Legislature(2017 - 2018)GRUENBERG 120

01/25/2018 01:30 PM MILITARY & VETERANS' AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Please Note Time Change --
*+ HJR 17 HMONG VETERANS MILITARY BURIAL RIGHTS TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
+= HB 178 NAMING PORTIONS OF VETERANS HIGHWAYS TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
   HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON MILITARY AND VETERANS' AFFAIRS                                                                  
                        January 25, 2018                                                                                        
                           1:45 p.m.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Representative Chris Tuck, Chair                                                                                                
Representative Gabrielle LeDoux, Vice Chair                                                                                     
Representative Justin Parish                                                                                                    
Representative Ivy Spohnholz                                                                                                    
Representative George Rauscher                                                                                                  
Representative Lora Reinbold                                                                                                    
Representative Dan Saddler                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 17                                                                                                   
Encouraging the United States Congress to pass legislation                                                                      
giving full military burial rights to Hmong veterans of the                                                                     
Vietnam War.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
     - HEARD & HELD                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
HOUSE BILL NO. 178                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to recognition of individual veterans along                                                                    
certain veterans' memorial roads and on certain veterans'                                                                       
memorial bridges."                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
     - HEARD & HELD                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
BILL: HJR 17                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: HMONG VETERANS MILITARY BURIAL RIGHTS                                                                              
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) TARR                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
03/29/17       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
03/29/17       (H)       MLV                                                                                                    
01/25/18       (H)       MLV AT 1:30 PM GRUENBERG 120                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
BILL: HB 178                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: NAMING PORTIONS OF VETERANS HIGHWAYS                                                                               
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) EASTMAN                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
03/14/17       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
03/14/17       (H)       MLV, TRA                                                                                               
04/04/17       (H)       MLV AT 1:00 PM GRUENBERG 120                                                                           
04/04/17       (H)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
04/04/17       (H)       MINUTE(MLV)                                                                                            
01/25/18       (H)       MLV AT 1:30 PM GRUENBERG 120                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GERAN TARR                                                                                                       
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  As prime sponsor, presented HJR 17 and                                                                   
answered questions.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
ROBERT DOEHL, Deputy Commissioner                                                                                               
Office of the Commissioner/Adjutant General                                                                                     
Department of Military and Veterans' Affairs                                                                                    
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska                                                                                         
POSITION STATEMENT:  Provided testimony and answered questions                                                                
during the hearing of HJR 17.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
VERDIE BOWEN, Director of Veterans' Affairs                                                                                     
Office of Veteran Affairs                                                                                                       
Department of Military and Veterans' Affairs                                                                                    
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Provided testimony and answered questions                                                                
during the hearing of HJR 17.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHARLIE XIONG                                                                                                                   
(No address provided)                                                                                                           
POSITION STATEMENT:  Due to technical difficulties, Mr. Xiong's                                                                 
testimony was indecipherable.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MAY RAMIREZ-XIONG                                                                                                               
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support during the hearing of                                                               
HJR 17.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MAI XIONG                                                                                                                       
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Due to technical difficulties, Ms. Xiong's                                                               
testimony was indecipherable.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
PASERT LEE                                                                                                                      
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:   Testified in support during  the hearing of                                                             
HJR 17.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE DAVID EASTMAN                                                                                                    
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION  STATEMENT:   As prime  sponsor, introduced  HB 178  and                                                             
answered questions.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
JERAD MCCLURE, Staff                                                                                                            
Representative David Eastman                                                                                                    
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:   On behalf of  Representative Eastman, prime                                                           
sponsor of  HB 178, presented  the changes incorporated  into the                                                             
committee substitute, Version M, and answered questions.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MARK NEIDHOLD, Chief Design and Construction Standards                                                                          
Division of Statewide Design and Engineering Services                                                                           
Department of Transportation & Public Facilities                                                                                
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Answered questions  during the hearing of HB                                                             
178.                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MIKE LESMANN, Legislative Liaison                                                                                               
Office of the Commissioner                                                                                                      
Department of Transportation and Public Facilities                                                                              
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Answered questions  during the hearing of HB                                                             
178.                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
1:45:36 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CHRIS TUCK  called the House Special  Committee on Military                                                             
and   Veterans'   Affairs  meeting   to   order   at  1:45   p.m.                                                               
Representatives Tuck,  Saddler, Reinbold, Spohnholz,  LeDoux, and                                                               
Parish  were  present  at  the call  to  order.    Representative                                                               
Rauscher arrived as the meeting was in progress.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
          HJR 17-HMONG VETERANS MILITARY BURIAL RIGHTS                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
1:46:36 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR TUCK  announced that the  first order of business  would be                                                               
HOUSE  JOINT RESOLUTION  NO. 17,  Encouraging  the United  States                                                               
Congress to  pass legislation giving full  military burial rights                                                               
to Hmong veterans of the Vietnam War.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
1:47:26 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GERAN  TARR,   Alaska  State  Legislature,  prime                                                               
sponsor of  HJR 17, noted  HB 125 -  introduced and heard  by the                                                               
committee  last year  - also  addressed honoring  the service  of                                                               
Hmong veterans  who live in  Alaska.  She informed  the committee                                                               
during  the Vietnam  War the  Central  Intelligence Agency  (CIA)                                                               
recruited Hmong people  in Laos for their assistance  in the U.S.                                                               
war  effort, including  fighting alongside  American soldiers  on                                                               
the Ho Chi  Minh trail and transporting downed  pilots to medical                                                               
treatment.  She  said the Hmong soldiers fought  honorably and it                                                               
is  estimated  that 100,000  Hmong  soldiers  were recruited  and                                                               
trained.   Representative Tarr directed  the committee to  HJR 17                                                               
on page 2, line 7, which read:                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
     approximately 40,000 Hmong soldiers lost their lives                                                                       
     defending democracy                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE TARR  said after the  war ended and  the communist                                                               
regime took  power, the  Hmong people were  no longer  welcome in                                                               
their homeland and  many became refugees in  Thailand and various                                                               
other locations,  including Alaska.   She said  she was  proud to                                                               
represent thousands  of Hmong/Americans  living in  her district,                                                               
and   other  large   populations  are   represented  by   several                                                               
legislative districts in  Anchorage.  However, the U.  S. has not                                                               
fulfilled  its  promise  to grant  Hmong  soldiers  full  veteran                                                               
recognition.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  TARR  again referred  to  proposed  HB 125  which                                                               
would  place a  veteran designation  on the  driver's license  of                                                               
former  Hmong soldiers.   She  said  HJR 17  would extend  burial                                                               
rights  at  Arlington  National Cemetery  to  Hmong  veterans,  a                                                               
change  that has  been supported  at  the federal  level by  U.S.                                                               
Senators Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan,  and others.  She quoted a                                                               
living Hmong  soldier's statement  from an article  [document not                                                               
provided]  as follows:   "Burial  rights would  mean getting  the                                                               
respect  and the  dignity that  he and  his fellow  fighters feel                                                               
they've earned."  Representative  Tarr stressed the importance of                                                               
honoring  commitments  and said  support  from  the Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, along  with similar  resolutions from  other states,                                                               
is  needed  to  urge  for  federal  legislation  to  extend  full                                                               
military burial rights.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
1:52:34 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER asked if  veteran status for burial rights                                                               
at Arlington National Cemetery would  allow burial rights in Fort                                                               
Richardson National Cemetery.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE TARR  deferred the  question to the  Department of                                                               
Military & Veterans' Affairs (DMVA).                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  LEDOUX  commented  that  General  Vang  Pao,  the                                                               
leader of  the Hmong soldiers  who died  about five or  six years                                                               
ago, asked to be buried  at Arlington National Cemetery; however,                                                               
his  request was  denied despite  intervention from  U.S. Senator                                                               
Lisa Murkowski.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  PARISH, in  response  to Representative  Saddler,                                                               
said  his research  suggests  burial rights  would  apply at  any                                                               
national cemetery.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE TARR agreed.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
1:55:09 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR TUCK opened public testimony.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
1:55:30 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ROBERT DOEHL,  Deputy Commissioner, Commissioner's  Office, DMVA,                                                               
stated DMVA and the Alaska  Veterans' Advisory Council, Office of                                                               
Veterans  Affairs, DMVA,  support HJR  17 and  HB 125.   He  said                                                               
Hmong  were integral  in saving  downed American  aviators during                                                               
the Vietnam War,  and sometimes ten Hmong would  perish for every                                                               
American saved.   He  said, "In short,  Hmong died  defending and                                                               
trying to save  American lives; if they died  with American lives                                                               
they should  get to  rest in  the same  hallowed ground  as those                                                               
American warriors."  Mr. Doehl  pointed out 50 years have passed,                                                               
noting recognition  of the  Filipinos who served  with the  U. S.                                                               
during World  War II was  also delayed, but  for less time.   [On                                                               
1/24/18]  forty-five  Alaska Air  National  Guard  airmen in  the                                                               
210th Rescue Squadron  returned home from deployment  and he said                                                               
one  of the  reasons  airmen return  home safely  is  due to  the                                                               
support they  receive from  the people  living in  the deployment                                                               
location,  and  he  restated  DMVA's  support for  HJR  17.    In                                                               
response  to   Representative  Saddler,  he   confirmed  national                                                               
cemetery  eligibility would  apply  to  Fort Richardson  National                                                               
Cemetery.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  LEDOUX   asked  why  there  is   reluctance  from                                                               
Congress to address this issue.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. DOEHL opined there is concern  "the Hmong did not raise their                                                               
hand and  take the  same oath  to support  and defend  the United                                                               
States as U.S. servicemembers do."                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
1:57:42 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
VERDIE BOWEN,  Director, Office of Veterans'  Affairs, DMVA, said                                                               
he did  not know why  there is  resistance from Congress  on this                                                               
issue; in  fact, the  issue is discussed  in committee  each year                                                               
but  does not  receive  enough support  in the  U.  S. House  and                                                               
Senate.   He agreed  the possible reason  is that  Hmong soldiers                                                               
did not  receive an oath at  enlistment.  Mr. Bowen  recalled the                                                               
100,000-member  Vietnamese army  in  Laos was  held  back by  the                                                               
30,000-member  Hmong  army managed  by  General  Powell.   Noting                                                               
Hmong army enlistment,  he related children who  were tall enough                                                               
to  utilize a  M1  Garand or  M1 carbine  rifle  were taken  from                                                               
school  and enlisted  in  the  army; thus,  there  is  no way  to                                                               
properly  document  those who  were  recruited.   The  Office  of                                                               
Veterans'  Affairs  has  worked   with  the  Hmong  community  to                                                               
identify  25 people  who served  in the  Hmong army.   Mr.  Bowen                                                               
advised Arlington  National Cemetery  has already  recognized the                                                               
service of  members of the  Hmong army with a  memorial dedicated                                                               
in  1997,  which  indicates  Hmong army  members  deserve  to  be                                                               
interred in  national cemeteries.   Mr. Bowen pointed  out burial                                                               
rights for  members of the  Hmong army  should not be  delayed or                                                               
the effort will  be too late for many, as  happened in many cases                                                               
of Alaska  Territorial Guard  members.   He opined  Alaska should                                                               
provide  a reference  point for  its congressional  delegation to                                                               
take to  Congress and ask that  this honor be given  to those who                                                               
have served.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SPOHNHOLZ  asked whether Hmong veterans  have been                                                               
identified by working directly with the Hmong community.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR.  BOWEN said  yes;  DMVA  utilized the  same  program used  to                                                               
identify Alaska Territorial Guard  members, which allows officers                                                               
who  served in  the Hmong  army  to identify  others who  served.                                                               
This  program was  used last  year in  preparation for  the Hmong                                                               
veteran driver's license designation.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE PARISH  postulated children were  conscripted into                                                               
the army, and  asked for the difference  between conscription and                                                               
enlistment.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.  BOWEN said  the system  was  an involuntary  draft and  some                                                               
individuals received no training before  they were sent to defend                                                               
or rescue downed pilots.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  PARISH asked  whether efforts  have been  made to                                                               
extend to the Hmong all of  the benefits available to any veteran                                                               
who voluntarily or involuntarily enters U.S. military service.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. BOWEN  advised at this  time the  only two benefits  the DMVA                                                               
has [attempted  to] extend are  the driver's  license designation                                                               
and  burial  rights.    In  further  response  to  Representative                                                               
Parish,  he   added  Alaska,   California,  and   Minnesota  have                                                               
established Hmong Memorial Day;  furthermore, each state supports                                                               
a  national program  to allow  Hmong soldiers  to be  interred in                                                               
national cemeteries.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
2:05:35 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MAY RAMIREZ-XIONG testified  in support of HJR 17.   [Much of her                                                               
oral  testimony  was indiscernible,  and  she  was provided  with                                                               
contact  information  for  submitting written  testimony.]    Her                                                               
written testimony  was received by  the committee and it  read as                                                               
follows [original punctuation provided]:                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     Hi, my name is May Ramirez-Xiong.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     Today, I  called in to  make a public testimony  on HJR                                                                    
     17, but the  connection with my cellular  phone was not                                                                    
     good, and I  was asked to send my  testimony in writing                                                                    
     to this email. I will try  to stay as close as possible                                                                    
     to my phone testimony.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     I  believe I  speak not  only for  myself, but  also on                                                                    
     behalf  of  every veteran  and  civilian,  who has  any                                                                    
     respect  and/or understanding  of  what it  is like  to                                                                    
     have  a family  member serving  our country.   That the                                                                    
     right thing to do is  to honor every veteran who fought                                                                    
     for our  country as we  honored our own  veterans. That                                                                    
     for the same  reason we honored our  fallen heroes, the                                                                    
     people that served, the ones  who fought to protect our                                                                    
     country, and  for every  veteran who  paved the  way to                                                                    
     give  our country  and our  people  the life,  liberty,                                                                    
     freedom and justice for all,  that we extend this honor                                                                    
     to the Hmong Veterans of the Vietnam War as well.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     For the  veterans who served  the purposed  outlined in                                                                    
     the  Soldier's  Creed,  to   "stand  ready  to  deploy,                                                                    
     engage, and  destroy, the enemies of  the United States                                                                    
     of America in close  combat." The Hmong Veterans served                                                                    
     this purposed for our Country during the Vietnam War.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     This  war  left  not  only  scars  in  our  hearts,  it                                                                    
     sacrificed our  people, and  it is  a part  of American                                                                    
     history.  A  part  of  me that  I  knew  little  about,                                                                    
     because  this  part  of  history   was  not  taught  in                                                                    
     schools. It  was the "Secret  War", and  no recognition                                                                    
     were  given  to  the  Hmong people.  The  Hmong  people                                                                    
     fought  and continued  fighting long  after the  United                                                                    
     States pulled  out. The United States of  America is my                                                                    
     Country.  My  Country that  my  father  and many  Hmong                                                                    
     Veterans fought  to defend, and many  Hmong people died                                                                    
     serving our country.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     While  language  barriers   have  prevented  the  Hmong                                                                    
     Veterans from expressing their  concerns about the lack                                                                    
     of  dignity and  respect they  have received,  the only                                                                    
     way to  make it right  for them  is to be  their voice,                                                                    
     because they  fought for mine.  Many who fought  in The                                                                    
     Secret War has  already passed away and  very few Hmong                                                                    
     Veterans of  the Vietnam War  are still alive  today. I                                                                    
     do not believe that  many Hmong Veterans would consider                                                                    
     burial  at  Arlington  due   to  superstitions  of  the                                                                    
     fengshui   considering  burials,   and  many   may  not                                                                    
     considered  this   an  option   at  all.   However,  my                                                                    
     testimony  is  not  just  about  the  burial  of  Hmong                                                                    
     Veterans of the Vietnam  War at Arlington Cemetery, but                                                                    
     about the honor, dignity, and respect for those men.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     To  invalidate  the  rights  that  were  promised  four                                                                    
     almost  five  decades  ago  demonstrates  the  kind  of                                                                    
     people  we   are.  We  are perceived  to   make  broken                                                                    
     promises,  is this how  we treat  the very people  that                                                                    
     fought for  our country?  I am born  and raised  in the                                                                    
     United States of America. I  am an American. And, if we                                                                    
     are  anything that  we  say we  are,  we would  provide                                                                    
     Freedom,  Liberty and  Justice  for  all.  Dignity  and                                                                    
     respect  should be  awarded to  all soldiers,  even the                                                                    
     foreign-born  soldier  that fought  alongside  American                                                                    
     soldiers, because they served the same purpose.                                                                            
     The United  Stated should extend this  right to include                                                                    
     the Hmong  Veterans of the  Secret War. They  should be                                                                    
     honored even if they were  not born on U.S. soil. Hmong                                                                    
     Veterans fought for this land,  and their families died                                                                    
     for our soil. They may not  have sworn with their right                                                                    
     hands as  American Soldiers do  (I was not  born during                                                                    
     that  era, I  would  not  have seen  this)  but I  know                                                                    
     they stood by the Solder's Creed:                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     I am an American Soldier.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
     I am a warrior and a member of a team.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     I serve the people of the United States, and live the                                                                      
     Army Values.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     I will always place the mission first.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     I will never accept defeat.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     I will never quit.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     I will never leave a fallen comrade.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough,                                                                           
     trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     I am an expert and I am a professional.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
     I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy, the                                                                          
     enemies of the United States of America in close                                                                           
     combat.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
     I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of                                                                         
     life.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     I am an American Soldier.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
     Because my  father was  one of  the Hmong  Veterans who                                                                    
     fought  this War.  They were  warriors  and members  of                                                                    
     U.S. teams.  They served  the people  of the  U.S., and                                                                    
     lived the values. They have  put the mission first, and                                                                    
     did not accept defeat, they  did not quit. They carried                                                                    
     fallen  comrades to  safety; they  were the  expert and                                                                    
     the professional  who was ready to  deploy, engage, and                                                                    
     destroy the enemies of the  U.S.A in close combat. They                                                                    
     were the  guardian of freedom  and the American  way of                                                                    
     life, they were American  Soldiers even before stepping                                                                    
     on  American soil.  We owe  it to  what remains  of the                                                                    
     Hmong Veterans of the Vietnam  War - The Secret War, to                                                                    
     give them  what we  promised. I'm sad  to say  that the                                                                    
     longer we  wait to make  a change, the  less meaningful                                                                    
     it  would be  for  anyone else.  It's  to show  dignity                                                                    
     and respect  for  those  who fought.  It  only  matters                                                                    
     while they're still alive. Lets  not wait until they're                                                                    
     all  gone,  to  approve something  they  were  promised                                                                    
     decades ago.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR TUCK handed the gavel to Vice Chair LeDoux.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
2:11:44 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHARLIE  XIONG, calling  from  California,  attempted to  provide                                                               
testimony.  [Due to technical  difficulties Mr. Xiong's testimony                                                               
was indiscernible.]                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
To  address technical  difficulties,  a series  of at-eases  were                                                               
taken from 2:13 p.m. to 2:19 p.m.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
2:19:22 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MAI  XIONG attempted  to provide  testimony.   [Due to  technical                                                               
difficulties Ms. Xiong's testimony was indiscernible.]                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
2:20:48 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
PASERT  LEE [Much  of Mr.  Lee's testimony  was not  discernible;                                                               
however, the portions of his  testimony transcribed here indicate                                                               
he was  in support of  HJR 17.]  indicated that from  1961-75 the                                                               
Central  Intelligence  Agency  (CIA) recruited  Hmong  people  to                                                               
rescue American  pilots who  had been  shot down.   He  said that                                                               
Hmong people  protected Highways 7 and  4, as well as  the Ho Chi                                                               
Minh Trail.   He  spoke of  the 36,000  Hmong soldiers  that died                                                               
during the  Vietnam War compared  to the relatively  fewer 58,000                                                               
American soldiers that died there.   He said he hopes that HJR 17                                                               
passes for the Hmong living in Alaska.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
2:23:28 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
VICE  CHAIR LEDOUX  announced  that public  testimony  on HJR  17                                                               
would remain open.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER spoke  of  the urgent  need  to pass  the                                                               
resolution as soon as public testimony is heard.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
VICE CHAIR LEDOUX agreed.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
[HJR 17 was held over.]                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
          HB 178-NAMING PORTIONS OF VETERANS HIGHWAYS                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
2:24:56 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
VICE  CHAIR LEDOUX  announced that  the final  order of  business                                                               
would be HOUSE  BILL NO. 178, "An Act relating  to recognition of                                                               
individual veterans  along certain  veterans' memorial  roads and                                                               
on certain veterans' memorial bridges."                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
2:25:25 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE DAVID  EASTMAN, Alaska State Legislature,  said HB                                                               
178  was  requested  by  Alaska  veterans  and  affects  the  six                                                               
veterans' memorials that currently exist in Alaska.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
2:26:34 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  PARISH moved  to adopt  the committee  substitute                                                               
(CS)  for HB  178, [Version  30-LS0550\M], Bruce,  1/24/18, as  a                                                               
working  document.   There  being  no  objection, Version  M  was                                                               
before the committee.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
2:26:55 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JERAD MCCLURE, Staff, Representative  David Eastman, Alaska State                                                               
Legislature,  on  behalf   of  Representative  Eastman,  sponsor,                                                               
presented the  changes incorporated  in Version  M.   He directed                                                               
attention to page  1, lines 6-12, and said language  was added to                                                               
ensure  the veterans'  organizations  submitting nominations  are                                                               
recognized under  Internal Revenue  Code section 501(c)(19).   On                                                               
page  2, lines  1-5, language  was added  to ensure  if a  living                                                               
veteran's  name  was  selected,  the  Department  of  Military  &                                                               
Veterans'  Affairs (DMVA)  would be  required to  seek permission                                                               
from the veteran  before his/her name could be added  to the list                                                               
of  individuals to  be honored.   Also,  on page  2, lines  22-25                                                               
require  that  the   signs  are  funded  or   the  Department  of                                                               
Transportation  &  Public   Facilities  (DOTPF)  cannot  proceed.                                                               
Language beginning on page 2, line  31, and continuing to page 3,                                                               
lines  1-3, establishes  the  order of  priority  for the  signs.                                                               
Also, on page 3, lines 7-10  create a more specific definition of                                                               
"veteran" for the  purposes of this legislation,  and lines 11-14                                                               
clarify  DOTPF is  the sole  department responsible  for handling                                                               
donations, gifts, and grants for funding the signs.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER  asked  whether  the  sponsor  considered                                                               
expanding  the definition  of  veterans in  the  bill to  include                                                               
Hmong veterans.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. MCCLURE responded he did not believe so.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  EASTMAN, speaking  as  the sponsor,  said he  was                                                               
amenable to such an amendment.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE PARISH directed  attention to the bill  on page 3,                                                               
[lines  11-14],  and  asked whether  this  language  expands  the                                                               
sources of revenue that DOTPF can receive.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. MCCLURE  explained the language  grants de  minimis authority                                                               
to accept  gifts, grants, and donations  so there is no  need for                                                               
DOTPF to receive  budget line item funds [for the  purposes of HB                                                               
178].                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE PARISH  requested asked  an estimate of  the funds                                                               
necessary to post a sign or marker in recognition of a veteran.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. MCCLURE deferred to DOTPF.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
2:30:23 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
The committee took a brief at-ease.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
2:31:00 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MARK  NEIDHOLD,   Chief  of  Design  &   Construction  Standards,                                                               
Division of Statewide Design and  Engineering Services, DOTPF, in                                                               
response  to  Representative  Parish,  said  a  standalone  sign,                                                               
meeting all necessary requirements to  preserve the safety of the                                                               
traveling   public,   would   cost   approximately   $2,500   per                                                               
installation.   He  said there  could  be economies  of scale  if                                                               
there is more than one sign, and/or  if the sign is attached to a                                                               
preexisting structure.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  PARISH asked  whether additional  funds would  be                                                               
needed for the maintenance and/or replacement of signs.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. NEIDHOLD opined the bill  restricts DOTPF from performing any                                                               
repair or maintenance  unless funds are available.   Further, the                                                               
cost of a repair would depend  upon the condition of the sign and                                                               
could reach the full replacement cost of $2,500.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  REINBOLD observed  an existing  sign honoring  an                                                               
Alaska State Trooper killed in  action is terribly weathered, and                                                               
she asked for the cost of replacing the sign.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. NEIDHOLD was  unsure; sign blanks are  approximately $250 per                                                               
square   foot  thus   the  six-square-foot   sign  mentioned   by                                                               
Representative Reinbold could cost $1,500.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE REINBOLD  said the sign  in question is  small and                                                               
the estimate [for replacement] seems very high.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. NEIDHOLD  explained his  estimate is  an amortized  cost that                                                               
includes traffic  control, labor,  and safety  compliance whether                                                               
installation is  by DOTPF staff  or is  bid out to  a contractor.                                                               
He offered to confirm his estimate.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
2:36:14 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
VICE CHAIR LEDOUX asked that comments relate directly to HB 178.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
[A short discussion unrelated to HB 178 ensued.]                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  RAUSCHER asked  whether  the  bill indicates  the                                                               
size of the signs.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MR. NEIDHOLD  advised the size of  the sign is not  identified in                                                               
the bill  but would be subject  to the Alaska Traffic  Manual and                                                               
the Manual  on Uniform Traffic  Control Devices,  Federal Highway                                                               
Administration.  In further  response to Representative Rauscher,                                                               
he said the size  of the sign is dependent upon  the text, thus a                                                               
veteran with a long name would require a larger sign.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  RAUSCHER  asked  whether  remarks  other  than  a                                                               
veteran's name would be allowed on the sign.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. NEIDHOLD  said the bill  does not specify; however,  the bill                                                               
directs  DOTPF  to  develop  "that policy,"  and  he  offered  to                                                               
provide more information at a later date.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE RAUSCHER  asked whether  more than one  name would                                                               
be allowed on a sign.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR.  NEIDHOLD said  the  bill is  not specific  on  that, but  it                                                               
directs  DOTPF  to   produce  a  sign  in   accordance  with  the                                                               
legislative  commendation;  the  Alaska Traffic  Manual  and  the                                                               
Manual  on  Uniform  Traffic  Control  Devices  do  not  prohibit                                                               
listing more than one name on a sign.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE RAUSCHER questioned whether  a person sponsoring a                                                               
veteran  would provide  the $2,500  for the  initial cost  of the                                                               
sign, and additional donations would  be needed to cover the cost                                                               
of repairs if the sign were damaged.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. NEIDHOLD  said language  in Version M  of the  bill prohibits                                                               
DOTPF from acting unless funds are available.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  RAUSCHER restated  all  of the  funds would  come                                                               
from a sponsor.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. NEIDHOLD  restated the bill  restricts DOTPF from any  or all                                                               
of the stated  activities - design, post, maintain,  or replace -                                                               
unless funding is present.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
2:41:43 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
VICE  CHAIR LEDOUX  directed attention  to  the bill  on page  2,                                                               
lines 21-23, which read [in part]:                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
     ... The Department of Transportation and Public                                                                            
     Facilities may not                                                                                                         
          (1)  design, post, maintain, or replace a sign or                                                                     
     other marker unless there is adequate funding through                                                                      
     gifts, donations, or grants ...                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
VICE CHAIR LEDOUX asked whether  grants would include grants from                                                               
the state.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. NEIDHOLD was unsure and deferred the question to finance.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
VICE CHAIR LEDOUX  noted the bill has a zero  fiscal note [Fiscal                                                               
Note  Identifier:    HB178-DOT-COM-03-31-17]  and  expressed  her                                                               
concern as  to whether the legislature  can act on a  bill with a                                                               
zero fiscal note.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR. NEIDHOLD explained DOTPF attached  a zero fiscal note because                                                               
of the language prohibiting DOTPF  from performing any activities                                                               
unless other funding is provided.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
2:44:22 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MIKE LESMANN,  Legislative Liaison,  Office of  the Commissioner,                                                               
DOTPF, stated  DOTPF's understanding  that activities  related to                                                               
design,   maintenance,   posting,   or  replacing   [signs]   are                                                               
prohibited without funding  to DOTPF outside of  funding from the                                                               
state  or federal  government, which  is  the reason  for a  zero                                                               
fiscal note.  However, for  its Southcoast, Northern, and Central                                                               
Regions,   DOTPF  has   statutory   designated  program   receipt                                                               
authority which provides the mechanism  for DOTPF to accept gifts                                                               
and  grants.   Mr. Lesmann  suggested the  question about  grants                                                               
should be  directed to  the bill  sponsor.   In response  to Vice                                                               
Chair LeDoux's  question about [Fiscal  Note Identifier:   HB178-                                                               
MVA-OVA-1-19-18],  he deferred  to the  Department of  Military &                                                               
Veterans' Affairs.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
[Vice Chair LeDoux returned the gavel to Chair Tuck.]                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SPOHNHOLZ  surmised the intention of  Version M is                                                               
DMVA  would  work  with  private  nonprofit  organizations  which                                                               
support and advance veterans' interests  and recognition in order                                                               
to secure nominations and funding for said memorials.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN remarked:                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     The intention of the bill  comes from the requests from                                                                    
     the   veterans'  organizations   themselves  who   have                                                                    
     identified funding for some signs  that they would like                                                                    
     to go ahead and put  on these veterans' memorials.  And                                                                    
     the,  the  process and  the  Department  of Military  &                                                                    
     Veterans'   Affairs  can   certainly  speak   to  their                                                                    
     analysis,  but the  process is  such that  those, those                                                                    
     veterans'   organizations   have  current   established                                                                    
     relationships  with the  department.   They're  already                                                                    
     recognized  by  (indisc.) as  veterans'  organizations,                                                                    
     they already have those  relationships, and they simply                                                                    
     submit a  document with  a name.   Then that  is simply                                                                    
     passed on to the legislature by the department.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SPOHNHOLZ  said from  her experience  working with                                                               
veterans' organizations,  a veterans' organization  interested in                                                               
recognizing a  nominee would put  forth a person's name  with the                                                               
understanding that  it would likely  fund that  specific memorial                                                               
sign.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN said yes.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SPOHNHOLZ  observed the bill would  allow DOTPF to                                                               
work  with  DMVA  in  placing signs  at  six  specific  veterans'                                                               
memorials in the state; this  would be done in collaboration with                                                               
the private  nonprofit veterans'  organizations which  would fund                                                               
the projects.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN  clarified DMVA  would be  an intermediary                                                               
between the veterans' organizations  and the legislature, and the                                                               
legislature would decide whether or not to recognize veterans.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SPOHNHOLZ  confirmed   funding  would  come  from                                                               
private  nonprofit  organizations  working   with  DMVA  to  make                                                               
recommendations to the legislature  regarding memorial signs.  If                                                               
the recommendations  are approved,  the signs would  be installed                                                               
by  DOTPF.   She  asked for  the location  of  the six  veterans'                                                               
memorials that would be affected.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN  said the  bill amends AS  35.40.035 which                                                               
identifies  six veterans'  memorials  designated  on portions  of                                                               
highways in  Juneau, Eagle River, the  Matanuska-Susitna Borough,                                                               
and  Fairbanks, and  on  two  bridges.   In  further response  to                                                               
Representative Spohnholz, he said  he would provide the locations                                                               
of the memorials to the committee.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER said  he likes the intent of  the bill and                                                               
that  Alaskans would  honor a  fallen comrade  in a  self-reliant                                                               
manner.  He  asked whether there are any limits  to the number of                                                               
memorials,   other   than   those  imposed   by   the   veterans'                                                               
organizations.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   EASTMAN   pointed   out  the   legislature   has                                                               
established the  existing memorials and new  legislation would be                                                               
required  to  change  the  number of  memorials.    Further,  the                                                               
legislature  would   decide  on  the  number   and  frequency  of                                                               
designated names.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER  questioned   whether  the  six  existing                                                               
memorials are identified  by a signpost - or  encompass a certain                                                               
area, such  as an intersection -  so to envision the  physical or                                                               
procedural  limitations on  the number  of individual  signs that                                                               
might be posted.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  EASTMAN said  individual veterans'  memorials can                                                               
be unique; therefore, the legislature  has allowed DOTPF latitude                                                               
to  determine their  location  and  size, and  if  more than  one                                                               
person's name would be included.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER surmised  the amount  of money  generated                                                               
may affect the size of the  memorial thus signs may be very large                                                               
or very small depending upon  the veteran's popularity.  Further,                                                               
he  asked where  the  bill establishes  standards  on what  would                                                               
qualify a veteran for commendation or recognition.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  EASTMAN said  the legislature  ultimately decides                                                               
who is recognized  under this program; the bill  does not provide                                                               
criteria to guide the legislature in its decision.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER  concluded a recommendation -  even though                                                               
funded  by a  veterans' organization  -  could be  denied by  the                                                               
legislature.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  EASTMAN  explained  denial  of  a  recommendation                                                               
would occur through inaction by the legislature.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
2:55:32 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  REINBOLD acknowledged  the  value of  recognizing                                                               
veterans,   however,  DOTPF's   primary  responsibility   is  for                                                               
infrastructure and  public safety.  Further,  she estimated there                                                               
are 75,000  veterans in  Alaska, and  asked how  [one nomination]                                                               
would be prioritized as more important than another.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  EASTMAN said  veterans'  organizations desire  to                                                               
highlight one  or more  veterans over a  certain period  of time,                                                               
but  not  permanently.   He  stressed  the legislation  currently                                                               
before  the committee  relates to  whether  the legislature  will                                                               
respond to that request.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE REINBOLD  expressed her appreciation  of veterans'                                                               
memorials and  their purpose.   She inquired as to  whether there                                                               
are additional messages  of support for the  bill, and questioned                                                               
how  the legislature  would  recognize all  of  the thousands  of                                                               
veterans in Alaska.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN noted there  will be public testimony from                                                               
veterans in support of the bill.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  PARISH returned  to  the concern  of equity,  and                                                               
pointed out the bill directs  the initial placement would be done                                                               
in the  order of the  most recent commendation, and  if donations                                                               
have  not been  linked to  a  specific veteran,  DOTPF could  use                                                               
those  funds   for  others;  however,  if   there  were  veterans                                                               
commended by  the legislature without funding,  and all available                                                               
funding  is  associated  with  other  names,  there  would  be  a                                                               
conflict.    In addition,  if  the  signs  are  not meant  to  be                                                               
permanent, he  surmised [veterans'  organizations] would  need to                                                               
raise  funds for  their eventual  replacement or  removal of  the                                                               
signs.   He directed attention  to the bill  on page 2,  lines 18                                                               
and 19, which read [in part]:                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     ... A donor may request that a gift, donation, or                                                                          
     grant be used for a specific veteran's memorial, ...                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  PARISH  gave an  example  of  a partial  donation                                                               
directed to  a specific  memorial and  asked what  the accounting                                                               
burden would  be if DOTPF  is expected to  hold a donation  for a                                                               
specific veteran and await additional funding.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
3:01:04 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR TUCK announced that HB 178 was held over.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
3:01:09 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ADJOURNMENT                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
There being no  further business before the  committee, the House                                                               
Special Committee  on Military and Veterans'  Affairs meeting was                                                               
adjourned at 3:01 p.m.                                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HJR017 Sponsor Statement 1.20.18.pdf HMLV 1/25/2018 1:30:00 PM
HJR 17
HJR017 Supporting Document- S.1179. 1.20.18.pdf HMLV 1/25/2018 1:30:00 PM
HJR 17
HJR017 Fiscal Note 1.24.18.pdf HMLV 1/25/2018 1:30:00 PM
HJR 17
HB178 ver M.pdf HMLV 1/25/2018 1:30:00 PM
HB 178
HB178 Supporting Document-Support Letters 1.24.18.pdf HMLV 1/25/2018 1:30:00 PM
HB 178
HB178 Fiscal Note-MVA 1.19.18.pdf HMLV 1/25/2018 1:30:00 PM
HB 178
HB178 Fiscal Note-DOT 1.19.18.pdf HMLV 1/25/2018 1:30:00 PM
HB 178