Legislature(2001 - 2002)

01/24/2002 03:34 PM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
         SB 235-EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT ASSISTANCE COMPACT                                                                     
WAYNE  RUSH  from  the  division  of  emergency  services  in  the                                                              
Department of  Military Affairs informed  the committee he  is the                                                              
homeland security coordinator for the department.                                                                               
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT asked Mr. Rush  if he was going to address the                                                              
bill in general and highlight the amendments afterwards.                                                                        
MR. RUSH  replied he would prefer  to address the bill  in general                                                              
then  allow  Mr. Mike  Mitchell  with  the  Department of  Law  to                                                              
address the specifics.                                                                                                          
He explained SB 235 appeals the outdated  interstate civil defense                                                              
and  disaster   compact,  which  is  currently   contained  in  AS                                                              
26.23.120   and  replaces   it  with   the  Emergency   Management                                                              
Assistance Compact (EMAC). This is  a more current and universally                                                              
accepted  agreement  that facilitates  disaster  assistance  among                                                              
member states.                                                                                                                  
Additionally,  SB  235  updates AS  23.30.244  to  provide  worker                                                              
compensation to disaster volunteers  who perform duties in another                                                              
state under EMAC and those who perform  duties in Alaska under the                                                              
division of emergency services.                                                                                                 
EMAC  allows  states  to  assist   one  another  during  times  of                                                              
emergency by sending personnel and  equipment for disaster relief.                                                              
It establishes a legal foundation  for EMAC requests to be legally                                                              
binding so  that a  state that  asks for  help is responsible  for                                                              
reimbursing all out of state costs  and is liable for out of state                                                              
personnel.  Those  states  that send  aid  are  protected  against                                                              
incurring  any associated  financial burden  or obligation.  It is                                                              
also made clear  that EMAC member states are not  required to send                                                              
assistance if their  resources and circumstances  don't allow them                                                              
to do so.                                                                                                                       
The   Federal  Emergency   Management   Agency  (FEMA),   National                                                              
Governor's  Association,   Western  Governor's   Association,  the                                                              
National Guard  and a  number of  other organizations endorse  the                                                              
Congressionally approved EMAC and 41 states are members.                                                                        
Although  Alaska is capable  of handling  many emergencies,  there                                                              
are  times when  disasters exceed  local and  state resources  and                                                              
outside assistance  is required.  Typically this assistance  comes                                                              
from  federal  agencies  through  FEMA but  disasters  that  don't                                                              
qualify for a presidential disaster  declaration are not eligible.                                                              
In those  instances, EMAC  would step  in and  provide a  means to                                                              
receive  interstate assistance.  Even when  federal assistance  is                                                              
merited, EMAC  assistance may be  more readily available  and cost                                                              
effective or it may be supplemental to federal assistance.                                                                      
SENATOR PHILLIPS asked for the history of EMAC.                                                                                 
MR. RUSH replied it began as an association  of southern states in                                                              
SENATOR  PHILLIPS  then asked  why  Alaska hasn't  already  joined                                                              
MR. RUSH said the process was begun  some time ago but wasn't high                                                              
priority  until  after the  September  11 attack  occurred.  Also,                                                              
Alaska has  been a member to  the mutual aid agreement  called the                                                              
Pacific Northwest Emergency Management  Arrangement since 1994 and                                                              
that  has  provided  some  measure of  security.  In  addition  to                                                              
Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho,  British Columbia and the Yukon                                                              
are  members.  However,  in  light  of  the  terrorist  attack  on                                                              
September 11, the scope of protection should be expanded.                                                                       
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT observed the  majority of the text in the bill                                                              
deals with  EMAC while  section 5  deals with  repeal of  existing                                                              
sections  of  AS  26.  He  then asked  if  there  were  any  other                                                              
SENATOR  STEVENS asked  for an  explanation  of the  reimbursement                                                              
mechanism between  states specifically  when federal  disaster aid                                                              
is not merited.                                                                                                                 
MR. RUSH responded  that the state that requests  assistance would                                                              
reimburse the state  that provides assistance, "so  by signing the                                                              
agreement ahead  of time, this then  becomes a legal  document and                                                              
the mechanisms  for that  don't have to  be worked out  during the                                                              
throes of a disaster."                                                                                                          
SENATOR STEVENS  asked if  payment comes  after the assistance  is                                                              
MR. RUSH said that is correct.                                                                                                  
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT clarified  that a member  state governor  who                                                              
requests  assistance would  know  that payment  is obligatory  and                                                              
that negations would not be necessary.                                                                                          
SENATOR STEVENS asked if the agreement is open ended.                                                                           
MR.  RUSH responded  there  would  be no  cost  incurred unless  a                                                              
disaster occurs and assistance is  requested from another state or                                                              
if another state requests assistance from Alaska.                                                                               
SENATOR STEVENS asked  if it is entirely at the  discretion of the                                                              
governor to provide the requested assistance.                                                                                   
MR. RUSH said, "If available, the  governor could agree to provide                                                              
the assistance that's requested."                                                                                               
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  then asked for  an explanation of  the worker                                                              
compensation section.                                                                                                           
MR. RUSH  explained that  AS 23.30.244  currently says  an Alaskan                                                              
resident  that  is  temporarily  engaged  in a  civil  defense  or                                                              
disaster  relief   function  in   another  state  or   country  is                                                              
considered an  employee of the State  of Alaska under  the current                                                              
interstate civil  defense compact,  26.23.130. This is  both vague                                                              
and general  and the change makes  the law more explicit.  It says                                                              
that residents  of Alaska  who are  volunteers serving  in another                                                              
state  or  country   and  suffer  injury  or   death  may  receive                                                              
compensation  if they  are members  of a  state certified  defense                                                              
force that is registered with the  division of emergency services.                                                              
In addition, they must be providing  services under the provisions                                                              
of  EMAC and  not  otherwise covered.  Those  volunteers that  are                                                              
residents of Alaska  and serving in the state who  suffer death or                                                              
injury must be registered, not otherwise  covered, serving under a                                                              
state  disaster  declaration  and  not  be an  employee  of  state                                                              
federal or local government.                                                                                                    
The proposed legislation  better protects both the  individual and                                                              
the state  by clearly defining  the conditions of  eligibility for                                                              
injury  and  death  benefits  for  disaster  volunteers  that  are                                                              
serving either in or out of state.                                                                                              
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT commented  the control  mechanism comes  from                                                              
linking  a state  resident that  is serving  out of  state to  the                                                              
EMAC. Also,  anyone  volunteering to  help on  a disaster must  be                                                              
part  of a  state-certified emergency  force  whose services  were                                                              
He asked  whether the wording  on page 2,  line 9 that  says, "(1)                                                              
the volunteer is an active roster  civilian volunteer member of an                                                              
emergency service organization…"  is tight enough so all will know                                                              
they  must  be  performing  duties   under  the  auspice  of  that                                                              
organization.  He  gave  an  example of  a  registered  Red  Cross                                                              
volunteer moving on  to lend aid in an area for  which they aren't                                                              
specifically  assigned  or  authorized.  If  injured,  would  this                                                              
person be covered  because they are on the active  duty membership                                                              
MR. MITCHELL, Department of Law,  responded via teleconference and                                                              
said the question  is valid; it is unclear whether  it is services                                                              
at the direction  of the division of emergency  services or simply                                                              
services in the course of the disaster emergency.                                                                               
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  thought it should  be clear  that individuals                                                              
would be  covered when they  are working  under the auspices  of a                                                              
bona fide emergency services organization  and they are performing                                                              
duties  they have  been tasked  to  do. Duties  an individual  may                                                              
decide to do on their own are not  covered. He thought (1) and (2)                                                              
could be reworded to make that more clear.                                                                                      
MR.  MITCHELL  agreed  they  could work  together  to  modify  the                                                              
SENATOR PHILLIPS  asked whether  the Pacific Northwest  Management                                                              
Arrangement  member states  of Washington,  Oregon  and Idaho  are                                                              
members of EMAC.                                                                                                                
MR. RUSH said Washington and Idaho  are members and Oregon is not.                                                              
SENATOR PHILLIPS asked how that fit with EMAC plans.                                                                            
MR. RUSH  replied one of  the provisions of  EMAC is there  may be                                                              
supplementary agreements that EMAC  neither negates nor prohibits.                                                              
SENATOR  PHILLIPS  asked  whether  Oregon  is in  the  process  of                                                              
MR. RUSH didn't have an answer.                                                                                                 
SENATOR PHILLIPS  asked how membership  with British  Columbia and                                                              
Yukon would affect EMAC.                                                                                                        
MR. RUSH  said the relationship would  not be affected.  Under the                                                              
existing agreement, Alaska would  be able to provide assistance to                                                              
British Columbia and the Yukon.                                                                                                 
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT observed  the  fiscal note  indicates no  new                                                              
expense   associated   with   the   new  compact   and,   due   to                                                              
clarification, he  thought there might be the  potential for fewer                                                              
worker compensation  claims. He  asked whether  the state  is self                                                              
insured for  such claims under the  current system or does  it pay                                                              
into the current worker compensation system.                                                                                    
MR. RUSH said he wasn't qualified to answer that question.                                                                      
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT  said  he could  get  clarification  on  that                                                              
before the next hearing.                                                                                                        
He asked Mr. Mitchell to address the technical amendments.                                                                      
MR. MITCHELL said the first technical  amendment refers to page 2,                                                              
line 13.  Following "under"  insert "AS  26.20.040 or."  There are                                                              
two  separate emergency  response  chapters  in  the statutes.  AS                                                              
26.20 provides  for civil defense  response and AS  26.23 provides                                                              
for disaster response.                                                                                                          
The  second  amendment  refers  to  page  9,  line  30.  Following                                                              
"chapter" delete ",  other than AS 26.23.136 [AS  26.23.130]," and                                                          
insert "[,  OTHER THAN  AS 26.23.130]," The  old compact  would be                                                              
repealed by  this bill  but the new  EMAC would  apply in  case of                                                              
civil defense emergencies.                                                                                                      
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT   asked  for  clarification  on   the  second                                                              
amendment. He thought  the current wording put in  the new section                                                              
AS 26.23.136, which  is the new language referring  to the compact                                                              
and drops the  old statutory reference, which is  the section that                                                              
is deleted by Section 5.                                                                                                        
MR. MITCHELL said  that is how the bill is written  and the result                                                              
of that would be  that EMAC would not apply in  disasters under AS                                                              
26.23 and  this is directly  contrary to  what they are  trying to                                                              
accomplish. They want it to apply  in disasters, which is why they                                                              
need the technical amendment.                                                                                                   
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT  announced they  would  be  working with  the                                                              
department  to incorporate the  amendments into  a proposed  CS on                                                              
the bill.                                                                                                                       
SENATOR PHILLIPS asked if the other  41 states are using this same                                                              
model for their agreement.                                                                                                      
MR. RUSH  said other states  have adopted  the model but  he would                                                              
need to find out what small changes they have made.                                                                             
SENATOR  PHILLIPS  wanted  to  make   sure  that  Alaska's  unique                                                              
geographic needs and conditions are met.                                                                                        
MR. RUSH said he would address the question.                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS asked how many states  have signed since September                                                              
MR. RUSH  didn't know  the exact  number, but  New York  State has                                                              
since signed.                                                                                                                   
MR. MITCHELL  added that according to  the web site, there  are 44                                                              
states that  have signed  with New Jersey,  New York  and Michigan                                                              
signing  after September  11. He  also pointed  out that the  site                                                              
www.nemaweb.org offers some background information on the EMAC.                                                                 
There were no further questions or individuals to testify.                                                                      
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT held SB 235 in committee.                                                                                   

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