Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/21/2004 01:15 PM House JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 539 - UNIV. STUDENT PRACTICUM LIABILITY/WAGES Number 0308 CHAIR McGUIRE announced that the final order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 539, "An Act exempting a person who allows a student of the University of Alaska to gain practical work experience with the person while participating in a practicum from vicarious liability as an employer, and exempting the student participating in a practicum from the Alaska Wage and Hour Act and workers' compensation coverage." [Before the committee was CSHB 539(L&C).] Number 0295 HEATH HILYARD, Staff to Representative Lesil McGuire, Alaska State Legislature, Chair of the House Judiciary Standing Committee, sponsor, explained that HB 539 addresses two key points with regard to student practicums, which are different from student internships. Interns receive some form of compensation, usually in the form of a stipend, but students who participate in a practicum receive no compensation other than knowledge and experience. House Bill 539 addresses the issue of vicarious liability of students that are participating in a university practicum, in that it limits that liability for the university; the bill also exempts students participating in a university practicum from the [Alaska Wage and Hour Act]. MR. HILYARD noted that the current version of the bill no longer contains reference to workers' compensation and that Section 1 now contains two paragraphs specifying who may qualify for student practicum immunity; those specifications are: (1) has agreed to allow the student to gain practical work experience with the person in a practicum that is part of the student's curriculum; and (2) pays no compensation to the student. Number 0037 PETE KELLY, Director, Government Relations, University of Alaska, remarked that there has been a problem at the university in that it is having difficulty arranging practicums for some of its programs because of liability issues. TAPE 04-70, SIDE A Number 0001 MR. KELLY relayed that some of the growing programs that require practicums pertain to dentistry, nursing, and construction. REPRESENTATIVE GARA asked whether a large number of employers are currently raising the liability issue. MR. KELLY relayed that because of liability issues, the university was only able to make arrangements with a bare minimum of providers; if programs continue to grow, this will become a problem in the future. CHAIR McGUIRE noted that Title 23 already contains exemptions from the Alaska Wage and Hour Act; HB 539, in addition to addressing the issue of vicarious liability for providers, would add to the list of exemptions in Title 23 students who are participating in a University of Alaska practicum. Number 0319 GREY MITCHELL, Director, Central Office, Division of Labor Standards & Safety, Department of Labor & Workforce Development (DLWD), remarked that in reviewing HB 539, the only concern he has relates to whether federal minimum wage requirements would affect the bill. He added that he suspects that it probably wouldn't become an issue, even though the federal requirements do not currently contain exemptions similar to those in Alaska law. Regardless, he surmised, it might be best if Legislative Legal and Research Services took a look at that issue. "I think that the bill probably does provide for a certain amount of incentive for employers to engage in these kinds of training opportunities for workers engaged in practicums that otherwise ... might have a sense of uncertainty ... due to liabilities about minimum wage or overtime under Alaska law," he concluded. REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS asked whether other universities [have practicums]. Number 0471 JAMES PARRISH, General Counsel, University of Alaska, relayed that other universities do have practicums as do other educational programs in Alaska. Notwithstanding this, the reason HB 539 only pertains to the University of Alaska is because of the possibility that non-state entities might establish practicums that would take advantage of students; he opined that the public nature of the University of Alaska protects against such happening. Number 0530 REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG moved to report CSHB 539(L&C) out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSHB 539(L&C) was reported from the House Judiciary Standing Committee.