Legislature(1995 - 1996)

04/18/1995 10:10 AM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 HB 226 - MARITAL STATUS AND RETIREMENT BENEFITS                             
                                                                               
 Number 071                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE PETE KELLY, sponsor of HB 226, noted that since he             
 had testified on this bill in the HESS Committee when it was first            
 heard, and since many people wanted to testify, he would refrain              
 from speaking again.                                                          
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE appreciated Representative Kelly's consideration,              
 and asked him to be available for questions.  Co-Chair Bunde also             
 requested all testimony be limited to two minutes.                            
                                                                               
 Number 155                                                                    
                                                                               
 THOMAS OWENS, JR. testified via teleconference from Anchorage that            
 he was speaking at the request of Representative Kelly to provide             
 HESS Committee members with information about the litigation from             
 which the bill arose.  Mr. Owens said he was not testifying on the            
 behalf of the University of Alaska, although he was a member of the           
 counsel for the university in the Tumeo-Wattum case.  That case is            
 currently on appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court.                              
                                                                               
 MR. OWENS noted that the case involved an application by Tumeo and            
 Wattum for health care coverage for their domestic partners under             
 the university health care program.  That coverage was denied                 
 because the domestic partners are not spouses.  The definition of             
 dependents under the health care plan is limited to spouses and               
 dependents.  Tumeo and Wattum appealed to the Superior Court.                 
                                                                               
 MR. OWENS recalled that the Superior Court made a very                        
 straightforward analysis, holding that Alaska Statute 18.80.200               
 prohibits discrimination in a term or condition of employment based           
 on marital status.  The court held that denying health care                   
 coverage to the domestic partners of Tumeo and Wattum on the basis            
 that they were not married constituted discrimination based on                
 marital status.                                                               
                                                                               
 Number 269                                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. OWENS said that was the essence of the court's analysis.                  
 Clearly, the analysis of the court stands on the proposition that             
 the statutory prohibition against discrimination based on marital             
 status is absolute.  There can be no discrimination based on                  
 marital status.                                                               
                                                                               
 MR. OWENS said this is not a matter of sex.  It is a matter of                
 marriage only in that being single or being married forms a basis             
 for either granting or denying health care coverage to dependents             
 of employees.  Mr. Owens noted that the discrimination statute                
 applies to all employers, not just public employers.  Therefore,              
 every employer in the state of Alaska providing health care                   
 coverage to spouses of employees will have to determine whether it            
 can continue to provide health care coverage to spouses and                   
 domestic partners if the situation stands the way it is now under             
 Judge Greene's (the judge in Tumeo and Wattum v. the State of               
 Alaska) decision.                                                           
                                                                               
 MR. OWENS said he has done some computer research and has found 146           
 different provisions in the Alaska Statutes in which the                      
 legislature has required employers or the state to discriminate               
 either for or against a particular individual based on whether or             
 not he/she was married.  Therefore, although AS 19.80 provides that           
 no employer can discriminate on the basis of marital status, there            
 are many other statutory provisions that require discrimination               
 based on marital status.                                                      
                                                                               
 MR. OWENS noted that HB 226 simply addresses the issue of what kind           
 of requirement this legislature is going to put on every employer             
 in the state of Alaska as far as extending health care benefits and           
 pension benefits.  There are many statutory benefits on marital               
 status as far as being eligible for pension benefits.  Mr. Owens              
 asked what kinds of requirements the law was going to put on every            
 employer in the state of Alaska concerning extending these benefits           
 to beyond dependents and spouses of employees.                                
                                                                               
 Number 511                                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. OWENS said if the situation stays the way it is now (without              
 passage of HB 226), the possibility is raised that employers                  
 throughout the state will decide that because there is no limit on            
 what kind of coverage they have to extend, they are not going to              
 extend coverage at all.  The employers may choose to just cover               
 their employees.  They may not cover spouses because if spouses are           
 covered employers may have to cover nonspousal domestic partners,             
 for example.                                                                  
                                                                               
 MR. OWENS said there are many adverse consequences that could                 
 result from leaving the situation as it presently stands.  Mr.                
 Owens understood HESS Committee members had received information to           
 the effect that this situation was simply an administrative matter            
 that involves public employers.  That is not the case at all.  The            
 prohibition against discrimination based on marital status and the            
 other statutory provisions which call for discrimination based on             
 marital status apply throughout the state.                                    
                                                                               
 Number 589                                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. OWENS concluded that it is really a question of what kind of              
 impositions the legislature wants to put on employers, large and              
 small, public and private, throughout the state of Alaska as far as           
 extending benefits like health care coverage and pension benefits             
 to persons other than their direct employees.                                 
                                                                               
 Number 624                                                                    
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR CYNTHIA TOOHEY said no matter what is done in the state,             
 a small business would not be precluded from offering benefits to             
 a couple that do not choose to be married but are legally and                 
 economically tied to each other.  She asked Mr. Owens if that                 
 statement was correct.                                                        
                                                                               
 MR. OWENS said she was correct.  The employer gets to define the              
 extent of the coverage it will extend to its employees.  It is up             
 to the employer to decide if it will voluntarily extend that                  
 coverage to unmarried, economically dependent partners if it so               
 desired.                                                                      
                                                                               
 Number 674                                                                    
                                                                               
 AMY YOUNG, Co-Chair, Equality under Alaskan Law (EQUAL), testified            
 via teleconference from Anchorage that lately any time she opens              
 the newspaper she sees that more budget cuts are being made by the            
 legislature.  Cuts are being made in valuable programs such as                
 public broadcasting to rural communities.  Ms. Young has lived in             
 rural Alaska, and she knows what a lifeline public television can             
 be.  Yet, the HESS Committee members were currently spending                  
 valuable resources on a bill that is unnecessary.                             
                                                                               
 MS. YOUNG said the courts have already decided what is fair.                  
 Discrimination based on marital status is wrong.  Ms. Young said              
 the Alaska Human Rights Act was established to protect Alaskan                
 citizens from discrimination.  Legislation should not be started              
 only to make exceptions.                                                      
                                                                               
 MS. YOUNG asked to make a point about Mr. Owens' statement about              
 employees.  Ms. Young does not think it is fair to pay married                
 people more than single people.  She thinks there will be some                
 dramatic changes in employment law in the coming years on that                
 point.  Ms. Young urged HESS Committee members to oppose HB 226               
 unless Representative Robinson's amendment (the Robinson amendment)           
 is included.                                                                  
                                                                               
 Number 754                                                                    
                                                                               
 TYSON NEVIL testified via teleconference from Fairbanks that he was           
 definitely opposed to HB 226 unless it was passed with the Robinson           
 amendment.  He felt this bill should be opposed because it                    
 basically is an issue of legislating morality under the guise of              
 supposedly protecting private industry from assuming the rare                 
 burden of benefits for employees' domestic partners.  It is                   
 discrimination on the basis of marital status as far as pay goes.             
 Benefits are a part of compensation for work done in a particular             
 work situation.                                                               
                                                                               
 MR. NEVIL said HB 226 will institute a formal position that it is             
 okay to discriminate because one person chooses to be married in a            
 traditional format, while another chooses to be make a                        
 nontraditional commitment.  This bill is an effort to economically            
 coerce people into traditional bonds of marriage.  That is wrong.             
                                                                               
 MR. NEVIL spoke to Mr. Owens' comments.  Mr. Nevil said just                  
 because precedents in the past have established that it is okay to            
 discriminate on the basis of marital status does not mean that it             
 is right to do so.  Many things in the past have been overturned              
 because society has reached the point where it has discovered that            
 what has occurred in the past is wrong.  Such precedents, while               
 they may exist, do not provide a basis for saying it is okay to               
 discriminate.                                                                 
                                                                               
 Number 864                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE CAREN ROBINSON noted that people have been referring           
 to the amendment she brought forward in the State Affairs Committee           
 meeting on this bill.  She felt it may be helpful to at least hand            
 out the amendment to other HESS Committee members so the amendment            
 can be in their packets.                                                      
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE agreed the amendment should be handed out.                     
                                                                               
 Number 900                                                                    
                                                                               
 LAURA BURLESON testified via teleconference from Fairbanks.  She              
 urged HESS Committee members to vote against HB 226 as it currently           
 stands.  As this bill stands, it provides for special compensation            
 for married people at the expense of people who are not married in            
 the traditional sense.  This is unfair to the citizens of Alaska,             
 and it is unfair especially in light of the Tumeo-Wattum case.                
                                                                               
 MS. BURLESON said unless HB 226 includes the Robinson amendment               
 providing for domestic partnership, HB 226 provides special rights            
 for one group at the expense of another.  This conflicts directly             
 with the human rights laws of the state of Alaska.                            
                                                                               
 Number 950                                                                    
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY asked Mr. Owens a question.  She said her sister              
 and her life-mate have never married, and they both have been                 
 previously divorced and have children.  They have lived together              
 for 36 years.  Their last will and testament is to leave all                  
 worldly possessions to the living partner.  Co-Chair Toohey asked             
 if this was legal considering they were not married.                          
                                                                               
 MR. OWENS said yes.  If a will is drafted, one can leave his/her              
 worldly possessions to whomever he/she wants.                                 
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY asked if the beneficiary can be under any guise,              
 such as spouse, life-mate, etc.                                               
                                                                               
 MR. OWENS said yes.  A will must be drafted, leaving worldly                  
 possessions to whomever the deceased wishes.  However, a problem              
 arises if there is no will.  This is a good example of statutory              
 provisions adopted by the legislature that cover other situations             
 where there is discrimination based on marital status.  For                   
 example, under the laws concerning what happens when one dies                 
 without a will, the property passes to the spouse.  A marital                 
 relationship is required.  Property does not pass to the unmarried            
 domestic partner of the person who has died.  That is an example of           
 a statutory provision in Alaska State laws that exist currently               
 that discriminate based on marital status.  There are many, many              
 more of these laws.                                                           
                                                                               
 Number 1055                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE AL VEZEY noted that there is a certain amount of               
 property that stays with the spouse in the event there is no will.            
 He asked if that was true.  He understood that one cannot take all            
 assets out of the marital estate, that one cannot disinherit one's            
 spouse.  He understood that state law requires at least one-third             
 of the estate goes to the spouse.                                             
                                                                               
 MR. OWENS said Representative Vezey was speaking about the instance           
 in which there is no will.  Mr. Owens said under the laws of                  
 succession in such a case, the spouse automatically gets a portion            
 of the estate.                                                                
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said it was his understanding that a person              
 must, under state law, leave at least one-third of an estate to a             
 spouse, unless the spouse agrees to the contrary.                             
                                                                               
 MR. OWENS did not know the answer to that question.                           
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE was aware of state retirement programs, in which one           
 is not allowed to disinherit one's spouse.   The retirement program           
 cannot be changed to exclude the spouse without the spouse's                  
 permission.                                                                   
                                                                               
 Number 1143                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE KELLY asked Mr. Owens if he was familiar with the              
 Robinson amendment.  Mr. Owens said he was.  Representative Kelly             
 began to speak to his concerns on the amendment.                              
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY interrupted and noted that the amendment has not              
 been yet brought before the committee.                                        
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE agreed, and asked Mr. Owens if he was going to be              
 available for awhile to answer questions.  Mr. Owens said yes.  Co-           
 Chair Bunde said after testimony was finished, the amendment would            
 be addressed.  At that time, there may be questions for Mr. Owens.            
                                                                               
 Number 1186                                                                   
                                                                               
 MARK TUMEO, Professor, University of Alaska Fairbanks, and                    
 plaintiff in Tumeo and Wattum v. the University of Alaska,                  
 testified via teleconference from Fairbanks.  He thanked HESS                 
 Committee members for the time and consideration they have shown              
 him and this bill.                                                            
                                                                               
 MR. TUMEO had prepared two fact sheets which were included in the             
 bill packets.  The fact sheets disprove some of the economical and            
 legal arguments which have been put forward by the sponsor of the             
 bill as the underpinning for this piece of legislation.  Mr. Tumeo            
 found the claim that private companies will be affected by the                
 judge's decision very disturbing, and he also was displeased with             
 the claim that there will be an onslaught of lawsuits.                        
                                                                               
 MR. TUMEO noted with all due respect to Mr. Owens that Mr. Owens              
 does have a vested interest in portraying the case a certain way.             
 Contrary to the sponsor's and Mr. Owens' supporting statements,               
 private companies will not be affected from this lawsuit.  In 1974,           
 the U.S. Congress passed an Employee security act.  This Act had an           
 exemption clause that was extremely broad as far as any state                 
 regulation of employee benefits, even in the areas where the Act              
 itself made regulation.                                                       
                                                                               
 Number 1255                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. TUMEO gave an example based on legal analysis.  A state could             
 pass a law that medical insurance benefits might be extended to               
 domestic partners of full-time workers.  The federal act would pre-           
 empt that law.  Any state law that even relates to an employee                
 benefit program, no matter how tenuous that relationship might be,            
 is presumptively prevented by the federal act.  There are a few               
 exceptions.  A state can garnish pension to pay back child support            
 or alimony orders, for example.                                               
                                                                               
 MR. TUMEO said the judge's decision in Tumeo-Wattum v. the State of         
 Alaska can only apply to university employees.  Furthermore,                
 domestic partnerships are not a substitute for marriage, and can no           
 way demean or lessen the sanctity of marriage.  There are numerous            
 privileges and benefits that a marriage license provides that                 
 cannot be gained through other contractual relationships such as              
 domestic partnerships.                                                        
                                                                               
 Number 1300                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. TUMEO would like to believe that Representative Kelly's bill              
 arose from economic and legal concerns, as Representative Kelly               
 claims.  If that were the case, the facts would make it abundantly            
 clear that HB 226 is unnecessary, and the sponsor would withdraw              
 it.  At the very least, Representative Kelly would accept the                 
 proposed Robinson amendment, because it eliminates any kind of                
 financial concerns.  Domestic partnerships will be established as             
 eligible for benefits.  The amendment would also assure that the              
 human rights act of the state is not gutted.                                  
                                                                               
 MR. TUMEO felt the Robinson amendment was one of those rare                   
 instances in which the legislature will find itself in a win-win              
 situation.                                                                    
                                                                               
 Number 1336                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. TUMEO said HB 226 is the antithesis of a conservative American            
 value, upon which conservatives hold high an individual's                     
 willingness to commit to lifelong relationships and take care of              
 their loved ones.  The bill has elicited strong debate and                    
 emotions.  It has taken up hours of time.  Mr. Tumeo has personally           
 received harassing phone calls because he has dared stand up in               
 opposition to this bill.  Mr. Tumeo asked HESS Committee members to           
 kill this bill, and recognize that one representative's religious             
 views are not a reason to discriminate against people who are in              
 strong family units contributing to society.                                  
                                                                               
 Number 1370                                                                   
                                                                               
 TRAVIS BRAZILLE testified via teleconference from Fairbanks that he           
 would like HESS Committee members to kill HB 226 unless the                   
 Robinson amendment is adopted.                                                
                                                                               
 Number 1392                                                                   
                                                                               
 KATE WATTUM, Professor, University of Alaska Fairbanks, and                   
 plaintiff in Tumeo-Wattum v. the University of Alaska, testified            
 via teleconference from Fairbanks that she has heard much testimony           
 in favor of Mr. Tumeo and herself.  She is a little disappointed to           
 hear Mr. Owens say he is not representing the university when in              
 fact, he is.                                                                  
                                                                               
 MS. WATTUM's biggest concern is a personal issue.  No one has                 
 investigated the validity of her or Mr. Tumeo's claim that the                
 people in question are, in fact, their domestic partners.  No one             
 has asked Ms. Wattum what her life is like, and what she does day             
 to day.  No one has questioned whether Beverly McClendon is, in               
 fact, legally obligated to Ms. Wattum, and Ms. Wattum to Beverly.             
 That is frustrating.  No one wants to ask if Ms. Wattum and her               
 partner are going to be in each other's lives until death.  Ms.               
 Wattum said she and Beverly are committed to that degree.                     
                                                                               
 Number 1435                                                                   
                                                                               
 MS. WATTUM said the amendment to the bill will allow her and others           
 like her to have an avenue for continued support.  She does not               
 feel it will be recognized by anyone in the near future, but it               
 will help her make wise career decisions, not having to worry about           
 being covered by employee benefits.                                           
                                                                               
 MS. WATTUM said this issue is very personal to her.  She said                 
 people are continually telling her not to take this bill                      
 personally, that this bill is not about her.  She told the HESS               
 Committee members this bill was about her.  It was about her life.            
                                                                               
 Number 1474                                                                   
                                                                               
 ROBERT MILLER testified via teleconference from Fairbanks that HB             
 226 is a complete slap in the face to a large number of people in             
 the Alaskan communities.  There are a large number of people in               
 domestic partnerships who could really use the equality.  People              
 like Tumeo and Wattum are not asking for special treatment.  They             
 are simply asking to be treated like everyone else.  Mr. Miller did           
 not understand why it is okay for a male-female couple to get                 
 married in a very short time and automatically receive many                   
 benefits.                                                                     
                                                                               
 MR. MILLER noted that yet, a couple like Ms. Wattum and Beverly               
 McClendon, who have been together for many years, who share much              
 and have promised to spend the rest of their lives together, cannot           
 have those benefits.                                                          
                                                                               
 MR. MILLER asked HESS Committee members to put in the Robinson                
 amendment if they do pass HB 226.  He asked HESS Committee members            
 to allow for equality.                                                        
                                                                               
 Number 1533                                                                   
                                                                               
 BEVERLY McCLENDON requested via teleconference from Fairbanks that            
 HB 226 not be passed unless the Robinson amendment is included.               
 She is truly concerned about the precedents that may be set when              
 the legislature begins writing exceptions into the state's human              
 rights act.                                                                   
                                                                               
 MS. McCLENDON said memories of Nazi Germany haunt her when she                
 realizes how slowly people's rights can be eroded until a monster             
 is created.  Ms. McClendon asked why benefits and this bill have              
 been crafted to benefit only spouses and dependents in the first              
 place.   She thinks one of the reasons benefits were originally               
 extended was to assure the financial security of the family unit,             
 thus allowing an employee to remain a productive member of the                
 workforce.                                                                    
                                                                               
 MS. McCLENDON said security is important, no matter how one defines           
 a family.  A concern of proponents of this bill is that anyone can            
 come forward and claim to be a domestic partner.  Therefore,                  
 employers will be forced to pay benefits to many people.  Ms.                 
 McClendon does not feel that is true.  The Robinson amendment                 
 specifically defines domestic partnerships as long-term, committed,           
 financially interdependent relationships.  That is what the                   
 amendment is trying to protect.                                               
                                                                               
 MS. McCLENDON asked to respond to Co-Chair Toohey's concerns about            
 wills and the death of a partner versus that of a spouse.  She said           
 that concerns relationships after death, and she is hoping to                 
 protect people while they are still alive.                                    
                                                                               
 MS. McCLENDON also wanted to address concerns that there will be              
 many people rushing to sign up for benefits if this bill is not               
 passed.   The reality is, if one is not in a traditional marriage,            
 there is still an incredible amount of stigma in our society.  Many           
 people will not come forward and publicly identify their partners             
 because of that stigma.  The ones that do come forward are those              
 whose financial concerns have forced them into it.  They are thus             
 willing to take the risk.                                                     
                                                                               
 Number 1631                                                                   
                                                                               
 MS. McCLENDON concluded by saying it was of utmost importance to              
 leave the human rights statutes intact.  She asked HESS Committee             
 members to let the bill die a quiet death, or to at least add the             
 Robinson amendment.  This amendment specifically defines what                 
 domestic partnerships are, and includes domestic partners in the              
 benefits.  In that way, security can be provided for all employees            
 who are in committed, long-term, financially interdependent                   
 relationships.                                                                
                                                                               
 Number 1666                                                                   
                                                                               
 MICHAEL SCHMAHL testified via teleconference from Fairbanks in                
 opposition to HB 226.  HB 226 is an obvious attack on the human               
 rights act.  If passed, it would codify discrimination against                
 unmarried couples even if they are financially, emotionally and               
 otherwise interdependent.  Any bill that begins by amending and               
 restricting the human rights act is immediately suspect.                      
                                                                               
 MR. SCHMAHL said the bill provides for exceptions to the human                
 rights act.  Once the legislature starts making exceptions, the               
 door is open to make any number of exceptions to the human rights             
 code.  The author of this bill claims it protects against any                 
 number of people who would claim to be domestic partners.  That is            
 simply not true.  Organizations that do provide benefits to                   
 domestic partners have not seen a dramatic rise in the number of              
 people applying for benefits.                                                 
                                                                               
 MR. SCHMAHL urged HESS Committee members to kill HB 226.  If it               
 must be moved, he asked that the Robinson amendment be passed.                
                                                                               
 Number 1749                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY took a moment to read some statistics she requested           
 from Reed Stoops, who is the lobbyist for AETNA Insurance.  "If               
 domestic partners are insured, AETNA's nationwide estimate is that            
 it would add 340 new members per 100,000 presently covered.  The              
 additional cost conservatively would be 2 percent for the first               
 year without experience.  After that, the additional cost would be            
 an additional 1 percent or less.  AETNA offers a domestic partner             
 policy to 26 of its customers throughout the rest of the country."            
                                                                               
 Number 1780                                                                   
                                                                               
 STEVEN JACQUIER testified via teleconference from Fairbanks against           
 HB 226 as it stands.  If passed without the Robinson amendment, the           
 bill would have a negative impact on Alaska's economic well-being.            
 It will have a negative impact on Alaska's image to the rest of the           
 world, and it will negatively impact the quality of life all                  
 Alaskans enjoy.                                                               
                                                                               
 MR. JACQUIER said the economic reasoning being given in                       
 justification for this legislation is erroneous, as demonstrated by           
 the actual concrete experience of states such as Vermont, New York            
 and Massachusetts.  Not only is the justification false, but if HB            
 226 is passed it will end up costing Alaska's economy a lot of                
 money.  Within the last couple of months, several other states have           
 considered passing prejudicial legislation.  The legislation has              
 aimed to create special protections for some groups, while                    
 stigmatizing others.                                                          
                                                                               
 MR. JACQUIER said both South Dakota and Montana decided not to                
 invite boycotts and subsequent losses of millions of dollars from             
 the tourist industry for the sake of allowing a few legislators to            
 curry favor and court votes among the right wing.  Utah has made a            
 different decision, and, just for starters, that decision will most           
 likely cost the state of Utah the Olympics.  Widespread boycotts of           
 tourism, companies based in Utah and products manufactured in Utah            
 are beginning in communities across the United States.                        
                                                                               
 Number 1825                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. JACQUIER stressed this legislation is economically unsound.  At           
 the root, it is quite simply and quite transparently to penalize              
 Alaskans who do not share the sponsor's personal religious                    
 convictions.  As such, this legislation is mean-spirited, small-              
 minded, and shortsighted.  This pending legislation has been widely           
 discussed on the Internet computer news groups.  That is just one             
 of the many news groups which has been discussing HB 226, and has             
 a daily readership of over 45,000 people nationwide.                          
                                                                               
 MR. JACQUIER said across the United States, people are definitely             
 watching to see whether the Alaska State legislature will endorse             
 a measure that creates special privilege.  The late George Orwell,            
 if faced with HB 226, might have said, "All Alaskans are equal, but           
 some are more equal than others."                                             
                                                                               
 MR. JACQUIER stated that the actions of HESS Committee members on             
 this bill will have direct consequences on the degree to which it             
 can be truthfully said that all men and women are equal in Alaska,            
 not only in the sight of God, but under the law of the land.  HESS            
 Committee members' actions on this bill will also impact the                  
 perceptions of Alaska in the Lower 48, for good or ill.  The state            
 can realistically expect that perception to be reflected in the               
 dollars that flow toward or away from Alaska.                                 
                                                                               
 MR. JACQUIER urged HESS Committee members to vote no on this                  
 horrible piece of legislation.                                                
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE closed teleconference testimony, making it listen-             
 only.  He also acknowledged the presence of Representative Brice,             
 who arrived at the meeting at 10:15 a.m.                                      
                                                                               
 Number 1888                                                                   
                                                                               
 PAM NEAL, President, Alaska State Chamber of Commerce (SCC), said             
 she could not tell HESS Committee members how much she did not want           
 to be before them.  She did not want to sound mean-spirited or                
 prejudiced.  The position of the SCC is purely economic.  She                 
 cannot stress that strongly enough.  The SCC feels the state may              
 suffer some economic impact from the position it is taking.                   
 However, the fact is that the number one priority of the SCC for              
 this legislative session and for many past legislative sessions has           
 been a reduction in state spending.  The budget issue is very, very           
 critical to the SCC.  It is business that pays the taxes that keep            
 the state afloat.                                                             
                                                                               
 MS. NEAL said it is business that sees the costs of state spending            
 outstripping the revenues.  Something has got to give.  Therefore,            
 the number one priority of the SCC is to reduce state spending by             
 5 percent each year until a sustainable level is reached, and the             
 revenue is balanced.                                                          
                                                                               
 MS. NEAL said because of that, the SCC has a fear that should the             
 state be extending benefits to unmarried partners, there will be a            
 significant added cost to state employment.                                   
                                                                               
 Number 2026                                                                   
                                                                               
 MS. NEAL said the other problem the SCC has is if the court has               
 determined that it is unlawful to deny benefits based on marital              
 status at the state level, how long will it be before there is a              
 suit brought against a private employer within the state of Alaska            
 because benefits were denied?  If it is unconstitutional, it is               
 unconstitutional.  If it is illegal, it is illegal.  The SCC knows,           
 regardless of what the attorneys say now about who falls under the            
 court decision and who does not, it is only a matter of time.                 
                                                                               
 MS. NEAL said the SCC has a concern that private employers will               
 fall under this.  The result will be that benefits will be denied             
 to anyone but the employee.   Those employers who are presently               
 providing benefits for spouses or dependents will have to cease to            
 do so.  That is a real concern for the SCC.  It will widen the gap            
 between the opportunity for private employers to access the                   
 employment pool.                                                              
                                                                               
 MS. NEAL shared that yesterday her wonderful secretary gave Ms.               
 Neal notice because she had procured a state job.  Ms. Neal cannot            
 compete with the benefits the state provides.  The extension of               
 benefits may only serve to widen that gap.                                    
                                                                               
 MS. NEAL could not stress strongly enough that the SCC is                     
 completely neutral on the moral issue that is clouding HB 226.  The           
 concern of the SCC is purely economic.  It is in fear of what the             
 extension of benefits is going to do to the employment pool for               
 private employers, and it fears what that will do to the increasing           
 costs for the state budget.                                                   
                                                                               
 Number 2105                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked Ms. Neal if she has any statistics on           
 how many private businesses that are part of the chamber provide              
 health benefits.                                                              
                                                                               
 MS. NEAL said that was a vast majority.                                       
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked how many of those then also provide             
 health benefits to family members.                                            
                                                                               
 MS. NEAL answered that was also a very strong majority.                       
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked if those numbers were documented, and           
 if HESS Committee members could get copies of those numbers.                  
                                                                               
 MS. NEAL said that information was not documented, but she knew               
 what companies belong to the chamber.  The SCC represents probably            
 all of the major employers in the state.                                      
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked if Ms. Neal knew if any of those                
 companies provided any sort of domestic partnership benefits.                 
                                                                               
 MS. NEAL did not have any information on that.  It has always been            
 up to the employer as to whom it provided benefits.  If the                   
 repercussions of this legal decision falls on private employers,              
 many of them will simply quit providing benefits to those other               
 than the employee.                                                            
                                                                               
 Number 2155                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked if the SCC understands that the court           
 case decision does not affect private employers at all.  Right now,           
 the decision clearly only affects the university.                             
                                                                               
 MS. NEAL said she had heard testimony during the hearing on both              
 sides, that the decision both impacts and does not impact private             
 employers.  Ms. Neal asked who to believe.  However, the position             
 of the SCC is that if the court has determined through case law               
 that it is discrimination, then it will only be a matter of time              
 before someone sues a private employer for discrimination.  It has            
 already been determined that the practice is discriminatory.                  
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON noted that the courts have come up with two           
 very easy remedies to that problem.  Ms. Neal was not aware of                
 those remedies.  Representative Robinson said the court decision              
 has clearly outlined two possible remedies.  If there was to be a             
 lawsuit against a private company, which has not happened at the              
 moment, there are two very clear options presented.  The first is             
 that the private industry could offer benefits only to the                    
 employee.  If it is desired that others are to be covered, the                
 employee would have to pay for this.                                          
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said the other option is the inclusion of             
 a domestic partnership agreement within the agency.                           
                                                                               
 Number 2220                                                                   
                                                                               
 MS. NEAL said once again, the concern of the SCC is that it does              
 recognize that private employers can only provide benefits to                 
 employees and no one else.  The problem with that, as Ms. Neal                
 expressed, is that there is already a gap between the salaries and            
 benefits of the state versus those of the private industry.                   
 Government has gone into competition with private business by                 
 paying benefits that private industry cannot match.                           
                                                                               
 MS. NEAL said if domestic partnership agreements are added, the gap           
 is being widened.  The pool that private sector employers can draw            
 from is what is left after the state has taken who they want.                 
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked if the SCC would feel differently if            
 it saw studies that clearly showed minimal impact.  There are                 
 studies to this effect.  There is a study out of Seattle which                
 indicates that out of 10,000 employees, there was only a very small           
 increase in enrollment and absolutely no increase in premium rates            
 for insurance when domestic partners were included in the benefits            
 package.                                                                      
                                                                               
 MS. NEAL said in that area and in that arena, that minimal impact             
 may be the case.  However, there is no data which shows what is               
 going to happen in the future.   The bottom line is, the SCC does             
 not want its businesses to be made any more noncompetitive than               
 they already are.                                                             
                                                                               
 Number 2295                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE noted the information from AETNA indicates rates               
 would go up 2 percent, conservatively speaking.  Perhaps it would             
 go up an additional 1 percent each year.  Those are certainly small           
 numbers.  Co-Chair Bunde does not have much experience in private             
 industry.  However, 2 percent of a large amount can be a large                
 amount.  He asked what kind of impact that would have on a                    
 company's bottom line.                                                        
                                                                               
 MS. NEAL said if those figures are spread across the board,                   
 industrywide, there are some companies who would not fall into that           
 percentage at all.  Perhaps the company does not employ someone who           
 would apply for domestic partner benefits.  The companies who do              
 have many people applying for those benefits are going to have a              
 higher percentage.  The AETNA statistics show an average, across              
 the board percentage.  Some employers are going to be significantly           
 impacted, and the SCC does not know from those figures how their              
 companies are going to be impacted overall.                                   
                                                                               
 TAPE 95-37, SIDE B                                                            
 Number 000                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said most employers are not eligible for a               
 group insurance policy.  There are programs of insurance policies             
 that are available to them.  The individual coverages required are            
 simply commercially evaluated and charged accordingly.  Small                 
 businesses can join larger associations and participate in group              
 insurance policies.  Usually the rule there is that the individual            
 risk of each applicant, not each employer, but each employee, is              
 evaluated, and the employer is billed for that coverage.                      
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said from the private sector side, he is not             
 aware of any "pool" a person can jump into to spread the risk.                
 Every employer would bear the individual exposure.                            
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE KELLY said his office has been in contact with                 
 AETNA, and he wanted to note that the figures read by Co-Chair                
 Toohey from AETNA were estimates.  That was the one clear thing               
 Representative Kelly got out of AETNA, that those figures are rough           
 estimates.  This area is so new, the insurance company just does              
 not know what the impact is going to be.                                      
                                                                               
 Number 098                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE KELLY added for the record that Representative                 
 Robinson was referring to a study.  The AETNA figures are an                  
 estimate, not a study.  He does not know that he has studies on               
 figures, but there are estimates.  The word is that the estimates             
 are extremely rough.                                                          
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE closed public testimony on the bill as it stands.              
 He asked Representative Robinson to introduce her amendment.                  
                                                                               
 Number 149                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON moved amendment number one, and there was             
 an objection for the purposes of discussion.  Representative                  
 Robinson said she feels very strongly regarding the fact that the             
 legislature should not be doing anything to erode the human rights            
 laws at this point.  She would prefer it if the committee would               
 simply vote the bill down.  However, if the bill is going to be               
 moved, she would like the HESS Committee members to pass her                  
 amendment.                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON stressed that she did not "dream up" this             
 amendment.  She tried to see what the judge's opinion was in the              
 case of Tumeo-Wattum v. the University of Alaska.  The judge                
 clearly presents two options.  One of those options is to eliminate           
 spouses from the definition of dependents.  That would require                
 only the employee gets any benefits.  That would be a major cost              
 savings to the state, if the state is really concerned about money.           
 However, that is not an option Representative Robinson would                  
 prefer.                                                                       
                                                                               
 Number 253                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said the second option presented by the               
 judge was to rewrite the plan to state that dependents to whom the            
 employee provides the majority of financial support include                   
 "spousal equivalents."  Again, this is not something Representative           
 Robinson came up with.  The legislature recognizes spousal                    
 equivalents as people who have shared financial obligations and               
 responsibilities by requiring them to submit ethics disclosure                
 reports.  This is already in the state laws.                                  
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON also looked into issues regarding common-             
 law marriage.  Representative Vezey in the past has inquired about            
 whether Alaska had a provision recognizing common-law marriages in            
 this state.  Representative Robinson found out Alaska definitely              
 does not recognize common-law marriages.  She also found out that             
 14 other states and the District of Columbia have recognized                  
 common-law marriages.  Common-law marriage is defined as people who           
 represent themselves as married.                                              
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said the common-law marriage laws have been           
 around since the 1900s.  Even Alaska looked at these laws in 1961             
 and 1962.  However, the state determined not to move forward at               
 that time.                                                                    
                                                                               
 Number 356                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON continued that "domestic partners" have               
 been around for a long time.  Palimonies and related issues have              
 been brought up in lawsuits for many years.  In addition, many                
 people have been presented with the kinds of studies that have                
 taken place.  The University of Iowa and the city of Seattle, the             
 states of Massachusetts, Vermont and New York, 50 other cities and            
 60 other universities offer benefits to domestic partners.                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said therefore, this is not something that            
 she is bringing forward that is unusual and new.  This is simply              
 recognizing that things change.  There was a time when the state              
 paid female teachers less than it paid male teachers.  This was               
 because it was felt that women were not the main providers for                
 their families.  It took laws and lawsuits to basically change                
 that.  It would have cost the state more money if the state was               
 currently facing those issues.                                                
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON contended that her amendment just brings              
 more people under the health insurance plans.  Most people would              
 agree this is important to do.  Those added constitute a very small           
 percentage, about 2 to 3 percent of people would qualify.  All the            
 studies Representative Robinson has seen show that including                  
 domestic partners does not increase the insurance rate.  As far as            
 she is concerned, including domestic partners solves the problem              
 that the courts brought forward.                                              
                                                                               
 Number 479                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said the amendment primarily states that              
 two people can set up as domestic partners.  Two people are willing           
 to sign a contract that says they are in a life-long relationship             
 with a person.  Within the amendment, there is also a series of               
 criteria that must be met to show those people are planning on                
 staying in an indefinite relationship with one person.                        
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON conceded that the definition of                       
 "indefinite" is broad.  However, she pointed out that the divorce             
 rate in the United States is incredibly high.  Unfortunately, any             
 relationship is not always permanent.  She feels, however, that the           
 domestic partnership contract set about in the amendment will be              
 just as solid an agreement.  It is a way to be able to deal with              
 the lawsuit that is before the state.  It is also a way to stop               
 lawsuits because the human rights act is not going to be eroded.              
                                                                               
 Number 549                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON knows that Representative Kelly has                   
 contended that her amendment discriminates against people who have            
 no money.  Representative Robinson disagrees with that.  Anybody              
 can have and enter into a legally binding domestic partnership                
 agreement.  Representative Robinson went through the criteria posed           
 in her amendment.  She said anyone can jointly own a motor vehicle.           
 The amendment does not say that the motor vehicle has to be a                 
 $30,000 car.  It only has to be a car.  Many people have cars.  It            
 is important to remember that everyone involved by the bill has to            
 be employed.                                                                  
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON again stressed that only employed people              
 are affected by this bill.  The bill does not affect unemployed               
 people.  Representative Robinson offered to take HESS Committee               
 members through all the provisions of the amendment, however, she             
 thought they may want to read for themselves.                                 
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said the amendment contains ten criteria,             
 of which five must be met to establish domestic partnership.  She             
 feels adopting the amendment would be the better route to go if HB            
 226 is to be passed out of committee.  Representative Robinson felt           
 it was also important to note that the Alaska Supreme Court has               
 already decided two cases involving discrimination based on marital           
 status.  The first issue involved landlords who were unwilling to             
 rent to unmarried couples.                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON had some very real fears that HB 226 was              
 looking to eroding the human rights act supported in those cases.             
                                                                               
 Number 647                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON had other concerns, and those concerns                
 matched those of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) in that the HRC            
 would only support HB 226 if it was clearly defined as pertaining             
 to health insurance benefits only.  As the bill is currently                  
 written, Representative Robinson does not think the bill has yet              
 been narrowed.  Right now, it affects all benefits.  Even the HRC             
 felt the bill needed to affect health insurance benefits only.                
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON held up a large, perhaps four-inch stack of           
 Personal Opinion Messages and letters from people requesting that             
 her amendment be brought forward.  She said these requests and                
 statements against HB 226 as it now stands is her reason for                  
 introducing the amendment.                                                    
                                                                               
 Number 721                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY stated he felt the amendment was terrible.  He           
 said to adopt the amendment and eventually put it into law would be           
 essentially codifying common-law marriages in Alaska.                         
                                                                               
 Number 742                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE KELLY commented that he has some concerns about the            
 amendment above and beyond the discrimination issues.  The                    
 amendment does discriminate against people based on economic                  
 status.  In addition, in Representative Robinson's own words,                 
 anyone can sign a domestic partnership agreement.  Anyone can buy             
 an old junk car.  That is the problem.  Representative Kelly did              
 not want just anyone latching onto the employment benefits of the             
 state or private industry.                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE KELLY said that is why the amendment is a bad                  
 amendment, and the law passed down from the Superior Court was a              
 bad law.                                                                      
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE called for public testimony on the amendment.                  
                                                                               
 Number 798                                                                    
                                                                               
 DANIEL COLLISON, Vice President, Southeast Alaska Gay and Lesbian             
 Alliance (SEAGLA), said as HB 226 has made its way through House              
 committees, and its proponents have held that passage of the bill             
 will avert ruinous financial burden to the University of Alaska               
 Health Care plan.  At this committee's last hearing, Mr. Collison             
 presented testimony which showed those economic concerns were                 
 groundless.                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. COLLISON summarized that previous testimony.  He said nearly              
 200 businesses, universities and public agencies now extend                   
 domestic partner benefits to their employees.  There is no instance           
 of domestic partner benefits ever proving to be an onerous burden             
 to a health care plan.  Overwhelmingly, the evidence suggests the             
 opposite.  When domestic partners are added to these plans,                   
 enrollment edges up by only 2 to 5 percent.  Health care plans                
 typically see trifling cost increases of between 1 and 3 percent.             
                                                                               
 Number 864                                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. COLLISON continued that in most cases, health insurance                   
 premiums remain the same.  At present, the debate has focused on              
 the economic impact of domestic partner benefits on health care               
 plans.  Committee members would be wiser to explore the economic              
 impact on the state of Alaska in the form of Medicaid costs of                
 indigent citizens if the Robinson amendment does not pass.                    
                                                                               
 MR. COLLISON asked HESS Committee members to imagine for a moment             
 the following scenario involving an unmarried couple with no                  
 legally recognized domestic partner status.  One partner, Tom,                
 receives health benefits through the University of Alaska (his                
 employer).  The second partner, Mary, is self-employed and carries            
 no medical insurance.  Imagine that Mary incurs a catastrophic                
 medical bill.  The hospital where Mary lies recuperating and the              
 physicians who treated Mary expect payment even if Mary has no                
 assets to cover the bills.                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. COLLISON said in the end, the state of Alaska will cover Mary's           
 bills in the form of Medicaid reimbursements.                                 
                                                                               
 Number 929                                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. COLLISON now asked HESS Committee members to imagine instead              
 that Mary was insured with domestic partner benefits through Tom's            
 employer, the University of Alaska.  Mary's monthly premiums might            
 perhaps cost several hundred dollars.  The state of Alaska would be           
 the unacknowledged beneficiary of Mary's domestic partner coverage.           
 Mary's domestic partner benefits protect the state of Alaska from             
 shouldering yet another Medicaid claim figuring into the tens of              
 thousands of dollars.                                                         
                                                                               
 MR. COLLISON said a vote for the Robinson amendment is a vote for             
 fiscal responsibility.  Support for the amendment affirms the                 
 principle that sound health care plans depend on many individuals             
 sharing the risks of health care costs.  The amendment allows more            
 Alaskans to contribute to the cost of the university health care              
 plan.                                                                         
                                                                               
 MR. COLLISON concluded by saying a vote against the amendment is a            
 vote for higher Medicaid costs.  In effect, the HESS Committee                
 members would be accepting liability for the medical costs of                 
 indigent domestic partners.  Mr. Collison urged the adoption of the           
 Robinson amendment.                                                           
                                                                               
 Number 996                                                                    
                                                                               
 MARGARET BERCK, Attorney, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU),              
 Alaska Chapter, said she has practiced law in Juneau since 1976.              
 The ACLU is in support of the Robinson amendment if the committee             
 is interested in passing HB 226.  Ms. Berck asked to respond to               
 Representative Vezey's assertions that the Robinson amendment would           
 establish common-law marriage in Alaska.                                      
                                                                               
 MS. BERCK prefaced her remarks by informing HESS Committee members            
 that she has practiced a considerable amount of domestic and family           
 relations law in Juneau since 1976.  Representative Vezey is                  
 correct that spouses are entitled to one-third of their mate's                
 estate under what was referred to "in the old days" as "the Widow's           
 share" or the "elected share."  In other words, if Ms. Berck had a            
 will that left all her property to Representative Vezey, Ms.                  
 Berck's husband would be able to claim one-third of that estate.              
                                                                               
 MS. BERCK said the heirship was forced.  One cannot divulge him or            
 herself of his/her entire estate without the spouse being left a              
 percentage of that estate.  The living spouse can waive their                 
 elective share.  Those kinds of benefits that have been part of the           
 English common law for centuries would not be affected by this                
 bill.                                                                         
                                                                               
 Number 1125                                                                   
                                                                               
 MS. BERCK said if she and her husband write wills and then have a             
 child, that afterborn child, in some states, is entitled to take a            
 percentage of the estate because the policy makers of the state               
 have assumed the parents would have wanted to leave that child                
 something.                                                                    
                                                                               
 Number 1153                                                                   
                                                                               
 MS. BERCK said spouses like herself would continue to have a                  
 tremendous advantage both in the economic partnership and in other            
 aspects.  For example, the forced heirship, the widow's share                 
 (a.k.a. the spouse's elected share), etc., have been recognized by            
 the court system in Juneau as little as five years ago.  It may               
 sound like an archaic law, but it is in effect today.  Ms. Berck              
 was involved in a case in which the husband sexually abused his               
 child, and the mother/wife reported the abuse.  The husband made              
 out a new will, leaving all his property to his father and then               
 committed suicide.                                                            
                                                                               
 MS. BERCK represented the wife in that case.  She obtained her one-           
 third share of that estate.  If that woman had been involved in a             
 domestic partnership or a common-law marriage, she would have been            
 entitled to nothing.  Ms. Berck has also represented domestic                 
 partners in what Representative Robinson referred to as "palimony             
 suits."  It is correct that Alaska does not recognize common-law              
 marriages.  However, if there are financial relationships, the best           
 those people can get out is the cash they put in.                             
                                                                               
 MS. BERCK recounted some cases in the Alaska Supreme Court in which           
 a person involved in a domestic partnership put up $10,000 to buy             
 a condo in Hawaii.  Five years later, the condo was worth five                
 times the amount paid for it originally.  A spouse would get a much           
 nicer share of that.  The domestic partner got back only her                  
 $10,000.                                                                      
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said that would depend on who the domestic               
 partner's attorney was.                                                       
                                                                               
 MS. BERCK countered that there is an Alaska Supreme Court decision            
 that stipulates when domestic partnerships are untangled, the only            
 amount of money one can take out is the cash that was put in.  If             
 the two people are married, and the wife stays at home while the              
 husband works and has a successful business, the wife has equitable           
 interest in that money.  Domestic partners enjoy no such equity               
 that is recognized by the courts.  That is an Alaska Supreme Court            
 decision.  Whether your attorney finds that decision or not is a              
 point to take into consideration.  However, that is the law of the            
 state of Alaska as it exists right now.  That law cannot be                   
 bypassed, as long as the courts are aware of the Alaska Supreme               
 Court decision.                                                               
                                                                               
 Number 1302                                                                   
                                                                               
 MS. BERCK said she believes it is legally incorrect to conclude               
 that the domestic partnership definition and standards to be                  
 applied by employers in allotting benefits to employees would go so           
 far as to create common-law marriages.  There would still be 146              
 statutes to which Mr. Owens referred that set up people who are               
 involved in marital relationships on a completely different level,            
 with completely different rights, and often with much greater                 
 rights.                                                                       
                                                                               
 MS. BERCK concluded that she felt the criteria and standards set up           
 in the amendment seem to be drawn from real life experiences.  When           
 people are involved in an economic and loving relationship, these             
 criteria are feasible.  Ms. Berck spoke of a case in which a couple           
 had lived together for many years, and that couple met all the                
 criteria.  The criteria, therefore, is compatible with what happens           
 in real life.  In addition, the criteria would reasonably and                 
 fairly cull out those frivolous relationships which the state would           
 not want employers to be responsible for.                                     
                                                                               
 Number 1398                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE TOM BRICE wondered if there was any testimony up in            
 Fairbanks on the amendment.  Co-Chair Bunde decided that since                
 those people already testified, he was going to take testimony from           
 Juneau first.                                                                 
                                                                               
 Number 1415                                                                   
                                                                               
 SUSAN HARGIS, Representative, SEAGLA, said SEAGLA opposes HB 226              
 unless the Robinson amendment is attached.  This bill was presented           
 as an issue of cost to the state.  Extensive materials supplied to            
 HESS Committee members have shown that these fears are unfounded.             
 Employers both larger and smaller than the state of Alaska have               
 provided benefits to domestic partners without adverse cost impact.           
                                                                               
 MS. HARGIS noted since the issue of cost has been thoroughly                  
 addressed and dispelled, SEAGLA urges HESS Committee members to               
 either drop the bill or amend it to include the Robinson amendment.           
 This amendment sets forth strict guidelines which will clearly                
 separate true domestic partnerships from frivolous claims.  It has            
 worked in other areas without a "rush" of people signing up for               
 benefits.                                                                     
                                                                               
 MS. HARGIS was puzzled as to why there is a perception that in                
 Alaska, people will rush to jump on the public dole.  Ms. Hargis              
 did not feel that would happen.  Ms. Hargis said that the exclusion           
 of amendment one would result in fewer children and families                  
 covered by health care, and they will be more likely to end up on             
 state support if they have no other health care options.                      
                                                                               
 MS. HARGIS said SEAGLA further believes that passage of HB 226                
 without the Robinson amendment clearly sets up discrimination on              
 the basis of marital status.  That will continue to be contested in           
 court.  SEAGLA urged HESS Committee members to stop this bill and             
 focus on matters of greater importance to Alaskans.                           
                                                                               
 Number 1486                                                                   
                                                                               
 MARSHA BUCK, Chairman, Parents, Friends and Families of Lesbians              
 and Gays (PFLAG) of Juneau, has submitted a position paper in                 
 opposition to the bill.  Ms. Buck said PFLAG would like to go on              
 record as supporting the Robinson amendment.  The amendment removes           
 the discrimination that would prohibit the sons and daughters of              
 PFLAG members to be in long-term, committed partnerships and                  
 receive benefits.                                                             
                                                                               
 MS. BUCK said her daughter and the daughter's partner live in                 
 Oregon, where her daughter's partner works as a teaching assistant            
 while working on her master's at Oregon State University.  Ms.                
 Buck's daughter is covered under her partner's health insurance.              
 That has been extremely helpful, particularly at a time when her              
 daughter was looking for employment when the couple first moved to            
 the university.  At that time, the daughter had difficulty with               
 allergies and needed medical care.  The care was crucial at that              
 time.                                                                         
                                                                               
 MS. BUCK said at Oregon State, her daughter's coverage depends on             
 two pieces of documentation out of a possible five.  The Robinson             
 amendment calls for five pieces of documentation out of a possible            
 ten.  At Oregon State, the five pieces of documentation include a             
 joint checking account, a lease or rental agreement in both names,            
 health care power of attorney, and beneficiary designation on a               
 life insurance policy or a will.  Those are the five criteria, and            
 her daughter and her partner had to show two of those five.                   
                                                                               
 MS. BUCK added that at Oregon State, her daughter had to show                 
 financial dependency over six continuous months.  If such a time              
 provision were added to the Robinson amendment, perhaps that would            
 address the concerns of Representative Kelly about possible                   
 frivolity in establishing partnerships.                                       
                                                                               
 Number 1560                                                                   
                                                                               
 MS. BUCK noted the Robinson amendment is more restrictive than the            
 provisions in Oregon, and the system has been found to be workable            
 in Oregon, a state which is experiencing more financial difficulty            
 than Alaska.  The Oregon provisions have not caused undue financial           
 stress on the state of Oregon.                                                
                                                                               
 Number 1591                                                                   
                                                                               
 SARAH BOESSER, Representative, Committee for Equality, supports the           
 Robinson Amendment with the clarification that HB 226 should only             
 address health benefits in accordance with the Human Rights                   
 Commission's wishes.                                                          
                                                                               
 MS. BOESSER asked to correct a misconstruction of the amendment               
 that Representative Kelly has made in the past.  Representative               
 Kelly has wrongly implied that the amendment would discriminate               
 against possible domestic partners on the basis of their economic             
 status.  He could not be more wrong.  Far from discriminating on a            
 financial basis, a domestic partnership can be formalized at no               
 cost, while a marriage license actually costs $25.                            
                                                                               
 Number 1620                                                                   
                                                                               
 MS. BOESSER said the Robinson amendment, also known as amendment              
 one, lists ten potential criteria.  To be qualified, a person must            
 meet at least five of those criteria.  Six of the criteria are                
 completely free.  Ms. Boesser spoke to each criteria.  Entering               
 into a legally binding domestic partnership agreement is free.                
 Being designated as a primary beneficiary of life insurance is                
 free.  Being designated as a primary beneficiary of retirement                
 benefits is free.  Being designated as the beneficiary of a will is           
 free.                                                                         
                                                                               
 MS. BOESSER continued that being named under a durable health care            
 or property power of attorney is free; having a co-parenting                  
 agreement is free.  Six criteria, all at no cost.  Therefore,                 
 protests that this amendment might economically discriminate                  
 against anyone should be firmly disregarded.                                  
                                                                               
 MS. BOESSER said the remaining four criteria have little cost.                
 Opening a joint checking account can be done for as little as five            
 dollars.  Adding a partner's name to a lease or deed can be free.             
 Ownership of cars can incur with just a little paperwork, if one              
 partner has a car.  And, for people with credit, adding another               
 person to an account or a liability is not an expense.  Any                   
 employee could meet at least five with little or no money.                    
                                                                               
 MS. BOESSER noted that however, that doesn't necessarily lead to              
 Representative Kelly's statement that just anyone can enter into a            
 domestic partnership agreement.  When one looks at the studies that           
 have been done and notes the 1 to 3 percent increase in policy                
 enrollment, one can deduce that even though it is free to enter               
 into a domestic partnership, it takes people willing to commit to             
 each other to pick up the tab and to support each other                       
 financially.  This is not something people take lightly.                      
                                                                               
 MS. BOESSER concluded that when two people are committed to one               
 another, one partner would like to be able to provide the other               
 with benefits.  The amendment is good, and it should be welcomed by           
 HESS Committee members because it will guarantee that more people             
 will be paying for health care and fewer people will be on                    
 Medicaid.  This amendment does not challenge the institution of               
 marriage because all it grants is health benefits.  In addition,              
 extensive research shows there is no economic impact in other                 
 states.                                                                       
                                                                               
 MS. BOESSER said most importantly, by passing this amendment the              
 human rights act is not being "gutted."  She asked HESS Committee             
 members to please pass amendment one.  Without the amendment, HB              
 226 should die.                                                               
                                                                               
 Number 1734                                                                   
                                                                               
 MARY GRAHAM said she has agreed with previous testimony.  She is on           
 record as completely opposing HB 226 if the Robinson amendment is             
 not included.  She urged support for the amendment.  Ms. Graham is            
 especially concerned about the human rights act.  Any law that                
 begins with an exception to the human rights act opens the door for           
 more exceptions.                                                              
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE KELLY asked to comment on Ms. Boesser's testimony.             
 Mr. Tumeo, who crafted the Robinson amendment, wrote to                       
 Representative Kelly that the whole idea of the amendment was to              
 keep domestic partnerships from being frivolous.  Representative              
 Kelly's problem with the amendment is not that it is strictly                 
 economic.  However, in the places where the amendment is not                  
 economic, it is frivolous.  Where it is not frivolous, it is                  
 economic.                                                                     
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE KELLY said those ten criteria include economic                 
 criteria.  But the other criteria included do not prevent the                 
 claims from being frivolous.  Ms. Boesser said that signing a                 
 domestic partnership agreement has no cost, and designating someone           
 as a beneficiary has no cost.  That is true, those things do not              
 have any cost.  But because they are so easy to do, and anyone can            
 do them, they do not prevent having people attach themselves to               
 state employees to get the medical benefits.  Therefore, the costs            
 will increase.                                                                
                                                                               
 Number 1827                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said right now, people who get state                  
 benefits do not have to sign anything that says they are married.             
 HESS Committee members may be surprised if they do not think people           
 who are not legally married are not taking advantage of the state's           
 benefit system.  An employee does not have to sign at the dotted              
 line that they are married.  Representative Robinson knows of                 
 couples who have chosen not to get married and who have had                   
 children together.  Those partners are covered under the state                
 benefits system.                                                              
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said no where in the current state laws is            
 a mandate that makes a person state they are married.  Therefore,             
 the amendment would allow those people to come into compliance.               
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON also noted that the law says very clearly             
 that the domestic partners plan to live together indefinitely.                
 This is not saying frivolously that these two people plan on living           
 together temporarily.  The two people plan to stay in a long-term             
 partnership.                                                                  
                                                                               
 Number 1870                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY asked about a couple living together that has a               
 child.  If one partner is employed and is collecting benefits, she            
 asked if there was any problem with that child being covered under            
 benefits.                                                                     
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE assured Co-Chair Toohey that dependents are covered.           
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY asked if a dependent has a legal status as a                  
 dependent.                                                                    
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE said a dependent is a dependent whether marriage has           
 taken place or not.  Fathers and mothers are responsible for their            
 children.                                                                     
                                                                               
 Number 1916                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE KELLY conceded that Representative Robinson was                
 probably right, there probably are people throughout the state who            
 are not married and who are collecting benefits.  But there are               
 also people who continue to run stop signs.  It is not the state's            
 duty to now make running a stop sign legal because there are people           
 doing it.  Representative Kelly therefore does not think that is a            
 good reason to change the laws, just because people are not obeying           
 them.                                                                         
                                                                               
 Number 1949                                                                   
                                                                               
 TALMADGE W. BAILEY testified that HB 226 is a bad bill.  HB 226               
 seeks to bring the weight and authority of the state in alignment             
 with the prejudices of a special interest group.  The amendment               
 proposed by Representative Robinson makes HB 226 a better bill.               
 With the amendment, HB 226 would provide equal protection for all.            
 HB 226 is a bad bill.  As written, HB 226 would expose the state to           
 divisive and extraordinarily expensive litigation as gays,                    
 lesbians, or religious minorities defended themselves from this               
 attack on their personal liberties.                                           
                                                                               
 MR. BAILEY continued that Representative Robinson's amendment would           
 eliminate exposure to such litigation and therefore protect the               
 state treasury as well as the personal resources of persons such as           
 Mr. Bailey.                                                                   
                                                                               
 Number 1992                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. BAILEY said HB 226 is a hypocritical bill.  It seeks to make a            
 highly artificial distinction between very similar interpersonal              
 relationships.  In this day and age, many couples, married or                 
 otherwise, choose not to bring children into this overcrowded                 
 world.  At the same time, it is common for dual-income households             
 to choose the insurance plan from the employer that offers the best           
 plan.                                                                         
                                                                               
 MR. BAILEY questioned if the state will not then withhold benefits            
 from a childless employee seeking to enroll her husband in a state-           
 sponsored health plan, why should the state then seek to withhold             
 those same benefits from employees seeking a health care plan for             
 her life-time soulmate, who is helping raise her child.                       
 Representative Robinson's amendment makes HB 226 a better bill by             
 exercising this hypocracy from the bill.                                      
                                                                               
 MR. BAILEY said HB 226 is a discriminatory bill.  It discriminates            
 against two women because one is not a man, and it discriminates              
 against two men because one is not a woman.  It discriminates                 
 against the woman who has learned that marriage sometimes means               
 abuse, oppression or neglect.  Representative Robinson's amendment            
 makes HB 226 a better bill by strengthening anti-discrimination               
 statutes instead of gutting them.                                             
                                                                               
 MR. BAILEY said anti-discrimination statutes are not the place to             
 hide pro-discrimination rules.                                                
                                                                               
 Number 2049                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. BAILEY reminded everyone present that those companies,                    
 governments and educational institutions that have adopted domestic           
 partnership rules have not seen the dramatic cost increases that              
 the sponsor of HB 226 is using as a scare tactic.  In fact, if one            
 looks at companies such as Apple and Microsoft, one should assume             
 those companies are getting significant returns on the money.                 
 Microsoft and Apple, after all, did not get where they are today by           
 squandering their cash.  Those companies are in business to make              
 money.                                                                        
                                                                               
 MR. BAILEY asked what those businesses are buying with the money              
 they spend on domestic partnerships.  Perhaps they are only buying            
 freedom from costly and divisive lawsuits.  Perhaps they are buying           
 public relations "brownie points."  Mr. Talmadge likes to think               
 they are buying the precious commodities of employee loyalty,                 
 teamwork, and productivity.  Perhaps they may even feel obliged to            
 take responsibility for their employee's partners rather than                 
 allowing cost shifting to the public sector.                                  
                                                                               
 MR. BAILEY said whatever those companies are doing, in reality                
 those companies are buying a combination of "all of the above."               
 Therefore, the question is whether the legislature wants to                   
 squander money and time on divisive debate and litigation, or does            
 it want to make a small investment in the same things that large,             
 successful corporations are buying for themselves.                            
                                                                               
 Number 2131                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE asked people on teleconference to simply provide a             
 brief, clear indication of how they stand on the amendment.  He               
 called for their stance on the amendment.                                     
                                                                               
 MR. TUMEO said a scholar once said that legislation passed on                 
 exception always results in bad public policy.  Representative                
 Kelly has said to Mr. Tumeo that he is protecting a 5,000 year old            
 tradition, the tradition of marriage.  Mr. Tumeo added facetiously            
 that of course, everyone knows that no one has ever entered into a            
 marriage frivolously or just for benefit.                                     
                                                                               
 MR. TUMEO urged Representative Kelly not to wrap himself so quickly           
 in rhetoric.  Traditions also include slavery, prohibition of                 
 inter-faith and inter-racial marriages, and the tradition that                
 women are property.  Today's society has evolved and changed.  Many           
 families are vastly different than those that Representative Kelly            
 wants to honor.  Representative Robinson's amendment promotes                 
 equality and fairness.  Mr. Tumeo urged HESS Committee members to             
 adopt amendment one.                                                          
                                                                               
 Number 2177                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE called for the positions of Ms. Burleson, Mr.                  
 Travis, Ms. Wattum, and Ms. McClendon.  They all supported the                
 amendment.                                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. MILLER said the proposed amendment does not cut out all                   
 discrimination.  It just makes the bill less discriminatory.  It is           
 easier to get married, to pay $25 for a license, than to spend                
 three days gathering documentation to establish a domestic                    
 partnership.  However, the amendment makes the bill better.                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE noted that all others on teleconference had departed           
 the meetings.  He asked for the opinion of Mr. Owens, who said he             
 only was asked to stand by to answer questions.  Co-Chair Bunde               
 closed public discussion on the amendment.                                    
                                                                               
 Number 2223                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY pointed out that while looking through                   
 amendment one, to which he again stated he is opposed, he noted               
 that he has numerous business relationships with a number of                  
 different people.  Some of those relationships meet five of the               
 criteria listed in the amendment.  He still characterizes the                 
 amendment as codifying, to a limited extent, common-law marriages             
 in Alaska.                                                                    
                                                                               
 Number 2246                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked Representative Vezey if he plans on             
 living with those business associates indefinitely in a domestic              
 partner relationship.                                                         
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said that was not a mandatory provision.                 
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE noted that it certainly was a mandatory                  
 provision, under Section 8 of the amendment.  Representative Vezey            
 apologized for his mistake.                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON noted that the amendment calls for the                
 fulfillment of five criteria, plus the assurance of an indefinite             
 partnership with the partner.                                                 
                                                                               
 Number 2269                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE clarified that the first three requirements in           
 amendment one are mandatory.  Then, five of the ten criteria under            
 (4) must be met on top of meeting the first three requirements.               
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE KELLY asked Mr. Owens if a contract is binding if              
 the contract refers to how people intend to act.  He asked if a               
 contract stipulating intentions is meaningless.                               
                                                                               
 TAPE 95-38, SIDE A                                                            
 Number 000                                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. OWENS said the amendment calls for a contractual relationship.            
 Under the law, people form or agree to be bound to a contract and             
 can always amend that contract to agree to be unbound.  It takes              
 the same level of activity to break the contract as it does to make           
 a contract.                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. OWENS said if two people agree to buy and sell a car, those two           
 people can, five minutes later, agree to not buy and sell the car.            
 The contract is broken in the same way it was made.                           
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE KELLY asked if there was anything different about              
 the requirements of a marriage contract that make it more difficult           
 to break, as opposed to the domestic partner relationship                     
 agreement.                                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. OWENS answered that under Alaskan law, marriage is a legally              
 protected relationship that involves more than contracts.                     
                                                                               
 Number 109                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE KELLY asked Mr. Owens to speculate, and asked if he            
 would be justified in thinking that if there was more of a                    
 requirement for marriage contract between two people, and less of             
 a requirement for a domestic partnership contract, would it be to             
 a person's advantage to always choose a domestic partnership                  
 agreement, because it would always be an advantage to enter into a            
 contract that is less binding.                                                
                                                                               
 MR. OWENS said that would indeed require speculation on his part.             
 His presence was requested to provide accurate, factual                       
 information.  He declined to answer Representative Kelly's                    
 question.                                                                     
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE KELLY said one of his fears with some of the                   
 requirements in the domestic partnership agreement as it pertains             
 to bank accounts, ownership of motor vehicles, etc., is that given            
 the current attitude of the court, the state could find itself in             
 situations involving racial discrimination lawsuits.  This would be           
 due to the fact that classes of people are set up in domestic                 
 partnerships.                                                                 
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE KELLY asked if the state could find itself in a                
 racial quandary if the courts chose to read the amendment as                  
 creating a racial boundary between a section of the population                
 which is traditionally not as economically well-off as another                
 portion of the population.                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. OWENS did not know.  The judicial activity in the intersection            
 between economics and race or class has really involved lending               
 institutions, financial institutions, their lending practices, and            
 what allegedly has been their systematic exclusion of certain                 
 racial groups from credit availability and other economic                     
 advantages that are extended to other groups.                                 
                                                                               
 MR. OWENS said whether or not such issues could "leak" over into              
 this particular area, Mr. Owens did not know.                                 
                                                                               
 Number 321                                                                    
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY was trying to follow Representative Kelly's line of           
 reasoning.  She thought the bill and the amendment pertain to                 
 people who are employed, not to unemployed people.  The amendment             
 speaks of a partnership in which an employed partner shares                   
 benefits with someone else.  Therefore, the amendment speaks to               
 people who, it is assumed, will have bank accounts, own a car, have           
 credit, etc.  Co-Chair Toohey did not think one could say these               
 people are being classified as indigent, poor, or anything else.              
 The amendment only addresses people who are employed.                         
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE KELLY understood, but he did not know how many                 
 assumptions should be made when making law.  In addition, the state           
 does not know how employee/employer relationships are going to be             
 changing over the years.  There may be situations in the future in            
 which employees are paid very little.  They may buy in because                
 health insurance benefits go with the job, although their salary is           
 poor.                                                                         
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE KELLY said those people may not necessarily be                 
 wealthy to afford those kinds of benefits.  Representative Kelly              
 also questioned whether once this criteria has been set up, can the           
 state now discriminate based on the fact that this domestic                   
 partnership agreement (Partnership A) has a child, and Partnership            
 B does not have a child?  Is partnership B going to sue the state,            
 or whoever, because the partnership with a child is getting more              
 benefits than the childless partnership?                                      
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE KELLY asked if a person who has five children could            
 sue because he/she is getting less benefits than the person who has           
 six children.  Does the person who is well now sue because he/she             
 is not getting the amount of benefits as a person who is sick?                
 Representative Kelly felt all those scenarios were possible under             
 the amendment.                                                                
                                                                               
 Number 457                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON summarized that she would prefer that HB              
 226 be voted down because it clearly guts the state human rights              
 law.  By adding in the domestic partner section the law becomes               
 more fair.  This is not a substitution for marriage.  It does not             
 provide the same rights and privileges bestowed on married people.            
 The amendment provides a remedy brought forward by the judge.  The            
 judge said the way the University of Alaska can solve their                   
 problems is by adding a domestic partnership act, and/or making a             
 determination that absolutely no one but the employee gets the                
 benefits.                                                                     
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON would personally rather allow people who              
 are employed to continue to provide family members with benefits.             
 She would like to correct problems by providing a domestic                    
 partnership act that clearly and specifically defines what has to             
 be done.  In addition, the amendment most importantly defines that            
 the couple continues to plan on being in a life-long, indefinite              
 relationship.                                                                 
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON hoped, if the bill had to move forward,               
 that the amendment would be added.  At another time Representative            
 Robinson would like to discuss with the sponsor whether or not he             
 clearly wants the bill to pertain to health insurance benefits.               
 Right now, the bill wraps up every benefit that state employee's              
 get.  She does not think that is what the HESS Committee wants to             
 do either.  However, clearly the Human Rights Commission does not             
 support this.                                                                 
                                                                               
 Number 590                                                                    
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY read a position paper from the Department of                  
 Administration into the record:                                               
                                                                               
 "HB 226 amends Alaska's discrimination law by clarifying that                 
 different retirement and health benefits may be provided to                   
 employees based on marital status.  The provision of this bill                
 reaffirms current state practices in extending health insurance               
 coverages only to employees, their spouses, and dependent children            
 as provided in AS 39.30.090(a)(2).                                            
                                                                               
 "The department supports the alignment of this statute with other             
 existing laws and current state practices."                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE reiterated that statistics have been provided which            
 speak of only 1 or 2 percent.  However, at a time when the                    
 legislature has asked the university to take a $4 million cut, 1              
 and 2 percent is a lot of money.  At the risk of echoing the                  
 position of the SCC, Co-Chair Bunde stated that his position is               
 based more on economics than lifestyles.                                      
                                                                               
 Number 680                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE noted that the legislators can give themselves           
 a 50 percent increase in per diem and keep a $9 million rollover              
 account "slush fund" in the legislature.                                      
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked HESS Committee members to remember              
 that under the university system, the employee who has other people           
 on their benefits program purchases and pays for those benefits.              
 If one was to look at how much money has been spent already on this           
 lawsuit, and how much more money is going to be spent to continue             
 the lawsuit, that amount far outweighs what it may cost the state             
 to allow for domestic partnerships, to settle the case, and do what           
 the judge suggested.                                                          
                                                                               
 Number 747                                                                    
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR BUNDE did not like to think that the judge runs the                  
 legislature.  He called for a vote on the amendment.  Voting "no"             
 on the passage of the amendment were Representatives Davis and                
 Vezey; voting "yes" were Co-Chair Bunde, Co-Chair Toohey,                     
 Representative Robinson and Representative Brice.  The amendment              
 passed.  Before the committee was HB 226 as amended.  Co-Chair                
 Bunde asked for the pleasure of the committee.                                
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY moved CSHB 226(HES) be passed out of committee           
 with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal notes.                
 There were no objections, and the bill passed.                                
                                                                               

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