Legislature(1997 - 1998)
03/31/1998 03:32 PM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE March 31, 1998 3:32 p.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Senator Lyda Green, Chairman Senator Jerry Ward, Vice-Chairman Senator Mike Miller MEMBERS ABSENT Senator Jerry Mackie Senator Jim Duncan COMMITTEE CALENDAR CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 206(FIN) am "An Act relating to credit under the Public Employees' Retirement System for service as a village public safety officer." - MOVED CSHB 206(FIN) am OUT OF COMMITTEE CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 362(STA) "An Act relating to the use of space for military lounges in state- owned or state- controlled airports." - MOVED CSHB 362(STA) OUT OF COMMITTEE PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION HB 206 - No previous action to record. HB 362 - No previous action to record. WITNESS REGISTER Joel Lounsbury, Staff to Representative Brian Porter State Capitol Juneau, AK 99801-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Presented sponsor statement on CSHB 206(FIN) am Guy Bell, Director Division of Retirement & Benefits Department of Administration P.O. Box 110203 Juneau, AK 99811-0203 POSITION STATEMENT: Offered information on CSHB 206(FIN) am Bill Church, Retirement Supervisor Division of Retirement & Benefits Department of Administration P.O. Box 110203 Juneau, AK 99811-0203 POSITION STATEMENT: Offered information on CSHB 206(FIN) am John Cyr, President NEA-Alaska 114 Second St. Juneau, AK 99801 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of CSHB 206(FIN) am Captain Ted Bachman Division of Alaska State Troopers Department of Public Safety 5700 E. Tudor Road Anchorage, AK 99501-1225 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of CSHB 206(FIN) am Craig Persson Public Safety Employees Association P.O. Box 6044 Fairbanks, AK 99706 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of CSHB 206(FIN) am Don Stolworthy, Staff to House Special Committe on Military & Veterans' Affairs State Capitol Juneau, AK 99801-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Offered information on CSHB 262(STA) Tom Morgan 19341 Upper Skyline Anchorage, AK 99577 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of CSHB 362(STA) Ms. Bonnie Dorman 8831 Cross Pointe LP Anchorage, AK 99504 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports CSHB 362(STA) Richard Foster 30-344 B Cherry Drive Elmendorf Air Force Base, AK 99506 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of CSHB 362(STA) Dennis Poschard, Legislative Liaison/Special Assistant Department of Transportation & Public Facilities 3132 Channel Drive Juneau, AK 99801-7898 ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 98-15, SIDE A Number 001 CHAIRMAN GREEN called the Senate State Affairs Committee to order at 3:32 p.m., and noted the presence of Senators Ward, Miller and Green. CSHB 206(FIN) am - PERS FOR VILLAGE PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICERS CHAIRMAN GREEN introduced CSHB 206(FIN) am as the first order of business. JOEL LOUNSBURY, staff to Representative Porter, explained HB 206 is a bill that would allow former village public safety officers (VPSOs) to get retirement credit for prior service. He read the following sponsor statement into the record: "Throughout the State the Village Public Safety Officer Program has provided a very important means of maintaining peace and harmony in the villages. Most of these individuals were not covered by a retirement program. Now some of these former officers are working for other organizations that are covered by the State PERS program. The work experience these individuals obtained by participating in this program has proven to be an invaluable asset in their present endeavors. "This bill would allow them to obtain retirement credit for the service rendered under the VPSO program. The eligible participant could receive credit for up to 5 years of service in the VPSO. Once their service had been verified, an indebtedness would be determined, and the vested employee would have to arrange to buy this time back into the State PERS system. The provisions of this bill will help in the recruiting and the retention of participants of the VPSO program in the villages. Turnover and a lack of qualified applicants has been a historic problem for the VPSO program." Number 047 SENATOR MILLER asked if it was correct that a police officer in the state of Alaska would need to have the required 20 years of service for retirement before being eligible to receive the credit for VPSO service. MR. LOUNSBURY acknowledged that the up to 5 years of VPSO service does not count towards the individual's vestment in the PERS program. SENATOR MILLER referenced the analysis section of the Department of Administration's fiscal note and asked for an explanation of the language which says the bill would also, for the first time, allow employees to claim credited service for non government employment. MR. LOUNSBURY said VPSOs are not directly employed by the state; they are funded through grants to the nonprofit organizations that actually employ the VPSO officers. Number 075 GUY BELL, Director, Division of Retirement and Benefits, Department of Administration, said if it is the desire of the Legislature to give people who have worked as VPSOs an incentive to work as public safety officers, either as a state trooper or with a local government, the department would suggest amending the bill to adjust it to give service credit if a person goes into the police side of the PERS system. The bill, as written, allows the person to enter PERS and buy that service whether they go on the police track or on some other public service track. Speaking to the issue of claiming credit service for non government employment, Mr. Bell said that right now a person can buy credit for military service in PERS, etc. Number 103 BILL CHURCH, Retirement Supervisor, Division of Retirement and Benefits, Department of Administration, added that there are other areas, however, all of the service that is purchasable is directly related to some other form of governmental service, either within the state government or for the federal government. Previously there has been no legislation to allow granting credit under a non public, private organization. Even though the Department of Public Safety has oversight over the VPSO program, these contracts are still private contracts. Number 121 CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if there were any other types of non government employment that might qualify under this. MR. BELL cited as an example the state having a contract with an entity to provide a service on behalf of the state such as a correctional facility, or public health nurse services, or emergency medical services. These would be individuals employed either by the federal government or some other organization. CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if it was correct that there would be no cost to the state under this legislation. MR. BELL explained that there is a very small system wide actuarial. System wide liability for those people who would come into the system would be approximately $450,000 out of a total liability of approximately $5.5 billion. A similar situation applies with total employer contributions per year. The total system wide employer contribution would go up by $40,000; the entire population of employers in one year pays $145 million. So from an actuarial prospective and from a percentage perspective, it is infinitesimal. Number 135 CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if, at some future time, the present language would allow an individual to negotiate, as part of their contract, that the state pay the indebtedness on their credited service under the VPSO program. MR. CHURCH responded that there is nothing in statute that would legally allow something like that, but he also acknowledged there was nothing in statute that he was aware of that would prohibit it. Number 180 JOHN CYR, President, NEA-Alaska, testifying in support of HB 206, said while it may seem on the surface that the legislation has nothing to do with NEA-Alaska, it relates directly to village safety and, particularly, with what goes on in rural schools. A big concern has been safety across Rural Alaska and safety of children and school employees, and in most of these rural villages, the VPSOs are the only form of public safety. NEA-Alaska believes that whatever the state can do to enhance and enrich the VPSO program works for the betterment of children across Alaska, and that this will work as an incentive for more individuals to become involved in the program. Number 216 CAPTAIN TED BACHMAN of the Alaska State Troopers in Anchorage testified from Anchorage in strong support of HB 206. He noted there are two individuals in the Alaska State Troopers who would qualify for this program and that there may be a few more in municipal agencies across the state, but the numbers are very small. He agrees the legislation provides an incentive for individuals to give to the profession and know that while they are doing that their time can count ultimately towards retirement. He said AST supports anything that can be done to get more people, particularly Native Alaskans, into trooper positions. He pointed out that the VPSOs are the only law enforcement agency in this state that are not presently covered under a formal retirement system such as PERS, and although it does not bring them directly into the program, it gives them credit for service provided just as is accorded to members of the military when they are vested by the state. Number 262 CRAIG PERSSON, representing the Public Safety Employees Association and testifying from Fairbanks, voiced their full support for HB 206, and he echoed Captain Bachman's remarks regarding VPSOs and the incentive this legislation will provide, as well as giving recognition to their efforts in public safety throughout the state. Number 275 CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if at any point this legislation applied only to a VPSO who became a trooper or a law enforcement officer. MR. LOUNSBURY answered that there was discussion in one committee to limit it to public safety type positions, but it was decided to provide that the VPSO could get credit for VPSO service for any employment that is covered by PERS. Number 288 SENATOR WARD asked if there was discussion relating to a VPSO receiving retirement benefits from a nonprofit and then receiving credit under PERS for the same service. MR. LOUNSBURY responded that it was discussed and subsection (d) was added to preclude double dipping. Number 305 There being no further questions or testimony on HB 206, CHAIRMAN GREEN requested a motion to move the bill out of committee. SENATOR WARD moved CSHB 206(FIN)am and the accompanying zero fiscal note be passed out of committee with individual recommendations. Hearing no objection, it was so ordered. CSHB 362(STA) - AIRPORT MILITARY LOUNGES CHAIRMAN GREEN brought CSHB 362(STA) before the committee as the final order of business. Number 314 DON STOLWORTHY, staff to the House Special Committee on Military & Veterans' Affairs, presented the following remarks on behalf of the committee: "The presence of a facility for military personnel is beneficial to an airport's operations. It eases the congestion in public waiting areas, and promotes good will between the state and military personnel. "The committee is pleased to sponsor HB 362, a bill which ensures the continued operation of military lounges in Alaska's airports. "In 1996 and 1997, more than 20,000 military personnel took advantage of the Anchorage International Airport's military lounge. "Operated by the Anchorage Armed Services YMCA, the Anchorage International Airport's military lounge provides a valuable service to our dedicated men and women serving in the defense of our state and nation. At no cost to the state, this lounge is staffed by volunteers from squadron booster clubs. "House Bill 362 will guarantee that as long as nonprofits are willing to operate courtesy lounges for our military service men and women, the state of Alaska is willing to provide those spaces free of charge when they are available. "House Bill 362 does not require the state to provide the space. It only requires the state to provide the space at no charge, if and when available. "House Bill 362 passed the House by unanimous vote. "It is the committee's hope that the Senate State Affairs Committee will approve this bill and let Alaska's military community know that this Legislature is committed to their cause." Number 334 SENATOR WARD asked why the legislation is needed. MR. STOLWORTHY explained that the FAA requires an airport to maximize its revenues, and one of the things airports do is lease space. Offering the lounge at a $10 yearly fee without the authority put the airport director in a precarious situation with the FAA, so the legislation provides the airport director with the authority to do what he has been doing. Number 362 TOM MORGAN, testifying from Anchorage, said for many years the Armed Services YMCA has been quietly and competently serving the traveling military through the military courtesy lounge located at the Anchorage International Airport. A safe and secure place has been dedicated to the Armed Forces at no expense to the state or to the military. Alaska continues to be of strategic importance in the training of the military and the defense of the nation. He pointed out that existing statute does not allow the Armed Services YMCA to provide these services without a rental charge, and HB 362 cleans that up. The legislation will allow the Armed Services YMCA to continue their work and, at the same time, authorize the Anchorage International Airport to offer the space rent free. He added that this arrangement would then be consistent with other military lounge airport programs run by the Armed Services YMCA and/or the USO nationwide. Number 388 BONNIE DORMAN, representing the Armed Force YMCA and testifying from Anchorage in support of HB 362, said the supervisors and families utilize these facilities in their official and leisure travel. They volunteer as a squadron; they are able to take one month out of the year and volunteer up to 480 hours to the lounge. This builds morale within their organization and promotes volunteerism. Number 396 RICHARD FOSTER testifying from Anchorage, said he represents all the enlisted men and women in the Third Wing at Elmendorf Base. He said all members of the Armed Services utilize the lounge, and it is a great opportunity for their members who are departing for the Far East, or even to the Lower 48 when they deploy out. It provides opportunity for the young folks to get out and promote volunteerism throughout the community. He urged the committee's support of HB 362. Number 406 DENNIS POSHARD, Legislative Liaison/Special Assistant, Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, stated the department supports HB 362. They worked with the sponsor in making one minor change that makes the bill much more acceptable. Number 416 There being no further testimony or questions on CSHB 362(STA), CHAIRMAN GREEN asked the pleasure of the committee. SENATOR WARD moved CSHB 362(STA) and the accompanying zero fiscal note be passed out of committee with individual recommendations. Hearing no objection, it was so ordered. There being no further business to come before the committee, the meeting adjourned at 4:05 p.m.