Legislature(2011 - 2012)BUTROVICH 205

03/21/2011 03:30 PM RESOURCES

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Moved CSSB 42(RES) Out of Committee
Moved SCS CSHJR 9(RES) Out of Committee
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
3:42:15 PM                                                                                                                    
          SB  13-WAIVE PARK FEE FOR DISABLED VETERANS                                                                       
CO-CHAIR WAGONER announced SB 13 to be up for consideration. He                                                                 
asked for a motion to bring the bill before the committee.                                                                      
CO-CHAIR  PASKVAN  moved to  bring  SB  13, version  27-LS0097\A,                                                               
before the committee.                                                                                                           
CO-CHAIR WAGONER objected for discussion purposes.                                                                              
SENATOR FRENCH, sponsor  of SB 13, said this  measure waives park                                                               
fees  for disabled  veterans. He  read the  sponsor statement  as                                                               
     Alaska's veterans  served our country with  pride. This                                                                    
     legislation shows a small token  of our appreciation by                                                                    
     providing  disable  veterans  in our  state  with  free                                                                    
     access to state park facilities.                                                                                           
     Our parks provide all Alaskans  with the opportunity to                                                                    
     explore  and  recreate  in  Alaska's  wild  places.  To                                                                    
     provide these opportunities  to those with disabilities                                                                    
     many park facilities are  compliant with ADA standards.                                                                    
     Six cabins have been  modified to include features like                                                                    
     wheelchair  ramps. Two  boat launches,  14 campgrounds,                                                                    
     10  historic  sites and  dozens  of  day use  locations                                                                    
     provide handicap  accessible facilities.  Regardless of                                                                    
     disability, the system is truly open to all Alaskans.                                                                      
     In 1991,  Alaska passed a  law which created  a special                                                                    
     disabled  veteran  camping permit,  providing  disabled                                                                    
     veterans with  free camping in state  park campgrounds.                                                                    
     SB 13 extends  this free benefit to  public use cabins,                                                                    
     boat ramps, RV facilities  and day parking. Please join                                                                    
     me and support this meaningful piece of legislation.                                                                       
SENATOR FRENCH said  the bill is easiest to understand  if you go                                                               
to page  3, section  4 that has  the meat of  the bill,  which is                                                               
this exception  in subsection  (f) to AS  41.21.026; it  says the                                                               
department may not  charge or collect a fee  under (a)(1), (6)(70                                                               
or (8),  (11) or (12)  of this section from  a resident who  is a                                                               
disabled veteran.                                                                                                               
Section one adds:                                                                                                               
       (1) rental of public use cabins or other overnight                                                                       
       lodgings;" those aspects of state parks that would                                                                       
        (6) allows one to use a sewage holding tank dump                                                                        
      (7) admission to or guided tours of visitor centers                                                                       
     and historic sites;                                                                                                        
      (8) use of an improved boat ramp in a park facility                                                                       
     developed principally for boat launching;                                                                                  
      (11) use of a developed facility that has developed                                                                       
     parking and rest rooms;                                                                                                    
SENATOR  FRENCH said  state  parks are  "nickel  and diming  you"                                                               
every time  you turn around. If  they want to encourage  folks to                                                               
get  outside to  enjoy  the  wilderness and  what  Alaska has  to                                                               
offer, it strikes  him that disabled veterans should  not have to                                                               
shoulder this financial burden.                                                                                                 
He pointed out  that this doesn't just apply to  folks who are in                                                               
wheel chairs  and on  crutches. You could  be disabled  through a                                                               
traumatic  brain injury,  through post-traumatic  stress disorder                                                               
and lots of other different ways.                                                                                               
SENATOR FRENCH said last year,  under the current exemption, 1600                                                               
park passes  were issued  to disabled  veterans and  he estimated                                                               
that  same  number would  be  using  cabins  and so  forth.  They                                                               
wouldn't get priority  use for the cabins, but the  basic idea is                                                               
to encourage  more use  of the  parks by  our veterans.  He added                                                               
that there is a definition of "disabled veteran."                                                                               
3:47:24 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR WAGONER opened public testimony.                                                                                       
SHARLA   "KRIS"  COOK,   a   disabled   veteran  from   Anchorage                                                               
representing  herself said  she  supports SB  13.  She said  that                                                               
Alaska  is  known  as a  very  veteran-friendly  state.  Disabled                                                               
veterans generally  earn less  than they  would have  before they                                                               
were disabled.  The certification is  already done for  the state                                                               
by the  Department of Veterans  Affairs; a regional office  is in                                                               
Anchorage  and those  who  are  not close  to  Anchorage can  get                                                               
certification through  the Veterans Affairs Central  Offices by a                                                               
phone call and then a letter.  The letter both certifies that the                                                               
person  is   a  veteran,  that  they   have  a  service-connected                                                               
disability  and provides  a specific  rating for  that disability                                                               
and specifies  whether the disability is  permanent or temporary.                                                               
The  disability  rating  is  through a  federal  process,  so  it                                                               
relieves the state of having to do that.                                                                                        
MS.   COOK  said   a  disabled   veteran  could   bring  in   his                                                               
certification  letter  and  present  it when  getting  a  parking                                                               
permit or renting a cabin in lieu of paying money.                                                                              
CO-CHAIR  WAGONER, finding  no  further  public comments,  closed                                                               
public testimony.                                                                                                               
CO-CHAIR PASKVAN  asked if  anyone from DNR  was here  to explain                                                               
the fiscal note.                                                                                                                
3:51:11 PM                                                                                                                    
BEN ELLIS,  Director, Division of  Parks and  Outdoor Recreation,                                                               
Department of  Natural Resources  (DNR), said they  encourage the                                                               
use and  enjoyment of all the  state's parks by all  Alaskans and                                                               
especially   disabled  veterans.   They  support   the  idea   of                                                               
recognizing the service and sacrifice  made by them and emphasize                                                               
that any concern they may have  is largely of a fiscal nature. He                                                               
explained  that  any  time  they grant  fee  exemptions  it's  "a                                                               
double-edged sword"  in that revenue  is decreased  while greater                                                               
use is encouraged and this bill would be no exception.                                                                          
He said they currently provide  an exemption to disabled veterans                                                               
from paying fees for overnight  camping in state park facilities.                                                               
The  individual must  come in  to  a Fairbanks  or Anchorage  DNR                                                               
public  information center  in person  and  provide either  their                                                               
red, white and blue disabled veteran  I.D. card or the letter Ms.                                                               
Cook  referred to  from the  Veterans' Administration  confirming                                                               
their status.                                                                                                                   
MR. ELLIS  explained that  although the  statute provides  for an                                                               
annual pass  for disabled  veterans, the  current practice  is to                                                               
issue a  two-year pass.  For 2009/10,  they issued  1,616 camping                                                               
passes with a  combined value of approximately  $322,200. He said                                                               
it  would  be  relatively  straight-forward to  implement  a  fee                                                               
exemption to disabled veterans for  day use and boat launch fees.                                                               
There  are annual  passes available  to the  general public;  for                                                               
both of  these uses a  receipt code could be  set up so  the pass                                                               
could be  provided free of  charge to disabled  veterans. Without                                                               
knowing  exactly how  many would  apply, his  best guess  is that                                                               
they  would potentially  lose  $80,000-$160,000  in revenue  from                                                               
that access.                                                                                                                    
MR. ELLIS  said the  more difficult issue  to implement  would be                                                               
the  fee exemption  for  disabled veterans  on  public use  cabin                                                               
reservations.  Ninety-eight percent  of  those are  made via  the                                                               
state online system.  If a disable veteran were  required to make                                                               
their  cabin  reservations  in person,  either  in  Anchorage  or                                                               
Fairbanks,  it  would  be  putting  them  at  a  disadvantage  in                                                               
comparison to  the general  public. The  most popular  cabins are                                                               
generally  reserved  exactly  seven   months  in  advance.  State                                                               
residents have  seven months and if  you're out of state  you can                                                               
reserve them six months in advance.                                                                                             
He  said there  is  a way  to allow  disabled  veterans the  same                                                               
access  to the  public use  cabins  as the  general public.  They                                                               
would need to  modify the online system. Contracting  out for the                                                               
design of  personal identification number for  a disabled veteran                                                               
to  use online  and  not be  charged would  cost  $10,000. It  is                                                               
difficult  to  determine how  much  the  disabled veterans  would                                                               
avail  themselves of  this program,  but  he used  the fees  from                                                               
their 2010  total to  get a  low, medium  and high  estimate. Ten                                                               
percent  of the  total would  be about  $30,700 that  wouldn't be                                                               
captured; a middle estimate is 20  percent that would amount to a                                                               
little over $61,000  and 30 percent of the high  end would amount                                                               
to about $92,000.                                                                                                               
MR. ELLIS  said the  public use  cabins have  an over  90 percent                                                               
occupancy   rate.  There   are   some  considerations   regarding                                                               
providing exemptions  for public use cabin  fees. Currently, when                                                               
someone cancels  a reservation,  they are  issued a  credit which                                                               
they can  use for future  reservations. That allows  someone else                                                               
to take the use of their  cabin. Under this exemption there would                                                               
be  no incentive  to cancel  and it  could, therefore,  tie up  a                                                               
cabin  when  it wasn't  being  used  -  resulting again  in  lost                                                               
revenue. Due to  the remote location of some of  the areas, there                                                               
would  be a  lack of  enforcement and  it would  be difficult  to                                                               
ensure that the  disabled veteran whose exemption  was being used                                                               
was actually present in the group that was staying at the cabin.                                                                
He  said  they have  73  public  use  cabins that  are  extremely                                                               
popular and  in 2010  they were used  7,452 nights  and generated                                                               
$307,335. There  are approximately  29 positions that  are either                                                               
fully  funded within  Parks using  general fund  program receipts                                                               
which this  money would be.  All of those positions  are involved                                                               
directly either  with enforcement  or management  of the  parks -                                                               
the park  ranger, the  park specialist  and the  natural resource                                                               
technicians. If  the program  receipts would  not be  replaced by                                                               
general funds, the revenue reduction  would have the potential to                                                               
result in the loss of three or more equivalent positions.                                                                       
3:58:31 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked how the  system works now for disabled                                                               
out-of-state veterans to apply for a cabin permit.                                                                              
MR.  ELLIS  replied  that  non-residents  can  currently  reserve                                                               
cabins six months  in advance; so, they would have  to consider a                                                               
non-resident  disabled  veteran  having  a  cabin  available  six                                                               
months  in advance  figure out  some way  to deal  with them  not                                                               
coming in in person.                                                                                                            
SENATOR STEDMAN asked  how many state cabins  and campgrounds are                                                               
in Southeast.                                                                                                                   
MR. ELLIS  replied that  he didn't have  those numbers  but would                                                               
get them.                                                                                                                       
SENATOR STEDMAN said one of  the concerns is with people securing                                                               
reservations  without paying  and  that could  be  dealt with  by                                                               
having a partial exemption instead of exempting the whole thing.                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH said Southeast has  six state recreation sites and                                                               
seven  cabins.  He  pointed  out   that  an  article  in  today's                                                               
newspaper says that the Tri-care  insurance program that veterans                                                               
participate  in is  asking  for  a fee  increase  that would  put                                                               
increased  financial  pressure  on  our veterans.  And  from  his                                                               
calculations, almost 10 percent of  the park revenue in the state                                                               
is currently  generated from disabled veterans.  It's interesting                                                               
and  speaks to  the use  of  the parks  by our  veterans, but  he                                                               
thought they  could find a different  place to put the  burden of                                                               
operating our parks.                                                                                                            
CO-CHAIR  WAGONER   held  SB   13  for   "the  next   meeting  of                                                               

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB013 Hearing Request.pdf SRES 3/21/2011 3:30:00 PM
SRES 1/23/2012 3:30:00 PM
SB 13
SB013 Sponsor Statement.pdf SRES 3/21/2011 3:30:00 PM
SRES 1/23/2012 3:30:00 PM
SB 13
SB013 Support Documents-State Parks ADA Facilities.pdf SRES 3/21/2011 3:30:00 PM
SRES 1/23/2012 3:30:00 PM
SB 13
SB013 Support Documents-Related Statutes.pdf SRES 3/21/2011 3:30:00 PM
SRES 1/23/2012 3:30:00 PM
SB 13
SB013 Support Documents-State Park Fees.pdf SRES 3/21/2011 3:30:00 PM
SRES 1/23/2012 3:30:00 PM
SB 13
SB013 ver A.pdf SRES 3/21/2011 3:30:00 PM
SRES 1/23/2012 3:30:00 PM
SB 13
SB013 Sectional Analysis.pdf SRES 3/21/2011 3:30:00 PM
SRES 1/23/2012 3:30:00 PM
SB 13
CSHJR 9 - 01 Hearing Request for Version I.pdf SRES 3/21/2011 3:30:00 PM
CSHJR 9 - 02 Sponsor Statement for Version I.pdf SRES 3/21/2011 3:30:00 PM
CSHJR 9 - 03 Summary of changes from Version A to I.pdf SRES 3/21/2011 3:30:00 PM
CSHJR 9 - 04 Version I.pdf SRES 3/21/2011 3:30:00 PM
CSHJR 9 - 05 Fiscal Note LEG 2-21-2011.pdf SRES 3/21/2011 3:30:00 PM
CSHJR 9 - 06 Rep. Young HR 49.pdf SRES 3/21/2011 3:30:00 PM
CSHJR 9 - 07 Arctic Power 49 ANWR bullet points.pdf SRES 3/21/2011 3:30:00 PM
SB13_Fiscal Note_DNR-PM-3-18-11.pdf SRES 3/21/2011 3:30:00 PM
SRES 1/23/2012 3:30:00 PM
SB 13
CSHJR 9 - 05 Fiscal Note LEG 2-21-2011.pdf SRES 3/21/2011 3:30:00 PM
SB 13
CS for SB 42 Version D_2-22-11.pdf SRES 3/21/2011 3:30:00 PM
SB 42