Legislature(2017 - 2018)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

02/28/2017 01:30 PM LABOR & COMMERCE

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
<Bill Hearing Canceled>
Moved SB 45 Out of Committee
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
-- Public Testimony --
         SB  29-REPEAL WORKERS' COMP APPEALS COMMISSION                                                                     
2:52:46 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  COSTELLO   reconvened  the   meeting  and   announced  the                                                               
consideration  of SB  29.  She  stated that  this  is the  second                                                               
hearing and  public testimony  was closed  on 2/14/17.  She asked                                                               
members if they had questions for Commissioner Drygas.                                                                          
2:53:19 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  STEVENS  asked if  the  same  problems will  persist  if                                                               
workers'  compensation  appeals  are  returned  to  the  superior                                                               
COMMISSIONER DRYGAS  said returning  the appeals to  the superior                                                               
court probably  isn't ideal,  but any  other option  costs money.                                                               
The  superior  court  dealt  with these  appeals  before  and  it                                                               
routinely handles  administrative appeals,  which these  are. She                                                               
said Ms. Meade  could speak for the Court System  but the 40 some                                                               
superior court judges  around the state would have  to absorb the                                                               
30 some workers' compensation appeals each year.                                                                                
She  explained  that departments  were  asked  to look  at  their                                                               
statutes and identify what wasn't  working. DOLWD identified this                                                               
one as  not working the way  that people had hoped.  She said the                                                               
Court System submitted  a zero fiscal note, which  is probably an                                                               
acknowledgement that  they can absorb the  appeals without having                                                               
to  hire additional  staff.  "I  get the  feeling  that they  are                                                               
willing to do that somewhat  reluctantly, but they understand the                                                               
situation that we're in."                                                                                                       
COMMISSIONER DRYGAS  said these  appeals could  be handled  by an                                                               
administrative law  judge but  that would  be very  expensive and                                                               
the work comp bench in this state  is very short. That would be a                                                               
problem even  if there  was money for  a different  solution than                                                               
returning  to   the  previous   procedure.  She   concluded  that                                                               
returning the appeals to the  superior court is a better solution                                                               
than sticking  with something  that is not  working, and  it will                                                               
save the state some money.                                                                                                      
SENATOR STEVENS said  he appreciates the explanation,  but he was                                                               
fairly confident that the legislature  would be dealing with this                                                               
again in the future.                                                                                                            
2:58:52 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  MEYER asked  if  [her previous  testimony]  was that  60                                                               
percent of the cases are appealed.                                                                                              
COMMISSIONER  DRYGAS  clarified that  -  of  the cases  that  are                                                               
appealed to the  Alaska Supreme Court and decided  on the merits,                                                               
50  percent  are  overturned.  She  offered  to  follow  up  with                                                               
information  on the  20-30 cases  from the  Workers' Compensation                                                               
Board  that are  appealed  to the  Workers' Compensation  Appeals                                                               
SENATOR MEYER  described going  directly to  court as  skipping a                                                               
step. He expressed  concern that the proposed  change could delay                                                               
decisions  then commented  that it  might not  be much  different                                                               
than now if the decision is appealed.                                                                                           
COMMISSIONER DRYGAS  clarified that the proposed  change does not                                                               
skip a step.  The case goes from the  Workers' Compensation Board                                                               
to the superior court and then  on to the Alaska Supreme Court if                                                               
the  decision is  appealed. She  also reminded  members that  the                                                               
commission  was  created to  address  perceived  delays, but  the                                                               
department  has found  that the  commission  hasn't gotten  cases                                                               
through any faster.                                                                                                             
SENATOR STEVENS  asked if  there are  other options  to consider,                                                               
even if they cost more.                                                                                                         
COMMISSIONER DRYGAS  said there has been  discussion about moving                                                               
the cases to  the Office of Administrative  Hearings, which would                                                               
carry a positive  fiscal note. She pointed out  the downside that                                                               
the injured  worker would have  a double administrative  layer to                                                               
negotiate before they could hear their case in court.                                                                           
3:03:34 PM                                                                                                                    
NANCY MEADE, General Counsel  and Deputy Administrative Director,                                                               
Alaska Court System offered to answer questions on SB 29.                                                                       
CHAIR COSTELLO  expressed appreciation that Court  System offered                                                               
to take on this additional duty.                                                                                                
SENATOR STEVENS  asked how a  better response can be  expected by                                                               
returning to the old system.                                                                                                    
MS. MEADE said the Court System can't promise a better response,                                                                
but is willing to do it if that is the will of the legislature.                                                                 
CHAIR COSTELLO announced she would hold SB 29 in committee for                                                                  
further consideration.                                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
2017.02.28 - Sen L&C SB 40 Revised Presentation.pdf SL&C 2/28/2017 1:30:00 PM
SB 40
DOL&WD Response to Senator's Questions.pdf SL&C 2/28/2017 1:30:00 PM
DOL&WD Response to Senator's Questions - Budget Charts.pdf SL&C 2/28/2017 1:30:00 PM
SB 45 - DCCED Response to Senator's Questions.pdf SL&C 2/28/2017 1:30:00 PM
SB 45