Legislature(2015 - 2016)GRUENBERG 120
04/09/2016 01:00 PM House JUDICIARY
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HB 214-REPEAL WORKERS' COMP APPEALS COMMISSION 2:24:22 PM CHAIR LEDOUX announced that the next order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 214, "An Act repealing the Workers' Compensation Appeals Commission; relating to decisions and orders of the Alaska Workers' Compensation Board; relating to superior court jurisdiction over appeals from Alaska Workers' Compensation Board decisions and orders; repealing Rules 201.1, 401.1, and 501.1, Alaska Rules of Appellate Procedure, and amending Rules 202(a), 204(a) - (c), 210(e), 508(g), 601(b), 602, and 603, Alaska Rules of Appellate Procedure; and providing for an effective date." 2:24:51 PM LAURA STIDOLPH, Staff, Representative Kurt Olson, Alaska State Legislature advised, "Before you is the committee substitute for HB 214, ... Version P," and this bill is at the request of the Department of Labor & Workforce Development, Commissioner Heidi Drygas. She explained that HB 214 repeals the Workers' Compensation Appeals Commission, established from an omnibus bill in 2005 to expedite the workers' compensation appeals process. Although, she said, within the past decade it has not produced timely results, with a 50 percent decision reversal rate by the Alaska Supreme Court. She noted the Workers' Comp Appeals Commission tried, for the past decade, to give Alaskan workers a timely and accurate process, but it has proven to not do the job as intended. The committee substitute addresses the requested changes brought forth by the court system, she explained, and numerous meetings were held between the department, the court system, and Representative Olson's office to make this bill agreeable to all parties. Marie Marx, Division of Workers' Compensation, and Andrew Hemenway, Chair of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Commission are available for questions. 2:26:45 PM REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN commented that currently a person has the opportunity to go before the Workers' Compensation Appeals Commission when unhappy with a Workers' Compensation Board decision. He surmised that under the revision, the first avenue of appeal would be the Alaska Superior Court, and then if unhappy with that decision they would then appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court. MS. STIDOLPH agreed. REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN noted there are provisions within the bill managing the transition from today, when a person would still go to the Workers' Compensation Appeals Commission in cases that may be pending before the Supreme Court following an appeal to the Workers' Compensation Appeals Commission, and it could send some of the cases back to the superior court for review. MS. STIDOLPH agreed, and she said there is transitional language that appeals would be sent to the Workers' Compensation Appeals Commission until June 1, 2016. There is then a transition between June 1, 2016 and December 2016 for anything that was held in the Workers' Compensation Appeals Commission limbo file. REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN surmised that by the end of year 2016 the Workers' Compensation Appeals Commission would completely cease to exist. MS. STIDOLPH agreed, and she opined the House Labor and Commerce Standing Committee estimated that approximately six cases would not be finished by the end of the year and would be forwarded to the superior court. REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT referred to page 5, lines 21-31 through page 6, lines 1-17, and advised that it clearly speaks to how the transition will move forward, and described it as an eloquent manner of transitioning from one approach to a new approach. 2:28:58 PM CHAIR LEDOUX listed witnesses available for questions. CHAIR LEDOUX opened public testimony and after ascertaining no one wished to testify, closed public testimony. 2:29:49 PM CHAIR LEDOUX described the bill as déjà vu, and noted in 2005, when this commission was set up, it was a controversial issue. She said it reminds her of the poem, "It started with a bang and it's going to end in a whimper." 2:30:27 PM REPRESENTATIVE KELLER moved CS for HB 214, Version [I] out of committee HB 214 with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSHB 214(L&C) out of the House Judiciary Standing Committee. [Later within these minutes the committee rescinded its action on CS for HB 214, Version 29-LS0854/P, and moved the intended CS for HB 214, 29-LS0854/I out of committee at timestamp 3:13:33.] HB 214-REPEAL WORKERS' COMP APPEALS COMMISSION 3:13:43 PM CHAIR LEDOUX announced that the next order of business is to return to the committee's actions on HB 214 today. CHAIR LEDOUX moved to rescind the committee's vote to pass CSHB 214(L&C), Version 29-LS0854/P, out of the House Judiciary Standing Committee. There being no objection, CSHB (L&C), Version I was before the committee. 3:14:11 PM REPRESENTATIVE KELLER moved to report CSHB 214, Version 29- LS0854/I out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSHB 214(L&C) was passed out of the House Judiciary Standing Committee.