Legislature(2003 - 2004)
03/17/2004 03:20 PM House L&C
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 402-LABOR & WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT FEES CHAIR ANDERSON announced that the next order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 402, "An Act relating to fees for the inspection of recreational devices, for certificates of fitness for electrical wiring and plumbing, for filing voluntary flexible work hour plans, and for licenses for boiler operators; and providing for an effective date." [HB 402 was sponsored by the House Rules Standing Committee by request of the governor.] Number 1853 GREY MITCHELL, Director, Division of Labor Standards & Safety, Department of Labor & Workforce Development, presented an informational flowchart that detailed the collection and expenditure of state fees for recreational device inspections, boiler operator licensing fees, electrician and plumber certificate of fitness fees, and flex-plan filing fees. He testified: The recreational device inspection fees are paid by the operators of these recreational devices. People who are operating ski lifts or a go-cart ride ... would be required to pay a fee for the inspector to check that ride out. Those fees would then be deposited into the building safety account [BSA], which is a subaccount in the general fund ... legislatively earmarked to fund the mechanical inspection program. ... The legislature then gives a certain amount of authority to the Mechanical Inspection Program to spend the money that's collected. ... The funding would be used for inspector certification and the cost of travel associated with getting these certifications. ... The second section deals with boiler operator licenses. And we are proposing a fee for the licensing of boiler operators. At the time of their application they would pay a $200 fee, which would be good for three years. The funds for those license fees would, again, be deposited into this building safety account, which is used to fund the Mechanical Inspection Program, subject to the legislative authority that is established by you. That funding amount would be used for the program costs, which are involved with reviewing the credentials of the applicants, testing the applicants when they apply for a license, issuing the licenses, and maintaining the records on those license holders. Number 1722 MR. MITCHELL continued: Section 3 deals with certificate-of-fitness fees that are paid by plumbers and electricians who hold certificate of fitness cards or licenses. At the time of their application for that license, they would pay a fee for the license. Currently, they do pay a fee, and our proposal is simply to increase that fee to cover our existing costs and increase one electrical inspector position. The funds that are collected for those certificate-of-fitness fees, again, go into the building safety account, which is then used to fund the Mechanical Inspection Program. ... The last one: ... flex-plan filing fees would be charged to an employer at the time that they apply for flexible work hour plan, which is an exemption from overtime that basically allows employees to work a four 10-hour day schedule instead of the normal 8-hour standard that applies for overtime in Alaska. Then again, these funds would just be deposited into the general fund, so they aren't program specific funds. This is more of a revenue-generating proposal. Number 1648 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO asked if the BSA is the same account for all four of the sections on the flowchart or whether each section is a subaccount of the BSA. MR. MITCHELL replied that the first three sections are all in the BSA, and the last section's fees go into the general fund. REPRESENTATIVE GATTO asked if this bill requires that each recreational-device inspector travel to California or Florida for training or if one individual could get the necessary training, return to Alaska, and train other inspectors. MR. MITCHELL replied, "The cost would really only be for our inspectors to go to certification training in those locations. Then they would come back and, with their knowledge, inspect the devices for these operators." Number 1584 REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD asked how long it would take to add an additional electrical inspector after the fees were raised. MR. MITCHELL said there are two positions being held: one is a new position, not in the governor's budget, and would only be created when HB 402 passes; the other is being held because of current insufficient funding in the BSA. He hoped to fill the second position first and believed there would be enough funds at the beginning of the fiscal year if HB 402 passed. REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD stated his intent to increase the number of electrical inspectors and wondered how the legislature could accomplish this goal. MR. MITCHELL said he couldn't commit to filling the new position immediately because the program is funded from collected fees and the distribution process for these fees is complex. REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD reiterated that electricians agree to pay extra fees so there are adequate inspections; he sought assurance that these fees would go for the inspector positions. MR. MITCHELL replied: The plan is to increase by two positions. So we're going to fill a vacancy and then we're adding a position with this legislation, and we would fill it if we had the revenue available to do it. Our projections show that we will. So if everything aligns, then we're going to fill this position shortly after the start of the fiscal year. REPRESENTATIVE GATTO called attention to page 2, lines 19-20, "Nothing in this section creates a dedicated fund or dedicates the money in the account for a specific purpose." He expressed concern that the fees could be used for some other purpose. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG clarified that this language exists to avoid constitutional conflicts because of the [state] constitutional prohibition on dedicated funding. He said, "You want to try and direct it here, but you have got to express in the statute that it is not dedicated." MR. MITCHELL said the BSA statute, AS 44.31.025, contains the authority to deposit in and charge against the BSA. Number 1307 MIKE NOTAR, Assistant Business Manager, Local 1547, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), testified: I'm here to speak to the proposed increasing of the fees charged for electrician certificates of fitness. Journeymen electricians and apprentices, in order to perform electrical work in the state of Alaska, must qualify for, test for, obtain, and possess an electrical certificate of fitness or license. Also, electrical contractors performing work in our state are required to test for and obtain an electrical administrator's license. For the committee's information, certificate-of-fitness holders cannot perform electrical work unless they are employed by a licensed electrical contractor. We are here to speak in support of the proposed statute change if the revenues collected are placed into the building safety account and will allow the Department of Labor & Workforce Development to enforce certificate-of-fitness requirements and perform inspections. At the present time, there is but one electrical inspector statewide to enforce these requirements and do inspections. As a result, these things are not being done to the extent that we believe they should be. We believe that a certificate of fitness for electricians has societal value, both in protection of life and property, when the integrity of electrical installations is inspected and required to conform to the minimum standards allowed by law in our state. We also believe that, from an enforcement standpoint, the public interest is well served by requiring electricians and apprentices to be qualified, licensed, adequately trained, and continually educated in the national electrical code, which is adopted in statute, which further protects life and property. The Department of Labor & Workforce [Development] also through these inspections and enforcement, has the ability to enforce the electrical administrator requirements, thus assuring the public that both qualified contractors and electrical workers are responsible for the work being performed and that standards that assure public safety are being met. Number 1212 MR. NOTAR continued: Another point that I don't believe has been mentioned is that other states - specifically Oregon, South Dakota, North Dakota, Utah, Nebraska, Wyoming, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Minnesota, Colorado, and, most recently, California - have licensing requirements for electricians. The State of Alaska reciprocates licensing with each of these states except for California at present, to the best of my knowledge. What this means is that if work becomes slow in certain areas or states, or if work becomes overly plentiful in another area or state that lacks an adequate electrical workforce, this reciprocation of licensing allows portability, both for the areas and the electrical workers that may need it. Although the fee increase does not affect these relationships, I felt it was good information for the committee. Number 1129 CHAIR ANDERSON asked for clarification on Mr. Notar's position on HB 402. MR. NOTAR replied: "We are supportive of the increase to our licensing fees if it, in fact, will go into the building safety account. And I understand that there is not a dedication." REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked whether it was Mr. Notar's testimony that the certified electricians should be paying for building inspectors, rather than having real estate developers or building owners pay for them. MR. NOTAR replied no. He said these inspectors have the ability to inspect for the integrity of the work, but also have the ability to enforce licensure of contractors. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG characterized the certificate of fitness as a "tax on workers" and asked Mr. Notar if there was any controversy among the membership of the IBEW with regard to paying a fee for this certificate. MR. NOTAR replied: I don't believe I could represent to this committee or anyone else that all my members are always happy at any one time regarding any issue. I would have to say that, yes, they are generally supportive of this. There is some controversy regarding the certificate of fitness. Probably the major controversy is what is spurring me to provide this testimony today, that is, why would we pay the fee if there is not enforcement or inspection being done. Number 0950 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG expressed concern that the Department of Labor & Workforce Development planned to hire building inspectors with funds from the BSA. He said he felt these costs should be borne by the developers, the building owners, or the state agencies that hire inspectors, rather than the workers. MR. NOTAR stated: To be very candid, we have been paying these fees for 30 years. We feel they are beneficial not only to our members. We feel they are beneficial to the public safety, the public good. Our members and others are generally comfortable in the licensing fees, and they don't feel that they are exorbitant. Number 0796 CLAIRE MORTON, Owner, Golden Wheel Amusements, testified that her company annually hires nationally certified, professional inspectors from outside to inspect her recreational equipment and provide safety training to her employees. She questioned the prudence of the $200-per-ride inspection fee when she already pays for an outside firm to do the inspections. She questioned the liability of the state and suggested third-party inspection might be more prudent. Number 0550 STEVE BOYD, Manager, National Electrical Contractors Association, noting that he is a licensed electrician, testified: On behalf of myself as a certificate-of-fitness holder and on behalf of the National Electrical Contractors Association, I'd like to go on record as supporting this fee increase. Recognizing the challenges that we all face, we feel that the increase is reasonable, given the length of time since the last increase and the necessary work that has to be done. The building safety account would ensure funding certificates of fitness and inspections of the covered work. These programs are beneficial to the industry and the general public. They help ensure an adequate level of compliance of public safety. For these reasons, we support the program and the necessary increase in fees. Number 0446 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked Mr. Mitchell if the current system of inspections allows for third-party certified, outside inspectors. MR. MITCHELL replied that the Division of Labor Standards and Safety has worked with third-party inspectors at Golden Wheel Amusements for a number of years. He stated, "The amusement- ride inspections that are done by out of state inspectors that would come in, or certified inspectors, which are done with our people, could be exempt from the fee. After all, our inspectors would not do the inspection." REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG noted that a company with 10 machines would pay $2,000 to the state in addition to the outside inspector. MR. MITCHELL responded that if the inspector doing the inspection was from his division, that would be true. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked whether Mr. Mitchell would accept a certified outside inspector approved by the Department of Labor & Workforce Development doing the inspection and waiving the fee. MR. MITCHELL said that's what the department is currently doing; however, it is not in regulation. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked if the statute could be amended to include the approved use of certified, outside inspectors. He also asked how much it costs to process a one-page request for voluntary flextime work plan at this time. MR. MITCHELL replied that there is no fee at this time, but acknowledged that some flex plans are complicated and require more time to process than others. REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD asked for the primary reason underlying the $100 fee for a flex plan in the proposed legislation. MR. MITCHELL said it generates fee revenue. TAPE 04-28, SIDE A Number 0008 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG moved to adopt Conceptual Amendment 1, to add a subsection (d) to Section 1 that says the department will waive any fees for approved and nationally certified inspections for the devices under this section. There being no objection, it was so ordered. Number 0079 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG moved to adopt Amendment 2, labeled 23- GH2111\A.1, Bannister, 2/27/04, which read: Page 1, line 2: Delete "for filing voluntary flexible work hour plans," Page 2, lines 6 - 9: Delete all material. Renumber the following bill sections accordingly. CHAIR ANDERSON objected for purposes of discussion. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG explained that for the title for filing voluntary flexible work hours, page 2, lines 6-9, Section 4, this just deletes the $100 fee for filing for a flexible work hour plan. CHAIR ANDERSON asked for a "thumbs up" if the department agreed. He then remarked, "OK, there's a thumbs up for the record." Number 0165 CHAIR ANDERSON removed his objection. He announced that there being no other objection, Amendment 2 was adopted. Number 0178 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO moved to report HB 402, as amended, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSHB 402(L&C) was reported from the House Labor and Commerce Standing Committee.