Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/02/1995 03:37 PM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE February 2, 1995 3:37 p.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Senator Bert Sharp, Chairman Senator Randy Phillips, Vice-Chairman Senator Loren Leman Senator Dave Donley MEMBERS ABSENT Senator Jim Duncan COMMITTEE CALENDAR SENATE BILL NO. 6 "An Act relating to registration of a motor vehicle and suspension of a driver's license for failure to appear in court or failure to pay a fine." SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 4 Naming the Poet Laureate of Alaska. SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION 11 Proposing amendments to the Constitution of the State of Alaska relating to terms of legislators. SENATE BILL 37 "An Act relating to treatment of permanent fund dividends for purposes of determining eligibility for certain benefits; and providing for an effective date." SSTA - 2/2/95 SB 40 (APPROP: AHFC TO GENERAL FUND) was scheduled but not taken up at this date. SSTA - 2/2/95 SCR 3 (LONG RANGE FINANCIAL PLANNING COMMISSION) was scheduled but not taken up at this date. PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION SB 6 - No previous senate committee action. SCR 4 - No previous senate committee action. SJR 11 - No previous senate committee action. SB 37 - No previous senate committee action. SB 40 - No previous senate committee action. SCR 3 - See State Affairs committee minutes for 1/26/95. WITNESS REGISTER Senator Robin Taylor State Capitol, Juneau, Alaska, 99801-1182¶465-3873 POSITION STATEMENT: prime sponsor of SB 6 First Sergeant Joe D'Amico Alaska State Troopers, Department of Public Safety Anchorage, AK ¶269-5412 POSITION STATEMENT: was available to answer questions regarding SB 6 Juanita Hensley, Chief, Driver Services Div. of Motor Vehicles, Dept of Public Safety P.O. Box 20020, Juneau, AK 99811-0020¶463-5860 POSITION STATEMENT: testified on SB 6 Josh Fink, Aide to Senator Kelly State Capitol, Juneau, Alaska, 99801-1182¶465-3822 POSITION STATEMENT: prime sponsor of SJR 11 Elmer Lindstrom, Special Assistant to the Commissioner Department of Health & Social Services P.O. Box 110601, Juneau, AK 99811-0601¶465-3030 POSITION STATEMENT: opposed to SB 37 Rupe Andrews American Association of Retired Persons 9750 Third Ave. NW, Seattle, WA 98125¶789-7422 POSITION STATEMENT: opposed to SB 37 Sherrie Markin Goll, Alaska Women's Lobby, Kidpac P.O. Box 22156, Juneau, AK 99802¶463-6744 POSITION STATEMENT: opposed to SB 37 ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 95-2, SIDE A ssta - 2/2/95 SB 6 LICENSING/REGISTRATION SUSPENSION/DENIAL Number 001 CHAIRMAN SHARP calls the Senate State Affairs Committee to order at 3:36 p.m. and brings up SB 6 as the first order of business. The chairman calls the first witness. Number 022 SENATOR TAYLOR, prime sponsor of SB 6, relays information contained in his sponsor statement. Senator Taylor thinks SB 6 will increase revenue to the state because it is an impetus for people to pay outstanding fines. CHAIRMAN SHARP notes that Juanita Hensley and Joe D'Amico, both from the Department of Public Safety, are available to answer questions. Number 083 SENATOR DONLEY asks if the administration has a position on SB 6. Number 088 JUANITA HENSLEY, Chief, Driver Services, Div. of Motor Vehicles, Dept. of Public Safety (DPS), says she is present to testify on the technical affect SB 6 would have on DPS and how SB 6 would be administered. She guesses that the administration would be neutral on this legislation at this time. CHAIRMAN SHARP asks Ms. Hensley if it would be "do-able" to pick these fines off the computer at the time of re-registration. Number 105 MS. HENSLEY replies SB 6 would allow the court system to suspend a person's driver's license for failure to appear in court to pay a moving violation. Also, for those communities that have parking offenses, an electronic update of the vehicle record could be placed by the municipality on the offender's motor vehicle file. Before DPS would register a vehicle, DPS would require the registrant to show proof of having paid their parking and traffic fines. This bill does allow, and would require, a reinstatement fee upon reissuance of driver's licenses. So that would be a revenue generator for the state. Number 123 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS makes a motion to discharge SB 6 from the Senate State Affairs Committee with individual recommendations. CHAIRMAN SHARP, hearing no objection, orders SB 6 released from committee with individual recommendations. SSTA - 2/2/95 SCR 4 POET LAUREATE OF ALASKA Number 135 SENATOR SHARP brings up SCR 4 as the next order of business before the Senate State Affairs Committee and calls the first witness. Number 139 SENATOR LEMAN, prime sponsor of SCR 4, relays information contained in his sponsor statement. Number 159 SENATOR DONLEY asks Senator Leman if the legislature must confirm a poet laureate every two years. SENATOR LEMAN replies that is his understanding. Senator Leman does not know if the term could be renewed. SENATOR DONLEY guesses that, since the poet laureate is approved by a resolution of the legislature, the term would only be good for the term of the legislature. Number 180 SENATOR DONLEY makes a motion to discharge SCR 4 from the Senate State Affairs Committee with individual recommendations. CHAIRMAN SHARP, hearing no objection, orders SCR 4 released from committee with individual recommendations. SSTA - 2/2/95 SJR 11 LIMITING TERMS OF LEGISLATORS Number 184 SENATOR SHARP brings up SJR 11 as the next order of business before the Senate State Affairs Committee and calls the first witness. Number 190 JOSH FINK, Aide to Senator Kelly, the prime sponsor of SJR 11, reads the sponsor statement on SJR 11. Number 246 SENATOR LEMAN notes that under SJR 11, persons could serve four full two-year terms as a Representative, and then serve two full four-year terms in the Senate, before being required to retire. So it would not limit a person to serving eight years in the legislature, but 16 years in the legislature. Senator Leman supports SJR 11, it is an improvement over present circumstances. He also thinks the "out" time should be four years, and not two years. CHAIRMAN SHARP adds that term limits tend to be implemented by voters at the ballot box. Number 291 SENATOR DONLEY thinks SJR 11 is a reasonable proposal. However, he is concerned that the legislature look at what affect SJR 11 may have on the balance and separation of powers between the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government in Alaska. Senator Donley feels uncomfortable supporting term limits while not exploring other aspects of the constitution he thinks need amending. SENATOR LEMAN makes a motion to discharge SJR 11 from the Senate State Affairs Committee with individual recommendations. Number 315 SENATOR DONLEY asks the chairman if he would be willing to have a committee meeting so other elements in the state constitution which he feels should be revised can be discussed. He is interested in looking at the areas of: how the legislature can call a special session; providing for legislative confirmation of members to boards of public corporations; and considering making the attorney general an elected office. The public wants better government, not just term limits, and Senator Donley thinks the areas he previously mentioned would help. He also thinks there should be an option for key positions in the legislature, such as the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate, and perhaps the Finance Committee chairpersons, to be full-time, year-round positions. It would be good if the legislature could have at least a couple full-time persons to represent it, in order to counter full-time personnel in the executive branch. Senator Donley supports SJR 11, but feels uncomfortable passing term limits without amending some of the other items in the state constitution that he feels need changes. CHAIRMAN SHARP likes Senator Donley's comments and thinks the committee should plan a worksession for the issues raised. The chairman would like to see some legislative oversight for public corporations. Number 363 SENATOR LEMAN thinks the legislature could have a shorter session length too, and he would like to add that subject to any discussion on possible amendments to the state constitution. Number 372 CHAIRMAN SHARP, hearing no further discussion or objection, orders SJR 11 released from committee with individual recommendations. SSTA - 2/2/95 SB 37 END PERMANENT FUND DIVIDEND HOLD HARMLESS Number 375 SENATOR SHARP brings up SB 37 as the next order of business before the Senate State Affairs Committee and calls the first witness. Number 380 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS, prime sponsor of SB 37, says the bill would eliminate what he sees as a tax on permanent fund dividends: the hold-harmless provision for people receiving public assistance. The hold-harmless provision amounted to a reduction of $41.45 to each permanent fund dividend last year. Senator Phillips relays information contained in his sponsor statement. Number 402 ELMER LINDSTROM, Special Assistant to Commissioner Perdue, Department of Health & Social Services (DHSS), states the department is opposed to SB 37. Previous administrations have considered elimination of the hold-harmless provision and have concluded that elimination is neither desirable nor cost-effective. Mr. Lindstrom states elimination of the provision would lead to additional administrative costs. Mr. Lindstrom reads a prepared statement. DHSS submitted six fiscal notes with analysis and a synopsis of a study showing spending patterns of dividends by persons receiving public assistance to the committee. Mr. Lindstrom adds that the premise of the hold-harmless program is that all Alaskans are entitled to share equally in the permanent fund dividend program. Number 455 SENATOR LEMAN does not agree with Mr. Lindstrom's assertion that eliminating the hold-harmless provision would have the practical effect of denying persons on public assistance a permanent fund dividend. By eliminating the provision, Senator Leman thinks the drain on the federal and state treasuries caused by welfare benefits will be reduced. Senator Leman wants to know if DHSS has talked to line staff in the Division of Public Assistance about who is going on public assistance, and why they are coming to Alaska. Senator Leman says Alaska's public assistance programs are a magnet for people from other states, and that people he has talked to from the line staff think the hold harmless provision is part of what is attracting people from other states. Senator Leman wants to know how DHSS came to it's position statement, when line staff in the Division of Public Assistance are making an assertion different from Mr. Lindstrom's. Number 490 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS adds he has heard comments similar to those Senator Leman has heard from line staff. Number 495 MR. LINDSTROM says SB 37 deals specifically with the permanent fund dividend's hold-harmless provision. There has been much discussion lately relating to the much broader question of welfare reform. If we could all wipe the slate clean, and there were no public assistance programs, and we were going to start from the beginning to develop a program to meet the needs of the needy people of this state and this country, the program certainly would not look at all like the programs in existence today. But the programs that are in place today are the programs DHSS must administer. DHSS recognizes, as does everyone, that there are problems that need to be fixed. However, the programs serve a valuable purpose: that of providing basic sustenance for many poor people. It works very well for the majority of people on the programs. The majority of DHSS's AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) caseload turns over every two years. So there are problems with a percentage of the population, and that needs to be looked at. SB 37, when translated to terms of a rateable reduction in benefits, would approach an 8% reduction in benefits to persons on public assistance. Number 526 CHAIRMAN SHARP asks Mr. Lindstrom if the figures on the fiscal notes represent the federal share of benefits lost, or the federal and state shares. MR. LINDSTROM replies that the hold-harmless provision applies to the state and federal shares of benefits. Number 540 RUPE ANDREWS, American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), states the AARP is strongly opposed to SB 37. About 40,000 Alaskans receive AFDC, so children would be affected substantially by this legislation. AARP also fails to see any benefit to the state by eliminating the hold-harmless, as it will cause an increase to the general fund budget of about 1.5 million dollars. In regards to Senator Phillips concern that the cost of continuing the hold-harmless provision will increase in years to come, the AARP asks that the legislature consider the option of perhaps capping the amount taken to fund the provision at, say, $40. The AARP is not aware of a great number of Alaskans being concerned with the reduction of their permanent fund dividends to fund the hold-harmless provision. Mr. Andrews recalls that when the hold- harmless provision was initiated, Alaskans felt proud to be able to help other Alaskans. Number 558 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS says a lot of his constituents object to the hold-harmless provision. They consider it a tax on their permanent fund dividends. Number 565 SENATOR LEMAN asks Mr. Andrews if he thinks forced compassion feels better than voluntary compassion. MR. ANDREWS responds that voluntary compassion feels better, but as he understands it, the hold-harmless provision was enacted by the legislature, through representative government elected by the people. Since then, the AARP has not heard that much objection to the provision. Apparently Senator Leman and Senator Phillips are hearing objection in their districts now. Mr. Andrews says the AARP would rather see a cap on the amount taken for hold harmless, rather than eliminate it altogether. Number 584 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS states he has opposed the hold-harmless provision, permanent fund dividends, and voted against everything from the beginning. SIDE B Number 590 SHERRIE MARKIN GOLL, Alaska Women's Lobby, KIDPAC, states the groups she represents oppose SB 37. From her point of view, the permanent fund dividends are not earned income, and are not something that any one person, rich or poor, has earned or deserves more than another person. The hold-harmless provision is not a tax, recipients who complain about the provision are still benefitting by $950 that they would not have had before. When a person of moderate or high-income receives a dividend, it is simply discretionary income. When a poor person receives a permanent fund dividend, it is spent on necessities, and it is spent in Alaska. Ms. Goll thinks SB 37 would favor persons of moderate and high- income who do not need the additional money. Ms. Goll suggests looking at capping the amount of permanent fund dividends to save money, instead of continuing to provide free money to people who have no needs while taking money away from the state's poorest citizens. Number 554 SENATOR LEMAN states his objective is to make sure that those in need are properly taken care of. He thinks the current public assistance programs are inefficient. He wants recipients of assistance to become self-sufficient. Senator Leman states SB 37 will not take away a person's right to receive a permanent fund dividend. Number 532 MS. GOLL doesn't think SB 37 will lead to self-sufficiency for public assistance recipients. It will lead to people getting of assistance, and then reapplying as soon as they are eligible again. It will not lead to self-sufficiency. Number 512 MR. LINDSTROM suggests, as a technical point, that the effective date of SB 37 be changed. The current effective date of January 1, 1996, will fall right in the middle of the period of time in which the hold-harmless provision is in effect, causing perhaps half of the public assistance recipients to be held-harmless, while the other half are not. DHSS prefers either an effective date prior to October 1, 1995, or prior to October 1, 1996. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS notes that the committee substitute for SB 37 has an effective date of July 1, 1995. CHAIRMAN SHARP notes the existence of a committee substitute. Number 496 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS moves the adoption of CSSB 37 (STA). Number 494 CHAIRMAN SHARP, hearing no objection, states CSSB 37(STA) has been adopted in lieu of the original bill. CHAIRMAN SHARP asks the pleasure of the committee. Number 490 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS makes a motion to discharge SB 37 from the Senate State Affairs Committee with individual recommendations. Number 488 CHAIRMAN SHARP, hearing no objection, orders SB 37 released from committee with individual recommendations. Number 475 CHAIRMAN SHARP adjourns the Senate State Affairs Committee meeting at 4:35 p.m.