Legislature(2017 - 2018)GRUENBERG 120
02/06/2018 01:00 PM House MILITARY & VETERANS' AFFAIRS
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HB 262-MILITARY SPOUSE COURTESY LICENSE 1:04:09 PM CHAIR TUCK announced that the first order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 262, "An Act relating to temporary courtesy licenses for certain nonresident professionals; and relating to the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development." 1:04:36 PM REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT KAWASAKI, Alaska State Legislature, explained that HB 262 is a culmination of many discussions that took place over several years regarding expediting temporary courtesy licenses. In 2011, House Bill 28, [passed in the Twenty-Seventh Alaska State Legislature], allowed expedited temporary courtesy licenses for spouses of Armed Services members so they could practice their profession without experiencing extensive wait-times for licensure approval. Similar legislation has passed in other states; however, several states, such as the States of Washington and Connecticut, include a reporting mechanism to the legislature and Joint Armed Services Committees wherein the state can track the progress of the executive branches' implementation of those occupational boards. He noted that House Bill 28 did not include a reporting requirement when it was enacted. In the Fall of 2017, legislators voiced concern that the full implementation of House Bill 28 was not yet completed and that not all occupational boards were aware of the seven-year-old statute. While questions remain, HB 262 simply seeks to strengthen the ability of those military spouses in obtaining occupational licenses in an efficient and expedited manner as prescribed by law. This legislation seeks to amend Title 8 to include the Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development (DCCED) such that it prepares an annual report of the courtesy licenses issued in the previous fiscal year. He commented that this simple reporting mechanism will help to facilitate communications between the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the occupational boards that oversee those licenses, he described. Thereby, he said, this legislation will help facilitate those military spouses in getting back into the workforce as quickly as possible. The passage of HB 262 will improve communications between those boards, the departments, and the legislature, and it will improve the efficiency and awareness as to what opportunities are available. He urged the support of this corrective bill and described that it is in the best interest of improving communications and accountability and helping those military families transition into their new life in this state. 1:07:44 PM REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER referred to HB 262, Section 1, AS 08.01.063(f), page 2, lines 3-9, which read as follows: (f) The department shall submit the report prepared under (e) of this section to the Joint Armed Services Committee on or before the first day of each regular session of the legislature. In addition, the department shall consolidate the two most recent reports and submit a biennial report to the legislature on or before the first day of the first regular session of each legislature. The department shall deliver a copy of the biennial report to the senate secretary and the chief clerk of the house of representatives and notify the legislature that the report is available. REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER asked why Representative Kawasaki directed that the report go to the Joint Armed Services Committee because if the report is also going to the senate secretary and chief clerk, why does it need to go to the committee. REPRESENTATIVE KAWASAKI responded that that is a technical question for his staff member, William Jodwalis. He opined that the purpose of the report going to the Joint Armed Services Committee is because it will get to more legislators more quickly. The report will also go to the senate secretary and the chief clerk because "sometimes we do get those reports, and other times we don't," he pointed out. 1:08:51 PM WILLIAM JODWALIS, Staff, Representative Scott Kawasaki, Alaska State Legislature, responded to Representative Saddler's previous question and advised that the report would be presented to the Joint Armed Services Committee annually. He explained that it would be two reports during the first year, and the second year would be bi-annually presented to the legislature. The idea of the report being presented to the Joint Armed Services Committee is so that the information can get to the military community more efficiently. The information would be passed on to legislators who may have districts that would more directly be affected with the content of that report. As Representative Kawasaki advised, this legislation is modeled after the States of Washington and Connecticut, he reiterated. 1:10:07 PM REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER asked whether the sponsor considered drafting the legislation such that the one-year report would be delivered to "everybody" one-year, and the two-year bi-annual report would go "everybody" the second year, if the goal is to provide the information to as many people as possible and in as broad a reach as possible. MR. JODWALIS answered that the sponsor would consider Representative Saddler's suggestion. 1:10:42 PM REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER asked the name of the sponsor of the 2011 House Bill 28 courtesy license bill. MR. JODWALIS replied that he could get that information to the committee. 1:11:02 PM REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER referred to the sponsor's statement that this bill would increase communications between different boards and commissions, and he asked how reporting to the legislature would improve communications between boards and commissions. MR. JODWALIS responded that the requirements of the report direct that the department work with the boards in drafting the report. He explained that the department would compile the report after working with the various occupational boards, determine what is being done, what better efforts could be taken to fit the requirements of the report as outlined in the bill; submit the report to the Joint Armed Services Committee; and to the legislature bi-annually. The intent, he advised, is that it would facilitate communications. He opined that the Department of Defense suggested that those states experiencing difficulties with the implementation of their military spouse occupational licensure situation would review the examples of the States of Washington and Connecticut. 1:12:48 PM REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER suggested that rather than sending the information solely to the boards authorized to issue a temporary license, that the legislature might encourage "a little bit of an initiative" by sending that notice to all of the boards with the thought that they might decide to follow the same procedure. He commented that he appreciates efforts to make the courtesy license information more publicly available, and he noted that he may come forward with an amendment to broaden the scope of the distribution. MR. JODWALIS thanked Representative Saddler for his suggestion. CHAIR TUCK asked Representative Saddler to depict the boards and commissions he would include in the potential amendment. REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER responded that it is with regard to all boards and commissions. 1:13:35 PM REPRESENTATIVE RAUSCHER asked whether the sponsor anticipates a fiscal note. MR. JODWALIS answered that the sponsor does not anticipate a fiscal note. 1:14:12 PM REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER referred to the sponsor's opening statement that reporting would increase the activity of the executive branch and asked whether that statement was under the theory that if more people knew about it, they would take advantage of this opportunity. MR. JODWALIS replied that concerns were brought to the sponsor's attention by the Department of Defense through the updated preliminary funding of the Eielson Air Force Base Regional Growth Plan. He noted that a focus group among military families had taken place in order to determine the potential challenges in moving to Eielson Air Force Base in light of the arrival of the F-35s. He advised that included within the bill packet is a comment regarding the challenges for anyone with a license from a different state who is required to obtain a new license or certification in Alaska. The point of House Bill 28 was to reduce the sort of challenges faced in 2011, and he opined that the sponsor identified some of the issues. Facilitating the department further and "getting their fingers in those regulations and checking with their boards, that will hopefully get us where we want to go," he offered. 1:15:52 PM REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER referred to HB 262, Section 1, AS 08.01.063(g), page 2, lines 13-16, which read as follows: (g) ... The department shall encourage the 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. REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER advised that he previously worked on the Alaska Boards and Commissions and each board does have such a person, and he suggested that it might be helpful to make certain they know the name of the contact person, and that the person knows it is part of their duties. 1:16:17 PM REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX noted that everything in this legislation is a good idea but commented that it is sad the bill regarding temporary licenses was passed in 2011, and the legislature had to pass another bill to make certain the boards and commissions actually understood "what we've done." It appears that something slipped through the cracks of the executive branch during a couple of administrations, and she asked whether the administration should be advising its boards and commissions as to what is available. MR. JODWALIS commented that the sponsor asked himself those same questions and opined that it was a matter of letting the foundation settle a bit in order to see the cracks, and that some of the cracks were not anticipated. For instance, a licensed acupuncturist from another state would investigate Alaska "acupuncturist license" on the internet, and the expedited military spouse licensing information is listed off to the side under "military licensing." Due to the spouse not being military personnel, they may not think that the link off to the side directly applies. Although, he pointed out, it is necessary that the spouse follow that link in order to obtain the additional paperwork and receive that expedited licensure privilege. He offered that the report will reveal the cracks and hopefully after everyone has reviewed the report, they will be fixed. 1:19:32 PM REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX commented that sometimes entities and departments prepare reports on different issues and those reports are not necessarily perused to the greatest extent possible. She suggested that a concerted effort might be made to work with the administration to try to determine how to redesign a website, if that is the problem. 1:20:23 PM CHAIR TUCK advised that the 2011 House Bill 28 was co-sponsored by Representatives Bill Thomas, Bob Herron, and Eric Feige, all of which are no longer serving in office. 1:20:37 PM REPRESENTATIVE SPOHNHOLZ referred to the previous testimony of Sarah Chambers, Deputy Director, Workforce Investment Board, who shared that 13,396 applications were submitted for certification or licensure last year, of which approximately 70 were veterans or military spouse-related. This, she offered, may be the case of the "needle and the hay-stack" wherein a light could be shown on the needle through HB 262, in order to elevate the issue and keep it on everyone's mind. She added that when there are over 13,000 applications, there could be the natural propensity to lean toward volume processing and less toward the exceptions. This discussion, she pointed out, is about unique exceptions in which to make note, and she commended the sponsor for bringing the bill forward. 1:22:30 PM FRED PARADY, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development (DCCED), advised that he was available for questions. REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX opined that quite a few of these boards and commissions from which people would like to obtain courtesy licenses would be under the Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development (DCCED). MR. PARADY offered to first provide a background, and explained that the Division of Corporations, Business, and Professional Licensing handles roughly 225,000 renewals for licenses or new licenses each year, roughly 1/3 corporations, 1/3 businesses, and 1/3 professional. Within the professional licensing category, it has 43 professions that the legislature saw fit to regulate, and 21 of those professions have boards. 1:23:30 PM REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX surmised that House Bill 28 and the presentation of HB 262 sheds some light on the fact that military spouses are experiencing difficulties obtaining the courtesy licenses enacted into law in 2011. She asked whether Mr. Parady had suggestions to remedy the situation. MR. PARADY advised that the department was certainly responsive to 2011 House Bill 28, it has the department's attention, and the department shares the eagerness to serve our military personnel. After the enactment of House Bill 28, three best practices were established by the Department of Defense, each of which the Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development has enacted. He offered those best practice as follows: licensure by endorsement or credentials; if the credentials approximate the department's requirements; the application then moves to temporary licensure for 360 days while the person puts together the necessary paperwork; and those military applications are expedited. He commented that the department does have its focus on that "needle in the haystack" and that it serves its residents. He directed the committee to the department's webpage and acknowledged that "military licensure" is a sidebar on its quick links because the department puts everything that is "in common across those 43 professions in one link," and he would look to see whether that could be [more user friendly]. That link "takes you to this page, and it takes you to a one-page form that clarifies your military status." Regardless of whether the person fills out that form, during the time the department's examiners review an application and observe anything military on the application, the application goes to the top of the list. He noted that relative to the Eielson Regional Growth Plan, there is a "Tiger Team" that meets in Fairbanks regarding the upcoming growth with the stationing of the F-35s. He advised that he was on the telephone when the Eielson Regional Growth Plan was presented, noted this potential problem, and spoke to the fact that the department is supportive to the needs of military spouses, veterans, and members to licensure. The department is focused on the project, the problem, and it is happy to do better, he offered. 1:26:29 PM REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX asked whether this bill would help the department do better and remain focused. MR. PARADY advised that the department is neutral on HB 262, the addition in statute of an annual reporting requirement is the will of the legislature, communication is always a good thing, and the department is a telephone call away and happy to report to the legislature. 1:26:53 PM REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER referred to Mr. Parady's statement that there are 43 professions and 21 of those have boards, he asked how many boards or commissions currently offer military courtesy licenses. MR. PARADY responded that according to the data in front of him, the list depicts 11 boards that do not offer military courtesy licenses and typically that is because they either do not have an exam requirement or they are unique licenses for Alaska. For example, registered or assisted guide outfitters who must demonstrate knowledge of Alaska's game law; game transporter who has a reporting requirement in the transportation of big game; marine pilots who step on board and take command of large ships that might be traveling into a harbor unfamiliar to that captain, or through the Wrangell Narrows, and so forth. The boards that do not offer military courtesy licenses are limited to specific reasons. 1:28:00 PM REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER offered a scenario of a military spouse availing themselves to one of these professional licenses, and asked whether they pay a fee, and if so, is it credited to their eventual permanent professional license. MR. PARADY related that he would have to confirm his answer, and he opined that they pay a fee just like any other applicant. REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER noted that there are individuals with professional licenses who certainly support the military but are concerned about being asked to support the professional license of a possible competitor. 1:28:37 PM REPRESENTATIVE RAUSCHER referred to the question of whether this bill would help the department "accomplish better" and asked whether the department can accomplish better without the bill. MR. PARADY reiterated that the department is neutral as to the bill and it certainly has its attention focused here. Frankly, he stated, within the Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development on the Commerce side, it is of keen interest that the Fairbanks military expansion with the F-35s growth plans come to fruition and bear fruit for Alaskans. He explained that what he is trying to say is that the department is paying attention. 1:29:37 PM REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER requested clarification that the Division of Corporations, Business, and Professional Licensing currently does need a single person to serve as the point of public contact, or whether that is a position to be redirected. MR. PARADY deferred to Sara Chambers, Deputy Division Director, because she is the lead. He related that across the 21 boards there are approximately 150 or so members, and they go through a new board member orientation and board training, and those materials include reference to military licensing and its specific requirements. He pointed out that the department tries to build it into the front loading of its new board members. REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX asked whether the committee would be able to question Commissioner Robert Doehl or Sara Chambers. CHAIR TUCK advised that Sara Chambers was not currently available as she was testifying in other committees. 1:31:45 PM ROBERT MR. DOEHL, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Military & Veterans' Affairs (DMVA), advised he was available to answer questions. 1:31:54 PM REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX asked that when families arrive on base, whether part of their orientation or procedure makes clear that special courtesy licenses are available. MR. DOEHL responded that there is not a mandatory briefing for military spouses or children arriving on Alaskan bases as the service members are required to attend briefings. Although, he acknowledged that the service member may not advise their spouse about the licenses but that is completely controlled by the Department of Defense, and currently spouses are not briefed in the United States locations. 1:33:10 PM REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX surmised that there is not a mandatory briefing or orientation for military spouses or children, and she asked whether there is some sort of voluntary briefing for those spouses who would like a briefing. MR. DOEHL answered that they may, as an option, attend the end briefing that their service member attends, but there is not a briefing focused on the needs of the spouse in the new location. 1:33:44 PM REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX commented that without making it a federal case, so to speak, could there be a spouse briefing. MR. DOEHL replied that the briefings or orientations given to service members and their families arriving on Alaska's military bases are controlled by the federal government, and the federal government has not yet given Alaska sovereignty over those briefings. At this point, the department could reach out to Citizens Action Group or other groups in which Representative Saddler regularly participates with JBER and ask the base to consider that option. However, he said, it would be a federal military decision as to what it offers. REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER commented that there are an infinite number of programs available that exchange information and operate well that do not necessarily require a federal program. 1:34:52 PM REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER asked whether the department offers any type of publications as to the benefits available to veterans in Alaska and the resources available for military spouses, while acknowledging that is not the department's primary responsibility. MR. DOEHL answered that at this time the department does not have publications tailored to military spouses in Alaska. 1:35:17 PM REPRESENTATIVE REINBOLD commented that this is an important issue because the service member may receive a whole host of information, but it is never distributed to the spouse. She opined that there should be some sort of information distribution system that offers awareness to the spouses because there could be a communication gap. MR. DOEHL responded that Major General Hummel can reach out to the Alaska command (ALCOM) commander and the general officers in the state to explore what mechanisms they may have available to facilitate this issue. REPRESENTATIVE REINBOLD asked Mr. Doehl to get back to the committee with that information. MR. DOEHL advised that he would get back to the committee or Major General Hummel will be in Juneau and can discuss the issue. 1:36:59 PM CHAIR TUCK opened public testimony on HB 262. 1:39:01 PM DALE VANDE HAY, Defense State Liaison Office, Military Community and Family Policy, Department of Defense, advised that this is an issue the Department of Defense has been working on as one of its ten key issues throughout the years. He acknowledged that the issues were "birthed somewhat" during the 2011 timeframe and advised that the Defense State Liaison Office tries to help military members and their spouses who relocate, whether they are service members getting out of the service that wish to settle in Alaska or spouses who arrive with their military member to an installation in Alaska. He commented that he was a support group commander at Elmendorf Air Force Base in the late 1990s, and he does have a frame of reference on the challenges of moving to Alaska. This effort is probably the number one challenge, even today, for those military spouses joining their spouse as they move around the country. He advised that he is one of eight liaisons who cover the 50 states and he can attest to the fact that this problem has not gone away. This issue is back because the Department of Defense was still hearing that this was a problem even though all states had passed laws to work through the issues of licensure by endorsement, temporary license, and expedited processes, but it did not appear to be getting better. Therefore, the Department of Defense commissioned the University of Minnesota to prepare a report examining military spouse licensure and the results across the board were that more efforts could be taken. Granted, he said, in the hearing two days ago on the whole issue of occupational licensure, there was a lot of discussion about the issue of academic credentials, and what the boards are or are not doing, and this legislation will reinforce the need to give further attention to this continuing dilemma. He advised that the base has a spouse employment manager who is typically at either the Army Community Services Center or the Army Family Readiness Site, and they do everything they can to help a spouse access their new location. Typically, when a person is a professional spouse with a certification or a license, they know that their license is controlled by the board in that state, and the person would go to the board to have their license renewed or certified in some manner. The onus is on the spouse to contact the board, and he related that it is reassuring to hear that the boards are doing everything they can to improve that process. 1:44:46 PM REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER noted that his general experience is that top vocations for military spouses tend to be teachers, real estate agents, healthcare professionals, and businesses, and he asked Mr. Vande Hay to relay the most likely vocations for temporary licenses. MR. VANDE HAY responded that the professions include the professions Representative Saddler mentioned, and teachers and nurses are in that category. There is an effort across the country to advocate for interstate compacts which are currently in the areas of physical therapy, emergency medical technicians, nurses, and psychology professionals. The point being, he offered, is that these interstate compacts, being populated in all 50 states by those particular associations, are opportunities for assistance for the military spouses. He added that a University of Minnesota report zeroed in on particular skills that are also needed and used by military spouses, such as cosmetology, dental hygiene, massage therapy, mental health counseling, occupational therapy, and real estate. 1:46:31 PM REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER asked Mr. Vande Hay to repeat the occupations. MR. VANDE HAY advised as follows: massage therapy, dental hygiene, cosmetology, physical therapy, emergency medical services, nurses, and psychologists. 1:47:05 PM REPRESENTATIVE PARISH noted that in previous discussions the question has been raised as to what is being done to accommodate people with teaching credentials, which might not follow under the Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development. He asked what the legislature can do to facilitate a military spouse's teaching credential and being able to teach in one of Alaska's schools. He noted that Mr. Parady was shaking his head no. Representative Parish then broadened his question to ask what the other states are doing more effectively that Alaska could model. MR. VANDE HAY advised that this is another one of the Department of Defense's issues because teachers do not fall under the purview of these licensing compacts, and as to a temporary certificate, the States of Indiana and Oregon provide a three- year temporary certificate. He explained that when a teacher arrives in one of those states, their initial qualifications are required and sometimes they don't have all of the information, such as state history. Those teachers are given a temporary license for three years or eighteen months and then another eighteen months, which is pretty much in the purview of House Bill 28. Except, he noted, it does not cover teachers because teachers are not under that bill. In the event the Department of Education was rolled into this process and had that same requirement, the person could be given the temporary certificate, gather the paperwork or obtain the additional credentials, and the license could be renewed after a certain amount of time. 1:50:58 PM REPRESENTATIVE RAUSCHER asked whether the list he had offered was a finite list or an example list. MR. VANDE HAY answered that the list was an example of the most used populations of professional military spouses, but there are other occupations. 1:51:36 PM REPRESENTATIVE RAUSCHER offered an example of being married to a plumber, a general contractor, or a profession of that nature, and "you are the person getting transferred to Alaska in the military" and those are the types of licenses your spouse would hold, "are those excluded also?" MR. VANDE HAY asked whether the question is if plumbers and contractors are excluded. REPRESENTATIVE RAUSCHER advised that he was interested in general contracting and all of those types of licenses and commented that he imagined they are excluded. MR. VANDE HAY advised that it all depends on whether they are currently covered by the Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development that handles most of those skills, but he did not have a listing of those skills. In the event the desire is to have those particular skills covered, then those professional boards could be included in this process. REPRESENTATIVE RAUSCHER asked Chair Tuck if there was a way "we can get on a list from wherever it is supposed to come from?" CHAIR TUCK opined that it would come from the Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development. He advised that House Bill 28 is in front of him which is basically about licenses, and he was unsure how far it went into professional licenses. In the event someone had a contractor's license, he said, he was unsure it would be easily transferred as it mostly refers to professional licenses. REPRESENTATIVE RAUSCHER said, dental hygienist. CHAIR TUCK pointed out that that is a professional license. He said he would try to obtain a list from the Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development. 1:53:44 PM REPRESENTATIVE REINBOLD referred to female service members married to a general contractor who is following them around the country and asked whether there are a rising number of female service members. CHAIR TUCK reminded the committee that it is currently under public testimony and all questions should be directed to the testifier and not to other witnesses. 1:54:49 PM DAVID NEES, Alaska Policy Forum, offered appreciation for HB 262 because it offers the public a chance to review how the system is currently working, and it appears that there are major issues to consider. The Alaska Policy Forum noticed that a number of military spouses with teaching credentials are working at the private schools because "it requires too much money out of their pocket" to train to become Alaska certified. He said, "We" do have a temporary system for teachers, but it is only good for one year and he suggested allowing, for example, one year with one year out and then another one year out. In the event a spouse arrives from overseas, there may have been a gap in their teaching service because they were unable to teach in the local schools overseas, but they still hold a professional license in teaching. He reminded the committee that there is a shortage of teachers in Alaska so anything "you can do to include that into this process" would be helpful. The concentration of getting the information out regarding professional licenses should not be solely focused on the base; information should be given to parents when they register their children at the local schools, he suggested. He asked the committee to consider whether to include teaching in one of the temporary licensures in order to work in the State of Alaska. Currently, he said, most military spouses with a degree in education are not working in the public school system and are working in private school systems simply because there are too many hurdles to jump when they know full well that at some point, they will return home. This legislation looks at whether the Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development is the best place to get information about licensure out to the military. REPRESENTATIVE PARISH asked whether a three-year temporary license for those in the teaching profession would substantively respond to the needs he had pointed out. MR. NEES answered that it would, or to simply have a one-year license. 1:59:23 PM CHAIR TUCK, after ascertaining that no one wished to testify, closed public testimony on HB 262. [HB 262 was held over.]