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ACT NO. 212


Economic development; department of labor;

workers' compensation; wood products

This act consists of a broad range of statutory amendments and session law relating to the economic development of the state.

Sec. 1 replaces the statute that created the human resources investment council which sunsetted December 31, 2003. The new statute changes the name to the Workforce Development Council. A representative of the Abenaki Self Help Organization has been added to the Council, and the Secretary of Human Services has been dropped. The Department of Labor will provide administrative support instead of the Governor's Office of Policy and Research. The executive director shall be appointed by the Commissioner of Labor in consultation with the chair of the Council. The other change from the original statute is the addition of the directive for the Council to speak for the workforce needs of employers.

Sec. 2 amends the unemployment advisory council to change the number of members from nine to eight, to specify that the members shall be four employer representatives and four employee representatives, and what organizations shall provide the list from which the Governor will pick the appointees. The members shall be appointed for staggered terms of four years and the Council is required to meet at least six times a year. The Council is directed to advise the commissioner regarding formulating policies by discussing the problems related to the functions and duties of the Department in order to develop impartial solutions and approaches to these issues. The Commissioner is given the authority to establish subcommittees made up solely of labor or management representatives.

Sec. 3 requires that rules regarding vocational rehabilitation (VR) provide for a full initial screening and periodic reviews to determine eligibility for VR. All VR work, except initial screenings, must be performed by a Vermont-certified VR counselor; protect against potential conflicts of interest in the assignment and performance of initial screenings; assure an injured worker a choice of vocational counselor. Individual VR counselors must review, initial, and certify the accuracy of the billing for their services.

Sec. 4 requires the Commissioner to order workers' compensation payments to continue when the commissioner finds that the evidence does not support a proposed discontinuance. If, after a hearing, the Commissioner decides that the employee is not entitled to any or all of the benefits paid between the discontinuance and the final decision, the Commissioner may order that the employee repay all benefits to which the employee was not entitled upon request by the employer.

Sec. 5 provides that the Commissioner promptly review requests for payments more than 21 days overdue and allows attorney fees when an employee's payment request is successful.

Sec. 6 provides a 60-day time limit for the Commissioner to review the evidence on which a claim denial is based. The Commissioner is required to order payments to be made if the evidence does not support the denial until a hearing is held and a decision rendered. After a decision, the Commissioner may order the employee to repay all benefits to which the employee was not entitled. In cases where an unrepresented claimant is denied benefits, the act provides that any communication questioning the denial shall be deemed an application for a hearing.

Sec. 7 allows for workers' compensation lump sum payments to be structured so to protect Social Security benefits.

Sec. 8 creates the Commission on International Trade and State Sovereignty. The Commission consists of eight members: two legislative members, the chairs of the House Committee on Commerce and Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs or their designees; a representative of a nonprofit environmental organization; a representative of organized labor; the Secretary of Commerce and Community Development or designee; the Attorney General or designee; a representative of an exporting Vermont business; and a representative of a Vermont business actively involved in international trade. The Commission is authorized to assess the legal and economic impacts of international trade agreements on state and local laws, state sovereignty, and the business environment. The Commission shall make recommendations to the General Assembly, the Governor, Vermont's Congressional Delegation, or to the trade representatives of the federal government. The Secretary of Commerce and Community Development shall prepare an annual report for the Commission to be submitted to the committees of jurisdiction, the Governor, and Vermont's Congressional Delegation.

Sec. 9 extends the sunset on the wood products manufacture income tax credit passed during last year's special session from July 1, 2006 to July 1, 2008.

Sec. 10 provides the wage and hour division of the Department of Labor with the authority to subpoena witnesses and compel discovery.

Sec. 11 provides limited liability companies the ability to exclude up to four executive officers or mangers or members from workers' compensation coverage requirements.

Sec. 12 amends the Apprenticeship Division and Advisory Council statute to mesh with the Department of Labor reorganization. The director of workforce development and the chief of licensing are added. Members are authorized to receive per diem compensation if not compensated by their employer for meetings.

Sec. 13 amends the composition of the Employment Security Board to reflect the composition of the new Department of Labor. The deputy commissioner is allowed to serve as the Commissioner's designee when the Commissioner is absent.

Sec. 14 amends the workforce education and training fund to provide that in awarding workforce training funds, the funds may be awarded not just to an institution but also to provide funding for workforce training.

Sec. 15 repeals the workers' compensation medical advisory committee which is being replaced by the Department of Labor advisory council amended in section three of this act.

Sec. 16 establishes a committee chaired by the Commissioner of Public Safety or designee to study the safety problem inherent in electrical installations in single-family residences performed by owners or unlicensed contractors and propose solutions to improve the quality of those installations in a report on or before January 15, 2007 to the House Committee on Commerce, the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs, and the House and Senate Committees on Government Operations.

Sec. 17 established a seven-member committee, including the commissioners of housing and community affairs and labor who shall appoint the other members. The committee, appointed by July 1, 2006 shall study and report on issues relating to housing inspections and housing inspectors. The report is due on or before January 15, 2007.

Sec. 18 contains a directive concerning the increase in physician fees in the Department of Labor's recently approved workers' compensation fee rule. Similar language was contained in the rule.

Sec. 19 allows the Town of Milton to extend their its approved tax increment financing districts for an additional ten years beyond the initial ten years already approved. The same language is contained in Act No. 184, S.165.

The final section made the act effective on passage.

Effective Date: May 29, 2006

Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont