Legislature(1999 - 2000)
04/06/2000 03:36 PM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE April 6, 2000 3:36 p.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Senator Jerry Ward, Chairman Senator Lyda Green, Vice Chair Senator Gary Wilken Senator Randy Phillips Senator Kim Elton MEMBERS ABSENT All Members Present COMMITTEE CALENDAR SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 16 Relating to Avalanche Awareness Month. -MOVED OUT OF COMMITTEE SENATE BILL NO. 292 "An Act relating to public school student immunizations." -HEARD AND HELD SENATE BILL NO. 120 "An Act relating to qualifications of voters; relating to the registration of voters; relating to election districts and officials; relating to election procedures and ballots; relating to special procedures for elections; relating to nomination of candidates; relating to national elections; relating to special elections and appointments; relating to constitutional amendments; relating to election offenses and corrupt practices; relating to election pamphlets; relating to the deferral of jury service for certain election officials; relating to an exemption from the State Procurement Code regarding election ballots; relating to the provision and use of mailing addresses on permanent fund dividend applications for election purposes; relating to the inclusion of voter registration forms with permanent fund dividend applications; making conforming amendments in references to 'election district' and 'chairman'; and providing for an effective date." -HEARD AND HELD SENATE BILL NO. 237 "An Act relating to payment, allowances, and benefits of members of the Alaska National Guard and Alaska Naval Militia in active service; relating to computation of certain benefits for members of the Alaska State Militia; and providing for an effective date." -MOVED OUT OF COMMITTEE SENATE BILL NO. 238 "An Act relating to payment, benefits, and work status of members in the active service of the Alaska State Militia; and providing for an effective date." -MOVED OUT OF COMMITTEE SENATE BILL NO. 270 "An Act relating to return of contributed capital, or payment of a dividend, to the state by the Alaska Student Loan Corporation; and providing for an effective date." -HEARD AND HELD PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION SCR 16 - No previous Senate action. SB 292 - See State Affairs minutes dated 3/23/00. SB 120 - No previous Senate action. SB 237 - No previous Senate action. SB 238 - No previous Senate action. SB 270 - No previous Senate action. WITNESS REGISTER Mr. Jerry Burnett Legislative Staff for Senator Lyda Green Alaska State Capitol Juneau, AK 99802-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Sponsor statement for SCR 16. Ms. Aedene Arthur HC 02 Box 7300 Palmer, AK 99645 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SCR 16. Ms. Chris Noakes P.O. Box 521667 Big Lake, AK 99652 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SCR 16. Mr. Cleve Coyne P.O. Box 874064 Wasilla, AK 99687 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SCR 16. Ms. Patsy Coyne P.O. Box 86 Sutton, AK 99674 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SCR 16. Ms. Loretta Brown Legislative staff for Senator Jerry Ward Alaska State Capitol Juneau, AK 99802-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on CSSB 292 and SB 120. Dr. Peter Nakamura Director of the Division of Public Health Department of Health & Social Services P.O. Box 110610 Juneau, AK 99811 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on CSSB 292. Mr. Lyle Axelarris Address Not Provided Tok, AK 99780 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports CSSB 292. Ms. Tabitha Parker Address Not Provided Tok, AK 99780 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports CSSB 292. Ms. Jamie Nalepinski Address Not Provided Tok, AK 99780 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports CSSB 292. Ms. Joyce Wojciehouski Address Not Provided Dillingham, AK 99576 POSITION STATEMENT: Opposes CSSB 292. Dr. John Middaugh, MD Chief of Epidemiology Section Division of Public Health Department of Health & Social Services P.O. Box 240249 Anchorage, AK 99524-0249 POSITION STATEMENT: Opposes CSSB 292. Ms. Colleen Drake Wilke Public Health Nurse Disease Prevention and Control Municipality of Anchorage 825 L Street Anchorage, AK 99501 POSITION STATEMENT: Opposes CSSB 292. Dr. Beth Funk 3601 C Street #540 Anchorage, AK 99503 POSITION STATEMENT: Opposes CSSB 292. Ms. Beverly Wooley Manager of Division of Community Health Services Department of Health & Human Services Municipality of Anchorage 2023 Dimond Drive Anchorage, AK 99507 POSITION STATEMENT: Opposes CSSB 292. Ms. Carol Shelley 12640 Ridgewood Rd. Anchorage, AK 99516 POSITION STATEMENT: Opposes CSSB 292. Mr. J.J. Tower Student 7645 Griffith Street Anchorage, AK 99516 POSITION STATEMENT: Opposes CSSB 292. Ms. Gail Fenumiai Election Program Specialist Division of Elections P.O. Box 110017 Juneau, AK 99811-0017 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 120. Representative Hal Smalley Alaska State Capitol Juneau, AK 99802-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on CSSB 120. Ms. Carol Carroll Director of Administrative Services Division Department of Military & Veterans Affairs 400 Willoughby Avenue Suite 500 Juneau, AK 99811 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 237 and SB 238. Colonel Craig Christensen Alaska National Guard P.O. Box 5800 Fort Richardson, AK 99505 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 237 and SB 238. Mr. Rick Turcik Administrative Officer Department of Military & Veterans Affairs P.O. Box 5800 Fort Richardson, AK 99505 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 237. Mr. Thomas Westall Brigadier General Alaska State Defense Force Address Not Provided Fort Richardson, AK 99505 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 238. Ms. Diane Barrans Executive Director Alaska Commission of Postsecondary Education 3030 Vintage Blvd. Juneau, AK 99801 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SB 270. ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 00-07, SIDE A Number 001 CHAIRMAN WARD called the Senate State Affairs Committee to order at 3:36 p.m. Present were Senators Ward, Green, Phillips, and Elton. The first order of business to come before the committee was SCR 16. SCR 16-AVALANCHE AWARENESS MONTH MR. JERRY BURNETT, Legislative staff for Senator Lyda Green, stated each year Alaskans lose their lives as a result of avalanches. One of the worst years was 1999, when 14 people were killed by avalanches in Alaska. Often, nothing can be done to prevent avalanches from occurring, much can be done to prevent the loss of life from avalanches. SCR 16 would proclaim November as "Avalanche Awareness Month." This proclamation would raise public awareness of the hazards associated with avalanches, and the opportunities to participate in avalanche safety training at the beginning of the winter recreation season. It is hoped that the public participation in avalanche safety programs would be increased and that this increased participation would result in saved lives during the winter. The need for SCR 16 was brought to Senator Green's attention by the Backcountry Avalanche Awareness Response Team (BAART). MS. AEDENE ARTHUR, representing herself, stated her son Aaron, was one of the 14 people who lost their lives in 1999. In memory of these people BAART was founded, in hopes that other deaths would not occur from avalanches. November was chosen for "Avalanche Awareness Month" so a campaign for avalanche safety measures would be given at the beginning of the winter season. SCR 16 would educate Alaskans on avalanche awareness, safety measures, proper equipment, and how to use it. November is an optimum time to emphasize awareness and safety equipment, as this is when Alaskans thoughts turn to winter activities and many purchase outdoor equipment. Emphasizing these topics in November would allow time for people to think about purchasing safety equipment such as: probes, shovels, and avalanche beacons as Christmas gifts. November is a prime time for presentations of awareness and safety classes in schools and community classes. Many response teams will be practicing at this time, by raising awareness for the importance of these groups perhaps more people will be inclined to be trained to help in emergency situations. Ms. Arthur stated support for SCR 16. MS. CHRIS NOAKES, President of BAART, stated support for SCR 16. The State no longer has an avalanche warning system in place, federal law does mandate Alaska have an avalanche warning system. SENATOR GREEN stated this year's budget money was returned to an avalanche awareness program. That money should increase next year, and continue to grow from there on. MR. CLEVE COYNE, representing himself, stated support for SCR 16. Losing someone to an avalanche affects everyone in the family and in Alaska. Information should be made more available on avalanches and awareness. MS. PATSY COYNE, representing herself, stated support for SCR 16. SENATOR ELTON stated SCR 16 is an important step toward informing people on the dangers of avalanches. Financial resources should be given to groups like BAART so they have an enhanced ability to inform Alaskans. SENATOR GREEN moved SCR 16 out of committee with individual recommendations. Without objection, the motion carried. SB 292-PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENT IMMUNIZATIONS SENATOR GREEN moved to adopt CS for SB 292 (STA)(version G) as the working version of the committee. Without objection, CS for SB 292 (STA)(version G) was adopted. MS. LORETTA BROWN, Legislative staff for Senator Jerry Ward, stated the language in section 1 (a)(7),"unless the commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services certifies that there is no risk of harm to an individual child from the vaccine or" was deleted. The language "a parent or legal guardian of the child objects to the immunization based on religious or personal beliefs;" was inserted on page 2, line 21 and page 3, line 22. Section 3, subsection (b) has been added to the bill "The commissioner of Health and Social Services shall make available to the public a safety and public needs brochure that describes the risks and benefits of vaccines and immunizations that are required for attendance in a licensed day care center, public school, or private school. The brochure described in this subsection must disclose the source of the information used in the brochure." CHAIRMAN WARD announced the committee would stand at ease. VICE CHAIR GREEN stated she would be chairing the meeting in lieu of CHAIRMAN WARD. MS. BROWN said 17 states provide a personal belief exemption. SENATOR ELTON asked how the State will determine what is a legitimate excuse, and not an excuse of convenience. MS. BROWN referred to a survey conducted in California. Number 1169 SENATOR ELTON asked what will be determined if parents disagree with one another on immunizations of the child, and who will arbitrate. MS. BROWN stated that was not addressed, therefore, she is unsure. DR. PETER NAKAMURA, Director of the Division of Public Health, Department of Health & Social Services, stated the language in CS for SB 292 (STA) is still troublesome. There are many physicians in the State who would be more than willing to sign off on exemptions for vaccines, and that puts many people at risk. A personal exemption could be used as a convenience method for parents who are too lazy to have their children immunized, and that is putting the child at risk. VICE CHAIR GREEN asked what the standard is in current statute. DR. NAKAMURA answered regulations are in place that require a sign off for a valid medical or religious reason. SENATOR ELTON asked whether Dr. Nakamura would be called upon to dissolve a dispute between parents. DR. NAKAMURA stated a legal advisor would be better equipped to answer the question. SENATOR ELTON asked whether Dr. Nakamura could define what a personal belief is. DR. NAKAMURA answered no, the subject is too broad. MR. LYLE AXELARRIS, representing himself, stated support for CS for SB 292. Choices should be left up to the parents, not the government. For a state to assume responsibility for a child's welfare by making blanket health care decisions for all children is to act as a communist state. Number 1703 MS. TABITHA PARKER, representing herself, stated support for CS for SB 292. It is important for parents to make the decision about their children's health care, parents should not need to use religion as a safety net. MS. JAMIE NALEPINSKI, representing herself, stated support for CS for SB 292. Vaccinations are very traumatic for young children, and parents should have the choice whether to subject their children to them. MS. JOYCE WOJCIEHOUSKI, representing herself, stated opposition for CS for SB 292. Being a registered nurse she has witnessed the devastation these diseases can cause. Some children do have legitimate medical reasons for not receiving a vaccine. If parents choose not to immunize their children for personal beliefs it puts the children at risk because of medical reasons. DR. JOHN MIDDAUGH, Division of Public Health, Department of Health & Social Services, stated he was assigned to the State Health Department in 1975, and inheritrd an epidemic of diphtheria followed by an epidemic of measles. Parents moving in and out of Alaska were able to exercise a philosophical exemption, or schools stopped enforcing the existing requirements at that time. The State was reminded in 1996, with an outbreak of measles in Juneau, and in 1998 in Anchorage, how important and significant vaccinations are. Vaccines simply protect children in the settings where these diseases spread rapidly and place individuals at risk. The decision of a parent to not vaccinate their child because of personal beliefs is respected, but that child cannot attend day care or school, and then the child's education is at risk. Dr. Middaugh stated opposition for CS for SB 292. Studies in other states have shown that exempted persons are 35 times more likely to contract measles than vaccinated persons. MS. COLLEEN DRAKE WILKE, Public Health Nurse for the Municipality of Anchorage, stated she has been investigating whooping cough cases in young children who are too young to receive vaccines. The immunization goal in a community is to develop pert-immunity (ph), where you immunize as many individuals as possible to decrease disease, so those who cannot benefit from vaccines are protected by lack of infectious disease in the community. Ms. Wilke stated opposition for CS for SB 292. DR. BETH FUNK, stated opposition for CS for SB 292. MS. BEVERLY WOOLEY, Manager of Community & Health Services for the Municipality of Anchorage, stated opposition for CS for SB 292. CSSB 292 would result in reduced immunization levels and an increase in disease. Vaccines are known to be the most effective protection against disease that continues to threaten our children. MS. CAROL SHELLEY, representing herself, stated opposition for CS for SB 292. Alex, her son, contracted whooping cough at four weeks old and could have died. Whooping cough is a vaccine preventable disease, the lack of vaccinations puts small children at risk who are too small to receive the immunization. Tape 00-07, Side B MR. J.J. TOWER, student, stated opposition for CS for SB 292. He does not want to become exposed to infectious diseases because another child has not been immunized. If there are no vaccinations, millions of children may become afflicted with a deadly disease, and become highly contagious because of the closely knit school environments. VICE CHAIR GREEN stated CS for SB 292 would be held in committee. SB 120-DIVISION OF ELECTIONS SENATOR ELTON asked, because of the unusual circumstances, if any amendments offered would be held for a later meeting. VICE CHAIR GREEN replied the remainder of the meeting is for the purpose of hearing public testimony, and to recess to the call of the chair. MS. GAIL FENUMIAI, Election Program Specialist for the Division of Elections, stated SB 120 was an identical bill to HB 163 but changes have been made. MS. BROWN stated a proposed committee substitute for SB 120 contains some of the changes made to HB 163. SENATOR PHILLIPS moved to adopt CS for SB 120 (STA) (version H) for discussion purposes only. SENATOR ELTON objected for the purpose of making the following statement: debating the merits of SB 120 v. the merits of CS for SB 120, SENATOR ELTON removed his objection. MS. BROWN explained the changes made in CSSB 120. The use of stickers that was adopted in HB 163 was incorporated into CS for SB 120. Jury service exemption was included in CS for SB 120. Sections 63-70 were deleted from HB 163 and CS for SB 120. On page 6, line 25, Section 12 regarding seals and emblems, have been added. Sections regarding run-off elections and redistricting have been added. MS. FENUMIAI stated general support for CS for SB 120. Some provisions in CS for SB 120 the Division of Election (DOE) does not support. The use of stickers DOE does not support, also section 45 regarding run-off elections DOE has concerns about. Ms. Fenumiai referred to the 1998 election. DOE has concerns about the certification process for absentee ballots, the estimated cost of a House District run-off would be about $18,000 and a Senate District run-off would be about $37,500. The effective date of CS for SB 120 is July 1, 2000 and DOE has asked for a delayed effective date. DOE would like to have an effective date for sections 51-52 of January 1, 2001. SENATOR ELTON asked for a list of legislative races, in the last decade, that have been decided by less than 50 percent of the vote. Number 1790 REPRESENTATIVE HAL SMALLEY referred to HB 155, regarding municipal assemblies forms of reapportionment. Representative Smalley expressed concerns about CS for SB 120. He proposed an amendment to delete sections 86-89 and part of the title that refers to that. SENATOR ELTON stated opposition for the 50 percent requirement, and expressed concerns about other provisions in the bill. VICE CHAIR GREEN stated CS for SB 120 with the proposed amendment would be held in committee. SB 237-ALASKA NATL GUARD/NAVAL & STATE MILITIA MS. CAROL CARROLL, Director of Administrative Services Division for the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs, stated SB 237 will streamline some functions within the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs (DMVA) and call on Alaska Defense Forces (ADF) to respond to a disaster or search and rescue. SB 237 deals with the federal side of DMVA and calling on ADF; it takes the method of calculation for pay for ADF during active duty, replaces the allowance, and multiplies the active pay by 200 percent. SB 237 will eliminate over 345 steps taken to calculate active duty pay for each individual. VICE CHAIR GREEN stated it is just a different calculation method. MS. CARROLL agreed. Number 1483 COLONEL CRAIG CHRISTENSEN, Alaska National Guard, stated the Alaska National Guard talked with many other states on how active duty pay was calculated, and how other states have adopted a simplified method of payment of by taking a basic pay amount and multiplying it by a specific percentage. Colonel Christensen stated support for SB 237. SENATOR PHILLIPS asked how many people would be effected by SB 237. COLONEL CHRISTENSEN stated approximately 2000 Air National Guard members, approximately 2000 Army National Guard members, and approximately 50 Naval Militia. MR. RICK TURCIK, Administrative Officer for Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, stated SB 237 will ensure the pay calculation for the guard member on State active duty in a timely and accurate manner. SENATOR PHILLIPS moved SB 237 out of committee with individual recommendations. Without objection, the motion carried. SB 238-MEMBERS OF ALASKA STATE MILITIA MS. CARROLL stated SB 238 clarifies how the Alaska State Militia will be paid during State active duty. SB 238 would mandate the Alaska State Militia be paid as State employees according to the work. Prior to SB 238, DMVA were paying the Alaska State Militia in the same manner as the Alaska National Guard. The Department of Law contacted DMVA and informed them that it was an incorrect method. If the Alaska State Militia is called for duty, they are hired as emergency employees. That does disrupt the military command structure, and it questions their regular job protection. SB 238 is a method of payment for the Alaska State Militia when called to State active duty only. VICE CHAIR GREEN asked if this is the method that DMVA was advised to use. MS. CARROLL stated this is the easiest way to pay these employees, and provide for regular job protection. GENERAL THOMAS WESTALL, Brigadier General for the Alaska State Defense Force, stated since 1984, the Alaska State Defense Force (ASDF) has been the principle responder to emergencies and disasters in the State. ASDF is a State troop, therefore, they do not need federal authorization to maneuver. ASDF can maneuver on the order of the Governor and the Adjutant General. SB 238 clarifies the question in payment for ASDF. ASDF is not a federal task force and the Department of Justice determined ASDF should not be paid in the same manner as a federal task force. SENATOR ELTON asked what the structure of command is for the ASDF. MS. CARROLL replied some confusion arose about whose disciplinary action the ASDF falls under. SB 238 would clarify that ASDF would be under military discipline, and have regular job protection. Ms. Carroll referred to Title 26. SENATOR ELTON asked if the disciplinary structure in place for DMVA was standard. MR. CHRISTENSEN stated ASDF is under the State regulations. GENERAL WESTALL stated ASDF are brought into service under the Governor and State regulations. ASDF does not function under federal military control. When ASDF is called into active duty, ASDF operates under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the discipline prescribed by Congress that all militias of the United States must comply with. Title 26 of the Alaska statute compels people in ASDF to report for duty, but Title 26 provides statutory protection for those people to leave their regular jobs and report for duty. SENATOR PHILLIPS moved SB 238 out of committee with individual recommendations. Without objection, the motion carried. SB 270-STUDENT LOAN CORP PAYMENTS TO STATE MS. DIANE BARRANS, Executive Director for Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, stated support for SB 270. Changes to the Alaska Student Loan Program in recent years have resulted in an annual net income. The program goals are to continue in a direction of fiscal strength and good credit standing, to continue to reduce the cost of borrowing for Alaska residents, to continue to reduce the corporation's equity deficit, currently at $43 million, and to propose a mechanism that makes possible a return of contributed capital to the corporation's original financing source; the State of Alaska. In 1999, the program's improved financial standing was rewarded by a double A upgrade. The interest rate on the 2000/2001 State student loan was reduced to 8 percent. The interest free borrowing policy while students are attending school remains intact, and the corporation's equity deficit has been reduced by $7 million over the last two years. SB 270 provides that in any year the corporation has a $2 million net income, the board will declare return of capital payment to the State between 10-35 percent of the income amount. SB 270 has received support from the House and Senate. Ms. Barrans referred to graphs produced by the program. Number 329 SENATOR WILKEN stated the graphs should show more previous years, and the graphs are an indication the program is doing great work. VICE CHAIR GREEN stated SB 270 would be held in committee. There being no further business to come before the committee, VICE CHAIR GREEN recessed to the call of the chair at 5:15 p.m.