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H.109

AN ACT RELATING TO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  10 V.S.A. § 541 is added to read:  

§ 541.  WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL; STATE 

             WORKFORCE INVESTMENT BOARD; MEMBERS, TERMS

(a)  The workforce development council is created as the successor to and the continuation of the governor’s human resources investment council and shall be the state workforce investment board under Public Law 105-220, the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, and any reauthorization of that act.  The council shall consist of the members required under the federal act and the following:  the president of the University of Vermont or designee; the chancellor of the Vermont state colleges or designee; the president of the Vermont student assistance corporation or designee; the president of the Association of Vermont Independent Colleges or designee; a representative of the Abenaki Self Help Organization; at least two representatives of labor appointed by the governor in addition to the two required under the federal act, who shall be chosen from a list of names submitted by Vermont AFL-CIO, Vermont NEA, and the Vermont state employees association; one representative of the low income community appointed by the governor; two members of the senate appointed by the senate committee on committees; and two members of the house appointed by the speaker.  In addition, the governor shall appoint enough other members who are representatives of business or employers so that one-half plus one of the members of the council are representatives of business or employers.  At least one-third of those appointed by the governor as representatives of business or employers shall be chosen from a list of names submitted by the regional workforce investment boards.  For the purposes of this section, “representative of business” means a business owner, a chief executive operating officer, or other business executive, and “employer” means an individual with policy‑making or hiring authority, including a public school superintendent or school board member and representatives from the nonprofit, social services, and health sectors of the economy.  If there is a dispute as to who is to represent an interest as required under the federal law, the governor shall decide who shall be the member of the council.

(b)  Appointed members, except legislative appointees, shall be appointed for three-year terms and serve at the pleasure of the governor.

(c)  A vacancy shall be filled for the unexpired term in the same manner as the initial appointment.

(d)  The governor shall appoint one of the business or employer members to chair the council.

(e)  Legislative members shall be entitled to compensation and expenses as provided in 2 V.S.A. § 406, and other members shall be entitled to compensation and expenses as provided in 32 V.S.A. § 1010.

(f)  The department of labor shall provide the council with administrative support.

(g)  The workforce development council shall be subject to subchapters 2 and 3 of chapter 5 of Title 1, relating to public meetings and access to public records.

(h)  The commissioner of labor in consultation with the chair of the workforce development council shall appoint an executive director who shall be an exempt employee.

(i)  The workforce development council shall:

(1)  Advise the governor on the establishment of an integrated network of workforce education and training for Vermont.

(2)  Coordinate planning and services for an integrated network of workforce education and training and oversee its implementation.

(3)  Establish and oversee workforce investment boards as provided in section 542 of this title.

(4)  Establish goals for and coordinate the state’s workforce education and training policies.

(5)  Speak for the workforce needs of employers.

(6)  Receive annual reports from the department of labor on the workforce education and training revenues and expenditures of agencies and institutions which are members of the council.

(7)  Annually review and comment on workforce education and training revenues and expenditures of member agencies and institutions.

(8)  Negotiate memoranda of understanding between the council and agencies and institutions involved in Vermont’s integrated network of workforce education and training in order to ensure that each is working to achieve annual objectives developed by the council.

(9)  Carry out the duties assigned to the state workforce investment board, as required for a single-service delivery state, under P.L. 105-220, the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, and any amendments that may be made

to it.

(10)  Annually, on or before January 15, report to the general assembly on activities carried out during the previous year in order to accomplish its mandate.

Sec. 2.  21 V.S.A. § 1306 is amended to read:

§ 1306.  ADVISORY COUNCIL; MEMBERS; TERMS

(a)  The governor shall appoint a state department of labor advisory council of nine members composed of an equal number of eight members from the general public to include four employer representatives, of and four employee representatives who may fairly be regarded as representative employees because of their vocations, employment, and affiliations, and of representatives of the general public.  Such council shall aid the commissioner in formulating policies and by discussing problems relating to the administration of this chapter and in assuring impartiality and freedom from political influences in the solution of such problems.  Each member of the council who is not a salaried official or employee of the state is entitled to $15.00 for each day of actual service and his necessary expenses incurred in the discharge of his duties.  At the expiration of the initial terms, and successively thereafter, appointments shall be made by the governor for a term of six years in each case.  Any appointment to a vacancy shall be for the unexpired term.  Appointment of the four employee representatives, at least one of whom shall have experience in workers’ compensation law and one of whom shall be a member of a building trade, shall be made from a list of qualified individuals submitted by the Vermont state labor council, the Vermont state employees’ association, and the Vermont national education association.  Appointment of the four employer representatives shall be made from a list of qualified individuals submitted by the Vermont chamber of commerce, associated general contractors of Vermont, and Vermont businesses for social responsibility.  The council members shall be appointed for staggered terms of four years.  The council shall meet at least six times a year.

(b)  The council shall 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.

(c)  The commissioner may establish subcommittees composed solely of labor or management representatives and use a portion of the council’s meeting time to meet with these subcommittees.

(d)  Each member of the council who is not a salaried official or state employee or is not otherwise compensated through employment for attending council meetings is entitled to per diem compensation and reimbursement for expenses as provided in 32 V.S.A. § 1010.

* * * Vocational Rehabilitation Rule * * *

Sec. 3.  21 V.S.A. § 641(a) is amended to read:

(a)  When as a result of an injury covered by this chapter, an employee is unable to perform work for which the employee has previous training or experience, the employee shall be entitled to vocational rehabilitation services, including retraining and job placement, as may be reasonably necessary to restore the employee to suitable employment.  Vocational rehabilitation services shall be provided as follows:

* * *

(3)  The commissioner shall adopt rules to assure that a worker who requests services or who has received more than 90 days of continuous temporary total disability benefits is timely and cost-effectively screened for benefits under this section.  The rules shall:

(A)  Provide that all vocational rehabilitation work, except for initial screenings, be performed by a Vermont-certified vocational rehabilitation counselor including counselors currently certified pursuant to the rules of the department. Initial screenings shall be performed by an individual with sufficient knowledge or experience to perform adequately the vocational rehabilitation screening functions.

(B)  Provide for an initial screening to determine whether a full assessment is appropriate.  An injured worker who is determined to be eligible for benefits shall have an appropriate initial vocational a full assessment shall be timely assessed and be offered appropriate vocational rehabilitation services. 

(C)  The commissioner shall adopt rules to provide Provide a mechanism for a periodic review and timely screening of injured workers who are initially found not to be ready or eligible for vocational rehabilitation services a full assessment to determine whether a full assessment has become appropriate. 

(D)  Protect against potential conflicts of interest in the assignment and performance of initial screenings.

(E)  Assure the injured worker has a choice of a vocational rehabilitation counselor. 

* * *

(5)  The commissioner may set by rule reasonable reimbursement rates for vocational rehabilitation benefits and services, provided access to vocational rehabilitation services is not diminished, and reasonable choices and access to benefits and services are maintained.  The fee schedule shall require the individual vocational rehabilitation counselor who provides services to review, initial, and certify the accuracy of the billing.

(6)  The commissioner shall make annual reports to the general assembly on the success and status of the workers’ compensation vocational rehabilitation program.

* * * Discontinuance of Benefits * * *

Sec. 4.  21 V.S.A. § 643a is amended to read:

§ 643a.  DISCONTINUANCE OF BENEFITS

Unless an injured worker has successfully returned to work, an employer shall notify both the commissioner and the employee prior to terminating benefits under either section 642 or section 646 of this title.  The notice of intention to discontinue payments shall be filed on forms prescribed by the commissioner and shall include the date of the proposed discontinuance and the reasons for it.  The liability for the payments shall continue for 7 seven days after the notice is received by the commissioner and the employee.  Those payments shall be made without prejudice to the employer and may be deducted from any amounts due pursuant to section 648 of this title if the commissioner determines that the discontinuance is warranted or if otherwise ordered by the commissioner.  Every notice shall be reviewed by the commissioner to determine the sufficiency of the basis for the proposed discontinuance.  If, upon review, the commissioner finds that the evidence does not reasonably support the proposed discontinuance, the commissioner may shall order that payments continue until a hearing is held and a decision is rendered.  If the commissioner’s decision, after a hearing, is that the employee was not entitled to any or all benefits paid between the discontinuance and the final decision, upon request of the employer, the commissioner may order that the employee repay all benefits to which the employee was not entitled.  The employer may enforce such a repayment order in any court of law having jurisdiction of the amount involved.

* * * Failure to Pay Benefits * * *

Sec. 5.  21 V.S.A. § 650(e) is amended to read:

(e)  If weekly compensation benefits or weekly accrued benefits are not paid within 21 days after becoming due and payable pursuant to an order of the commissioner, or in cases in which the overdue benefit is not in dispute, ten percent of the overdue amount shall be added and paid to the employee, in addition to interest and any other penalties.  In the case of an initial claim, benefits are due and payable upon entering into an agreement pursuant to subsection 662(a) of this title, upon issuance of an order of the commissioner pursuant to subsection 662(b) of this title, or if the employer has not denied the claim within 21 days after the claim is filed.  Benefits are in dispute if the claimant has been provided actual written notice of the dispute within 21 days of the benefit being due and payable and the evidence reasonably supports the denial.  Interest shall accrue and be paid on benefits that are found to be compensable during the period of nonpayment.  The commissioner shall promptly review requests for payment under this section and, consistent with the criteria in department rule 10.13, shall allow for the recovery of reasonable attorney fees associated with an employee’s successful request for payment under this subsection.

* * * Interim Orders * * *

Sec. 6.  21 V.S.A § 662(b) is amended to read:

(b)  In the absence of an agreement pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, the employer or insurance carrier shall notify the commissioner and the employee in writing that the claim is denied and the reasons therefor.  Upon the employee’s application for a hearing under section 663 of this title, within 60 days, the commissioner may shall review the evidence upon which denial is based and if the evidence does not reasonably support the denial, the commissioner may shall order that payments be made until a hearing is held and a decision is rendered.  Payments pursuant to this subsection shall not be deemed an admission of liability by the employer nor shall such payments preclude subsequent agreement under subsection (a) of this section or prejudice the rights of either party to hearing or appeal under this chapter.  If the commissioner’s decision, after a hearing, is that the employee was not entitled to any or all benefits paid between the initial denial and the final decision, upon request of the employer, the commissioner may order that the employee repay all benefits to which the employee was not entitled.  The employer may enforce such a repayment order in any court of law having jurisdiction of the amount involved.  Nothing in this section shall require the commissioner to order payments pending a hearing if the commissioner concludes that the benefit at issue is not compensable regardless of the lack of evidence supporting the denial.  For the purposes of this section, any written communication by an unrepresented claimant that questions the denial of any benefit shall be deemed to be an application for hearing under section 663 of this title.  

* * * Lump Sum Payment * * *

Sec. 7.  21 V.S.A. § 652(c) is added to read:

(c)  Unless otherwise requested by the claimant, an order for a lump sum payment of permanent partial or permanent total disability benefits or a lump sum settlement of a disputed claim shall include a provision accounting for excludable expenses and prorating the remainder of the lump sum payment in the manner set forth by the Social Security Administration in order to protect the claimant’s entitlement to Social Security benefits.

Sec. 8.  3 V.S.A. § 23 is added to read:

§ 23.  THE COMMISSION ON INTERNATIONAL TRADE

(a)  Definitions.  For the purposes of this section:  “International Trade Agreement” means a trade agreement between the federal government and a foreign country.  International Trade Agreement does not include a trade agreement between the state and a foreign country to which the federal government is not a party.

(b)  Membership.  There is created a commission on international trade and state sovereignty consisting of:

(1)  the chair of the house committee on commerce or his or her designee;

(2)  the chair of the senate committee on economic development, housing and general affairs or his or her designee;

(3)  a representative of a nonprofit environmental organization, appointed by the governor from a list provided by the Vermont Natural Resources Council;

(4)  a representative of organized labor, appointed by the governor from a list provided by Vermont AFL-CIO, Vermont NEA, and the Vermont state employees’ association;

(5)  the secretary of commerce and community development or his or her designee;

(6)  the attorney general or his or her designee;

(7)  a representative of an exporting Vermont business, appointed by the governor; and

(8)  a representative of a Vermont business actively involved in international trade, appointed by the governor.

(c)  Powers and duties.

(1)  The commission shall conduct an annual assessment of the legal and economic impacts of international trade agreements on state and local laws, state sovereignty, and the business environment.

(2)  It shall provide a mechanism for citizens and legislators to voice their concerns, which it shall use to make policy recommendations to the general assembly, to the governor, to Vermont’s congressional delegation, or to the trade representatives of the United States government.  Recommendations shall be designed to protect Vermont’s job and business environment, and state sovereignty from any negative impacts of trade agreements.

(3)  It may recommend legislation or preferred practices and shall work with interested groups in other states to develop means to resolve the conflicting goals and tension inherent in the relationship between international trade and state sovereignty.

(4)  In response to a request from the governor or the general assembly, or on its own initiative, the committee shall consider and develop formal recommendations with respect to how the state should best respond to challenges and opportunities posed by a particular international agreement.  Formal recommendations on the specific international agreement shall be submitted to the governor and the house and senate committees on judiciary, on government operations, and on natural resources and energy, and to the house committee on commerce and the senate committees on finance and on economic development, housing and general affairs.

(d)  Reporting.  The commission shall submit an annual report, which shall be prepared by the secretary of commerce and community development, to the house committee on commerce, the senate committee on economic development, housing and general affairs, the governor, and Vermont’s congressional delegation.  The report shall contain information acquired pursuant to activities carried out under subsection (c) of this section.

(e)  Staff services.  The commission shall be entitled to staff services of the agency of commerce, the legislative council, and the joint fiscal committee.

(f)  Per diem.  For attendance at a meeting when the general assembly is not in session, legislative members of the commission shall be entitled to the same per diem compensation and reimbursement for actual and necessary expenses as provided members of standing committees under 2 V.S.A. § 406.

Sec. 9.  SUNSET

Sec. 2 of Act No. 2 of the Acts of 2005 is amended to read:

Sec. 2.  EFFECTIVE DATE; SUNSET

Sec. 1 of this act (wood products manufacture tax credit) shall apply to taxable years beginning on or after July 1, 2005.  32 V.S.A. § 5930y is repealed July 1, 2006 July 1, 2008, and no credit under that section shall be available for any taxable year beginning on or after July 1, 2006 July 1, 2008.

Sec. 10.  21 V.S.A. § 385 is amended to read:

§ 385.  ADMINISTRATION

The commissioner has and the commissioner’s authorized representatives have full power and authority for all the following:

(1)  To investigate and ascertain the wages of employees in any industry or occupation in the state except as provided in section 383 of this title; enforce and administer the provisions of this chapter including the power to conduct investigations and take any other action considered necessary or suitable for the administration of this chapter.  In the discharge of duties under this chapter, the commissioner may administer oaths, take depositions, certify to official acts, subpoena witnesses, and compel production of any documents and records necessary and material to the administration of this chapter.

(2)  To enter the and inspect any place of business or employment of any employer in any such industry or business in the state for the purpose of examining and inspecting any and all books, registers, payrolls and other records of any employer of employees, question any employees, and investigate any records, facts, conditions, or matters that are deemed appropriate and that in any way appertain to or have a bearing upon the question of wages of any such employees and for the purpose of ascertaining whether the orders of the commissioner have been and are being complied with; due under the provisions of this chapter.

(3)  To require from any employer full and correct statements in writing of the wages paid to all employees employed by that employer in any industry, business or occupation with the exceptions set forth in section 383 of this title; necessary to investigate and enforce the provisions of this chapter.

(4)  To recommend and determine the amount of deductions for board, lodging, apparel, or other items or services supplied by the employer or such any other conditions or circumstances as may be usual in a particular employer-employee relationship, including gratuities,; provided, however, that in no case shall the total remuneration received by an employee, including wages, board, lodging, apparel, or other items or services supplied by the employer, including gratuities, equal to be less than the minimum wage rate set forth in section 384 of this title;.

* * *

Sec. 11.  21 V.S.A. § 601(14)(H) is amended to read:

(H)  Any executive officer elected or appointed and empowered in accordance with the bylaws of the corporation shall be an employee of the corporation.  With the approval of the commissioner, an officer a corporation or a limited liability company (L.L.C.) may elect not to come under to file exclusions from the provisions of this chapter and if.  A corporation or an L.L.C. may elect to exclude up to four executive officers or managers or members from coverage requirements under this chapter.  If all officers of the corporation or all managers or members of an L.L.C. make such election, receive approval, and the corporation business has no employees, the corporation or L.L.C. shall not be required to purchase workers’ compensation coverage.  If after election, the officer, manager, or member suffers a personal injury and files a claim under this chapter, the employer shall have all the defenses available in a personal injury claim.  However, this election shall not prevent any other individual, other than the executive officer individual excluded under this section, found to be an employee of the corporation or L.L.C. to recover workers’ compensation from either the corporation, L.L.C., or the statutory employer.

Sec. 12.  21 V.S.A. § 1101 is amended to read:

§ 1101.  APPRENTICESHIP DIVISION AND COUNCIL

The apprenticeship division and state apprenticeship council, hereinafter referred to as the “council,” shall be located within the department of employment and training labor.  The commissioner of employment and training labor shall supervise the work of the division.  The council shall consist of ten 11 members, four five ex officio members and six members who shall be appointed by the governor.  Of the ex officio members, one shall be the commissioner of employment and training labor, one shall be the commissioner director of workforce development, one shall be the chief of licensing within the department of public safety, one shall be the director of career and lifelong learning within the department of education, and one shall be the state director of the apprenticeship division who shall act as secretary of the council without vote.  Of the appointive members, three shall be persons individuals who on account of previous vocation, employment, occupation, or affiliation can be classed as employers and three shall be persons individuals who on account of previous vocation, employment, occupation, or affiliation can be classed as employees.  Appointment of the employer and the employee members shall be made for the term of three years except the employer and employee members first appointed shall be appointed for the term of one, two, and three years respectively.  The governor shall annually designate one member of the council as chair.  Each member of the council who is not a salaried official or employee of the state shall be entitled to compensation and expenses as provided in 32 V.S.A. § 1010.

Sec. 13.  21 V.S.A. § 1301a is amended to read:

§ 1301a.  DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING

                LABOR; COMPOSITION

The department of employment and training labor, created by section 212 of Title 3, shall consist of a commissioner of employment and training labor, the Vermont employment security board, the Vermont employment service workforce development division, the unemployment compensation insurance and wages division, and the comprehensive employment and training office workers’ compensation and safety division.  The chairman chair of the employment security board shall be the commissioner of employment and training labor ex officio.  The deputy commissioner of labor may serve as chair in the absence of the commissioner as the commissioner’s designee.

Sec. 14.  Sec. 157a(d) of No. 62 of the Acts of 1999 is amended to read:

(d)  The commissioner shall use the funds to make awards on a competitive basis to fund private and public higher education institutions, technical centers training, and programs offering postsecondary courses in collaboration with business, to enhance the quality of the Vermont workforce and increase its number of highly skilled workers.  The commissioner shall give preference to programs and projects that test innovative and collaborative approaches to workforce development, and to the linking of workforce-education and economic development strategies.  The commissioner may continue to fund a program or project which demonstrates that it has resulted in increased income and economic opportunity for employees and employers.

Sec. 15.  REPEAL

Workers’ Compensation Rule 40.070 (creating the workers’ compensation medical advisory committee) is repealed.

Sec. 16.  DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY; ELECTRICIANS

               LICENSING: SINGLE‑FAMILY HOME ELECTRICAL

               INSTALLATIONS; STUDY AND REPORT

A committee composed of eight members to include the commissioner of public safety or designee, a representative of the adult technical education programs selected by the directors and coordinators of that program, a representative of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 300 in South Burlington, a representative of the International Association of Firefighters, a representative from the Vermont Association of Homebuilders and Remodelers, a representative of the electricians licensing board, a municipal housing inspector, appointed by the commissioner, and a representative of the Green Mountain Chapter of the International Association of Electrical Inspectors shall study the safety problems inherent in electrical installations in single family residences performed by owners or unlicensed contractors, propose solutions to improve the quality of those installations, and issue a report 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 on or before January 15, 2007. The department of public safety shall provide administrative support to the committee. The study and report shall include at least the following issues:

(1)  Determine if unlicensed electrical work has caused injury to persons and property.

(2)  How to provide at least minimal training to unlicensed homeowners to enable them to safely undertake original construction or major electrical installations sufficient to pass inspection by a licensed journeyman or master electrician.  

(3)  How to increase and encourage more individuals to become licensed electricians, including how to reduce the time required to be permitted to work independently and to become a master electrician. 

(4)  How to assure notice filing and provide pre- and postinspections of electrical work performed by the owner or by a contractor in a new single‑family residence or a renovation project that involves 50 percent or more of an existing single‑family residence .

(5)  How to improve and expand existing training programs and create new ones using a combination of federal and state training funds and the adult education technical education program. 

(6)  Any other issues related to improving the quality and safety of electrical installations in single‑family homes, the availability of qualified electricians, and expansion of training opportunities.

Sec. 17.  HOUSING INSPECTOR STUDY

A committee composed of seven members including the commissioner of housing and community affairs and the commissioner of labor or designees; a representative of the Vermont association of realtors; a representative from the Vermont home builders and remodelers association; a Vermont housing inspector who is neither certified nor a member of a national housing inspection organization; a certified housing inspector who is a member of a national housing inspection organization; and a housing advocate or consumer shall study issues relating to housing inspections and housing inspectors and issue a report on or before January 15, 2007.  The commissioners shall collaborate and appoint the members of the committee by July 1, 2006, and the department of housing and community affairs shall provide administrative support.  The study and the report shall include at least the following:

(1)  Whether licensing or certification is necessary or appropriate for the business of housing inspection.

(2)  The professional standards that should govern the licensing criteria and the housing inspection business in general.

(3)  Any other issue determined by the committee to be useful and relevant to the study.

Sec. 18.  WORKERS’ COMPENSATION PHYSICIAN FEE RULE

The increase in physician fees contained in the Department of Labor’s workers’ compensation fee rule shall not be effective if the Department of Labor in consultation with the Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities, and Health Care Administration and the National Council for Compensation Insurance, Inc. determines that the physician fee increase in conjunction with the other fee changes in the rule would unduly increase the cost of workers’ compensation.  The Department of Labor shall then commence new rulemaking to adjust fees so that the fees will not increase the cost of workers’ compensation.

Sec. 19.  EXISTING TAX INCREMENT FINANCING DISTRICTS;

               MILTON

Notwithstanding the limitations under 32 V.S.A. § 5404a, the town of Milton may extend for an additional ten years beyond the initial ten years approved the two existing tax increment financing districts identified and known as the Husky campus and the Catamount Industrial Park, and collect all state and local property taxes on properties contained wholly or partly within the tax increment financing districts beyond the original taxable value of those properties at the time of the initial approval of the tax increment financing districts and apply 75 percent of the increase in the value and liability assessed under 32 V.S.A. § 5402 on new real property improvements to repayment of debt issued to finance improvements within the tax increment financing district and for related costs, upon application by the town of Milton.

Sec. 20.  EFFECTIVE DATE

This act shall take effect on passage.

 



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us