Legislature(2017 - 2018)GRUENBERG 120

04/04/2017 01:00 PM MILITARY & VETERANS' AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
*+ HB 178 NAMING PORTIONS OF VETERANS HIGHWAYS TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Testimony <Invited/Public> --
*+ HB 125 LAO/HMONG VETERAN DRIVER'S LIC. & ID CARD TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Testimony <Invited/Public> --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
+= HB 152 ORGANIZED MILITIA; AK ST. DEFENSE FORCE TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSHB 152(MLV) Out of Committee
          HB 178-NAMING PORTIONS OF VETERANS HIGHWAYS                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
1:15:44 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR TUCK  announced that  the next order  of business  would be                                                               
HOUSE  BILL  NO.   178,  "An  Act  relating   to  recognition  of                                                               
individual veterans  along certain  veterans' memorial  roads and                                                               
on certain veterans' memorial bridges."                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
1:16:03 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE DAVID EASTMAN,  Alaska State Legislature, informed                                                               
the committee he  was approached by local veterans  seeking a way                                                               
to  further  recognize veterans  in  each  of the  six  veterans'                                                               
memorials  throughout the  state.   He  directed  attention to  a                                                               
document provided in the committee  packet which was a picture of                                                               
the Veterans'  Highway memorial in the  Matanuska-Susitna region.                                                               
He described the  existing memorial as generic and  said the bill                                                               
would   recognize   particular   veterans  for   their   service.                                                               
Additional  comments  on the  bill  have  been heard  from  local                                                               
veterans, the Department of Military  & Veterans' Affairs (DMVA),                                                               
and  the   Department  of  Transportation  &   Public  Facilities                                                               
(DOTPF); a [committee] substitute for HB 178 is forthcoming.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER  observed there  are over  72,000 veterans                                                               
living in  Alaska and asked  why it  is more appropriate  to name                                                               
memorials for  certain veterans  - and  thereby exclude  others -                                                               
rather than to honor all veterans by memorial roads or bridges.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN  acknowledged there is room  for a balance                                                               
between  a generic  and an  individual  recognition of  veterans;                                                               
under this proposal, the names  of memorial highways would remain                                                               
unchanged,  but at  various  points along,  or  adjacent to,  the                                                               
highway there would be an  opportunity for individual recognition                                                               
for a period of three to five years.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER asked how  the temporary designation would                                                               
be accomplished.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  EASTMAN explained  local  and official  veterans'                                                               
organizations would submit names  for consideration by the Alaska                                                               
State  Legislature;  after   legislative  commendation,  veterans                                                               
would  be eligible  for individual  recognition.   Representative                                                               
Eastman  further explained  legislative commendation  would occur                                                               
by a  citation passed by  the House and Senate,  and subsequently                                                               
DOTPF would  implement the placement  of markers  along veterans'                                                               
memorials.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER  restated   his  question  regarding  the                                                               
temporary designation.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
1:22:41 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SPOHNHOLZ  pointed   out  the  sponsor  statement                                                               
indicates  the  cost  of  signage   would  be  funded  by  gifts,                                                               
donations,  and grants  received by  DOTPF and/or  DMVA; however,                                                               
these departments do not have the capacity to raise funds.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  EASTMAN  advised  veterans'  organizations  would                                                               
collect and  solicit donations for  the project.  [HB  178] would                                                               
give DOTPF the authority to accept  funds and would allow DMVA to                                                               
direct donors to a certain account managed by DOTPF.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SPOHNHOLZ   questioned  whether   [DMVA's]  state                                                               
government  web  site would  direct  donors  to contribute  to  a                                                               
private organization.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  EASTMAN  said  no.   The  bill  gives  DOTPF  the                                                               
authority  to  collect  and  receive   funds  for  this  specific                                                               
purpose.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SPOHNHOLZ asked  whether veterans'  organizations                                                               
have committed their support for the legislation.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  EASTMAN indicated  yes,  and  their testimony  is                                                               
forthcoming.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE PARISH  posited a  situation in which  a veterans'                                                               
organization  raised  money  for  the recognition  of  a  certain                                                               
veteran;  in  this case  would  DMVA  direct  said funds  to  the                                                               
individual,  or would  the funds  go into  a "common  pot" to  be                                                               
distributed between all the honored veterans.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  EASTMAN   stated  the  intent  of   the  proposed                                                               
legislation is to  allow donors to contribute  to "that account,"                                                               
or one of the six current memorials should they choose to do so.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
1:26:17 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR TUCK opened public testimony on HB 178.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
1:26:55 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
YUKON DON  TANNER informed  the committee he  is a  Navy veteran.                                                               
Mr.  Tanner said  HB  178  is another  step  forward in  honoring                                                               
veterans by placing the names  of selected veterans on a signpost                                                               
in  designated [transportation]  corridors.   Although there  are                                                               
concerns with the  bill, he opined all concerns  can be addressed                                                               
in an efficient way and urged for passage of the bill.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER asked  whether Mr. Tanner is  aware of any                                                               
veterans  that  veterans'  organizations  seek  to  nominate  for                                                               
special distinction.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. TANNER said he did not at  this time.  In further response to                                                               
Representative  Saddler regarding  his  affiliations, Mr.  Tanner                                                               
said he is  a life member of the Veterans  of Foreign Wars (VFW),                                                               
in  Talkeetna  and a  member  of  [American  Legion] Post  35  in                                                               
Wasilla.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
1:29:04 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
DAVE GLENN informed  the committee he is a Vietnam  veteran.  Mr.                                                               
Glenn  expressed  his  belief  the  proposed  legislation  is  an                                                               
extension  of the  recognition of  veterans that  began with  the                                                               
dedication of  the Mat-Su  Veterans' Highway.   He  said he  is a                                                               
life  member  of  VFW,  a  life member  of  Vietnam  Veterans  of                                                               
America, and  a member  of the  [MAT-SU Veterans'  Foundation] in                                                               
Wasilla.    Mr.  Glenn  directed attention  to  a  document  from                                                               
[Deputy Commissioner Robert Doehl,  DMVA] [document not provided]                                                               
and opined  the intent of the  legislation is to comply  with all                                                               
established rules, policies, and  regulations currently in place.                                                               
In addition,  there is  precedent for  the legislation  along the                                                               
Seward Highway  Dowling Road overpass.   He affirmed  the funding                                                               
would be  on a  volunteer basis  and provided  an example  of the                                                               
availability of  funding in  this regard.   Mr. Glenn  listed the                                                               
names   of  several   veterans  whom   he  suggested   should  be                                                               
recognized.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
1:32:09 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SUSAN JONES informed  the committee she and her  husband are Army                                                               
veterans and their son served in  the U.S. Air Force.  She agreed                                                               
with  the  recognition of  veterans  in  Alaska, noting  she  has                                                               
observed veterans  who are  proud of  their military  service and                                                               
are deserving of honor.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
1:33:27 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR TUCK,  after ascertaining  no one  else wished  to testify,                                                               
closed public testimony, noting  public testimony may be reopened                                                               
at a subsequent hearing.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER referred  to questions  raised by  Deputy                                                               
Commissioner  Doehl,  in a  document  dated  [4/3/17], which  was                                                               
provided  in  the  committee  packet,  and  asked  Representative                                                               
Eastman to respond.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN  said [if HB  178 is enacted] the  role of                                                               
DMVA would  be minimal;  the bill requests  DMVA to  accept names                                                               
from official  Alaska veterans' organizations and  to forward the                                                               
names  and  the  sponsoring   organizations  to  the  legislature                                                               
annually.  Further,  in response to a question  from DMVA related                                                               
to the eligibility  of whose honored, he  explained a forthcoming                                                               
version of the bill would clarify  an eligible veteran is one who                                                               
has been  a member of the  armed forces, the National  Guard, the                                                               
Alaska State Defense Force, or  the Alaska Territorial Guard, and                                                               
who was honorably discharged.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER asked  which veterans'  organizations are                                                               
designated as [IRC 501(c) 19] charitable organizations.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  EASTMAN  said  at  least  four  organizations  in                                                               
Alaska  meet  that  designation.    The  aforementioned  Internal                                                               
Revenue  Service (IRS)  tax  exemption is  specific  to posts  or                                                               
organizations  of  past or  present  members  of the  U.S.  Armed                                                               
Forces.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER  surmised   the  veterans'  organizations                                                               
include  VFW  and  American  Legion   and  asked  for  the  other                                                               
organizations.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN will provide the requested information.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER questioned  whether Representative Eastman                                                               
would accept an amendment to  the legislation which would specify                                                               
a veterans' organization  would need to meet the  [IRC 501(c) 19]                                                               
tax-exempt standard.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN said yes.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
1:37:13 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER suggested  DMVA seeks  further parameters                                                               
in the  bill as to who  would be eligible, for  example, veterans                                                               
who were  Alaska residents during  their service or  veterans who                                                               
are now Alaska residents.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  EASTMAN  pointed  out the  legislation  does  not                                                               
direct DMVA to verify  eligibility; veterans' organizations would                                                               
nominate  a veteran  and  the legislature  would  make the  final                                                               
determination as long as the veteran was honorably discharged.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER  expressed   his  understanding  that  in                                                               
passing citations,  the legislature  does not complete  a process                                                               
of  vetting or  fact-checking  qualifications.   He surmised  the                                                               
legislation  requires   the  legislature  to   assume  additional                                                               
responsibilities.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
1:39:45 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ROBERT DOEHL,  Deputy Commissioner,  Office of  the Commissioner,                                                               
Department of  Military &  Veterans' Affairs,  disclosed he  is a                                                               
member of VFW, American Legion,  Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of                                                               
America, and  the Vietnam Helicopter  Pilots Association,  all of                                                               
which are IRC 501(c) 19 organizations.   He said DMVA supports an                                                               
amendment   to  limit   the  applications   to   IRC  501(c)   19                                                               
organizations  and  expressed  concerns related  to  the  vetting                                                               
process and [the lack of]  an adequate definition of veterans who                                                               
are  eligible  for  recognition.    In  addition,  he  questioned                                                               
whether  confirming   an  honorable  discharge  is   a  statutory                                                               
requirement.   [DMVA]  strongly  supports  an efficient  donation                                                               
process  similar  to  that  currently   utilized  by  the  Alaska                                                               
Department of Fish  & Game and a provision  to direct undedicated                                                               
donations  to  certain veterans.    Finally,  DMVA requests  that                                                               
veterans would  be given  a provision to  opt-out if  the honoree                                                               
chose not to be recognized as an individual.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER  asked Mr. Doehl  to comment on  the value                                                               
of  honoring an  individual veteran  as opposed  to honoring  all                                                               
veterans.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. DOEHL opined there is value in both forms of recognition.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SPOHNHOLZ  inquired as to whether  the sponsor has                                                               
determined   whether  contributions   to   the   state  are   tax                                                               
deductible.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN said  yes.  Currently, the  state and each                                                               
of  its subdivisions  would  be  eligible; however,  establishing                                                               
eligibility for a municipality requires  payment of a $150 filing                                                               
fee  with IRS.    Therefore, every  government  entity in  Alaska                                                               
would be eligible, but its status would need to be confirmed.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  PARISH asked  about  the cost  of installing  and                                                               
maintaining signage.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
1:44:55 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MIKE LESMANN,  Legislative Liaison,  Office of  the Commissioner,                                                               
Department  of  Transportation  &  Public  Facilities,  estimated                                                               
signs cost between $800-$1,000 minimum for materials and labor.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
1:45:03 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MARK   NEIDHOLD,  Chief,   Design  and   Construction  Standards,                                                               
Division   of   Statewide   Design  and   Engineering   Services,                                                               
Department  of Transportation  & Public  Facilities, explained  a                                                               
sign of  the type  discussed in  the legislation  can cost  up to                                                               
$2,500 each, depending upon location, size, and other factors.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR TUCK asked  whether the signs must stand alone  or could be                                                               
added to an existing road sign.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR.  NEIDHOLD cautioned  adding to  an existing  road sign  risks                                                               
distracting  from  the message  of  the  existing sign;  however,                                                               
signs are routinely added to light poles.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER asked  which  federal highway  visibility                                                               
standards  may  impact  the  placement   of  the  signs  honoring                                                               
veterans.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. NEIDHOLD said  23 Code of Federal Regulations,  in the Manual                                                               
on Uniform  Traffic Control Devices,  allows the state  to modify                                                               
the  federal  standards  following   the  Alaska  Traffic  Manual                                                               
Supplement.   In  further  response  to Representative  Saddler's                                                               
questions  of how  big signs  can be  and if  sign locations  are                                                               
limited, he  added size  depends on the  traffic speed  along the                                                               
route  and the  location of  other signs  that may  be considered                                                               
more critical; in fact, the  manual directs DOTPF to only install                                                               
signs that are  necessary for the operation of  the highway, with                                                               
minor exceptions.   He described the hierarchy of  signs from the                                                               
highest order,  such as  regulatory signs,  to the  lowest order,                                                               
such as memorial signs.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER  further asked  whether  a  sign that  is                                                               
damaged or vandalized  may cost less to replace or  the same, and                                                               
if  the state  or private  individuals  would be  liable for  the                                                               
replacement cost.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR. NEIDHOLD  advised the  cost of repair  would depend  upon the                                                               
level of damage.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
1:51:35 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR TUCK announced that HB 178 was held over.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB125 ver D 3.27.17.pdf HMLV 4/4/2017 1:00:00 PM
HB 125
HB125 Sponsor Statement 3.27.17.pdf HMLV 4/4/2017 1:00:00 PM
HB 125
HB125 Fiscal Note-DOA-DMV 4.2.17.pdf HMLV 4/4/2017 1:00:00 PM
HB 125
HB125 Fiscal Note-MVA 4.2.17.pdf HMLV 4/4/2017 1:00:00 PM
HB 125
HB125 Supporting Document- Letter Berkowitz 3.27.17.pdf HMLV 4/4/2017 1:00:00 PM
HB 125
HB125 Supporting Document-Letter Mai Xiong 3.27.17.pdf HMLV 4/4/2017 1:00:00 PM
HB 125
HB0178 ver A.PDF HMLV 4/4/2017 1:00:00 PM
HB 178
HB178 Sponsor Statement 3.22.17.pdf HMLV 4/4/2017 1:00:00 PM
HB 178
HB178 Fiscal Note-DOT 4.2.17.pdf HMLV 4/4/2017 1:00:00 PM
HB 178
HB125 Supporting Documents-Letters of Support 4.3.17.pdf HMLV 4/4/2017 1:00:00 PM
HB 125
HB178 Fiscal Note-MVA 4.4.17.pdf HMLV 4/4/2017 1:00:00 PM
HB 178
HB178 Additional Documents-Letter DMVA 4.4.17.pdf HMLV 4/4/2017 1:00:00 PM
HB 178