Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/28/1995 03:35 PM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE March 28, 1995 3:35 p.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Senator Bert Sharp, Chairman Senator Randy Phillips, Vice-Chairman Senator Loren Leman Senator Jim Duncan Senator Dave Donley COMMITTEE CALENDAR CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 4(STA)(title am) "An Act allowing, for the purposes of permanent fund dividend eligibility, an individual to accompany, as the spouse or minor or disabled dependent, another eligible resident who is absent for vocational, professional, or other specific education for which a comparable program is not reasonably available in the state, for secondary or postsecondary education, for military service, for medical treatment, for service in the Congress or in the Peace Corps, or for other reasons that the commissioner of revenue may establish by regulation; requiring, for the purposes of permanent fund dividend eligibility, an individual who is not physically present in the state to maintain and demonstrate at all times an intent to return to the state to remain permanently; relating to the eligibility for 1992, 1993, and 1994 permanent fund dividends of certain spouses and dependents of eligible applicants; relating to appeal periods for certain 1994 permanent fund dividends; and providing for an effective date." SENATE BILL NO. 110 "An Act relating to administrative adjudication under the Administrative Procedure Act." SENATE BILL NO. 135 "An Act relating to permanent fund dividend program notice requirements, to the ineligibility for dividends of individuals convicted of felonies or incarcerated for misdemeanors, and to the determination of the number and identity of certain ineligible individuals; and providing for an effective date." CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 74(FIN) "An Act relating to the assault of children by adults." SENATE BILL NO. 120 "An Act relating to the operation of state veterans' home facilities; and providing for an effective date." CS FOR HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 22(STA) Relating to the maritime boundary between Alaska and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 42 (STA) am "An Act relating to absentee voting, to electronic transmission of absentee ballot applications, and to delivery of ballots to absentee ballot applicants by electronic transmission, and enacting a definition of the term 'state election' for purposes of absentee voting." PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION HB 4 - See State Affairs minutes dated 3/21/95. SB 110 - See State Affairs minutes dated 3/21/95. SB 135 - No previous senate committee action. HB 74 - No previous senate committee action. SB 120 - No previous senate committee action. HJR 22 - No previous senate committee action. HB 42 - No previous senate committee action. WITNESS REGISTER Teresa Williams, Assistant Attorney General Commercial Section, Civil Division, Department of Law 1031 W. 4th Ave., Ste. 200, Anchorage AK 99501-1994¶269-5100 POSITION STATEMENT: representing prime sponsor of SB 110 Senator Steve Frank, Co-Chairman, Senate Finance Committee State Capitol, Juneau, Alaska, 99801-1182¶465-3753 POSITION STATEMENT: prime sponsor of SB 135 David Skidmore, Aide to Senator Frank State Capitol, Juneau, Alaska, 99801-1182¶465-3753 POSITION STATEMENT: prime sponsor of SB 135 Tom Williams, Aide to Senator Frank State Capitol, Juneau, Alaska, 99801-1182¶465-3753 POSITION STATEMENT: prime sponsor of SB 135 Michael McGee, Chief, PFD Operations Permanent Fund Dividend Division, Department of Revenue P.O. Box 110460, Juneau, AK 99811-0460¶465-2622 POSITION STATEMENT: opposed to SB 135 Representative Con Bunde State Capitol, Juneau, Alaska, 99801-1182¶465-4843 POSITION STATEMENT: prime sponsor of HB 74 Patty Swenson, Aide to Representative Bunde State Capitol, Juneau, Alaska, 99801-1182¶465-4843 POSITION STATEMENT: prime sponsor of HB 74 Senator John Torgerson State Capitol, Juneau, Alaska, 99801-1182¶465-2828 POSITION STATEMENT: prime sponsor of SB 120 Jeff Morrison, Legislative Liaison Department of Military & Veterans' Affairs P.O. Box 110900, Juneau, AK 99811-0900¶465-4730 POSITION STATEMENT: testified on SB 120 James L. Kohn, Deputy Director Pioneers' Homes Central Office/Advisory Board Div. of Senior Services, Department of Administration P.O. Box 110211, Juneau, AK 99811-0211¶465-4400 POSITION STATEMENT: opposes to SB 120 Dave W. Williams, Director Div. of Medical Assistance, Dept. of Health & Social Services P.O. Box 110660, Juneau, AK 99811-0660¶465-3355 POSITION STATEMENT: testified on SB 120 Joe Ryan, Aide to Representative Vezey State Capitol, Juneau, Alaska, 99801-1182¶465-3727 POSITION STATEMENT: prime sponsor of HJR 22 Thomas Anderson, Aide to Representative Martin State Capitol, Juneau, Alaska, 99801-1182¶465-3783 POSITION STATEMENT: prime sponsor of HB 42 Rupe Andrews League of Women Voters of Alaska 9416 Long Run Drive, Juneau, AK 99801¶789-7422 POSITION STATEMENT: testified on HB 42 Gaye Vaughan, Clerk Kenai Peninsula Borough 144 N. Binkley, Soldotna, AK 99669¶262-8608 POSITION STATEMENT: supports HB 42 Dave Koivuniemi, Acting Director Division of Elections P.O. Box 110017, Juneau, AK 99811-0017¶465-4611 POSITION STATEMENT: testified on HB 42 ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 95-13, SIDE A Number 001 SSTA - 3/28/95 HB 4 PERMANENT FUND DIVIDEND ELIGIBILITY CHAIRMAN SHARP calls the Senate State Affairs Committee to order at 3:35 p.m. and brings up HB 4 as the first order of business before the committee. The chairman states the bill was heard previously, and notes information requested from the Permanent Fund Dividend Division has been received. The information received shows a breakdown of categories and numbers of people out of state who receive dividends. The chairman asks if anyone wishes to comment on the bill. Number 025 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS makes a motion to discharge HB 4 from the Senate State Affairs Committee with individual recommendations. Number 030 CHAIRMAN SHARP, hearing no objection, orders HB 4 released from committee with individual recommendations. SSTA - 3/28/95 SB 110 ADMINISTRATIVE ADJUDICATIONS SENATOR SHARP brings up SB 110 as the next order of business before the Senate State Affairs Committee. Number 043 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS makes a motion to adopt the State Affairs Committee substitute for SB 110. Number 051 SENATOR DONLEY introduces and explains a proposed amendment to SB 110 (9-GS0006\A.1, Bannister, 3/24/95). The amendment would increase the public notice required before regulations can be adopted. Senator Donley informs the committee that the administration is opposed to this amendment. Number 110 SENATOR DONLEY makes a motion to adopt Amendment #1 to SB 110. Number 115 SENATOR LEMAN expresses concern that the amendment does not apply to regulations necessary to meet federal requirements. We need to fight back and not allow the federal government to over-run us. CHAIRMAN SHARP asks Ms. Williams if she would like to testify on the amendment. Number 135 TERESA WILLIAMS, Assistant Attorney General, testifying from Anchorage, thinks the amendment would increase the cost of the regulatory process because of additional advertising and additional board and commission meetings. She states the original intent of SB 110 was as a cost-saving measure, while the amendment would increase state costs. Ms. Williams also thinks the amendment would complicate the regulatory process enough so that beneficial changes to proposed regulations will not be made. For that reason, she thinks it might adversely affect public input. MS. WILLIAMS also thinks departments would not be able to adopt regulations in a timely manner for seasonal conditions, such as a construction season or a timber season. She asks what would happen if a regulation is thrown out by a court. In an instance where fees are involved, would there then be no fees? Number 200 MS. WILLIAMS believes the power to challenge regulations will be immense, if amendment #1 is adopted. She thinks it will lead to more litigation. Environmental groups often use every tool in the book to stop something. Number 215 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asks Ms. Williams if the administration will be supporting the amendment if the issues she raised are addressed. Number 220 MS. WILLIAMS thinks there are some good things to the amendment, but there would have to be a fiscal note with it, and she does not think the legislature would add the funds. Number 232 SENATOR DONLEY asserts that the seasonal example given by Ms. Williams as a potential problem should not be a concern, because regulations could be adopted under the emergency regulations process. And Ms. Williams' concern with increased litigation could not even occur, so long as departments comply with the law. For court cases, the court may grant relief appropriate under the circumstances. So if a court had a problem with a regulation, they wouldn't necessarily have to strike down the whole regulation. Number 250 SENATOR LEMAN asks Senator Donley if, under Section 2, subsection (c), if it would be appropriate to add language to the end of the subsection stating, "or a portion of a regulation", or similar language to clarify that a whole regulation need not be thrown out. SENATOR DONLEY responds he would totally support such an amendment to amendment #1. He suggests, on page 2, line 9, that the amendment read, "...including the invalidation or partial invalidation of the regulation...." SENATOR LEMAN does not care how the amendment is made, just that the intent be clear. SENATOR DONLEY thinks the intent is: if there is an area of any regulation that is not impacted by the change with which the court is concerned, that the unaffected portion of the regulation still remain in effect. SENATOR LEMAN is not sure how the amendment to amendment #1 should be worded, so he moves the conceptual amendment to amendment #1. CHAIRMAN SHARP, hearing no objection, states the conceptual amendment to amendment #1 has been adopted. CHAIRMAN SHARP notes he does not see language in amendment #1 stating there must be a hearing, just language specifying additional time for public comment. SENATOR DONLEY responds the language specifies, "...there is a notice and opportunity for public comment." He thinks this is the exact language used in legislation that was worked on three years ago. His understanding is that language would require a public hearing procedure. SENATOR LEMAN asks if that would be a 30 day requirement. SENATOR DONLEY thinks it would be a 30 day. SENATOR LEMAN asks if there would be any way to require a truncated second public comment period. Or would a new process have to be established? Number 290 SENATOR DONLEY replies a new process would have to be established. He thinks this language would just require one additional hearing. CHAIRMAN SHARP asks if there are any more comments on amendment #1 to SB 110. SENATOR DONLEY asks the committee to consider, to bring things into perspective, that all the administration has to do to adopt regulations, which are just as powerful as law, is hold one hearing. Amendment #1 would require an additional hearing if proposed regulations are changed after the first hearing. Number 300 CHAIRMAN SHARP asks if there is objection to adopting amendment #1 to SB 110. Hearing no objection, the chairman states amendment #1 has been adopted. Number 305 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS makes a motion to discharge SB 110 from the Senate State Affairs Committee with individual recommendations. CHAIRMAN SHARP, hearing no objection, orders SB 110 released from committee with individual recommendations. SSTA - 3/28/95 SB 135 PFD NOTICES AND ELIGIBILITY SENATOR SHARP brings up SB 135 as the next order of business before the Senate State Affairs Committee and calls the first witness. Number 313 SENATOR STEVE FRANK, Co-Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, prime sponsor of SB 135, states SB 135 is a subject that passed the senate last year. SB 135 would require persons incarcerated or convicted of a third misdemeanor to contribute their permanent fund dividends, on the theory that those persons should incur at least some part of the costs imposed on the system through their illegal behavior. It provides the state a way to fund some of the programs in the Department of Corrections. It would also allow legislative discretion for utilization of the money for other agencies, including the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Law. Number 334 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asks if there are any word changes from last year's version. DAVID SKIDMORE, Aide to Senator Frank, responds that the portion of SB 135 that references the Department of Revenue is slightly different. Permanent fund dividends forfeited under SB 135 will not be used to satisfy child support obligations; it is thought that would be unconstitutional, under the constitutional requirement that public funds not be used for private purpose. Another change was in the effective date. Only offenses from the effective date of January 1, 1996 will be counted. SENATOR DUNCAN is not sure he understands the entire impact of SB 135. He asks if this is being considered as a source of funding for the Department of Corrections in the FY 96 operating budget. If SB 135 does not pass, will it impact funding for the Department of Corrections? Number 365 SENATOR FRANK does not think whether SB 135 passes or not would have any affect on the Department of Corrections budget. The budget proposal assumes this money will be available. But he does not think 2.7 million dollars in general funds will be taken out of the budget if SB 135 does not pass. SENATOR DUNCAN asks if he understands correctly that SB 135 would allow 2.7 million dollars of permanent fund earnings to go to the Department of Corrections, and if SB 135 didn't pass, then that funding source will have to be replaced by general funds. SENATOR FRANK replies that is correct. Number 388 SENATOR DUNCAN says he is not in favor of giving convicted felons a permanent fund dividend, but he wants to know what the impact will be on the Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED) and other recipients of garnished dividends. SENATOR FRANK thinks there may be some reduction in garnishment of dividends for child support obligations. They tried to work around that, but they felt as though the number of people affected by that would be small. Number 405 MR. SKIDMORE thinks about 300 of the approximately 2,050 individuals would have child support obligations that would be affected. That does not take into account families on AFDC. Number 415 SENATOR DUNCAN comments he is concerned with impact on child support, victim restitution, treatment programs, and payment of fines and judgements. SENATOR FRANK acknowledges there may be some impact on child support, but it would only affect those folks who weren't on AFDC. It is hard to tell how many people would be affected, but since it is probably such a small number of people, would we be willing to keep paying dividends to persons convicted of three or more misdemeanors, just so that small group won't be affected? If we didn't have AFDC as a back-up mechanism, then there would be more reason to be concerned about those people losing an obligor's dividend. [Senator Duncan asked a question, which was not picked up by the recording equipment.] SENATOR FRANK answers maybe. SENATOR DONLEY asks Senator Frank to clarify that currently, only people incarcerated for felonies don't receive their dividends. SENATOR FRANK responds that is correct. SENATOR DONLEY asks if SB 135 would continue to deny dividends after a felon has been released from prison. MR. SKIDMORE responds SB 135 would not deny dividends to released felons. SENATOR DONLEY asks if SB 135 would deny dividends to felons for the first year following their release from prison. MR. SKIDMORE thinks it would do that. SENATOR DONLEY doesn't understand that language in the bill. Number 458 MR. SKIDMORE replies that the structure of the existing statute was followed in drafting the legislation. Also taken into consideration was the qualifying period for permanent fund dividends. SENATOR DONLEY asks what happens if a person is convicted of a felony, but does not go to prison. Would a felon lose his or her dividend for the rest of their life? MR. SKIDMORE responds that would not be the case. Under SB 135 they would just lose their dividend for the following dividend year. SENATOR DONLEY notes the same thing would apply to persons convicted of a third misdemeanor, but not imprisoned. MR. SKIDMORE confirms that is the case. In regards to court fines, for which dividends are currently being garnished, those fines would not be extinguished, it would simply be pushed back one year. Number 484 SENATOR DONLEY is willing to work on SB 135 in the Finance Committee, but he really thinks the bill should be stronger. SENATOR FRANK thinks they're trying to strike a balance between what would be constitutional and what would be supportable by a majority of legislators. He acknowledges that for some folks, it probably would be fair to take their dividends away for the rest of their lives. Number 490 SENATOR DUNCAN asks if Senator Frank concurs with his statement about double-dipping into the permanent fund earnings, and that it will impact everyone's dividend. SENATOR FRANK responds SB 135 will not impact everyone's dividend, only the incarcerated folks. SENATOR DUNCAN reasserts that if SB 135 is a double-dip in the permanent fund earnings, then it will affect dividends. SENATOR FRANK replies if that is what Senator Duncan implied, he was not agreeing with that. Senator Frank asks Mr. Skidmore to explain why two-years worth of dividends are being picked up to accelerate the collection. That is what Senator Frank meant by "double-dipping." SENATOR DUNCAN concurs with that. It does authorize the legislature to take over 2 million dollars out of the permanent fund earnings, which really hasn't been collected as dividends from the felons or repeat misdemeanants. SENATOR FRANK states the dividends won't go to the felon or repeat misdemeanants; that's the deal. SENATOR DUNCAN points out that the money is in the corrections budget for FY 96; it is not coming from those dividends, it is coming from the permanent fund earnings. So it really is double- dipping in the permanent fund earnings. So Senator Duncan thinks SB 135 will affect the amount of the dividend. SENATOR FRANK insists that is not the case. He asks Mr. Williams to discuss that point. TOM WILLIAMS, Aide to Senator Frank, states, "the individual was incarcerated in calendar year 1993. Therefor they were ineligible for the 1994 dividend. The department calculates the amount that would have been paid for the 1994 dividend, reports it to the legislature, and the legislature then appropriates it for fiscal year 1996. In essence, there is a year's lag in appropriating those funds to the Department of Corrections and the Department of Public Safety, because they were actually dividends that were not paid in fiscal year 1995. What SB 135 would do, it would double up in one sense by moving when the dividends are paid and corresponding them to when they are denied." Number 522 SENATOR DUNCAN continues his assertion that the first year it would seem to be that the money would be taken out of the permanent fund earnings account. It will impact the dividends. He states he is not convinced that dividends will not be reduced. He wants to know if there will be an impact on dividends, and if that will be reported on dividend check stubs. Senator Duncan does not know if he would oppose SB 135 on that point. Number 531 SENATOR FRANK does not think dividends would be affected by SB 135. SENATOR DUNCAN agrees with that, with the exception of the first year after the legislation becomes law. He agrees with everything Senator Frank has said, with the exception of the first year, when he believes there will be an extra 2.8 million dollars taken from the permanent fund earnings. Perhaps he is mistaken, but that is his perception. Senator Duncan asks if there is anyone from the Permanent Fund Dividend Division to clarify whether or not his concern is valid. MIKE MCGEE, Chief, Permanent Fund Dividend Operations, Permanent Fund Dividend Division, Department of Revenue, states the governor strongly opposes SB 135 for the very reason discussed today: the double-dipping nature of the first year the bill is law. Even if that provision is eliminated, the governor would still oppose SB 135, because he does not want to see a reduction in the monies available to those people and state agencies with attachments on dividends of people affected by the bill. The administration does see a reduction of 2.7 or 2.8 million in the permanent fund earnings, because that money will be paid twice. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS comments sometimes the legislature just doesn't agree with the governor. Number 549 SENATOR DONLEY wonders how much the dividends will be impacted. [There is general estimation and consensus that the amount will be about $4 or $5 per dividend, and that it will probably not be reportable on the dividend check stubs.] SENATOR DUNCAN thinks people should know if part of their dividend monies are being used for departmental operations. SENATOR LEMAN makes a motion to discharge SB 135 from the Senate State Affairs Committee with individual recommendations. Number 567 CHAIRMAN SHARP, hearing no objection, orders SB 135 released from committee with individual recommendations. SSTA - 3/28/95 HB 74 ASSAULT BY ADULTS ON CHILDREN SENATOR SHARP brings up HB 74 as the next order of business before the Senate State Affairs Committee and calls the first witness. TAPE 95-13, SIDE B REPRESENTATIVE CON BUNDE, prime sponsor of HB 74, relays information contained in the sponsor substitute to the committee. Representative Bunde states there is a lot of public support behind HB 74. Number 555 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS commented he has had one phone call on HB 74, and that call was in opposition to HB 74. Senator Phillips asks where the case is right now. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE responds the case is in the process of going to trial. Prosecutors are having to be "encouraged" to take the case to trial; they were going to plea bargain. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asks what the maximum penalty would be. PATTY SWENSON, Aide to Representative Bunde, replies the maximum penalty would be one year incarceration and a $5,000 fine. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE adds he has not heard of any instance in which first time misdemeanants have been required to serve prison time. There is usually a suspended sentence. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS refers to the old saying which basically states law shouldn't be made because of one case. He also asked how HB 74 would affect a property owner's right to protect his or her property. Number 535 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE replies, out of the hundreds, if not over one thousand responses he has received, Senator Phillips is only about the fourth person to assert that HB 74 might affect a property owner's right to protect their property. Will a property owner be charged with a felony for protecting his or her property? Representative Bunde stresses that prosecutorial discretion will protect the property owner. First, the kid threatening the property or the property owner will have to convince a prosecutor that he was attacked, and was not the cause of the attack. He understands the concern, but does not see it as a problem. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS reiterates the only call he has received on HB 74 was in opposition to the bill, for the previously mentioned scenario. We are referring to one case; unless there are a number of cases in which this problem is occurring, he hates to pass a law because of one case. SENATOR DONLEY thinks, in regards to Senator Phillips' concern that law not be made because of one case, that there are probably a lot of cases in which HB 74 would apply, which have simply not been as visible as the one case which was the impetus behind the bill. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asks Senator Donley if he thinks HB 74 would affect the rights of property owners to protect their property. Number 515 SENATOR DONLEY responds that any steps a property owner takes to defend his or her property would not be made any more legal or illegal by HB 74. It just changes the potential maximum penalty. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS is worried that if a property owner physically escorts a trespasser from his or her property, they will be charged with a felony. SENATOR DONLEY replies a property owner is, and would still be allowed, to use reasonable force to protect his or her property. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asks if a property owner could use a shotgun. SENATOR DONLEY responds that is not reasonable force; that is deadly force. HB 74 will not affect whether the property owner's defense is legal or not. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asks what if the trespasser is destroying property. SENATOR DONLEY replies HB 74 will not affect the parameters of what property owners can and cannot do to defend their property. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE adds that, under existing statute, reasonable force may be used to defend one's property. In some cases, reasonable force could be pretty aggressive; in other cases, depending on the situation, a property owner's response could be considered assault. Representative Bunde understands Senator Phillips' concern. HB 74 will not change the restrictions by which a property owner is constrained in defending his or her property or life. The only change would be, if there was a charge brought against a property owner, and if the prosecutor was convinced that it was a really egregious case, the property owner could be charged with a felony instead of a class A misdemeanor. We all know that in practical application, a first time conviction receiving the maximum penalty allowed for a class A misdemeanor is more severe than the minimum penalty for a felony. There is public outcry that this tool be available to prosecutors, if necessary. [Representative Bunde show the committee approximately 500 signatures on petitions in favor of HB 74, and informs the committee he has more in his office.] Number 480 SENATOR DONLEY states he is concerned with the use of deadly force, because he thinks there is too much constraint put on property owners, in that one is supposed to allow one's self to be endangered before protecting one's self. He did look into that as Judiciary Chairman several years ago, and satisfied himself that Alaska Statutes are pretty good on that subject. Deadly force is allowable when one is physically threatened. Other reasonable force is allowed to protect one's property. To go beyond that, to allow property owners to shoot people because they are carrying off a bird bath--I don't know if you would want to do that. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS thinks the question needs to be asked. Secondly, should law be made on one publicized case? SENATOR DONLEY agrees with that, but he thinks that whole area of law should be revisited and that there should be stronger assault laws. It is a shame it has to be driven by the event that was the impetus for HB 74. He thinks there is a problem with assault being taken to lightly by the justice system. Judges, police, and prosecutors become desensitized to assault with all the murders, rapes, and kidnappings with which they have to deal. SENATOR LEMAN makes a motion to discharge HB 74 from the Senate State Affairs Committee with individual recommendations. CHAIRMAN SHARP, hearing no objection, orders HB 74 be released from committee with individual recommendations. SSTA - 3/28/95 SB 120 STATE VETERANS' HOME FACILITIES SENATOR SHARP brings up SB 120 as the next order of business before the Senate State Affairs Committee and calls the first witness. Number 451 SENATOR TORGERSON relays information contained in the sponsor statement for SB 120 to the committee. Senator Torgerson expresses surprise at the amount of the fiscal note, and asserts SB 120 will have no fiscal impact on the State of Alaska. Number 423 CHAIRMAN SHARP asks Senator Torgerson to confirm that SB 120 will simply modify existing law to state veteran's facilities would not just be housing facilities, but would also have nursing care. SENATOR TORGERSON responds that is the intent. CHAIRMAN SHARP asks if he is correct in his belief that there are currently no veteran's homes in the state, and that SB 120 does nothing but set up enabling legislation. SENATOR TORGERSON replies that is his understanding. Number 408 JEFF MORRISON, Legislative Liaison, Department of Military & Veterans' Affairs, states one of the department's duties is to advise the legislature what we believe veterans would want. He thinks it would be safe to say veterans would support SB 120. Number 392 JIM KOHN, Deputy Director, Division of Senior Services, Department of Administration, states the change made by SB 120 would not be just a technical amendment to an existing law, which makes the existing law operational. The state law will remain, even with passage of SB 120, incompatible with the federal veterans' program requirements. The present statute requires that the veterans' homes be operated without state subsidy. Nothing in SB 120 changes that. The Veterans' Administration (VA) requires that a state receiving a construction grant for construction of a state veterans' home provide assurance that the state will be responsible for the operating costs of that facility. When the VA contributes 65% of the construction costs, and the state contributes 35%, the agreement up front is that the state will provide assurance they will foot the future operating costs, as well as maintaining the building. MR. KOHN states that replacing the term "domiciliary care" with the term "nursing care" has only one effect: it increases the daily rate paid by the VA from approximately $10.83 to $25.35 for eligible veterans. Since the cost of a nursing home bed in Alaska is approximately $250 per day, a resident without state subsidy would be responsible for the difference. On a yearly basis, the VA would pay approximately $10,000 of these costs, while the resident would be required to pay approximately $80,000. Understandably, few residents would be able to pay the costs involved. Yet it would be required by the agreement with the VA that 75% of all residents in a nursing home be eligible veterans, which means that their income would have to be lower than the appropriate maximum allowed. That puts them in the position of being unable to pay for their care. MR. KOHN reminds the committee that in Alaska there is a VA community nursing home program right now. Under this program, the federal government is obligated to pay the total costs of the care of veterans placed in community nursing homes by the VA. We need to realize, that if a veterans' home is opened, the state will be exchanging federal money for state obligations. In addition, though he understands that veterans' organizations would like to see a veterans' home, he is not sure that individual veterans would be favorably impressed when faced with the bill. At present, veterans can enter nursing care homes in their own communities, and continue to have their families nearby. If a centralized veterans' home is created, people will have to move to that central location to get any subsidy. Number 310 MR. KOHN explains that the large fiscal note is to make disclosure of costs, rather than following the actual law. The fiscal note does not follow the law, because under the law, it is not possible to even construct the home, or make the deal with the VA. The fiscal note is based on the costs associated with building a home similar to the Juneau Pioneer Home, with staff similar to the Juneau Pioneer Home. Number 332 CHAIRMAN SHARP asks Mr. Kohn if the veterans' homes in the rest of the country all operate with only $25 a day from the federal government. MR. KOHN replies that is correct. CHAIRMAN SHARP asks if that has always been the case. He thought the federal government paid nearly all the costs associated with veterans' homes. MR. KOHN responds that since there is no veterans' home in Alaska, the VA does pay the full cost of the care of eligible veterans placed in a community nursing home. Eligibility is based upon total income and assets. The VA also requires that 75% of the residents in a veterans' home be of that eligible income status. There is therefore the possibility that the costs to other veterans ineligible for subsidy residing in the home will be increased, in order to offset the loss caused by those unable to pay. Number 298 DAVE WILLIAMS, Director, Division of Medical Assistance, Department of Health & Social Services, states the division has followed the development of home care for many years, and SB 120 seems to take things in the opposite direction. The division is also aware that many nursing home beds are pending construction. A home care system is being set up in this state, and money will all come from the same direction. If money is put into facilities, it will be harder to develop a home care system. Also, when an eligible veteran comes out of a hospital and placed in a nursing home, that veteran will have 90 days of benefits in the nursing home. If care goes beyond that, and a veteran is eligible for medicaid, then medicaid pays the bill. In a state veterans' home, the home would be eligible as a medicaid provider. The Department of Health & Social Services has no position on SB 120, but the state will be liable for 50% of the cost of care, under the medicaid program. Number 268 SENATOR LEMAN asks Mr. Williams to explain his statement that the money will come from the same direction. MR. WILLIAMS responds there is a limited amount of money available for long-term care. If that money is spent on nursing home care, he assumes it will be more difficult to fund a home-care system. Number 235 SENATOR TORGERSON reasserts that SB 120 does not build any facilities or appropriate any money. It will give veterans in the state the opportunity to build a nursing home. Number 220 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS makes a motion to discharge SB 120 from the Senate State Affairs Committee with individual recommendations. CHAIRMAN SHARP, hearing no objection, orders SB 120 released from committee with individual recommendations. SSTA - 3/28/95 HJR 22 ALASKA/RUSSIA MARITIME BOUNDARY SENATOR SHARP brings up HJR 22 as the next order of business before the Senate State Affairs Committee and calls the first witness. Number 210 JOE RYAN, Aide to Representative Vezey, prime sponsor of HJR 22, relays information contained in the sponsor statement to the committee. Number 180 SENATOR LEMAN makes a motion to discharge HJR 22 from the Senate State Affairs Committee with individual recommendations. CHAIRMAN SHARP, hearing no objection, orders HJR 22 released from committee with individual recommendations. SSTA - 3/28/95 HB 42 ABSENTEE VOTING & USE OF FAX SENATOR SHARP brings up HB 42 as the next order of business before the Senate State Affairs Committee and calls the first witness. Number 177 TOM ANDERSON, Aide to Representative Martin, informs the committee that HB 42 is very similar to HB 49 from the previous legislature. The bill allows for the electronic transmission of absentee ballots. There are some very minor differences between the two bills: some cost saving measures for the Division of Elections, and an extension of the secrecy waiver statement. Mr. Anderson states the major concern with the bill in the past has been the waiver of secrecy. Legislative Legal Services and the Attorney General's Office have both written letters of support for HB 49, stating that the right and ability to vote is a more significant concern than the right to vote in secret. Mr. Anderson states the subject has had support from disabled groups, the military, and AFN, among others. Number 115 RUPE ANDREWS, League of Women Voters in Alaska, states the league does not specifically support or oppose HB 42. However, the league agrees with the overall intent to improve the efficiency of voting. Mr. Andrews states the two concerns he has with the bill are: the constitutionality of the bill in regards to the potential for coercion and secrecy, and the implementation of the bill. He sees equipment failure, lack of equipment, and 24 hour monitoring by staff as potential problems in implementation. Number 090 SENATOR LEMAN asks how electronic transmission could enhance the opportunity for coercion any more than current standard absentee ballots could. He doesn't know how electronic transmission changes that. MR. ANDREWS is not sure either, but thinks that somewhere along the transmission line, there could be a problem with coercion. He also questions whether the press could obtain copies of ballots cast in this manner under the freedom of information act, since a secrecy waiver will be signed by the voter giving up the right to secrecy. SENATOR LEMAN thinks it would be a stretch to consider these type of ballots information available to the public. It would certainly not be his intent that these ballots be considered public information. MR. ANDERSON adds that has never been a point of contention. GAYE VAUGHAN, Clerk, Kenai Peninsula Borough, states she is testifying as clerk, and not on behalf of the assembly. She states the Kenai Peninsula Borough did adopt a variation of HB 42 over a year ago for municipal elections. Many people took advantage of the program. However, the program did not allow the fax of the voted ballot. Ms. Vaughan supports HB 42, and sees it as an assistance in increasing voter turnout. Number 027 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS states he has a natural fear of cheating, and asks Ms. Vaughan if there has been any attempted fraud relating to faxing ballots. MS. VAUGHAN responds this is Alaska, this isn't Chicago. She states she has been a municipal clerk for almost 18 years. She has caught people who have voted twice: people who didn't understand that you can't go to every polling place, or that you can't vote two weeks ahead of time and the day of the election. Ms. Vaughan does not see fraud as a problem at this time. She supports HB 42. TAPE 95-14, SIDE A CHAIRMAN SHARP comments he had several complaints regarding absentee ballots during the last election. The complaints were that people had applied for absentee ballots, but never received them. HB 42 would help solve that problem. Number 024 MS. VAUGHAN adds that a lot of people think the elections are always held in November, which isn't the case; so absentee voting by fax really helps in municipal elections, because all of a sudden someone gets a reminder that there is an election coming up, and can apply for a ballot with shorter notice. Number 040 DAVE KOIVUNIEMI, Acting Director, Division of Elections, states the division is taking a neutral stance on HB 42. CHAIRMAN SHARP thinks the biggest thing is to be able to receive an absentee ballot from the division by fax. If an individual doesn't want to lose the secrecy, then they can always mail the ballot back to the division. It doesn't need to be faxed both ways. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asks Mr. Koivuniemi what the concerns of the division are regarding HB 42. Number 061 MR. KOIVUNIEMI replies the biggest concerns are technical, and relate to implementation. How often will the division have to try to fax the ballot, if transmission keeps failing? His personal opinion is that the state has some of the most liberal absentee methods of voting in the country. But it is mainly questions regarding implementation, rather than any philosophical problem. The division already accepts applications for absentee ballots by fax. Number 095 SENATOR LEMAN makes a motion to discharge HB 42 from the Senate State Affairs Committee with individual recommendations. CHAIRMAN SHARP, hearing no objection, orders HB 42 released from committee with individual recommendations. Number 106 CHAIRMAN SHARP adjourns the Senate State Affairs Committee meeting at 5:15 p.m.