Legislature(1995 - 1996)
05/05/1995 01:10 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HCS CSSB 87 - ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES: LOCAL OPTION & MISC. Number 450 JOE AMBROSE, Legislative Assistant to Senator Robin Taylor, bill sponsor, introduced HCS CSSB 87. This bill is an old friend that has been through the process twice. Last session it was known as SB 372, and was prompted by concerns over a lack of clarity in how local option elections are conducted, and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC) asked for legislation to clarify the process. Senate Bill 87 as you see it today is substantially the same as last year's legislation. The bill addresses the shortcomings in the current statute dealing with local option elections for which no provision is made for moving from one type of option to another. Under the current law, a community must first move to remove all restrictions on the sale or importation of alcoholic beverages, and then conduct a second vote on a new option. This burdensome process can cause confusion from municipalities and unincorporated villages alike. SB 87 was amended in the Community and Regional Affairs Committee and the Judiciary Committee to address specific concerns that were raised by local option communities. This bill has the support of the ABC Board and the chairman of the sponsoring committee. PATRICK SHARROCK, Director, Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, wanted to confirm that Teresa Williams of the Attorney Generals Office was on the teleconference, which she was. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN made a motion to adopt Version R of the CS as the working document. Seeing no objection, it was so ordered. Number 510 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked if it would be helpful if he described the difference between the CS and the bill that was transmitted to this committee. CHAIRMAN PORTER answered sure. REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY explained that the only change in this lengthy CS, Version R, is that we have added a new section 1 which is similar to the section 1 that came over in the Senate. It provides that, talking about the makeup of the board, that it leaves three members of the board to represent the general public. "A board member representing the general public or immediate family member of a board member representing the general public may not have any financial interest in the alcoholic beverage industry." In this section, "immediate family member" means a spouse, child, or parent." The only reason for that change was a concern by the sponsor of the bill that without a reference to the board, that the title would be incorrect, and we would have to go through a concurrent resolution to do a title change. He did not concur with that conclusion but he did not want to hold the bill up by trying to fight that battle at this time. MR. SHARROCK mentioned that the reason he asked if Teresa Williams was on the teleconference is because she was the assistant attorney general assigned to the board and she drafted this legislation, so she is a good reference. It is hard to believe that almost a year ago today, May 10, he was sitting before Representative Vezey's committee, the final committee of referral on this same piece of legislation. In that light, it would be fair to say that the difference between that and the version you have before you now, is the version that you have just accepted with the proposed amendment in it, and six other amendments that have found their way through the committee system on the Senate side, and two additional new provisions that the board requested be included in the bill in its current form. Substantially recognizing those things, this bill is identical to the legislation that was before the Senate and the House last year. The reason it is so thick is because when Teresa rewrote the local option provisions and the descriptions of those, and so forth, the citations were changed. With that, there was a necessity throughout current law to change those citations, so that makes up the bulk of why there are so many pages. MR. SHARROCK explained that the reason the board requested that the local option sections of the law be clarified, is because at one point, about a year and a half ago, the City of St. Mary's was trying to change from its current local option to another one, and there was litigation between the traditional council and the city as to how the elections should be handled and how it should proceed, and more currently, the same situation exists in Barrow. The judge there had determined that it is appropriate that the community wait for a year after it adopted the prohibition on (indisc.) importation that it adopted last October. That is not exactly the way it is described in the law, that they shall wait one year, but the intent was certainly there and that is what we had promoted all along, or understood the law to mean, and the judge upheld that. So there is that correction and provision in there too, to clarify for certain that after an election, either to remove it or to go to a lesser restrictive prohibition that the community must wait a minimum of 12 months and not hold an election more than once in 18 months. The whole idea of rewriting the local option provision was to clarify things like that and to put them in a form that is more understandable by the people who vote on those kinds of options in incorporated cities and villages, so they only have to hold one election to change or remove or adopt an option they want. MR. SHARROCK said there are other technical amendments, a few of which are somewhat new, that the board also suggested or desired. Those are insignificant in his mind, except maybe one that they had asked to be included in this version of the bill, which is a provision to convert restaurant licenses in the community if that restaurant business person wants to have entertainment. It does not create a new class of license, but allows a person to convert a beer and wine or restaurant license into what he refers to as a semi-tavern license. The reason the bill chose not to create a new license by regulation is because if it did, then that many more licenses would be available under the population limitation provisions and the board did not want to do that at all. The board thought it would be easier to address it under one class of license already. You may recall the Ciranos case the board had a year or so ago, and this is the board's proposed solution to that kind of thing, to help people out that run into that problem, that run a different sort of business that is not a full-fledged restaurant. He said the sectional analysis addresses the different things the board felt was appropriate. Number 600 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN asked what the outcome was of the Ciranos case. MR. SHARROCK answered that the proprietor submitted to the board what he believed was a sufficient menu for food to be served at the restaurant, which was somewhat expanded from what the board had looked at before, and the board accepted it. REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN asked what the current composition of the board was. MR. SHARROCK answered that, as required by law, there are two members from the industry. Number 650 EDITH NASHOALOOK, Assistant Health Educator, North Slope Borough (NSB), testified via teleconference from Barrow. She submitted written testimony as well: "My employment with the NSB started in 1983 as an advocate in the Arctic Women-in-Crisis. We dealt with a lot of alcohol related domestic violence, sexual abuse, elder abuse. In 1985, I transferred to Senior Citizens Program and I saw elder abuse due to alcohol and drug abuse. I transferred to Health Education in 1987 and have been there since. "I support amendments for making alcohol possession and importation a crime, a felony. "When the alcohol ban, making possession and importation illegal, first went into effect last year, I felt a sense of peace in our community. Children were happier and the domestic violence and other abuses were less evident in the Public Safety and also in the hospital. "Barrow residents voted to ban alcohol because it affects their way of life. Alcohol use in Barrow has been highly correlated with an increased domestic violence, crimes, accidents, mortality, suicides and job absenteeism. You wouldn't want your child, spouse or family member to be involved in domestic violence, in crimes, or have a serious accident or commit suicide - we do not want that for our families. We now know why those things happened in the past. The people of the NSB voted to ban alcohol because they did not want to increase the statistics that were already outrageously higher than the rest of the U.S. We want those statistics lower and nonexistent. "Residents that are not substance abusers are affected by these things too because we live in an isolated area. We are in close contact with each other on a daily basis at work and at school. We see co-workers who do not come in at all because of drinking, or co-workers who are victims of domestic violence related to substance abuse. This makes our jobs and our days hard. We do not want that anymore. "We need stiffer laws that make alcohol procession and importation a serious crime. Please support us in our efforts." Number 730 TOM NICOLOS testified via teleconference. He does not believe the problem with alcohol is alcohol itself. The problem with alcohol is the people who abuse alcohol. He felt it was taking a big step forward to increase laws for people who do just that, abuse alcohol. This legislation is needed, but portions of it are unfair and unjust, because they are heavily slanted toward one person's view. He was one of the ten people involved in the lawsuit regarding the Barrow election laws. As he recalled, the reason the judge ruled that Barrow could not have an election for a year was not because of the way the statute was written, but because the city council failed to overturn it. It did not fly in the face of common sense to have an election within less than a year, even though federal interpretation of the law said that we could. MR. NICOLOS brought up his bone of contention in the State Affairs Committee, and that is that an election would be held once a month to impose a restriction. But an election can only be held once a year through a restriction, and not more than once. He asked for clarification because he did not read the law that way. When it says you can have an election whenever, even though that may not fly in the face of common sense. That should be addressed. The people in this community who are opposed to prohibition worked very hard to submit a petition to the municipality to bring about another election. In Section 7, those petitions are swept aside needlessly. He asked the committee to please consider this bill carefully, that it be made fair and just to everyone, not just one group of people. REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY asked Mr. Nicolos if he would like to see alcohol back in Barrow. MR. NICOLOS said absolutely. He does not consider himself an abuser of alcohol. His consumption is not great, but he is extremely opposed to his freedom being restricted because of the actions of other people. Number 780 REVEREND JUDITH MCQUISTON testified via teleconference. She is a relatively new resident of Barrow. When she learned that importation and possession of alcohol is illegal on the North Slope, she wondered if it would work. She was really skeptical. After watching this community for the last few months, and hearing the comments of the helping professionals, she is impressed with what is happening. She believed it is a beginning, not an ending. She felt it to be an encouragement to the people of Barrow that needs to be supported. Importation of alcohol should be a felony crime. Today she sees the community having hope. We have seen some of the best and brightest young people having real problems because of alcohol consumption, and yet there is a prevailing hope that things can change and that our young people must have a better future. We need to continue that process. This is a long process, and not just something that is automatically resolved because they no longer have alcohol. The end result is that the penalty for possession and importation of alcohol is merely a slap on the wrist. She encouraged the possibility of creating a penalty that will make people think about whether or not they really want to do that. It is time to do some healing and provide some hope for our young people. Number 800 FRED KOPACZ, Coordinator, Mental Health Services, North Slope Borough, testified via teleconference. He has spent some time dealing with the effects of alcohol and alcohol abuse. He is surprised and pleased to see the effects of what this prohibition has done on the North Slope. He started off quite skeptical about whether or not we could achieve much by doing this. He is overwhelmed with the results of this. He felt that people gave up alcohol for the good of the community and we have seen an overwhelming community good. More families are coming to deal with the real issues. There is more attention being paid to our young people, and we are seeing more and more use of the professionals on the North Slope doing what they are trained at - getting people healed, rather than patching them up after bad episodes of drinking. He applauded the committee and hoped they would support the CS, because one of the things happening in Barrow is that the sanctions for not following the law are really too light. Hopefully, this bill will address some of that. When a community takes a step like this, we do no want that effort thwarted. The community of Barrow deserves to have this law enforced. REVEREND JAMES ROGHAIR, Presbyterian Church, testified via teleconference. He has been a pastor for eight years in Barrow and has seen some of the devastation that has come about from alcohol, and accidents, suicides, domestic violence, and people freezing to death. He is pleased with the changes that have taken place in Barrow since the alcohol ban took effect a few months ago. He has had the opportunity to read the whole draft and hoped that they had all read it more carefully than he had. He agreed with the idea of making bootlegging into a felony. When a community makes the decision to be alcohol free, then the community needs to have the tools to enforce that. If the fines for people disobeying the law are about the same price as the street value of a bottle of booze, then we would have the same... (tape ended) TAPE 95-57, SIDE B Number 000 REVEREND ROGHAIR continued, ... strengthen that a bit. He believed it would give the community a stronger hand because this is a community that is struggling as others are, for community health. There is a value to community decisions over individual freedom. That is something we in Alaska have to help the rest of the nation understand, especially in the small villages that have strong Native traditions where tribal values of community are very important. These communities need to be strengthened and some of the previous speakers are thinking about their own individual freedoms of course. They are speaking about another polarity, but it is important that we try to support community decision making. Number 040 MARK HAMLIN testified via teleconference. He is a 16 year resident of Barrow. His comments are focused on the fairness to all sides of the prohibition issue, and are not intended to speak to whether or not prohibition is good, but merely that all sides of the issue should have an equal shot about which way a community will go. He was concerned about the provisions in Title IV, which gives politicians with prohibition beliefs an unfair and unequitable advantage over voters, and sometimes even the majority who believes otherwise. SB 87 would take Title IV, which is already somewhat unfair, to the abuse of those whose rights are being restricted. Title IV does not provide equal treatment. It is abused by politicians who choose to promote their personal views over the majority. The current law allows prohibitionists to attempt to impose prohibition as often as the wish, but restricts those who wish to remove prohibition by trying to do so more than once every 12 months. This section of the law is unfair to the views of half of the voters in Alaska. He asked the committee to hold the bill over until next session, and make it fair to all of the voters. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked Mr. Hamlin if he is involved in the alcohol industry at all. MR. HAMLIN answered that he is not. He is a North Slope Borough employee. GREG DANJIN, 22 year Alaska resident, testified via teleconference. He has had dealings with alcohol as an individual and as a law enforcement officer. He dealt with more alcohol related deaths in Kotzebue than he ever did in Barrow. Trying to take the issue of possession of alcohol from a misdemeanor to a felony, everyone sees alcohol as the guy with the black hat sitting on the black horse out in front because he is the (indisc.) of the drug of choice, so to speak. They do not look at what is standing behind him. That is the guy in the white hat, the (indisc.) drugs. If you want to make possession a felony, then he suggested making the changes in the law for a misconduct involving a controlled substance 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. That (indisc.) should also be considered a felony. Why is it they have a choice on drugs when they are already controlled, and alcohol is not? REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY asked if we are imposing laws on the North Slope Borough, and Adak, et cetera, without their consent? Is any of this valid unless a community votes for this? A community must vote for this in order for it to become law, correct? CHAIRMAN PORTER said a community must vote for a repeal of alcohol from there. Number 280 MR. AMBROSE pointed out that in the packet there is a 1986 memo addressed to Governor Sheffield from the Attorney General. It deals with many of the issues in Barrow today. The local option provisions were questionable as far as the constitutionality, and the legislature at that time, chose not to go to a criminal offense for possession, because it is a serious constitutional question. This bill affects not just Barrow, but 115 local option communities in this state. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked if there was a deterrent for bootlegging. TERESA WILLIAMS, Assistant Attorney General, Department of Law, testified via teleconference. She said bootlegging is a class C felony under the current law. This could give you more than a year's prison term. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE wanted to refresh his memory as to what the maximum fine was for a class C felony. ANNE CARPENETI, Committee Aide, House Judiciary Committee, stated that a fine for a C felony is $50,000 for an individual, and $500,000 for an organization. SHARON M. NETH, Bethel, testified via teleconference. She had a question on page 21, Section 29 (b) and (c). It seems to be a contradiction, and she would like to see part (c) amended to be the same as part (b). CHAIRMAN PORTER asked Teresa Williams if she could answer that. MS. WILLIAMS answered that it had been a year since she had drafted the language. The distinction is between a municipality and an established village. In an established village, you would not necessarily have regular elections, and in a municipality, of course, you do. REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN offered Amendment Number 1: Page 2, line 7, following "industry.": Insert "A person who is employed in a program providing alcohol or substance abuse counseling or related services is not considered to have a financial interest in the alcoholic beverage industry." REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY objected and said that was not reasonable or necessary. We should not be adjudicating statutes as fine as this. REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN withdrew his amendment, and then offered Amendment Number 2, which just clarifies that you now have three public members and two members of the industry, and that in order to have a quorum you have to have at least two of those three public members. Otherwise you would have the circumstance where you would have a quorum which is actually made up of a majority of industry members. REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY objected. CHAIRMAN PORTER said he could not support the amendment because under this scenario, two members of the board could control the board by not being there. He requested a roll call vote. Representatives Finkelstein and Davis voted yes. Representatives Bunde, Vezey, Toohey, Green, and Porter voted no. Amendment Number 2 failed, two to five. REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN made a motion to move Amendment Number 3: Page 2, line 4, after "public.": Insert "One board member representing the general public shall also be or have been employed in the field of law enforcement or public safety." Page 37, line 8: Delete "sec. 79" Insert "sec. 80" Page 37, after line 15: Insert a new bill section to read: "Sec. 77. TRANSITION: BOARD MEMBERS. The amendments to AS 04.06.020 made by sec. 1 of this Act do not prevent a person who is serving as a member of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board on the effective date of this section from continuing to serve until the person's term expires. The Governor shall implement AS 04.06.020, as amended by sec. 1 of this Act, in making appointments after the effective date of this section." Page 37, line 18: Delete "secs. 77 and 78" Insert "secs. 78 and 79" There was objection and a roll call vote was taken. Representatives Finkelstein, Davis and Green voted yes. Representatives Toohey, Vezey, Bunde and Porter voted no. Amendment Number 3 failed three to four. REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN offered Amendment Number 4: Page 2, line 4, after "public.": Insert "One board member representing the general public shall also be employed in the field of public health." Page 37, line 8: Delete "sec. 79" Insert "sec. 80" Page 37, after line 15: Insert a new bill section to read: "Sec. 77 TRANSITION: BOARD MEMBERS. The amendments to AS 04.06.020 made by sec. 1 of this Act do not prevent a person who is serving as a member of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board on the effective date of this section from continuing to serve until the person's term expires. The Governor shall implement AS 04.06.020, as amended by sec. 1 of this Act, in making appointments after the effective date of this section." Page 3, line 18: Delete "secs. 77 and 78" Insert "secs. 78 and 79" There was objection and a roll call vote was taken. Representatives Finkelstein and Davis voted yes. Representatives Bunde, Vezey, Toohey, Green, and Porter voted no. Amendment Number 4 failed two to five. REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY made a motion to move HCS CSSB 87(JUD) out of committee with individual recommendations and fiscal notes as attached. Hearing no objection, it was so ordered.