Legislature(2013 - 2014)CAPITOL 106

02/11/2014 08:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved Out of Committee
Moved CSHB 275(CRA) Out of Committee
Heard & Held
Moved Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                      HB 199-VPSO FIREARMS                                                                                  
9:42:45 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LYNN announced  the final order of business  was HOUSE BILL                                                               
NO.  199,  "An  Act  relating  to  Department  of  Public  Safety                                                               
regulations  allowing village  public  safety  officers to  carry                                                               
9:43:05 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  BRYCE   EDGMON,  Alaska  State   Legislature,  as                                                               
sponsor, presented HB  199.  He prefaced his  introduction of the                                                               
proposed  legislation  by offering  an  overview  of the  Village                                                               
Public Safety  Officer (VPSO) program.   He said the  program was                                                               
established "in the  late '70s and early '80s"  to provide safety                                                               
to  outlying  rural  communities  that did  not  have  access  to                                                               
regular law  enforcement presence.   He  stated that  the program                                                               
has, for the most part, been  successful.  He said there were 125                                                               
VPSOs  working  in   the  early  '90s,  but   currently,  of  the                                                               
authorized  120-plus  authorized positions  there  are  92 or  93                                                               
working VPSOs.  He explained the  reasons for the ebb and flow in                                                               
the  numbers  of  VPSOs  are  related  to  circumstances  in  the                                                               
particular  communities and  underscore  one  of the  fundamental                                                               
issues of the program, which has been turnover.                                                                                 
9:44:45 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  EDGMON  said having  grown  up  in Dillingham,  a                                                               
rural part  of the state,  he is familiar with  the circumstances                                                               
surrounding the VPSO program.   He said his research in preparing                                                               
to present  HB 199  has taught  him to  appreciate what  VPSOs do                                                               
throughout  rural Alaska.   He  expressed  pride in  some of  the                                                               
changes that have occurred in rural  Alaska over the years in the                                                               
areas of transportation,  health care, and education,  as well as                                                               
opportunities for  living a subsistence/cash  lifestyle; however,                                                               
he said  the increased  use of  hard drugs  and pervasive  use of                                                               
alcohol  have  resulted in  increased  violence  in rural  Alaska                                                               
communities.   He indicated  that these  problems have  created a                                                               
more lethal environment in which VPSOs must operate.                                                                            
9:46:11 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE EDGMON explained  that all this came to  a head on                                                               
March 19, [2014], when a VPSO lost  his life in the line of duty.                                                               
He said on a recent trip  home, he listened to harrowing accounts                                                               
of  the  experiences  of  two VPSOs,  who  sometimes  dealt  with                                                               
perpetrators with high  powered rifles and other arms  that put a                                                               
VPSO in danger.  Representative  Edgmon said he introduced HB 199                                                               
to require [the commissioner of  the Department of Public Safety]                                                               
not  to prohibit  VPSOs from  carrying firearms.   He  emphasized                                                               
that under  HB 199,  VPSOs would have  to meet  minimum standards                                                               
and training in order to qualify to carry firearms.                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE EDGMON relayed that he  has been contacted by many                                                               
not-for-profit  organizations  around  the   state,  as  well  as                                                               
members  of  the rural  community,  and  he  said he  thinks  the                                                               
support [for  HB 199]  is widespread.   He said  there are  a few                                                               
communities that have  some trepidation and may not  want to have                                                               
an  armed VPSO;  however,  the  way HB  199  is structured,  that                                                               
decision  would  be made  between  the  department, the  regional                                                               
Native association, and the community itself.                                                                                   
9:49:18 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   EDGMON  said   there   is  a   fiscal  note   of                                                               
approximately $62,000 a year, which  is based on the department's                                                               
premise  that  about 20  VPSOs  would  be  sent to  the  training                                                               
academy in  Sitka, Alaska.   He  said the  fiscal note  is broken                                                               
down  into  three  components:    travel;  liability,  under  the                                                               
services component;  and commodities,  including the cost  of the                                                               
firearms, holsters, and ammunition.                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  EDGMON relayed  that last  week he  learned of  a                                                               
VPSO program  oversight issue, which the  department is currently                                                               
in  the process  of  rectifying.   He  recommended the  committee                                                               
invite Captain Steve Arlow to  explain the oversight and have the                                                               
deputy commissioner  provide details  about the  training program                                                               
that would  be offered  under HB  199.  He  said during  the last                                                               
legislative  session, the  department  began putting  regulations                                                               
into effect that  would not prohibit a regional  association in a                                                               
community to  work towards the  process of getting a  VPSO armed.                                                               
He said the thrust of the bill  is to make the proposed change in                                                               
perpetuity and  to help legitimize  the program, in terms  of any                                                               
secondary issues that  may follow the arming of  VPSOs in Alaska.                                                               
In response  to the chair,  he confirmed  that under HB  199, the                                                               
arming of VPSOs would be optional for rural communities.                                                                        
9:51:44 AM                                                                                                                    
STEVE ARLOW,  Captain, C Detachment Commander,  Division of State                                                               
Troopers, Department  of Public  Safety (DPS), testified  that he                                                               
has run  the Alaska VPSO  program for the  last eight years.   He                                                               
brought  to the  attention of  the committee  an event  wherein a                                                               
nonprofit  organization hired  a VPSO  with a  felony conviction.                                                               
In response  to the chair, he  said conviction was for  a Driving                                                               
Under the  Influence (DUI) incident,  which resulted in  the harm                                                               
of  another  individual, but  he  indicated  that there  were  no                                                               
firearms  involved.   He said  there is  a procedure,  written in                                                               
regulation 13  AAC, which gives guidelines  on what investigators                                                               
are supposed to consider and what  they can and cannot approve in                                                               
a person's background.  The  regulation makes clear that a person                                                               
with a felony  conviction cannot enter into the  VPSO program and                                                               
a nonprofit cannot use state funds  to hire someone with a felony                                                               
conviction as  a VPSO.   Nevertheless, he pointed out  that there                                                               
is  regulation  that  allows  the  commissioner  of  DPS  or  his                                                               
designee to review any denials in  the process by a nonprofit, if                                                               
the  nonprofit  requests  the  review.   He  said  that  is  what                                                               
happened in the  aforementioned case.  He said this  case came to                                                               
his  desk after  an investigator  reviewed the  background, which                                                               
showed that  the person  interested in becoming  a VPSO  was from                                                               
the community, and his father had  been a VPSO for over 20 years.                                                               
The application  was the first  the department had  received from                                                               
this village since the father had left.                                                                                         
CAPTAIN ARLOW  stated that it  is challenging to find  people who                                                               
will  fill VPSO  positions, and  the nonprofit  organization said                                                               
the community  really supported the  selection of  the individual                                                               
as its  VPSO; he had only  one felony event, and  that was twelve                                                               
years  ago.   He  said  he reviewed  the  case  yesterday and  it                                                               
appears it is complex, because the  details are unclear.  He said                                                               
there  is a  letter from  the  district attorney,  who wanted  to                                                               
decline  prosecution because  of insufficient  evidence, but  the                                                               
case went  forward and a plea  agreement was made to  a different                                                               
level of  assault, but it  was still a felony.   He said  it also                                                               
appears that the  information surrounding the event  is "a little                                                               
muddy."  He offered further details.                                                                                            
CAPTAIN ARLOW  explained that  he shared  this information  as an                                                               
example not only  of why there are guiding  regulations, but also                                                               
why there is a stipulation  that allows a commissioner or his/her                                                               
designee to "look at these  on a case-by-case basis to determine"                                                               
whether each  meets "the  intent of  the law,  the letter  of the                                                               
law."   He said this  is the only  individual in the  program who                                                               
has the  background of a felony  conviction.  He said,  "We don't                                                               
make it a practice, but it is  something that in this case we did                                                               
have one."   In  response to  follow-up questions,  he reiterated                                                               
that  the person  was  convicted of  a felony,  and  he said  the                                                               
person is still working as a VPSO  and appears to be doing a very                                                               
good job.                                                                                                                       
9:57:20 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LYNN asked what the entry pay is for a VPSO.                                                                              
CAPTAIN ARLOW  answered it  is currently $25  an hour,  and there                                                               
could be benefit packages included,  depending on which nonprofit                                                               
employs  the  VPSO.   Further,  he  said  in some  instances  the                                                               
communities  provide housing  and  stipends for  fuel "and  other                                                               
things" for those living in a rural village.                                                                                    
9:57:56 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  HUGHES  recollected  that the  sponsor  had  said                                                               
there  are currently  93 VPSOs  working, and  she asked  how many                                                               
villages  that  covers.    Also,  she  asked  how  long  a  rural                                                               
community  might  expect to  wait  until  an armed  Alaska  State                                                               
Trooper arrived.                                                                                                                
CAPTAIN ARLOW  answered that currently  there are  69 communities                                                               
serviced  by  VPSOs; however,  some  VPSOs  are assigned  to  hub                                                               
communities  that  touch  other   communities  beyond  those  69.                                                               
Regarding  response  time,  he   relayed  that  having  been  the                                                               
detachment commander  for Western Alaska  for many years,  he can                                                               
say that  there are times  Alaska State Troopers have  arrived in                                                               
villages the  same day, even within  hours of an event.   He said                                                               
there  are not  enough  troopers to  respond  to all  communities                                                               
simultaneously, but  they do their  best to respond to  calls and                                                               
have to prioritize them.                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE HUGHES said having  lived out in Bush communities,                                                               
response time is  a concern.  She added, "Thus  the need for this                                                               
10:00:28 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR LYNN said he thinks HB 199 is an important bill.                                                                          
10:00:30 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR LYNN closed public testimony.                                                                                             
10:01:08 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR LYNN reopened public testimony.                                                                                           
[HB 199 was held over.]                                                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
00 HB0275 CRA v.O.pdf HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
HB 275
01 HB0275A.pdf HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
HB 275
02 HB 275 sponsor statement.pdf HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
HB 275
03 HB 275 Sectional.pdf HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
HB 275
04 HB275 Fiscal note Lt Gov.pdf HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
HB 275
05 HB275 Fiscal note OMB various.pdf HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
HB 275
06 Back up HB275 OMB.pdf HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
HB 275
07 Legal memo on commas.PDF HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
08 MOA letter of support HB275.pdf HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
HB 275
09 Letter Support HB275 - Alaska Municipal League - Waserman 2-7-2014.pdf HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
HB 275
10 Changes to HB 275 HCRA.pdf HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
HB 275
01 HB 199 28-LS0739 U.pdf HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
HB 199
02 HB 199 2014 Sponsor Statement.pdf HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
HB 199
03 HB 199 DPS Draft Revised VPSO Regs.pdf HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
HB 199
04 HB 199 Information Hearing BBNA Testimony and Resolutions CEO Ralph Anderson.pdf HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
HB 199
05 HB 199 Informational Meeting Summary 9.26.2013.pdf HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
HB 199
06 HB 199 Letters--Informational Hearing--9.26.2013.PDF HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
HB 199
07 HB 199 Edgmon Op-Ed Alaska Dispatch 9.13.13.pdf HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
HB 199
08 HB 199 ADN Article--VPSO Slain.pdf HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
HB 199
09 HB 199 ADN Letter to the Editor.pdf HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
HB 199
10 HB 199 Mike McCarthy Support.PDF HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
HB 199
11 HB 199 Informational Hearing Letter Robert Claus.pdf HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
HB 199
12 HB 199 Kathie Wasserman Support.pdf HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
HB 199
13 HB199 email Mike Coons Testimony.pdf HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
HB 199
05 HB275 Fiscal note OMB various (updated 2-2-2014).pdf HSTA 2/11/2014 8:00:00 AM
HB 275