Legislature(1997 - 1998)

04/03/1997 03:35 PM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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        SB 143 EDUCATION BENEFITS FOR MILITARY PERSONNEL                       
                                                                               
CHAIRMAN GREEN brought SB 143 before the committee as the next                 
ordered of business.                                                           
                                                                               
TIM BENINTENDI, staff to Chairman Kelly of the Senate Rules                    
Committee who sponsored the legislation, explained SB 143 would                
simply make some refinements in the Alaska National Guard tuition              
assistance program.  This program is modestly funded, but it is a              
tool that the Adjutant General can use for improving skill levels              
among personnel, in response to the emerging needs of the National             
Guard.                                                                         
                                                                               
SB 143 will strengthen the Guard's recruitment and retention goals,            
and give more discretion to the Adjutant General for applying                  
educational benefits to the organization's most pressing needs.  It            
will also afford enlisted personnel college and other schooling                
opportunities necessary for entry in the officer corps should                  
enlisted Guard members pursue that career path.                                
                                                                               
Mr. Benintendi provided the following sectional analysis on SB 143:            
                                                                               
     - In Section 1, active enlisted personnel are targeted as the             
group made eligible for educational assistance in Alaska                       
educational facilities.  Retirees and former members of the Alaska             
Territorial Guard are excluded from eligibility in order to                    
emphasize the DMVA recruitment and retention objectives.  Funds are            
simply not available for a broader range program.                              
                                                                               
     - Section 2 provides that recipients of educational benefits              
be students in good standing in the program or class undertaken.               
                                                                               
     - Section 3 gives the Adjutant General the latitude to                    
authorize payment levels up to 100 percent for tuition and required            
fees at institutions in Alaska.  It also allows the AG to                      
prioritize categories of educational benefits to support vital                 
recruitment and retention objectives.                                          
                                                                               
     - Section 4 defines a student in good standing for purposes of            
the program.                                                                   
                                                                               
     - Section 5 repeals the noted statute references as                       
unnecessary.  The first removes the provision for calculating                  
retirees' eligibility, the second removes the ineligibility for                
benefits under more than one program, and the third removes the                
ineligibility if the members is qualified for federal benefits.                
                                                                               
Number 355                                                                     
                                                                               
CAROL CARROLL, Director, Administrative Services Division,                     
Department of Military & Veterans Affairs, said the department                 
believes the legislation will allow the Adjutant General to use an             
existing program to better advantage.  She noted there are                     
approximately 400 Guard members that are lost to attrition every               
year and they have to fill those spaces.                                       
                                                                               
Ms. Carroll said there is more of an emphasis now by both the Army             
and the National Guard on education, and there is difficulty in                
retaining Native officers.  The department believes they can use               
this program to fashion an educational program for Native officers             
so that they can retain them in the Guard.                                     
                                                                               
Ms. Carroll related that currently there is only $28,500 in the                
tuition assistance program, however, last year they didn't use                 
$6,800 of it, and by being able to target this in a more effective             
way they will be able to use it as the Adjutant General would like.            
                                                                               
Number 380                                                                     
                                                                               
DON MERCER, representing the Alaska National Guard testified in                
support of SB 143.  He clarified that to be promoted to the rank of            
major, it requires a BA, but in order to go to OCS and become a                
commissioned officer, it does not require a degree at that time.               
He said the legislation will allow the Guard to recruit new members            
and these new recruits will be able to enhance their careers by                
being offered the educational opportunities.                                   
                                                                               
Number 400                                                                     
                                                                               
There being no further testimony on SB 143, CHAIRMAN GREEN asked               
for the will of the committee.                                                 
                                                                               
SENATOR WARD moved SB 143 and the accompanying zero fiscal note be             
passed out of committee with individual recommendations.  Hearing              
no objection, it was so ordered.                                               

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