Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/26/2004 08:06 AM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
              SENATE JUDICIARY STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                         March 26, 2004                                                                                         
                           8:06 a.m.                                                                                            
TAPE(S) 04-27&28                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Ralph Seekins, Chair                                                                                                    
Senator Scott Ogan, Vice Chair                                                                                                  
Senator Gene Therriault                                                                                                         
Senator Johnny Ellis                                                                                                            
Senator Hollis French                                                                                                           
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
SENATE BILL NO. 311                                                                                                             
"An   Act  providing   for  a   special   deposit  for   workers'                                                               
compensation insurers; relating to the  board of governors of the                                                               
Alaska  Insurance  Guaranty   Association;  relating  to  covered                                                               
workers'  compensation  claims  paid   by  the  Alaska  Insurance                                                               
Guaranty Association; stating the  intent of the legislature, and                                                               
setting   out   limitations,   concerning   the   interpretation,                                                               
construction, and  implementation of workers'  compensation laws;                                                               
relating  to  restructuring   the  Alaska  workers'  compensation                                                               
system;  eliminating  the  Alaska  Workers'  Compensation  Board;                                                               
establishing  a  division  of workers'  compensation  within  the                                                               
Department  of  Labor  and Workforce  Development  and  assigning                                                               
certain  Alaska  Workers'  Compensation Board  functions  to  the                                                               
division and  the Department of Labor  and Workforce Development;                                                               
establishing   a   Workers'  Compensation   Appeals   Commission;                                                               
assigning certain  functions of the Alaska  Workers' Compensation                                                               
Board to  the Workers' Compensation Appeals  Commission; relating                                                               
to  agreements that  discharge  workers' compensation  liability;                                                               
providing   for  hearing   officers   in  workers'   compensation                                                               
proceedings; relating  to workers' compensation  awards; relating                                                               
to an  employer's failure to  insure and keep insured  or provide                                                               
security;  providing   for  appeals  from   compensation  orders;                                                               
relating  to  workers'  compensation proceedings;  providing  for                                                               
supreme  court   jurisdiction  of   appeals  from   the  Workers'                                                               
Compensation Appeals  Commission; providing for a  maximum amount                                                               
for  the cost-of-  living  adjustment  for workers'  compensation                                                               
benefits;  providing for  administrative penalties  for employers                                                               
uninsured   or    without   adequate   security    for   workers'                                                               
compensation; relating  to assigned risk pools  and insurers; and                                                               
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
     HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                             
CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 230(STA)                                                                                                  
"An Act relating to political signs on private property."                                                                       
     HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                             
SENATE BILL NO. 308                                                                                                             
"An Act increasing the duration of certain provisions of                                                                        
domestic violence protective orders from six months to one                                                                      
     HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                             
SENATE BILL NO. 345                                                                                                             
"An Act relating to civil liability associated with aircraft                                                                    
runways, airfields, and landing areas."                                                                                         
     MOVED CSSB 345(JUD) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                       
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
BILL: SB 311                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: INSURANCE & WORKERS' COMPENSATION SYSTEM                                                                           
SPONSOR(s): RULES BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR                                                                                    
02/09/04       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/09/04       (S)       L&C, FIN                                                                                               
02/10/04       (S)       L&C AT 1:30 PM BELTZ 211                                                                               
02/10/04       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
02/10/04       (S)       MINUTE(L&C)                                                                                            
02/19/04       (S)       L&C AT 1:30 PM BELTZ 211                                                                               
02/19/04       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
02/19/04       (S)       MINUTE(L&C)                                                                                            
02/26/04       (S)       L&C AT 1:30 PM BELTZ 211                                                                               
02/26/04       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
02/26/04       (S)       MINUTE(L&C)                                                                                            
03/04/04       (S)       L&C AT 1:30 PM BELTZ 211                                                                               
03/04/04       (S)       Moved  SB 311 Out of Committee                                                                         
03/04/04       (S)       MINUTE(L&C)                                                                                            
03/05/04       (S)       L&C RPT 1DP 1DNP 2NR                                                                                   
03/05/04       (S)       DP: BUNDE; DNP: FRENCH; NR: SEEKINS,                                                                   
03/05/04       (S)       STEVENS G                                                                                              
03/12/04       (S)       JUD REFERRAL ADDED AFTER L&C                                                                           
03/26/04       (S)       JUD AT 8:00 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
BILL: HB 230                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: POLITICAL SIGNS ON PRIVATE PROPERTY                                                                                
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) HOLM                                                                                              
03/31/03       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
03/31/03       (H)       TRA, STA                                                                                               
04/29/03       (H)       TRA AT 1:30 PM CAPITOL 17                                                                              
04/29/03       (H)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
04/29/03       (H)       MINUTE(TRA)                                                                                            
05/06/03       (H)       STA AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 102                                                                             
05/06/03       (H)       Scheduled But Not Heard                                                                                
05/06/03       (H)       TRA AT 1:30 PM CAPITOL 17                                                                              
05/06/03       (H)       Moved CSHB 230(TRA) Out of Committee                                                                   
05/06/03       (H)       MINUTE(TRA)                                                                                            
05/07/03       (H)       TRA RPT CS(TRA) 4DP 2NR                                                                                
05/07/03       (H)       DP: OGG, KOOKESH, FATE, HOLM;                                                                          
05/07/03       (H)       NR: KOHRING, MASEK                                                                                     
05/07/03       (H)       STA AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 102                                                                             
05/07/03       (H)       Scheduled But Not Heard                                                                                
05/08/03       (H)       STA AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 102                                                                             
05/08/03       (H)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
05/08/03       (H)       MINUTE(STA)                                                                                            
05/09/03       (H)       STA AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 102                                                                             
05/09/03       (H)       Moved CSHB 230(STA) Out of Committee                                                                   
05/09/03       (H)       MINUTE(STA)                                                                                            
05/12/03       (H)       STA RPT CS(STA) 3DP 3NR                                                                                
05/12/03       (H)       DP: GRUENBERG, HOLM, LYNN; NR: SEATON,                                                                 
05/12/03       (H)       DAHLSTROM, WEYHRAUCH                                                                                   
05/17/03       (H)       CORRECTED CS(STA) RECEIVED                                                                             
05/17/03       (H)       TRANSMITTED TO (S)                                                                                     
05/17/03       (H)       VERSION: CSHB 230(STA)                                                                                 
05/18/03       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
05/18/03       (S)       STA, JUD                                                                                               
02/12/04       (S)       STA AT 3:30 PM BELTZ 211                                                                               
02/12/04       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
02/12/04       (S)       MINUTE(STA)                                                                                            
03/09/04       (S)       STA AT 3:30 PM BELTZ 211                                                                               
03/09/04       (S)       Scheduled But Not Heard                                                                                
03/11/04       (S)       STA AT 3:30 PM BELTZ 211                                                                               
03/11/04       (S)       Moved   SCS   CSHB   230(STA)   Out   of                                                               
03/11/04       (S)       MINUTE (STA)                                                                                           
03/12/04       (S)       STA RPT SCS FORTHCOMING 3NR                                                                            
03/12/04       (S)       NR: STEVENS G, STEDMAN, GUESS                                                                          
03/15/04       (S)       STA SCS RECEIVED                                                                                       
03/26/04       (S)       JUD AT 8:00 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
BILL: SB 308                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROTECTIVE ORDERS                                                                                
SPONSOR(s): SENATOR(s) FRENCH                                                                                                   
02/09/04       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/09/04       (S)       STA, JUD                                                                                               
03/11/04       (S)       STA AT 3:30 PM BELTZ 211                                                                               
03/11/04       (S)       Moved SB 308 Out of Committee                                                                          
03/11/04       (S)       MINUTE (STA)                                                                                           
03/12/04       (S)       STA RPT   3DP                                                                                          
03/12/04       (S)       DP: STEVENS G, STEDMAN, GUESS                                                                          
03/12/04       (S)       FIN REFERRAL ADDED AFTER JUD                                                                           
03/26/04       (S)       JUD AT 8:00 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
BILL: SB 345                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: LIABILITY FOR AIRPORTS AND AIRSTRIPS                                                                               
SPONSOR(s): SENATOR(s) SEEKINS                                                                                                  
02/16/04       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/16/04       (S)       TRA, JUD                                                                                               
03/16/04       (H)       TRA AT 1:30 PM CAPITOL 17                                                                              
03/16/04       (S)       Moved  SB 345 Out of Committee                                                                         
03/16/04       (S)       MINUTE(TRA)                                                                                            
03/17/04       (S)       TRA RPT 3DP                                                                                            
03/17/04       (S)       DP: WAGONER, COWDERY, THERRIAULT                                                                       
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
Ms. Linda Hall                                                                                                                  
Division of Insurance                                                                                                           
Department of Community & Economic Development                                                                                  
PO Box 110800                                                                                                                   
Juneau, AK 99811-0800                                                                                                           
POSITION STATEMENT:  Explained the contents of SB 311                                                                         
Mr. Paul Lisankie                                                                                                               
Division of Workers Compensation                                                                                                
Department of Labor & Workforce                                                                                                 
PO Box 21149                                                                                                                    
Juneau, AK 99802-1149                                                                                                           
POSITION STATEMENT: Explained the impact of SB 311 on the                                                                     
Division of Workers Compensation                                                                                                
Mr. Joe Michel                                                                                                                  
Staff to Senator Seekins                                                                                                        
Alaska State Capitol                                                                                                            
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Presented SB 345 for the sponsor                                                                          
Mr. Tom George                                                                                                                  
Alaska Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supports SB 345                                                                                          
Mr. Felix McGuire                                                                                                               
Alaska Airmen's Association                                                                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supports SB 345                                                                                          
Mr. James F. Dieringer III                                                                                                      
Fairbanks, AK                                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT:  Described problems with the current                                                                      
restraining order process (SB 308)                                                                                              
Ms. Barbara Brink                                                                                                               
Public Defender Agency                                                                                                          
Department of Administration                                                                                                    
900 W 5 Ave., Suite 200                                                                                                         
Anchorage, AK  99501-2090                                                                                                       
POSITION STATEMENT: Expressed concerns about SB 308                                                                           
Ms. Lauri Hugonin                                                                                                               
Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault                                                                          
Juneau, AK                                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supports SB 308                                                                                          
Mr. Todd Larkin                                                                                                                 
Staff to Representative Holm                                                                                                    
Alaska State Capitol                                                                                                            
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:  Presented HB 230 for the sponsor                                                                         
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
TAPE 04-27, SIDE A                                                                                                            
CHAIR  RALPH   SEEKINS  called  the  Senate   Judiciary  Standing                                                             
Committee  meeting to  order at  8:06  a.m. Senators  Therriault,                                                               
Ellis,  French  and Seekins  were  present.  The first  order  of                                                               
business to come before the committee was SB 311.                                                                               
        SB 311-INSURANCE & WORKERS' COMPENSATION SYSTEM                                                                     
MS.  LINDA HALL,  Director  of the  Division  of Insurance,  told                                                               
members  that  she  and  Mr. Lisankie  would  describe  the  bill                                                               
sections and  indicated that the team  that worked on SB  311 has                                                               
been involved in discussions with  other interested parties in an                                                               
attempt  to reach  consensus on  sections  of the  bill that  are                                                               
causing dissention.  They hope to present  a committee substitute                                                               
next week that  will reflect some agreement on  those issues. She                                                               
then  offered  to provide  some  background  information on  what                                                               
prompted the bill.                                                                                                              
CHAIR SEEKINS announced  that, at the request of  the sponsor, he                                                               
would  not take  public testimony  today, but  the bill  would be                                                               
rescheduled  next  week. He  hoped  to  have  a bill  before  the                                                               
committee  next  week  that  would   be  ready  to  move  out  of                                                               
committee. He then asked Ms. Hall to proceed.                                                                                   
MS. HALL  indicated that all  members have heard her  discuss the                                                               
cash  deficit in  the Guaranty  Association. She  said she  would                                                               
also discuss  the unhealthy workers' compensation  environment in                                                               
Alaska.  The   Division  of  Insurance   is  dealing   with  four                                                               
problematic areas. The first is  the lack of profitability in the                                                               
workers'  compensation  market from  1997  to  2002, when  losses                                                               
ranged from 99.9 percent to 154  percent. The high of 154 percent                                                               
means  that   insurance  companies   spent  $1.54   for  workers'                                                               
compensation claims  for every dollar  of premium  collected. The                                                               
average over that same 5-year period  was 124 percent, which is 5                                                               
percent  higher  than  the national  average.  Alaska's  workers'                                                               
compensation  claims  are  more  expensive and  costly  than  the                                                               
national  average, which  isn't  attractive either.  The cost  of                                                               
medical  benefits  has  increased substantially,  which  tend  to                                                               
increase the cost  of workers' compensation claims  and result in                                                               
higher premiums.                                                                                                                
MS. HALL told  members the Division of Insurance  approved a rate                                                               
increase effective January 1, 2004,  which averaged 21.2 percent.                                                               
As the  cost of claims  increased, the actuarial  analysis showed                                                               
that  historical claims  and projections  of  future claim  costs                                                               
indicated the  need for a  substantial rate increase.  Within the                                                               
21.2 percent average, about  30 classifications decreased, mostly                                                               
related  to marine  industries. However,  17 classifications  had                                                               
rate increases in excess of 50 percent.                                                                                         
MS. HALL  said the last  factor in  the increase is  the assigned                                                               
risk  pool.   Because  of  the   mandatory  nature   of  workers'                                                               
compensation,  the  Division  has  a  mechanism  to  ensure  that                                                               
everyone can afford to  purchase workers' compensation insurance.                                                               
That  market has  also suffered  substantial losses;  the dollars                                                               
spent on claims have not met  the revenue in premiums. Alaska has                                                               
had  the  highest rate  of  any  state of  workers'  compensation                                                               
assessments for  its assigned risk  pool from 1997  through 2001.                                                               
In 2002,  Alaska dropped  to number six.  The average  burden has                                                               
ranged from 4 percent to 10  percent and is an additional cost to                                                               
insurance  companies  on  top of  their  operating  costs,  again                                                               
making Alaska  an unattractive  marketplace. She  emphasized that                                                               
Alaska's  workers'  compensation   environment  has  become  very                                                               
expensive for  employers and unattractive  to insurers.  She said                                                               
from her perspective, the state  cannot continue to just increase                                                               
workers' compensation premiums. The state  needs to look for ways                                                               
to stem increasing  costs and bring about some  efficiency in the                                                               
system.   The  state   needs  a   stable,  sustainable   workers'                                                               
compensation  environment that  will  encourage  companies to  do                                                               
business here and provide affordable  insurance so that employers                                                               
can continue to develop jobs.                                                                                                   
MS. HALL informed  members that a healthy  environment depends on                                                               
adequate rates,  a self-funded  assigned risk  pool and  a viable                                                               
workers' compensation system. She pointed  out, "SB 311 is fairly                                                               
unique as  it represents cross-departmental solutions  to various                                                               
issues."  She emphasized  that  the bill  addresses  a number  of                                                               
issues, many of  which affect insurance and  the marketplace. The                                                               
focus and  stimulus of  the bill  were to  affect changes  in the                                                               
marketplace.  She  then addressed  the  insurance  pieces of  the                                                               
     Section 3  adds a requirement to  increase the deposits                                                                    
     of    insurance   companies    that   write    workers'                                                                    
     compensation. These  special deposits would be  for the                                                                    
     benefit of workers in case of an insolvency.                                                                               
     Section  5  addresses the  Board  of  Governors of  the                                                                    
     Guaranty  Association.   Today  we  have   nine  member                                                                    
     boards, seven  of those  are insurance  companies. They                                                                    
     have done an  excellent job so the change  in the board                                                                    
     representation  is not  a  reflection  on what  they've                                                                    
     done. But what  I'd like to do is see  a board that has                                                                    
     representatives of  all the stakeholders. We  have - in                                                                    
     the proposal I  have two members of  labor, two members                                                                    
     of employers,  an agent  and four  insurance companies.                                                                    
     The number  would stay the  same but they would  have a                                                                    
     different representation.                                                                                                  
     Section 6 of the bill  is called a net worth exclusion.                                                                    
     It's a  way to bring some  cap to cost in  the Guaranty                                                                    
     Association.    Currently,   except    [for]   workers'                                                                    
     compensation,  all  claims   and  Guaranty  Association                                                                    
     [costs] are  capped at $500,000.  Workers' compensation                                                                    
     claims  are  unlimited.  Thirty-two other  states  have                                                                    
     what  we  call the  net  worth  exclusion for  workers'                                                                    
     compensation and  I'm proposing  that we adopt  that in                                                                    
     our statutes.  The purpose -  the goal would be  to not                                                                    
     pay  claims of  employers whose  net worth  exceeds $25                                                                    
     million.  The other  states that  have  such caps,  and                                                                    
     there are  32 of  them, range from  $10 million  to $50                                                                    
     million - 25 seemed like  a number that would work well                                                                    
     for Alaskans.                                                                                                              
     Section 105 is  the other section that  is important to                                                                    
     me  in terms  of our  workers' compensation  market. It                                                                    
     repeals the 25 percent  statutory cap on the surcharges                                                                    
     for   the  assigned   risk  pool   and  exclusion   for                                                                    
     surcharges on  policies under $3,000.  I feel  that the                                                                    
     assigned  risk pool  must  be  self-funding. There  are                                                                    
     nearly 8,800 policies,  17 percent of our  market is in                                                                    
     the assigned  risk pool. 6,000  of those  policies have                                                                    
     premiums under  $3,000. The  average premium  for those                                                                    
     policies is  $864. Small employers have  claims equally                                                                    
     big as large  employers. The size of  the employer does                                                                    
     not normally correlate  with the size of  the claim. We                                                                    
     have an  average premium of  $864. A single  claim will                                                                    
     offset,  probably  in  that size,  several  hundred  of                                                                    
     those  policies. So  I'm looking  in this  provision to                                                                    
     make that  pool self-funding  to allow it  to fluctuate                                                                    
     as the losses in the pool  fluctuate in the same way we                                                                    
     allow  rates for  the traditional  market to  fluctuate                                                                    
     based on the cost of  claims. The assigned risk pool is                                                                    
     probably one of  the major factors that  is a deterrent                                                                    
     to  new companies  coming  into  our marketplace.  When                                                                    
     they look at  that and know off the top  they are going                                                                    
     to pay anywhere from 4 to  6 percent of their income to                                                                    
     offset  work comp  losses in  the  assigned risk  pool,                                                                    
     they frequently  decide they don't want  to do business                                                                    
     here. It's a  very fragile marketplace and  I'd like to                                                                    
     find ways  to bring  it to a  healthier place  where we                                                                    
     encourage companies to do business in Alaska.                                                                              
CHAIR SEEKINS announced that Senators Therriault and Ogan had                                                                   
joined the committee some time ago.                                                                                             
SENATOR THERRIAULT asked Ms. Hall to review the workings of the                                                                 
assigned risk pool.                                                                                                             
MS. HALL  explained the  assigned risk pool  is considered  to be                                                               
the market  of last  resort.   It is a  place to  obtain coverage                                                               
when  an  employer  cannot  get   workers'  compensation  from  a                                                               
traditional  carrier. Many  small  employers, particularly  those                                                               
with  premiums  under  $10,000,   find  it  difficult  to  obtain                                                               
coverage  in the  traditional marketplace.  With  a premium  that                                                               
size, a single loss costs enough  that it is a losing proposition                                                               
to underwrite that type of business.  Some of the policies in the                                                               
assigned  risk pool  are  higher hazard,  but  not many.  Usually                                                               
employers with  bad loss  ratios are in  the assigned  risk pool,                                                               
but about  93 percent of them  are there because they  are small.                                                               
The pool losses have been  exceeding the premiums collected since                                                               
at  least 1997  so  the pool  has  been losing  money  at a  very                                                               
substantial rate. That 4 to 10  percent loss of money is a direct                                                               
assessment back  to the insurance  companies that  write business                                                               
in our  state. They  must participate in  those losses,  known as                                                               
reinsurance.  That amount is  not charged back to a policyholder,                                                               
it is a direct obligation of the insurance company.                                                                             
SENATOR THERRIAULT  affirmed that amount makes  up the difference                                                               
and then asked Ms. Hall to review Section 6.                                                                                    
MS. HALL  said Section 6 pertains  to the net worth  exclusion so                                                               
that if an  employer's net worth is over $25  million, the system                                                               
would  not pay  the  claims  of the  insolvent  insurer for  that                                                               
CHAIR SEEKINS  commented that since the  state requires employers                                                               
to purchase  workers' compensation, the  assigned risk pool  is a                                                               
very valuable  asset to small companies  that may not be  able to                                                               
use a major carrier.                                                                                                            
SENATOR  THERRIAULT asked  Ms. Hall  if she  was speaking  to the                                                               
claims being paid out of the  Guaranty Fund, in regard to Section                                                               
MS. HALL said that is correct.                                                                                                  
SENATOR  THERRIAULT asked  if the  employers would  pay into  the                                                               
Guaranty  Fund, but  if there  was insolvency  and a  company had                                                               
substantial assets, that company would  still have to pick up its                                                               
individual company claims.                                                                                                      
MS. HALL replied:                                                                                                               
     Yes.  The only  way they  would pay  into the  Guaranty                                                                    
     Fund is  in a situation  where there is  an assessment,                                                                    
     which is certainly the case  today. We have assessments                                                                    
     that are passed back on  to that policyholder. But as I                                                                    
     said, in many  states, it's felt to be  the best public                                                                    
     policy. Those  employers in theory have  more financial                                                                    
     resources to take  back and be able to  fund the claims                                                                    
     -  the  workers'  compensation  obligations  for  their                                                                    
CHAIR SEEKINS  asked if  there is  a mechanism  in the  bill that                                                               
would allow  a company who is  subject to this risk  to avoid the                                                               
surcharge that would fund the Guaranty Fund.                                                                                    
MS. HALL said not as proposed.                                                                                                  
CHAIR SEEKINS surmised  that companies would have to  pay into it                                                               
as a part  of their premiums, but  would not be able  to reap the                                                               
MS. HALL said that is correct.                                                                                                  
CHAIR SEEKINS suggested the committee might address that.                                                                       
MR.  PAUL   LISANKIE,  Director  of  the   Division  of  Workers'                                                               
Compensation,  Department  of  Labor  and  Workforce  Development                                                               
(DOLWD), told  members he would  provide a brief overview  of the                                                               
major portions of  the bill as they would affect  the Division of                                                               
Workers'  Compensation and  the Workers'  Compensation Board  and                                                               
then answer questions.                                                                                                          
CHAIR SEEKINS interjected to announce  that he intends to hear an                                                               
introduction of the bill but  not take public testimony today. He                                                               
said  the Division  and other  folks are  working on  a committee                                                               
substitute to  address the concerns  that both sides have  had on                                                               
the issue. He believes  this is a high impact bill  and it is not                                                               
his  intention to  ignore the  entreaties  of both  sides of  the                                                               
matter.   He  intends to  move some  version of  the bill  out of                                                               
committee by the end of the next week.                                                                                          
MR. LISANKIE  noted that SB  311 has  four major areas  that will                                                               
impact  the  current  workers' compensation  program.  The  first                                                               
change would impact the current  cost of living provisions. Under                                                               
the  existing  program,  a  person  who is  injured  and  gets  a                                                               
workers'  compensation rate  established  and moves  to a  higher                                                               
cost area than  Alaska would get a higher  compensation rate than                                                               
an Alaskan  injured worker who  resides in Alaska. Under  SB 311,                                                               
the rate would be capped at the  Alaska rate so that no one would                                                               
get a higher rate than an Alaskan injured worker.                                                                               
The second important area of  change is with uninsured employers.                                                               
The Division  currently fines  employers that  do not  follow the                                                               
law  by properly  insuring against  their liability  for workers'                                                               
compensation  benefits. The  Division has  a limited  armament to                                                               
use against  employers. The Division  can shut the  business down                                                               
but, more often,  after detected the employer  will get insurance                                                               
so  cannot  be shut  down.  SB  311  will  give the  Division  an                                                               
accelerated procedure for imposing  civil fines against employers                                                               
who are working  without the required insurance. The  fine can be                                                               
up to $100 per day, per employee.  The intent is to make the fine                                                               
so repugnant that businesses will be sure to get coverage.                                                                      
MR.  LISANKIE said  the  third  change SB  311  will  make is  to                                                               
formally  establish a  Division of  Workers' Compensation  within                                                               
DOLWD.  The director  will be  required  to have  at least  three                                                               
years of  experience in the  field of workers'  compensation. The                                                               
formal  establishment  of a  division  will  provide for  a  firm                                                               
separation  between  the division  and  the  group that  resolves                                                               
disputes. The division and division  director will be responsible                                                               
for  investigations,  administering   the  workers'  compensation                                                               
system, and  attempting to informally resolve  potential disputes                                                               
about  benefits.  However, in  the  event  that all  attempts  to                                                               
resolve a  dispute fail and the  case has to be  adjudicated, the                                                               
case  would  go  to  a  separate entity.  The  hearing  before  a                                                               
separate  entity  should assure  the  parties  involved that  the                                                               
previous   attempts  and   players   will   not  foreshadow   the                                                               
adjudication. That same procedure is now used informally.                                                                       
MR. LISANKIE said one significant  change in the bill addresses a                                                               
problem the  division sees too  often. Some people are  unable to                                                               
get an  attorney if a dispute  is appealed. SB 311  will give the                                                               
division and  division director the opportunity,  in questions of                                                               
unsettled law,  to represent the  position of the  person without                                                               
an attorney.  That will  enable the  pro se  claimant to  be more                                                               
focused and prepared for the hearing.                                                                                           
SENATOR  THERRIAULT asked  if someone  within the  division would                                                               
help  the pro  se  claimant  to focus  on  the appropriate  legal                                                               
MR. LISANKIE said that is correct.                                                                                              
SENATOR  THERRIAULT questioned  whether  the  staff person  would                                                               
appear  at  the  appeal  hearing beside  the  claimant  as  legal                                                               
MR. LISANKIE  said the  staff person would  not be  legal counsel                                                               
but would be  involved in the proceeding. He  then continued with                                                               
the impacts  of SB 311  on the Division of  Workers' Compensation                                                               
and said the  fourth change pertains to how  the initial disputes                                                               
are heard  and resolved  and who  will hear  the appeals.  SB 311                                                               
proposes  to have  hearing officers  hear the  initial cases  and                                                               
that appeals  be heard  by a new  commission, named  the Workers'                                                               
Compensation  Appeals Commission,  which would  stand in  lieu of                                                               
the  Superior Court  appeals process.  The change  will create  a                                                               
more efficient,  consistent and predictable system  for decision-                                                               
making. Decisions  with precedent  value will  be made  sooner so                                                               
that the  period of uncertainty  about a  given point on  the law                                                               
will be shorter. He explained:                                                                                                  
     It  sometimes happens  now, for  a variety  of reasons,                                                                    
     that  the workers'  compensation  board can  be of  two                                                                    
     minds on an issue and until  it gets all the way to the                                                                    
     Supreme Court, right  now, you never know  which one of                                                                    
     those positions  is going to  be finally  considered to                                                                    
     be  the correct  one.  As you  go  through the  present                                                                    
     system into  the Superior Court  appeal, you can  get a                                                                    
     decision  from a  Superior  Court  judge [indisc.]  the                                                                    
     question  between   you  and  your  opponent   in  that                                                                    
     particular   dispute   but   it  doesn't   have   broad                                                                    
     precedential value  across the board for  anybody else.                                                                    
     What  this  bill  would  do   by  having  the  workers'                                                                    
     compensation  appeals  commission established  is  that                                                                    
     first  line   of  appeal  would  go   to  the  Workers'                                                                    
     Compensation  Appeal  Commission.  Those  commissioners                                                                    
     would  render  a  decision.   That  decision  would  be                                                                    
     published and would have  precedential value unless and                                                                    
     until it  was overturned  by the Alaska  Supreme Court,                                                                    
     which would continue  and be the final  arbiter of what                                                                    
     is and is  not the law in the State  of Alaska. So what                                                                    
     it  would  do  is  give   you  a  shortened  period  of                                                                    
     uncertainty so  that other parties  that had  read that                                                                    
     decision  could say  all  right, now  we  can base  our                                                                    
     decisions to pay  or not pay - I am  entitled, I am not                                                                    
     entitled  to  certain  benefits  and  they  could  move                                                                    
     forward from that  day on unless and  until the Supreme                                                                    
     Court gave other instructions.                                                                                             
SENATOR THERRIAULT  noted that although Mr.  Lisankie is claiming                                                               
that change will  create efficiency and consistency  early in the                                                               
process, one of the major  criticisms leveled at that approach is                                                               
the  expense. He  asked Mr.  Lisankie to  comment about  its cost                                                               
MR. LISANKIE agreed it is difficult  to quantify how much money a                                                               
system that makes findings decisions  more quickly will save. The                                                               
intention is  that if the  insurance company or the  employer and                                                               
employee  and their  representatives  have  greater certainty  in                                                               
what  their obligations  are, they  will be  able to  pay without                                                               
having to litigate, which will create cost savings. He added:                                                                   
     There would  also be, presumably,  cost savings  in the                                                                    
     many  claims  that  in the  current  environment  where                                                                    
     you're not certain what the  obligations to pay are and                                                                    
     what the  entitlements are -  most cases in  our system                                                                    
     never  go  to  litigation,  thank  goodness.  It  would                                                                    
     overwhelm  us. Most  of them  are  settled between  the                                                                    
     parties and  what goes into  the valuation of  how much                                                                    
     money changes  hands is what the  entitlements might be                                                                    
     construed  to   be,  what  the  liabilities   might  be                                                                    
     construed  to be.  So, if  there's less  in the  way of                                                                    
     uncertainty about what the benefits  are, and then more                                                                    
     benefits   can  be   paid  without   litigation,  fewer                                                                    
     benefits   will  have   to  go   into  litigation   and                                                                    
     ultimately  be settled.  With  money  changing hands  -                                                                    
     obviously  if that  settlement  is litigated,  somebody                                                                    
     would have  gotten more and somebody  would have gotten                                                                    
     less but  you're not precisely  sure who would  get how                                                                    
     much  more or  how much  less  and that  would be  some                                                                    
     savings  there. The  commission  itself is  not a  cost                                                                    
SENATOR THERRIAULT asked the projected cost of the commission.                                                                  
CHAIR SEEKINS estimated  the total cost to  be $750,[000] between                                                               
the division and  the courts. He noted the  court system's fiscal                                                               
note estimates the cost to be $200,000.                                                                                         
MR. LISANKIE  specified the DOLWD's  projected cost  is $556,000,                                                               
which includes some start-up costs that will not carry over.                                                                    
SENATOR THERRIAULT asked for an  explanation of the source of the                                                               
funding for the commission.                                                                                                     
MR. LISANKIE said  the workers' safety account is  comprised of a                                                               
portion of  the premiums paid  by the insurers that  insure their                                                               
liability and  an assessment  against the  self-insured employers                                                               
based on the amount of the total paid out benefits.                                                                             
8:40 a.m.                                                                                                                       
SENATOR  FRENCH thought  it  is important  to  remember that  the                                                               
proposed structure  of the appeals  commission will  be comprised                                                               
of six attorneys who will hold  hearings and who will be overseen                                                               
by three  appellate judges.  He suggested that  is a  fairly top-                                                               
heavy appeals  system.   He guessed there  are about  30 Superior                                                               
Court judges  statewide and five  Supreme Court justices  to hear                                                               
their appeals,  which amounts to  a 6:1 ratio. He  maintained the                                                               
2:1 ratio in SB 311 is inefficient.                                                                                             
SENATOR FRENCH  said his second  area of concern is  removing the                                                               
hearing officer  positions from classified service.  In the model                                                               
act, the hearing  officers remain in classified  service. He felt                                                               
this issue  is important because  the hearing officers  will have                                                               
to  make rulings  against their  very  employers, therefore  they                                                               
will need to have some measure of  cover to be able to make truly                                                               
independent decisions.                                                                                                          
SENATOR FRENCH asked, in regard  to the precedential weight being                                                               
given  to  the  appeals  commission, how  the  opinions  will  be                                                               
published  to be  sure everyone  appearing before  the commission                                                               
has access to those opinions.                                                                                                   
MR.  LISANKIE  said he  could  not  provide the  specifics  about                                                               
publication of the precedential opinions.                                                                                       
SENATOR FRENCH asked  if the specifics will be worked  out as the                                                               
project progresses.                                                                                                             
MR. LISANKIE said that is correct.                                                                                              
SENATOR FRENCH said  he is also concerned  about the commission's                                                               
standard of  review. SB  311 proposes a  de novo  review, meaning                                                               
the commission's review  will start afresh, so that  it will give                                                               
no deference to the facts given  by the hearing officer. He noted                                                               
that also strikes him as being inefficient.                                                                                     
CHAIR SEEKINS asked  Mr. Lisankie if the current  court review is                                                               
a de novo review.                                                                                                               
MR.  LISANKIE  said it  is  his  understanding that  the  current                                                               
review at  the superior  court level  is constrained,  meaning it                                                               
only measures  whether the fact  finder had  substantial evidence                                                               
to support his  or her fact finding. Therefore,  the court review                                                               
is not a de novo review.                                                                                                        
CHAIR  SEEKINS announced  that  he  would set  SB  311 aside  and                                                               
strongly  encouraged the  stakeholders to  work out  a bill  that                                                               
everyone involved finds acceptable.                                                                                             
SENATOR ELLIS requested that Chair  Seekins provide public notice                                                               
of a subsequent  hearing on SB 311 at least  one full working day                                                               
before to  provide adequate time  for everyone to review  the new                                                               
CHAIR  SEEKINS  said  it  has  never  been  his  policy  to  rush                                                               
legislation through the committee  and not allow members adequate                                                               
time to consider the legislation.                                                                                               
SENATOR ELLIS also  asked Chair Seekins to  publicly announce the                                                               
meeting   one   day   in  advance   so   that   participants   at                                                               
teleconference sites will be aware of an opportunity to testify.                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS said  his intent is to reschedule the  bill, not to                                                               
bring it  up unannounced  under bills  previously heard.  He then                                                               
     Although, our notice  - well I'll put it  this way, our                                                                    
     notice  on  intent to  reschedule  it  may be  required                                                                    
     depending on  how soon I  get it  to go outside  of the                                                                    
     normal  notice process  and still  hold  it under,  but                                                                    
     make  sure  that it's  published  to  that effect.  How                                                                    
     would that  be? Because if  these guys -  nobody should                                                                    
     think if  they - let me  tell you - nobody  is going to                                                                    
     procedurally  drag  their  feet  to  carry  this  thing                                                                    
     forward, okay?                                                                                                             
SENATOR ELLIS responded:                                                                                                        
     My concern is public notice.  We have the CS. Since the                                                                    
     CS   is   being   talked   about   Mr.   Chairman,   by                                                                    
     stakeholders, you  know, behind closed doors  or out in                                                                    
     the hallway  or wherever  - outside the  public process                                                                    
     here until it becomes a  committee CS presented by you,                                                                    
     my interest is in adequate  public notice so people can                                                                    
     testify and [indisc.] the CS.                                                                                              
CHAIR SEEKINS said  he has the same interest and  intends to give                                                               
plenty  of notice  so that  people will  have the  opportunity to                                                               
weigh in  and review the  proposed legislation before it  gets to                                                               
the committee.                                                                                                                  
          SB 345-LIABILITY FOR AIRPORTS AND AIRSTRIPS                                                                       
MR.  JOE  MICHEL,  legislative aide  to  Senator  Ralph  Seekins,                                                               
sponsor of  the measure, explained  that SB  345 is a  short bill                                                               
that  makes  one major  change  to  one  section of  statute.  It                                                               
removes the  word "natural" from  the phrase "a  natural person."                                                               
The  intent   of  [the  original  legislation]   was  to  provide                                                               
protection from  civil liability to  a natural person,  meaning a                                                               
human being, who clears or cleans  an airfield in a rural area to                                                               
prepare it for landing. According  to Black's Law Dictionary, the                                                               
definition of a natural person  is a human being as distinguished                                                               
from an artificial person created  by law. In contrast, a person,                                                               
as defined  in Alaska statute,  includes a  corporation, company,                                                               
partnership, firm,  association, organization, business  trust or                                                               
society,  as well  as  a  natural person.  SB  345 would  provide                                                               
liability  protection to  all types  of businesses,  corporations                                                               
and  organizations  that want  to  maintain  an airstrip  for  no                                                               
compensation. This  would not apply  to airports  or corporations                                                               
that charge for aircraft landings  on their runways. He noted the                                                               
Alaska Miners  Association endorses  SB 345  because a  number of                                                               
miners maintain airstrips to access their mines.                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS announced  that a  proposed committee  substitute,                                                               
version D, was before the committee.                                                                                            
SENATOR  THERRIAULT  moved to  adopt  version  D as  the  working                                                               
document before the committee.                                                                                                  
CHAIR  SEEKINS announced  that without  objection, version  D was                                                               
before the committee.                                                                                                           
SENATOR  OGAN  asked if  this  applies  only  to the  group  that                                                               
maintains the  airstrip, no matter who  owns the land and  how SB                                                               
345 would affect a runway on state land.                                                                                        
MR. MICHEL replied:                                                                                                             
     Yes, Senator  Ogan, that  was one  of the  changes that                                                                    
     provided  for the  new work  draft. In  Section B,  the                                                                    
     words that were taken out,  that said, 'that is located                                                                    
     on private  land' - and  the reason that was  taken out                                                                    
     was  the Alaska  Miners  Association  and other  people                                                                    
     expressed concerns  about the  mines up there  on state                                                                    
     lands that are  on 40-year land leases  and such things                                                                    
     like that.                                                                                                                 
SENATOR OGAN  questioned whether an airstrip  on state-owned land                                                               
could be closed by  putting an X on it, even  though it is public                                                               
MR. MICHEL referred  to Section B, and noted the  addition of "in                                                               
accordance with FAA  guidelines" because an X  can mean different                                                               
things depending  on the color,  etcetera, so this bill  will use                                                               
the FAA definitions of a closed airfield.                                                                                       
SENATOR OGAN asked  whether that will mean if an  airstrip has an                                                               
X on it that follows the FAA guidelines, no one else can use it.                                                                
MR. MICHEL replied,  "...Not so much that they can't  use it, but                                                               
as  a person  who owns  and  operates that  landing area,  that's                                                               
protecting them from civil liability.  It's a notification to the                                                               
pilot in the  air that, you know, this runway  is closed for some                                                               
SENATOR OGAN commented:                                                                                                         
     ...with an  X and I was  running out of fuel  and I was                                                                    
     lost and I'm  really lost but I just didn't  have a lot                                                                    
     of fuel to  - I needed to know the  quickest route back                                                                    
     and I land  on these guys' strip -  these miners' strip                                                                    
     that had an  X and they all came out  with their AR-15s                                                                    
     - [indisc.]  not be  happy about  me being  there. They                                                                    
     invited me  in for coffee  and I  never drank a  cup of                                                                    
     coffee in my life but when  a guy with an AR-15 offered                                                                    
     me  coffee, by  golly, I  drank coffee.  [Indisc.]. But                                                                    
     that  was on  a mining  claim and  that was,  you know,                                                                    
     they  own the  rights to  mine there  but it  was state                                                                    
     land and  there was an X  on the strip and  I've always                                                                    
     understood  that  the Xs  on  the  strips mean  it's  a                                                                    
     private runway and I guess  I don't see anything in the                                                                    
     pack that talks about what the FAA guidelines are.                                                                         
CHAIR  SEEKINS  said SB  345  will  make  it less  necessary  for                                                               
someone to put an X on a runway to preclude liability.                                                                          
MR. MICHEL furthered that a person  with a 40-year lease does not                                                               
own  the airstrip  and  is not  required  to place  an  X on  the                                                               
CHAIR  SEEKINS explained  that  someone  might put  an  X on  the                                                               
airstrip because  he or she knows  there is a good  reason to not                                                               
land on it, such as a ditch running across it.                                                                                  
TAPE 04-27, SIDE B                                                                                                            
CHAIR  SEEKINS summarized  that  SB 345  extends protection  from                                                               
liability from a natural person to  a LLC, a sub-S corporation, a                                                               
C corporation, or any other entity.                                                                                             
SENATOR FRENCH  asked if SB 345  would not apply to  a group that                                                               
charges the public or charges itself.                                                                                           
CHAIR SEEKINS clarified  that it would not apply to  a group that                                                               
charges a landing fee.                                                                                                          
SENATOR   FRENCH  expressed   curiosity  about   Section  B   and                                                               
questioned  how large  of an  expansion of  the doctrine  this is                                                               
since it  used to be  restricted to private  land but it  will no                                                               
longer be, under  SB 345.  He asked if  the Alyeska airstrips are                                                               
on private land.                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS  answered some are  on state-leased lands  and some                                                               
are on federal-leased lands. He added:                                                                                          
     I  mean  what  we're  doing here,  Senator  French,  is                                                                    
     basically saying that  you may not be  the runway owner                                                                    
     but  you may  have  authority to  have  that runway  in                                                                    
     place and,  as such, if  you construct it  and maintain                                                                    
     it, etcetera,  you have no  civil liability  if someone                                                                    
     else   lands   there   unless,   through   your   gross                                                                    
     negligence,  you  knew  that  there was  a  hazard  and                                                                    
     didn't mark it.                                                                                                            
SENATOR FRENCH  asked how many  runways will be affected  by this                                                               
CHAIR  SEEKINS  estimated  hundreds,   and  said  they  are  very                                                               
valuable to pilots. He noted  he has used unmarked, owner unknown                                                               
runways when he  needed to put his plane down  in bad weather. He                                                               
does not believe  the owner of that runway should  be held liable                                                               
for any damage  done to his airplane because, "a  bear dug a hole                                                               
that he didn't  know about in the middle of  the runway." That is                                                               
the case now  if the runway is on private  land and under private                                                               
SENATOR FRENCH  asked whether any  outrageous lawsuits  have ever                                                               
been filed against runway owners, as envisioned by the bill.                                                                    
MR.  MICHEL said  to his  knowledge, there  have only  been three                                                               
issues in the  state regarding some sort of lawsuit  in regard to                                                               
runways.  He pointed  out that  Representative Harris  introduced                                                               
the same legislation, HB 127, during the 22 legislature.                                                                        
CHAIR SEEKINS  said SB 345 is  not intended to reduce  the number                                                               
of lawsuits but was introduced to  provide for a safer Alaska for                                                               
pilots  who  may  need  to   land  and  who  would  otherwise  be                                                               
restricted from doing so because of potential liability.                                                                        
SENATOR FRENCH  asked how  an airstrip owner  would keep  a pilot                                                               
from using that airstrip in an emergency situation.                                                                             
CHAIR SEEKINS replied:                                                                                                          
     You can  still do  it but  what it  does is,  there are                                                                    
     times  when   private  owners  of  airstrips,   for  an                                                                    
     example, in  order to keep  from having  any liability,                                                                    
     will put  barrels in the  middle of their  runways, put                                                                    
     logs across the runways, mark  them to keep people from                                                                    
     being able to use them except  when they want to use it                                                                    
     and  remove   those  obstacles  because   of  potential                                                                    
     liability. There's no reason for them to do that now.                                                                      
SENATOR  FRENCH  asked if  those  owners  can still  close  their                                                               
CHAIR SEEKINS said they could.                                                                                                  
SENATOR OGAN questioned language in  Section 3 that reads, "if it                                                               
is  marked closed  by placing  a large  X on  the runway  and, if                                                               
listed or charted as designated as closed...."                                                                                  
CHAIR  SEEKINS said  the  owner  would notify  the  FAA that  the                                                               
runway is closed and then mark the runway.                                                                                      
SENATOR  OGAN indicated  that  a  pilot that  lands  on a  closed                                                               
runway is doing so at his or her own risk.                                                                                      
CHAIR SEEKINS  said the pilot  is also using  a runway at  his or                                                               
her own risk if the runway  is left open and maintained. He noted                                                               
that is a redundancy but it  will protect the owner after closing                                                               
the runway. He then took public testimony.                                                                                      
MR.  TOM  GEORGE, representing  the  Aircraft  Owners and  Pilots                                                               
Association  (AOPA),  said AOPA's  interest  is  in preserving  a                                                               
healthy aviation  industry in Alaska, which  includes backcountry                                                               
airstrips.  AOPA  supports SB  345,  which  broadens the  current                                                               
statute.  The primary  focus of  the  statute is  to protect  the                                                               
backcountry airstrips, which pilots rely  on for access to remote                                                               
locations   in  Alaska.   The   bill   will  protect   companies,                                                               
corporations,  and  organizations  that  devote  their  time  and                                                               
resources  to   maintain  airstrips  without   compensation.  The                                                               
current  statute  only  applies  to an  individual  person.  AOPA                                                               
believes it is necessary to  use the broader definition of person                                                               
to include  other entities.  The other changes  made in  the work                                                               
draft clarify  what activities and cases  this protection applies                                                               
to.  AOPA believes  this is  a  good step  toward protecting  the                                                               
airstrips that provide access primarily to public lands.                                                                        
In response to questions from  members, MR. GEORGE said the first                                                               
portion of  the bill will  provide protection from  liability for                                                               
people or  businesses that construct and  maintain airstrips. The                                                               
second portion of the statute  says that protection will continue                                                               
if  an  owner needs  to  close  the  airstrip  and does  so  with                                                               
specific markings  and notification  for the purpose  of updating                                                               
charts and records. That second  section provides protection from                                                               
limited liability  only to  private land.  AOPA believes  that to                                                               
provide  an incentive  to keep  airstrips  open, that  protection                                                               
should extend to  airstrips on public land.  The landowner, often                                                               
the  state, and  the  operator  should discuss  the  issue as  to                                                               
whether those  airstrips on  public land are  open or  closed. SB                                                               
345 does  not take  a stand  on that,  it only  says if  an owner                                                               
properly  notices  the  closure, protection  would  continue.  He                                                               
offered  to  answer questions  and  thanked  Senator Seekins  for                                                               
sponsoring the bill.                                                                                                            
MR. FELIX  MCGUIRE, representing the Alaska  Airmen's Association                                                               
(AAA),  told  members  the  AAA  supports  SB  345,  particularly                                                               
because the AAA has been  unable to improve backcountry airstrips                                                               
because of the liability problem.                                                                                               
With  no  further  participants,   CHAIR  SEEKINS  closed  public                                                               
SENATOR OGAN  moved CSSB 345(JUD) from  committee with individual                                                               
recommendations and its zero fiscal  note. Without objection, the                                                               
motion carried. He then announced a three-minute recess.                                                                        
           SB 308-DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROTECTIVE ORDERS                                                                       
SENATOR  HOLLIS FRENCH,  sponsor of  SB 308,  explained that  the                                                               
measure does one thing: it doubles  the length of time of a long-                                                               
term protective order from six months  to one year. He noted that                                                               
short-term, ex  parte orders allow  a person  to go to  court and                                                               
get  an  order  without  the other  party  appearing.  Those  are                                                               
referred to  as 20-day orders  or short-term orders; SB  308 will                                                               
not affect them.  SB 308 deals with  long-term protective orders,                                                               
the  difference being  that long-term  protective orders  require                                                               
that the respondent  be notified in person of the  hearing and be                                                               
allowed to respond at the hearing.                                                                                              
He believes it  is a good idea  to expand the length  of time for                                                               
two reasons.  First, it  will save money.  The court  system must                                                               
frequently  renew  orders,  which   requires  serving  notice,  a                                                               
hearing before a  judge and paperwork. The second  reason is that                                                               
it will avoid putting two parties  who do not want to be together                                                               
in contact. He  said that Alaska continues to  struggle with high                                                               
rates  of domestic  violence. Extending  the length  of the  six-                                                               
month  order  will address  that  problem.  Currently, only  five                                                               
states  have  shorter  terms for  domestic  violence  restraining                                                               
orders; the vast majority of  states give judges the authority to                                                               
impose restraining  orders of  up to  one-year length,  which has                                                               
been shown to have a positive effect on repeat offenses.                                                                        
CHAIR  SEEKINS asked  what percentage  of restraining  orders are                                                               
renewed under the current system.                                                                                               
SENATOR  FRENCH said  the numbers  he got  from the  Court System                                                               
indicate  that as  of  June  30, 2003,  the  registry had  32,586                                                               
orders.  About 1,000  of those  were active,  which has  been the                                                               
norm  for several  years. He  provided  a few  examples from  the                                                               
Court System.   One respondent had nine orders filed  by the same                                                               
petitioner with two  ex parte so the petitioner had  gone back to                                                               
court for  3.5 years.  Another respondent had  19 entries  in the                                                               
registry filed  by two related  individuals, presumably  a mother                                                               
and a  daughter. He surmised  that the current system  works well                                                               
for the  majority of  people but a  narrow category  involves bad                                                               
actors. In  those situations, the petitioner  must continually go                                                               
back to  court because  of lingering  issues on  the part  of the                                                               
CHAIR  SEEKINS  asked if  the  same  incentive to  reconcile  the                                                               
domestic unit  based on  a six-month  restraining order  would be                                                               
there with a 12-month restraining order.                                                                                        
SENATOR FRENCH replied  the cycle of domestic  violence is fairly                                                               
complicated but  fairly predictable.  Usually it involves  a slow                                                               
build-up of  tension until an explosion  occurs. Typically, after                                                               
the violent episode,  the couple reunites in  a "honeymoon" phase                                                               
but in  general, the  underlying issue has  not been  resolved so                                                               
the cycle repeats itself with  the blow-ups getting worse. SB 308                                                               
would interrupt the cycle for a greater length of time.                                                                         
CHAIR SEEKINS asked  Senator French to compare  Alaska statute to                                                               
other states' statutes.                                                                                                         
SENATOR  FRENCH explained  that most  other states  have extended                                                               
the length  of time of  orders to  one-year or longer.  Alaska is                                                               
only one of five states with  restraining orders of six months or                                                               
less.  He believes  the longer  time frame  is due  to a  growing                                                               
awareness on society's part about  the long term negative effects                                                               
of domestic  violence and the  length of time necessary  to break                                                               
the cycle.                                                                                                                      
CHAIR SEEKINS noted the many  discussions in the Capitol Building                                                               
over the past few weeks on  the effects of alcohol and drug abuse                                                               
in terms  of the court  system's caseload  and the burden  put on                                                               
law enforcement agencies and  court-appointed attorneys. He asked                                                               
Senator  French if  he  had any  statistics  on the  relationship                                                               
between alcohol and drug abuse and domestic violence.                                                                           
SENATOR FRENCH said he did not  have any hard statistics, but his                                                               
personal observations as a district  attorney lead him to believe                                                               
that a solid 70  to 80 percent of all crime  is driven by alcohol                                                               
abuse, including domestic violence.                                                                                             
SENATOR  OGAN recalled  that  he  has heard  that  80 percent  of                                                               
people serving  jail sentences  are in  prison because  of crimes                                                               
committed while under the influence of alcohol.                                                                                 
CHAIR  SEEKINS  said he  has  been  told  by social  workers  and                                                               
attorneys  that a  huge number  of domestic  violence proceedings                                                               
can be  traced to alcohol or  drug abuse. There being  no further                                                               
questions of Senator French, Chair Seekins took public                                                                          
MR. JAMES F. DIERINGER III, representing himself, told members                                                                  
he took personal leave from work to tell his story today. He                                                                    
     I am  that 10 to  15 percent of  the men who  have been                                                                    
     abused by this system and  my domestic violence has not                                                                    
     been related  to alcohol;  it has  been [indisc.]  as a                                                                    
     tool to gain custody,  child support, possession of the                                                                    
     home, those kinds of things.                                                                                               
     I'm a  financial consultant  and I  worked as  a banker                                                                    
     and  I  own a  collection  agency  in Fairbanks  and  I                                                                    
     repossess   cars   so    automatically   I'm   probably                                                                    
     considered  a  crazy   person.  I  wouldn't  categorize                                                                    
     myself  as  a  violent  person  but  as  an  aggressive                                                                    
     person. I  don't commit acts  of domestic  violence yet                                                                    
     I've had five DVROs issued against me.                                                                                     
     I'm  kind of  embarrassed to  be here  today. I'm  very                                                                    
     nervous to  be here. I  was here  six years ago  when I                                                                    
     heard testimony  in Senate Finance  about strengthening                                                                    
     the law,  making it  more liberal  to get  these orders                                                                    
     without going  back on probable cause.  I didn't really                                                                    
     listen at  the time because  it didn't affect me  and I                                                                    
     heard guys  come in and  tell me hey, I've  been caught                                                                    
     in  this web.  It's been  used  against me  as an  evil                                                                    
     tool. It's been abused against  me and I was hoping the                                                                    
     committee would  consider that six months  is more than                                                                    
     sufficient  and it  does drive  a wedge  in the  family                                                                    
     life,  the  children,  trying  to  get  back  together.                                                                    
     You're not  allowed to talk  at all for six  months and                                                                    
     you have to talk through  your attorney at 200 bucks an                                                                    
     hour. In  the first 30 days  it cost me $16,000  to try                                                                    
     to communicate.                                                                                                            
     I don't think a DVRO is  going to stop a predator. Like                                                                    
     you said before,  it's a piece of paper  and it doesn't                                                                    
     stop the  real violent folks  that are going to  go out                                                                    
     and commit acts of domestic violence.                                                                                      
     Mine  started  in 1998.  My  ex-wife  and I  have  been                                                                    
     together  since  we  were  15  years  old  and  we  got                                                                    
     divorced after 22 years. It  started our divorce. I had                                                                    
     no idea  what it was. It  was served on me  and she got                                                                    
     temporary   possession  of   the  children,   temporary                                                                    
     possession of  the house,  temporary child  support. It                                                                    
     kept me away  from school and set a  nasty precedent to                                                                    
     when  I finally  got  to my  divorce  trial, there  had                                                                    
     already been  a six, seven-month precedent  set. And it                                                                    
     was assumed that  maybe that was a good  set-up. It was                                                                    
     not a  good set-up. It automatically  gets converted to                                                                    
     a six-month  - yes, you  do get  notice and you  get to                                                                    
     have your day  in court and the judge tells  you that I                                                                    
     shall  issue   this  order  because  that's   what  the                                                                    
     legislation - the  current law says - I  shall issue an                                                                    
     order. And I've  had all of them issued  against me and                                                                    
     I've  had every  one of  them dismissed.  They've never                                                                    
     gone the  full length of duration  because my ex-wife's                                                                    
     either realized  it wasn't fair  [or] she got  what she                                                                    
     wanted  and then  she dismissed  it  because she  wants                                                                    
     help raising the children.                                                                                                 
     Twelve  months  is  too  long.  You're  always  on  the                                                                    
     defensive.  I heard  Senator French  refer  today -  he                                                                    
     speaks of females and her  life and then he talks about                                                                    
     he  and him  as the  person that's  getting served.  It                                                                    
     probably  is  80  percent, that's  probably  the  case.                                                                    
     There  are  some  of  us guys  out  there  that  aren't                                                                    
     violent. We get  abused in this system. And  this is an                                                                    
     evil  tool  used  by divorce  attorneys  to  start  the                                                                    
     divorce and  to get  the upper hand.  And I've  seen it                                                                    
     first hand where I've even  told some of my friends you                                                                    
     need to go get your  restraining order first before you                                                                    
     file your  divorce, get the  upper hand, and  I've seen                                                                    
     first-hand  those  two  gentlemen doing  very  well  in                                                                    
     their divorce.                                                                                                             
     I  did  very poorly  in  my  trial.  I've been  on  the                                                                    
     defense  for four  years. I've  had restraining  orders                                                                    
     filed   on  me   everyday  on   Wednesday  before   the                                                                    
     basketball tournament starts in  Fairbanks and then the                                                                    
     shootout the next  week. My ex-wife does  it on purpose                                                                    
     and then she shows up  at the basketball games when I'm                                                                    
     there  with my  family and  friends and  calls 911  and                                                                    
     says  he's stalking  me  and  I have  to  leave if  the                                                                    
     police feel  like asking me  to leave. They  can always                                                                    
     come and  arrest me and throw  me in jail for  20 days.                                                                    
     I'm extremely  concerned about that happening  to me. I                                                                    
     respect  the orders  when they're  served on  me yet  I                                                                    
     feel  there's a  tremendous  amount of  abuse on  these                                                                    
     things. She goes in and  she checks no guns, no contact                                                                    
     at school, no alcohol,  no controlled substance. I mean                                                                    
     I have a business  that requires bonding and insurance.                                                                    
     I  have a  background  check and  a  criminal check  in                                                                    
     order to be a collector and  if I were to get convicted                                                                    
     or  break  the  restraining   order  I  would  lose  my                                                                    
     business or I could lose my bonding.                                                                                       
     There  needs to  be some  sort of  penalties for  women                                                                    
     that do abuse  this and there are some  now - probably,                                                                    
     and  I really  don't know  the statistics,  probably 85                                                                    
     percent of these are good  and they're needed but there                                                                    
     are some  folks out  there that  are getting  caught in                                                                    
     the web. She does the  same thing at the movie theater,                                                                    
     the grocery store. I'll be  in shopping and she'll call                                                                    
     911 and  the police will come  and ask me to  leave the                                                                    
     grocery store. She does it on purpose.                                                                                     
     I  have  no criminal  history.  I  have no  record,  no                                                                    
     convictions,  yet I've  been on  the  defense for  four                                                                    
     years. And this  year was so bad that she  did it again                                                                    
     on me on  Wednesday. She was supposed to show  up for a                                                                    
     six-month hearing. It was on  a Monday morning at 8 and                                                                    
     she was  sleepy and she  forgot to  show up. I  mean if                                                                    
     somebody interfered  with their life, they  would be at                                                                    
     that six-month  hearing. It  was dismissed.  Three days                                                                    
     later she filed  another DVRO because she  forgot to go                                                                    
     to her long-term hearing and  they gave her another one                                                                    
     simultaneously  with the  other  one  still having  two                                                                    
     days to  go in it.  When it  expired on Friday,  I then                                                                    
     had 18 more days to  go to another long-term hearing. I                                                                    
     missed coming down to Juneau  because I had to stay for                                                                    
     the long-term hearing and get it dismissed.                                                                                
     Judge Closuit  is the  lady who  gives them  against me                                                                    
     every time and this last  time I finally asked her what                                                                    
     does  a guy  like me  do to  protect himself.  I go  to                                                                    
     apply for  employment. People look  it up,  see there's                                                                    
     four or five  DVROs. I might not get a  good job that I                                                                    
     deserve. She  told me  that the  law says  'shall issue                                                                    
     anytime' and she said, 'Mr.  Dieringer, if you're going                                                                    
     to  come into  my  courtroom, I'm  going  to issue  one                                                                    
     against you  no matter  what. There is  probable cause.                                                                    
     There's been issues  before and you are going  to get a                                                                    
     DVRO  issued against  you so,  unless you  go down  and                                                                    
     talk to your  legislator or you change  the law, that's                                                                    
     the way it  is.' So, I can't change the  law. All I can                                                                    
     do is tell you my side of the story and hope that you                                                                      
     consider it and that's just what I have to say.                                                                            
9:30 a.m.                                                                                                                       
SENATOR  OGAN  admired  Mr.  Dieringer's  courage  for  appearing                                                               
before  the committee.  He said  he  has heard  of other  similar                                                               
cases in  which one parent uses  such tactics to build  a case in                                                               
custody  disputes. He  said one  of the  nastiest things  he gets                                                               
involved in  [as a  legislator] are custody  disputes and  he has                                                               
heard that  a number of  male groups have organized  around these                                                               
same concerns.  He noted  if the  committee leaves  the six-month                                                               
order in place, Mr. Dieringer's problem will not be resolved.                                                                   
MR. DIERINGER suggested the committee  look at probable cause and                                                               
require  the judge  to look  at  recent probable  cause, not  the                                                               
initial complaint  that started  a restraining order  cycle years                                                               
before.  He  added that  a  judge  can  look  back 20  years  for                                                               
probable cause. He felt the  petitioner should have to prove that                                                               
a recent  act of domestic  violence occurred. He then  added that                                                               
harassment should be  looked at because he has  had a restraining                                                               
order  issued  for harassment  because  he  called his  [ex-wife]                                                               
asking for  tax records. He felt  a good starting point  would be                                                               
to make it more difficult to get the first 20-day order.                                                                        
SENATOR OGAN said he can see  some value in allowing the ex parte                                                               
order, so  that one person  can get one  to remain safe.  He then                                                               
asked if a restraining order affects one's right to own a gun.                                                                  
MR. DIERINGER said  it does if the judge issues  it, and that his                                                               
wife checks  it every time. If  he violates that order,  he would                                                               
get 20 days in jail and loss of gun privileges for 5 years.                                                                     
SENATOR  OGAN  noted that  women  have  been killed  because  the                                                               
response was insufficient  and a piece of paper  may discourage a                                                               
rational person  from doing something  bad but  domestic violence                                                               
situations  are usually  not rational.  He suggested  raising the                                                               
standard of evidence for the longer term restraining orders.                                                                    
CHAIR SEEKINS  said he  has heard  that divorce  attorneys advise                                                               
clients to  be the first one  to file for a  restraining order to                                                               
get the upper hand  in the divorce. He said he  does not know how                                                               
to  correct that  abuse without  affecting  the innocent  parties                                                               
that  need protection.  He said  he  understands Mr.  Dieringer's                                                               
concerns but  asked what adverse  conditions would be  created by                                                               
the longer timeframe in SB 308.                                                                                                 
MR.  DIERINGER said  it would  affect his  relationship with  his                                                               
children. He  noted he usually does  not want to talk  to his ex-                                                               
wife but has to for the  purpose of getting tax returns to modify                                                               
child  support  or  to  get  educational  information  about  his                                                               
children. During the six-month period,  he is not allowed to talk                                                               
to  his  ex-wife  about  his   children's  discipline  or  school                                                               
progress.  He cannot  go to  parent-teacher conferences  with his                                                               
ex-wife. He  believes a  whole year  would drive  a wedge  in his                                                               
relationship with his children.                                                                                                 
CHAIR SEEKINS  asked Mr. Dieringer  if he has been  successful in                                                               
getting  the restraining  orders  dismissed and  to describe  the                                                               
MR. DIERINGER  said he has.  Either his  wife agrees to  drop the                                                               
order after  20 days or  his wife realizes  she needs to  talk to                                                               
him about something so she  dismisses the order. He admitted that                                                               
he  has  abused the  system  by  simultaneously filing  an  order                                                               
against her as he believes it is  the only thing he can do to get                                                               
on  an even  playing field.  If his  wife violates  the order  by                                                               
contacting him,  the police tell  him to  grow up. If  she calls,                                                               
the police come to arrest him.                                                                                                  
CHAIR SEEKINS thanked Mr. Dieringer and called Ms. Brink.                                                                       
MS.  BARBARA  BRINK,  Director  of  the  Alaska  Public  Defender                                                               
Agency, said  she shares some  of Mr. Dieringer's  concerns about                                                               
SB 308. The bill, somewhat  paternalistically, requires the court                                                               
to order the  restraining order for one year, however,  a lot can                                                               
happen in one  year. Often families are able  to conquer domestic                                                               
violence  with  the  use  of counseling  and  treatment  and  are                                                               
successfully  reunited.  She  pointed   out  that  last  year  in                                                               
Anchorage, the  court issued  about 1,758 ex  parte orders  - the                                                               
20-day orders. Of those, only  44 percent of the people requested                                                               
a six-month  order. No one knows  why. She told members  she is a                                                               
member of  a Supreme  Court committee  that is  studying domestic                                                               
violence and court processes. One  of the group's recommendations                                                               
to the  Supreme Court will be  that the court follow-up  and find                                                               
out  why so  few  people  who got  20-day  orders  got six  month                                                               
orders.  She  said  the  Public  Defender  Agency  certainly  has                                                               
concern for  people who must go  back to court repeatedly  to get                                                               
restraining orders but  the current system works  pretty well for                                                               
the bulk of the people.                                                                                                         
MS. BRINK  noted that circumstances are  constantly changing even                                                               
under the  20-day restraining  order. Out of  the 1,758  ex parte                                                               
orders   issued  in   Anchorage   last  year,   there  were   520                                                               
modifications  within  that  20-day  period.  She  surmised  that                                                               
cooling off periods  range greatly and she fears SB  308 will not                                                               
save money  but will  force a petitioner  to have  more hearings.                                                               
She then  noted when a  petitioner gets a restraining  order, the                                                               
petitioner is free  to contact the respondent.  If the respondent                                                               
does  not   immediately  extricate   him  or  herself   from  the                                                               
situation, the respondent can immediately be charged.                                                                           
MS. BRINK  told members that  about 80 percent of  the violations                                                               
of orders  happen within  the 20-day order,  while only  about 20                                                               
percent  happen  in  the  six-month  order.  She  cautioned  that                                                               
statistic  encompasses Anchorage  only.  In many  of the  smaller                                                               
communities, it  is very,  very difficult  for someone  to comply                                                               
with a  no contact order.   The  state does not  have information                                                               
about where  in the life  of the six-month order  violations take                                                               
place.  She suggested  drafting a  more particularized  amendment                                                               
giving the  judge discretion to  extend the order  in appropriate                                                               
cases but she  does not believe it  is a good idea  to extend the                                                               
orders in every single case.                                                                                                    
SENATOR THERRIAULT  asked Ms. Brink  to elaborate on  the Supreme                                                               
Court group that she is working with.                                                                                           
MS. BRINK  said she  is a  member of  the Supreme  Court domestic                                                               
violence committee, which has been  meeting for approximately two                                                               
years. The standing masters who  are usually in charge of issuing                                                               
restraining  orders run  the committee.  Other members  include a                                                               
Superior  Court judge,  a Department  of  Law representative,  an                                                               
Anchorage  Police  Department  representative,  a  representative                                                               
from the  Office of Children's'  Services, and  victims advocates                                                               
from  AWAKE,  STAR,  the  Women's Resource  Center,  as  well  as                                                               
representatives  from Alaska  Legal Services,  the Alaska  Native                                                               
Justice Center, and  the Council on Domestic  Violence. She noted                                                               
the committee is close to finalizing  its report to the court and                                                               
estimated  its  completion  in three  months.  The  court  system                                                               
members are Jennifer Wells and Suzanne Cole.                                                                                    
SENATOR THERRIAULT asked if the  committee has actively discussed                                                               
the issue of orders.                                                                                                            
MS. BRINK said it has.                                                                                                          
SENATOR FRENCH asked Ms. Brink if  her objections to SB 308 would                                                               
change if  it was changed to  say the provisions of  this section                                                               
are effective  for a minimum  of six months  and up to  one year,                                                               
unless earlier dissolved by court order.                                                                                        
MS. BRINK  thought that would  be a large improvement  because it                                                               
gives  the  judge discretion  and  does  not make  the  extension                                                               
SENATOR THERRIAULT  asked how that  would be applied  and whether                                                               
the judges would be likely to default to the maximum.                                                                           
MS. BRINK said  she does not know and, as  a public defender, the                                                               
only contact she  has with a domestic  violence restraining order                                                               
occurs when someone is accused  of violating the order. She added                                                               
that as Mr. Dieringer pointed  out, the default position is often                                                               
to continue the temporary restraining order.                                                                                    
There being  no further  questions for  Ms. Brink,  CHAIR SEEKINS                                                               
asked Ms. Hugonin to testify.                                                                                                   
MS.  LAURI  HUGONIN,  Alaska Network  on  Domestic  Violence  and                                                               
Sexual Assault, stated  support for SB 308  because the extension                                                               
will provide  an opportunity to  decrease access to  victims. She                                                               
felt people  can hear  the extreme  cases on  both sides  of this                                                               
issue  and  don't  want  either  to be  used  to  determine  most                                                               
people's  experience  with  protective  orders.  She  distributed                                                               
copies of  the petitions and noted  they are very detailed.   She                                                               
     To have that  order crafted well and then  to have both                                                                    
     parties abide by that order,  a year in length wouldn't                                                                    
     necessarily  mean that  if  there  were changes  during                                                                    
     that length  of time,  then either party  couldn't come                                                                    
     back and ask for a  modification. They could. In one of                                                                    
     Ms. Brink's  references, that maybe such  a long period                                                                    
     of time, things will have changed, ...[END OF TAPE]                                                                        
TAPE 04-28, SIDE A                                                                                                            
MS. HUGONIN continued:                                                                                                          
     ...back to the judge and  asked for that. But, having a                                                                    
     year, I  think, gives  people time  to sort  out what's                                                                    
     going to be  going on. It gives victims  a better sense                                                                    
     of security  if the perpetrator  is going to  take that                                                                    
     order  seriously. I  think you  find out  sooner rather                                                                    
     than later. I understand  we don't have hard statistics                                                                    
     that say at  what point during the  protective order it                                                                    
     might be  violated. I would  tend to think it  would be                                                                    
     more  toward  the  beginning  of  the  order  when  the                                                                    
     perpetrator is still trying to  maintain that power and                                                                    
     control instead  after months of  it going by  and they                                                                    
     found a way to maintain that separate situation.                                                                           
     I guess I  would like to reiterate  what Senator French                                                                    
     said,  in that  41  states  have a  year  or longer  in                                                                    
     protective orders. Eighteen of  them are one year, four                                                                    
     have  no  time limit,  and  the  rest are  anywhere  in                                                                    
     between  18 and  5  years. Alaska,  at  six months,  is                                                                    
     really on  the more  narrow, conservative short  end of                                                                    
     this kind of protection for victims.                                                                                       
     There  [were]  about  6,000 filings  last  year.  About                                                                    
     3,000 of them  were in Anchorage. A little  over 600 of                                                                    
     them were in Fairbanks. A  little over 500 of them were                                                                    
     in Palmer.  It certainly  affects folks all  across the                                                                    
     state.  I did  want  to just  briefly  mention the  gun                                                                    
     issue. Protective  orders don't just take  away guns if                                                                    
     you're  in  possession  of  them. You  have  to  be  in                                                                    
     possession  of  them  while  you  were  committing  the                                                                    
     domestic violence. Both  the sixth [indisc.] provision,                                                                    
     it  says,   prohibit  the   respondent  for   using  or                                                                    
     possessing  a  deadly weapon  if  the  court finds  the                                                                    
     respondent was in  the actual possession of,  or used a                                                                    
     weapon, during the commission of domestic violence.                                                                        
     And number  seven, direct  the respondent  to surrender                                                                    
     any  firearm owned  or possessed  by the  respondent if                                                                    
     the court finds  that the respondent was  in the actual                                                                    
     possession of  or used a firearm  during the commission                                                                    
     of  domestic  violence. It's  not  just  that you  have                                                                    
     access to  guns or  that you have  guns, it's  that you                                                                    
     actually  had them  with you  when you  were committing                                                                    
     the domestic violence.                                                                                                     
     We also  hear stories  that are egregious  about misuse                                                                    
     of protective  orders. We don't condone  that. We think                                                                    
     it's unfortunate  that people choose to  take something                                                                    
     that's supposed to be a  lifesaving measure to increase                                                                    
     safety of victims  of these crimes and use  it for some                                                                    
     other purpose.  We think  that's wrong  and unfortunate                                                                    
     that that  happens. And it  would be nice if  there was                                                                    
     some  way to  hold  attorneys  accountable if,  indeed,                                                                    
     they  are  just  trying  to   have  this  race  to  the                                                                    
     courthouse to  have their  person be one  step up  in a                                                                    
     divorce.  That is  not  what these  orders  are for.  I                                                                    
     don't think  that's what they're used  for primarily or                                                                    
     most  often  and, you  know,  if  there  was a  way  to                                                                    
     penalize people for doing that we'd certainly support                                                                      
     looking into what that could be.                                                                                           
CHAIR SEEKINS indicated that he  knows Judge Closuit and will ask                                                               
her  opinion on  this issue.  He felt  it is  important to  get a                                                               
recommendation from someone who deals  with this on a daily basis                                                               
and whether she would like to have some leeway in the process.                                                                  
SENATOR  FRENCH thought  that Judge  Closuit  may be  constrained                                                               
from giving an opinion on pending legislation.                                                                                  
CHAIR SEEKINS  said that may  be the case  but if not,  he trusts                                                               
her to give a straightforward opinion.                                                                                          
SENATOR OGAN  said he has  concerns about the effect  on children                                                               
when they are cut off from  a parent because of custody disputes.                                                               
He said  he worries about  cutting a parent  off from his  or her                                                               
children for one year or having  to involve a third party to make                                                               
visitation arrangements.                                                                                                        
CHAIR SEEKINS said  he would carry the bill over  to another date                                                               
to provide time for further discussion.                                                                                         
           HB 230-POLITICAL SIGNS ON PRIVATE PROPERTY                                                                       
MR.  TODD LARKIN,  staff to  Representative Holm,  sponsor of  HB                                                               
230, told members  that in the state's zeal to  hold onto federal                                                               
funds,  it  has set  restrictions  on  free speech,  specifically                                                               
political free  speech in the  form of signage.  After conferring                                                               
with  the Federal  Highways  Administration, Representative  Holm                                                               
believes the state  has gone farther than  necessary. The current                                                               
restriction  in  Alaska took  the  form  of the  federal  highway                                                               
beautification  act,  which  requires an  advertising  free  zone                                                               
between a  roadway right-of-way  and 660  feet. He  suggested the                                                               
state  could   make  some   exceptions,  especially   on  private                                                               
property,  without  endangering  federal highway  funds.  HB  230                                                               
would  allow   the  Department   of  Transportation   and  Public                                                               
Facilities  (DOTPF)  to  allow  landowners  to  advocate  for  or                                                               
against  political  candidates or  issues  but  not to  advertise                                                               
CHAIR  SEEKINS  announced  he  would carry  HB  230  forward  and                                                               
schedule it expeditiously. He then  adjourned the meeting at 9:56                                                               

Document Name Date/Time Subjects