Victories From the 2017 Session of the Alaska Legislature

Date: June 12, 2017

Protection of independent contractors highlights accomplishment for small business.

The 2017 regular session of the 30th Alaska State Legislature adjourned May 17 with some accomplishments for small business. The 2018 regular session commences January 15.

Independent Contractors Protected
NFIB succeeded in protecting independent contractors from an all-out assault from the state Department of Labor in the form of House Bill 79, which would have required small businesses to cover many independent contractors and consultants with workers’ compensation insurance.

Although the bill only covered workers’ compensation insurance, NFIB worried it would become a model for all other government-mandated employee standards. In a letter to the state Department of Labor and Workforce, NFIB detailed criteria that offered a more reasonable guide on what the department sought “without forcing independent contractors to surrender their freedom and become employees.”

Additionally, NFIB worked with Reps. Lora Reinbold and Matt Claman to develop more suitable language for HB 79. NFIB Leadership Councilmember Chris Nettles spent many hours testifying on the bill. The NFIB-revised bill will be taken up by the House Finance Committee in January.

Deceptive Income Tax Defeated
Sold as an education head tax, Senate Bill 12, by Sen. Click Bishop, was, in effect, a state income tax by another name. It would have established a head tax on all employees. NFIB succeeded in persuading Senator Bishop to set aside SB 12.

Won Change on Legislative Hypocrisy on Health-Care Bills
There were several insurance mandates introduced this year, fortunately, none passed. But at least with one, NFIB did succeed in getting legislators to address the hypocrisy they too often show, and the anger it engenders, when making laws.

House Bill 25 and Senate Bill 53 both would call on health insurers to provide 12 months of contraceptive coverage, except for state employees. NFIB made its opposition to both bills well known, basing it primarily on the additional costs the mandate would impose on small businesses. But it was even more vociferous in calling out the hypocrisy of lawmakers excluding state employees to avoid those costs. In the end, NFIB won inclusion of state employees while still remaining opposed to both bills.

NFIB continues its opposition to every insurance mandate because they inhibit small businesses’ ability to provide insurance tailored to the needs of their employees. Additionally, mandates create an unfair burden on small businesses, as larger businesses with federal ERISA plans get to avoid complying with state mandates.

In a letter to Rep. Jason Grenn, opposing another insurance mandate, NFIB elaborated on the cost of mandates and the high annoyance with excluding state employees.

[Tile photo courtesy of The Alaska State Legislature website.]

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