Legislature(2019 - 2020)BARNES 124

02/19/2020 03:15 PM LABOR & COMMERCE

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Heard & Held
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
Moved CSSB 106(L&C) Out of Committee
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+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
          HB 113-MILITARY FAMILY EMPLOYMENT PREFERENCE                                                                      
3:46:11 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ announced that the  final order of business would                                                               
be  HOUSE   BILL  NO.  113,   "An  Act  relating   to  employment                                                               
preferences  for  spouses  and  children  of  veterans,  disabled                                                               
veterans,  former  prisoners  of  war, members  of  the  national                                                               
guard, and deceased service members."                                                                                           
3:46:32 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SHARON  JACKSON,  Alaska  State  Legislature,  as                                                               
prime  sponsor, introduced  HB  113.   She  paraphrased from  the                                                               
sponsor statement  provided in the  committee packet,  which read                                                               
in its entirety as follows [original punctuation provided]:                                                                     
     The  purpose of  House Bill  113 is  to extend  current                                                                    
     hiring  preferences to  military spouses  and dependent                                                                    
     children  in  the  State  of  Alaska  and  the  private                                                                    
     Military families  fall into two categories:  Blue Star                                                                    
     or Gold Star Families.  Blue Star families are military                                                                    
     spouses and  dependents of  active service  members and                                                                    
     veterans. Gold  Star families are spouses  and children                                                                    
     of a deceased service members  who died while in active                                                                    
     A recent  report from the  Department of  Defense found                                                                    
     that a  quarter of  military spouses are  unemployed or                                                                    
     underemployed. There are several  efforts being done in                                                                    
     all  50 states,  but Alaska  is one  of the  few states                                                                    
     that do  not extend employment preferences  to military                                                                    
     spouses.  There are  roughly  151,881 military  spouses                                                                    
     and  dependents  in  Alaska  according  to  the  Alaska                                                                    
     Department of Military & Veteran Affairs.                                                                                  
     This  is  a small  but  significant  way to  honor  our                                                                    
     service members  and their families,  who are  making a                                                                    
     sacrifice  to  serve  their  country,  yet  often  fall                                                                    
     between the cracks while doing so.                                                                                         
3:49:43 PM                                                                                                                    
ELIJAH  VERHAGEN, Staff,  Representative  Sharon Jackson,  Alaska                                                               
State Legislature,  provided a PowerPoint  presentation, entitled                                                               
"House  Bill 113,"  on behalf  of  Representative Jackson,  prime                                                               
sponsor.   He  directed  attention to  slide  3, titled,  "What,"                                                               
which read as follows [original punctuation provided]:                                                                          
     HB113 Will  extend current state hiring  preferences to                                                                    
     military spouses  and dependents.  It will  also extend                                                                    
     liability protections to the  private sector to include                                                                    
     spouses and dependents.                                                                                                    
3:50:58 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE HANNAN  asked what  it means to  "extend liability                                                               
protections to the private sector."                                                                                             
MR. VERHAGEN  directed attention to page  2, line 12, of  HB 113,                                                               
and  said,  "this is  legally  putting  in  statute that  in  the                                                               
private sector,  an employer  may hire  a military  spouse solely                                                               
because they are  a military spouse.  Whereas  currently, that is                                                               
not  in  statute."   He  asked  if that  answered  Representative                                                               
Hannan's question.                                                                                                              
3:52:25 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE HANNAN said not quite.                                                                                           
CHAIR  SPOHNHOLZ  pointed  out   that  the  slide  says,  "extend                                                               
liability protections," and asked what that means.                                                                              
3:52:38 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. VERHAGEN said  "currently, if someone were to  choose to hire                                                               
- because  it's not  in statute  - a  military spouse  instead of                                                               
someone else who's  equally qualified, I believe  that they would                                                               
be able to be  sued and this is giving them -  they are free from                                                               
this liability because now it's  written in statute that they may                                                               
give a hiring preference to military spouse."                                                                                   
3:53:08 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE HANNAN  contended that  a private  sector business                                                               
employer  can  hire  who  they  want.   She  said,  for  example,                                                               
coastguard  kids are  frequently  the first  round  of hires  for                                                               
seasonal businesses  because of their accountability  to military                                                               
structure, adding  that she never  perceived there was  any legal                                                               
liability associated with that.                                                                                                 
3:54:22 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  JACKSON  stated  that,  "private  businesses  are                                                               
private -  we are not  here to tell them  what they can  or can't                                                               
do,  but  this will  be  extended  to them  to  at  least give  a                                                               
military spouse the interview."                                                                                                 
CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ said perhaps the  language in the presentation is                                                               
3:56:38 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. VERHAGEN  resumed his presentation  on slide 4  and explained                                                               
that  military  spouses  are among  the  highest  unemployed  and                                                               
underemployed  group   in  the   United  States,   despite  their                                                               
education or experience.  He cited  a poll of over 4,000 military                                                               
spouses   that  found   40  percent   have   a  college   degree.                                                               
Additionally,  upwards   of  60   percent  have   "some  college"                                                               
experience  compared to  29 percent  of spouses  in the  civilian                                                               
sector.  He  further noted that 9 out of  10 military spouses are                                                               
women.  Mr.  Verhagen went on to paraphrase slide  5, titled "Top                                                               
3  Challenges,"  which  read  as  follows  [original  punctuation                                                               
       ? Unemployment  The number of unemployed military                                                                        
     spouses averages at more than 40%.                                                                                         
     ?  Underemployment     Low  pay.  Research  shows  that                                                                    
     military spouses  with a college  degree earn  40% less                                                                    
     than   their  counterparts.   A  study   from  Syracuse                                                                    
     University found that 90% of  female spouses of active-                                                                    
     duty members reported they were underemployed                                                                              
       ? Frequent moves       Spouses and dependents move                                                                       
       constantly, resulting in employment gaps, lack of                                                                        
3:59:00 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE RASMUSSEN sought to  clarify whether 29 percent of                                                               
civilian spouses have a degree  or 29 percent of civilian spouses                                                               
have a degree and are currently unemployed.                                                                                     
3:59:19 PM                                                                                                                    
MR.  VERHAGEN  clarified  that  "29.9"  percent  have  a  college                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE RASMUSSEN asked for the source of that data.                                                                     
MR.  VERHAGEN directed  attention  to Figure  1 on  page  2 of  a                                                               
document  provided in  the committee  packet, entitled  "Military                                                               
Spouses in the Labor Market."                                                                                                   
4:00:15 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SPOHNHOLZ  noted  that  it's  an  uncomfortable  statistic                                                               
because  it's not  clear who  the civilian,  noninstitutionalized                                                               
population is.                                                                                                                  
4:00:55 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. VERHAGEN  responded by reading  the following  paragraph from                                                               
the document [original punctuation provided]:                                                                                   
     According  to  the  ACS survey,  working  age  military                                                                    
     spouses  are  predominantly  female (92  percent),  and                                                                    
     they are young. Although  the average American adult of                                                                    
     working  age  is 41  years  old,  working age  military                                                                    
     spouses  are  33  years old,  on  average.  2  Military                                                                    
     spouses  are also  more educated  than other  civilian,                                                                    
     non-institutionalized   Americans   of   working   age,                                                                    
     suggesting  that  losing  their  contributions  to  the                                                                    
     labor  market  is   particularly  detrimental  for  the                                                                    
     American  economy (Figure  1).  While approximately  30                                                                    
     percent  of  the  U.S. working  age  population  has  a                                                                    
     college  degree, approximately  40 percent  of military                                                                    
     spouses in this age range do.                                                                                              
CHAIR   SPOHNHOLZ  clarified   that   "this   is  the   civilian,                                                               
noninstitutionalized population of United States workers."                                                                      
MR. VERHAGEN answered yes.                                                                                                      
4:02:10 PM                                                                                                                    
MR.  VERHAGEN concluded  his presentation  on slide  6, reporting                                                               
that 24 states  have instituted a hiring  preference for military                                                               
spouses.   He turned attention  to the sectional  analysis, which                                                               
read as follows [original punctuation provided]:                                                                                
     Section 1. AS 18.80.200(c)                                                                                               
     This section does not prohibit  a private employer from                                                                    
     having  hiring  preferences  for persons  described  in                                                                    
     Section 2 of this bill.                                                                                                    
     Section 2. AS 23.88.010                                                                                                  
     This section  repeals and reenacts the  current statute                                                                    
     by  adding  definitions  removed  from  Section  1  for                                                                    
     clarity.  This  section  does not  prohibit  a  private                                                                    
     employer  from  having  hiring preferences  to  active-                                                                    
     military,  veterans  and  families. This  section  adds                                                                    
     language to  include spouses and dependent  children of                                                                    
     deceased service members to the list.                                                                                      
     Section 3. AS 39.25.150(19)                                                                                              
     This  section   amends  the  State  Personnel   Act  to                                                                    
     reference  definitions  as  stated  in  Section  4  for                                                                    
     Section 4. AS 39.25.159(a)                                                                                               
     This  section  amends  the  employment  preference  for                                                                    
     veterans  or  former prisoners  of  war  by adding  new                                                                    
     language to include families  of an active-duty service                                                                    
     member, veteran, or former prisoner of war.                                                                                
     This  section clarifies  the type  of preference  given                                                                    
     the  hiring  process  and   whether  the  applicant  is                                                                    
     disabled or not.                                                                                                           
     Subsection (B) is removed for consistency                                                                                  
     Section 5. AS 39.25.159(d)                                                                                               
     This  section clarifies  that a  person may  receive an                                                                    
     employment preference under only  one of the categories                                                                    
     described in  sections 3  and 4. A  person may  use the                                                                    
     preference  without  limitation when  being  considered                                                                    
     for a position for which  persons who are not currently                                                                    
     state   employees   are   being  considered.   If   the                                                                    
     recruitment  for   a  position  is  limited   to  state                                                                    
     employees, preference under (a)  or (c) of this section                                                                    
     may not be counted.                                                                                                        
        This section adds language to include spouses or                                                                        
    dependent   children   for   consistency   with   other                                                                     
     Section 6 AS 39.25.159 (e)                                                                                               
     This section clarifies that this  bill does not involve                                                                    
     interpreting  amendments  of  a  collective  bargaining                                                                    
     agreement and  makes a reference  to subsection  (a) of                                                                    
     Section 4.                                                                                                                 
     Section 7 AS 39.25.159(f)                                                                                                
     This section defines a dependent child.                                                                                    
     Section 8 AS 39.25.159(c)                                                                                                
      This section removes language that has been included                                                                      
     in Section 4 of this bill.                                                                                                 
4:05:25 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE HANNAN  asked if the hiring  preference for either                                                               
the spouse or the dependent child has a time limit.                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON said the limit  for the dependent child is                                                               
age 19 or age 23 if he or she is attending college.                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  HANNAN asked  if there  is a  time limit  for the                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON  replied the  spouse receives  the benefit                                                               
until he or she remarries.                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE HANNAN  questioned whether it could  be a lifetime                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON  said yes,  for the  working years  of the                                                               
spouse's life.                                                                                                                  
4:07:02 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE STORY  asked if  there is  information on  how the                                                               
program  is  working in  the  24  states that  provide  veterans'                                                               
preferences to spouses.                                                                                                         
4:10:15 PM                                                                                                                    
VERDIE BOWEN,  Director of Veterans  Affairs, Office  of Veterans                                                               
Affairs, Department of Military  & Veterans' Affairs, stated that                                                               
in Maryland,  [military] spouses and  children have been  able to                                                               
gain  employment much  faster  now that  the  benefits have  been                                                               
4:11:04 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ asked  if there are any states  that have limited                                                               
the length of the benefit for widows.                                                                                           
4:11:48 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. BOWEN answered no, adding that  most states do not sunset the                                                               
gold star  clause.  Under  the gold star clause,  DIC [Dependency                                                               
and  Indemnity  Compensation]  payments are  provided  until  the                                                               
spouse remarries.   He noted that  most states use that  as their                                                               
reference point.  He reiterated  that if the spouse remarries, he                                                               
or she loses access to the gold star benefit.                                                                                   
4:12:35 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SPOHNHOLZ asked  if Mr.  Bowen would  like to  provide any                                                               
additional testimony.                                                                                                           
4:12:41 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. BOWEN said  he would like to see this  bill passed because it                                                               
does "several things"  for family members.  He  noted that Alaska                                                               
has  over 43,000  active-duty  National  Guard Reserve  Component                                                               
family  members  within  the state  that  are  supporting  22,000                                                               
active duty  members.  He stated  that the primary way  to reduce                                                               
stress is to  help them gain access to  gainful employment, which                                                               
will help  reduce other  factors that  could happen  within their                                                               
housing units.                                                                                                                  
4:15:35 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE HANNAN  questioned whether  a family  whose member                                                               
dies by suicide is still considered a gold star family.                                                                         
4:16:15 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. BOWEN  replied that gold  star is usually provided  to people                                                               
that die in a combat zone.  He  said if an individual took his or                                                               
her life in  a combat zone or  was injured in a  combat zone then                                                               
the gold star identification would not apply.                                                                                   
4:16:39 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  HANNAN  asked if  there's  a  limit on  the  life                                                               
insurance policy that's  paid to a family if the  death is caused                                                               
by suicide.                                                                                                                     
MR. BOWEN  answered no.   He explained  that the exact  amount of                                                               
the life  insurance is paid  to the family regardless  of whether                                                               
the death was caused by suicide.                                                                                                
4:19:11 PM                                                                                                                    
MEGAN JAMES,  Alaska Coalition for Veterans  & Military Families,                                                               
stated that many military spouses  and dependent children come to                                                               
the  Alaska  Coalition  for  Veterans  &  Military  Families  for                                                               
assistance in looking for professions.   She added that they work                                                               
longest  with  the  military  spouses  because  of  their  varied                                                               
working  backgrounds  due to  continued  sacrifice  of their  own                                                               
career for  that of the service  members.  She noted  that varied                                                               
work histories  and gaps in  employment don't look like  the best                                                               
hires  on  paper to  some  employers.    She  said HB  113  would                                                               
essentially even the playing field  for military spouses and gold                                                               
star families.   Furthermore,  she pointed  out that  if military                                                               
families are  gainfully employed and spouses  are happily working                                                               
at the duty  location, the service members are more  likely to be                                                               
mission  ready, to  reenlist, and  their home  is likelier  to be                                                               
resilient   and  thriving   without   the   worry  of   financial                                                               
implications that  come from having  a spouse without  work while                                                               
they're  gone.    She  shared  a personal  anecdote  of  her  own                                                               
experience with  this matter.   She noted  that this bill  is not                                                               
offering  the promise  of a  job, but  it allows  them to  have a                                                               
better  chance against  other qualified  candidates  as they  are                                                               
going through the employment process.                                                                                           
4:22:05 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ announced that HB 113 was held over.                                                                            

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 106 LRS Report on Laws for non-renewal 2.17.2020.pdf HL&C 2/19/2020 3:15:00 PM
SB 106
HB 91 ver. K Explanation of Changes 2.18.2020.pdf HL&C 2/19/2020 3:15:00 PM
HB 91
HB 91 ver. K 2.8.2020.pdf HL&C 2/19/2020 3:15:00 PM
HB 91
HB 91 ver. K Sectional Analysis 2.18.2020.pdf HL&C 2/19/2020 3:15:00 PM
HB 91
HB 113 Fiscal Note DOA-DOP 02.14.20.pdf HL&C 2/19/2020 3:15:00 PM
HB 113
HB 113 Powerpoint The Blue Star and Gold Star Families Act 1.31.20.pdf HL&C 2/19/2020 3:15:00 PM
HL&C 2/21/2020 3:15:00 PM
HB 113
HB113 - Explanation of Changes v. S 1.31.20.pdf HL&C 2/19/2020 3:15:00 PM
HB 113
HB113 - Sectional Analisys v. S 1.31.20.pdf HL&C 2/19/2020 3:15:00 PM
HB 113
HB 113 Fiscal Note DLWFD-WH 11.19.19.pdf HL&C 2/19/2020 3:15:00 PM
HB 113
HB113 - Sponsor Statement 1.31.20.pdf HL&C 2/19/2020 3:15:00 PM
HB 113
HB113 Backup Document Top Military Spouse Challenges 1.31.20.pdf HL&C 2/19/2020 3:15:00 PM
HB 113
HB113 Supporting Document 2018 Blue Star Family Survey -Executive-Summary 1.31.20.pdf HL&C 2/19/2020 3:15:00 PM
HB 113
HB113 Reference Document Office of the US President Military Spouses 1.31.20.pdf HL&C 2/19/2020 3:15:00 PM
HB 113
HB113 Supporting Document 2018 Military Family Lifestyle Survey 1.31.20.pdf HL&C 2/19/2020 3:15:00 PM
HB 113
HB113 Supporting Document Column The Military Spouse Employment Plight 1.31.20.pdf HL&C 2/19/2020 3:15:00 PM
HB 113
Hb113 Backup Document Military Families Are Struggling to Make Ends Meet - The Atlantic 1.31.20.pdf HL&C 2/19/2020 3:15:00 PM
HB 113
HB113 Backup Document NCSL veterans' state hiring preference 1.31.20.pdf HL&C 2/19/2020 3:15:00 PM
HL&C 2/21/2020 3:15:00 PM
HB 113