Legislature(2003 - 2004)
03/30/2004 01:05 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 353 - JURY DUTY EXEMPTION FOR CERTAIN TEACHERS Number 0850 CHAIR McGUIRE announced that the next order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 353, "An Act relating to jury duty; and amending Rule 15(k), Alaska Rules of Administration." [Before the committee was CSHB 353(HES).] Number 0829 REPRESENTATIVE MARY KAPSNER, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor, said that HB 353 will exempt from jury duty teachers who teach in schools that are not meeting adequate yearly progress (AYP) under state and federal law. In the last six to eight years, the state has implemented benchmark testing and the high school qualifying exit exam, and, at the federal level, there has been implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB Act), which requires that every school have highly qualified teachers in each subject area. For many small schools these changes have posed a challenge when teachers are asked to leave the classroom for the purpose of serving jury duty, because, in a lot of locations around the state, it is very difficult to find substitute teachers that are certified in the area of expertise that the regular teacher is certified in. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER noted that in Bethel, for example, the court system seeks jurors from a pool of 11 surrounding villages and Bethel. If a teacher in Kasigluk, for example, is called out of the classroom for jury duty, or if there is even the possibility that this will occur, it creates a lot of stress on the whole school, on both students and other teachers, because in most villages it's hard to find a substitute teacher that has a high school diploma. The Lower Kuskokwim School District, between September and December, lost 107 teaching days to jury duty. Now that districts are facing AYP, benchmark tests, and high school exit exams, loss of teaching days is really ratcheting up the pressure on schools, students, and parents. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER said that HB 353 provides an exemption for teachers from jury duty so that while a school is not meeting AYP, they can stay in the classroom as much as possible. She relayed her hope that this exemption won't last forever, that when all schools meet AYP, the exemption will no longer be needed and all teachers can be part of a jury pool; hopefully, HB 353 will just be a temporary fix to a temporary problem. Number 0604 REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER pointed out two areas of concern regarding CSHB 353(HES): page 1, line 5, contains "may" instead of "shall"; and page 1, line 6, contains "school year" instead of "school term". She indicated that the bill should be changed to say "school term" because that refers to whatever period of time in a given year the school district decides students will be required to attend. In response to a question, she indicated that the "may" that she is suggesting should be changed to a "shall" is the second "may" on line 5. She said that although there was discussion in a prior committee that judges could simply decide whether a person should be exempted from jury duty, it is not customary for judges to make such a decision, and so to require it of them would create an additional burden on the court system. CHAIR McGUIRE noted that some students from Representative Joule's district were present to observe the hearing on HB 353. [The students introduced themselves and stated the school they were from.] Number 0432 LINDA SAITO relayed that she is the music teacher at Kotzebue Middle/High School and was called for jury duty starting January 4  through the end of April . Noting that her school has not yet met AYP, she said that [getting picked for jury duty] was a concern because she had to be prepared every day, for four months, to call in a substitute so she could go serve. She added that it is very difficult, particularly in villages, to get substitute teachers that can come in and give quality lessons. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER, in response to questions from Representative Anderson, said that there are between 400 and 500 residents in the village of Kwigillingok, that the Alaska Court System picks jurors from the list of people that have applied for a permanent fund dividend, and that a jury made up of teachers [from rural schools] is not necessarily going to be a jury of one's peers because many of those teachers are newly arrived from the Lower 48 and won't know the culture or the language. REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON mentioned that he supports HB 353. TAPE 04-52, SIDE A Number 0001 REPRESENTATIVE GARA remarked that a jury is supposed to be made up of people who live in one's community, and this notion militates in favor of the bill. He also remarked that the turnover rate in small schools is phenomenal, that this is terrible for the students, and asked whether there is a similar problem in larger communities such as Kotzebue. MS. SAITO said that this year her school is losing 10 out of 28 teachers, and that two years ago about half of the staff left. In response to a question she relayed that this turnover is not related to teachers retiring. REPRESENTATIVE GARA said he agrees with the bill, adding that it makes sense. He mentioned that he would like to also exempt teachers from schools that are not on the road system, since those teachers can't easily be replaced by a substitute and their presence is very important to the students; he predicted, however, that such a change might hurt the bill's chances of passing. REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS indicated that he would support such a change if an amendment were offered to that effect on the House floor. CHAIR McGUIRE suggested making the bill apply to those schools that have only one to five teachers. REPRESENTATIVE OGG offered his belief that teachers are part of the community, and opined that the legislature should not be saying that teachers who've been encouraged to come to the state to teach in small communities are not part of those communities. He said he thinks that HB 353 is a good bill that recognizes some paucity in the ability to draw jurors in small areas. Number 0363 REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said he would like to offer an amendment to "tighten the title", and that he would like to know from the Alaska Court System what the impact will be of changing the second "may" on page 1, line 5, to "shall". He noted that as currently written, the bill applies to a school in Anchorage, and predicted that it could apply to more Anchorage schools next year. He said it sounds to him as though the problem doesn't have anything to do with the NCLB Act, rather that the problem stems from a lack of substitute teachers in rural areas, but HB 353 doesn't appear to get at that specific issue. Under the bill, a school in Anchorage is covered even though getting a substitute teacher is not a problem, whereas a rural school that is meeting AYP would not be covered even though it could be quite difficult to get a substitute teacher. [Chair McGuire turned the gavel over to Representative Samuels.] REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER responded: I had the pleasure and distinction of serving as a substitute teacher for one year, in Bethel. And one of the things that I was very surprised to find out is how many students' lives are extremely disrupted when the teacher is out of the classroom. Typically these are the students [for whom] their teacher is the only thing that stays constant in their life on a daily basis ... in one year - maybe that teacher changes every year. But what I noticed is, in almost every class that I taught, there was one student that was extremely, emotionally disturbed, and that was really brought out when their teacher was gone. And I think that this is especially true in schools that are not meeting adequate yearly progress; there's something else going on that's not just the fault of the school, but I think that something else is missing in their home life and in their community. So I think that any school that is not meeting adequate yearly progress probably has some element of the teacher really needing to be there everyday. REPRESENTATIVE GARA mentioned that it might be difficult to define which schools should have their teachers be exempted from jury duty. He said he agrees that teachers are part of the community and did not mean to suggest that they aren't. Number 0763 REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS said he would like to offer an amendment "to change the second 'may' on line 5 to 'shall', and the word 'year' to 'term' on line 6, page 1," as suggested by Representative Kapsner. Number 0769 REPRESENTATIVE OGG made a motion to adopt the foregoing as Amendment 1. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG asked that the representative from the Alaska Court System be allowed to comment on Amendment 1. Number 0770 DOUG WOOLIVER, Administrative Attorney, Administrative Staff, Office of the Administrative Director, Alaska Court System (ACS), said he did not see a particular problem for the ACS regarding changing the second "may" to "shall",. In fact, he added, it is easier administratively if there is a blanket exemption rather than a judicial determination. In larger communities, he relayed, jury clerks handle this type of issue, but in smaller communities, judges do it. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said he removes his objection. Number 0836 REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS asked whether there were any further objections to Amendment 1. There being none, Amendment 1 was adopted. Number 0853 REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG made a motion to adopt CSHB 353(HES) as the work draft. There being no objection, it was so ordered. Number 0862 REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG made a motion to adopt Conceptual [Amendment 2], to tighten the title so that it is confined to the specific subject of the bill. REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS asked whether there were any objections to Conceptual Amendment 2. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER indicated that adoption of Conceptual Amendment 2 would be fine with her. REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS, after ascertaining that there were no objections, announced that Conceptual Amendment 2 was adopted. [Representative Samuels returned the gavel to Chair McGuire.] REPRESENTATIVE HOLM asked whether HB 353 would be limiting one's right to serve on a jury, and whether a blanket exemption for any group of people would be constitutional. [Chair McGuire turned the gavel over to Representative Samuels.] REPRESENTATIVE HOLM, characterizing HB 353 as a law of exclusion, said he questions whether they, as American citizens, should be promoting such. "Are we saying that we have polarized groups within ... the United States that cannot be peers?" he asked, and, "Is it good state policy for us to have different rules for people that live in Aniak or people that live in Fairbanks or in Juneau when it comes to justice?" REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER explained that she did not intend for this to become a regional issue, and reminded members that HB 353 was created in response to the NCLB Act and AYP. [Representative Samuels returned the gavel to Chair McGuire.] Number 1101 REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER went on to say: What we're saying is that under the conditions that teachers are teaching in now, under the conditions that students are learning in, in schools with exorbitant overhead, with few classroom tools, with a lot of testing going on, [with] a lot of people ill- prepared for tests, [and with] a myriad of other challenges that schools ... [face], I think this would be a good ... policy ... that we can give the schools, saying, "This didn't cost us anything, this is going to provide more classroom hours for you, less of a burden for you to be paying teachers for doing a lot of work in preparation time and serving on ... juries and away from the classroom, the travel expenses, [and] the expense of getting other people lined up in their communities to serve as substitute teachers if that need should arise." Number 1261 And this could happen in Fairbanks. I'm not sure if you know how many schools in your community are not meeting adequate yearly progress, but I'm sure that when and if this bill is passed, Representative Holm, many teachers in your community will say, "Thank you for helping me do my job under these very trying times." And as I said at the outset, this is a temporary solution to a temporary problem, hopefully. Hopefully we get to the point where 100 percent of our schools are meeting adequate yearly progress. The conversation of jury of peers was merely as an aside and that is not the heart of the bill, and I am nervous about going down that path. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER concluded: And we could spend many hours talking about [a] jury of peers, and I could tell you [about] specific cases where trials have been won because all the jurors understood that every person in a village has a different smell depending on what family they come from - depending on the kind of meat they eat or greens that they pick - that perhaps somebody not from that area ... wouldn't understand. ... But I don't want to go down that path. I want to talk about adequate yearly progress, highly qualified teachers, and helping schools meet those needs. Number 1206 REPRESENTATIVE HOLM reiterated his concern about taking away someone's right to serve on a jury. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER pointed out that a teacher covered under this bill is not required to claim exemption. CHAIR McGUIRE concurred, adding that a teacher is not compelled to claim exemption because the bill says, "A person may claim exemption". MR. WOOLIVER agreed that the first "may" on line 5 gives the teacher the discretion of whether to claim exemption; if the teacher does choose to claim exemption, then he/she shall be excused. In response to a question, he noted that currently there are no other exemptions from jury duty. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER mentioned that there was [one] more housekeeping measure she'd like the committee to address. CHAIR McGUIRE suggested that members focus on the policy question of whether it is appropriate to create an exemption from jury duty for a teacher from a school that has failed to meet AYP. REPRESENTATIVE GARA offered his belief that it is constitutional to provide exemption from jury duty to certain people, and noted that such is done in the federal courts. He said it makes sense to him to provide the exemption proposed by HB 353, and that he is supportive of the bill. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG offered his belief that there is case law that says the legislature does have the authority to create exemptions from jury duty and establish qualifying criteria for serving on a jury. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER turned attention to page 1, line 7, and indicated that the language, "has failed" should be changed to read, "is designated as failing". Number 1631 CHAIR McGUIRE made a motion to adopt Amendment 3, to replace, on page 1, line 7, "has failed" with "is designated as failing". There being no objection, Amendment 3 was adopted. CHAIR McGUIRE, in response to comments regarding Amendment 1, clarified that Amendment 1 changed the second "may" on line 5 to "shall", and changed "school year" on line 6 to "school term". Number 1687 REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG moved to report CSHB 353(HES), as amended, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying [zero] fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSHB 353(JUD) was reported from the House Judiciary Standing Committee.