Legislature(2017 - 2018)BARNES 124


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                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
    HOUSE COMMUNITY AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                   
                       February 13, 2018                                                                                        
                           8:02 a.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Representative Justin Parish, Co-Chair                                                                                          
Representative Harriet Drummond                                                                                                 
Representative John Lincoln                                                                                                     
Representative Dan Saddler                                                                                                      
Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (alternate)                                                                              
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Representative George Rauscher                                                                                                  
Representative David Talerico                                                                                                   
Representative DeLena Johnson (alternate)                                                                                       
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
HOUSE BILL NO. 264                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to a  fee for disposable shopping bags; relating                                                               
to the sale of reusable  shopping bags; relating to the recycling                                                               
of  disposable  shopping bags;  and  providing  for an  effective                                                               
     - HEARD & HELD                                                                                                             
HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 30                                                                                                   
Urging the United  States Congress to reaffirm  the commitment of                                                               
the United States  to promote the safety,  health, and well-being                                                               
of  refugees  and displaced  persons;  urging  the United  States                                                               
government  to  uphold  its   international  leadership  role  in                                                               
responding  to displacement  crises with  humanitarian assistance                                                               
and  to work  with  the international  community  and the  United                                                               
Nations  High  Commissioner for  Refugees  to  find solutions  to                                                               
conflicts and protect  refugees; and urging the  President of the                                                               
United  States  to continue  to  mitigate  the burden  placed  on                                                               
frontline refugee host countries.                                                                                               
     - HEARD & HELD                                                                                                             
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
BILL: HB 264                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: SHOPPING BAG FEES & RECYCLING                                                                                      
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) JOSEPHSON                                                                                         
01/08/18       (H)       PREFILE RELEASED 1/8/18                                                                                
01/16/18       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
01/16/18       (H)       CRA, L&C                                                                                               
01/30/18       (H)       CRA AT 3:00 PM BARNES 124                                                                              
01/30/18       (H)       -- MEETING CANCELED --                                                                                 
02/10/18       (H)       CRA AT 10:00 AM BARNES 124                                                                             
02/10/18       (H)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
02/10/18       (H)       MINUTE(CRA)                                                                                            
02/13/18       (H)       CRA AT 8:00 AM BARNES 124                                                                              
BILL: HJR 30                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: URGE U.S. SUPPORT OF REFUGEES                                                                                      
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) JOSEPHSON                                                                                         
01/24/18       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
01/24/18       (H)       CRA, STA                                                                                               
02/13/18       (H)       CRA AT 8:00 AM BARNES 124                                                                              
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE ANDY JOSEPHSON                                                                                                   
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  As prime sponsor, presented HB 264.                                                                      
LISA DELANEY, Staff                                                                                                             
Representative Andy Josephson                                                                                                   
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Answered questions during the hearing on HB                                                              
264, on behalf of Representative Josephson, prime sponsor.                                                                      
PATRICIA CUE                                                                                                                    
Homer, Alaska                                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 264.                                                                          
DAVID NEES, Research Associate                                                                                                  
Alaska Policy Forum                                                                                                             
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the hearing on HB 264.                                                                  
ANNEMIEKE POWERS                                                                                                                
Palmer, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the hearing on HB 264.                                                                  
KARLA HART                                                                                                                      
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 264.                                                                          
SUSIE HAYES, Volunteer                                                                                                          
Valley Community for Recycling Solutions;                                                                                       
Mat-Su Zero Waste Committee and Plastic Bag Committee                                                                           
Palmer, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the hearing on HB 264.                                                                  
JAMES SQUYERS                                                                                                                   
Rural Deltana, Alaska                                                                                                           
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in opposition to HB 264.                                                                       
WILLIAM HARRINGTON                                                                                                              
Spenard, Alaska                                                                                                                 
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the hearing on HB 264.                                                                  
MICHELLE PUTZ, Member                                                                                                           
Bags for Change                                                                                                                 
Sitka, Alaska                                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 264.                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE ANDY JOSEPHSON                                                                                                   
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  As prime sponsor, presented HJR 30.                                                                      
GABBY WEISS                                                                                                                     
Homer, Alaska                                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HJR 30.                                                                          
NICHOLAS STEEN                                                                                                                  
Wasilla, Alaska                                                                                                                 
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in opposition to HJR 30                                                                        
ROBERT FAWCETT                                                                                                                  
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the hearing on HJR 30.                                                                  
CHARLES DUNCAN                                                                                                                  
Kake, Alaska                                                                                                                    
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the hearing on HJR 30.                                                                  
MELISSA KEMBERLING                                                                                                              
Palmer, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the hearing on HJR 30.                                                                  
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
8:02:04 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR JUSTIN  PARISH called the  House Community  and Regional                                                             
Affairs  Standing  Committee  meeting   to  order  at  8:02  a.m.                                                               
Representatives  Drummond,  Lincoln, Kreiss-Tomkins  (alternate),                                                               
and Parish  were present  at the call  to order.   Representative                                                               
Saddler arrived as the meeting was in progress.                                                                                 
              HB 264-SHOPPING BAG FEES & RECYCLING                                                                          
8:03:10 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR PARISH announced that the  first order of business would                                                               
be HOUSE BILL  NO. 264, "An Act relating to  a fee for disposable                                                               
shopping bags;  relating to the  sale of reusable  shopping bags;                                                               
relating  to  the  recycling of  disposable  shopping  bags;  and                                                               
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
8:03:32 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  ANDY  JOSEPHSON,  Alaska  State  Legislature,  as                                                               
prime sponsor,  presented HB 264.   He announced his  staff would                                                               
offer answers to  questions asked at the last hearing  of HB 264,                                                               
on 2/10/18.   He  remarked that the  research into  the questions                                                               
brought to light that there  were more communities seeking to ban                                                               
plastic  bags  than he  had  thought  there  were.   He  said  he                                                               
believes a  ban may be "the  preferred route."  He  said he asked                                                               
Legislative  Legal   and  Research  Services  how   far  out  the                                                               
effective date  could be,  because a  delayed effective  date may                                                               
give communities  more chance to  prepare.  He indicated  that he                                                               
has not yet received an answer.                                                                                                 
8:05:44 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KREISS-TOMKINS  restated a  question he  had asked                                                               
on  2/10/18, which  is whether  plastic  bags present  more of  a                                                               
problem than other forms of plastic or Styrofoam trash.                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON deferred to Ms. Delaney.                                                                               
8:06:33 AM                                                                                                                    
LISA DELANEY, Staff, Representative  Andy Josephson, Alaska State                                                               
Legislature,  on   behalf  of  Representative   Josephson,  prime                                                               
sponsor of HB 264, said she  has not been able to find statistics                                                               
specific  to   Alaska  but  is   still  seeking  an   answer  for                                                               
Representative Kreiss-Tomkins.                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE KREISS-TOMKINS  said the question is  important to                                                               
his  understanding the  impetus  of  HB 264.    He  said he  sees                                                               
Styrofoam as a  greater problem in Southeast Alaska.   He said he                                                               
is interested in solving "the greatest harm."                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON pointed to  the handout in the committee                                                               
packet  of answers  that Ms.  Delaney had  compiled, and  he said                                                               
[plastic bags] are second, after  fishing gear, as attractants to                                                               
fish and birds.                                                                                                                 
8:08:43 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR PARISH  return to public testimony,  [which had remained                                                               
open after commencing on 2/10/18].                                                                                              
8:09:29 AM                                                                                                                    
PATRICIA CUE  testified in support  of HB  264.  She  offered the                                                               
following  information  from   the  Environmental  Working  Group                                                               
regarding  plastic bags:   Americans  use more  than 100  billion                                                               
bags per year; use per person  is more than 300 annually; average                                                               
length of use is 12 minutes; the  expectancy of each bag is up to                                                               
1,000  years;  during  the 2011  International  Coastal  Cleanup,                                                               
volunteers  collected  120,450  pounds  of  bags  in  the  United                                                               
States; in  the ocean bags  break down into  small, plankton-size                                                               
particles  and  can outnumber  plankton  6:1,  and the  particles                                                               
collect toxins  at levels up to  1 million times the  level found                                                               
in  sea water;  marine wildlife  often mistake  plastic bags  for                                                               
food, especially sea turtles hunting  jellyfish; parts of plastic                                                               
bags  have  been  found  blocking   the  breathing  passages  and                                                               
stomachs  of whales,  dolphins, seals,  puffins, and  turtles; 85                                                               
percent of all sea turtles will  be injured or killed by plastic,                                                               
including   endangered  leatherback   turtles   that  summer   in                                                               
Massachusetts Bay;  and 80  percent of  marine debris  comes from                                                               
land-based waste  - there are  five "garbage patches"  [gyres] in                                                               
the Pacific Ocean.                                                                                                              
MS.  CUE  relayed  that  retail businesses  spend  more  than  $4                                                               
billion annually to  provide plastic bags.  She said  at the time                                                               
the  information  was  published  by  the  Environmental  Working                                                               
Group, nearly  100 cities,  towns, and  counties around  the U.S.                                                               
had banned  plastic bags around  the U.S. -  half of them  in the                                                               
past year.   She said  she supports a  total ban on  plastic bags                                                               
and thinks "Alaska  is capable of moving forward  with this House                                                               
8:13:39 AM                                                                                                                    
DAVID  NEES, Research  Associate, Alaska  Policy Forum,  observed                                                               
that representatives  from large  grocery stores had  not weighed                                                               
in on the issue.  He said in  Alaska there is a preference to use                                                               
local  control over  state government  control.   He acknowledged                                                               
that  many communities  in Alaska  "have,  indeed, enacted  local                                                               
control measures."   He noted that Washington, D.C.,  is the only                                                               
place that  has imposed a fee  on plastic grocery bags.   He said                                                               
there  are three  states that  have banned  their use  but "three                                                               
times as many states that prohibit  the ban on plastic bags."  He                                                               
related that four  states decided that labeling  plastic bags for                                                               
recycling purposes is  "a much more effective way  of having them                                                               
enter the  environment."  He clarified  that the idea is  to keep                                                               
plastic  bags out  of the  environment by  encouraging people  to                                                               
recycle them.  Mr. Nees reiterated  that it is a small percentage                                                               
of the U.S. that has placed fees  on plastic bags.  He added that                                                               
some  localities   have  enacted  the  fee,   including  Boulder,                                                               
Colorado, Brownsville,  Texas, New York, New  York, and Portland,                                                               
Maine.     He  repeated   that  elsewhere   there  are   bans  or                                                               
prohibitions against  bans.   He opined  that recycling  would be                                                               
more effective and "any cost that's  incurred on this is going to                                                               
be  passed on  to  the  consumers, so  it  will  have a  negative                                                               
economic impact on the economy  of Alaska."  He concluded, "We're                                                               
not particularly in  favor of this bill; we'd  prefer a recycling                                                               
8:16:25 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  NEES,  in  response  to  Representative  Saddler,  said  his                                                               
research shows  about 17 states  have either "a  ban or a  ban" -                                                               
most  want a  recycling program.   He  offered his  understanding                                                               
that charging a fee  for a bag is opposed in one  or two states -                                                               
mostly in large cities, such as  New York City, where most people                                                               
walk  to grocery  stores and  need  something in  which to  carry                                                               
their groceries;  in those areas  the use of recyclable  bags and                                                               
the recycling of plastic bags is  encouraged.  He offered to send                                                               
a link from the National  Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)                                                               
outlining this information.                                                                                                     
8:18:31 AM                                                                                                                    
ANNEMIEKE POWERS  testified that  she is  a small  business owner                                                               
and engineer, who has worked  for the past 25-plus years cleaning                                                               
up contaminated sites.  She  stated her main concern with plastic                                                               
bags  is  the  long-term  environmental and  economic  impact  of                                                               
pollution.   She said  even when people  properly dispose  of the                                                               
bags, too many of them blow  out of trash bins and landfills and,                                                               
because they are so lightweight,  are easily transported by water                                                               
and wind.  She asked, "Who's  going to clean up the pollution and                                                               
who's going  to pay  for it?"   She  added that  her professional                                                               
experience has shown that "it  is cheaper to prevent pollution at                                                               
the source  than to pay  for cleanup after  the fact," and  a bag                                                               
ban or fee does  just that.  She said in  2016 the World Economic                                                               
Forum predicted that  at current rates of  pollution, the world's                                                               
oceans  would contain  more plastic  by weight  than fish  by the                                                               
year 2050.   She said  this impairment  to the oceans  and fishes                                                               
could have an  economic impact to Alaskans.   She said protecting                                                               
the fishing  industry was  one of  the main  reasons the  City of                                                               
Cordova imposed a bag ban in 2016.                                                                                              
MS. POWERS said the effect of  plastic bags on the food chains of                                                               
land  mammals has  not  yet  been assessed.    At the  Matanuska-                                                               
Susitna (Mat-Su) Experimental Farm,  plastic bags have been found                                                               
in the stomachs of caribou and  moose.  She said Alaskans rely on                                                               
"the  beauty and  health  of  our land  and  waters for  tourism,                                                               
hunting, and fishing,"  and she said she thinks  Alaska should be                                                               
proactive in protecting these resources.  She continued:                                                                        
     Since plastic pollution is widespread  and not the sole                                                                    
     responsibility  of any  one  person, incorporation,  or                                                                    
     nation,  most cleanup  costs will  likely  be borne  by                                                                    
     government entities, which means  it will eventually be                                                                    
     paid for  by the tax payers;  that means by you  and by                                                                    
     me.  And  if we don't act, our kids  and grandkids will                                                                    
     bear  any  even  larger cost,  because  this  pollution                                                                    
     problem is  not going to go  away by itself, but  if we                                                                    
     don't  do anything,  it  will only  grow.   Banning  or                                                                    
     imposing  a  fee  on  these  bags  certainly  does  not                                                                    
     eliminate  all  plastic pollution,  but  it  is a  very                                                                    
     simple means  of eliminating  one, widely  used source,                                                                    
     and it's an  easy way to start,  because it's something                                                                    
     that  can be  controlled by  the individual.   I  can't                                                                    
     control how  companies package their  goods, but  I can                                                                    
     control how I carry them from  the store to my car.  My                                                                    
     household  stopped  using  plastic grocery  bags  years                                                                    
     ago, and honestly it has not been a hardship at all.                                                                       
8:21:26 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  POWERS,  in response  to  Representative  Saddler, said  she                                                               
heard from one  woman involved in the plastic bag  ban in Cordova                                                               
that the ban  has been successful.  She said  the plastic bag ban                                                               
passed in Wasilla would not go into effect until July.                                                                          
8:23:09 AM                                                                                                                    
KARLA HART  testified in  support of  HB 264.   She said  she has                                                               
traveled extensively  in West Coast communities  before and after                                                               
they  banned  plastic bags,  and  she  has traveled  globally  in                                                               
China,  Russia, Estonia,  Finland,  and Switzerland,  and in  all                                                               
those places it is routine for  people who want a shopping bag to                                                               
pay for a  thicker, reusable one.  She  offered her understanding                                                               
that people don't have an issue  with this routine.  She said the                                                               
framework  for   opposition  from  the  National   Federation  of                                                               
Independent Business  (NFIB) seemed to  be based on  concern that                                                               
store  clerks  would have  difficulty  estimating  how many  bags                                                               
customers  would need,  and she  opined that  is a  weak argument                                                               
indicating  the  NFIB does  not  "have  much against  this  ban,"                                                               
because in  most of  the communities  she has  visited, customers                                                               
decide how many  bags they want to  pay for and how  they want to                                                               
bag their goods.  Ms. Hart  noted that the City of Seattle, whose                                                               
population  she said  she  thinks  is greater  than  that of  the                                                               
entire state of  Alaska, has had a bag ban  in effect since [July                                                               
1, 2012],  and all the  major retailers  in Alaska, such  as Fred                                                               
Meyer and Safeway,  also operate in Seattle and  are already able                                                               
to handle  [the ban].   Ms. Hart  urged the committee  to [impose                                                               
the fee on  plastic bags, as proposed under HB  264], and then to                                                               
"tackle  other plastic  waste that  Representative Kreiss-Tomkins                                                               
mentioned."   She added, "There  are certainly other  things, but                                                               
this is  available; it's  a low-hanging fruit  to start  making a                                                               
8:25:37 AM                                                                                                                    
SUSIE   HAYES,   Volunteer,   Valley  Community   for   Recycling                                                               
Solutions; Member,  Mat-Su Zero  Waste Committee and  Plastic Bag                                                               
Committee, said she  has lived in Alaska for 30  years and worked                                                               
for  the  Alaska   Department  of  Fish  &   Game  (ADF&G)  until                                                               
retirement two  years ago.   She said  she participated  in local                                                               
spring  cleanups  and  picks  up  trash  whenever  recreating  in                                                               
Alaska.   She said there is  a litter problem in  the state, part                                                               
of which is  plastic.  She said people see  plastic bags in trees                                                               
and  along fences,  but they  don't see  the remnants  of plastic                                                               
bags  that shred  into  small  pieces and  blow  into creeks  and                                                               
rivers and flow into the sea.                                                                                                   
MS. HAYES expressed concern about  "the amount of unnecessary and                                                               
... toxic  waste going  into landfills."   She said  plastic bags                                                               
may be  reused in homes, but  eventually they will take  up space                                                               
in landfills.   She  said there  are over  100,000 people  in her                                                               
borough and growing, and if  additional landfills are built, then                                                               
they will overtake  trails and parkland.  She  opined that single                                                               
use plastic  bags are not  necessary and  there are so  many good                                                               
alternatives.   Cloth  bags  can  be used  for  years and  easily                                                               
washed and air-dried;  paper bags are an alternative  that can be                                                               
repurposed, recycled, and burned.   She said when she has offered                                                               
reusable bags to  people, she has heard people  decline the offer                                                               
because  they say  they already  have reusable  bags -  they just                                                               
need  the encouragement  to use  them.   Ms.  Hayes concluded  by                                                               
asking the committee to listen  to its constituents and construct                                                               
legislation that encourages shoppers to  bring their own bags and                                                               
discourages stores from distributing any free plastic bags.                                                                     
8:28:53 AM                                                                                                                    
JAMES SQUYERS testified  in opposition to HB 264.   He stated, "I                                                               
am appalled  at the seemingly  insatiable desire to  increase the                                                               
size, scope, footprint,  and influence of government.   This is a                                                               
fine  example  of  government  overreach  penalizing  responsible                                                               
members of  society for the  actions of the  irresponsible ones."                                                               
Mr. Squyers  offered his  understanding that  there is  already a                                                               
$100,000 fine established statewide  for littering, which he said                                                               
is evident from all the signs  posted.  He suggested an effort be                                                               
made to  "clean up the state  one litterbug, one junkie,  and one                                                               
totalitarian politician at a time."   He encouraged the committee                                                               
chair to  put the proposed legislation  in a drawer and  leave it                                                               
there.   He remarked on the  number of bills the  legislature had                                                               
introduced with only a 90-day session scheduled.                                                                                
8:30:09 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  SQUYERS, in  response to  Representative Saddler,  confirmed                                                               
that  stores  in  Rural  Deltana   issue  plastic  bags,  and  he                                                               
emphasized that those bags fit all  his trash cans at home, thus,                                                               
"everything gets recycled out here."                                                                                            
8:30:43 AM                                                                                                                    
WILLIAM HARRINGTON  opined that it  is "the irresponsible  use by                                                               
the people  who get  these plastic  bags in  the stores  that are                                                               
causing  the problem."   He  said  the City  of Spenard  [plants]                                                               
flowers  for the  tourists  every year,  and at  the  end of  the                                                               
season, those  flowers are  put into  black plastic  bags, loaded                                                               
into a truck, and  taken to the dump.  He said  it seems crazy to                                                               
do that  with organic  material.   He emphasized  that it  is not                                                               
just  store bags  that  are  causing the  problem.    He said  he                                                               
recycles plastic  store bags as  garbage bags, and  he questioned                                                               
who does  not throw his/her  garbage bags  into a plastic  bag of                                                               
some sort  in the  kitchen.   He wished  the committee  good luck                                                               
with "all this."                                                                                                                
8:32:55 AM                                                                                                                    
MICHELLE PUTZ, Member,  Bags for Change, said there  are about 40                                                               
people  in the  group  and about  a  dozen volunteers,  including                                                               
students.   She said  studies show that  plastic is  getting into                                                               
food  sources; toxins  from plastics  are effecting  reproductive                                                               
health in  children and  infants and could  affect the  health of                                                               
fish; plastic,  which is made from  petrochemicals, lasts forever                                                               
in the  environment; plastic bags  can damage and  kill wildlife,                                                               
litter communities,  and increase the  amount of waste  that must                                                               
be shipped  south; and  using sustainable  bags is  a sustainable                                                               
behavior that  is "easy to  choose and  to change."   She relayed                                                               
that she had  spoken with a woman in Sitka  whose boat almost ran                                                               
into  the rocks  when  the  motor sucked  up  a  plastic bag  and                                                               
MS. PUTZ  said Bags for  Change is working to  try to pass  a fee                                                               
that would  pay for tools and  reduce electric rates.   The group                                                               
conducted  a reusable  bag roundup  and  giveaway, as  well as  a                                                               
poster contest  to help people  remember to bring  their reusable                                                               
bags when  shopping.  She said  a fee may help  with reduction of                                                               
plastic  bag use,  because it  would incentivize  behavior change                                                               
and  force customers  to make  a conscious  decision to  purchase                                                               
bags.  She  added that it also  gives people a choice.   She said                                                               
there was  a poll done in  Sitka, and one of  the questions asked                                                               
whether  single  use plastic  bags  should  be "a),  banned;  b),                                                               
provided,  but for  a fee  that would  be used  to support  Sitka                                                               
schools and to  reduce residents' electric costs;  c), handed out                                                               
for  free;  or d),  no  opinion."    She  said the  results  will                                                               
hopefully be  in, in the next  couple weeks.  She  said the group                                                               
also held  an informal  poll on Sitka  Chatters, a  Facebook page                                                               
she  described  as  not  progressive, and  the  results  were  as                                                               
follows:   195 said  take no  action; and  225 said  take action,                                                               
whether a ban or a fee.                                                                                                         
MS.  PUTZ,  regarding HB  264,  said  she  would like  the  words                                                               
"operate year-round" deleted  from page 4, line 1.   She said she                                                               
thinks whether  or not  a business operates  all year,  it should                                                               
help  pay the  fees.   She opined  that Alaska's  visitors should                                                               
help  pay   the  costs  of  "the   things  that  we  do   in  our                                                               
8:37:46 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR PARISH, after  ascertaining that no one  else who wished                                                               
to testify, closed public testimony on HB 264.                                                                                  
CO-CHAIR PARISH announced that HB 264 was held over.                                                                            
              HJR 30-URGE U.S. SUPPORT OF REFUGEES                                                                          
8:39:27 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR PARISH announced that the  final order of business would                                                               
be  HOUSE  JOINT RESOLUTION  NO.  30,  Urging the  United  States                                                               
Congress  to reaffirm  the  commitment of  the  United States  to                                                               
promote  the  safety,  health, and  well-being  of  refugees  and                                                               
displaced persons; urging the United  States government to uphold                                                               
its international  leadership role in responding  to displacement                                                               
crises  with  humanitarian  assistance   and  to  work  with  the                                                               
international community and the  United Nations High Commissioner                                                               
for  Refugees   to  find  solutions  to   conflicts  and  protect                                                               
refugees;  and  urging the  President  of  the United  States  to                                                               
continue to mitigate the burden  placed on frontline refugee host                                                               
8:39:51 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  ANDY  JOSEPHSON,  Alaska  State  Legislature,  as                                                               
prime  sponsor,  presented  HJR  30.   He  said  the  source  for                                                               
legislation comes from a variety  of sources, including citizens,                                                               
agencies, and the  government.  He revealed that  the genesis for                                                               
HJR 30  came from Abby  Weiss, an eighth-grade student  at Colony                                                               
Middle School, in Palmer, Alaska.   The proposed joint resolution                                                               
would encourage the  federal government to do what it  can in its                                                               
share of  carrying the burden  in caring for people  displaced by                                                               
humanitarian crises occurring in  their nations, including sexual                                                               
violence,  human trafficking,  persecution based  on religion  or                                                               
nationality, forced conscription, genocide,  or exploitation.  He                                                               
said there  is no dispute about  the crises; the dispute  is over                                                               
what  the federal  role  should be.    He said  he  thinks it  is                                                               
important for  the legislature to  take note of  critical moments                                                               
in time.                                                                                                                        
8:44:12 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  JOSEPHSON  said  he  and  Legislative  Legal  and                                                               
Research  Services  reviewed  the  data  in  the  proposed  joint                                                               
resolution.   He  explained that  the data  is "a  moving target"                                                               
depending on the  status of a civil war or  refugee crisis.  Even                                                               
so, he  said he confirmed  that the  data is "largely  accurate -                                                               
certainly within a span of accuracy"  and "grounded in fact."  He                                                               
noted that  Ms. Weiss had  found her own  set of data,  which she                                                               
could share with the committee.                                                                                                 
8:45:16 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER said  there is  a philosophical  question                                                               
raised  by  HJR  30.    He  pointed  to  the  phrase  "40,300,000                                                               
internally  displaced people",  on page  1, line  11, and  asked,                                                               
"Who  are we,  in the  United States,  to establish  where people                                                               
should be inside the borders of their own countries?"                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON said the invasion  of France, on June 6,                                                               
1944,  is one  example  of a  time when  the  U.S. intervened  to                                                               
impact what  is going on  domestically [in another country].   He                                                               
said  refugees are  a biproduct  of internally  displaced people.                                                               
He added, "When  people are persecuted within,  they leave within                                                               
and move  without."  He said  he thinks that is  the significance                                                               
of the number Representative Saddler quoted.                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER said certainly  neither he nor anyone else                                                               
wishes to see  people being displaced from  their homes; however,                                                               
he questioned what the obligation of  the U.S. is to take care of                                                               
the  rest of  the  world and  whether the  U.S.  is "the  world's                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  JOSEPHSON responded  that  he thinks  there is  a                                                               
sharing of the  duty and many countries do not  think the U.S. is                                                               
doing its share.  He elucidated as follows:                                                                                     
     ... There  was a system  in place that  ... scrutinized                                                                    
     refugees that might come to  this country in a way that                                                                    
     was protective of those of  us who live in the country,                                                                    
     and  ... we  have toughened  those standards  in a  way                                                                    
     that  is  harmful to  the  world  community, and  as  a                                                                    
     consequence, we haven't done our  share of dealing with                                                                    
     displaced  persons  crises  and  ...  we've  asked  for                                                                    
     Europeans, largely,  and some countries like  Jordan to                                                                    
     bear that ... burden.                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON said  HJR 30 states that as  a matter of                                                               
principle,  the  Alaska  State  Legislature  is  sympathetic  and                                                               
believes [the U.S.]  has the resources, power,  and moral courage                                                               
to  do  its  share  "and  be cognizant  of  the  breadth  of  the                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER said the  U.S. does not necessarily follow                                                               
the directives of other countries.   He said the U.S. is involved                                                               
in  the  United Nations  and  gives  foreign aid;  therefore,  he                                                               
opined that  the country  is doing "an  awful lot  for refugees."                                                               
He offered his  understanding that the sponsor had  said that the                                                               
U.S. has a refugee policy that  is protective of its citizens but                                                               
tougher  on the  world community.   He  posited that  that is  an                                                               
appropriate function of the government,  to consider the benefits                                                               
of  its   current  residents  over  the   benefits  of  potential                                                               
residents.  He  said most everyone wants to come  to the U.S., as                                                               
it  is  a  place  of   opportunity;  however,  he  asked  if  the                                                               
obligation of the  U.S. is to allow everyone to  "join the United                                                               
States" who desires to do so.                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON  offered his understanding that  in 1916                                                               
U.S. President  Woodrow Wilson "ran  against helping  Europe with                                                               
its  war  problem" and  then  "entered  us  into war  within  two                                                               
years";  therefore, "you  can  see how  those  things can  change                                                               
quickly."   He said he  thinks President [Franklin  D.] Roosevelt                                                               
would  have like  to get  the country  into war  faster but  "the                                                               
country  wasn't interested."   He  added, "But  then the  problem                                                               
came to us anyway."   He said he thinks that is  why he likes HJR                                                               
30, because  it is hard to  not participate in the  problems that                                                               
are "headed  your way."  He  said he does not  think the proposed                                                               
joint resolution would  call for the U.S. to "house  and care for                                                               
a certain number of refugees"  but simply that the U.S. recognize                                                               
the crisis  is there, be  sympathetic to it,  and play a  role in                                                               
helping  find  a  solution.    He said  resolutions  tend  to  be                                                               
aspirational rather than spelling out "we will do X, Y, and Z."                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE   SADDLER  reiterated   that  the   US  government                                                               
contributes  heavily  in the  United  Nations,  whose mission  is                                                               
"just  this  kind  of   international  and  intranational  global                                                               
refugee enumeration."                                                                                                           
8:53:40 AM                                                                                                                    
GABBY  WEISS testified  in  support  of HJR  30.    She read  her                                                               
written statement,  which read  as follows  [original punctuation                                                               
          Good morning, my name is Gabby Weiss and I am                                                                         
     from Palmer, Alaska. I have  come here today to explain                                                                    
     the importance of House Joint  Resolution No. 30 and to                                                                    
     urge  all  the  committee  members to  help  make  this                                                                    
     resolution a reality.                                                                                                      
          First off, a brief recap of the magnitude of the                                                                      
     refugee crisis  and refugees  in general.  According to                                                                    
     the  Oxford  Dictionary, a  refugee  is  defined as  "a                                                                    
     person who  has been forced  to leave their  country in                                                                    
     order   to   escape   war,  persecution,   or   natural                                                                    
     disaster."  That is  all a  refugee is.  Just from  the                                                                    
     definition, it is  known that the term  refugee means a                                                                    
     person, someone who  is as human as you and  me, who is                                                                    
     fleeing their  country because it  isn't safe.  I think                                                                    
     that sometimes we  people get caught up  on the labels.                                                                    
     Because we are referring to  the people who are fleeing                                                                    
     from violence  as this new population,  the "refugees,"                                                                    
     there  is this  barrier that  is put  up that  makes us                                                                    
     humans  feel like  we are  somehow very  different from                                                                    
     each other.                                                                                                                
          Another aspect is that makes it very intangible                                                                       
     for  us  to  grasp  what  refugees  are  going  through                                                                    
     because right  now, we  are inside,  dry and  warm, fed                                                                    
     and watered, safe and sound,  but there are men, women,                                                                    
     and children,  who are  fleeing from  war, persecution,                                                                    
     or natural  disaster...right now. And it  isn't like it                                                                    
     is just  hundreds of people, or  thousand[s] of people,                                                                    
     and it's not even just  a million people. No, according                                                                    
     to the  United Nations High Commissioner  for Refugees,                                                                    
     it  is 22.5  million people,  women, men  and children,                                                                    
     fleeing for their  safety. That means that  if you take                                                                    
     the population  of Alaska and  multiply it by  30, that                                                                    
     number  is still  less  than all  the  refugees in  the                                                                    
     world. And  guess how many  of that number  of refugees                                                                    
     are children.  Is it a 10th,  a 5th or a  3rd? No! More                                                                    
     than  one  half  of  those   22.5  million  people  are                                                                    
     children, under  the age of  18. They didn't  choose to                                                                  
     be born into an unsafe area.                                                                                               
          That is  a huge number of  people facing adversity                                                                    
     and trauma, but don't worry,  even though we can't help                                                                    
     everyone,  we  can  still make  a  difference!  If  the                                                                    
     United States uses its  leadership to start encouraging                                                                    
     other countries to  take in refugees, as  well as tries                                                                    
     to  prevent and  help  out in  the  events that  create                                                                    
     refugees,  imagine how  many lives  we  could lift  up.                                                                    
     Also,  the  United  States   can  benefit  from  taking                                                                    
     refugees  in itself.  In fact,  the National  Bureau of                                                                    
     Economic  Research  explains,  an  adult  refugee  will                                                                    
     generally pay  21,000 dollars more  in taxes  than they                                                                    
     will receive  in benefits  in their  first 20  years in                                                                    
     the United States.                                                                                                         
          A common thought preventing Americans from                                                                            
     welcoming refugees  is the idea  that refugees  are the                                                                    
     same thing  as terrorists. As of  2015, expert Kathleen                                                                    
     Newland from the Migration  Policy Institute says, "The                                                                    
     United  States  has  resettled 784,000  refugees  since                                                                    
     September 11,  2001. In those  14 years,  exactly three                                                                    
     resettled  refugees  have  been arrested  for  planning                                                                    
     terrorist activitiesand   it is  worth noting  two were                                                                    
     not planning  an attack  in the  United States  and the                                                                    
     plans of  the third  were barely  credible." To  add to                                                                    
     this,  the US  Department  of State  explains, that  on                                                                    
     average, it takes  18 to 24 months  to process refugees                                                                    
     into the  US. This  process includes in  depth vetting.                                                                    
     This long  and vigorous  process is another  reason why                                                                    
     terrorists would not  choose to act as  refugees to get                                                                    
     into the US.                                                                                                               
          The last reason why we should help is because                                                                         
     these  people,  these  refugees,  need  our  help.  The                                                                    
     refugee crisis has created  horrible situations for all                                                                    
     refugees.  Families become  split apart  and lives  get                                                                    
     put  on   hold.  According   to  United   Nations  High                                                                    
     Commissioner  for  Refugees,   there  are  3.5  million                                                                    
     refugee children  who should be in  school, but aren't.                                                                    
     Also,  rates  sometimes as  high  as  86% project  post                                                                    
     traumatic stress disorder in  refugees according to the                                                                    
     US  Department of  Veterans Affairs.  Lastly, according                                                                    
     to the  Mercy Corps  Organization, one half  of Syria's                                                                    
     population  before the  war, that  is  11 million  plus                                                                    
     people,  have been  killed or  forced to  abandon their                                                                    
     homes due to the Syrian conflict.                                                                                          
          Because we are the lucky ones who get to have                                                                         
     meetings, and  eat lunch, and  read the  newspaper, and                                                                    
     spend time  with our friends  and families, we  need to                                                                    
     take it  upon ourselves to  care and support  the other                                                                    
     humans  who aren't  as  lucky  as us.  It  is our  duty                                                                    
     because  if  we were  running  away  from violence  and                                                                    
     persecution and  natural disasters,  we would  want the                                                                    
     people  who  were safe  and  healthy  to stand  up  and                                                                    
     support  us.  It is  that  simple.  To conclude,  I  am                                                                    
     asking  all the  committee members  to please  vote for                                                                    
     House Joint  Resolution No. 30.  Thank you so  much for                                                                    
     your time.                                                                                                                 
8:58:48 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER  commended Ms. Weiss for  her well-written                                                               
and ably presented testimony.                                                                                                   
8:58:57 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  PARISH concurred.   He  asked  Ms. Weiss,  "Why do  you                                                               
think we have this responsibility?"                                                                                             
MS. WEISS  answered that  it is  a moral  responsibility, because                                                               
"if we were  in that situation, we would want  people to stand up                                                               
and help us."                                                                                                                   
9:00:07 AM                                                                                                                    
NICHOLAS  STEEN testified  in opposition  to HJR  30.   He opined                                                               
that  the  State of  Alaska  has  no justification  to  interject                                                               
itself   into   the   international  refugee   problem,   because                                                               
international problems  are reserved for the  federal government.                                                               
He stated, "We have elected  representatives in Washington, D.C.,                                                               
responsible for reflecting our views  on these matters."  He said                                                               
Alaska has  a multitude of problems  needing attention, including                                                               
crime,  education, deteriorating  roads  and infrastructure,  and                                                               
excessive spending  depleting the  state's spending account.   He                                                               
said he has yet  to speak to any of his  friends that support HJR                                                               
30, and he encouraged the committee not to support it.                                                                          
9:01:49 AM                                                                                                                    
ROBERT FAWCETT  stated that he  believes "we should help  as much                                                               
as  we can"  but, considering  "all of  the stuff  our government                                                               
struggles with,"  questioned who would be  responsible for taking                                                               
on refugees, "financially, physically," and regarding housing.                                                                  
9:03:15 AM                                                                                                                    
CHARLES  DUNCAN opined  that "we  should take  care of  ourselves                                                               
before we  bring in any refugees."   He explained that  he is not                                                               
worried  about  terrorists but  about  not  being financially  or                                                               
mentally prepared to  take on "as many refugees as  we want."  He                                                               
     Taking care  of yourself should be  more important than                                                                    
     taking  care of  other  people.   I  know that  doesn't                                                                    
     sound right,  but it's  true.  We  should focus  on our                                                                    
     debt, our housing,  and when we get to  the point where                                                                    
     we can help other people, that's when we should.                                                                           
9:04:37 AM                                                                                                                    
MELISSA KEMBERLING stated  that testimony she has  heard seems to                                                               
reflect that  "it's an either/or  solution."  She  countered that                                                               
she thinks  the U.S. can take  care of itself while  working with                                                               
other countries  "to be a  leader," which  she said the  U.S. has                                                               
been  viewed as  for many  years.   As a  leader, the  U.S. could                                                               
bring others to the table to  co-solve the issue and co-fund [the                                                               
efforts].  Ms.  Kemberling said she does a lot  of community work                                                               
in the  Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su)  area and problems  are solved                                                               
through  cooperative effort.   She  said she  does not  view this                                                               
issue as being any different.                                                                                                   
9:06:08 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR PARISH closed public testimony on HJR 30.                                                                              
CO-CHAIR PARISH announced that HJR 30 was held over.                                                                            
9:06:31 AM                                                                                                                    
There being no  further business before the  committee, the House                                                               
Community  and Regional  Affairs Standing  Committee meeting  was                                                               
adjourned at 9:06 a.m.                                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HJR030 ver D 2.6.18.pdf HCRA 2/13/2018 8:00:00 AM
HJR 30
HJR030 Sponsor Statement 2.6.18.pdf HCRA 2/13/2018 8:00:00 AM
HJR 30
HB264 - Opposing Document - NFIB 2.13.18.pdf HCRA 2/13/2018 8:00:00 AM
HB 264
HB264 Supporting Document 2.13.18.pdf HCRA 2/13/2018 8:00:00 AM
HB 264
HB 264 Opposing Documents 2.13.18.pdf HCRA 2/13/2018 8:00:00 AM
HB 264
HJR030 Supporting Document - Gabby Weiss 2.13.18.pdf HCRA 2/13/2018 8:00:00 AM
HJR 30