Legislature(2003 - 2004)

2004-02-16 Senate Journal

Full Journal pdf

2004-02-16                     Senate Journal                      Page 2187
SB 342                                                                                            
SENATE BILL NO. 342 BY THE SENATE RULES COMMITTEE                                                   
BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR, entitled:                                                               
          "An Act relating to the release of employment                                             
          security records, to the admissibility of                                                 
          determinations and decisions regarding                                                    
          unemployment compensation benefits, and to                                                
          contributions, interest, penalties, and payments under                                    
          the Alaska Employment Security Act; providing that                                        
          property under the Alaska Employment Security Act                                         
          is not subject to the Uniform Unclaimed Property                                          
          Act; and providing for an effective date."                                                
was read the first time and referred to the State Affairs and Labor and                             
Commerce Committees.                                                                                
The following fiscal information was published today:                                               
 Fiscal Note No. 1, zero, Department of Labor and Workforce                                         
Governor's transmittal letter dated February 13:                                                    
Dear President Therriault:                                                                          
Under the authority of article III, section 18, of the Alaska                                       
Constitution, I am transmitting a bill relating to the: (1) the release of                          
employment security records for law enforcement purposes; (2)                                       
administrative hearing decisions on unemployment benefits; and (3)                                  
federal compliance and other technical corrections to the Alaska                                    
Employment Security Act.                                                                            
This bill would allow the Department of Labor (DOL) to release                                      
employment security records to a state district attorney, a municipal                               
attorney, a United States attorney, and the Federal Bureau of                                       
Investigation for use in criminal investigations and prosecutions.                                  
Under current law, employment security records are confidential for                                 
criminal investigation and prosecution purposes.                                                    

2004-02-16                     Senate Journal                      Page 2188
This bill would codify the Alaska Supreme Court's decision in                                       
Manning v. Alaska Railroad Corporation, 853 P.2d 1120 (Alaska                                     
1993). In that case, the court held that the commissioner of DOL's                                  
decision granting the plaintiff unemployment benefits did not                                       
automatically require a finding of wrongful termination in a later court                            
case. Unemployment claims rarely provide an incentive for the                                       
employer to participate, much less spend a significant amount of time                               
and money investigating the facts and bringing those facts to the                                   
attention of the hearing officer. Employers have little incentive to                                
participate in an unemployment benefits claim hearing since their                                   
bottom line is only marginally affected by the outcome. This gives an                               
employee the opportunity to receive a favorable decision in an                                      
uncontested unemployment benefits claim and unfairly leverage that                                  
decision against the employer in a later court case.                                                
Finally, the bill makes a number of changes to bring Alaska law into                                
compliance with federal law, resolves conflicts in Alaska statutes and                              
makes other technical amendments. Other changes include provisions                                  
dealing with payment and collection of unemployment taxes by DOL                                    
from employers, expanding the ability of DOL to collect                                             
overpayments of unemployment compensation benefits on behalf of                                     
other states, clarifying which health professionals are excluded from                               
the Alaska Employment Security Act, and clarifying that the definition                              
of "wages" does not include education assistance. Of these, the                                     
principal change would remove the requirement that unemployment                                     
compensation be deposited into the unclaimed property fund. Federal                                 
law requires such funds to be deposited into the unemployment                                       
insurance trust fund.                                                                               
Sincerely yours,                                                                                    
Frank H. Murkowski