Legislature(1995 - 1996)
01/26/1995 08:03 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE STATE AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE January 26, 1995 8:03 a.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Representative Jeannette James, Chair Representative Scott Ogan, Vice Chair Representative Joe Green Representative Ivan Ivan Representative Brian Porter Representative Caren Robinson Representative Ed Willis MEMBERS ABSENT None COMMITTEE CALENDAR *HJR 4:Proposing amendments to the Constitution of the State of Alaska authorizing the use of the initiative to amend the Constitution of the State of Alaska. HEARD AND HELD HB 70:"An Act relating to treatment of permanent fund dividends for purposes of determining eligibility for certain benefits; and providing for an effective date." HEARD AND HELD *HB 44:"An Act providing that a political use is not an authorized use of charitable gaming proceeds; prohibiting the contribution of charitable gaming proceeds to candidates for certain public offices, their campaign organizations, or to political groups; providing that a political group is not a qualified organization for purposes of charitable gaming; relating to what is a qualified organization for the purpose of charitable gaming permitting; and providing for an effective date." SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD HB 81:"An Act relating to the preservation of public facilities and to appropriations for annual maintenance and repair, periodic renewal and replacement, and construction of public facilities." SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD (* First public hearing) WITNESS REGISTER REPRESENTATIVE TERRY MARTIN Alaska State Legislature Capitol Building, Room 502 Juneau, AK 99801 Telephone: 465-3783 POSITION STATEMENT: Sponsor of HJR 4 MIKE SAVILLE, FINANCE MINISTER Hope Cottages 540 W. International Road Anchorage, AK 99518 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified against HB 70 ANGELA SALERNO, REPRESENTATIVE National Association of Social Workers, Alaska Chapter 1727 Wickersham Drive Anchorage, AK 99507 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified against HB 70 PUDGE KLEINKAUF 4201 Macinnes Anchorage, AK 99508 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified against HB 70 ELMER LINDSTROM, SPECIAL ASSISTANT Office of the Commissioner Department of Health and Social Services P. O. Box 110601 Juneau, AK 99811 Telephone 465-3068 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified against HB 70 CURTIS LOMAS, LEGISLATIVE LIAISON/ WELFARE REFORM PROGRAM OFFICER Department of Health and Social Services P.O. Box 110601 Juneau, AK 99811 Telephone 465-3068 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified against HB 70 SHERRIE GOLL Alaska Women's Lobby P.O. Box 22156 Juneau, AK 99802 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified against HB 70 REPRESENTATIVE PETE KOTT Alaska State Legislature Capitol Building, Room 432 Juneau, AK 99801 Telephone: 465-3777 POSITION STATEMENT: Sponsor of HB 70 TOM WILLIAMS, DIRECTOR Permanent Fund Dividend Division Alaska Department of Revenue P.O. Box 110460 Juneau, AK 99811 Telephone: 465-2096 POSITION STATEMENT: Provided information PREVIOUS ACTION BILL: HJR 4 SHORT TITLE: USE OF INITIATIVE TO AMEND CONSTITUTION SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVE(S) MARTIN,Rokeberg JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 01/06/95 17 (H) PREFILE RELEASED 01/16/95 17 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S) 01/16/95 17 (H) STA, JUD 01/26/95 (H) STA AT 08:00 AM CAPITOL 102 BILL: HB 70 SHORT TITLE: END PERMANENT FUND DIVIDEND HOLD HARMLESS SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVE(S) KOTT,Green JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 01/06/95 39 (H) PREFILE RELEASED 01/16/95 39 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S) 01/16/95 39 (H) STA, JUD, FIN 01/24/95 (H) STA AT 08:00 AM CAPITOL 102 01/25/95 135 (H) COSPONSOR(S): GREEN BILL: HB 44 SHORT TITLE: GAMING PROCEEDS/DEFINE CHARITABLE ORG'NS SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVE(S) MARTIN,Rokeberg,Porter,Bunde JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 01/06/95 32 (H) PREFILE RELEASED 01/16/95 32 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S) 01/16/95 32 (H) STA, JUD 01/19/95 90 (H) COSPONSOR(S): BUNDE 01/26/95 (H) STA AT 08:00 AM CAPITOL 102 BILL: HB 81 SHORT TITLE: PRESERVATION OF PUBLIC FACILITIES SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVE(S) JAMES JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 01/13/95 42 (H) PREFILE RELEASED 01/16/95 42 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S) 01/16/95 42 (H) STA, TRA, FIN 01/24/95 (H) STA AT 08:00 AM CAPITOL 102 01/26/95 (H) STA AT 08:00 AM CAPITOL 102 ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 95-3, SIDE A Number 000 The House State Affairs Committee was called to order by Chair Jeannette James at 8:03 a.m. Members present at the call to order were Representatives James, Ogan, Green, Porter, Robinson and Willis. Representative Ivan arrived shortly after roll call. Chair James stated a quorum was present. HSTA - 01/26/95 Number 020 HJR 4 - USE OF INITIATIVE TO AMEND CONSTITUTION REPRESENTATIVE TERRY MARTIN, SPONSOR OF HJR 4, gave a history of state constitutions and the rights of people to change them. He said a constitution is a contract between the state and its people and thus people have a right to change it. Constitutional conventions were instigated as an alternative to revolution as a method for change, but they became too cumbersome and the public initiative came into being. In Alaska, over 500 initiatives have been introduced by legislators, but less than 20 of them have passed. He added that the people of Alaska need a way to change their constitution. Number 133 REPRESENTATIVE ED WILLIS asked what states allow a change in the constitution by just a simple majority of the voters on a ballot. REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN replied that most do, although it is more difficult for a legislature to get an issue on the ballot, requiring a two-thirds vote of the legislators in most states. REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS asked how many signatures are required on a citizen's petition, and then what happens. REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN replied that the figures of the National Conference of State Legislatures show between five and ten percent of the number of voters in the most recent election. Then there is a five-step procedure. A group forms with one hundred members throughout the state and three officers; they create a stated mission, which they take to the Lt. Governor's office for approval to petition. When enough signatures are gathered and certified by the Division of Elections, corresponding legislation is then required. He stated it is not a very easy process and people don't sign a petition blindly. Number 226 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN IVAN commented this resolution scares him and some of his constituents. He stated that Alaska reviews its constitution every ten years. He added he thought that the voters in his district would be outvoted by the voters in the more urban districts and that because English is a second language to many voters in his district, they might be confused by the technical wording of the language on the ballot. REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN disagreed, stating that Alaska has this option but has never exercised it because the voters have always voted down a constitutional convention. Number 281 CHAIR JAMES commented that, while not coming out in support or against this resolution, she felt that if the voters had had this right in the past, they would have supported a number of issues to the ballot, including term limits and the subsistence issue, possibly without the rationality or balance of power that the legislature can provide. She added though, that the people in California had used the initiative process numerous times to the extent that the legislature and administration of that state complained about the massive intrusion of the people into their affairs, and that the question had to be asked whether this was good or bad. She said she had mixed feelings about the resolution, but also knew that for some issues you would never get a two-thirds majority of the legislature to agree, and this could prevent the voice of the people from being heard. She further stated today we have professional petitioners who can, for a few bucks, circulate petitions and gather signatures, and she wasn't sure that everyone who signed a petition knew exactly what they were signing. She said that, in fact, she's heard a lot of people, who after signing a petition say they don't go along with this process, but think the people should have a right to vote on it. She further stated many times the people only get one side of the argument, because one side has more money to spend than the other. "The bottom line is that the needs of the people are not met," she said. She concluded by saying that no matter what they did, they were going to be infringing on the rights of someone, and the best thing they could do was to try and find a balance and to do the best job they could do to have a democratic society, and that it is never going to be perfect. Number 337 REPRESENTATIVE JOE GREEN concurred with Chair James and said he felt that it probably summarized the position of a lot of legislators. He said it was possible that, because of the formal presentations given to legislative committees, legislators may be more informed about an issue than the average citizen on the street. He agreed with Chair James, that if you have a preponderance of information on one side and not the other, you can sway the public. He said one thing that should be pointed out is that although legislators are elected by their constituents, it is not necessarily representative of the whole voting public because some legislators, especially Chairs, have the ability to kill certain legislation, which the rest of the elected body doesn't have a chance to vote on. He thought there was an imperfect situation of being able to represent the will of the people without their direct vote. Number 362 REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN PORTER was concerned that the actual wording that would ultimately change the constitution would be written by special interest groups, instead of going through a set process as it has to now. He said this was what had happened in California, and this was what they could not live with down there. He further stated he wasn't sure the voting public was that interested in this issue. Number 380 REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT OGAN stated he had read this resolution very carefully because it had long-term ramifications. He stated he viewed the constitution as something almost sacred, and he had taken an oath to uphold and defend it to the best of his ability. He said he wasn't sure that it was something that should be changed by whims or popular ideas of a time. He said the constitution was something that had had a lot of thought go into it, and the forefathers of the Alaska Constitution had framed our constitution much on the U.S. Constitution. He stated his biggest problem with this resolution was that it allowed for changes to the constitution with a simple majority of the people. He thought it might be more appropriate if changes could only be made with a two-thirds majority, as was required of the legislature. He thought this would give a more true indication of the will of the people. He said this was a tough call for him because he thought the people should have a right to change their government by referendum. Number 415 REPRESENTATIVE CAREN ROBINSON said she agreed with many of the comments already made, but was also concerned with what might be the fiscal impact of this resolution. She said she could see where there could be increased costs to the election department and attorney general's office, and she was curious as to whether the departments were just not finished with the fiscal note or whether it was just too difficult to determine the costs on this one. REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN responded that the cost would be $2,200; the cost of ballot printing. He said in most cases the people paid for the costs, which he thought demonstrated their sincerity over that of the legislature, who didn't have to pay for the costs of legislation. He explained the initiative process was something that was very time consuming and which was paid for by the sponsors of the initiative and not the public treasury. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON verified that the reason there was no fiscal note was that it was just going to cost the $2,200 for the printing of the ballot. REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN agreed. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked which other states allowed the initiative process of amending their constitution. REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN replied there were several. He further stated that everyone seemed to be bringing up the case of California as an example of where the people used the initiative process often, and reminded the committee that the sponsors paid the cost of the initiative and not the government. "Even though California pushes through a lot of initiatives and they have a lot of excitement about democracy, relatively few of the ballot questions pass" he said. He continued, "I bet it's less than fifteen percent. But the ones that do pass are well thought of." He added that most of the time, the only reason it cost the state, was when the government fought the decision of the initiative. He further stated the advantage of this resolution was that it required legislation accompany the initiative, and if the legislation was better worded and met the intent of the initiative, it could be chosen as the one to go on the ballot. He added that the legislators hadn't been the best proposition writers either, and the courts had even, on occasion, thrown out ballot propositions from the legislature because the intent wasn't clear. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON requested an example of what type of initiatives could be sponsored by the people, and where the stopping point of these constitutional initiatives was. She wondered if they could bring up just anything? Number 498 REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN replied that they most certainly could bring up whatever they wanted. It was, after all, their government, but he cautioned there would be checkpoints along the process; one of the main ones would be the Lt. Governor's office. He said citizens weren't expected to know the constitution or the procedures like legislators were, and they might get angry and propose something that wasn't workable. Thus, there were checkpoints along the way to tone down outrageous initiatives. He also added that we could get an idea of what type of issues might be brought up by looking at the history of states, such as California, that allow the initiative process. CHAIR JAMES responded that currently the citizens of Alaska could change the law by initiative, just not the constitution. She added if the legislature puts out a ballot issue that is not a constitutional mandate, then it is only an advisory vote, which the legislature can choose to follow or reject. She also commented that almost every organization has a committee to review its bylaws, because life changes and things need to be modified. So, she said, it is evident that we need a method to change our constitution. The question is what is the best way and what is the best way to represent the people. She added it was never a mistake to ask the people, but the people had to be informed of the issue. She said sometimes the information given to the people was misleading or overwhelming in favor of one side or the other. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER informed the committee that over the interim there was a constitutional amendment commission formed, which resulted in a request for legislation to form a citizens committee to review requests for constitutional amendments coming from the public or the legislature. He added there would be checks and balances in the system, such as having the judiciary committees in both the House and Senate review the requests and modify them as necessary to put them in there proper form. Thus, there have been steps to try and get more citizens involved in the process, but short of the initiative process, he said. REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN said several states had tried this method, and that currently two states included having commission review as a step in the initiative process. He said, though, the final decision was still left up to the people, not the legislature. He said what he was trying to do was to knock down the barriers to the people; adding that, of the 500 or so proposed initiatives, there was really only 20 or so that kept getting brought up because the legislature wouldn't pass the issue. He also stated the biggest thing that was always brought up was fear, fear, fear and reminded the committee of the fear that the Founding Fathers must have felt during the Revolutionary War with the British. He said they had to constantly remind themselves of what they were fighting for - the right of the individual citizen over government. He further stated that people shouldn't judge Anchorage as being white, middle-class, because he could remember when he represented the largest Native village in Alaska in Mountain View, and could remember seeing fish wheels and catch in their backyards and having to fight for their subsistence rights. He added if you wanted a divisive community on any issue, it was Anchorage. He went on to state the groups opposed to the constitutional convention always used fear, fear, fear as a tactic, and we shouldn't fear change, but should have faith. CHAIR JAMES called for a break so Representative Green and Representative Porter could attend to some urgent business. She called the meeting back to order shortly before 9 a.m. Number 625 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN called for an amendment to line 17, page 2 of the resolution to require a two-thirds majority of votes to pass a constitutional amendment. CHAIR JAMES called for comments on the proposed amendment. REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN objected saying history had proven that such a large majority being required guaranteed minority rule, and this was the exact opposite of representative democracy. He pointed out that if legislators needed a two-thirds vote to get elected, not many of them would be there. He also pointed out the initiative process is a long process, requiring large public input. He said it would be over a year-long process, requiring input from the legislature. He said a two-thirds majority requirement was simply too large, and it simply defied the wonderful experience of our democracy. CHAIR JAMES allowed Representative Ogan to respond. REPRESENTATIVE OGAN said he wanted a two-thirds majority requirement because he felt the constitution shouldn't be so easy to change according to the popular ideas and political doctrines of the day. He said we needed to have this protection for minority viewpoints, and that an overwhelming majority should be required to amend the constitution. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said he could appreciate the sentiments of Representative Ogan, but pointed out that in the 17 years he had lived in Alaska, we had yet to elect a governor with even a simple majority, and that such a large majority being required would just ensure that no amendments would ever be made via the initiative process. CHAIR JAMES commented that there was a difference between voting for a candidate and an issue, in that an issue was simply a yes/no vote. She said there was only two choices. Whereas with candidates there were many choices to choose from. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER agreed, saying there were remedies to getting a majority vote for candidates and he would support those proposals as well as this amendment. He said he agreed with Representative Ogan in that the constitution shouldn't be something that could be tinkered with so easily. He stated he recognized there were safeguards put in, including the requirement of a legislative review, but they could only change the wording, not the intent of a particular initiative. REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS agreed that the constitution must require more than a simple majority to be changed, and a two-thirds majority requirement would offer this protection. He said he would support this amendment to the resolution. REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN said the original constitutional convention made decisions by a simple majority, and it was a simple majority that elected the delegates. He added that it was barely a simple majority that voted for the constitution itself. He said that two-thirds was simply an astronomical number, which was simply impossible to achieve. He cited the sixty percent requirement to increase the tax cap in Anchorage as an example. He stated if the committee wanted to kill the resolution, then they would succeed with a two-thirds majority requirement, because no initiative in the country would ever succeed in getting a two-thirds majority approval. TAPE 95-3, SIDE B Number 000 CHAIR JAMES asked if there was some other number between fifty and sixty-six percent that would be reasonable and attainable. REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN replied that no number this high would be achievable when talking about a citizen initiative. He said the constitution was never meant to be sacred; it was simply an agreement between the citizens and those that were elected to govern. He said the Alaska Constitution was so limiting in so many ways, that it defied democracy. He said the more that it was brought out to the people, they would see that they didn't have that many rights in this state. CHAIR JAMES questioned Representative Martin as to how he would respond that it took a two-thirds majority of the legislature to pass a constitutional amendment. REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN replied this was because the people didn't trust their legislators. Number 080 CHAIR JAMES called for a roll call vote of the committee regarding the proposed amendment to the resolution. Representatives James, Ogan, Ivan, Porter, Robinson and Willis voted in favor of the amendment. Representative Green voted against the amendment; so the amendment passed. Number 095 REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN requested the resolution be held, saying that with the new amendment, it was a worthless issue unless he could get more information to persuade the committee otherwise. CHAIR JAMES responded that she would hold the resolution, but urged Representative Martin to try and find some percentage that was agreeable over fifty percent, so he could get the needed support to pass it through the legislature. She asked whether he would be ready for the next committee meeting or if he wanted to make another request for a new hearing. REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN responded that he needed to talk with constitutional experts, and would prefer to make another request. He said a two-thirds majority was just too high of a requirement in order for this resolution to be effective. CHAIR JAMES replied that she personally agreed with him, but she thought that in order to get the needed support to get it passed through the legislature, he would need to find some percentage between fifty and sixty-six percent. She reiterated that the committee would hold the resolution until he said what he wanted the committee to do with it. CHAIR JAMES said the next item on the agenda was HB 70. HSTA - 01/26/95 HB 70 - END PFD HOLD-HARMLESS Number 131 MIKE SAVILLE, FINANCE MINISTER, HOPE COTTAGES, testified via teleconference from Anchorage. He said we could have a potential effect on three groups of people if we did away with the hold-harmless clause. He said the people affected are, in many cases, very marginally employed or attending school. He stated if the hold-harmless provision of the permanent fund was removed, it would represent a one-to-one reduction in other benefits. He claimed that most of the people affected use this money for their basic needs. He further stated many of the recipients were medically needy and this could potentially mean a direct loss of medical eligibility. He said they were participating more with many federal programs and that a loss of one month's funding could mean a direct loss of a recipient's eligibility in many of these federal programs. "I think that we ought to be very careful about considering this, because what might represent a minor saving could end up costing the state of Alaska a significant amount of money in keeping programs and providers whole," he said. He further stated that on a social level, most citizens consider the permanent fund a nice thing to have, but the individuals they support depend on it for their basic needs. "I would hate to turn a program that most people consider very positive into one that was a penalty," he said. Number 220 ANGELA SALERNO, REPRESENTATIVE, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SOCIAL WORKERS, ALASKA CHAPTER, testified via teleconference from Anchorage. She agreed with many of the statements that Mike Saville made. She said she thought the permanent fund dividend program (PFD) was set up as a universal program for all Alaskans to enjoy. She declared HB 70 to be a very unfair and discriminatory move. She said it restricted benefits. She stated an AFDC recipient must apply for the permanent fund, and so the recipient cannot even choose between the PFD and their other benefits. She said the legislature would be forcing people to lose benefits if they passed HB 70, and urged them not to do so. REPRESENTATIVE OGAN asked Ms. Salerno what would be the net loss to the recipient if the hold-harmless provision was removed. MS. SALERNO replied it would be dependent on the amount of benefits an individual was currently receiving. She said it would range from about $800 a month on up, depending on the size of the family. She further stated that by receiving the permanent fund, the individual becomes ineligible for AFDC and must reapply. She mentioned this could take two to three months to get through the process. "And so it could become a devastating loss of income to the individual," she said. REPRESENTATIVE OGAN asked if there was a provision to prevent this from happening, would that take care of this concern. MS. SALERNO replied any provision that would ease the administrative procedure would be appreciated, but this wasn't the issue. She said the issue was one of unfairness and discrimination against a whole group of people simply because they are disadvantaged. CHAIR JAMES asked for Pudge Kleinkauf to give her testimony. Number 290 PUDGE KLEINKAUF testified via teleconference from Anchorage, and said she agreed with the two previous speakers. She stated that almost from the beginning of the permanent fund program, the state has seen it to be good policy to not discriminate against those who receive public assistance and to set up a program that allowed these people to receive their permanent fund check. She thought the state has always believed that the right to apply for and receive permanent fund dividends should apply to everyone. She also said that under federal law, a recipient of public assistance must apply for any source of income for which they are eligible. And so a public assistance recipient doesn't even have a choice in their decision to apply. She said this was one of the main reasons the hold-harmless program was set up in the first place. She further stressed that a recipient forced off of public assistance loses their Medicaid. This would either devastate the recipient or their family. She commented that not everyone uses their permanent fund to go to Hawaii or Disneyland; many put the money aside for their children's education. She said many seniors use this money to pay for health insurance to supplement their Medicaid. Thus, when you deny recipients their permanent fund dividend, those people would not have the opportunity that the rest of us have to take our permanent fund and put it away for more important or more long-range goals. She claimed it was very difficult to live on public assistance in Alaska, and so many recipients use their permanent fund to buy essential basic needs and this would go away if the hold-harmless program was removed. She urged the committee to look very carefully before they decided to remove the hold-harmless provision of the permanent fund. CHAIR JAMES asked Ms. Kleinkauf how she would respond to the people who felt they were being taxed each year with a designated tax (referring to the hold-harmless provision) and didn't necessarily want to pay for this, but felt they didn't have a choice. MS. KLEINKAUF responded this money was equivalent to the administrative costs that the state would otherwise have to pay taking people off public assistance and putting them back on after they spent their permanent fund. Number 412 CHAIR JAMES called Elmer Lindstrom to testify. ELMER LINDSTROM, SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO COMMISSIONER PURDUE, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES, apologized for not having the fiscal note to the committee before the meeting and announced that it should be ready later that day. He stated the Department of Health and Social Services is opposed to the passage of HB 70. He said the department will provide the committee with a detailed fiscal analysis of the bill by the end of the week. He apologized for not being able to provide the committee with this material prior to the meeting, but said the bill requires extensive analysis, involving six separate detailed fiscal notes and coordination between two divisions in the department. He said, "Previous administrations have considered elimination of the permanent fund dividend hold-harmless program; but have concluded that elimination is neither desirable nor cost effective. The last legislature apparently reached the same conclusion - legislation eliminating the hold-harmless program introduced in the previous legislature did not pass. Elimination of the hold-harmless will lead to additional administrative costs in the division of public assistance. Currently, special interagency agreements exist between the division of public assistance and the federal government which reduce the amount of case processing required when recipients receive dividends. Elimination of the hold-harmless will nullify these agreements and the administrative efforts to process hold-harmless entitlements would be supplanted by additional case processing efforts to suspend public assistance payments when dividends are distributed. Last year, the net general fund cost to the state was calculated to be in excess of one-half million dollars if the hold-harmless program were eliminated and I believe that will be reflected in the new fiscal notes this year, as well. Elimination of the hold-harmless provisions would also result in increased demands on the general relief program which is funded entirely by the state. Last year, the division calculated this additional general fund cost to be $871,000. "In short, while the elimination of the hold-harmless will show a net reduction in public assistance payments to individuals, there will be a net cost in state general funds. This is because the cost of the hold-harmless program is borne, not by the general fund, but by the earnings of the permanent fund itself. The department is also extremely concerned about the impact of the elimination of the hold-harmless on individual clients. All of the recipients are poor. The hold-harmless funds replace federal and state funds, which go only to persons who meet strict eligibility requirements. These individuals are poor families with dependent children, the aged, the blind and the disabled. It's important to note that over the past several years, all of these groups have already seen a reduction in their benefits. Two years ago, legislation was passed which reduced payments to clients in the aid to families with dependent children and adult public assistance programs. The same legislation eliminated the automatic cost-of-living adjustments for these programs. No cost-of-living adjustment has been made since that time, nor is one included in the budget bill introduced last week. The savings to the state generated by the legislation passed two years were, and continue to be, significant. Also, a number of bills have been introduced this session which, if passed, would have a substantial impact on persons currently eligible for hold-harmless funds. At least one of these bills proposes a further reduction in the basic benefits provided families with dependent children, the aged, the blind and the disabled. The cumulative impact of past reductions to benefits, elimination of the hold-harmless program and possible further reduction in benefits would simply be too great. "Finally, when considering HB 70, it is important to remember the basic premise of the program. That premise is that all Alaskans are entitled to share in the benefits of the Alaska permanent fund dividend program. Elimination of the hold-harmless provision would have the practical effect of denying the most needy of all Alaskans - poor families with dependent children, the aged, the blind and the disabled - the benefits of the permanent fund dividend program." He said he was willing to answer any questions and announced that Kurt Lomas from the Division of Public Assistance could answer more technical budget questions. Number 480 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked if there could be an innovative application process for the permanent fund which would allow recipients of public assistance to receive the permanent fund without losing their benefits, by either having it spread out over a period of time, and either dispersed by the permanent fund division or the Department of Health and Social Services. MR. LINDSTROM said he assumed that it was possible, but would like to defer that question to Kurt Lomas, who was shaking his head. CHAIR JAMES asked Kurt Lomas to step forward and testify. Number 500 KURT LOMAS, DIVISION OF PUBLIC ASSISTANCE, stated there had been such legislation proposed in the past, but the fiscal analysis showed that either a monthly dispersal or a quarterly dispersal would increase the cost of the hold-harmless program. He said under the current system of one annual payment of the permanent fund, recipients lose only one month of eligibility for their benefits, but if you spread the payment of the permanent fund over the year, recipients generally see a dollar-for-dollar reduction in their benefits from receipt of their permanent fund payment and this usually adds up to more than the loss of one month's benefits. He said this would actually drive up the costs of the hold-harmless program. Number 517 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER asked if such a proposal would keep recipients eligible for their Medicaid benefits. MR. LOMAS responded that although it would if it were below the level required for eligibility of Medicaid. Although he wanted to point out that, in fact, most recipients will not lose their eligibility for Medicaid under the provisions of HB 70. He said federal law allows that cash assistance benefits be suspended for a month and Medicaid be continued during that month of suspension. He said if this bill passed, the Department of Health and Social Services would do everything it could to protect the Medicaid eligibility of its clients. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked if Mr. Lomas could speak to the general relief part of public assistance, saying that as she understood it, if people were removed from the program, there would be kind of a bulge later. She said she knew that the fiscal note would probably display the costs better, but asked if he could speak generally as to what they might be. MR. LOMAS replied that because of the way public assistance is budgeted, income received in one month actually impacts benefits a couple of months later. He said their projections of increased general relief costs are based on their belief that a proportion of their recipients would spend their permanent fund and then experience a loss of their benefits later. He said then they would face basic need costs and come to the department for general relief assistance. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked what the number might actually be in costs to the agency, because of increased administrative costs. MR. LOMAS stated he couldn't remember the details of the fiscal note, but it was a question of workload. He said the department projected a small proportion of recipients would apply for general relief assistance, largely because the department would advise people to set aside a portion of their dividend for when they saw a loss of their benefits. CHAIR JAMES asked if someone who received their dividend one month was reinstalled in the program the next month, and then found employment the following month, if they would have to pay back the benefits they had received the same month as they received their dividend. MR. LOMAS said she raised an interesting question. He said in the eyes of the federal government, the department would be required to pursue the recovery of that payment as an overpayment to the recipient, but this was a point of contention between the department and the federal government and the agency does not currently pursue the recovery of such payments. CHAIR JAMES said she was assuming that the reason it took so long for recipients to feel the loss of benefits due to receiving their permanent fund, was it took that long to process the paperwork and stop the payment, similar to Social Security. She further stated she would like to think there are a lot of recipients that do get off public assistance because they find employment, as that was one of their goals. MR. LINDSTROM said the department had consulted with the sponsor of HB 70, after finding that the listed effective date of this bill was January 1, 1996. They asked the sponsor if his intent was that this legislation would apply to the next round of permanent fund dividends, to which the sponsor replied yes. Mr. Lindstrom noted that this creates a problem, as the effective date falls right in the middle of the time when the department is processing applications for the hold-harmless provision. Conceivably, some applications would be affected, while others were not. He said it would be the desire of the department if this bill did move forward, that it have an effective date of prior to October 1995, if it was the intent that it apply to the next round of permanent fund dividends. REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS asked for some historical perspective of the hold-harmless act. MR. LINDSTROM stated it was his understanding the hold-harmless provision was part of the original permanent fund program. He said it had really been an integral part of the permanent fund program from the beginning. He stated he was sure there was some initial opposition at the beginning, and there certainly has been numerous attempts by legislators to remove the provision, but it was part of the original permanent fund program. REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS asked if there was any legal reasons for including the hold-harmless provision in the permanent fund program, or what was the impetus for including it. MR. LINDSTROM said he thought the impetus was simply the belief that the dividend program should benefit all Alaskans. He said the fact was that if this bill passed, that although welfare recipients would still receive dividends, they wouldn't see the practical benefit of it as they would lose eligibility for their other benefits. He thought it was further recognition that the public assistance program was based on need. He said it was simply a matter of equity as to why the program was formed. Number 622 CHAIR JAMES asked if there was any calculation as to the amount of federal income tax that the recipient would have to pay on the permanent fund dividend. MR. LINDSTROM deferred the question to Kurt Lomas. MR. LOMAS said there was no such calculation. CHAIR JAMES verified that recipients were paying the same amount of income tax as everyone else and the state was not reimbursing them for this cost. Number 630 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS asked if there was a compilation of the numbers this bill would affect, breaking down various categories such as senior citizens in Pioneer Homes, disabled veterans, and other categories of people who were disabled or had special needs. MR. LOMAS responded that the department didn't have the ability to do such a breakdown of effected people. He said they did have the numbers of people who would be affected by categories of public assistance programs. CHAIR JAMES asked if that response was because we had a lot of people on adult public assistance who were not eligible for the permanent fund dividend. MR. LOMAS said this was not the case. He said they did not have that kind of cross-match of data about their caseloads. He pointed out that people who were in Pioneer Homes were not eligible for public assistance so were not affected by this legislation. CHAIR JAMES called for Sherrie Goll to testify. Number 650 SHERRIE GOLL, ALASKA WOMEN'S LOBBY, said she was there to speak for the Alaska Women's Lobby, adding their comments to those who had testified via teleconference. She said they were opposed to this legislation. She said they had been for many years. She said this program was part of the original permanent fund program, and almost every year since 1982, a piece of legislation had been introduced to repeal the hold-harmless program. She said each previous legislature had decided not to repeal the program. She said this would not be a cost saving measure but, in fact, what they were doing was taking costs that were not general fund costs, but coming out of the permanent fund, and making a program that will incur general fund costs of well over $1 million. She said the Lobby agreed there was a discriminatory side to this bill, in that we were saying the only people who could benefit from the permanent fund dividend were the people who could afford to - those people of moderate to high income. She claimed that a person on public assistance didn't have the opportunity to save their permanent fund or use it for pleasure because they weren't allowed to have any assets such as savings accounts. She said the department had reviewed how people on public assistance spent their permanent fund and found that the vast majority of those people were using this money for their basic needs. She said the Lobby would hope that the committee would closely consider this bill, and that if it moved forward, the Finance Committee would consider the ramifications on the general fund, and try to include all Alaskans in the benefits of the permanent fund program. CHAIR JAMES verified there was no one else that wished to testify. She called for the bill sponsor to come back to the table and answer committee questions. Number 692 REPRESENTATIVE PETE KOTT, SPONSOR OF HB 70, commented he wanted to clarify some misunderstandings about the hold-harmless program. He said that recipients of public assistance were not, according to his discussions with the Department of Revenue, required to apply for the permanent fund. This, he said, would be a determination of the individual. He thought that most recipients would choose their benefits over receiving the permanent fund. He said the program mainly applied to Alaska families with dependent children, adult public assistance, and the food stamp program. He said it was not a huge administrative process to place recipients, who were removed from public assistance due to receiving the permanent fund, back on to the program. It was simply a matter of hitting a key on the computer. He commented that he didn't see this bill as discriminatory, and if it was, we had been discriminating for a long time in that we urged people to get off of welfare and were reducing the benefits. He thought these reductions acted as incentives to cause people to seek employment. He said this program was not doing what it was intended to do. He said when this program was first started, we were paying about $6.00 per dividend check, and because of the growth of welfare recipients in the state, we were now paying about $40.00 per dividend check. As a side note, he said this was actually one more attraction to people from other states to come up here and apply for our extravagant welfare benefits. He said that additionally, when someone came up here as a recipient of food stamps, the state gave them a warrant, cash, and he thought we might actually be paying for a federal program with state money. He said he would be happy to answer any questions from the committee. TAPE 95-4, SIDE A Number 000 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked how Representative Kott saw this as a step in self-sufficiency, in that this only knocks recipients off for a month and then they are reinstalled in the program. She understood this might also apply to the child support enforcement agency; that the repeal of the hold-harmless provision would result in most aid for dependent children cases becoming ineligible for at least one month per year, and the child support division would be required to process each case as a change. She thought this was another place where they would have to look at the impact. She said they already knew they had another overburdened system over there and the state had over $3 million in back income owed to the children of this state. She said she also understood that under the housing program, this would be another area where there would be an adjustment of around 2000 families. She was confused as to how he really perceived this. She said she saw this as a kind of temporary knock out of the system. A program she saw with the welfare reform under President Reagan, would be one that helped recipients move on. She also noted there was an option on the permanent fund form for selecting a fund for education, and she thought by doing this, we would be telling the poorest people in our state that they didn't have this option. She said she would encourage Representative Kott to consider amending his bill to allow recipients of public assistance to keep their permanent fund if they chose to put it in the education fund option. REPRESENTATIVE KOTT replied he was sure that in some cases this wouldn't be helpful to some recipients, who, no matter what you cut, would not actively go out and seek employment. He said he thought that when you started to reduce benefits and bonuses, you encouraged these recipients to go out and actively seek self-sufficiency. He said in considering education, this could be a bit of a problem. But when you weighed things out, you had to ask how many of the recipients who receive public assistance, actually check off the education option for their permanent fund. He said he thought it was relatively very few. He said you could always theorize how these recipients were spending their permanent fund, but he would submit that after traveling through his district, they were not using their dividends for basic needs. He said there was no conclusive support for any one theory. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said she had a study from the Department of Health and Social Services dated March 25, 1993, that she would try and get to the rest of the committee. She said it showed that public assistance recipients don't spend frivolously. Sixty percent buy clothing for their children, fifty-eight percent buy food, forty-four percent buy household goods, and forty percent pay bills. She said most of their money goes back to stimulating the economy. She said they might want to check education, but they were just trying to make ends meet. She also said many of the recipients were a result of domestic abuse and this was, in many cases, a temporary situation. She said as the rest of us get the windfall of the permanent fund, she thought they deserved it also. CHAIR JAMES asked the department to come back to testify and to verify whether the parents were required to apply for their children's dividends, and if they don't, that that child can upon turning eighteen, go back and apply for their back dividends. She also asked if it was true that an underage child of a public assistance recipient who gets any income which is reserved in some type of trust situation, whether that money is counted as income in determining the parent's eligibility for public assistance or aid for families with dependent children. MR. LOMAS responded he wasn't that knowledgeable in the rules of the permanent fund, but he could say that no recipient of public assistance in any program, was required to apply for the permanent fund. He said he didn't know the rules about a parent who doesn't apply for the permanent fund on behalf of their minor child. REPRESENTATIVES PORTER AND GREEN pointed out that Tom Williams, Director, Permanent Fund Dividend Division, Department of Revenue, was in the audience. Number 208 TOM WILLIAMS, DIRECTOR, PERMANENT FUND DIVIDEND DIVISION, ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, said that any child whose sponsor did not file for their permanent fund dividend on their behalf, could upon reaching eighteen years old or the age of majority, apply within that first year for missed dividends, providing they could show they had an eligible sponsor during the time period in question. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked if all departments impacted could have their fiscal notes available before they met to discuss this bill at the next meeting. CHAIR JAMES verified with Mr. Lindstrom of the Department of Health and Social Services that it could be ready by the next meeting scheduled for January 31, 1995. MR. LINDSTROM replied theirs should be ready by that afternoon, but he wasn't sure that other departments, such as child support, had even been notified of the need. He offered to check on this for the committee. CHAIR JAMES said she thought that it might be better for Representative Robinson to consult with the bill sponsor; that as Chair, she wasn't planning to make it a function of the committee. She offered to allow Representative Kott, sponsor of the bill, to make a closing comment before the meeting adjourned. Number 245 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT closed by saying that he was not privy to the study that Representative Robinson was referring to, but he would have to verify the study's integrity and validity before he could comment on it. He said you could make studies to reflect whatever you wanted. He said we had plenty of studies sitting on shelves collecting dust and he would not believe that a recipient who was asked how they spent their money, would suggest they spent it on alcohol, drugs, or any other non-essential item. He said he wouldn't suggest they are, but if they did, he wouldn't believe they would admit to it. He said he had information which documented that only 6,500 people statewide chose the option of funding future education; so there was a very few people who chose this option, and he would imagine that most of those individuals were children. Number 269 CHAIR JAMES announced that the committee would be holding the bill over to the next meeting on Tuesday, January 31, 1995. She mentioned there were two bills on the agenda, HB 81 and HJR 3, which they hadn't gotten to discuss and those would be rescheduled for the next meeting as well. ADJOURNMENT CHAIR JAMES adjourned the meeting at 10:00 a.m.