Labor shut out of worker regulation study panel

Labor shouldn’t have a seat at the table when a new commission is formed to study business regulations dealing with workers, according to the Senate Commerce Committee.The committee held a hearing Tuesday on House Bill 248, which would set up a 25-member commission to study ways to streamline legislation to make regulations more friendly to business.The committee would study the major regulations that affect business, explained sponsor Rep. Paul Mirski, R-Enfield, including environmental and permitting regulations — “all the things that affect the creation and destruction of businesses” and other regulations, “essentially that make life a pain in the neck,” Mirski told the committee.The commission would first deal with air quality regulations, the appeals process, waste and hazardous material management, water quality issues, construction regulations, building and life safety codes and permitting and licensing.That second would focus on workers’ compensation, wage and hours, licensing and classification of workers, worker safety and unemployment benefits.The only real sticking point was the date the commission would be expected to issue its report: Oct. 31.Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Henniker, wondered how a committee with such a broad charge could make recommendations in just a few months. And why rush when it would still miss the June deadline to file new legislation? Mirski said there might be a few sticky issues that would continue beyond that deadline, but it was imperative for this Legislature to have a chance to act on its recommendations.He said that House members would be filing a number of “placeholders” that could be amended after the commission issues preliminary recommendations.”We have a unique opportunity with a pro-business House and a pro-business Senate, and we should take advantage of this when we got it,” he said.Business groups lined up behind the bill.”Business regulation is more important then taxation,” testified Bob Dunn on behalf of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, one of the five chambers named to represent the board.Other groups to be included on the commission would be Business and Industry Association, Retail Merchants Association, Lodging and Restaurant Association, Home Builders and Remodelers Association. Associated Builders and Contractors, HR State Council, Association of Professional Employer Organizations, Automobile Dealers Association, High Technology Council, Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Small Business Development Center and nine others members appointed by lawmakers and the governor.Four unions demanded to know why they were not included.”I just see every group except organized labor,” said Ed Foley, representing the Sheet Metal Workers International Association. Noting that the commission would look into changing workers’ compensation and safety, he said, “Are you aware that four workers died in worker-related accidents last year?’Foley said that he would oppose the bill with or without workers represented, though three other unions said they would support it if they had a seat at the table.BIA lobbyist David Juvet said his group won’t object to labor participation, though he stressed that labor can also have input during public hearings on any legislation — an idea quickly echoed by other commerce committee members. But they didn’t want labor involved in the beginning.”They have too negative an attitude, said Sen. Tom De Blois, R-Manchester. “They like the rules the way they are now. They don’t see a need to change. That would stifle the creativity that will be a plus for business.”The committee held off voting on the bill until next week. — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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