Legislature(2021 - 2022)GRUENBERG 120

03/04/2021 03:00 PM STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+= HB 18 TEACHERS: NATIONAL BOARD CERTIFICATION TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
*+ HB 62 MARRIAGE WITNESSES TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
             HOUSE STATE AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                           
                         March 4, 2021                                                                                          
                           3:02 p.m.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
                             DRAFT                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, Chair                                                                                   
Representative Geran Tarr                                                                                                       
Representative Andi Story                                                                                                       
Representative Matt Claman                                                                                                      
Representative Sarah Vance                                                                                                      
Representative James Kaufman                                                                                                    
Representative David Eastman                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
HOUSE BILL NO. 18                                                                                                               
"An Act relating to national board certification for public                                                                     
school teachers."                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     - HEARD & HELD                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
HOUSE BILL NO. 62                                                                                                               
"An Act relating to solemnization of marriage."                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     - HEARD & HELD                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
BILL: HB  18                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: TEACHERS: NATIONAL BOARD CERTIFICATION                                                                             
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) KREISS-TOMKINS                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
02/18/21       (H)       PREFILE RELEASED 1/8/21                                                                                
02/18/21       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/18/21       (H)       STA, EDC                                                                                               
02/25/21       (H)       STA AT 3:00 PM GRUENBERG 120                                                                           
02/25/21       (H)       -- MEETING CANCELED --                                                                                 
03/02/21       (H)       STA AT 3:00 PM GRUENBERG 120                                                                           
03/02/21       (H)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
03/02/21       (H)       MINUTE(STA)                                                                                            
03/04/21       (H)       STA AT 3:00 PM GRUENBERG 120                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
BILL: HB  62                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: MARRIAGE WITNESSES                                                                                                 
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) CLAMAN                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
02/18/21       (H)       PREFILE RELEASED 1/15/21                                                                               
02/18/21       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/18/21       (H)       STA, JUD                                                                                               
02/25/21       (H)       STA AT 3:00 PM GRUENBERG 120                                                                           
02/25/21       (H)       -- MEETING CANCELED --                                                                                 
03/04/21       (H)       STA AT 3:00 PM GRUENBERG 120                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
LISA PARADY, PhD, Executive Director                                                                                            
Alaska Council of School Administrators                                                                                         
Alaska Superintendents Association                                                                                              
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Provided invited testimony in support of HB
18.                                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
TOM KLAAMEYER, President                                                                                                        
National Education Association - Alaska                                                                                         
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Provided invited testimony pertaining to HB
18.                                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SOPHIE JONAS, Staff                                                                                                             
Representative Matt Claman                                                                                                      
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Presented a sectional analysis of HB 62, on                                                              
behalf of Representative Claman, prime sponsor.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CIAN MULHERN, Reverend                                                                                                          
Celtic Ministries                                                                                                               
Wasilla, Alaska                                                                                                                 
POSITION STATEMENT:  Provided invited testimony pertaining to HB
62.                                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
3:02:23 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  JONATHAN KREISS-TOMKINS  called  the  House State  Affairs                                                             
Standing   Committee    meeting   to    order   at    3:02   p.m.                                                               
Representatives Story, Vance, Claman,  Tarr, Kaufman, and Kreiss-                                                               
Tomkins  were  present at  the  call  to order.    Representative                                                               
Eastman arrived as the meeting was in progress.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
         HB  18-TEACHERS: NATIONAL BOARD CERTIFICATION                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
3:04:55 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS  announced that the first  order of business                                                               
would be  HOUSE BILL NO. 18,  "An Act relating to  national board                                                               
certification for public school teachers."                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS reopened invited testimony.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
3:05:40 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
LISA PARADY,  PhD, Executive Director,  Alaska Council  of School                                                               
Administrators  (ACSA)/Alaska Superintendents  Association (ASA),                                                               
testified in  support of  HB 18.   She  stated ASA's  belief that                                                               
supporting  national   board  certification  for   public  school                                                               
teachers is important, adding that  every Alaska student deserves                                                               
a qualified  teacher and  promoting national  board certification                                                               
is  an "excellent"  pathway to  achieving that  goal.   A primary                                                               
purpose of  ACSA is  to provide a  collective voice  for Alaska's                                                               
school   superintendents,   K-12  principals,   school   business                                                               
officials, and all  school administrators who work  hard to serve                                                               
students  across  Alaska.    Furthermore,  ACSA  identified  that                                                               
recruiting,  retaining, and  preparing qualified  educators as  a                                                               
top priority for Alaska schools.   She said research demonstrates                                                               
that teacher quality is the  most influential school-based factor                                                               
in   student  achievement,   and  national   board  certification                                                               
promotes  teacher quality  by encouraging  teachers to  reach the                                                               
highest available benchmarks  in their field.   She reported that                                                               
as  of 2019,  Alaska is  ranked  twenty-fifth in  the nation  for                                                               
percentage  of teachers  receiving  national board  certification                                                               
with 2.57  percent certified.   She noted that ACSA  supports the                                                               
ambitious  goal set  out  in  this legislation  of  4 percent  of                                                               
Alaska  teachers receiving  national  board  certification.   She                                                               
relayed that  certification costs $1,900 plus  a registration fee                                                               
of   $75   and  typically   takes   three   years  to   complete.                                                               
Certification  is   administered  by   the  National   Board  for                                                               
Professional   Teaching   Standards   (NBPTS)   -   a   nonprofit                                                               
organization  -  who's mission  is  "to  advance the  quality  of                                                               
teaching and learning by maintaining  high and rigorous standards                                                               
for what  accomplished teachers  should know and  ... do,  and by                                                               
providing  a national  voluntary system  certifying teachers  who                                                               
meet  these  standards."    She  explained  that  candidates  for                                                               
national  board  certification  must  complete  four  components:                                                               
content  knowledge;  differentiation  and  instruction;  teaching                                                               
practice  and  learning  environment;  effective  and  reflective                                                               
practitioner.   Teachers must submit  all four  components within                                                               
the  first three  years of  their candidacy.   She  further noted                                                               
that   there   is  a   limited   five-year   window  to   achieve                                                               
certification.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
3:09:15 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
DR. PARADY relayed that by  comparison, Alaska has 202 nationally                                                               
board certified  teachers and 23  current candidates;  Hawaii has                                                               
728  nationally   board  certified   teachers  and   239  current                                                               
candidates; and Washington has  11,521 nationally board certified                                                               
teachers  and 1,600  candidates.   She indicated  that there  are                                                               
different  levels   of  incentives  to  support   national  board                                                               
certification.  For example, in  1998, Washington's Office of the                                                               
Superintendent of  Public Instruction offered to  fund 50 percent                                                               
of the application  fees for 35-40 candidates per  year through a                                                               
grant  program.    Furthermore, in  1999,  the  Washington  State                                                               
Legislature allocated  $327,000 for  15 percent  salary increases                                                               
for  teachers   with  national   board  certification   over  the                                                               
following  two  years.    She   added  that  currently,  teachers                                                               
achieving   certification   in   Washington  receive   a   salary                                                               
enhancement  of $3,500  per  year;  national board  certification                                                               
also  fulfills  the  initial  certification  requirements  for  a                                                               
Washington state professional level certificate.   She went on to                                                               
note  that  in  many  cases, teachers  who  hold  national  board                                                               
certification  are recognized  as  leaders and  take on  enhanced                                                               
leadership roles, which is important  for developing new teachers                                                               
who  receive  mentorship.     Consequently,  she  indicated  that                                                               
national board certification can  improve new teacher quality and                                                               
retention.    In closing,  she  stated  increasing the  share  of                                                               
Alaska  teachers   with  national   board  certification   is  an                                                               
important  step  along  with comprehensively  addressing  teacher                                                               
recruitment  and  retention to  improve  Alaska  schools for  all                                                               
students.  She said ACSA/ASA is  proud to support this policy and                                                               
the  goal of  providing an  effective teacher  for all  students.                                                               
She advised  the committee to  review the letter of  support from                                                               
ASA [included in the committee packet].                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
3:12:20 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  EASTMAN   questioned  how  a   teacher  maintains                                                               
national board certification and what it costs.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
DR. PARADY  shared her  belief that there  is no  additional cost                                                               
once certification is obtained.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
3:13:04 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   STORY   pointed    out   that   national   board                                                               
certification is  potentially limited  to teachers  with adequate                                                               
income  and available  time.   She emphasized  the importance  of                                                               
considering  equity   in  regard  to  obtaining   national  board                                                               
certification.    In  reference  to  the  incentives  offered  by                                                               
Washington state, she recalled speaking  to a legislator who said                                                               
given  another chance,  the monetary  incentive  would have  been                                                               
awarded to teachers  who work in high-poverty schools  due to the                                                               
shortage of teachers  high-poverty areas.  She  asked if ACSA/ASA                                                               
has considered  creating a scholarship fund  for teachers seeking                                                               
their national board certification.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
DR. PARADY  said the  Alaska Staff  Development Network  (ASDN) -                                                               
the largest  provider of  professional development  for educators                                                               
in  Alaska -  is  one  of the  organizations  under the  umbrella                                                               
association of ACSA.   She explained that in ASDN  working on the                                                               
Increasing Performance  and Retention  in Alaska's  Rural Schools                                                               
(IPRARS)  [grant]  in  partnership  with  Alaska  Gateway  School                                                               
District,  Nenana  School   District,  Northwest  Arctic  Borough                                                               
School District,  and Yukon-Koyukuk  School District  to increase                                                               
the number  of teachers with  national board certification.   The                                                               
program   would    support   teachers'   tuition    and   provide                                                               
collaborative  and motivational  processes via  monthly meetings,                                                               
pooling of questions, and peer support.   She said the idea is to                                                               
pilot the  program to see  if it  increases the number  of board-                                                               
certified  teachers across  Alaska;  if  successful, the  program                                                               
could be replicated  in other parts of the state.   Although it's                                                               
not a scholarship,  she said, ACSA is trying  to support teachers                                                               
in achieving this rigorous certification.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
3:18:26 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
TOM  KLAAMEYER,  President,   National  Education  Association  -                                                               
Alaska  (NEA-AK), thanked  Chair  Kreiss-Tomkins for  introducing                                                               
this   legislation  and   jumpstarting  the   conversation  about                                                               
excellent  educators.   He provided  a brief  explanation of  his                                                               
professional background, highlighting his  25 years of experience                                                               
as  an   educator  in   Anchorage.     He  said   national  board                                                               
certification   is  an   advanced  certification   beyond  Alaska                                                               
licensure that is  considered it a "true mark  of excellence" and                                                               
a  teaching professional's  highest credential.   He  relayed the                                                               
level  of difficulty  involved via  a colleague's  description as                                                               
"one of the  most difficult things they've ever done  - even more                                                               
so  than  earning  their  master's  degree."    One  of  the  key                                                               
characteristics of the process, he  said, is the intense scrutiny                                                               
that  educators  place  on  their  own  pedagogue  through  self-                                                               
analysis and  meticulous analysis  of their  own work  to improve                                                               
their classroom  practices.  He  suggested that  this legislation                                                               
could go a long way in  addressing two difficulties that exist in                                                               
Alaska's professional  education system: student  achievement and                                                               
teacher retention.  He indicated  that across the nation, student                                                               
outcomes of nationally board certified  teachers are greater than                                                               
those with  state licensure.   A 2017 study in  Mississippi found                                                               
students of teachers with national  board certification were more                                                               
likely to receive a proficient  score on key literacy assessments                                                               
than their  peers, specifically in kindergarten  and third grade.                                                               
Additionally,  a multi-year  study in  Washington suggested  that                                                               
students of  teachers with  national board  certification learned                                                               
the equivalent of  an additional one and a half  months' worth of                                                               
learning  in the  school year  than students  of other  teachers.                                                               
Another  study by  Harvard  University's  Strategic Data  Project                                                               
showed similar results  in the Los Angeles  County Unified School                                                               
District.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
3:23:28 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. KLAAEMEYER went on to  the address the teacher "traction" and                                                               
retention  crisis  in Alaska.    According  to the  Institute  of                                                               
Social and  Economic Research (ISER), teacher  turnover in Alaska                                                               
can reach 20-30  percent with "spike years"  reaching even higher                                                               
in many  rural districts.   Other states, such as  Florida, South                                                               
Carolina,   and    Ohio   have   demonstrated    national   board                                                               
certification as a proven tool  in retaining excellent educators.                                                               
South Carolina, for example, demonstrated  that teachers who hold                                                               
national board certification are three  times more likely to stay                                                               
than  teachers  without  that  certification.    Furthermore,  he                                                               
pointed  out  that  teachers with  national  board  certification                                                               
become  mentors for  other teachers,  especially  those in  their                                                               
early  career,  indicating  that national  certification  impacts                                                               
students,  other  educators,  and students  of  those  educators,                                                               
creating system-wide improvement rather  than isolated pockets of                                                               
excellence.   Mr. Klaaemeyer informed  the committee  that NEA-AK                                                               
wholeheartedly  supports  efforts  to   increase  the  number  of                                                               
teachers   with   national   board   certification   in   Alaska.                                                               
Nonetheless, he suggested creating  a financial incentive program                                                               
that goes  beyond recognizing  certification by  helping teachers                                                               
achieve   that   goal.     He   reported   that  national   board                                                               
certification   costs  around   $2,000  to   apply  for   initial                                                               
certification and another  $50-$60 plus $500 in  fees for renewal                                                               
purposes every five  years.  Contrary to  Dr. Parady's testimony,                                                               
he  reported  that  Washington and  Alabama  provided  an  annual                                                               
incentive of up to $5,000 plus  an additional $5,000 per year for                                                               
working  in  high-needs  districts.    He  noted  that  the  same                                                               
approach  was taken  in the  Thirtieth Alaska  Legislature in  SB
188.  He reported that Deleware  pays a 12 percent premium on top                                                               
of a base salary for  teachers with national board certification.                                                               
Additionally, there  are at  least 25 other  states that  offer a                                                               
financial  remuneration for  nationally board  certified teachers                                                               
who have  invested the  time, money,  and dedication  required to                                                               
earn this distinction.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
3:28:04 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. KLAAEMEYR highlighted NEA-AK's  annual jumpstart program - an                                                               
intensive one-week  institute for  members that  provides support                                                               
and   guidance   through   the   national   board   certification                                                               
application process.   He reminded  the committee that  there are                                                               
currently  202  teachers  with national  board  certification  in                                                               
Alaska  and 23  candidates who  have applied.   He  recalled that                                                               
according to ISER,  the cost associated with  replacing a teacher                                                               
who  leaves  is  $20,000  for   recruitment  and  training.    He                                                               
indicated  that investing  in educators  by  providing an  annual                                                               
incentive would save the state  money, help keep quality teachers                                                               
in Alaska, and increase outcomes for students in this state.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
3:30:11 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE TARR  pointed out  that teaching  is not  a highly                                                               
paid  profession.    She expressed  concern  that  despite  their                                                               
interest in  national board certification, teachers  might not be                                                               
able to  afford it.   She  aspired for a  situation in  which any                                                               
interested  educator would  have  access,  regardless of  his/her                                                               
ability to pay.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  KREISS-TOMKINS noted  that  the bill  was  drafted from  a                                                               
modest  starting  point  given  the  state of  the  budget.    He                                                               
emphasized  his  robust support  for  every  incentive the  state                                                               
could  offer, adding  that it  would be  in Alaska's  interest to                                                               
have  every  educator   on  a  path  to   self-improvement.    He                                                               
approximated  that  reimbursing  the   fees  for  national  board                                                               
certification would  cost around $100,000  and went on to  say it                                                               
would be an incredible return on investment for Alaska.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  TARR agreed  that  with only  23 applicants,  the                                                               
state could afford to support a class of that size.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KAUFMAN questioned  whether  there  is an  actual                                                               
cost to  the state  that is  not yet  apparent.   Furthermore, he                                                               
requested  more data  regarding  the efficacy  of national  board                                                               
certification, such that the cause and effect is substantiated.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
3:33:45 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  KLAAEMEYER offered  to provide  citations  for the  research                                                               
referenced  in  his testimony.    In  response to  Representative                                                               
Tarr, he said  some districts in Alaska are  already providing an                                                               
annual bonus, although none terribly  sizeable.  He added that in                                                               
terms  of paying  for the  national  board certification  itself,                                                               
most [incentives]  tend to recognize  that achievement  through a                                                               
bonus,  salary  premium,  or  rebate for  costs.    He  expressed                                                               
interest in taking a novel approach  to assistance in the form of                                                               
upfront  loans for  those that  can't afford  it, which  are then                                                               
forgiven after certification is earned.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
3:35:10 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE VANCE  expressed her  concern about passing  a law                                                               
that requires  schools to  post a sign.   Instead,  she suggested                                                               
looking  at what  local school  districts are  already doing  and                                                               
incentivizing them  to engage in  the process and to  support the                                                               
teachers they  have.  She also  recommended grants, scholarships,                                                               
and solutions that don't look to the state to fill this need.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR   KREISS-TOMKINS   asked   Dr.   Parady   to   comment   on                                                               
Representative Vance's question from a district perspective.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
3:37:15 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
DR.  PARADY  acknowledged the  importance  of  local support  and                                                               
focusing  on programs  and initiatives  that best  support school                                                               
districts; further,  she agreed  that pursuing  grants is  a good                                                               
idea.     Nonetheless,  she  said  many   states  recognize  that                                                               
[national  board certification]  is so  rigorous that  it's worth                                                               
investing in.  She reiterated  that the long-term results produce                                                               
increased student achievement;  therefore, it's worth approaching                                                               
from  multiple   angles,  including  local   incentivization  and                                                               
support,  as well  as incentives  directly  related to  obtaining                                                               
national board certification.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
3:39:17 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR   KREISS-TOMKINS   opened    public   testimony.      After                                                               
ascertaining that no one wished to testify, he closed public                                                                    
testimony.  He announced that HB 18 was held over.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
                   HB  62-MARRIAGE WITNESSES                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
3:40:15 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS announced that the final order of business                                                                 
would be HOUSE BILL NO. 62, "An Act relating to solemnization of                                                                
marriage."                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
3:40:42 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN, prime sponsor, introduced HB 62 by                                                                       
paraphrasing the sponsor statement [included in the committee                                                                   
packet], which read as follows [original punctuation provided]:                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     At  present,  during  the  solemnization  of  marriage,                                                                    
     couples must assent to the  marriage in the presence of                                                                    
     each other,  the person  solemnizing the  marriage, and                                                                    
     at  least  two  additional  witnesses.  Afterward,  all                                                                    
     parties  must  sign  the marriage  certificates.  House                                                                    
     Bill  62  would  eliminate   the  requirements  of  any                                                                    
     additional witnesses at  the marriage solemnization and                                                                    
     the   signatures  of   these   witnesses  on   marriage                                                                    
     certificates  in an  effort  to  help support  Alaska's                                                                    
     destination  wedding  industry   while  preserving  the                                                                    
     integrity of marriage solemnizations.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     Alaska is  one of  20 states  that require  two wedding                                                                    
     witnessesthe    upper   limit    of   wedding   witness                                                                    
     requirements  nationwide.  Twenty-four states  and  the                                                                    
     District of  Columbia do not require  wedding witnesses                                                                    
     at all.  Wedding witnesses played a  more critical role                                                                    
     in  past   centuries  when  record  keeping   was  less                                                                    
     automated. Witnesses  could be contacted to  verify the                                                                    
     wedding had taken place in  the event that records were                                                                    
     damaged  or  missing. Today,  however,  the  role of  a                                                                    
     wedding  witness is  ceremonial. In  Alaska, while  the                                                                    
     person  solemnizing  the  marriage  must  meet  certain                                                                    
     criteria,  no form  of witness  verification (proof  of                                                                    
     identification,    language   comprehension,    address                                                                    
     validation,  etc.)  is  required.  HB  62  would  allow                                                                    
     Alaska to compete with states  like Hawaii and Florida,                                                                    
     which require no wedding witnesses  and lead the nation                                                                    
     in destination weddings.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     Destination weddings are a  growing business in Alaska,                                                                    
     especially   as  couples   opt   for  small,   intimate                                                                    
     ceremonies  rather   than  large  ones  due   to  risks                                                                    
     associated with  COVID-19. But  the requirement  of two                                                                    
     wedding  witnesses  makes   Alaska  a  less  attractive                                                                    
     location for many  who travel from farther  away or who                                                                    
     do not want the financial burden of a larger wedding.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     Couples  who  come  to  the  state  without  their  own                                                                    
     witnesses are tasked with  finding strangers to witness                                                                    
     their wedding. The burden  of supplying these witnesses                                                                    
     often  falls  to those  who  work  in Alaska's  wedding                                                                    
     industry  who ask  friends and  family  to witness  the                                                                    
     weddings  of  their   out-of-town  clients.  Especially                                                                    
     during the  COVID-19 pandemic, it  is hard  for out-of-                                                                    
     state couples to find two  witnesses and couples may be                                                                    
     reluctant   to   have   strangers  as   their   wedding                                                                    
     witnesses. The additional  witness requirement can also                                                                    
     place an increased financial burden  on the couple. For                                                                    
     example,  for  a remote  location  wedding,  such as  a                                                                    
     glacier,  the couple  must pay  extra seating  costs to                                                                    
     transport the witnesses.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     At present, destination weddings  bring in an estimated                                                                    
     $1 million in revenue to  Alaska in the form of roughly                                                                    
     500 destination  weddings a  year. This  revenue figure                                                                    
     doesn't consider  the fact  that more  than 90%  of the                                                                    
     out-of-state couples who come  to Alaska to get married                                                                    
     stay for  days and  weeks to  explore our  great state.                                                                    
     The resulting  benefit to Alaska's tourism  industry is                                                                    
     substantial.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
3:44:12 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SOPHIE  JONAS, Staff,  Representative Matt  Claman, Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, on  behalf of Representative Claman,  prime sponsor,                                                               
presented  a  sectional  analysis  of  HB  62  [included  in  the                                                               
committee packet],  which read  as follows  [original punctuation                                                               
provided]:                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     Section 1                                                                                                                
     AS 25.05.301. Form of solemnization.                                                                                       
     Eliminates requirement of two witnesses at a marriage                                                                      
     solemnization ceremony.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                              
     Section 2                                                                                                                
     AS 25.05.321. Certificates.                                                                                                
        Eliminates requirement of the signatures of two                                                                         
     witnesses on marriage certificates.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                              
     Section 3                                                                                                                
     AS 25.05.361. Unlawful solemnization of marriage.                                                                          
        Deletes language to conform with changes made in                                                                        
     section 1 of the bill.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                              
     Section 4                                                                                                                
     AS 25.05.041. Matters insufficient to render marriage                                                                      
     voidable.                                                                                                                  
     Repeals subsections (a)(3) and (a)(5) to conform with                                                                      
     changes made in section 1 of the bill.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
3:45:04 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. JONAS  introduced a  testimonial video,  which was  viewed by                                                               
the committee from 3:45 p.m. to 3:49 p.m.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
3:49:10 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS recalled hearing  this legislation two years                                                               
ago.  He  offered his belief that "it was  great legislation, and                                                               
nothing has changed."                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
3:49:36 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KAUFMAN  asked whether  weddings are  taking place                                                               
via Zoom.   After  receiving confirmation, he  asked if  the bill                                                               
would affect Zoom weddings.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  CLAMAN  stated that  the  bill  would not  affect                                                               
weddings   attended   via  Zoom.      Further,   he  shared   his                                                               
understanding  that   the  witness   requirement  could   not  be                                                               
satisfied by a  Zoom witness and would still require  a person to                                                               
be  physically  present.    He questioned  why  Alaska  is  still                                                               
following a  law from  1700s era England,  during which  time the                                                               
church was keeping  records instead of the state.   He reiterated                                                               
that people  are attending weddings  via Zoom, but this  bill has                                                               
no impact on that.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
3:51:06 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS opened invited testimony.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
3:51:38 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CIAN   MULHERN,  Reverend,   Celtic   Ministries,  informed   the                                                               
committee  that he  is  an  ordained minister  with  21 years  of                                                               
experience performing  weddings in other states,  including those                                                               
with no  witness requirement.  He  said this is a  big problem in                                                               
Alaska, noting that  over 90 percent of his  clientele are coming                                                               
from  other parts  of  the world  and don't  know  anyone in  the                                                               
state.   He explained  that couples become  uneasy when  they are                                                               
required to  have a stranger  attend their wedding as  a witness,                                                               
especially  during  the  exchange   of  vows.    Furthermore,  he                                                               
reported  that  witnesses  are  not  being  used  to  verify  the                                                               
couples' identity  - as  the Bureau  of Vital  Statistics [Health                                                               
analytics  &  Vital Records  Section,  DHSS]  is responsible  for                                                               
checking IDs - nor to verify  that the wedding took place and was                                                               
performed  in the  proper manner.   He  opined that  the bill  is                                                               
smart for the wedding industry in  Alaska.  He offered to address                                                               
the previous inquiry regarding Zoom weddings.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS  welcomed his perspective on  the subject of                                                               
Zoom weddings.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
3:53:57 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  MULHERN  said prior  to  COVID-19,  no states  allowed  Zoom                                                               
weddings;  however, two  states,  including  New York,  currently                                                               
allow people to  marry via Zoom due to COVID-19.   He opined that                                                               
the  practice would  not  last  a long,  adding  that  it is  not                                                               
significant   to  the   witness   requirement.     Returning   to                                                               
Representative Kaufman's  question, he  said, "no, you  could not                                                               
perform a  wedding on Zoom  because the  witnesses do have  to be                                                               
present at the time of the wedding."                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
3:54:44 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS announced HB 62 was held over.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
3:55:13 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ADJOURNMENT                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
There being no further business before the committee, the House                                                                 
State Affairs Standing Committee meeting was adjourned at 3:55                                                                  
p.m.                                                                                                                            

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 18 Letter of Support from ASA.pdf HSTA 3/4/2021 3:00:00 PM
HB 18