Legislature(2019 - 2020)BARNES 124
03/02/2020 03:15 PM LABOR & COMMERCE
Note: the audio and video recordings are distinct records and are obtained from different sources. As such there may be key differences between the two. The audio recordings are captured by our records offices as the official record of the meeting and will have more accurate timestamps. Use the icons to switch between them.
Download Mp3. <- Right click and save file as
Download Video part 1. <- Right click and save file as
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 93-MILITARY SPOUSE COURTESY LICENSE 3:49:33 PM CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ announced that the next order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 93, "An Act relating to temporary courtesy licenses for certain nonresident professionals; and relating to the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development." 3:50:01 PM REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS TUCK, Alaska State Legislature, as prime sponsor, introduced HB 93 and paraphrased the sponsor statement included in the committee packet, which read in its entirety as follows [original punctuation provided]: House Bill 93 calls for the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development to prepare an annual report to allow the Alaska Legislature to evaluate the progress of a program to make temporary courtesy occupational licenses available to the spouses of active duty service members stationed in Alaska. In 2011, the Alaska Legislature passed House Bill 28 to provide expedited temporary courtesy licenses if a military spouse possesses a license from a previous jurisdiction with similar requirements to the State of Alaska. However, the bill didn't include reporting requirements. Making temporary courtesy licenses available to the spouses of active duty service members allows them to practice their chosen trade without having to go through the time-consuming process of meeting state licensure requirements before beginning work. Expediting courtesy licenses for military spouses allows them to go to work quickly after relocating to Alaska, while they work to fulfill the state requirements for their license. The requirement in House Bill 93 for an annual report will allow the Alaska Legislature, the Joint Armed Services Committee, military installations, and local communities to track the progress of the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development in making temporary courtesy licenses available to military spouses. HB 93 also calls for the department to produce and distribute informational materials about temporary courtesy licenses to each board authorized to issue such licenses. The intent of this stipulation is to improve the board's knowledge of the licenses, the application process, and the best practices in providing applicant support. Additionally, the bill calls for the department to encourage boards to designate a single employee to serve as the point of contact for public information and inquiries related to temporary courtesy licenses for military spouses. The annual report called for in HB 93 would also highlight many of the opportunities available to help military spouses enter the workforce in Alaska. To date, a low number of eligible professionals have taken advantage of the temporary courtesy license program in Alaska, and many participants have reported delays. House Bill 93 would help identify inefficiencies in the program. Legislation similar to House Bill 93 passed the Alaska House of Representatives unanimously in 2018 but was not taken up by the Alaska State Senate. Making temporary courtesy occupational and other licenses available to military spouses is a priority for the U.S. Department of Defense. REPRESENTATIVE TUCK continued to provide several statistics on military families and spouses. 3:54:57 PM CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ inquired as to the length of a temporary license. REPRESENTATIVE TUCK answered 180 days. CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ asked how many days temporary licenses can be extended for. REPRESENTATIVE TUCK said another 180 days. REPRESENTATIVE TUCK stated that HB 93 seeks to create a progress report for the legislature. He added that the original bill allowing temporary licensure for spouses passed in 2011. He explained that the bill calls for the Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development (DCCED) to produce and distribute the information annually and biennially to the legislature, and it calls for the department to encourage professional licensing boards to designate a single employee to serve as the point of contact for public information. 3:56:14 PM The committee took a brief at-ease. 3:56:20 PM MICHAEL MASON, Staff, Representative Chris Tuck, on behalf of Representative Tuck, prime sponsor, presented the sectional analysis for HB 93 included in the committee packet. REPRESENTATIVE TUCK added that this is a difficult process. He said the report will help the legislature understand the direction and how to help the department get there. He added that because of the high turnover from one administration to another, consistent progress and oversight is desired. 3:59:53 PM REPRESENTATIVE STUTES asked what prompted this bill. REPRESENTATIVE TUCK replied that military spouses who were unable to get their temporary licenses over the years is what prompted HB 93. 4:00:14 PM REPRESENTATIVE STUTES offered her understanding that this legislation is amending the original bill to include a reporting requirement. REPRESENTATIVE TUCK acknowledged that the original bill passed in 2011; however, despite all the different occupational licenses available, they still lack the ability to issue temporary licenses for military spouses. He said it's important to look at the past experiences of other states, as well as their requirements and if there are any existing problems with their reciprocity or with issuing licenses. REPRESENTATIVE STUTES expressed confusion and asked for the difference between the current bill and the original legislation that passed in 2011. REPRESENTATIVE TUCK explained that the difference is that the current bill implements the reporting requirements that go to the legislature while fulfilling the conditions of the 2011 legislation. REPRESENTATIVE STUTES asked if there's already a reciprocity agreement in place. REPRESENTATIVE TUCK said a bill that allows temporary licenses has passed; however, not all the criteria is being met, as temporary licenses for all occupations are not being issued yet. REPRESENTATIVE STUTES sought to clarify the purpose of HB 93. REPRESENTATIVE TUCK explained that there are various alignments that needs to happen for a temporary license to be issued per profession. He reiterated that the report would show the progress being made for each occupation by every state. CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ summarized that this was already allowed in a bill that passed in 2011, but it's not being implemented and executed in every state. She added that HB 93 requests a report on what needs to be done and why. 4:04:41 PM MR. MASON noted that military spouses are not using the program as much as was anticipated. The hope is that the report will increase attention and the dedicated person on each board will help facilitate more usage of the temporary licenses. REPRESENTATIVE STUTES asked how the need for HB 93 came to light. REPRESENTATIVE TUCK explained that HB 93 was prompted by military spouses not being able to get temporary licenses. 4:05:46 PM SARA CHAMBERS, Director, Division of Corporations, Business, and Professional Licensing, Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development, said that the 2011 legislation states that the department and boards may issue temporary licenses; however, it does not mandate that temporary licenses be issued or created for military spouses. She reported that there is a level of frustration among Alaska's military families and military community that boards can choose to issue a temporary license or not. She said that this is one in a continuum of best practices that the U.S. Department of Defense is illuminating for state legislatures and state licensing professionals. Furthermore, temporary licensing is one of the lighter ways to accommodate military families. She added that there is a wide range of things that could be done, with licensing compacts being the most desired aspect. This report, she said, would compel the department to provide the data that legislators could use to see what is being done, how it's being used, whether there is a demand that is being met or not, and if Alaska is at risk for losing military basing or expansion opportunities because of a lack of response to workplace economic needs. 4:08:26 PM REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS asked in general, which temporary licenses are currently being issued. MS. CHAMBERS stated that there are over 200 types of licenses that are offered among the 21 boards and 22 professions. REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS asked if temporary licenses can be issued for doctors MS. CHAMBERS answered yes. 4:09:03 PM REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS noted that several groups like Americans for Prosperity have worked to deregulate occupational licensing with the goal of breaking unions and driving down wages. He stated that he supports HB 93 and Alaska's military families; however, he said he wants to make sure that military families are not being used as (indisc.) to undermine Alaska's (indisc.) and high wages. CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ concurred with the concern that Alaska's licensure standards are not being undermined by forces outside of the state. She said she wants to make sure that military spouses are supported and that the state is taking advantage of the human capital. 4:09:48 PM MS. CHAMBERS, responding to a question from Representative Hannan, explained that through attrition, waning interests, or competing priorities, some of the boards have failed to adopt temporary licenses. REPRESENTATIVE HANNAN asked if the omnibus bill concerning temporary licenses passes, "would it be duplicative of the law that already gives that authority on military spouses." MS. CHAMBERS said the omnibus bill was crafted to subsume this. She explained that it would continue to require expediting military spouse licensure, while opening an opportunity for more than just military spouses to take advantage of temporary licensing. 4:13:26 PM REPRESENTATIVE HANNAN noted that there is no fiscal note for HB 93. She questioned whether Ms. Chambers anticipates a fiscal note to make this goal of more temporary licenses achievable. MS. CHAMBERS offered her belief that they have adequate authority to get that done. She said they would make a budget request if a problem arose. CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ reminded members that HB 93 is just providing a report on the work that's already been done. 4:14:28 PM REPRESENTATIVE STORY asked if the boards have access to staff from the DCCED to help them understand the goals of the department. 4:14:59 PM MS. CHAMBERS explained that all the boards have assigned staff who work every day to support and process licenses. She said the department has an interesting staffing structure in which most boards have licensing examiners who tend to be junior level assistants. Furthermore, several boards have executive administrators, which are partially exempt positions, who can engage in policy. She said in the absence of an executive administrator, the department's management team helps provide information to the board and its examiners. She noted that at the end of the day, the boards are responsible for hearing the information that is being passed along to them. 4:17:39 PM REPRESENTATIVE RASMUSSEN expressed her concern about the temporary licenses. She said "I want to make sure that we're not putting any group before another group, so we have Alaskans who are trying to start working and they need to get their approval through a board, and we also have military families who are coming in and maybe it becomes a status quo to do everybody with temporary licenses, but again the exposure to liability worries me. 4:20:21 PM CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ agreed that she would be reticent to "rip the band aid off" when it comes to major reforms. She said that it's legislators' job to do the due diligence to understand the implications of the decisions that are being discussed. She reiterated that today's discussion is about HB 93 which would require a report around military spouse licensure, not about the omnibus bill that was introduced by the governor. REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS noted that he has heard from doctors who are very opposed to anything that would expand or even use temporary licensing for medical professionals. He added that they are very concerned about the health and safety implications involved with such a step. 4:21:32 PM REPRESENTATIVE GILLIS asked if military personnel and their spouses can apply for a temporary license at this time. MS. CHAMBERS confirmed that they can if the board offers a temporary license; however, part of the problem is that not all boards offer temporary licenses, and if they aren't in regulation then they're not available for people to apply for. REPRESENTATIVE GILLIS asked if the boards currently offer any temporary licenses. MS. CHAMBERS answered yes, the boards currently offer quite a few temporary licenses for a variety of programs including doctors and nurses. REPRESENTATIVE GILLIS inquired as to how many licenses have been requested in the last three years. He opined that the term "shall" instead of "may" sounds like "you're not giving licenses." He asked how many have been requested and how many have been given. CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ clarified that the language in the original bill was "may" not "shall." 4:23:04 PM MS. CHAMBERS said the numbers stay low. She explained that they don't have a "push-a-button-and-this-is-the-number-of-military- licenses-that-are-available-type system." She offered her belief that the report would help the department get there, because what's expected in the report would cause them to make some database changes. She approximated that last year they had 100 or fewer military spouse applications. REPRESENTATIVE GILLIS questioned whether 50 percent of the license requests made by military spouses have been granted. MS. CHAMBERS explained that if they're qualified, they are issued a license. She said she would expect that all of them are qualified because they are coming from a state where they're already licensed and credentialled. 4:25:46 PM REPRESENTATIVE RASMUSSEN addressed the zero fiscal note and asked how the department would be able to handle the necessary database changes for the reporting requirement with no additional cost incurred. MS. CHAMBERS said over the last few years, the department has been figuring out a way to get certain levels of database changes done without having to request additional IT help. She said they are trying to keep the cost low and not hire contractors or additional staff. 4:26:26 PM CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ asked how many boards oversee licensure. MS. CHAMBERS answered 21 licensing boards and 22 regulated professions. CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ asked how many of them have executive administrators. MS. CHAMBERS said seven. CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ questioned whether they have the capacity to undertake the support of the boards that would be necessary to explore military spouse licensure in each case. MS. CHAMBERS answered yes, they have systems for communicating with boards and farming out that communication responsibility to the management team, which occurs regularly. 4:27:31 PM REPRESENTATIVE TUCK added that U.S. Department of Defense has a contract with the University of Minnesota to evaluate occupational board implementation of laws and policies that support military spouses in all 50 states. He directed attention to a report included in the committee packet, entitled "Military Spouse Licensure Portability Examination State Report." He reported one of the study's general findings: that there's no information available pertaining to how many spouses have transferred their licenses in the last year. It went on to say that spouses cannot be licensed by endorsement or temporary licensure for any of the following boards: cosmetology, dental hygiene, massage therapy, mental health counseling, occupational therapy, and the real estate commission. He indicated that temporary licenses are issued on a board-by-board basis and that it's necessary to find out where each board is at, where the legislature can help out, and to understand why some occupations do not have temporary licensure. He addressed a concern from Representative Fields with an anecdotal example. 4:31:05 PM REPRESENTATIVE HANNAN returned attention to the University of Minnesota's analysis of the portability exam and the six boards that they chose to study. She sought clarification on why those six were specifically selected. She asked if it's because they have the highest number of applicants or if military spouses are most likely to hold licensure and ask for reciprocity in those areas. REPRESENTATIVE TUCK deferred to Ms. Perreault. 4:32:20 PM TAMMIE PERREAULT, Regional Liaison, Defense-State Liaison Office, U.S. Department of Defense, said the six specific occupations were chosen randomly by the researchers because they felt that they represented a cross-section of occupations which military spouses participated in. She said they used these [six] occupations in all 50 states, adding that there's an identical report for each state that addresses the same research. 4:33:17 PM REPRESENTATIVE HANNAN asked when the study was conducted. MS. PERREAULT replied the study was conducted in 2017. After completion, they asked each state to go back and look at how their occupational licensure laws were being implemented and how they are working for the military spouses, which is part of what led to HB 93 and this reporting request. 4:34:35 PM REPRESENTATIVE TUCK clarified that HB 28 states that boards may issue temporary licenses, but also that they shall expedite application procedures for military spouses. There's a combination of both "may" and "shall," he said. 4:35:05 PM MS. PERREAULT addressed the PowerPoint presentation included in the committee pack, entitled "Defense-State Liaison Office." She explained that most of the information had been covered and directed attention to slide 9, entitled "Licensure Portability." She said the slide shows where different efforts have been made for license portability by different states and where Alaska falls on this continuum. 4:36:21 PM REPRESENTATIVE HANNAN asked Ms. Perreault where she would place Alaska on the continuum. MS. PERREAULT stated that Alaska is in the yellow zone for this particular subject. She went on to say that Alaska is fully implementing its current laws; however, the state has not implemented or adopted any interstate occupational licensure compacts. CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ pointed out that Alaska is not displayed anywhere on the continuum. MR. MASON indicated that Alaska is represented by the lighter shade of yellow on slide 9. CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ announced that HB 93 was held over.