Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 106

02/14/2006 11:00 AM EDUCATION


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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
*+ HB 387 TUITION WAIVER FOR NATIONAL GUARD FAMILY TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSHB 387(EDU) Out of Committee
*+ HB 412 TUITION WAIVERS:MILITARY/POLICE/FIRE TELECONFERENCED
Moved Out of Committee
+= Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
HB 387-TUITION WAIVER FOR NATIONAL GUARD FAMILY                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
11:07:31 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR NEUMAN announced that the  first order of business would be                                                               
HOUSE  BILL NO.  387, "An  Act  providing for  a partial  tuition                                                               
waiver for families of members  of the Alaska National Guard; and                                                               
directing  the executive  director  of the  Alaska Commission  on                                                               
Postsecondary  Education to  seek additional  funding to  support                                                               
tuition waivers."                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
11:08:11 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  THOMAS moved  to adopt  the committee  substitute                                                               
(CS) for  HB 387,  labeled 24-LS1323\I,  Mischel, 2/9/06,  as the                                                               
working  document.   There  being  no  objection, Version  I  was                                                               
before the committee.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE THOMAS  moved to adopt [Amendment  1], labeled 24-                                                               
LS1323/I.2, Mischel, 2/14/06, which read:                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     Page 1, lines 2 - 3:                                                                                                       
          Delete   "executive   director   of   the   Alaska                                                                  
     Commission on Postsecondary Education"                                                                                   
          Insert "Department of Military and Veterans'                                                                        
     Affairs"                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     Page 1, line 9:                                                                                                            
          Delete "A"                                                                                                            
          Insert "The Department of Military and Veterans'                                                                      
     Affairs shall establish a program for partial tuition                                                                      
     waivers entitling a"                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     Page 1, line 10:                                                                                                           
          Delete "is entitled to a waiver and assistance"                                                                       
          Insert "to a waiver"                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
     Page 1, line 13, through page 2, line 1:                                                                                   
         Delete "executive director of the commission"                                                                          
          Insert "adjutant general of the Department of                                                                         
     Military and Veterans' Affairs"                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     Page 2, line 2:                                                                                                            
          Delete      "AS 14.43.085,     14.43.087,      and                                                                    
     AS 26.05.296"                                                                                                              
          Insert "AS 14.43.087 and AS 26.05.296"                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     Page 2, line 3:                                                                                                            
          Delete "executive director"                                                                                           
          Insert "adjutant general of the Department of                                                                         
     Military and Veterans' Affairs"                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
There being no objection, Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
11:09:06 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
KACI  SCHROEDER-HOTCH,  Staff   to  Representative  Bill  Thomas,                                                               
Alaska State  Legislature, explained that  Version I is  the same                                                               
as the original  bill except that it adds a  new section allowing                                                               
all members of  the Alaska National Guard to  obtain free hunting                                                               
and fishing  licenses.  She  related that  Representative Croft's                                                               
office  worked  on   the  education  portion  of   the  bill  and                                                               
Representative Thomas's office worked  on the hunting and fishing                                                               
portion of the bill.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
11:10:00 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
AMANDA NORRIS, Intern to Representative  Eric Croft, Alaska State                                                               
Legislature, explained  that the general  purpose of the  bill is                                                               
to  support  the  Alaska  National  Guard  and  its  families  by                                                               
providing  them with  an  education.   She  said  that there  are                                                               
tuition  assistance programs  already  in  place; however,  these                                                               
programs are  not fully  funded by the  state and  "guardsmen are                                                               
getting turned away  every year and not getting  the funding they                                                               
need to continue  their education."  Additionally,  the bill adds                                                               
a  50 percent  tuition waiver  for the  dependents of  the Alaska                                                               
National  Guard  members,  she   explained,  to  acknowledge  the                                                               
families'  efforts in  supporting and  caring for  enlisted loved                                                               
ones.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR NEUMAN  asked if  there is a  required minimum  grade point                                                               
average  that will  continue  to  be in  place  with the  tuition                                                               
assistance portion of the bill.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MS. NORRIS  said the bill  states, "a student in  good standing",                                                               
which is defined  in law as a 2.0 [grade  point average ("GPA")].                                                               
She  confirmed, in  answer to  a question  by Chair  Neuman, that                                                               
it's similar to a [Federal] PELL Grant [requirement].                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  NEUMAN, in  noting that  there currently  are about  3,600                                                               
guard  members,  asked  how  many  students  or  dependents  this                                                               
[legislation] would affect.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS. NORRIS  explained that the  only way to determine  this would                                                               
be  to send  out a  survey to  every guard  member; however,  the                                                               
return rates on this kind of survey are not good.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
11:13:32 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  observed that  two zero fiscal  notes were                                                               
included,  though  neither of  them  "from  the departments  that                                                               
would be  noticing a  difference."   The University  [of Alaska],                                                               
she said, has a zero fiscal  note because 50 percent of the money                                                               
would  come from  Alaska  Commission  on Postsecondary  Education                                                               
(ACPE); however  she noted there  was no fiscal note  from either                                                               
the [ACPE] or ADF&G.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS.  SCHROEDER-HOTCH  said  that   although  a  fiscal  note  was                                                               
requested  from  ADF&G,  there might  not  have  been  sufficient                                                               
advance notice to have one prepared in time for the meeting.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON restated her  question regarding the fiscal                                                               
notes.   She  pointed out  that  the university  provided a  zero                                                               
fiscal note with an analysis stating  that the bill would have no                                                               
fiscal impact on the university  assuming that the ACPE continued                                                               
to fund 50  percent of the tuition waivers  for eligible National                                                               
Guard [family]  members as it  currently does.  Given  this fact,                                                               
Representative Wilson suggested that  "maybe they wouldn't expect                                                               
any more ...."                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
11:14:58 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MARY  GOWER, Manager  of Student  Services, University  of Alaska                                                               
Statewide, explained that [Amendment 1]  changes HB 387 such that                                                               
the  Department of  Military  & Veterans'  Affairs  (DMVA) is  to                                                               
establish  a program  for  partial tuition  waivers.   Since  the                                                               
payment would not be coming  from the university but instead from                                                               
DMVA, there  is a  zero fiscal  impact for  the university.   She                                                               
suggested that since the change  [in funding source] from ACPE to                                                               
DMVA was  made shortly before  the meeting, perhaps  there wasn't                                                               
sufficient time to make necessary changes to fiscal notes.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
11:15:49 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE THOMAS, speaking  as the sponsor of HB  387 and in                                                               
remembering his combat experience  in Vietnam, remarked that this                                                               
is  the first  time the  National Guard  has been  deployed to  a                                                               
combat  zone in  Iraq which  might  be a  disincentive for  those                                                               
considering enlisting with the National  Guard.  He expressed his                                                               
belief  that this  bill  would  serve as  a  needed incentive  in                                                               
recruiting,  in advancing  the families'  educations, and  "being                                                               
able to go out and get peace  and quiet by hunting or fishing and                                                               
get  a little  solitude."   He opined  that Governor  Murkowski's                                                               
bill also includes good language, but,  "I think he didn't go far                                                               
enough  ...." by  not including  the incentives  for fishing  and                                                               
hunting as offered in Version I.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
11:17:51 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  ERIC CROFT,  Alaska State  Legislature, expressed                                                               
his  belief that  it's  important to  "honor  our National  Guard                                                               
soldiers and  their families who  are doing a very  difficult job                                                               
for us."                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  LYNN expressed  his  support of  the bill  noting                                                               
that "it's almost  a breach of contract" when  those enlisting in                                                               
the National Guard, expecting certain  benefits, find there is no                                                               
money to go to college.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  opined that  the bill  additionally serves                                                               
as a commitment to the families  who "gave up so much" and "helps                                                               
them  keep  their minds  off  some  of  the things  that  they're                                                               
worrying about all the time."                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
11:19:29 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
SARAH   GILBERTSON,   Legislative    Liaison,   Office   of   the                                                               
Commissioner, Alaska Department of Fish  & Game (ADF&G), said she                                                               
has not seen Version I and thus  could not speak on behalf of the                                                               
administration for  the entire  bill.   She referred  to Governor                                                               
Frank  Murkowski's two  bills,  HB  451 and  SB  286, which  give                                                               
complimentary  hunting and  fishing  licenses  to those  National                                                               
Guard troops returning  from combat overseas.  She  noted that an                                                               
estimated return  of 300 troops  annually would cost  ADF&G about                                                               
$5,000 per year.   She then remarked on the  two main differences                                                               
between  Representative  Thomas's  bill and  the  governor's  two                                                               
bills, one  of which  deals with the  intent of  the legislation.                                                               
Whereas  the  governor's bills  hope  to  acknowledge and  reward                                                               
those who have served overseas,  she explained, the intent behind                                                               
Representative  Thomas's  bill  is   more  one  of  a  recruiting                                                               
measure.  A further difference  would be the expense of providing                                                               
complimentary hunting  and fishing licenses to  all active Alaska                                                               
National Guard  members as  specified in  Representative Thomas's                                                               
bill.   She  offered her  understanding that  this benefit  would                                                               
cost  ADF&G "$18,000  to  $20,000" annually.    She concluded  by                                                               
remarking  that it's  "really a  policy  call on  behalf of  this                                                               
committee, on behalf of the  legislature" to determine whether it                                                               
wants  to use  this as  a recruiting  measure or  to honor  those                                                               
returning from combat,  as well as a consideration  of the amount                                                               
of loss to ADF&G's budget.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE THOMAS  opined that  the benefit of  providing the                                                               
complimentary sports  licenses should be given  "upfront" when it                                                               
is more  certain that members  of the Alaska National  Guards can                                                               
fully enjoy  the activities because they  may be unable to  do so                                                               
should they return from service with physical limitations.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
11:23:53 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
RODGER  MORRISON,  Sergeant  First Class,  Alaska  Army  National                                                               
Guard,  said   that  in   his  position   as  a   recruiter,  the                                                               
complimentary  licenses would  serve as  a  reward as  well as  a                                                               
recruiting tool.   He noted that such is used  in other states as                                                               
well.   He said he  agreed with Representative Thomas  that these                                                               
licenses should  be available  to guard  members before  they are                                                               
deployed, and added  that many National Guard  members will never                                                               
be deployed and thus will  never receive this reward.  Addressing                                                               
the educational component of the  bill, he informed the committee                                                               
that ensuring 100  percent tuition coverage to  all guard members                                                               
is  important.    Additionally,  he  highlighted  that  providing                                                               
partial tuition  waivers for guard  members' families  is equally                                                               
important  in  acknowledging  and rewarding  those,  particularly                                                               
spouses, for  their part in  solely managing the home  front, for                                                               
often lengthy periods of time, while  guard members are away.  He                                                               
opined that  spouses play a  very important part in  the decision                                                               
as  to whether  guard members  stay enlisted,  and therefore  the                                                               
tuition  waivers could  help  sway their  decisions  and make  it                                                               
worth their while.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR NEUMAN  expressed his thanks  to Sergeant Morrison  for his                                                               
service to the country.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
11:28:47 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO  asked  Sergeant  Morrison  if  the  Alaska                                                               
National  Guard is  currently meeting  its recruitment  goals and                                                               
how that compares to pre-Iraq recruitment goals.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SERGEANT  MORRISON said  that whereas  recruitment is  down since                                                               
the war in Iraq began, "we  are meeting our goals [nationwide] as                                                               
of  right now."   He  informed  the committee  that the  National                                                               
Guard  recruiters  are trying  "to  build  it  back up  with  new                                                               
incentives ...."   In further  response to  Representative Gatto,                                                               
he said  that although he wasn't  recruiting prior to the  war in                                                               
Iraq,  he noted  that  [meeting recruitment  goals]  has "been  a                                                               
struggle every year."                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR NEUMAN opined  that it was "safe to say  that you could use                                                               
the extra tools if you had it in your bag."                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
11:30:45 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SALMON  recalled  that  about 10  years  ago  the                                                               
Alaska  Natives in  the National  Guard were  being discriminated                                                               
against because  they weren't being  advanced in rank.   He asked                                                               
Sergeant  Morrison  to  address  this  as  well  as  whether  the                                                               
enlistment of Alaska Natives is decreasing.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SERGEANT MORRISON,  referring to  his eight  years of  service in                                                               
Kotzebue, said  he never observed  lower recruitment  numbers for                                                               
Alaska Natives.   He also stated that "I've  enlisted more Alaska                                                               
Natives in  Southeast than I  have anybody else."   Additionally,                                                               
he remarked that  he has never seen  incidences of discrimination                                                               
against  Alaska  Native  National  Guard or  Air  National  Guard                                                               
members,  and opined  that everyone  is given  equal opportunity.                                                               
He noted that there is an  Alaska Scout Waiver for Alaska Natives                                                               
which gives them the "opportunity to come on board."                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SALMON  recalled that in the  1960's, the National                                                               
Guard consisted  of many Alaska  Natives, and asked  whether that                                                               
trend continues.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SERGEANT  MORRISON  said this  trend  still  applies in  outlying                                                               
areas such as Bethel.  Although  the numbers are high, the Alaska                                                               
National Guard continues to raise  the number of recruited Alaska                                                               
Natives.   He said that  may not  be apparent in  Anchorage where                                                               
those recruited  primarily come from  outside the state  with the                                                               
desire to move to Alaska.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  LYNN  opined  that  this bill  is  about  tuition                                                               
waivers and  "has nothing  to do  with alleged  discrimination or                                                               
non-discrimination."                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
11:34:00 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA thanked  Sergeant Morrison  for his  service                                                               
and asked  whether being an active  duty guard means "you  have a                                                               
chance of  being deployed  or are there  active duty  members who                                                               
know that they wouldn't ever be deployed?"                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SERGEANT  MORRISON  clarified  that  being in  the  Active  Guard                                                               
Reserve (AGR) means "you are  a full-time National Guard [member]                                                               
... and you  can be deployed any time ...."   However, the Ground                                                               
Missile  Defense (GMD)  in  Delta  Junction is  an  example of  a                                                               
nondeployable unit, which  is run solely by the AGR.   In further                                                               
response to questions  by Representative Gara, he  said there are                                                               
a  few other  nondeployable [units]  in  Anchorage as  well.   He                                                               
explained  that a  traditional guard  member serves  1 weekend  a                                                               
month, 2  weeks out of  the year for  39 days total  and whenever                                                               
"you get  activated or mobilized,  that means you go  active duty                                                               
at that  point on."   Those activated and  deployed for 14  to 16                                                               
months, then return to their civilian  jobs and show up 1 weekend                                                               
a month and 2 weeks out of the year.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  said that he  would want the  family members                                                               
of the  [traditional] guard member  who returned  from deployment                                                               
to Iraq to  still qualify for the 50 percent  tuition waiver upon                                                               
the member's return.  He  questioned whether the current language                                                               
of the bill allows this, or  does it mean that the family members                                                               
only qualify  for the  tuition waiver while  the guard  member is                                                               
deployed but  end upon  the member's return.   He  suggested that                                                               
the bill might need revising to ensure adequate coverage.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
11:36:44 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  CROFT, referring  to  page 1,  lines 11-12,  said                                                               
that he copied  the language that was used in  the original bill.                                                               
He asked Sergeant Morrison whether  the term "active" refers only                                                               
to those who are deployed.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SERGEANT MORRISON said that as long  as a guard member is in good                                                               
standing, shows  up for the  one weekend  a month and  the annual                                                               
training, and is accruing points  toward retirement, that is what                                                               
"I  consider an  active  guard  [member] ...."    In response  to                                                               
further  questions by  Representative  Croft,  he explained  that                                                               
there are also full-time positions  performed daily by the Active                                                               
Guard Reserves.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   CROFT  said   although   the  current   language                                                               
accomplishes the desired purpose, he would double-check.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA asked whether the  bill intends to extend the                                                               
benefit to family members of  part-time guard members who are not                                                               
deployed as well as those who are full-time active.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE THOMAS explained that the  intent is "to take care                                                               
of  them  because they  don't  know  if  [they'll be]  sent  over                                                               
again."    He  pointed  out  that  in  the  1960's  although  not                                                               
everybody  went  to  Vietnam, "they"  were  still  recognized  as                                                               
Vietnam  era [veterans].   In  response to  Representative Gara's                                                               
suggestion,  Representative Thomas  said  [he  would review]  the                                                               
statutes to ensure  that the word "active"  provides the intended                                                               
coverage.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SERGEANT  MORRISON,   in  response  to   Representative  Salmon's                                                               
question  as to  how  many National  Guard are  in  the State  of                                                               
Alaska, said  that the Air  National Guard and the  Army National                                                               
Guard have  approximately the same  numbers which would  be about                                                               
1,850 on both sides.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
11:39:53 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
DIANE   BARRANS,  Executive   Director,   Alaska  Commission   on                                                               
Postsecondary  Education,  Department   of  Education  and  Early                                                               
Development  (EED), said  that the  adoption of  Version I  would                                                               
essentially resolve the technical issue  that she had raised with                                                               
the sponsor's staff.   However, referring to  an observation made                                                               
earlier by  Representative Wilson  on the  fiscal note,  she said                                                               
she wanted  to make it clear  that the tuition waiver  program is                                                               
not one "we  administer, not under our statutory  purview, and we                                                               
have never funded this program."                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO informed  the committee  that he  serves on                                                               
the  commission  with  Ms.  Barrans  and  commented  on  what  an                                                               
"outstanding director" she is.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON inquired  from  where the  funds would  be                                                               
generated if the bill as written is passed.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS.  BARRANS  said  that  it   was  her  understanding  that  the                                                               
appropriation  of funds  for Version  I would  occur through  the                                                               
DMVA.   She estimated that  the room and board  expenses combined                                                               
with the  50 percent tuition  benefit would be about  $15,000 per                                                               
year based on a standard budget at the University of Alaska.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
11:42:33 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR NEUMAN determined there was no further public testimony.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
11:42:57 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  related that although he  supports the bill,                                                               
he is  considering a conceptual  amendment that would  extend the                                                               
benefit of  tuition assistance  to foster children  as well.   He                                                               
noted that  foster children are  not an organized  interest group                                                               
that are  able to contact  the legislature but rather  "a silent,                                                               
large segment  of the population"  and that "there's  nobody here                                                               
demanding that  foster children be added  to this bill or  that a                                                               
similar benefit  be provided to them."   He opined that  they are                                                               
"born  with less  privilege, less  opportunity,  and less  chance                                                               
than almost anybody  else in society" and are  another group [the                                                               
state] has an obligation to support.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR NEUMAN  questioned how germane the  conceptual amendment is                                                               
to  the Alaska  National Guard.    He informed  the committee  of                                                               
legislation regarding  foster children,  which the  House Special                                                               
Committee on Education would address at future meetings.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  said that if  he has a commitment  from this                                                               
committee to  discuss the issue  of tuition assistance  to foster                                                               
kids, then he  would not need to attach  his conceptual amendment                                                               
to the bill.   He noted that at five weeks  into the session, the                                                               
opportunity to discuss it had not presented itself.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
11:46:59 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA [moved  to  adopt  Conceptual Amendment  2],                                                               
which read as follows [original punctuation provided]:                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     Insert a new section to read:                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
     The benefits  provided in Sec.  14.43.087 of  this bill                                                                    
     shall  also be  provided  to foster  care children  and                                                                    
     children who have  been released after age  17 from the                                                                    
     foster care system.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     A  foster  care  child  is  defined  as  an  individual                                                                    
     ordered  committed to  the  custody  of the  department                                                                    
     under AS 47.10.080(c) or  AS 47.12.120(b)(3), is placed                                                                    
     in a  foster home, and  is otherwise eligible  under AS                                                                    
     14.43.465(b).                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
11:47:05 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE THOMAS objected.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON  asked  whether Amendment  2  pertains  to                                                               
those currently  in foster  care or would  it also  include those                                                               
previously in foster care.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  explained that it  would cover those  now in                                                               
foster care  and those  released after age  17 from  foster care.                                                               
He said he does not have totals for either group.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  said she  supports Representative  Gara in                                                               
philosophy; however,  the bill  already adds  a $15,000  per year                                                               
expense and  she does not want  to jeopardize the bill  by adding                                                               
the unknown  expense of providing  the tuition benefit  to foster                                                               
children.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  opined that there are  many different groups                                                               
deserving assistance and  that the "problem we have  right now is                                                               
we  have  a  very  underfunded university  financial  aid  system                                                               
[which should  be providing] financial  aid to anybody  who needs                                                               
it."   He relayed that  findings from a recent  university report                                                               
show that "we're  about $3 million short in that  system" and "we                                                               
provide the least  amount of money per capita of  any other state                                                               
to help  people go to college."   He informed the  committee that                                                               
there is proposed legislation to address this.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA withdrew Conceptual Amendment 2.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO  asked   Representative  Gara  whether  his                                                               
statement regarding  Alaska's low ranking in  providing financial                                                               
support  to students  included the  money made  available through                                                               
the student loan program.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   GARA  said   that  he   believed  the   national                                                               
statistics on needs-based financial  assistance referred to grant                                                               
money and  that Alaska provides  less grant money than  any other                                                               
state  in the  country.   He  expressed his  appreciation of  the                                                               
needs-based   financial  aid   system  the   university  recently                                                               
implemented, though opined that "we could do a lot better."                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
11:49:58 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  CROFT,  in  response   to  earlier  questions  by                                                               
Representative  Wilson  regarding   funding,  said  that  similar                                                               
questions were asked  of DMVA when preparing  the legislation and                                                               
that  there   is  explanatory  documentation  in   the  committee                                                               
packets.   He  noted,  in particular,  the numbers  corresponding                                                               
with fiscal year 2006 (FY06)  when guard members were turned away                                                               
from tuition reimbursement.   He clarified that  the FY06 numbers                                                               
are only  indicative of  half this present  fiscal year  and that                                                               
the "200 number" [of guard  members applying for tuition waivers]                                                               
is more likely to  be 400 to 500 guard members by  the end of the                                                               
fiscal year, with  an annual program cost of about  $400,000.  He                                                               
explained that  the zero fiscal  note is more an  indication that                                                               
DMVA intends to  maintain the current program and  wants to "fund                                                               
it ... but  there's been this under funding and  they didn't know                                                               
whether  they should  come up  with  a supplemental  or just  cut                                                               
[guard members] off  [mid-year]."  He opined that  the intent [of                                                               
this legislation]  is to  ensure that  the program  is adequately                                                               
funded.    Regarding the  50  percent  tuition waiver  for  guard                                                               
member  spouses,  he said  that  it  is  harder to  estimate  the                                                               
numbers  of  those wishing  to  participate  in the  program  and                                                               
therefore  difficult to  prepare  an adequate  fiscal  note.   He                                                               
surmised  that if  there are  400 guard  members enrolling,  then                                                               
perhaps one  could estimate the  enrollment of about  200 spouses                                                               
and then apply the 50 percent tuition cost to that number.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON, in  regard to the 26  guard members denied                                                               
tuition reimbursement so  far this year due to a  lack of funding                                                               
by $29,500, asked  how the program can be  adequately funded even                                                               
with passage of the bill.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CROFT relayed that  the department would initially                                                               
estimate  the number  of  those eligible  and  interested in  the                                                               
service  and  then  determine the  amount,  perhaps  $300,000  to                                                               
$400,000 a year,  that it would take to  accommodate the program.                                                               
He  said,  "A  department  like  that ...  can  either  have  the                                                               
understanding that  they cut  off the program  when the  money is                                                               
gone,  or  the  understanding  that   they  serve  the  qualified                                                               
applicants  who come  before them  and [then]  come back  to [the                                                               
legislature]  for that  money."   The intent  of the  bill is  to                                                               
ensure that  every eligible guard  member receives  this benefit,                                                               
and  it  was worded  to  ensure  that  "we're going  to  estimate                                                               
[program funding]  the best we can,  but we want it  fully funded                                                               
and we want you to come back and get the money for it."                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON, upon  noting that she is  working on three                                                               
finance   subcommittee   budgets   and  that   there   are   four                                                               
supplemental  budgets this  year, asked  Representative Croft  if                                                               
she was correct in her understanding  that the intent of the bill                                                               
is to  have [DMVA] pay  the tuition fees regardless  of available                                                               
funds, and then  submit a supplemental budget  to the legislature                                                               
at the end of the year.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CROFT  said this is  correct and remarked  that he                                                               
did  "not  like  the  size of  this  year's  supplemental  budget                                                               
either" though expressed  his hope that the  budget process would                                                               
provide the  funding necessary  to cover  what is  actually paid.                                                               
He also noted  that the Alaska National Guard is  "a pretty well-                                                               
defined  population; it's  hard to  pretend that  you're a  guard                                                               
member  if you're  not."    Where [eligibility  fraud]  may be  a                                                               
problem for  some programs, he  expressed doubt that it  would be                                                               
in this case.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  expressed her belief that  although she is                                                               
concerned from  where the  funding will  originate, "it's  a good                                                               
bill" and  noted that the  House Finance Committee  could address                                                               
the funding issue.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
11:55:47 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SALMON  asked for  ADF&G's opinion  providing free                                                               
hunting and fishing licenses.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS. GILBERTSON,  referring to her earlier  explanation, said that                                                               
the two  main differences between  Governor Murkowski's  bill and                                                               
HB 387, concern the intent and  the fiscal notes.  The governor's                                                               
bill would  cost ADF&G roughly  $5,000 annually and HB  387 would                                                               
cost the  department between $18,000 and  $20,000, she explained.                                                               
Furthermore, the  governor's bill  would limit  the complimentary                                                               
hunting and fishing  licenses to only those who  served in combat                                                               
whereas HB 387 provides the  complimentary licenses to all Alaska                                                               
National  Guard members,  she explained.   In  response to  Chair                                                               
Neuman's  question regarding  whether  ADF&G supports  HB 387  or                                                               
not,  she  remarked,  "We  support the  language  that's  in  the                                                               
governor's  bill,  however  we  are  very  excited  to  see  that                                                               
Representative Thomas  and the committee  are very  interested in                                                               
similar language."                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
11:57:31 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO,   in  response  to   Representative  Lynn,                                                               
commented on the similarity of  this bill to the Government Issue                                                               
(GI) Bill  following World War  II, and asked whether  the latter                                                               
had expired.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN  confirmed that the GI  Bill, which supported                                                               
his college education and carried  him halfway toward his masters                                                               
degree,  had expired.    He  explained that  it  was basically  a                                                               
voucher system.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   GATTO  opined   that  HB   387  "seems   like  a                                                               
resumption" of the (GI) Bill [and  referred to it as] the "Alaska                                                               
GI Bill."                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
11:58:41 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR NEUMAN determined there was no further testimony.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
11:58:56 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  THOMAS  moved to  report  CSHB  387, Version  24-                                                               
LS1323\I,  Mischel, 2/9/06,  as  amended, out  of committee  with                                                               
individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
11:59:13 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SALMON objected.   He expressed that the education                                                               
portion of  the bill seems  "great," however, adding  the section                                                               
offering free  hunting and fishing  licenses seems  irrelevant to                                                               
education and  would additionally be "stressing  our resources in                                                               
Alaska."                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA opined that the  extra cost of adding in free                                                               
hunting and  fishing licenses to  those guard members  before and                                                               
after being deployed is minimal and worth it.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SALMON maintained his objection.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
12:00:56 PM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
A  roll call  vote  was taken.    Representatives Wilson,  Gatto,                                                               
Lynn, Thomas, Gara,  and Neuman voted in favor  of reporting CSHB                                                               
387,  Version 24-LS1323\I,  Mischel, 2/9/06,  as amended,  out of                                                               
committee.   Representative Salmon voted against  it.  Therefore,                                                               
CSHB 387(EDU) was reported out  of the House Special Committee on                                                               
Education by a vote of 6-1.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
The committee took an at-ease from 12:02 p.m. to 12:03 p.m.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                

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