Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/25/2003 03:35 PM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
            SENATE STATE AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                           
                         March 25, 2003                                                                                         
                           3:35 p.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Gary Stevens, Chair                                                                                                     
Senator John Cowdery, Vice Chair                                                                                                
Senator Fred Dyson                                                                                                              
Senator Gretchen Guess                                                                                                          
Senator Lyman Hoffman                                                                                                           
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
SENATE BILL NO. 26                                                                                                              
"An  Act relating  to state  employees who  are called  to active                                                               
duty as reserve  or auxiliary members of the armed  forces of the                                                               
United States; and providing for an effective date."                                                                            
     MOVED CSSB 26 (STA) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                       
SENATE BILL NO. 69                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to participation  in matters before the Board of                                                               
Fisheries  by  members  of  the   board;  and  providing  for  an                                                               
effective date."                                                                                                                
     MOVED SB 69 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                               
SENATE BILL NO. 119                                                                                                             
"An  Act  eliminating  the   Alaska  Public  Offices  Commission;                                                               
transferring  campaign, public  official, and  lobbying financial                                                               
disclosure record-keeping  duties to  the division  of elections;                                                               
relating   to  reports,   summaries,   and  documents   regarding                                                               
campaign,  public official,  and  lobbying financial  disclosure;                                                               
providing  for  enforcement  by the  Department  of  Law;  making                                                               
conforming statutory  amendments; and providing for  an effective                                                               
     SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD                                                                                                    
PREVIOUS ACTION                                                                                                               
SB 26 - No previous action to record.                                                                                           
SB 69 - No previous action to record.                                                                                           
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
Senator Kim Elton                                                                                                               
Alaska State Capitol, Room 115                                                                                                  
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Sponsor SB 26                                                                                             
Debra Gerrish                                                                                                                   
9202 Emily Way                                                                                                                  
Juneau, AK 99801                                                                                                                
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on SB 26                                                                                        
Julie Benson                                                                                                                    
No address provided                                                                                                             
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on SB 26                                                                                        
Butch Stein                                                                                                                     
No address provided                                                                                                             
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on SB 26                                                                                        
Senator Thomas Wagoner                                                                                                          
Alaska State Capitol, Room 427                                                                                                  
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Sponsor SB 69                                                                                             
Cheryl Sutton                                                                                                                   
Staff to Senator Ben Stevens                                                                                                    
Salmon Industry Task Force                                                                                                      
Alaska State Capitol, Room 119                                                                                                  
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on SB 69                                                                                        
Jerry McCune                                                                                                                    
211 4 Street                                                                                                                    
Juneau, AK 99801                                                                                                                
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on SB 69                                                                                        
Cora Crome                                                                                                                      
P.O. Box 232                                                                                                                    
Petersburg, AK 99833                                                                                                            
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on SB 69                                                                                        
Ken Duckett                                                                                                                     
United Southeast Alaska Gillnetters Association                                                                                 
P.O. Box 22427                                                                                                                  
Juneau, AK 99802                                                                                                                
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on SB 69                                                                                        
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
TAPE 03-10, SIDE A                                                                                                            
CHAIR  GARY  STEVENS called  the  Senate  State Affairs  Standing                                                             
Committee meeting  to order  at 3:35  p.m. Present  were Senators                                                               
Dyson,  Guess  and  Chair  Gary  Stevens.  Senators  Hoffman  and                                                               
Cowdery arrived momentarily.                                                                                                    
The  first  order  of  business  was SB  26.  At  the  Governor's                                                               
request, SB 119 was not heard.                                                                                                  
         SB  26-STATE EMPLOYEES CALLED TO MILITARY DUTY                                                                     
SENATOR KIM ELTON, bill sponsor,  told a short story about Master                                                               
Sergeant Steve Fernandez, a HH-60  Pavehawk gunner and a Williams                                                               
Refinery  employee who  was  recently called  to  serve a  twelve                                                               
month tour  of active duty.  His employer agreed to  backfill his                                                               
salary, which  means his income  won't be diminished while  he is                                                               
serving the state and nation.                                                                                                   
SB  26  allows the  Governor  to  do  the  same thing  for  state                                                               
employees. It  provides that the  Governor may  backfill salaries                                                               
and may extend  benefits to both army and air  guardsmen that are                                                               
called for  active duty. He  noted there is a  proposed amendment                                                               
that would extend the benefit  to the Alaska State Defense Force.                                                               
This would affect a total of  138 state employees; 43 in the Army                                                               
National Guard,  83 in the  Air National  Guard and 12  belong to                                                               
the  State  Defense  Force.  Currently  eight  to  ten  of  these                                                               
employees  have been  called to  active duty  and last  year just                                                               
eight were called.                                                                                                              
The effective  date is  retroactive to  9/11/01 and  the benefits                                                               
that  may  be included  are  credited  service, health  and  life                                                               
insurance and SBS [Supplemental Benefit System].                                                                                
He presented an amendment [1]  that would delete "Alaska National                                                               
Guard and the Alaska Naval  Militia" following "including the" on                                                               
page  1,  line  9  and   insert  "organized  militia  of  Alaska,                                                               
consisting  of  the  Alaska  National  Guard,  the  Alaska  Naval                                                               
Militia, and the Alaska State Defense Force".                                                                                   
CHAIR  GARY  STEVENS asked  him  whether  the Governor  would  be                                                               
required to make the bill retroactive to 9/11/01.                                                                               
SENATOR  ELTON  explained  the  Governor  isn't  required  to  do                                                               
anything;  Administrative Order  allows  him  the opportunity  to                                                               
extend  benefits retroactively  to anyone  called to  active duty                                                               
post 9/11/01.                                                                                                                   
SENATOR GRETCHEN GUESS asked for a  review of what happens in the                                                               
private sector and other governmental entities.                                                                                 
SENATOR  ELTON advised  Tennessee was  the most  recent state  to                                                               
have passed the  same type of legislation.  The Williams Refinery                                                               
employee is  a private  sector example  and Chugach  in Anchorage                                                               
has  also covered  benefits and  salary. This  isn't an  uncommon                                                               
situation   in  the   private  sector,   particularly  in   large                                                               
SENATOR  GUESS  recapped saying  it's  a  choice in  the  private                                                               
sector  and this  would extend  the  choice to  the Governor  for                                                               
state employees.                                                                                                                
SENATOR  ELTON  agreed  and  advised  this  doesn't  require  the                                                               
Governor provide the  extension of benefits; it allows  him to do                                                               
so. There is  also a provision that takes into  account that some                                                               
of  the benefits  are  done  under the  purview  of a  negotiated                                                               
contract  and provides  that for  these benefits  to be  extended                                                               
there would have to be a contract amendment.                                                                                    
SENATOR GUESS  noted she has a  friend who is with  the Anchorage                                                               
Police Department  who was called to  active duty and has  had to                                                               
do without  his salary for  a year.  She asked whether  the state                                                               
would  have any  authority  over municipalities  if the  Governor                                                               
were to elect this option.                                                                                                      
SENATOR  ELTON assumed  that would  have to  be addressed  at the                                                               
local level.  The police  officer clearly  took a  financial hit,                                                               
but not all  state employees who are called up  would lose money.                                                               
Some would actually  make more money than in their  state job. SB                                                               
26  would  allow  the  extension of  state  benefits  -  credited                                                               
service, SBS, and health and life insurance.                                                                                    
SENATOR GUESS asked if PERS would be included.                                                                                  
SENATOR ELTON replied just SBS and credited service.                                                                            
SENATOR  COWDERY asked  what the  present  requirements were  for                                                               
employers  who have  employees  called for  duty  in addition  to                                                               
giving them their job back upon their return.                                                                                   
SENATOR ELTON  replied it is  his understanding that is  the only                                                               
requirement.  He didn't  believe there  was any  requirement that                                                               
the company provide  extended benefits while the  employee was in                                                               
service. He  advised he would check  again to make sure  that was                                                               
SENATOR COWDERY asked what other states do in this regard.                                                                      
SENATOR  ELTON   advised  him  that  Tennessee   adopted  similar                                                               
legislation  recently.   He  pointed  out  the   benefit  package                                                               
protects the employees family as well.                                                                                          
SENATOR COWDERY asked how many Alaskans would be eligible.                                                                      
SENATOR ELTON replied  it is hard to predict,  but the Department                                                               
of Administration  reported eight state employees  were called to                                                               
active duty last year.                                                                                                          
SENATOR COWDERY related  a story about a friend who  is an Alaska                                                               
Air National  Guardsman who also  works with Alaska  Airlines and                                                               
makes  more  money with  the  guard.  He  asked  if there  was  a                                                               
projected cost.                                                                                                                 
SENATOR ELTON  said if this had  been in place last  year, and if                                                               
the Governor had extended the  backfill provisions as well as the                                                               
health  benefits,   SBS,  and   credited  service   benefit,  the                                                               
estimated cost to the state  would have been $80,000. He admitted                                                               
it's more difficult to look forward than back.                                                                                  
SENATOR COWDERY asked if they  anticipated any cap on the monthly                                                               
pay benefit.                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  ELTON  replied that  is  possible  because the  language                                                               
provides   that  the   Governor  may   do  this.   The  language,                                                               
particularly with regard to benefits, is purposefully flexible.                                                                 
SENATOR COWDERY asked  if this would cover just  regular time and                                                               
not overtime.                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  ELTON conceded  that was  an  interesting question.  The                                                               
bill language gives  the Governor latitude to  give the employees                                                               
the  equivalent of  their state  compensation.  There is  nothing                                                               
that  would  preclude  the Governor  from  taking  overtime  into                                                               
account,  but he  would be  somewhat  surprised if  that were  to                                                               
SENATOR  COWDERY asked  for  an accounting  of  overtime pay.  He                                                               
thought there were court cases to review.                                                                                       
SENATOR  ELTON agreed  to check  and  added there  is nothing  to                                                               
preclude the Governor from  including this through Administrative                                                               
Order. The  intent of  SB 26  is to keep  the employee  whole, to                                                               
ensure they don't lose benefits for themselves and their family.                                                                
CHAIR GARY STEVENS called for public testimony.                                                                                 
MS.  DEBRA GERRISH  said she  was the  wife of  an Army  National                                                               
Guard officer  and her  family will  have to  make do  on $15,000                                                               
less while  he is  on active  duty. Health  insurance is  a vital                                                               
part  of this  bill because  many families  are left  without any                                                               
insurance when a family member is  called to active duty. This is                                                               
a  shortcoming to  which much  of  the public  is unaware.  Guard                                                               
families have  no organized  support system  and this  would help                                                               
those families.                                                                                                                 
MS. JULIE  BENSON testified  via teleconference  and said  she is                                                               
the  wife  of  an  Alaska   State  Trooper  and  Alaska  National                                                               
Guardsman. Her husband joined the  Alaska Air National Guard when                                                               
he left  the Army and spent  six month active duty  in the Middle                                                               
East  during Operation  Enduring  Freedom. She  said,  "SB 26  is                                                               
essential legislation for state  employees who make the difficult                                                               
choice to  serve not only  their state, but also  their country."                                                               
When her  husband was activated,  the benefits he received  as an                                                               
Alaska State Trooper were  immediately terminated, which resulted                                                               
in lost retirement contributions, lost  health care to his family                                                               
and forfeited pay raises. She urged passage of SB 26.                                                                           
4:00 pm                                                                                                                         
MR.  BUTCH  STEIN  testified  via teleconference  that  he  is  a                                                               
retired, active  duty member of  the 168   Air Refueling  Wing at                                                               
Eielson  Air  Force  Base.  He   served  on  the  state  steering                                                               
committee for employers  who support the guard  and reserve. This                                                               
bill would put the State of  Alaska inline with Title 3080 United                                                               
States  Code,  Chapter  43,  which   is  also  known  as  USERRA,                                                               
Uniformed  Services Employment  and  Reemployment  Rights. SB  26                                                               
actually goes beyond  the federal requirement, but  he knows some                                                               
states have done that. In the private sector, it is a case-by-                                                                  
case  basis. He  said, "These  people  are patriots  and I  don't                                                               
think that  word is  used enough  and I  don't think  most people                                                               
realize the sacrifice these people make."                                                                                       
SENATOR FRED DYSON said, "Amen."                                                                                                
There was no further testimony.                                                                                                 
CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked for a motion to adopt amendment #1.                                                                    
SENATOR GUESS made a motion to adopt amendment #1.                                                                              
There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                    
SENATOR  GUESS made  a motion  to move  SB 26,  as amended,  from                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations  and attached  fiscal                                                               
SENATOR DYSON acknowledged  he was out of order but  he wanted to                                                               
state he  was embarrassed  the state  treated Trooper  Benson the                                                               
way it  did. He wanted the  record to reflect that  he thinks the                                                               
trooper should be fully reimbursed by the state.                                                                                
CHAIR  GARY STEVENS  thanked  the Senator  for  his comments.  He                                                               
advised members the motion before them  was to move CSSB 26 (STA)                                                               
from committee with  individual recommendations and indeterminate                                                               
fiscal note. There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                       
        SB  69-BOARD OF FISHERIES CONFLICTS OF INTEREST                                                                     
CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked Senator Wagoner to introduce SB 69.                                                                    
SENATOR THOMAS  WAGONER, bill sponsor, explained  the bill allows                                                               
the members of the Board of  Fisheries to participate and vote on                                                               
matters before the board even though  they may have a conflict of                                                               
interest. They would  be required to disclose  any conflicts they                                                               
may have, but they could then participate.                                                                                      
The  Board  of  Fisheries  is composed  of  individuals  who  are                                                               
selected  due  to  their  expertise in  different  areas  of  the                                                               
fishing industry.  If a member has  a conflict of interest  on an                                                               
issue, it  is likely  that individual  also has  a great  deal of                                                               
knowledge  or  experience   in  that  area.  When   a  member  is                                                               
conflicted out  of an issue before  the board, they may  speak on                                                               
the  topic   for  just  five   minutes  after  which   they  must                                                               
participate as a member of  the public. This is counterproductive                                                               
to the fishing industry.                                                                                                        
SENATOR  JOHN  COWDERY asked  if  members  had to  declare  their                                                               
conflict then  ask permission of  other board members to  be able                                                               
to vote.                                                                                                                        
SENATOR WAGONER replied he was correct.                                                                                         
SENATOR GRETCHEN GUESS  said she must have misread  the bill. She                                                               
asked  if there  was the  option  for the  rest of  the board  to                                                               
disallow  the conflicted  member to  vote. She  thought the  bill                                                               
said the member would vote.                                                                                                     
SENATOR WAGONER  acknowledged he misunderstood  Senator Cowdery's                                                               
question and Senator Guess was correct.                                                                                         
CHAIR  GARY STEVENS  recapped  and stated  current  rules do  not                                                               
allow the member to debate from the podium or vote the issue.                                                                   
SENATOR   WAGONER  agreed;   a   conflicted   member  could   not                                                               
participate or speak to the issue as a member of the board.                                                                     
SENATOR  GUESS  announced she  stays  away  from issues  she  has                                                               
expertise in because  it's inappropriate, but she  sees that this                                                               
requirement could present  a problem for the board.  She asked if                                                               
there was a reason this  solution was selected rather than asking                                                               
other board  members to  make a  determination on  a case-by-case                                                               
SENATOR  WAGONER  advised  Ms.  Sutton could  better  answer  the                                                               
question. He was carrying the bill for the Fish Caucus.                                                                         
MS. CHERYL  SUTTON, staff to  Senator Ben Stevens and  the Salmon                                                               
Industry  Task  Force, said  this  was  a subjective  process.  A                                                               
standard was needed  in conflict situations and this  was a clean                                                               
There were no further questions for Ms. Sutton.                                                                                 
MR.  JERRY McCUNE,  United  Fishermen  of Alaska  representative,                                                               
testified in support of SB 69.  Members are selected to the board                                                               
because of their expertise and it  is vital all board members are                                                               
able to participate  in the decision making  process. The present                                                               
system wastes expertise and knowledge.                                                                                          
MS.   CORA   CROME,    Petersburg   Vessel   Owners   Association                                                               
representative, testified in  support of SB 69.  An effective lay                                                               
board  is  dependent  on  the  knowledge  and  expertise  of  its                                                               
members.  Appointees  are  typically selected  because  of  their                                                               
knowledge of  the state's fishery  and this knowledge  is usually                                                               
gained by  participation in  fishery business.  She has  seen the                                                               
board struggle  to make  the best decisions  for a  fishery while                                                               
the board member  who could provide the best advise  to the board                                                               
is sitting in the audience and unable to speak.                                                                                 
MR.  KEN  DUCKETT, executive  director  of  the United  Southeast                                                               
Alaska  Gillnetters  Association,  testified  via  teleconference                                                               
that he agrees with Ms. Crome  and Mr. McCume. He attended recent                                                               
Board of  Fish meetings on  finfish in Ketchikan and  watched the                                                               
board  struggle with  specific local  issues that  the Petersburg                                                               
member could  have easily spoken  to. Unfortunately,  that member                                                               
had to  sit in  the audience and  not participate.  He emphasized                                                               
the Association's support of the bill.                                                                                          
There was no further testimony.                                                                                                 
CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked for a motion.                                                                                          
SENATOR COWDERY made  a motion to move SB 69  from committee with                                                               
individual recommendations  and zero fiscal note.  There being no                                                               
objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                                   
SIDE B                                                                                                                          
4:23 pm.                                                                                                                        
SENATOR GARY STEVENS adjourned the meeting at 4:25 pm.                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects