Legislature Approaches Half-Way Point

Date: March 02, 2014

NFIB/Alaska State Director Denny DeWitt reports from Juneau on the progress of small-business legislation.

House Bill 32 by Reps. Mia Costello and Shelley Hughes passed out of House Finance Committee and is scheduled for a floor vote March 3. This bill changes the business license requirement for a license for every line of business to one license for a business doing business under one name. So far, we have received 24 co-sponsors, as legislators want to show support for small business in Alaska.

House Bill 316, which would help reduce the cost of workers’ compensation and offer some relief in premiums to businesses, is scheduled for hearing in the House Labor & Commerce Committee March 7. 

Senate Bill 199, introduced by Sen. John Coghill, is a companion to House Bill 141. It would limit the fees that can be charged by out of state providers of workers’ compensation insurance to their regular fees. Many out-of-state providers currently bill Alaska businesses at higher rates rather than their normal rates.

Senate Bill 313, which would add sexual orientation as a new protected class, was heard and held in the Senate Health and Social Services Committee. Any new protected class increases the potential for an employer being sued. Successfully defending such litigation could be expensive for small businesses.

House Bill 360 by Rep. Lindsey Holmes and others, and Senate Bill 209 by Peter Micciche and others, would prohibit smoking in public places and places of employment. Although NFIB does not have a balloted position on smoking, we do have concern about the enforcement obligations placed on business owners. Both bills have been assigned to three committees, making passage this year difficult. The bill also contains the following provisions on non-retaliation. 
  • “Sec. 18.35.357. Nonretaliation. (a) An employer may not discharge, refuse to hire, or in any other manner retaliate against an employee or applicant for employment because the employee or applicant cooperates with or initiates enforcement of a requirement in AS 18.35.301 – 18.35.366. 
  • (b) The owner or operator of a vehicle or other place that is subject to a requirement in AS 18.35.301 – 18.35.366 may not retaliate against a customer or other member of the public for cooperating with or initiating enforcement of a requirement in AS 18.35.301 – 18.35.366. “
This language provides the opportunity for litigation against an employer who has no reason to know what a person did prior to interacting with the employer. Again, defense is expensive. We will work to address this potential expensive problem for employers.

Finally, the Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell certified the ballot initiative increasing the minimum wage. It will appear on the August 19 Primary Election Ballot. I have attached a copy for your review. I would call your attention to Section 4, the part that requires the Alaska minimum wage to be $1 over the federal minimum wage, even if Alaska’s formula and CPI increases don’t get it that high. Should the federal proposal of $10.10 be passed, this initiative would put the Alaska minimum wage at $11.10.

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Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell certifies minimum-wage initiative for August 19 Primary Election Ballot.

If approved by voters, Alaska’s minimum wage would be $1 over the federal minimum wage, even if Alaska’s formula and CPI increases don’t get it that high.

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