The1st meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Labor and Industry was held on Tuesday, September 11, 2007, at 2:30 PM, in the Convention Center at Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Part in Gilbertsville, Ky<Room> . Representative J. R. Gray, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Representative J. R. Gray, Co-Chair; Senators Julian M. Carroll, Brett Guthrie, Denise Harper Angel, Jerry P. Rhoads, Jack Westwood, and Ken Winters; Representatives John A. Arnold Jr, Myron Dossett, C. B. Embry Jr, Bill Farmer, Tim Firkins, Charlie Hoffman, Dennis Horlander, Joni L. Jenkins, Tom Riner, and Jim Stewart III.
Guests: Philip Anderson, Commissioner, Ky. Department of Labor and Jim Zimmerman, Executive Director, Office of Workplace Standards, Ky. Department of Labor.
LRC Staff: Linda Bussell, Committee Staff Administrator
Representative Gray welcomed guests in the audience who were participants in the thirtieth annual Kentucky Labor-Management Conference, area legislators, former legislators and public officials.
Before starting on the agenda for the meeting, Representative Gray responded to a request made at an earlier session of the conference relating to the issue of illegal immigration. Representative Gray stated that the majority opinion on the regulation of immigration is that it is the jurisdiction of the federal government and states are preempted from doing much in that area. He said federal immigration law has been in effect since at least 1986 but the problem is that it is not being enforced. Consequently, more and more states are enacting legislation that would impose sanctions on employers who hire illegal immigrants, the most recent being Arizona. He indicated that the committee staff could look into this area further and make the information available upon request.
Representative Gray said that since this was the first meeting of the committee during this interim, he felt it appropriate to report on a few issues that have occurred during the past few months. He informed the members that the National Council on Compensation Insurance(NCCI), a national ratemaking body for workers' compensation insurance, had recommended an average rate decrease of 6.1% for Kentucky employers. This is the second consecutive year in which rates have decreased. KEMI (Kentucky Employers' Mutual Insurance Authority), the state-created workers' compensation insurance carrier, has also filed for a rate decrease. Representative Gray noted that workers' compensation administrative regulations relating to medical issues have been filed and will be considered during the next few months, and that an informal hearing to gather information on treatment guidelines for workers' compensation had recently been conducted and the members will probably be hearing more about this as the information gathering process continues. He reported that the Workers' Compensation Funding Commission is in the process of conducting an actuarial study on the Special Fund for the purpose of determining employer assessment rates for 2008. Relating to the AIK situation, he reported that the liquidation and assessment process is progressing satisfactorily. He added that no significant issues have arisen over the increase in the state minimum wage law enacted in the 2007 Regular Session law, or the increase in the federal minimum wage that became effective on July 24.
Representative Gray called members' attention to a news article in the folders about a recent report by the United Nations indicating that the U.S. workforce is the most productive in the world. He said it was appropriate to call attention to that report at the labor-management conference.
Calling members' attention to an alert included in the folders that was recently issued by the Kentucky Attorney General, Representative Gray called on Jim Zimmerman, Executive Director, Office of Workplace Standards, to comment on a scam involving labor law posters. Mr. Zimmerman informed the members that employers throughout the Commonwealth are being contacted by representatives of a company that sells labor law posters and told that the employers are in violation of state law if they do not post labor law posters in their places of business. Employers are being told they need to purchase a set of the posters or risk being in violation of the law and subject to heavy fines. He said the company that is doing this has an address that is similar to the address of the Department of Labor and this is confusing to employers. Mr. Zimmerman said the labor law posters can be obtained by employers at no cost by requesting them from the Department of Labor, or the posters can be obtained from the department's internet website.
Next, Representative Gray introduced Philip Anderson, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Labor, to report on the department's initiatives and activities thus far in 2007.
Commissioner Anderson reviewed a summary of the department's initiatives and activities that was included in the members' folders. The commissioner's report focused on initiatives relating to occupational safety and health because that issue is the major function of the department. Notable initiatives included: a continued promotion of voluntary compliance partnerships to reduce workplace accidents, including the partnership with the Kentucky Ready Mix Concrete Association that covers 88 plants and 2,200 employees; a successful effort to increase attendance and interest in the annual Governor's Safety and Health Conference; new administrative regulations relating to residential fall protection which has resulted in a notable decrease in construction fatalities; revised reporting requirements which have revealed significantly higher incidences of amputations, hospitalizations and imminent danger situations than in the past, and which have assisted the department in targeting industries for inspection that are experiencing these types of accidents; and the first compliance safety partnership agreement that was signed in May of this year with Ford Motor Company and that includes the UAW and the Kentucky OSH program.
Commissioner Anderson also reported that: an experienced trainer was added to the staff of the Office of Labor Management Relations and Mediations to provide training at the request of employers on issues such as conflict resolution and improved communication; the Division of Employment Standards, Apprenticeship and Training in the Office of Workplace Standards registered Kentucky's first nurse aid apprenticeship program in April of this year, and the division is implementing a new prevailing wage outreach program for public authorities and contractor groups in an effort to prevent prevailing wage violations; the Division of Workers' Compensation Funds is engaged in legal action against manufacturers of ineffective dust masks worn by Kentucky coal miners; the Office of Workers' Claims has begun aggressively enforcing the statutory requirement that employers obtain workers' compensation coverage which has resulted in quadrupled penalties against noncomplying employers, and has begun auditing individually self-insured employers' reserving practices to ensure payment of workers' compensation benefits in the event of insolvency; and the department has hired a Hispanic employee to assist the department in reaching out to the Hispanic workforce, and a Hispanic OSH compliance officer has also been hired.
Representative Gray informed the members that the next meeting of the committee would be held on October 18, at 9:30 am, at Keeneland in Lexington, and the agenda item would include an update on the unemployment insurance trust fund.
The meeting adjourned.