Legislature(2005 - 2006)BELTZ 211
04/21/2005 03:30 PM STATE AFFAIRS
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ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE SENATE STATE AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE April 21, 2005 3:41 p.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Senator Gene Therriault, Chair Senator Thomas Wagoner, Vice Chair Senator Charlie Huggins Senator Bettye Davis Senator Kim Elton MEMBERS ABSENT All members present COMMITTEE CALENDAR CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 214(HES) "An Act relating to anatomical gifts and the anatomical gift donor registry program." MOVED SCS CSHB 214(STA) OUT OF COMMITTEE CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 127(FIN) am "An Act relating to service in the peace corps and members of the United States Olympic Team as allowable absences from the state for purposes of eligibility for permanent fund dividends and to the period for filing an application for a permanent fund dividend; authorizing the Department of Revenue to issue administrative orders imposing sanctions for certain misrepresentations or other actions concerning eligibility for a permanent fund dividend and providing for administrative appeal of those orders; and providing for an effective date." HEARD AND HELD CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 178(STA) am "An Act relating to special motor vehicle registration plates; and providing for an effective date." MOVED CSHB 178(STA)am OUT OF COMMITTEE PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION BILL: HB 214 SHORT TITLE: ANATOMICAL GIFTS & REGISTRY SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) McGuire 03/09/05 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS 03/09/05 (H) STA, HES 03/31/05 (H) STA AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 106 03/31/05 (H) Moved Out of Committee 03/31/05 (H) MINUTE(STA) 04/01/05 (H) STA RPT 3DP 2AM 04/01/05 (H) DP: RAMRAS, ELKINS, SEATON; 04/01/05 (H) AM: LYNN, GATTO 04/05/05 (H) HES AT 3:00 PM CAPITOL 106 04/05/05 (H) Moved CSHB 214(HES) Out of Committee 04/05/05 (H) MINUTE(HES) 04/07/05 (H) HES RPT CS(HES) 5DP 2NR 04/07/05 (H) DP: ANDERSON, KOHRING, McGuire, SEATON, WILSON; 04/07/05 (H) NR: CISSNA, GARDNER 04/12/05 (H) TRANSMITTED TO (S) 04/12/05 (H) VERSION: CSHB 214(HES) 04/13/05 (S) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS 04/13/05 (S) STA, HES 04/21/05 (S) STA AT 3:30 PM BELTZ 211 BILL: HB 127 SHORT TITLE: PFD:PEACE CORPS/OLYMPIAN/SANCTIONS SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) McGuire 02/04/05 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS 02/04/05 (H) STA, FIN 03/03/05 (H) STA AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 106 03/03/05 (H) Heard & Held 03/03/05 (H) MINUTE(STA) 03/05/05 (H) STA AT 9:30 AM CAPITOL 106 03/05/05 (H) Moved CSHB 127(STA) Out of Committee 03/05/05 (H) MINUTE(STA) 03/09/05 (H) STA RPT CS(STA) NT 5DP 03/09/05 (H) DP: LYNN, GATTO, RAMRAS, GRUENBERG, SEATON 03/29/05 (H) FIN AT 1:30 PM HOUSE FINANCE 519 03/29/05 (H) -- Meeting Canceled -- 03/30/05 (H) FIN AT 9:00 AM HOUSE FINANCE 519 03/30/05 (H) Moved CSHB 127(FIN) Out of Committee 03/30/05 (H) MINUTE(FIN) 04/01/05 (H) FIN RPT CS(FIN) NT 7DP 1NR 04/01/05 (H) DP: HAWKER, STOLTZE, JOULE, CROFT, MOSES, FOSTER, MEYER; 04/01/05 (H) NR: KELLY 04/01/05 (H) TRANSMITTED TO (S) 04/01/05 (H) VERSION: CSHB 127(FIN) AM 04/04/05 (S) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS 04/04/05 (S) STA, FIN 04/21/05 (S) STA AT 3:30 PM BELTZ 211 BILL: HB 178 SHORT TITLE: SPECIAL REQUEST LICENSE PLATES SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) OLSON 02/25/05 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS 02/25/05 (H) STA, FIN 03/17/05 (H) STA AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 106 03/17/05 (H) Moved CSHB 178(STA) Out of Committee 03/17/05 (H) MINUTE(STA) 03/18/05 (H) STA RPT CS(STA) 4DP 1DNP 2NR 03/18/05 (H) DP: GRUENBERG, ELKINS, RAMRAS, SEATON; 03/18/05 (H) DNP: GATTO; 03/18/05 (H) NR: GARDNER, LYNN 03/30/05 (H) FIN AT 1:30 PM HOUSE FINANCE 519 03/30/05 (H) <Bill Hearing Postponed> 03/31/05 (H) FIN AT 9:00 AM HOUSE FINANCE 519 03/31/05 (S) PUBLIC EMPLOYEE/TEACHER RETIREMENT 04/01/05 (H) FIN AT 9:00 AM HOUSE FINANCE 519 04/01/05 (H) Moved CSHB 178(FIN) Out of Committee 04/01/05 (H) MINUTE(FIN) 04/04/05 (H) FIN RPT CS(FIN) 5DP 1NR 04/04/05 (H) DP: FOSTER, STOLTZE, HOLM, MEYER, CHENAULT; 04/04/05 (H) NR: KELLY 04/08/05 (H) TRANSMITTED TO (S) 04/08/05 (H) VERSION: CSHB 178(STA) AM 04/11/05 (S) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS 04/11/05 (S) STA, FIN 04/21/05 (S) STA AT 3:30 PM BELTZ 211 WITNESS REGISTER Representative Lesil McGuire Alaska Capitol Building Juneau, AK 99801 POSITION STATEMENT: Sponsor of HB 214 and HB 127 Bruce Zalneraitis Life Alaska Donor Services P.O. Box 231809 Anchorage, AK POSITION STATEMENT: Available for questions on HB 214 Sue Hex Emergency Medical Services Coordinator Kenai, AK POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of HB 214 Pam Randles Haines, AK POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of HB 127 Russ Walker Anchorage, AK POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of HB 127 Brian Brubaker Anchorage, AK POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of HB 127 Elizabeth Cuadra Juneau, AK 99801 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of HB 127 Konrad Jackson, Staff to Representative Kurt Olson Alaska State Capitol Juneau, AK 99801-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Introduced HB 178 for sponsor Duanne Bannock, Director Division of Motor Vehicles Department of Administration PO Box 110200 Juneau, AK 99811-0200 POSITION STATEMENT: Answered questions on HB 178 ACTION NARRATIVE CHAIR GENE THERRIAULT called the Senate State Affairs Standing Committee meeting to order at 3:41:10 PM. Present were Senators Elton, Wagoner, Huggins, Davis, and Chair Therriault. CSHB 214(HES)-ANATOMICAL GIFTS & REGISTRY CHAIR GENE THERRIAULT announced HB 214 to be the first order of business. REPRESENTATIVE LESIL McGuire, Sponsor, described HB 214 as a clean-up bill for the Anatomical Gifts Registry Act passed last year. First, it broadens the definition of a technician to match the federal definition. A technician is the person who makes the actual organ and tissue collection. Next, the definition of a procurement organization was too narrow in that it excluded the local organ and tissue bank, Life Alaska. We want them to have control and access over the registry that benefits Alaskans, she said. The reporting requirements relating to donor instructions and wishes were too cumbersome for first responders so that duty is transferred to dispatch. That makes sense, she said, because that's when much of the information about the victim is communicated. Finally, she asked the committee to consider two technical amendments. 3:44:27 PM CHAIR THERRIAULT labeled \I.1 Amendment 1 and \I.2 Amendment 2. REPRESENTATIVE McGuire said the definition of "hospital" is expanded to include a rural clinic, a mortuary, or a hospice. Amendment 2 makes it clear that first responders can designate the local dispatch center or public safety answering point that would notify the procurement organization. The intention is to make sure that the information is transferred quickly enough to allow time to harvest the tissue. CHAIR THERRIAULT moved Amendment 1. There was no objection and it was adopted. 24-LS0410\I.1 Bannister 11/22/05 A M E N D M E N T 1 OFFERED IN THE SENATE TO: CSHB 214(HES) Page 2, line 18, following "hospital": Insert ", a rural clinic, a mortuary, a hospice," Page 2, line 30, following "hospital": Insert ", rural clinic, mortuary, or hospice" Page 3, line 1: Delete "is a donor, the hospital" Insert ", rural clinic, mortuary, or hospice is a donor, the hospital, rural clinic, mortuary, or hospice" Page 3, line 2, following "hospital": Insert ", rural clinic, mortuary, or hospice" CHAIR THERRIAULT moved Amendment 2. There was no objection and it was adopted. 24-LS0410\I.2 Bannister 11/22/05 A M E N D M E N T 2 OFFERED IN THE SENATE TO: CSHB 214(HES) Page 2, line 28, following "section": Insert "or a designee of the persons identified in (d)(1) of this section" CHAIR THERRIAULT opened public testimony 3:47:32 PM SUE HEX, Kenai Peninsula Emergency Medical Services Coordinator, stated support for the bill and the amendments. It will work much better at the responder level and matches what is ongoing in the field, she emphasized. There were no further questions or testimony. CHAIR THERRIAULT noted the fiscal notes and asked for a motion. 3:49:41 PM SENATOR THOMAS WAGONER motioned to report SCS CSHB 214(STA) and attached fiscal notes with individual recommendations. There being no objection, it was so ordered. CSHB 127(FIN)am-PFD:PEACE CORPS/OLYMPIAN/SANCTIONS CHAIR GENE THERRIAULT announced HB 127 to be up for consideration. 3:50:06 PM REPRESENTATIVE LESIL McGuire explained that HB 127 would restore Peace Corps volunteers and Olympians to the list of allowable absences for receipt of the Permanent Fund dividend. She described the issue as a passion of hers. Those two groups had allowable absences put into law in 1983 and had them removed 16 years later. She said she introduced the bill as a matter of policy because she wanted to hear why the legislature decided to remove the exemptions and because she believes that the work the groups do is of great value to Alaska and to the country. Although it's a different type of service, it's fair to compare service in the Peace Corps with military service, she said. It's work that promotes democracy in a non-wartime context. Volunteers help people stabilize water and sewer systems and build economies. They do the kinds of things that help to prevent harmful dictatorships from coming into power. These are Alaskan ambassadors who go out and broaden their horizons and then return to the state in large numbers to enrich the lives of all Alaskans. The bill was amended on the House floor to include Olympians and it received overwhelming bipartisan support. The reason for including Olympic athletes is that it is a narrow definable category of individuals. They are Alaskans who return to Alaska and while they are away they serve as volunteers and ambassadors of Alaska and the United States. When they return to the state they bring back the value of their accomplishments. 3:57:13 PM The second half of the bill proposes to add tools to the Department of Revenue (DOR) tool belt in an effort to reduce dividend fraud. If fraud is evidenced, DOR could impose an immediate civil fine of up to $3,000 without the high cost of going to court. An additional penalty would be the loss of eligibility to receive the five subsequent dividends. The proposed penalty would strengthen DOR's ability to investigate fraud associated with the dividend as well as recapture revenue for the Permanent Fund. At most there have been 42 Peace Corps volunteers from Alaska at any one time and just 8 Olympians. The proposed exemption wouldn't have a large impact on the dividend yet the return to Alaska would be great, she concluded. 3:59:33 PM SENATOR THOMAS WAGONER commented the committee heard a similar bill that related to U.S. Foreign Service workers. CHAIR THERRIAULT informed him that SB 59 is Senator Dyson's bill. It was heard and is held in committee. REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE stated that the part that included Foreign Service workers was stripped from HB 127 in House State Affairs and not reinstituted on the House floor. The discussion centered on the argument that entering the U.S. Foreign Service is a career decision. 4:01:03 PM CHAIR THERRIAULT said he continued to be troubled at how you draw the line at Peace Corps volunteers because there is no allowable absence for a myriad of other worthwhile volunteer and exchange positions. He could see the benefit to sending Alaskans to staff congressional offices, but even though Peace Corps service is beneficial to the individual he didn't see the direct benefit to the state. It would be difficult to draw the line to include them and exclude others, he said. REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE opined Peace Corp volunteers undoubtedly benefit Alaska on two fronts. First they are not unlike congressional staffers who meet with and influence people from all over the world. Peace Corps volunteers do the same thing on arguably a broader level in terms of the scope of the world. Second, when Peace Corps volunteers return home they bring the value of that experience home. They return to Alaska and fill much needed professional positions such as teaching and medicine. There is no way to justify including every single group in the list of allowable absences, but these two deserve exemption. First, you can't argue that there isn't a benefit to Alaska and second, they were included originally. SENATOR WAGONER asked Senator Huggins whether serving in the Peace Corps didn't suffice for military service at one point. SENATOR CHARILIE HUGGINS responded he wasn't sure. SENATOR HUGGINS expressed the same reservations as Senator Therriault. He suggested the window might already be too wide and he would prefer to narrow it rather than opening it wider. REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE responded she could understand his philosophical background and she is a co-sponsor to a House bill that would put money received during an allowable absence in trust until the person returned to Alaska. Including these two groups is a matter of parity, she said. SENATOR HUGGINS said he takes comfort in knowing that anyone who is presently in the Peace Corps knew the rules when they joined. SENATOR KIM ELTON suggested this isn't so much a matter of opening the window as it's correcting a mistake the legislature made several years ago. Peace Corps volunteers were eligible and for an inexplicable reason the eligibility was removed. This restores a right and that's the primary reason he encourages support for the bill. The only way you'd qualify for the dividend is if you were an Alaskan who volunteered. Also, Peace Corps volunteers make a very small stipend and receiving the dividend may make a difference in paying off a small debt or coming home for a visit with family. 4:14:00 PM CHAIR THERRIAULT reviewed several emails then discussed the living allowance and $6,000 separation stipend each volunteer receives. Some emails supported and some opposed the measure showing that even the volunteers are split on the issue. He said he'd like to know why some volunteers portray the allowance as not enough to get by while others say it's intentionally designed to allow you to live at a calculated level in the society in which you are serving. 4:17:04 PM SENATOR BETTYE DAVIS pointed out the Permanent Fund dividend isn't based on how much you make or don't make. The $6,000 stipend shouldn't even be taken into consideration. CHAIR THERRIAULT agreed the dividend is available to all Alaskans who meet certain residency requirements. But just because you haven't met those requirements for several years and are excluded from receiving a dividend doesn't mean that you have been deemed not to be an Alaska resident. It simply means you didn't meet the residency requirements. 4:18:24 PM CHAIR THERRIAULT opened public testimony. PAM RANDLES, Haines resident, advised she sent a supporting letter to the committee. She had been a Peace Corps volunteer and has been a Peace Corps trainer for a number of years. She made several points. The Peace Corps is part of the U.S. government, which draws a line between Peace Corps volunteers and missionaries from private organizations. Wages are based on annual cost of living surveys that are sent to Congress. Wage adjustments aren't made quickly so if there's a lot of inflation in a country the volunteer's wage is unlikely to keep pace. When volunteers say they were comfortable, they're probably telling the truth and when some say they barely scraped by, they're probably telling the truth as well. The Peace Corps has three goals: technical assistance for people in the host country; cultural exchange; bringing skills and knowledge home. Volunteers bring skills home and serve various Alaskan communities well. She asked the committee to honor that service by restoring the dividend. 4:22:04 PM RUSS WALKER, Anchorage, said he served in the Peace Corps in Africa from 1999-2001. Peace Corps volunteers are very responsive in clarifying where we stand in the world and where Alaska is with respect to its natural resources. In addition it's high-risk service and the volunteers are in harms way. In closing he quoted a portion of President Bush's 2002 State of the Union address to demonstrate his view regarding the importance of the Peace Corps and its volunteers who represent the United States and Alaska and bring back a great deal to their home communities. 4:31:40 PM BRIAN BRUBAKER, Anchorage, said his wife was a member of the Peace Corps and he's had the pleasure of knowing a number of volunteers. He said the volunteers return to Alaska and offer service to their community and bring an understanding of other cultures. Alaskans have a special spirit and are always ready to help people in need. These volunteers are serving their country and others in need. That deserves our respect and recognition, he said. 4:33:35 PM ELIZABETH CUADRA, Juneau, advised that her letter is in the bill packet. She served in the Peace Corps after retirement working with farmers as a horticultural extension agent in Nepal. Her living allowance was $150 per month and she received an adjustment allowance when she returned home. The second year she was away she couldn't get her dividend because the 1998 legislature struck Peace Corps service from the list of allowable absences. This was a big mistake and she hopes this legislature will remedy that. You can draw a bright line distinguishing Peace Corps volunteers and the military from people in CARE, Save the Children, or church missionary groups, she asserted. The Peace Corps is a part of the U.S. government and volunteers undergo risks that are similar to the military. The University of Alaska Fairbanks recognized the importance of the Peace Corps and set up two masters international programs. Peace Corps service is considered a learning experience to the extent that it is made part of a masters program. Tuition is deferred for two years and a certain amount of credit is awarded. She gave several examples of the outreach programs that volunteers participated in to fulfill the third Peace Corps goal, which is bringing skills and knowledge home. In one year here in Juneau she and other volunteers visited 60 to 70 classes to give lectures. 4:44:11 PM CHAIR THERRIAULT said the concept of spreading democracy does mean something. He described a Rotary program and offered the opinion that other than the fact that the Peace Corps is a government sponsored program it's difficult to differentiate and evaluate the benefit that Alaskans do or don't get from the different programs. MS. CUADRA responded she'd like to see more programs like the one he described. She'd also support a requirement for students graduating from high school to spend one year in a developing country. She suggested they would return home as better citizens of their community and state just like Peace Corps volunteers do. CHAIR THERRIAULT said if the government required the service there would be an allowable absence. That's not the case; the program is voluntary just like other worthwhile programs. He questioned how you could draw the line and include one and not the other. MS. CUADRA asked if serving in the National Guard, the Army Reserve, or the military is voluntary. CHAIR THERRIAULT replied it is voluntary, but he believes it's a requirement of this country that we have those types of armed forces and that's how he differentiates. SENATOR HUGGINS thanked Ms. Cuadra for her service and apologized for the fact that she lost her dividend after she joined the Peace Corps. He then reiterated the view that he's not inclined to open the window wider. Rules are rules and volunteers know what they are when they sign up. We'd all be better served if we recognize that rules are for all of us, he said. CHAIR THERRIAULT asked about the graduate program web site. MS. CUADRA described how to navigate the Peace Corps web site to learn about the graduate program offered by UAF. CHAIR THERRIAULT said he'd like to look at that. He asked Representative McGuire if historical lists of the volunteers from Alaska are available. He'd like to review the trend for volunteering and to learn more about the stipend. In addition he was curious whether Senator Dyson's bill dealing with U.S. Foreign Service agents' eligibility for the Permanent Fund was initially part of this bill. REPRESENTATIVE McGuire explained that Senator Dyson asked her to include the U.S. Foreign Service and she did so. CHAIR THERRIAULT said he would discuss the various options with Senator Dyson before moving forward. REPRESENTATIVE McGuire asked the committee to consider that Peace Corps volunteers are different than other types of volunteers. When Peace Corps volunteers sign up for service they take an oath that isn't revocable regardless of changes in circumstance, instability, and/or insurrection. Also, when the President of the United States recognizes the Peace Corps as a service to the country it raises it to a different level. The structure of the program, the history and purpose of its creation, and the mission that it has clearly makes the difference. CHAIR THERRIAULT remarked if the President were asked, he probably wouldn't say that the omission of mentioning the other programs would mean that they are a lesser service. REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE answered, "I don't know that." 4:53:29 PM CHAIR THERRIAULT set CSHB 127(FIN)am aside. CHAIR THERRIAULT called a break from 4:53:33 PM to 5:00:16 PM. CSHB 178(STA) am -SPECIAL REQUEST LICENSE PLATES 5:00:20 PM CHAIR GENE THERRIAULT announced HB 178 to be up for consideration. KONRAD JACKSON, Staff to Representative Kurt Olson, explained that HB 178 deals with special request license plates. With few exceptions, all non-commercial vehicles can display non-standard license plates and under HB 178 all license plates would be made available for use on all motor vehicles. Certain plates would continue to carry eligibility requirements. Those include plates for: Alaska Army National Guard members, Purple Heart recipients, and Veterans. Fees for specialty plates would be collected in addition to the current registration fees. CHAIR THERRIAULT noted the bill was amended to allow elected state officials to retain their registration plates after expiration. MR. JACKSON explained that the concern is that the statutes don't allow elected state officials to retain legislative license plates that are expired. After speaking with Mr. Bannock and Ms. Varni, he learned that there had never been a problem and neither expressed an interest in getting the expired plates back. Nonetheless the bill was amended in the House State Affairs Committee as a point of clarification. CHAIR THERRIAULT asked Mr. Bannock for the department's view on the bill. DUANNE BANNOCK, Director, Division of Motor Vehicles, Department of Administration, announced the division cheerfully endorses HB 178. It would be easier to meet internal goals and objectives while meeting the number one goal of being customer friendly. CHAIR THERRIAULT questioned why just certain categories were included for specialty plates. MR. BANNOCK responded it's probably because the designations were made at different times. Historically commercial vehicles were identified as such by the final two letters of a seven- digit license plate. Today the system only allows a six-digit license plate and the numbers or letters are tied to the vehicle registration regardless of the combination. CHAIR THERRIAULT asked if he was also representing the Department of Public Safety and whether the Troopers care one way or another. MR. BANNOCK responded he would never be so bold as to speak for another department, but in ongoing discussions between departments it's clear that the license plate letter and number combination is used to identify the owner and the physical description of the vehicle. The color and style of the plate makes no difference. SENATOR CHARLIE HUGGINS asked if the bill would make it possible for legislative plates to be retained on the mantel or on the vehicle. MR. BANNOCK replied the bill would make it legal to retain the expired legislative plate on the mantle. Clearly the expired license plate could not be retained on the vehicle. SENATOR HUGGINS asked: "Do we presently, in the State of Alaska, have any sort of revenue from license plates kind of things that's designated to any sort of fund source?" MR. BANNOCK answered yes, but he wouldn't use the word "designated." The revenue from the sale of several styles of license plates is accounted for separately. He described the programs for the veteran's commemorative plates, the University of Alaska plates, and the Children's Trust (KID) plates all of which have a one-time up-front fee followed by a special fee when the vehicle is re-registered. 5:10:05 PM SENATOR HUGGINS asked for an estimate of the annual revenue collected on each those specialty plates. MR. BANNOCK said the commemorative veteran plate is the most recent and when he last checked eight plates had been sold for $800. He estimated close to 600 KID plates had been sold. They have a one-time fee of $50, which would amount to $3,000. He didn't have information on the University of Alaska plates. CHAIR THERRIAULT questioned whether the specialty plates are standard in size. MR. BANNOCK explained that license plate size is just one of a number of nationwide standards. CHAIR THERRIAULT asked if the word "Alaska" is the same size on all plates. MR. BANNOCK said he thought so. CHAIR THERRIAULT noted the bill had one fiscal note and asked for the will of the committee. SENATOR WAGONER motioned to report CSHB 178(STA)am and attached fiscal note from committee with individual recommendations. There being no objection, it was so ordered. 5:13:59 PM There being no further business to come before the committee, Chair Therriault adjourned the meeting at 5:14:02 PM.