Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/06/2004 02:05 PM MLV

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 536-PFUND APPLICATION DEADLINES FOR MILITARY                                                                               
CHAIR STEPOVICH announced  that the only order  of business would                                                               
be  HOUSE BILL  NO. 536,  "An  Act relating  to applications  for                                                               
permanent fund  dividends by certain  individuals serving  in the                                                               
armed forces; and providing for an effective date."                                                                             
Number 0111                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  MASEK  moved  to  adopt  CSHB  536,  Version  23-                                                               
LS1796\B, Cook, 4/6/04, as the  working document.  There being no                                                               
objection, Version B was before the committee.                                                                                  
Number 0171                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  CHERYLL HEINZE,  Alaska State  Legislature, spoke                                                               
as  the  chair  of  the   House  Special  Committee  on  Economic                                                               
Development,  International Trade  and  Tourism, which  requested                                                               
the legislation of the House  Rules Standing Committee, explained                                                               
that HB  536 was drafted  in response  to letters and  calls that                                                               
she  received from  some  of the  brave men  and  women who  were                                                               
serving in the  recent wars of Afghanistan and Iraq.   Due to the                                                               
unpredictable nature  of communications  in a  war zone,  some of                                                               
the men  and women serving  in the armed forces  overseas weren't                                                               
able  to file  their permanent  fund dividend  (PFD) application.                                                               
Therefore, those  applicants were denied.   Representative Heinze                                                               
said, "They  should not  be punished for  doing their  duty [for]                                                               
their  country."    This legislation  addresses  the  problem  by                                                               
providing  members  of  the  armed services  90  days  after  the                                                               
individual is  out of harms way  to apply for the  permanent fund                                                               
dividend.  The legislation also  applies retroactively to members                                                               
of the  armed services who served  in 2003 and 2004.   If members                                                               
of the armed  services who served in 2003 and  2004 were eligible                                                               
for hostile  fire or imminent  danger pay during  the application                                                               
period  for either  year,  those individuals  will  have 90  days                                                               
after  passage of  HB  536 to  apply for  those  dividends.   She                                                               
concluded, "All  of us as  Alaskans and  Americans owe a  debt of                                                               
gratitude to  the brave and selfless  men and women who  work day                                                               
and night to ensure that our great nation stays great and free."                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HEINZE  said  this legislation  "comes  from  the                                                               
heart."   She informed the  committee that  there is a  family in                                                               
Talkeetna,  which  consists  of  eight  children.    One  of  the                                                               
children, Christopher  Rauchenstein, became  the first  Marine to                                                               
march into Baghdad.  Christopher's  PFD application didn't arrive                                                               
before he was  sent to war, and therefore he  was denied his PFD.                                                               
Representative Heinze opined  that such is a  travesty.  Although                                                               
the director of the Permanent  Fund Dividend Division agreed, she                                                               
pointed  out  that  the  change   has  to  be  made  in  statute.                                                               
Therefore,  this lead  to approaching  the military  to obtain  a                                                               
definition of "war",  which proved to be difficult.   However, it                                                               
became apparent  that those  who are  eligible for  hostile fire,                                                               
imminent  danger pay  are  the individuals  for  whom this  would                                                               
apply.     Representative  Heinze   closed  by  asking   for  the                                                               
committee's support.                                                                                                            
Number 0540                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG recalled his time  in Vietnam on a cargo                                                               
ship when  he was in  and out of  the war  zone.  He  pointed out                                                               
that he  wasn't sure how  being in and out  of the war  zone, but                                                               
deployed would play out for the final sentences on page 1.                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN recalled his time  in Vietnam when, after  so                                                               
many hours in  a combat zone, the individual  received combat for                                                               
that month.                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA  inquired as  to the number  of individuals                                                               
or situations this legislation would address.                                                                                   
Number 0888                                                                                                                     
JOHN  BITTNER, Staff  to  Representative  Cheryll Heinze,  Alaska                                                               
State Legislature,  answered that  the number of  permanent funds                                                               
that would  be issued  under this legislation  isn't going  to be                                                               
considered  a  very  significant  number.   With  regard  to  who                                                               
receives  hostile  fire, imminent  danger  pay,  it's a  specific                                                               
definition that says that those in  danger of being fired upon or                                                               
being hurt by land mines and  the like will receive [combat] pay.                                                               
The  aforementioned seems  to cover  those in  war zones  with no                                                               
access to communication.                                                                                                        
CHAIR STEPOVICH inquired  as to what would happen if  there was a                                                               
massive deployment, such as an  entire division being deployed to                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  pointed  out  that there  might  be  a                                                               
situation similar  to World  War I  or World War  II in  which it                                                               
could apply to  almost everyone.  The question is  who happens to                                                               
be in a war zone during the right date.                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  LYNN highlighted  that those  falling under  this                                                               
proposed legislation would  be Alaskans who are  eligible for the                                                               
permanent  fund  if  not  in   the  military.    Therefore,  this                                                               
legislation wouldn't change the  number of people receiving PFDs,                                                               
rather it changes when the individual may apply.                                                                                
Number 1124                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE   DAHLSTROM   commented    that   this   is   good                                                               
legislation,  and it  is  similar to  HB 287.    However, HB  287                                                               
refers to "in  a time of national military  emergency" versus the                                                               
language  of HB  536,  which refers  to  "by certain  individuals                                                               
serving in  the armed services".   Representative Dahlstrom noted                                                               
that  many active  duty military  on U.S.  soil aren't  in a  war                                                               
zone, but may or may not be able  to leave their post.  She asked                                                               
if the aforementioned was considered.                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE  HEINZE  replied  yes.   This  legislation  merely                                                               
allows  those  in   a  war  zone  who  can't   obtain  their  PFD                                                               
application to do  so and retroactively [for those in  a war zone                                                               
in 2003  and 2004].   She said she  didn't know how  the military                                                               
would view the situation described by Representative Dahlstrom.                                                                 
MR. BITTNER explained  that the legislation was  drafted in order                                                               
to  respond  to situations  involving  a  lack of  communications                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  HEINZE informed  the  committee  that she  talked                                                               
with Christopher Rauchenstein's  commanding officers and followed                                                               
his entire route to determine  whether he could obtain a computer                                                               
during that  time.   It was  definitely a war  zone in  which the                                                               
main priorities were water and shelter.                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  pointed out  that  there  may be  some                                                               
people  who  are  in  covert  operations  with  circumstances  as                                                               
equally difficult as  those in the war zone  experience who can't                                                               
physically [submit his  or her PFD application].   The difficulty                                                               
is in the drafting on page 1.                                                                                                   
CHAIR STEPOVICH  agreed that there could  be different scenarios,                                                               
and this legislation addresses one scenario.                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG turned attention  to the language on the                                                               
top  of  page  2  of  Version B.    He  suggested  providing  the                                                               
commissioner some  general guidelines  that could allow  a waiver                                                               
of the application date.  He  highlighted the language on page 2,                                                               
line 9,  which specifies  a standard  of "reasonable  cause", and                                                               
said that the standard should be  higher.  The standard should be                                                               
"extraordinary circumstances  that render  it impossible  for the                                                               
individual to  meet the  deadline and  allow the  commissioner to                                                               
publish regulations that define that further."                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE   HEINZE    said   that   she    understood   what                                                               
Representative  Gruenberg was  doing,  and had  went through  the                                                               
same  with  the  definitions.   Ultimately,  the  judge  advocate                                                               
general  (JAG) helped  craft this  legislation  and the  language                                                               
that addressed those who didn't apply on time.                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG clarified  that  if  the language  [the                                                               
last sentence] on [the bottom] of  page 1 wasn't present and only                                                               
the language on [the top] of page  2 was left, it would allow the                                                               
commissioner  discretion.    Representative  Gruenberg  specified                                                               
that  it  really  isn't  a  matter of  where  the  individual  is                                                               
located,  but  rather  whether it's  impossible  because  of  the                                                               
individual's duty.   "We're seeking  a causal  connection between                                                               
the  fact of  their duty  and  the impossibility  of meeting  the                                                               
deadline," he said.                                                                                                             
CHAIR   STEPOVICH  interjected   his   understanding  that   this                                                               
legislation  utilizes the  military  criteria,  and therefore  he                                                               
questioned how it could be rewritten.                                                                                           
Number 1690                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA pointed out that  those who have missed the                                                               
deadline are  looking for  whatever room can  be found  to submit                                                               
their PFD  application.   There is an  appeals process  in place.                                                               
She opined  that this  legislation is creating  an opening  for a                                                               
specific group  of people who appear  to have a certain  level of                                                               
stress as a group.   Representative Cissna expressed the need for                                                               
any  changes  to go  through  the  group  of people  who  already                                                               
address this issue  in order to avoid opening an  entire range of                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  noted  that  the  appeals  process  is                                                               
within  the department,  so the  use of  the term  "commissioner"                                                               
includes the appeal process.                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE  reiterated that  the legislation  uses the                                                               
military criteria.   She  informed the  committee that  there was                                                               
discussion with  regard to doing this  just for the war  in Iraq,                                                               
but then  the question  becomes what  about those  in the  war in                                                               
Afghanistan.   The intent is to  keep it very narrow  and address                                                               
those individuals  at war who  can't get  to a location  to file,                                                               
and  therefore it  was tied  to  the military's  hostile fire  or                                                               
imminent danger pay.                                                                                                            
Number 1900                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN commented  that it seems folks  are trying to                                                               
complicate a relatively simple piece  of legislation.  He related                                                               
his  understanding that  the legislation  simply relates  to when                                                               
one can  apply for a  PFD and ties it  to the receipt  of hostile                                                               
fire  or imminent  danger pay.   Representative  Lynn highlighted                                                               
that although sometimes it may  not be impossible to do something                                                               
[such  as  submit a  PFD  application],  it may  be  impractical.                                                               
Furthermore, this  only applies  to individuals who  are eligible                                                               
to apply under  the PFD criteria, regardless  of the individual's                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  HEINZE  pointed  out   that  the  legislation  is                                                               
retroactive to when the war started.                                                                                            
Number 2048                                                                                                                     
SHARON  BARTON,  Director,   Permanent  Fund  Dividend  Division,                                                               
Department  of   Revenue,  surmised   that  the  intent   of  the                                                               
legislation is to pick up those  folks who fall within the intent                                                               
of the legislation  and who may have already  applied and denied.                                                               
Therefore,  she  suggested  inserting,  in  Section  2,  language                                                               
relating  that  they may  apply  or  reapply  if they  have  been                                                               
previously  denied.   The point  of the  language is  to pick  up                                                               
those  folks  who have  already  been  denied, who  the  division                                                               
wouldn't allow to reapply without such language.                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN  moved Ms. Barton's suggestion  as a friendly                                                               
amendment.  There being no objection, the amendment was adopted.                                                                
MS. BARTON specified that the  language would need to be inserted                                                               
on lines 17 and 19 of page 2.                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  MASEK   inquired  as  to  Ms.   Barton's  opinion                                                               
regarding a  possible language  change on page  2, line  9, which                                                               
refers to reasonable cause.                                                                                                     
MS.   BARTON  explained   that  the   division  would   interpret                                                               
"reasonable cause" or "extraordinary  circumstances" to mean that                                                               
the  conditions  prohibited  the  individual  from  receiving  or                                                               
getting  out the  PFD application.   Therefore,  the language  is                                                               
fine   as   written,   although   the   language   "extraordinary                                                               
circumstances" would be fine as well, she remarked.                                                                             
Number 2220                                                                                                                     
VERN  RAUCHENSTEIN,  the   father  of  Christopher  Rauchenstein,                                                               
related his son's  situation.  His son, Christopher,  was sent to                                                               
Iraq as the  PFD deadline approached.  He  characterized going to                                                               
war as an extraordinary circumstance that should be considered.                                                                 
CHAIR STEPOVICH  remarked that Mr.  Rauchenstein should  be proud                                                               
of his son's service to the nation.                                                                                             
Number 2350                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  MASEK  moved  to  report CSHB  536,  Version  23-                                                               
LS1796\B,  Cook,  4/6/04,  [as  amended] out  of  committee  with                                                               
individual  recommendations  and  the accompanying  fiscal  note.                                                               
There being no objection, CSHB 536(MLV) was reported out of the                                                                 
House Special Committee on Military and Veterans' Affairs.                                                                      

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