Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/26/2004 08:06 AM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
        SB 311-INSURANCE & WORKERS' COMPENSATION SYSTEM                                                                     
MS.  LINDA HALL,  Director  of the  Division  of Insurance,  told                                                               
members  that  she  and  Mr. Lisankie  would  describe  the  bill                                                               
sections and  indicated that the team  that worked on SB  311 has                                                               
been involved in discussions with  other interested parties in an                                                               
attempt  to reach  consensus on  sections  of the  bill that  are                                                               
causing dissention.  They hope to present  a committee substitute                                                               
next week that  will reflect some agreement on  those issues. She                                                               
then  offered  to provide  some  background  information on  what                                                               
prompted the bill.                                                                                                              
CHAIR SEEKINS announced  that, at the request of  the sponsor, he                                                               
would  not take  public testimony  today, but  the bill  would be                                                               
rescheduled  next  week. He  hoped  to  have  a bill  before  the                                                               
committee  next  week  that  would   be  ready  to  move  out  of                                                               
committee. He then asked Ms. Hall to proceed.                                                                                   
MS. HALL  indicated that all  members have heard her  discuss the                                                               
cash  deficit in  the Guaranty  Association. She  said she  would                                                               
also discuss  the unhealthy workers' compensation  environment in                                                               
Alaska.  The   Division  of  Insurance   is  dealing   with  four                                                               
problematic areas. The first is  the lack of profitability in the                                                               
workers'  compensation  market from  1997  to  2002, when  losses                                                               
ranged from 99.9 percent to 154  percent. The high of 154 percent                                                               
means  that   insurance  companies   spent  $1.54   for  workers'                                                               
compensation claims  for every dollar  of premium  collected. The                                                               
average over that same 5-year period  was 124 percent, which is 5                                                               
percent  higher  than  the national  average.  Alaska's  workers'                                                               
compensation  claims  are  more  expensive and  costly  than  the                                                               
national  average, which  isn't  attractive either.  The cost  of                                                               
medical  benefits  has  increased substantially,  which  tend  to                                                               
increase the cost  of workers' compensation claims  and result in                                                               
higher premiums.                                                                                                                
MS. HALL told  members the Division of Insurance  approved a rate                                                               
increase effective January 1, 2004,  which averaged 21.2 percent.                                                               
As the  cost of claims  increased, the actuarial  analysis showed                                                               
that  historical claims  and projections  of  future claim  costs                                                               
indicated the  need for a  substantial rate increase.  Within the                                                               
21.2 percent average, about  30 classifications decreased, mostly                                                               
related  to marine  industries. However,  17 classifications  had                                                               
rate increases in excess of 50 percent.                                                                                         
MS. HALL  said the last  factor in  the increase is  the assigned                                                               
risk  pool.   Because  of  the   mandatory  nature   of  workers'                                                               
compensation,  the  Division  has  a  mechanism  to  ensure  that                                                               
everyone can afford to  purchase workers' compensation insurance.                                                               
That  market has  also suffered  substantial losses;  the dollars                                                               
spent on claims have not met  the revenue in premiums. Alaska has                                                               
had  the  highest rate  of  any  state of  workers'  compensation                                                               
assessments for  its assigned risk  pool from 1997  through 2001.                                                               
In 2002,  Alaska dropped  to number six.  The average  burden has                                                               
ranged from 4 percent to 10  percent and is an additional cost to                                                               
insurance  companies  on  top of  their  operating  costs,  again                                                               
making Alaska  an unattractive  marketplace. She  emphasized that                                                               
Alaska's  workers'  compensation   environment  has  become  very                                                               
expensive for  employers and unattractive  to insurers.  She said                                                               
from her perspective, the state  cannot continue to just increase                                                               
workers' compensation premiums. The state  needs to look for ways                                                               
to stem increasing  costs and bring about some  efficiency in the                                                               
system.   The  state   needs  a   stable,  sustainable   workers'                                                               
compensation  environment that  will  encourage  companies to  do                                                               
business here and provide affordable  insurance so that employers                                                               
can continue to develop jobs.                                                                                                   
MS. HALL informed  members that a healthy  environment depends on                                                               
adequate rates,  a self-funded  assigned risk  pool and  a viable                                                               
workers' compensation system. She pointed  out, "SB 311 is fairly                                                               
unique as  it represents cross-departmental solutions  to various                                                               
issues."  She emphasized  that  the bill  addresses  a number  of                                                               
issues, many of  which affect insurance and  the marketplace. The                                                               
focus and  stimulus of  the bill  were to  affect changes  in the                                                               
marketplace.  She  then addressed  the  insurance  pieces of  the                                                               
     Section 3  adds a requirement to  increase the deposits                                                                    
     of    insurance   companies    that   write    workers'                                                                    
     compensation. These  special deposits would be  for the                                                                    
     benefit of workers in case of an insolvency.                                                                               
     Section  5  addresses the  Board  of  Governors of  the                                                                    
     Guaranty  Association.   Today  we  have   nine  member                                                                    
     boards, seven  of those  are insurance  companies. They                                                                    
     have done an  excellent job so the change  in the board                                                                    
     representation  is not  a  reflection  on what  they've                                                                    
     done. But what  I'd like to do is see  a board that has                                                                    
     representatives of  all the stakeholders. We  have - in                                                                    
     the proposal I  have two members of  labor, two members                                                                    
     of employers,  an agent  and four  insurance companies.                                                                    
     The number  would stay the  same but they would  have a                                                                    
     different representation.                                                                                                  
     Section 6 of the bill  is called a net worth exclusion.                                                                    
     It's a  way to bring some  cap to cost in  the Guaranty                                                                    
     Association.    Currently,   except    [for]   workers'                                                                    
     compensation,  all  claims   and  Guaranty  Association                                                                    
     [costs] are  capped at $500,000.  Workers' compensation                                                                    
     claims  are  unlimited.  Thirty-two other  states  have                                                                    
     what  we  call the  net  worth  exclusion for  workers'                                                                    
     compensation and  I'm proposing  that we adopt  that in                                                                    
     our statutes.  The purpose -  the goal would be  to not                                                                    
     pay  claims of  employers whose  net worth  exceeds $25                                                                    
     million.  The other  states that  have  such caps,  and                                                                    
     there are  32 of  them, range from  $10 million  to $50                                                                    
     million - 25 seemed like  a number that would work well                                                                    
     for Alaskans.                                                                                                              
     Section 105 is  the other section that  is important to                                                                    
     me  in terms  of our  workers' compensation  market. It                                                                    
     repeals the 25 percent  statutory cap on the surcharges                                                                    
     for   the  assigned   risk  pool   and  exclusion   for                                                                    
     surcharges on  policies under $3,000.  I feel  that the                                                                    
     assigned  risk pool  must  be  self-funding. There  are                                                                    
     nearly 8,800 policies,  17 percent of our  market is in                                                                    
     the assigned  risk pool. 6,000  of those  policies have                                                                    
     premiums under  $3,000. The  average premium  for those                                                                    
     policies is  $864. Small employers have  claims equally                                                                    
     big as large  employers. The size of  the employer does                                                                    
     not normally correlate  with the size of  the claim. We                                                                    
     have an  average premium of  $864. A single  claim will                                                                    
     offset,  probably  in  that size,  several  hundred  of                                                                    
     those  policies. So  I'm looking  in this  provision to                                                                    
     make that  pool self-funding  to allow it  to fluctuate                                                                    
     as the losses in the pool  fluctuate in the same way we                                                                    
     allow  rates for  the traditional  market to  fluctuate                                                                    
     based on the cost of  claims. The assigned risk pool is                                                                    
     probably one of  the major factors that  is a deterrent                                                                    
     to  new companies  coming  into  our marketplace.  When                                                                    
     they look at  that and know off the top  they are going                                                                    
     to pay anywhere from 4 to  6 percent of their income to                                                                    
     offset  work comp  losses in  the  assigned risk  pool,                                                                    
     they frequently  decide they don't want  to do business                                                                    
     here. It's a  very fragile marketplace and  I'd like to                                                                    
     find ways  to bring  it to a  healthier place  where we                                                                    
     encourage companies to do business in Alaska.                                                                              
CHAIR SEEKINS announced that Senators Therriault and Ogan had                                                                   
joined the committee some time ago.                                                                                             
SENATOR THERRIAULT asked Ms. Hall to review the workings of the                                                                 
assigned risk pool.                                                                                                             
MS. HALL  explained the  assigned risk pool  is considered  to be                                                               
the market  of last  resort.   It is a  place to  obtain coverage                                                               
when  an  employer  cannot  get   workers'  compensation  from  a                                                               
traditional  carrier. Many  small  employers, particularly  those                                                               
with  premiums  under  $10,000,   find  it  difficult  to  obtain                                                               
coverage  in the  traditional marketplace.  With  a premium  that                                                               
size, a single loss costs enough  that it is a losing proposition                                                               
to underwrite that type of business.  Some of the policies in the                                                               
assigned  risk pool  are  higher hazard,  but  not many.  Usually                                                               
employers with  bad loss  ratios are in  the assigned  risk pool,                                                               
but about  93 percent of them  are there because they  are small.                                                               
The pool losses have been  exceeding the premiums collected since                                                               
at  least 1997  so  the pool  has  been losing  money  at a  very                                                               
substantial rate. That 4 to 10  percent loss of money is a direct                                                               
assessment back  to the insurance  companies that  write business                                                               
in our  state. They  must participate in  those losses,  known as                                                               
reinsurance.  That amount is  not charged back to a policyholder,                                                               
it is a direct obligation of the insurance company.                                                                             
SENATOR THERRIAULT  affirmed that amount makes  up the difference                                                               
and then asked Ms. Hall to review Section 6.                                                                                    
MS. HALL  said Section 6 pertains  to the net worth  exclusion so                                                               
that if an  employer's net worth is over $25  million, the system                                                               
would  not pay  the  claims  of the  insolvent  insurer for  that                                                               
CHAIR SEEKINS  commented that since the  state requires employers                                                               
to purchase  workers' compensation, the  assigned risk pool  is a                                                               
very valuable  asset to small companies  that may not be  able to                                                               
use a major carrier.                                                                                                            
SENATOR  THERRIAULT asked  Ms. Hall  if she  was speaking  to the                                                               
claims being paid out of the  Guaranty Fund, in regard to Section                                                               
MS. HALL said that is correct.                                                                                                  
SENATOR  THERRIAULT asked  if the  employers would  pay into  the                                                               
Guaranty  Fund, but  if there  was insolvency  and a  company had                                                               
substantial assets, that company would  still have to pick up its                                                               
individual company claims.                                                                                                      
MS. HALL replied:                                                                                                               
     Yes.  The only  way they  would pay  into the  Guaranty                                                                    
     Fund is  in a situation  where there is  an assessment,                                                                    
     which is certainly the case  today. We have assessments                                                                    
     that are passed back on  to that policyholder. But as I                                                                    
     said, in many  states, it's felt to be  the best public                                                                    
     policy. Those  employers in theory have  more financial                                                                    
     resources to take  back and be able to  fund the claims                                                                    
     -  the  workers'  compensation  obligations  for  their                                                                    
CHAIR SEEKINS  asked if  there is  a mechanism  in the  bill that                                                               
would allow  a company who is  subject to this risk  to avoid the                                                               
surcharge that would fund the Guaranty Fund.                                                                                    
MS. HALL said not as proposed.                                                                                                  
CHAIR SEEKINS surmised  that companies would have to  pay into it                                                               
as a part  of their premiums, but  would not be able  to reap the                                                               
MS. HALL said that is correct.                                                                                                  
CHAIR SEEKINS suggested the committee might address that.                                                                       
MR.  PAUL   LISANKIE,  Director  of  the   Division  of  Workers'                                                               
Compensation,  Department  of  Labor  and  Workforce  Development                                                               
(DOLWD), told  members he would  provide a brief overview  of the                                                               
major portions of  the bill as they would affect  the Division of                                                               
Workers'  Compensation and  the Workers'  Compensation Board  and                                                               
then answer questions.                                                                                                          
CHAIR SEEKINS interjected to announce  that he intends to hear an                                                               
introduction of the bill but  not take public testimony today. He                                                               
said  the Division  and other  folks are  working on  a committee                                                               
substitute to  address the concerns  that both sides have  had on                                                               
the issue. He believes  this is a high impact bill  and it is not                                                               
his  intention to  ignore the  entreaties  of both  sides of  the                                                               
matter.   He  intends to  move some  version of  the bill  out of                                                               
committee by the end of the next week.                                                                                          
MR. LISANKIE  noted that SB  311 has  four major areas  that will                                                               
impact  the  current  workers' compensation  program.  The  first                                                               
change would impact the current  cost of living provisions. Under                                                               
the  existing  program,  a  person  who is  injured  and  gets  a                                                               
workers'  compensation rate  established  and moves  to a  higher                                                               
cost area than  Alaska would get a higher  compensation rate than                                                               
an Alaskan  injured worker who  resides in Alaska. Under  SB 311,                                                               
the rate would be capped at the  Alaska rate so that no one would                                                               
get a higher rate than an Alaskan injured worker.                                                                               
The second important area of  change is with uninsured employers.                                                               
The Division  currently fines  employers that  do not  follow the                                                               
law  by properly  insuring against  their liability  for workers'                                                               
compensation  benefits. The  Division has  a limited  armament to                                                               
use against  employers. The Division  can shut the  business down                                                               
but, more often,  after detected the employer  will get insurance                                                               
so  cannot  be shut  down.  SB  311  will  give the  Division  an                                                               
accelerated procedure for imposing  civil fines against employers                                                               
who are working  without the required insurance. The  fine can be                                                               
up to $100 per day, per employee.  The intent is to make the fine                                                               
so repugnant that businesses will be sure to get coverage.                                                                      
MR.  LISANKIE said  the  third  change SB  311  will  make is  to                                                               
formally  establish a  Division of  Workers' Compensation  within                                                               
DOLWD.  The director  will be  required  to have  at least  three                                                               
years of  experience in the  field of workers'  compensation. The                                                               
formal  establishment  of a  division  will  provide for  a  firm                                                               
separation  between  the division  and  the  group that  resolves                                                               
disputes. The division and division  director will be responsible                                                               
for  investigations,  administering   the  workers'  compensation                                                               
system, and  attempting to informally resolve  potential disputes                                                               
about  benefits.  However, in  the  event  that all  attempts  to                                                               
resolve a  dispute fail and the  case has to be  adjudicated, the                                                               
case  would  go  to  a  separate entity.  The  hearing  before  a                                                               
separate  entity  should assure  the  parties  involved that  the                                                               
previous   attempts  and   players   will   not  foreshadow   the                                                               
adjudication. That same procedure is now used informally.                                                                       
MR. LISANKIE said one significant  change in the bill addresses a                                                               
problem the  division sees too  often. Some people are  unable to                                                               
get an  attorney if a dispute  is appealed. SB 311  will give the                                                               
division and  division director the opportunity,  in questions of                                                               
unsettled law,  to represent the  position of the  person without                                                               
an attorney.  That will  enable the  pro se  claimant to  be more                                                               
focused and prepared for the hearing.                                                                                           
SENATOR  THERRIAULT asked  if someone  within the  division would                                                               
help  the pro  se  claimant  to focus  on  the appropriate  legal                                                               
MR. LISANKIE said that is correct.                                                                                              
SENATOR  THERRIAULT questioned  whether  the  staff person  would                                                               
appear  at  the  appeal  hearing beside  the  claimant  as  legal                                                               
MR. LISANKIE  said the  staff person would  not be  legal counsel                                                               
but would be  involved in the proceeding. He  then continued with                                                               
the impacts  of SB 311  on the Division of  Workers' Compensation                                                               
and said the  fourth change pertains to how  the initial disputes                                                               
are heard  and resolved  and who  will hear  the appeals.  SB 311                                                               
proposes  to have  hearing officers  hear the  initial cases  and                                                               
that appeals  be heard  by a new  commission, named  the Workers'                                                               
Compensation  Appeals Commission,  which would  stand in  lieu of                                                               
the  Superior Court  appeals process.  The change  will create  a                                                               
more efficient,  consistent and predictable system  for decision-                                                               
making. Decisions  with precedent  value will  be made  sooner so                                                               
that the  period of uncertainty  about a  given point on  the law                                                               
will be shorter. He explained:                                                                                                  
     It  sometimes happens  now, for  a variety  of reasons,                                                                    
     that  the workers'  compensation  board can  be of  two                                                                    
     minds on an issue and until  it gets all the way to the                                                                    
     Supreme Court, right  now, you never know  which one of                                                                    
     those positions  is going to  be finally  considered to                                                                    
     be  the correct  one.  As you  go  through the  present                                                                    
     system into  the Superior Court  appeal, you can  get a                                                                    
     decision  from a  Superior  Court  judge [indisc.]  the                                                                    
     question  between   you  and  your  opponent   in  that                                                                    
     particular   dispute   but   it  doesn't   have   broad                                                                    
     precedential value  across the board for  anybody else.                                                                    
     What  this  bill  would  do   by  having  the  workers'                                                                    
     compensation  appeals  commission established  is  that                                                                    
     first  line   of  appeal  would  go   to  the  Workers'                                                                    
     Compensation  Appeal  Commission.  Those  commissioners                                                                    
     would  render  a  decision.   That  decision  would  be                                                                    
     published and would have  precedential value unless and                                                                    
     until it  was overturned  by the Alaska  Supreme Court,                                                                    
     which would continue  and be the final  arbiter of what                                                                    
     is and is  not the law in the State  of Alaska. So what                                                                    
     it  would  do  is  give   you  a  shortened  period  of                                                                    
     uncertainty so  that other parties  that had  read that                                                                    
     decision  could say  all  right, now  we  can base  our                                                                    
     decisions to pay  or not pay - I am  entitled, I am not                                                                    
     entitled  to  certain  benefits  and  they  could  move                                                                    
     forward from that  day on unless and  until the Supreme                                                                    
     Court gave other instructions.                                                                                             
SENATOR THERRIAULT  noted that although Mr.  Lisankie is claiming                                                               
that change will  create efficiency and consistency  early in the                                                               
process, one of the major  criticisms leveled at that approach is                                                               
the  expense. He  asked Mr.  Lisankie to  comment about  its cost                                                               
MR. LISANKIE agreed it is difficult  to quantify how much money a                                                               
system that makes findings decisions  more quickly will save. The                                                               
intention is  that if the  insurance company or the  employer and                                                               
employee  and their  representatives  have  greater certainty  in                                                               
what  their obligations  are, they  will be  able to  pay without                                                               
having to litigate, which will create cost savings. He added:                                                                   
     There would  also be, presumably,  cost savings  in the                                                                    
     many  claims  that  in the  current  environment  where                                                                    
     you're not certain what the  obligations to pay are and                                                                    
     what the  entitlements are -  most cases in  our system                                                                    
     never  go  to  litigation,  thank  goodness.  It  would                                                                    
     overwhelm  us. Most  of them  are  settled between  the                                                                    
     parties and  what goes into  the valuation of  how much                                                                    
     money changes  hands is what the  entitlements might be                                                                    
     construed  to   be,  what  the  liabilities   might  be                                                                    
     construed  to be.  So, if  there's less  in the  way of                                                                    
     uncertainty about what the benefits  are, and then more                                                                    
     benefits   can  be   paid  without   litigation,  fewer                                                                    
     benefits   will  have   to  go   into  litigation   and                                                                    
     ultimately  be settled.  With  money  changing hands  -                                                                    
     obviously  if that  settlement  is litigated,  somebody                                                                    
     would have  gotten more and somebody  would have gotten                                                                    
     less but  you're not precisely  sure who would  get how                                                                    
     much  more or  how much  less  and that  would be  some                                                                    
     savings  there. The  commission  itself is  not a  cost                                                                    
SENATOR THERRIAULT asked the projected cost of the commission.                                                                  
CHAIR SEEKINS estimated  the total cost to  be $750,[000] between                                                               
the division and  the courts. He noted the  court system's fiscal                                                               
note estimates the cost to be $200,000.                                                                                         
MR. LISANKIE  specified the DOLWD's  projected cost  is $556,000,                                                               
which includes some start-up costs that will not carry over.                                                                    
SENATOR THERRIAULT asked for an  explanation of the source of the                                                               
funding for the commission.                                                                                                     
MR. LISANKIE said  the workers' safety account is  comprised of a                                                               
portion of  the premiums paid  by the insurers that  insure their                                                               
liability and  an assessment  against the  self-insured employers                                                               
based on the amount of the total paid out benefits.                                                                             
8:40 a.m.                                                                                                                       
SENATOR  FRENCH thought  it  is important  to  remember that  the                                                               
proposed structure  of the appeals  commission will  be comprised                                                               
of six attorneys who will hold  hearings and who will be overseen                                                               
by three  appellate judges.  He suggested that  is a  fairly top-                                                               
heavy appeals  system.   He guessed there  are about  30 Superior                                                               
Court judges  statewide and five  Supreme Court justices  to hear                                                               
their appeals,  which amounts to  a 6:1 ratio. He  maintained the                                                               
2:1 ratio in SB 311 is inefficient.                                                                                             
SENATOR FRENCH  said his second  area of concern is  removing the                                                               
hearing officer  positions from classified service.  In the model                                                               
act, the hearing  officers remain in classified  service. He felt                                                               
this issue  is important because  the hearing officers  will have                                                               
to  make rulings  against their  very  employers, therefore  they                                                               
will need to have some measure of  cover to be able to make truly                                                               
independent decisions.                                                                                                          
SENATOR FRENCH asked, in regard  to the precedential weight being                                                               
given  to  the  appeals  commission, how  the  opinions  will  be                                                               
published  to be  sure everyone  appearing before  the commission                                                               
has access to those opinions.                                                                                                   
MR.  LISANKIE  said he  could  not  provide the  specifics  about                                                               
publication of the precedential opinions.                                                                                       
SENATOR FRENCH asked  if the specifics will be worked  out as the                                                               
project progresses.                                                                                                             
MR. LISANKIE said that is correct.                                                                                              
SENATOR FRENCH said  he is also concerned  about the commission's                                                               
standard of  review. SB  311 proposes a  de novo  review, meaning                                                               
the commission's review  will start afresh, so that  it will give                                                               
no deference to the facts given  by the hearing officer. He noted                                                               
that also strikes him as being inefficient.                                                                                     
CHAIR SEEKINS asked  Mr. Lisankie if the current  court review is                                                               
a de novo review.                                                                                                               
MR.  LISANKIE  said it  is  his  understanding that  the  current                                                               
review at  the superior  court level  is constrained,  meaning it                                                               
only measures  whether the fact  finder had  substantial evidence                                                               
to support his  or her fact finding. Therefore,  the court review                                                               
is not a de novo review.                                                                                                        
CHAIR  SEEKINS announced  that  he  would set  SB  311 aside  and                                                               
strongly  encouraged the  stakeholders to  work out  a bill  that                                                               
everyone involved finds acceptable.                                                                                             
SENATOR ELLIS requested that Chair  Seekins provide public notice                                                               
of a subsequent  hearing on SB 311 at least  one full working day                                                               
before to  provide adequate time  for everyone to review  the new                                                               
CHAIR  SEEKINS  said  it  has  never  been  his  policy  to  rush                                                               
legislation through the committee  and not allow members adequate                                                               
time to consider the legislation.                                                                                               
SENATOR ELLIS also  asked Chair Seekins to  publicly announce the                                                               
meeting   one   day   in  advance   so   that   participants   at                                                               
teleconference sites will be aware of an opportunity to testify.                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS said  his intent is to reschedule the  bill, not to                                                               
bring it  up unannounced  under bills  previously heard.  He then                                                               
     Although, our notice  - well I'll put it  this way, our                                                                    
     notice  on  intent to  reschedule  it  may be  required                                                                    
     depending on  how soon I  get it  to go outside  of the                                                                    
     normal  notice process  and still  hold  it under,  but                                                                    
     make  sure  that it's  published  to  that effect.  How                                                                    
     would that  be? Because if  these guys -  nobody should                                                                    
     think if  they - let me  tell you - nobody  is going to                                                                    
     procedurally  drag  their  feet  to  carry  this  thing                                                                    
     forward, okay?                                                                                                             
SENATOR ELLIS responded:                                                                                                        
     My concern is public notice.  We have the CS. Since the                                                                    
     CS   is   being   talked   about   Mr.   Chairman,   by                                                                    
     stakeholders, you  know, behind closed doors  or out in                                                                    
     the hallway  or wherever  - outside the  public process                                                                    
     here until it becomes a  committee CS presented by you,                                                                    
     my interest is in adequate  public notice so people can                                                                    
     testify and [indisc.] the CS.                                                                                              
CHAIR SEEKINS said  he has the same interest and  intends to give                                                               
plenty  of notice  so that  people will  have the  opportunity to                                                               
weigh in  and review the  proposed legislation before it  gets to                                                               
the committee.                                                                                                                  

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