The 27th Session of the Alaska Legislature convened in January, and several labor and employment-related bills were introduced. We’ve highlighted some of the more interesting bills below.

Hot Topics:

  • “Alaska’s Oil, Alaska’s Jobs” -- HB 82 and SB 71 propose to authorize a rebate of the production tax on oil and gas, based on the employment of Alaska workers, expanding upon the current Alaska Employment Preference Act, AS 36.10, applicable to public construction projects.
  • “Right to Work” -- HB 134 would provide employees a choice whether or not to join or pay the union at companies that are unionized. Such State laws are allowed under 29 U.S.C. § 164(b) and 22 other states have enacted them. (See also last week’s post regarding Idaho’s right to work statute.)
  • The “Conscience Clause” -- SB 14 provides protection and “reasonable accommodation” of a health care provider’s expression of conscience regarding the provision of health care services. This expands Alaska’s current clause (AS 18.16.010) preventing healthcare providers from being forced to perform abortions, but SB 14 would broaden the “conscience” protection.
  • Safety First! -- Three bills (HB22, HB 35, and HB 65) propose to prohibit the use of cell phones when driving a motor vehicle. These bills would have a significant impact on employers dependent on drivers, because drivers will no longer be reachable en route. However, if these bills are passed, all employers should review and update their personnel policies.

Bills Addressing Specific Employee Groups:

  • HB 51 proposes to establish child care services for state officers and employees, either in state offices or other convenient places for state officers and employees.
  • Reintroduced, SB 69 and HB 36 propose to repeal the prohibition against classified state employees participating in the management of political parties above the precinct level.
  • HB 84 andSB 38 propose a one-time death benefit for peace officers and firefighters.
  • To address the increasing shortage of healthcare professionals, HB 78 proposes a loan repayment and employment incentive program for certain healthcare professionals in Alaska.
  • HB 28 proposes temporary 180-day courtesy licenses for certain nonresident professionals regulated by Title 8, with the exception of attorneys.

Two Proposed Oversight Groups:

  • A “Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council” is reintroduced in HB 12, which also would abolish the more informal Medical Services Review Committee.
  • SB 53 proposes the “Alaska Commission on the Status of Women,” with duties including research and recommendations on opportunities for women in employment, among other areas.

Health Care Issues:

  • Proposed Alaska Constitutional Amendment HJR 5 would prohibit passage of laws that, among other things, compel a person to participate in a health care system.
  • SB 70 proposes to establish the Alaska Health Benefit Exchange, aimed to facilitate individual purchase of qualified health plans, to establish small business health options and to generally reduce the number of uninsured Alaskans.
  • Also likely directed at the new national health care law are two bills providing that Alaska will not follow unconstitutional laws. HB 8 provides that any federal act adopted in violation of the Constitution or federal statute has no effect on Alaska law. HB 88 prohibits any court or other authority from applying a law that violates an individual’s constitutional rights.

As Alaska’s short session progresses, we’ll keep you posted on these bills and others impacting the Alaska workforce.

Editor’s Note: This is just the first in a number of legislative preview posts for each of the states in which we have a presence. Stay tuned for legislative updates in Oregon, Washington, California, Utah and Idaho, as well as a federal update, in the upcoming weeks.