The first regular session of the 31st Alaska Legislature is underway in Juneau.
On January 28 – 30, 2019 the Alaska State Home Building Association traveled to Juneau to engage our state’s policy leaders in conversations about the interests of our builders and associate members.
These efforts by our State Board Members to travel to Juneau and advocate for the interests of our members is commendable, and reflects positively on the entire building industry.
The Board started on Monday by meeting amongst ourselves to establish priorities regarding the bills the legislature, and how these bills will impact the building industry. Then we prepared a list of talking points to discuss these issues with legislators and their staff.
On Tuesday, we spent the entire day in the Capital Building meeting with legislators. At each meeting, we present our talking points about the issues that matter to our industry, and we also hear from them about how things are going in the session. Our entire group was also able to meet with Governor Dunleavy at the end of the day.
Wednesday morning we met to discuss what we all heard in our legislative meetings. Hearing this feedback give us an indication where there is support or opposition to our issues, and also how we can provide information to legislators that need it.
Our primary goal this session is to introduce a bill that recognizes the 2018 International Residential Code for statewide residential construction. We would like to see this adopted under the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC), where there is a board of directors of members from the housing industry.
Last year, HB359 was introduced but did not pass. HB359 was a bill to recognize the IRC as the state residential code under AHFC. The language from this bill is a great starting point in moving forward towards getting a new bill introduced this session.
For those who want to see HB359, here’s a web link:
We spoke with legislators about the cost of workers’ compensation. Last year we supported a bill (HB79) to define independent contractors. Although HB79 passed and was signed into law in November, we’re now hearing about insurance audits that are classifying subcontractors as employees.
It gets complicated, but the bottom line is if you hire a contractor, and they fail to meet the definition requirements of an independent contractor, you can be liable for their workers’ compensation.
Owners of sole proprietorships, partnerships, and LLC’s are not required by state law to buy workers’ compensation coverage on themselves. This is where contractors can be found liable for their subcontractors who don’t have coverage and who fail to meet all criteria required to define them as an independent contractor.
We are going to continue looking at the definition of independent contractor, how it can be changed to strengthen the distinction between a constructor and a subcontractor, and how we can help our members under the current requirements. In the meantime, we would encourage our members to talk with their own insurance agent about understanding independent contractor requirements for their coverage.
Our next concern was to express support for funding towards the Cold Climate Housing Research Center. For many years CCHRC has received state funding through the AHFC budget, which has allowed them to bring added funding into their research programs and all the other help they provide toward supporting our industry.
Last, we also spoke to about extending the deadline for homeowners with earthquake damage to apply for assistance. Many of our members are helping homeowners deal with the damages from not only the November 30 quake, but also from the thousands of aftershocks. Some damages will not be fully known until after the Spring thaw, which will require government agencies to extend the deadline for people to apply for disaster assistance. Our efforts were successful in getting the deadline extended until the end of February, but hopefully this can be extended again.
After barely one month into the session, the number of active bills is very few. There have been organizational issues in the House of Representatives, and expectations are that the budget will monopolize the overall agenda. Much of the focus so far has been toward advancing a package of bills dealing with criminal sentencing, parole, and drug enforcement as priority issues.
In the meanwhile, our state building association is watching things in Juneau and looking out for the interests of our local associations and their members. Please keep yourself updated through your local association about what is happening in Juneau, and let us know if there’s anything we need to keep an eye on.