg, Vice Chairman                                 
 Representative Beverly Masek                                                  
 Representative Jerry Sanders                                                  
 Representative Brian Porter                                                   
 Representative Kim Elton                                                      
 Representative Gene Kubina                                                    
 MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                
 All members present                                                           
 COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                            
 HOUSE BILL NO. 311                                                            
 "An Act repealing the limitation on the hours a person may be                 
 employed in a mine; and making a related technical amendment to               
 avoid changing the penalties for failing to make payments into an             
 employee benefit fund."                                                       
      - HEARD AND HELD                                                         
 HOUSE BILL NO. 319                                                            
 "An Act relating to the regulation of small loan and retail                   
 installment transactions."                                                    
      - SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD                                                
 PREVIOUS ACTION                                                               
 BILL:  HB 311                                                               
 SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVE(S) VEZEY, Toohey, Martin                           
 JRN-DATE     JRN-PG                  ACTION                                   
 04/18/95      1351    (H)   READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S)                 
 04/18/95      1351    (H)   LABOR & COMMERCE, JUDICIARY                       
 01/24/96              (H)   L&C AT 03:00 PM CAPITOL 17                        
 ACTION NARRATIVE                                                              
 TAPE 96-3, SIDE A                                                             
 Number 001                                                                    
 The House Labor and Commerce Standing Committee was called to order           
 by Chairman Pete Kott at 3:12 p.m.  Members present at the call to            
 order were Representatives Elton, Sanders, Rokeberg and Kott.                 
 CHAIRMAN PETE KOTT announced there were two items on the calendar,            
 HB 319 and HB 311.  He said before the committee addresses those              
 bills, at the close of the last Labor and Commerce meeting, the               
 committee discussed the impact of the Governor's regulations on the           
 vocational schools in Alaska.  A subcommittee was appointed to                
 specifically look at the development of a resolution asking the               
 Governor to hold the regulations in abeyance.                                 
 REPRESENTATIVE JERRY SANDERS said based on comments, letters and              
 conversations, the subcommittee has developed a resolution for the            
 committee to review.  One of his primary guides comes in the sixth            
 "Whereas" clause where it states, "The Commission on Postsecondary            
 Education has no authority to conduct credit checks of any kind on            
 potential borrowers."  He said he believes this is a license to               
 steal.  Representative Sanders said he believes the resolution is             
 appropriate and asked the committee members to give it their                  
 CHAIRMAN KOTT explained the resolution is a result of the testimony           
 the committee heard on January 17.  He said the resolution is on              
 the table for comments.  The resolution will be introduced as a               
 House Labor and Commerce resolution.                                          
 Number 230                                                                    
 Representative Porter arrived at 3:15 p.m.                                    
 Several of the committee members stated they didn't have the                  
 resolution before them.  A three minute recess was called by                  
 Chairman Kott at 3:15.                                                        
 Representatives Masek arrived at 3:17 p.m.                                    
 CHAIRMAN KOTT called the meeting back to order at 3:18 p.m.  He               
 noted the committee would review the draft resolution and then have           
 it put in final after the committee has reviewed it.                          
 REPRESENTATIVE KIM ELTON asked what the new name of the commission            
 is and when the executive order takes effect.                                 
 REPRESENTATIVE SANDERS said he believes it takes effect in 60 days.           
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON said he appreciates the sixth "Whereas" clause           
 as long as the assumption isn't that they should begin credit                 
 checks.  He stated he is concerned that a student that is applying,           
 who is just out of high school, doesn't have a credit history.                
 Sometimes the implication of a credit check is that if you have no            
 credit history, your not eligible for the loan.                               
 REPRESENTATIVE SANDERS explained that is not the intent of                    
 including the clause in the resolution.                                       
 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT suggested that after the word "credit," include           
 "/reference checks".                                                          
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON said he is comfortable hearing Representative            
 Sanders say that is not the intent.  He noted he wants to make sure           
 that the committee members understand that is not the intent.                 
 Number 452                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE NORMAN ROKEBERG informed the committee he had a                
 private meeting with Diane Barrans from the Postsecondary Education           
 Commission.  She questioned the statistics in the second "Whereas"            
 clause.  He said he doesn't think the inclusion of those statistics           
 affects the resolution.  He said he doesn't think the inclusion of            
 the statistics will have an impact one way or another.  He said he            
 believes it would be better to delete the second "Whereas" unless             
 the committee wants to restate it by indicating that the default              
 rates are way over what they should be.                                       
 CHAIRMAN KOTT said he doesn't have a problem in deleting the                  
 REPRESENTATIVE SANDERS said he doesn't have a problem with deleting           
 the clause if it is the wish of the committee.  He said he would              
 like to point out that the clause only affects one of the                     
 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked if the resolution is asking the                 
 commission to rescind their action.  REPRESENTATIVE SANDERS said              
 the resolution asks them to rescind action in the implementation of           
 20 AAC 15.925.                                                                
 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG said the committee had discussion about               
 corrective statutory action.                                                  
 REPRESENTATIVE SANDERS said not statutory.  There was discussion to           
 rescind the actions that have already been taken and to direct the            
 commissioner to work and consult with all affected parties to                 
 effect a satisfactory solution to all the issues arising from the             
 student loan default rates.  They have made an offer to do                    
 everything they possibly can to cooperate.  Representative Sanders            
 said the public would be better served in coming to an agreement on           
 this rather than cutting out a certain number of schools.                     
 Number 698                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN KOTT said the committee did discuss holding those                    
 regulations in abeyance.  He noted he isn't sure they identified a            
 time specific date, but could certainly do that in the resolution.            
 He said they are somewhat in a dilemma because there are statutes             
 and, for whatever reason, now that those regulations are out on the           
 street, the committee is asking the Governor to rescind them to a             
 time uncertain.                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG suggested including wording in the                    
 resolution saying, "The concept that any new regulations not be               
 retroactive in terms of accounting."  He said that is one of the              
 compromise solutions that has been discussed.  They shouldn't count           
 backwards, they should count forward.                                         
 REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN PORTER said what the committee wants to say is           
 not to rescind the regulations but to rescind the implementation of           
 the regulations.  He referred to the "Therefore" clause and read,             
 "affected parties to effect a satisfactory resolution of all issues           
 arising out of student loan default rates" and suggested adding,              
 "and to craft a more equitable regulation."                                   
 Number 879                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON said he would go even further.  The problem he           
 has isn't the time frame, it is the fact that it is a done                    
 regulation in the way in which they are going to do it.  If they              
 want to get where their going, they are not giving an opportunity             
 for the schools to move in that direction because of the way they             
 implement 150 percent.  Representative Elton suggested the                    
 committee just say to rescind it and revisit the issue.  He                   
 referred to the second "Whereas" clause and said it should be kept            
 in the resolution and should also be boosted.  One thing that                 
 bothers him is if we have a problem with a private school with                
 excessive bad debt in the student loan program and there is a                 
 problem with a public university with excessive bad debt, the                 
 problems are equal.  He noted one of the problems he has with the             
 regulation is it only treats half the symptom.  Representative                
 Elton referred to the "Therefore" clause and said he doesn't think            
 there is a commissioner of Postsecondary Education.  The board                
 members may be called commissioners so they may want to add an "s"            
 to commission or change the word to "commission."                             
 REPRESENTATIVE SANDERS asked if there is a director.                          
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON said the executive director reports to the               
 commission.  He said what bothers him about the regulation is it              
 seems unfair to say, "We're gonna fix your problem but we're going            
 to ignore the problems elsewhere."  He said he believes he has                
 heard 18 percent of the universities who have students that                   
 participate in the program have a loan default rate that is in                
 excess of 150.  He said he doesn't want the implication to be that            
 they are only interested in part of the problem.                              
 REPRESENTATIVE SANDERS said it depends on whether your counting               
 dollars or people.  If your counting people, then it's larger in              
 the private sector.  If your counting dollars, it's larger in the             
 university sector.                                                            
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER asked if the Governor can direct or request             
 the commission to do things.  REPRESENTATIVE ELTON said they serve            
 at his pleasure.                                                              
 REPRESENTATIVE SANDERS said "request" is probably appropriate.                
 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked if the regulations are currently in             
 CHAIRMAN KOTT said he believes they are in effect.  He said the               
 second "Whereas" clause will be left in place as it does point out            
 the differences.                                                              
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER referred to the "Therefore" clause and said             
 they should change the word "direct" to "request" on the second and           
 fifth lines.  Also on the fifth line, change "commissioner" to                
 CHAIRMAN KOTT asked if there was any discussion on rescinding the             
 regulations altogether.                                                       
 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG said they could do that by deleting "its              
 actions on implementing," in the "Therefore" clause on the third              
 line after the word "rescind."                                                
 CHAIRMAN KOTT said it will then read, "Therefore, be it resolved              
 that the legislature requests the Governor of the state of Alaska             
 to request the Commission on Postsecondary Education to take action           
 to rescind," and strike "its action on implementing."  After                  
 "Default Rates." insert "craft more equitable regulation".                    
 Number 1211                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON suggested that maybe they don't have to pass             
 the resolve because the Postsecondary Education Commission acted on           
 legislative intent that didn't pass anyway.  Maybe introducing this           
 resolve is going to accomplish what is needed.                                
 CHAIRMAN KOTT noted that the resolution was not noticed in the                
 committee schedule so there wouldn't be a motion.  He said it is a            
 curtesy call for the committee members to have input.  He noted               
 Representatives Sanders, Masek and Kubina promulgated the                     
 resolution and as soon as the drafters can put the resolution in              
 its final format, it will be introduced as a House resolution by              
 the House Labor and Commerce Committee.                                       
 HB 311 - REPEAL LIMIT ON HOURS EMPLOYED IN MINES                            
 Number 1282                                                                   
 CHAIRMAN KOTT announced the committee would hear HB 311.  He                  
 pointed out the measure is sponsored by Representative Vezey.                 
 Chairman Kott said it is his intent to allow for opening remarks by           
 Representative Vezey.  There will be no testimony.  He said there             
 are a couple issues that are being worked on.  The bill will be               
 back before the committee within two weeks at which point it will             
 be moved to the Judiciary Committee.                                          
 REPRESENTATIVE AL VEZEY, sponsor of HB 311, "An Act repealing the             
 limitation on the hours a person may be employed in a mine; and               
 making a related technical amendment to avoid changing the                    
 penalties for failing to make payments into an employee benefit               
 fund," addressed the bill.  He explained what is being addressed is           
 the statute deals with a law that limits the number of hours in a             
 24-hour period that a person can work in an underground mine.  This           
 law was one of the first laws passed by the Territory of Alaska               
 when it formed the Territorial Legislature in 1913.  It was carried           
 over into the ACLA in 1949.  Representative Vezey noted he wasn't             
 sure what ACLA stands for but something like the Alaska Code of               
 Legislative Acts.  It was also carried into Alaska statutes at the            
 time of statehood.                                                            
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY explained in 1913 when the bill was passed,              
 mining was a very big industry and a very hazardous occupation.  We           
 didn't have wage and hour laws which currently exist.  We didn't              
 have the occupational safety and health standards that currently              
 exist.  The equipment, by today's standards, was primitive in terms           
 of it being adapted to workmen and whatnot.  The environment was              
 extremely hazardous.  Representative Vezey said it is unbelievable            
 how bad it can be to work in a confined space.  You can't imagine             
 what it's like to be working with air driven tools in a space that            
 does not have adequate ventilation.  At that time, it was a                   
 nationally recognized problem that serious health problems existed.           
 A disease called "silicosis" existed which is similar to black                
 lung.  It is a very serious debilitating injury.                              
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY explained in 1913, the state passed this law             
 which had two effects.  One was safety, in that the people were not           
 exposed to the workplace environment as long as they were.  He said           
 10-hour days was the industry standard, in Alaska, at that time.              
 It also had the affect of giving a pay raise.  They didn't have               
 wage and hour laws in 1913.  People were paid by the day.  He noted           
 in the committee member's folders there is a copy of a report                 
 titled, "Report of the Territorial Mine Inspector to the Governor             
 of Alaska for the Year 1917."  The report discusses the daily wage            
 rates, etc.  He noted that after the 8-hour day went into effect in           
 1913, the state adopted a general 8-hour day in 1917, because the             
 idea of the 8-hour day was getting popular.  The mining industry              
 went through a unbelievable number of adaptations in almost a                 
 century as this happened almost that long ago.                                
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY explained today, we have gotten to a point               
 where government agencies are even encouraging companies to go to             
 longer shifts and to give the employees flexibility in their hours            
 so that they can work more hours in a day and have longer weekends            
 at home.  It is very interesting to note that if you look at the              
 ten leading mining states in the nation, only two have a number of            
 restrictions on the number of hours that personnel can work                   
 underground.  One is Alaska, which has an 8-hour law.  The other is           
 California which also has an 8-hour law except you can, by permit,            
 receive an exemption for a 12-hour day.  Colorado also has a permit           
 system where you can work more than eight hours a day but there are           
 no limits to the number of hours that you can get a permit for.               
 You just have to get the permit approved.  Representative Vezey               
 referred to the other seven leading mining states not having any              
 sort of restrictions on the number of hours that can be worked                
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said in 1992, the U.S. Department of the                 
 Interior, under Secretary Bruce Babbitt, did a study that compared            
 8-hour shifts and underground mines to 12-hour shifts in                      
 underground mines.  The conclusion was that the 12-hour shift was             
 not a safety hazard and it did contribute to the quality of the job           
 as perceived by the employees.  About 97 percent actually preferred           
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY referred to the safety aspect and explained              
 the mining industry in Alaska has a measured accident rate of 1.9.            
 That is down from two a year or two ago.  That means there are two            
 loss time accidents for every 100 man years of employment.  He                
 noted 200,000 man hours are classified as a man year.  This is                
 among the lowest of any industry in Alaska and is way below the               
 industry standards for the U.S.  By comparison in Alaska, the                 
 construction industry in total has a loss time accident rate of               
 5.6.  So mining is nearly three times as safe as is the                       
 construction industry as a whole.  Representative Vezey said                  
 studies have determined that there are two most important aspects             
 of on the job safety.  One is the continuity of employment.                   
 Employees who are on the job on a steady basis are much less likely           
 to have an accident than employees that come and go.  The other               
 factor is overall worker satisfaction with their job.  That has a             
 very measurable significant impact on overall job safety.  He noted           
 those things seem to go hand in hand with working longer shifts and           
 having longer weekends so the workers have more time with their               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said the concept of trying to repeal or modify           
 this law has been around for many years.  It is interesting to note           
 that former Juneau Mayor Jamie Parsons endorsed modifying this act.           
 Current Fairbanks Mayor Jim Sampson and former commissioner of the            
 Department of Labor, endorsed modifying it at one time.                       
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY read from a 1987 letter in the committee                 
 member's folders from Virgil A. Cain, Supervisor, Mine Safety and             
 Health, U.S. Department of Labor, Rocky Mountain Region:                      
      "This letter deals with the working hours of the employees.              
      About five year ago, one large mine in my area changed from              
      the eight hours a day, five days a week with two days off to             
      a four day a week, ten hours a day.  On the eight hours a day,           
      five days a week, the company had quite a few lost time                  
      accidents.  After the change to ten hour shifts, four days a             
      week, this company went five months without any accidents and            
      compiled one of the best mining accident records for its size            
      of any mine I have ever had any dealings with.                           
      "Just recently this same mine under new management went back             
      to a eight hour day, five days a week and the lost time                  
      accidents increased five to six hundred percent."                        
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY noted there is also a report from the                    
 Department of the Interior, Bureau of Mines, "Underground Work Days           
 in an Underground Mine - A Workplace Performance Analysis."  He               
 explained the report reiterates that there are a lot of advantages            
 to a longer work day.  Representative Vezey said we have to look at           
 those states that do have a viable mining industry.  Alaska mining            
 industry has doubled in the last ten years.  There is no practical            
 limit on how big it can get.  We have the geology and the area.  It           
 is a question of the environment that we can create to attract a              
 caval.  He reiterated that of the states that have a viable mining            
 industry, only two have any restrictions on the hours people can              
 work in underground mines and they restrict that by permit.  It is            
 not a flat 8-hour restriction.  Representative Vezey explained                
 there are only three states in the U.S. that have an 8-hour limit.            
 He noted two are Alaska and Montana.                                          
 Number 1823                                                                   
 CHAIRMAN KOTT referred to the states that have gone to something              
 other than an 8-hour day and asked if there is a trend as to what             
 they seem to be following on the average.                                     
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said the trend seems to be to repeal it or to            
 not have one at all.  There are probably six or eight states that             
 have a permitting process where you have to apply for more than an            
 8-hour day.  California has a maximum of 12 hours.  The other                 
 states have no maximum on that permit process.                                
 Number 1898                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER noted that there isn't this 8-hour                      
 restriction in Alaska for digging a tunnel but there is for mining            
 in the tunnel.                                                                
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said that is correct.  This only applies to              
 mining and has never been applied to tunnel.  The Whittier Tunnel,            
 Bradley Lake Tunnel and the Snettisham Tunnel were all constructed            
 without the 8-hour restriction.                                               
 CHAIRMAN KOTT said it is the intent to hold the bill in committee             
 to allow all the parties that are interested in the measure to                
 develop their discourse.                                                      
 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked if there was a problem with the bill.           
 CHAIRMAN KOTT said there is not a problem, but there are some                 
 entities that are trying to work behind the scenes to try to                  
 finalize the numbers.  He said he would assume that at some point             
 there is a break point where it does become hazardous.  He said he            
 could envision working three 16-hour days, eight hours overtime,              
 could be a tough haul after the second day.                                   
 CHAIRMAN KOTT asked Representative Porter if police departments               
 allow 16-hour days.  REPRESENTATIVE PORTER answered they do.                  
 Number 1982                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE GENE KUBINA asked if overtime laws would come into             
 effect after eight hours.                                                     
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER said a 10-hour shift is an acceptable                   
 alternative to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) retirements for            
 overtime after eight hours if your working 40 hours a week.                   
 REPRESENTATIVE SANDERS said he envisions there would be a lot of              
 variation from mine to mine.  He said he would rather endorse                 
 applying for an exception by certain mines.  If the regulation is             
 just eliminated, there might be some danger in some of the mines.             
 CHAIRMAN KOTT said the committee would take public testimony at               
 another meeting on the issue.                                                 
 CHAIRMAN KOTT stated there has been request to hold HB 319 over               
 until the following week.                                                     
 Number 2134                                                                   
 CHAIRMAN KOTT adjourned the House Labor and Commerce meeting at               
 3:55 p.m.                                                                     

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