Legislature(1993 - 1994)
04/25/1994 09:12 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CHAIRMAN LEMAN brings up HB 400 (PFD ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS) as the next order of business before the Senate State Affairs Committee and calls Ms. Gruening to testify. MELINDA GRUENING, Aide to Representative Green, prime sponsor of HB 400, reads the sponsor statement for HB 400. Ms. Gruening, in the sponsor statement, says that the only cost of filing an appeal for a permanent fund dividend is 29 cents. Number 388 SENATOR MILLER asks Ms. Gruening if the intent of HB 400 is to discourage appeals. MS. GRUENING responds that is correct. Representative Green is hoping that HB 400 will have a chilling effect on those filing frivolous appeals. Number 393 SENATOR TAYLOR thinks that HB 400 will probably have a chilling effect. However he disagrees that the only thing a person is out for filing an appeal is a 29 cent stamp. Senator Taylor asks what the current status is on prosecutions of people who receive dividends they are not entitled to receive. He thinks that under the laws passed, there is supposed to be a heck of a lot more risk than a 29 cent stamp. Senator Taylor asks if 25$ is a good fee, why not 100$ or 150$. Number 435 TOM WILLIAMS, Director, Permanent Fund Dividend Division, states the division does receive a lot of applications from individuals who are clearly ineligible. The division is active in investigation of persons receiving dividends to which they were not entitled. The division routinely prosecutes cases and makes press announcements on those prosecutions every month or two. Last year there were eight or nine prosecutions. Every fraud tip is actively pursued. Mr. Williams describes the penalties for those found guilty of fraud. Mr. Williams states he will provide the statistics the division has regarding fraud cases. Number 463 SENATOR MILLER asks Mr. Williams what his thoughts are on raising the 25$ appeal fee. CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks Representative Green to respond to that question. Number 467 REPRESENTATIVE JOE GREEN, prime sponsor of HB 400, responds 25$ was a compromise charge. Significantly larger numbers were discussed, but it was found that many representatives thought even 25$ was too high a figure. One of the concerns that was expressed was if the figure was to high, a judge might decide the number was arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable. SENATOR TAYLOR comments a judge could always waive the fee for an indigent person. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN states there is also a provision in the bill allowing the division to waive the fee for an indigent person. Number 483 MS. GRUENING adds that a concern was also expressed that a higher fee would put undue hardship on families who appeal; if there were five people in a family, the filing fee would be 125$. Some people who file appeals are eligible; some of the appeals are overturned. ed. Number 490 SENATOR TAYLOR comments he finds quite a few appeals are overturned, and then what we're really looking at is someone in the division exercising a lack of discretion that is so incredible it makes one wonder if they even get out of bed in the morning. Senator Taylor states one person on his staff spends three-quarters of her time during the interim working on dividend appeals. Senator Taylor states the commander of the Coast Guard base in Ketchikan, and his family, had their dividend applications thrown out simply because they were military. Number 507 CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks Mr. Williams if the Permanent Fund Dividend Division prosecutes those cases where people move after they apply for dividends. Number 519 MR. WILLIAMS responds the eligibility requirements require an individual to have the intent to remain permanently in Alaska when they sign their application. If that intent subsequently changes, then they are still eligible for that dividend. The question becomes, when they signed, did they really intend to leave. The division looks at a variety of indicators to determine the person's intent. It is hard to measure intent in objective terms. MR. WILLIAMS adds that most of the concerns the division receives relate to individuals who are absent for lengthy periods of time. CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks if there are further questions or if anyone else wishes to testify on HB 400. SENATOR TAYLOR asks Mr. Williams to submit information to the committee on prosecutions of cases of fraud. SENATOR MILLER makes a motion to discharge HB 400 from the Senate State Affairs Committee with individual recommendations. Number 554 CHAIRMAN LEMAN, hearing no objection, orders HB 400 released from committee with individual recommendations.