Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/21/2004 01:15 PM House JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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                                                               
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.                                                                           

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