Legislature(2019 - 2020)GRUENBERG 120

02/11/2020 02:15 PM MILITARY & VETERANS' AFFAIRS

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Audio Topic
02:17:12 PM Start
02:18:12 PM HB223
02:47:49 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Please Note Time Change --
*+ HB 223 NAMING VIETNAM HELI. PILOTS' MEM. BRIDGE TELECONFERENCED
Moved HB 223 Out of Committee
-- Public Testimony --
Invited Testimony by Lynn Kile, Alaska Chapter
President, Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Assoc.
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
        HB 223-NAMING VIETNAM HELI. PILOTS' MEM. BRIDGE                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
[Contains discussion of SB 4 and SB 84.]                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
2:18:12 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  THOMPSON  announced that  the  only  order of  business                                                               
would  be  HOUSE  BILL  NO.   223  "An  Act  naming  the  Vietnam                                                               
Helicopter Pilots' Memorial Bridge."                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
2:18:52 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR SHAW,  as prime  sponsor, introduced HB  223.   He noted                                                               
that  this bill  is close  to his  heart.   He explained  that he                                                               
served two tours in the Vietnam  Conflict and has been invited to                                                               
join as  an associate the  Vietnam Helicopter  Pilots Association                                                               
because of  his service and  because he is a  licensed helicopter                                                               
pilot.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR SHAW  explained that the  idea for this  bill originated                                                               
with  Representative Tilton,  and that  she had  graciously given                                                               
him the  opportunity to sponsor  the bill because of  his service                                                               
during the Vietnam era.   Representative Shaw expressed his honor                                                               
and gratitude to  Representative Tilton and to  her staff member,                                                               
Heath  Hilyard, for  his  work  in preparing  the  bill; he  also                                                               
thanked  his  staff Josh  Walton  for  his "yeoman's  effort"  in                                                               
preparing the bill,  and finally to the co-sponsors  of the bill,                                                               
who are all veterans.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
2:20:22 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR SHAW  displayed a framed  photograph of himself  in 1970                                                               
in Vietnam,  with a helicopter in  frame.  He explained  that the                                                               
photograph depicted  his direct involvement with  helicopters and                                                               
their pilots during the Vietnam  Conflict.  He recounted that the                                                               
Battle  of Ia  Drang was  the first  battle, and  thus began  the                                                               
legacy  of Vietnam  helicopter pilots  as the  lifeline and  life                                                               
blood to all tasked with their  own specific duty, whether it was                                                               
infantry, or tanks;  the helicopter pilots were there  for a safe                                                               
way in and out and were heroes to all who served.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
2:22:01 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JOSHUA WALTON,  Staff, Representative  Laddie Shaw,  Alaska State                                                               
Legislature, presented  HB 223 on behalf  of Representative Shaw,                                                               
prime sponsor.   He  explained that the  bill would  name bridges                                                               
numbers  1124 and  1889 on  the Glenn  Highway -  which span  the                                                               
Matanuska River both  northbound and southbound at  mile 30.4- as                                                               
"Vietnam Helicopter Pilots' Memorial  Bridge."  He indicated that                                                               
a  nearby bridge,  the Sergeant  James Bromsteel  Bridge -  which                                                               
spans the Knik River - would not be affected by this bill.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR.  WALTON  drew  attention  to  information  contained  in  the                                                               
committee  packet, entitled  "HB 223  Bridge Images  2.7.2020" as                                                               
Google Maps photographs  showing the bridges.   He cited material                                                               
in the packet, entitled "HB  223 Additional Info - Helicopters in                                                               
Vietnam 2.7.2020" as an academic,  historical article of interest                                                               
of the  role of  Helicopters in  the Vietnam  Conflict.   He also                                                               
cited other materials in the  packet, entitled "HB 223 Additional                                                               
Info-  Air  &  Space  Magazine  Article  2.7.2020"  and  "HB  223                                                               
Additional  Info- Vietnam  Helicopter  Memorial  - Time  Magazine                                                               
2.7.2020" as contemporary articles  of interest that describe the                                                               
heroism  of  the  pilots  and  some  of  their  challenges  post-                                                               
conflict.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
2:24:14 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR THOMPSON  thanked the witnesses for  their testimony and                                                               
thanked Co-Chair Shaw for his service to the country.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
2:24:23 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE RAUSCHER asked  what the names of  the bridges are                                                               
currently and whether  bridges are named when they  are built or,                                                               
if not, how naming of bridges happens.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR.  WALTON explained  that  for  any bridge  to  be named,  that                                                               
requires legislation;  it is  assigned a number  but not  given a                                                               
name when built.   He continued that the  bridges addressed under                                                               
HB 223 currently have no name.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
2:25:02 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SPOHNHOLZ inquired  as to  the plausibility  of a                                                               
list that  includes all  past or present  Alaskans who  served as                                                               
helicopter pilots during the Vietnam Conflict.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
2:25:37 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
LYNN  KYLE,  President,  Vietnam  Helicopter  Pilots  Association                                                               
Alaska  Chapter, explained  that  the  Vietnam Helicopter  Pilots                                                               
Association  (VHPA)  consists  of  approximately  16,500  members                                                               
nationally; the  VPHA Alaska Chapter  consists of 82  members and                                                               
the  chapter  is in  contact  with  approximately 120  additional                                                               
individuals regarding  membership and  activities.   He explained                                                               
that a list  for Alaska is estimated to contain  over 400 members                                                               
but is  challenging to maintain due  to pilots moving in  and out                                                               
of state, the  advancing age of the pilots, and  the challenge of                                                               
maintaining current contact information.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
2:26:54 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE    SPOHNHOLZ   noted    that   similar    proposed                                                               
legislation, SB  4 and  SB 84, sponsored  by Senator  Coghill, do                                                               
not contain a fiscal note.   She asked why this bill is different                                                               
from those and contains a $6,000 fiscal note.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
2:27:22 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR SHAW indicated that a  representative from Department of                                                               
Transportation  & Public  Facilities will  address this  question                                                               
later.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
2:27:40 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON  asked whether  there is a  female Vietnam                                                               
Conflict helicopter pilot in Alaska                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR.  KYLE indicated  that there  are certainly  female helicopter                                                               
pilots in Alaska; however, there  were no Vietnam Conflict female                                                               
helicopter pilots.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
2:28:41 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  KYLE  further  remarked  that the  Vietnam  Conflict  was  a                                                               
"helicopter war."   He noted that because of  the capabilities of                                                               
the  pilots, 82  percent of  the wounded  [evacuees'] lives  were                                                               
saved, amounting  to more than  900 thousand patients saved.   He                                                               
noted that  following the  Vietnam Conflict  they came  to Alaska                                                               
and  contributed  their  skills  to AeroMed  and  other  aviation                                                               
outreaches  to the  benefit of  Alaska.   He noted  that although                                                               
members  are now  in their  twilight years,  the passing  of this                                                               
legislation  would honor  their  contribution to  Alaska and  the                                                               
nation during the Vietnam Conflict.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
2:30:04 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JACKSON commented  that  her  husband served  two                                                               
tours in  the Vietnam Conflict  and thanked [the  primary sponsor                                                               
and  co-sponsors]  for  an  opportunity to  have  a  landmark  to                                                               
represent the lives that were saved.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
2:30:42 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR THOMPSON opened public testimony on HB 223.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
2:31:07 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
FORREST E.  POWELL III, Program  Coordinator, Office  of Veterans                                                               
Affairs,  Department of  Military &  Veterans Affairs,  testified                                                               
that he is  a retired military service member.   He recounted his                                                               
weekly  drives over  the bridges  addressed under  HB 223  to the                                                               
Alaska  Veterans  Museum.     He  noted  that   the  children  he                                                               
encounters at  the museum  are curious  and enjoy  learning about                                                               
veterans.  He indicated that it  was the signage on the Bronsteel                                                               
Bridge that prompted questions from  the children and resulted in                                                               
an opportunity  for learning.   Mr. Powell  noted that  his post-                                                               
military  career  with  the  State  of  Alaska  involved  serving                                                               
Vietnam  [era]  veterans.    He   said  he  enjoys  stories  that                                                               
transcend  what  one sees  in  movies,  and  he opined  that  the                                                               
Vietnam Conflict veterans  are truly heroes.  He  stated that the                                                               
Office   of  Veterans   Affairs  coordinated   with  the   Alaska                                                               
Department of  Transportation & Public  Facilities in  naming the                                                               
Bronsteel Bridge and would be  happy to coordinate again for this                                                               
proposed  naming.   He  testified  on  behalf  of the  Office  of                                                               
Veterans Affairs  with the support  of Director Verdie  Brown its                                                               
endorsement of this bill.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
2:33:43 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
VIKKI JO KENNEDY testified that  there are numerous casualties of                                                               
the Vietnam  Conflict awaiting  honorable and  proper recognition                                                               
of their  service and sacrifice.   She  stated her support  of HB                                                               
223.                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
2:37:12 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR THOMPSON closed public testimony on HB 223.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
2:38:00 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE RAUSCHER  inquired if someone could  put the signs                                                               
up themselves [other than DOTPF] to avoid cost.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
2:38:27 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MIKE LESMANN,  Legislative Liaison, Department  of Transportation                                                               
&  Public  Facilities,  answered  with  a  "qualified  no."    He                                                               
expounded that DOTPF  follows a set of  best practices guidelines                                                               
for  signs  and traffic  devices,  found  in the  Alaska  Traffic                                                             
Manual.   He  continued  that  the manual  is  a  version of  the                                                             
[federal]  Manual on  Uniform Traffic  and  Control Devices,  and                                                             
specifies  things   such  as  color,  size,   height,  and  other                                                               
considerations with  a basis  in traffic safety.   He  noted that                                                               
DOTPF Maintenance & Operations (MO)  staff would be designated to                                                               
hang the signs as a matter of safety.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
2:40:09 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE RAUSCHER noted that in  his community, when he was                                                               
chair of the  Sutton Community Council, the  council submitted an                                                               
application to put  up signs on either end of  the community.  He                                                               
continued that  the council  received permission  with a  list of                                                               
specifications, and the council was  able to put signs up without                                                               
DOTPF being  involved.  Further,  he noted that DOTPF  waived the                                                               
fees.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
2:40:44 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  THOMPSON asked  Representative  Rauscher  on what  road                                                               
[the council hung signs].                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE RAUSCHER  indicated they  were on Glen  Highway at                                                               
mile 54 and mile 67.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
2:40:57 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. LESSMAN  replied that  he [has  not encountered  such] during                                                               
his time at DOTPF but would be willing to look into it.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
2:41:18 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SPOHNHOLZ restated  her earlier question regarding                                                               
SB 4 and SB 84.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
2:41:34 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. LESSMAN offered his understanding  that SB 4 named the bridge                                                               
over Tok  River after fallen  Alaska State Trooper  Scott Johnson                                                               
and  that  a zero  fiscal  note  occurred with  that  legislation                                                               
because there was a reconstruction  project of the Alaska Highway                                                               
underway including  signage, and  DOTPF was  able to  absorb cost                                                               
for that sign into the existing project.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
2:42:32 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KOPP asked  Representative  Rauscher how  exactly                                                               
the signs [the council hung] read.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
2:42:51 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE RAUSCHER indicated "Welcome to Sutton."                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
2:42:55 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KOPP asked  DOTPF to  answer whether  there is  a                                                               
difference  between  a  highway  sign welcoming  [traffic]  to  a                                                               
community and one naming a bridge.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
2:43:20 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
DAVID  EPSTEIN,  Traffic &  Safety  Engineer,  Traffic &  Safety,                                                               
Southcoast   Region,  Department   of  Transportation   &  Public                                                               
Facilities speculated  that the  reason the  council was  able to                                                               
hang  signs  is  because  they are  designated  as  "destination"                                                               
signs, which, in Southeast region, DOTPF would not hang.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
2:44:47 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE RAUSCHER clarified that  his intent was to provide                                                               
a  basis by  which to  determine  whether signs  could be  posted                                                               
without DOTPF involvement in order to avoid cost.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
2:45:05 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  SHAW  inquired if  it  was  possible for  the  [Vietnam                                                               
Helicopter  Pilots Association]  to reimburse  the state  for the                                                               
cost.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
2:45:17 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. LESSMAN indicated that DOTPF  [likely has a funding mechanism                                                               
to allow a third-party reimbursement].                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
2:45:51 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON  asserted that she  does not wish  for the                                                               
discussion  regarding  a $6,000  fiscal  note  to overshadow  the                                                               
importance  of   [passing  the  legislation]  to   honor  Vietnam                                                               
Helicopter Pilots with the proposed memorial bridges.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
2:47:06 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  SHAW moved  to  report  HB 223  out  of committee  with                                                               
individual  recommendations  and  the accompanying  fiscal  note.                                                               
There being no objection, HB 223 was reported out of the House                                                                  
Special Committee on Military and Veterans' Affairs.                                                                            

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 223 Sponsor Statement 2.7.2020.pdf HMLV 2/11/2020 2:15:00 PM
HB 223
HB 223 Bridge Images 2.7.2020.pdf HMLV 2/11/2020 2:15:00 PM
HB 223
HB 223 Additional Info - Helicopters in Vietnam 2.7.2020.pdf HMLV 2/11/2020 2:15:00 PM
HB 223
HB 223 Additional Info - Air & Space Magazine Article 2.7.2020.pdf HMLV 2/11/2020 2:15:00 PM
HB 223
HB 223 Additional Info - VHPA Honored 2.7.2020.pdf HMLV 2/11/2020 2:15:00 PM
HB 223
HB 223 Additional Info - Vietnam Helicopter Memorial - Time Magazine 2.7.2020.pdf HMLV 2/11/2020 2:15:00 PM
HB 223
HB 223 Additional Info - VHPA Website 2.7.2020.pdf HMLV 2/11/2020 2:15:00 PM
HB 223
HB 223 Testimony - Received 2.4.2020.pdf HMLV 2/11/2020 2:15:00 PM
HB 223
HB 223 Additional Info - DMVA Letter of Support 2.11.2020.pdf HMLV 2/11/2020 2:15:00 PM
HB 223