Legislature(2011 - 2012)HOUSE FINANCE 519
04/12/2012 09:00 AM FINANCE
Download Mp3. <- Right click and save file as
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE FINANCE COMMITTEE April 12, 2012 9:57 a.m. 9:57:59 AM CALL TO ORDER Co-Chair Stoltze called the House Finance Committee meeting to order at 9:57 a.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Representative Bill Stoltze, Co-Chair Representative Bill Thomas Jr., Co-Chair Representative Anna Fairclough, Vice-Chair Representative Mia Costello Representative Mike Doogan Representative Bryce Edgmon Representative Les Gara Representative David Guttenberg Representative Reggie Joule Representative Mark Neuman Representative Tammie Wilson MEMBERS ABSENT None ALSO PRESENT Senator Bettye Davis, Sponsor; Katya Wassillie, Intern, Senator Bettye Davis; Kate Burkhart, Executive Director, Statewide Suicide Prevention Council, Department of Health and Social Services; Joe Michel, Staff, Representative Bill Stoltze; Kristen Peterson, Staff, Senator Hollis French; Genevieve Wojtusik, Staff, Senator Lesil McGuire; Joe Michel, Staff, Representative Bill Stoltze; Sue Wright, Staff, Representative Mike Chenault; Lila Hobbs, Staff, Senator Hollis French; Karen Foster, Self, Anchorage. PRESENT VIA TELECONFERENCE Jean Mischel, Attorney, Legislative Legal Services, Legislative Affairs Agency; James Biela, Field Advocate and Board Member, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention- Alaska; Clark Flatt, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Jason Foundation, Henderson, Tennessee; Sharon Strutz- Norton, Board Member, State Suicide Prevention Council, Homer; Nancy Hull, Owner, Alaska Motorcycle Adventures, Palmer. SUMMARY CSSB 19(FIN) PASSENGER VEHICLE RENTAL TAX CSSB 19(FIN) was HEARD and HELD in committee for further consideration. CSSB 23(FIN) FILM PRODUCTION TAX CREDIT/AUDITS CSSB 23(FIN) was SCHEDULED but not HEARD. SCR 24 COMMISSION ON 100TH ANNIV. OF LEGISLATURE SCR 24 was SCHEDULED but not HEARD. CSSB 119(L&C) ATHLETIC TRAINERS CSSB 119(L&C) was SCHEDULED but not HEARD. CSSB 135(JUD) CONTINUANCES IN CRIMINAL TRIALS; VICTIMS HCS CSSB 135(FIN) was REPORTED out of committee with a "do pass" recommendation and with three new zero fiscal notes from the Court System, the Legislature, and the Department of Corrections, two new zero fiscal notes from the Department of Administration, and one previously published indeterminate fiscal note: FN4 (SFIN/LAW). SB 137 SUICIDE AWARENESS & PREVENTION TRAINING HCSSB 137(FIN) was REPORTED out of committee with a "do pass" recommendation and with one previously published zero fiscal note: FN2 (DEED). CSSB 160(FIN) BUDGET: CAPITAL CSSB 160(FIN) was SCHEDULED but not HEARD. SENATE BILL NO. 137 "An Act requiring suicide awareness and prevention training for certain school personnel." 9:59:00 AM AT EASE 10:00:50 AM RECONVENED 10:00:53 AM Vice-Chair Fairclough MOVED to ADOPT the proposed committee substitute for SB 137, Work Draft 27-LS0994\D (Mischel, 4/11/12) as a working document. Co-Chair Stoltze OBJECTED for the purpose of discussion. Vice-Chair Fairclough explained the changes in the new committee substitute (CS) and drew the committee's attention to page 1, line 9 of the bill, where legislative intent language had been inserted; furthermore, on page 2, line 21, a sunset provision was added that would repeal the act on July 1, 2016. Co-Chair Stoltze interjected that the bill's sunset was structured to initiate a review of the program, rather than an automatic repeal. Co-Chair Stoltze WITHDREW his OBJECTION. There being NO further OBJECTION, Work Draft 27-LS0994\D was ADOPTED. SENATOR BETTYE DAVIS, SPONSOR, communicated that she had no problems with the proposed CS. She explained that the bill required annual mandatory youth suicide awareness and prevention training for teachers, administrators, counselors, and specialists employed by the school district for grades 7 through 12. She related that the training was important because Alaska had the nation's highest rate of suicide per capita, specifically among teenagers, young men, and Alaska Natives. She detailed that education awareness was the key to suicide prevention; training teachers to recognize the signs of at risk youth and learning how to intervene had been proven to help reduce teen suicides in many other states. The bill provided specific immunity to teachers and school districts for acts of omission while performing the duties authorized under Section 3, subsections (c) and (d) of the legislation. She stressed that SB 137 had bipartisan support, as well as broad support in the health and education communities. She highlighted the zero fiscal note and asked the committee to support the legislation in order to help reduce the "epidemic" of youth suicide that was devastating families and communities throughout the state. Co-Chair Stoltze pointed out that the legislative internship program was a very important educational program and welcomed an intern from Senator Davis's office. 10:03:58 AM KATYA WASSILLIE, INTERN, SENATOR BETTYE DAVIS, discussed the relevance of the bill to rural Alaska. During her experience as a student in rural Alaska, she had observed the closeness between the students and teachers. She believed the close relationship between students and teachers was unique in rural Alaska because the teachers were part of a small community and had interactions with students that were much different than in urban settings; teachers in rural Alaska spent time with students in school programs after the school day had ended, as well as during community events. She concluded that teachers in rural settings were in a good position to notice when a student was showing potential signs of suicide. Representative Gara thanked the sponsor for bringing the bill forward and told a relevant personal story about a friend who had lost a child to suicide. He believed that teacher and counselor intervention and education would help save lives. He thought that there were members of the committee who were directly affected by the issue. Representative Costello discussed a former student who had lost a sibling to suicide. She believed that the bill worked to address a significant problem in the state, but wondered whether there were concerns related to increasing training requirements for teachers. She added that creating small learning environments within larger school settings would allow a close relationship to form between students and teachers and would result in benefits far beyond the academics. She stressed the importance of providing opportunities for teachers to get to know their students. Senator Davis replied that the teachers union was very supportive of the bill and did not see it as an added training burden; teachers would be allowed to do the training at their own leisure. She emphasized that the bill was not only intended for teachers, but was also inclusive of all school employees who interacted with students. She offered that she had not heard any objections to the bill and reiterated that there were not any concerns regarding an increased training burden. She observed that the legislation was only part of the answer to the suicide problem in Alaska. 10:08:15 AM Co-Chair Stoltze related a personal story. He agreed that it was important to reach other school staff and that the custodian often had a good and trusting relationship with students. Representative Wilson supported the bill, but believed the Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) should provide a list of all of the training requirements on school district staff. She commented that she was pleased that the bill allowed school employees to complete the training online, rather than requiring an in-service to do so. Vice-Chair Fairclough pointed out for the record that on page 2, line 6 of the bill, the use of the title "commissioner" was referring to the commissioner of DEED and noted that the bill did not explicitly state which commissioner it was referencing. Senator Davis responded that the bill was referencing the commissioner of DEED. Vice-Chair Fairclough wondered where exactly in the state statutes the legislation would be inserted and observed that the only reference code that she could see was on page 2, line 18 of the bill. JEAN MISCHEL, ATTORNEY, LEGISLATIVE LEGAL SERVICES, LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS AGENCY (via teleconference), explained that due to the sunset provision, which gave the legislation an effective date of less than five years, the law was considered to be temporary. The law would not have a place in statutes, but would reside in the session laws as temporary law, unless the legislature voted to extend the program. She added that legal services could clarify the use of the terms "department" and "commissioner" on page 2, line 18. JAMES BIELA, FIELD ADVOCATE AND BOARD MEMBER, AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION-ALASKA (via teleconference), vocalized the foundation's support for the legislation. He urged the committee to pass the bill and he related that he was assigned to five villages and worked with families, students, and school personnel on suicide prevention. He discussed that teachers and school employees were the main contact for students and were often the first to identify at risk students. He relayed that teachers often referred students to him when they noticed a sudden behavior change, but that teachers sometimes felt uninformed on the signs of suicide. He mentioned a case in which a teacher had not been interested in suicide training, but subsequent to the training, the teacher had used the acquired knowledge to identify and help save the life of a student on the verge of suicide. He discussed other trainings that were conducted in his area that were done at no cost to the district. The More Than Sad and Signs of Suicide programs were also accessed annually by the school districts. He stressed that increased trainings would prevent further deaths and related that the most recent suicide had been the past weekend, when a young man took his life in Bethel. He encouraged the committee to pass the legislation. 10:14:42 AM CLARK FLATT, PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, THE JASON FOUNDATION, HENDERSON, TENNESSEE (via teleconference), testified in support of the bill. He explained that the legislation had been named after his son and was also known as the Jason Flat Act. He expressed that the legislation was very important. The act had first been passed in Tennessee in 2007 and recently, Utah had become the eighth state to pass the legislation. He detailed that a marked annual reduction in youth suicide rates was visible in Tennessee and compared that reduction to the rising rates in other areas. He discussed the value of equipping teachers with the information and knowledge to help identify and refer students that were at risk for suicide within the school system. He stated the 2009 and 2011 Youth Risk Behavioral Survey showed that Alaska continued to increase in "those" statistics and commended the state for its work on the issue. SHARON STRUTZ-NORTON, BOARD MEMBER, STATE SUICIDE PREVENTION COUNCIL, HOMER (via teleconference), spoke in favor of the bill. She relayed that the bill was needed to address suicide prevention in the school system. She discussed that youths had shared stories at local health fairs about themselves or friends who had contemplated suicide. She believed that teachers, counselors, nurses, coaches, and janitors were in a prime position to detect behavioral changes, seek appropriate assistance, and refer to resources; however, prevention training was needed to provide the knowledge, confidence, and direction to help the individuals know how to handle the situation. She pointed out that the bill did not have a cost associated with it and that many free educational resources existed. She urged the committee's support of the legislation. KATE BURKHART, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, STATEWIDE SUICIDE PREVENTION COUNCIL, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES, expressed the council's full support of the legislation. She detailed that the bill fit within the council's recommended statewide plan for the upcoming five years, which would require training for all school personnel; she believed that the bill was a great start. Co-Chair Thomas CLOSED public testimony. 10:19:34 AM AT EASE 10:19:41 AM RECONVENED Vice-Chair Fairclough pointed to the zero fiscal note from the Department of Education and Early Development. 10:20:18 AM Vice-Chair Fairclough MOVED to report HCSSB 137(FIN) out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal note. There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered. 10:20:31 AM HCSSB 137(FIN) was REPORTED out of committee with a "do pass" recommendation and with a previously published zero fiscal note: FN2 (DEED). 10:20:36 AM AT EASE 10:21:39 AM RECONVENED Co-Chair Stoltze stated that the committee intended recess and continue with the meeting later in the day. 10:22:18 AM RECESSED 5:32:20 PM RECONVENED CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 19(FIN) "An Act specifying the vehicle rental tax for motorcycles and motor-driven cycles; and providing for an effective date." 5:33:31 PM Vice-Chair Fairclough MOVED to ADOPT the proposed committee substitute for CSSB 19, Work Draft 27-LS0157\B (Luckhaupt, 4/10/12) as a working document. Co-Chair Stoltze OBJECTED for the purpose of discussion. JOE MICHEL, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE BILL STOLTZE, remarked on two major changes in the House CS that incorporated SB 26 into the legislation. Section 1 was added to the CS; Section 1 continued to page 2, line 21. On page 3, line 31, Section 7 was added. On page 4, Sections 8 and 9 were added. Co-Chair Stoltze WITHDREW his OBJECTION. There being NO further OBJECTION, Work Draft 27-LS0157\B was ADOPTED. KRISTEN PETERSON, STAFF, SENATOR HOLLIS FRENCH, extended the sponsor's apologies for being unable to attend in person. She explained that motorcycles and motor driven cycles were currently subject to the Passenger Vehicle Rental Tax, which was 10 percent of the total fees and costs that were charged for the rental of a passenger vehicle; the tax was found in AS 43.52.010 and 43.52.020. The CS for SB 19 would reduce the tax on motorcycles and motor driven cycles to 3 percent, bringing it in line with the tax on recreation vehicles, motorhomes, and campers that was located in AS 43.53.030 and 43.53.040. She offered that in 2003, the Alaska Legislature had passed the Vehicle Rental Tax on passenger vehicles without having discussion on the motorcycle rental businesses. She observed that making an exception for a seasonal rental business had already been done when the Vehicle Rental Tax was first imposed, as motorhomes were given a lower rate of 3 percent. In 2008, the Department of Revenue (DOR) discovered the existence of motorcycle rental businesses in Alaska and notified the businesses that the 10 percent rental tax would be collected. She related that with Alaska's short summers and the cost of winter storage, the businesses in question had found it more difficult to make a profit when a 10 percent tax was added to the total. She concluded that the bill was designed to help small Alaskan businesses that had clients who were independent travelers, which visited other small businesses in Alaska. The bill had an immediate effective date to coincide with the upcoming summer tourist season. GENEVIEVE WOJTUSIK, STAFF, SENATOR LESIL MCGUIRE, noted that the Senator's office was hoping to combine SB 26 with SB 19. She explained that Section 1 of the new CS set special registration fees for alternative fuel vehicles; the legislation would impose a $20 biannual registration fee for electric, alternative fuel, or compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles, rather than requiring the normal registration fees. The sunset date of the SB 26 portion of the new CS was in 2015 and was found in Section 7 of the legislation. She concluded that the legislation represented a trial program and that although the state did not have many electric vehicles, the sponsor wanted to reward the businesses that did have them. 5:39:14 PM Representative Doogan inquired if both the sponsors of the new CS were happy with the changes to the legislation. Ms. Peterson responded in the affirmative. Vice-Chair Fairclough discussed a fiscal note from DOR and a fiscal note from the Department of Administration. She pointed to the DOR fiscal note and mentioned that the note's "change in revenues" section showed an expected decrease of $8,400 each year from FY 13 through FY 18 NANCY HULL, OWNER, ALASKA MOTORCYCLE ADVENTURES, PALMER (via teleconference), supported the bill and related that her company was in its 19th summer of renting motorcycles in Alaska. She indicated that there were unintended consequences to the present tax and that her business had a very limited operating season of about 90 days. She stated that her average rental rate was $200 per day, per motorcycle and that a customer renting for 10 days resulted in a tax of $200. She explained that the current tax became very punitive when a couple or a father and son rented two motorcycles and were taxed $400 for 10 days of rental; furthermore, there was no cap on the amount that could be taxed. She stated that in order offset the high vehicle rental taxes, her customers were choosing to rent for fewer days or travel to different locations outside of Alaska. She shared that her customers were able to get to the very remote locations of Alaska because the vehicles that her business used were capable of getting there. She offered that because her customers were not in an RV, they required services such as hotel rooms, meals, etc. She indicated a preference to eliminate the tax altogether, rather than reducing it to 3 percent and stated that the tax collected from the state's four existing rental businesses would only represent about $15,000 per year and was a very small amount.["Four existing rental businesses" was made in reference to seasonal rental businesses that rented motorcycles.] She mentioned that the Harley Davidson rental business in Anchorage was not expected rent after 2012 and that Alaska would only have three seasonal motorcycles businesses 2013. She questioned whether it was worth the state's effort for DOR to track three or four businesses, given the small amount of taxes that would be collected; she reiterated that she would like the tax repealed. Co-Chair Stoltze CLOSED public testimony. 5:46:17 PM AT EASE 5:47:03 PM RECONVENED Co-Chair Stoltze communicated that the intent of the committee was to repeal the 3 percent tax that was in the bill. Representative Costello offered a Conceptual Amendment on behalf of the House Finance Committee to repeal the 3 percent rental tax that was mentioned in the bill. Representative Gara clarified that the Conceptual Amendment was repealing the 3 percent tax on motorcycles, not recreational vehicles. Co-Chair Stoltze stated that the committee's intent was to repeal the 3 percent rental tax on motorcycles, but that the bill would be brought back at a later date in order to make sure the changes were done appropriately. Ms. Peterson commented that the original version bill, which excluded the motor cycle rental businesses, would amend AS 43.52.099; she pointed out that this statute housed the exceptions to the Alaska Vehicle Rental Tax. Co- Chair Stoltze responded that intent of the committee was made clear and that the changes would be done right. 5:49:29 PM CSSB 19(FIN) was HEARD and HELD in committee for further consideration. 5:49:33 PM AT EASE 5:50:40 PM RECONVENED CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 135(JUD) "An Act relating to the rights of crime victims; relating to the duties of prosecuting attorneys; and amending Rule 45, Alaska Rules of Criminal Procedure." 5:50:50 PM Vice-Chair Fairclough MOVED to ADOPT the proposed committee substitute for SB 135(FIN), Work Draft 27-LS0966\I (Gardner, 4/11/12) as a working document. Co-Chair Stoltze OBJECTED for the purpose of discussion. JOE MICHEL, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE BILL STOLTZE, outlined the additions in the proposed CS. He detailed that on page 4, Section 3 had been included; Sections 4, 5, and 6 were likewise added to the legislation. He concluded that Sections 7, 8, and 9 were part of the original bill that had entered the committee. SUE WRIGHT, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE MIKE CHENAULT, explained that the CS basically merged HB 221 into SB 135; HB 221 dealt with court appointed council. Page 4, line 25 of the bill added financial resources and "adds a little teeth" to what people swear to in court when they were asking for court appointed council. Page 5, line 14 described the change to the court rule, which was Rule 39.1 subsection (e). Page 5, line 19 specified that people who lied when asking for appointed council were subject to penalties for perjury. She added that the merging allowed for courts to go back and make sure that the financial statements that were signed were correct and enforceable. She expressed appreciation for the cooperation on the bill. She observed that the CS had been delivered to her about 5 minutes prior to the meeting and offered her apologies if she misstated anything. 5:55:11 PM Co-Chair Stoltze emphasized that he had been working with Speaker Chenault's office for quite some time on the legislation and stated that he did not want the public to be under the impression that the speaker's office had just received the CS. Ms. Wright responded that she had been absent from the office and that someone else had been working on the bill. She clarified that she had just personally received the CS. Co-Chair Stoltze commented that the committee had a thorough process, which had not been shortened during the formulation of the legislation. He inquired if the presumption in the bill was that someone would be provided an attorney during arraignment and would have to verify their financial ability at a later date. Ms. Wright responded in the affirmative. Co-Chair Stoltze requested Vice-Chair Fairclough to share her contributions to the measure. Vice-Chair Fairclough replied that the Office of Victims' Rights (OVR) was reviewed and it was discovered that its pay scale was frozen at Step A. She related that it was difficult for someone to stay in an office and be stuck at a particular pay level, while other staff was advancing. She had proposed to Senator French's and Co-Chair Stoltze's offices that the restrictions on that particular level be lifted; the level would stay at a pay grade 26, but the change would allow OVR, based on the employee's number of years of service, to move across the states pay scale. Co-Chair Stoltze inquired if the changes to OVR arose from discussions by the Victims Advocate Selection Committee. Vice-Chair Fairclough responded that she had brought the suggestion to his attention. Co-Chair Stoltze observed that the discussions regarding OVR were conducted in executive sessions and that there probably was an issue with confidentiality regarding the specifics of the discussion. Vice-Chair Fairclough responded that earlier in the day, she had discussed the change to OVR with Senator French, who also had served on the Victims Advocate Selection Committee. Co-Chair Stoltze clarified for the record that the process to change the OVR pay scale did not arise arbitrarily, but that it had come from discussions during the selection process. Co-Chair Stoltze WITHDREW his OBJECTION. There being NO further OBJECTION, Work Draft 27-LS0966\I was ADOPTED. LILA HOBBS, STAFF, SENATOR HOLLIS FRENCH, stated that Article 1, Section 24 of the Alaska State Constitution housed the entitled rights of crime victims and that the amendment that had added those rights had passed by an overwhelming majority, when it had gone before Alaskan voters in 1994; included in those rights was a guarantee that crime victims would have the right to a timely disposition of the case following the arrest of the accused. She offered that it had been 18 years since the constitutional amendment had passed and that the promise of timely disposition was often not kept, particularly with the most serious cases. Delays in the trials of cases, also known as continuances, could go on for years. She shared that SB 135 required prosecutors and judges to consider a victims right to a timely disposition of their case, when making decisions on allowing continuances; the bill also insured that victims were notified of any requests or motions that could substantially delay the speedy prosecution of their case. She mentioned that repeated delays in cases prevented the victims from reaching emotional, physical, and financial closure; furthermore, delays in prosecution could also affect the availability of witnesses, the victim's ability to recall details, and could create other impediments to a successful trial. She concluded that the legislation would guarantee a victims right to a timely resolution in the court system. She concluded that the bill was widely supported from organizations such as the Victims for Justice, the OVR, the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Standing Together Against Rape, the Alaska Peace Officers Association, as well as Karen Foster, who was the mother of Bonnie Craig. 5:59:35 PM KAREN FOSTER, SELF, ANCHORAGE, shared that her daughter, Bonnie Craig, was murdered and that it had taken almost 17 years before the person responsible was convicted. She discussed the incredible tragedy and hardship of having her daughter murdered, as well as having to wait almost five years for a conviction after the defendant was identified. She stated that her family was "re-victimized" by the state of Alaska. Bonnie's killer was identified though a DNA match in November of 2006, but it took almost two years before a trial date was set on September of 2008. She stated that her family had endured six trail dates and related how difficult the process for everyone. She mentioned that she had written a letter to the committee and expressed a desire that the members would all read it. She stated that the system was financially, physically, mentally, and spiritually difficult on families; furthermore, there was nowhere else to turn to while families were enduring the wait. She shared that more than once, her family had talked to the judge regarding the defense attorney's repeated continuation requests; the continuations had wasting two years of the family's and the state's time. She urged the committee to deal with the issue of timely dispositions and emphasized that she did not want anyone else to go through what her family had. She requested that the committee consider the victims and give judges the opportunity to consider the victims as well. Co-Chair Stoltze CLOSED public testimony. Vice-Chair Fairclough discussed six fiscal notes. She addressed the fiscal note from the Department of Law and related that it was currently indeterminate because the Senate did not feel that there was adequate supporting documentation for a new full-time position. 6:06:10 PM Vice-Chair Fairclough MOVED to report HCS CSSB 135(FIN) out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered. 6:06:26 PM HCS CSSB 135(FIN) was REPORTED out of committee with a "do pass" recommendation and with three new zero fiscal notes from the Court System, the Legislature, and the Department of Corrections, two new zero notes from the Department of Administration, and one previously published indeterminate fiscal note: FN4 (SFIN/LAW). Co-Chair Stoltze noted that he was glad to work on another victims' rights bill and that he had conducted previous work on the issue. 6:07:18 PM AT EASE 6:08:15 PM RECONVENED CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 23(FIN) "An Act relating to transferable film production tax credits and film production tax credit certificates; requiring the legislative audit division to audit the Alaska film production incentive program; and providing for an effective date by amending the effective dates of secs. 3 and 4, ch. 63, SLA 2008." CSSB 23(FIN) was SCHEDULED but not HEARD. SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 24 Establishing the Alaska Legislative Celebration Commission to organize events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first convening of the legislative branch of government in Alaska. SCR 24 was SCHEDULED but not HEARD. CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 119(L&C) "An Act relating to athletic trainers." CSSB 119(L&C) was SCHEDULED but not HEARD. CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 160(FIN) "An Act making and amending appropriations, including capital appropriations, supplemental appropriations, and other appropriations; making appropriations to capitalize funds; and providing for an effective date." CSSB 160(FIN) was SCHEDULED but not HEARD. ADJOURNMENT 6:08:43 PM The meeting was adjourned at 6:08 p.m.