Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/22/2003 04:00 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                                                                           
                         April 22, 2003                                                                                         
                           4:00 p.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Gary Stevens, Chair                                                                                                     
Senator John Cowdery, Vice Chair                                                                                                
Senator Fred Dyson                                                                                                              
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Senator Gretchen Guess                                                                                                          
Senator Lyman Hoffman                                                                                                           
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 16                                                                                                  
Encouraging the federal government to  end the federal subsidy of                                                               
ethanol,  and requesting  the Congress  of the  United States  to                                                               
mandate that land currently used  to grow corn for the production                                                               
of ethanol be returned to its natural state.                                                                                    
     MOVED SJR 16 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                              
SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 17                                                                                                  
Relating to the  Alaska-Yukon Intergovernmental Relations Accord,                                                               
to    annual   legislative    exchanges,   and    to   continuing                                                               
intergovernmental  work on  matters of  joint concern  and mutual                                                               
     MOVED SJR 17 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                              
SENATE BILL NO. 177                                                                                                             
"An Act  relating to cost-of-living benefits  for retired members                                                               
in  the public  employees'  retirement system  and the  teachers'                                                               
retirement system  who are  called to  active military  duty; and                                                               
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
     MOVED SB 177 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                              
PREVIOUS ACTION                                                                                                               
SJR 16 - No previous action to record.                                                                                          
SJR 17 - No previous action to record.                                                                                          
SB 177 - No previous action to record.                                                                                          
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
Senator Con Bunde                                                                                                               
Alaska State Capitol, Room 506                                                                                                  
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Sponsor SJR 16                                                                                            
Dave Gray                                                                                                                       
Staff to Senator Donny Olson                                                                                                    
Alaska State Capitol, Room 510                                                                                                  
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Introduced SJR 17                                                                                         
Deborah Grundman                                                                                                                
Staff to Senator Ben Stevens                                                                                                    
Alaska State Capitol, Room 119                                                                                                  
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Introduced SB 177                                                                                         
Guy Bell                                                                                                                        
Division of Retirement & Benefits                                                                                               
Department of Administration                                                                                                    
PO Box 110200                                                                                                                   
Juneau, AK  99811-0200                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Answered questions on SB 177                                                                              
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
TAPE 03-21, SIDE A                                                                                                            
CHAIR GARY STEVENS called the Senate State Affairs Standing                                                                   
Committee meeting to order at 4:00 p.m. Present were Senators                                                                   
Cowdery, Dyson and Chair Gary Stevens.                                                                                          
The first order of business was SJR 16.                                                                                         
               SJR 16-END FEDERAL ETHANOL SUBSIDY                                                                           
SENATOR CON BUNDE, sponsor of SJR 16, paraphrased from the                                                                      
sponsor statement:                                                                                                              
     Fifty-two  U.S.  Senators  recently voted  against  the                                                                    
     opening of  ANWR to oil  drilling, proclaiming  that by                                                                    
     doing so,  they were  saving wilderness  and preserving                                                                    
    During   debate   on   Amendment   272,   'To   prevent                                                                     
     consideration of drilling the Arctic National Wildlife                                                                     
     Refuge   in    SCR   23,   the   fast    track   budget                                                                    
     reconciliation,'  many  senators  spoke  on  behalf  of                                                                    
     keeping  the  1002  region  in  a  state  of  'pristine                                                                    
     For example,  Mr. Durbin of Illinois  said, 'The Arctic                                                                    
     Refuge  includes boreal  forests,  dramatic peaks,  and                                                                    
     tundra.  It features  a complete  range  of arctic  and                                                                    
     sub-arctic    ecosystems,    with   an    extraordinary                                                                    
     assemblage  of  wildlife.'  He  declared,  'We  have  a                                                                    
     responsibility in this generation  to leave to the next                                                                    
     generation the natural heritage that we were given.'                                                                       
     Illinois  produces  766   million  gallons  of  ethanol                                                                    
     produced from  corn, the  most of  all fifty  states. I                                                                    
     hope  that he  understands that  this resolution  would                                                                    
     protect the next generation from ethanol subsidies.                                                                        
     The  amendment's  sponsor,  Senator  Barbara  Boxer  of                                                                    
     California, explained her position  this way. 'I say to                                                                    
     my  friends from  Alaska, I  hope they  will understand                                                                    
     the people in  this country who support  keeping this 5                                                                    
     percent of the North  Slope in its pristine environment                                                                    
     are doing so  because we think it is good  for the soul                                                                    
     of this country, and we  believe there are more jobs to                                                                    
     be created through other means.'                                                                                           
     However, I agree with Senator  Lisa Murkowski, who said                                                                    
     during the  debate, 'But  this thought  process implies                                                                    
     that...  Alaskan residents,  my constituents,  the jobs                                                                    
     they will get  are carrying bags for  these people when                                                                    
     they come to visit as a tourist.'                                                                                          
     Many  of  the  senators  who voted  for  Amendment  272                                                                    
     represent the  top 20  ethanol-producing states  in the                                                                    
     nation.   Some  of   the   nation's  most   influential                                                                    
     businesses  profit  greatly  from the  federal  ethanol                                                                    
     subsidy  and do  big  business in  those states.  Those                                                                    
     senators  support   industrial  development   in  their                                                                    
     states,  to the  detriment  of their  own wildlife  and                                                                    
     wild  lands. Yet  many in  those and  other states  who                                                                    
     supported  keeping  ANWR   closed  to  development  are                                                                    
     ardent  environmentalists -  when it  comes to  someone                                                                    
     else's state.                                                                                                              
     I  also agree  with  Senator Murkowski  when she  said,                                                                    
     'It  is  demeaning  and  it   is  unfair  to  say  that                                                                    
     Massachusetts  can  keep   its  20,000  petroleum-based                                                                    
     jobs; that  New Jersey  can keep its  27,000 petroleum-                                                                    
     industry  jobs;  and  New  York  can  keep  its  36,000                                                                    
     petroleum-industry jobs, while  Alaska supposedly looks                                                                    
     to  other alternatives.  Why is  it okay  for everybody                                                                    
     else to  do it, and  yet in  Alaska for some  reason we                                                                    
     are not  responsible, we can't  handle it, we  don't do                                                                    
     it  right,  we need  to  lock  it  up and  preserve  it                                                                    
     because it is the last Serengeti?'                                                                                         
     This resolution  is meant  to send  a message  to those                                                                    
     U.S.  Senators   who  support   the  environmentalists'                                                                    
     viewpoint.  They believe  that  saving  2,000 acres  in                                                                    
     Alaska is  worth more than  Alaskan jobs  and Alaskans'                                                                    
     right to develop our state in the manner we see fit.                                                                       
SENATOR FRED DYSON made a motion to move SJR 16 from committee                                                                  
with individual recommendations. There being no objection, it                                                                   
was so ordered.                                                                                                                 
         SJR 17-ALASKA-YUKON INTERGOV RELATIONS ACCORD                                                                      
DAVE GRAY, Staff to Senator Donny Olson, paraphrased from the                                                                   
sponsor statement:                                                                                                              
     SJR 17 is a resolution  supporting the extension of the                                                                    
     Alaska-Yukon  Intergovernmental Relations  Accord. This                                                                    
     accord is set to expire on September 8, 2003.                                                                              
     The State of  Alaska and the Yukon  Territory of Canada                                                                    
     share  not  only  a  long  common  border  but  also  a                                                                    
     connected  history  of  resource development  and  pre-                                                                    
     contact ethnography. In the past,  Alaska and the Yukon                                                                    
     Territory  have enjoyed  mutual  prosperity from  joint                                                                    
     efforts in mineral exploration and development. We co-                                                                     
     manage important  fish and  game resources  that trans-                                                                    
     migrate our boundaries.                                                                                                    
     With  the pending  gas pipeline  and  other matters  of                                                                    
     potential  resource use,  exploration and  development,                                                                    
     it is essential  for Alaska and the  Yukon Territory to                                                                    
     work  cooperatively  together  for  the  wise  use  and                                                                    
     benefit of our bountiful resources.                                                                                        
     This year  I attended  the annual  legislative exchange                                                                    
     with our  Yukon colleagues in Whitehorse.  The meetings                                                                    
     and discussions  that ensued underscore  the importance                                                                    
     of   continuing   the  Alaska-Yukon   Intergovernmental                                                                    
     Relations  Accord for  our future  economic growth  and                                                                    
     well being.                                                                                                                
SENATOR JOHN COWDERY asked if, in addition to the gas line,                                                                     
there were cross border dealings on major products.                                                                             
MR. GRAY replied Skagway is viewed as a saltwater port for the                                                                  
mineral development and transport in the Yukon and Whitehorse                                                                   
uses Skagway as a tourism resource.                                                                                             
SENATOR FRED DYSON stated Yukon companies would like to sell                                                                    
lumber across the border.                                                                                                       
He made a motion to move SJR 17 from committee with individual                                                                  
recommendations. There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                   
         SB 177-PERS/TRS COLA FOR ACTIVE DUTY MILITARY                                                                      
DEBORAH GRUNDMAN, Staff to Senator Ben Stevens, paraphrased from                                                                
the sponsor statement:                                                                                                          
     An  Alaska  cost  of living  allowance  is  payable  to                                                                    
     benefit  recipients   of  the  public   employees'  and                                                                    
     teachers'  retirement system  who  remain domiciled  in                                                                    
     Alaska after  retirement. The  allowance is  10 percent                                                                    
     of their  base pay.  A person receiving  a COLA  is not                                                                    
     entitled to the allowance if  absent from the state for                                                                    
     a time period  in excess of 90  continuous days, except                                                                    
     that  a person  may be  absent from  the state  for not                                                                    
     more  than six  months without  a loss  of COLA  if the                                                                    
     absence is the result of  illness and required by order                                                                    
     of a licensed physician.                                                                                                   
     Upon return to  the state and upon  notification to the                                                                    
     Department  of  Administration   the  person  is  again                                                                    
     entitled  to   receive  the  monthly  cost   of  living                                                                    
     allowance,  commencing with  the first  monthly benefit                                                                    
     Our retired  public employees currently  receiving COLA                                                                    
     in the State  and who are called to active  duty in the                                                                    
     military  would not  be eligible  for the  COLA payment                                                                    
     while serving  our country, under existing  statute. SB
     177 rectifies this situation  and allows retired public                                                                    
     employees eligible  to continue  to receive  their COLA                                                                    
     while on active military duty.                                                                                             
SENATOR JOHN COWDERY asked how many people would be affected.                                                                   
MS. GRUNDMAN replied there wouldn't be more than ten.                                                                           
GUY  BELL,  Director of  Retirement  and  Benefits, advised  they                                                               
submitted a  zero fiscal note. The  pool is limited to  those who                                                               
have  retired from  PERS  or  TRS and  who  are  in the  military                                                               
reserve.  Currently  ten  people  could be  affected  and  that's                                                               
probably an accurate  number going forward. It's  an equity issue                                                               
and the department supports the legislation.                                                                                    
SENATOR JOHN COWDERY made a motion  to move SB 177 from committee                                                               
with individual  recommendations and attached fiscal  note. There                                                               
being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                          
There being  no further  business to  come before  the committee,                                                               
Chair Gary Stevens adjourned the meeting at 4:15 p.m.                                                                           

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