Legislature(2017 - 2018)

2017-01-20 Senate Journal

Full Journal pdf

2017-01-20                     Senate Journal                      Page 0052
SB 29                                                                                                                         
SENATE BILL NO. 29 BY THE SENATE RULES COMMITTEE                                                                                
BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR, entitled:                                                                                           
      "An Act repealing the Workers' Compensation Appeals                                                                       
      Commission; relating to decisions and orders of the                                                                       
      Workers' Compensation Appeals Commission; relating to                                                                     
      superior court jurisdiction over appeals from Alaska                                                                      
      Workers' Compensation Board decisions; repealing Rules                                                                    
      201.1, 401.1, and 501.1, Alaska Rules of Appellate                                                                        
      Procedure, and amending Rules 202(a), 204(a) - (c),                                                                       
      210(e), 601(b), and 603(a), Alaska Rules of Appellate                                                                     
      Procedure; and providing for an effective date."                                                                          
was read the first time and referred to the Labor and Commerce,                                                                 
Judiciary and Finance Committees.                                                                                               
The following fiscal information was published today:                                                                           
Fiscal Note No. 1, Department of Labor and Workforce Development                                                                
Governor's transmittal letter dated January 19:                                                                                 
Dear President Kelly:                                                                                                           
Under the authority of Article III, Section 18, of the Alaska                                                                   
Constitution, I am transmitting a bill that would repeal the Workers'                                                           
Compensation Appeals Commission (Commission). Established in                                                                    
2005, the Commission has jurisdiction over appeals from decisions                                                               
and orders of the Alaska Workers' Compensation Board (Board). The                                                               
Commission was created to streamline the appeals process for injured                                                            
employees and their employers; however, it has instead created                                                                  
unnecessary costs and delays, and has not streamlined the appeals                                                               
The bill would reinstate superior court jurisdiction as the first level for                                                     
review of decisions and orders of the Board. No changes are made to                                                             
Board procedure, only to the forum for review of a Board decision.                                                              
Moreover, no changes are made to the longstanding standards                                                                     
governing stays of payments and attorney fee awards under                                                                       
AS 23.30.145(c) in a workers' compensation benefits appeal. The                                                                 
superior court would apply the same standards of review used by the                                                             
Commission and by the superior court when it had jurisdiction. Also                                                             

2017-01-20                     Senate Journal                      Page 0053
consistent with longstanding practice, a cost bond on appeal would be                                                           
waived for an employee appealing a denial of workers' compensation                                                              
benefits. However, in terms of attorney fee awards in appeals of civil                                                          
penalty orders against employers for a failure to insure for workers'                                                           
compensation liability, the bill's repeal of the Commission's fee                                                               
provision, AS 23.30.008(d), would result in overruling State of Alaska,                                                         
Division of Workers' Compensation v. Titan Enterprises, LLC, 338                                                                
P.3d 316 (Alaska 2014). Instead, Rule 508(e)(4), Alaska Rules of                                                                
Appellate Procedure, would govern attorney fee awards in civil                                                                  
penalty appeals. This change means that a prevailing party in an                                                                
appeal of a civil penalty order - the employer or the Division of                                                               
Workers' Compensation - could receive 20 percent of its actual                                                                  
attorney fees, instead of fully compensatory and reasonable fees that a                                                         
prevailing injured employee would receive in a benefits appeal.                                                                 
The bill would amend the Alaska Rules of Appellate Procedure to                                                                 
remove references to the repealed Commission that would no longer                                                               
have subject matter jurisdiction over these appeals, to reinstate the                                                           
standard for stays that the superior court applied when it previously                                                           
reviewed these appeals, and to change the name of the agency issuing                                                            
the final administrative decision from the Commission to the Board.                                                             
Legislative amendment of the court rules will ensure a smooth                                                                   
transition for workers' compensation appeals after the repeal of the                                                            
Also, to facilitate a smooth transition, the bill would require that new                                                        
appeals and petitions for review of a board decision be filed with the                                                          
superior court beginning on June 1, 2017, but would retain the                                                                  
Commission's jurisdiction over pending matters through December 1,                                                              
2017. If the Commission does not conclude pending matters on or                                                                 
before December 1, 2017, the bill provides that the matters would be                                                            
transferred to the superior court for further proceedings.                                                                      
In the spirit of streamlining government processes and protecting                                                               
citizen rights, the bill would protect the right to challenge a decision of                                                     
the Alaska Workers' Compensation Board, but without the                                                                         
unnecessary and inefficient step of appearing before the Workers'                                                               
Compensation Appeals Commission.                                                                                                

2017-01-20                     Senate Journal                      Page 0054
I urge your prompt and favorable action on this measure.                                                                        
Bill Walker