Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

02/18/2010 09:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved SB 260 Out of Committee
Moved SB 261 Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
            SENATE STATE AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                           
                       February 18, 2010                                                                                        
                           9:01 a.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Linda Menard, Chair                                                                                                     
Senator Kevin Meyer, Vice Chair                                                                                                 
Senator Hollis French                                                                                                           
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Senator Albert Kookesh                                                                                                          
Senator Joe Paskvan                                                                                                             
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
SENATE BILL NO. 260                                                                                                             
"An Act relating to electronic voting procedures for electric                                                                   
and telephone cooperatives; and providing for an effective                                                                      
     - MOVED SB 260 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                            
SENATE BILL NO. 261                                                                                                             
"An Act relating to the membership of the Alcoholic Beverage                                                                    
Control Board; and providing for an effective date."                                                                            
     - MOVED SB 261 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                            
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
BILL: SB 260                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: ELECTRIC & TELEPHONE COOPERATIVES' VOTING                                                                          
SPONSOR(s): STATE AFFAIRS                                                                                                       
02/05/10       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/05/10       (S)       STA, JUD                                                                                               
02/18/10       (S)       STA AT 9:00 AM BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)                                                                      
BILL: SB 261                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE CONTROL BD MEMBERS                                                                              
SPONSOR(s): OLSON                                                                                                               
02/05/10       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/05/10       (S)       STA, L&C                                                                                               
02/18/10       (S)       STA AT 9:00 AM BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)                                                                      
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
PHIL STEYER, Director of Government Relations and Corporate                                                                     
Chugach Electric Association                                                                                                    
Anchorage, AK                                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 260.                                                                                         
RICHARD GAZAWAY, Advisory Section Manager                                                                                       
Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development (DCCED)                                                                
Anchorage, AK                                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT: Provided information for SB 260.                                                                          
GREG BERBERICH, CEO                                                                                                             
Matanuska Telephone Association (MTA)                                                                                           
Matanuska, AK                                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 260.                                                                                         
TIM BENINTENDI                                                                                                                  
Aide to Senator Olson                                                                                                           
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, AK                                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT: Presented SB 261.                                                                                         
DALE FOX, President and CEO                                                                                                     
Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association                                                                     
Anchorage, AK                                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT: Provided information on SB 261, but advised                                                               
holding the bill for input from industry members.                                                                               
ROBERT FROEHLE, Superintendant                                                                                                  
Regional Wellness Forum (RWF)                                                                                                   
Nome, AK                                                                                                                        
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 261.                                                                                         
BIRDIE TRAINOR, Director                                                                                                        
Coed Wellness Program and Suicide Prevention Program                                                                            
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on behalf of Berda Willson, Chair,                                                              
Regional Wellness Forum (RFW), in support of SB 261.                                                                            
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
9:01:16 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  LINDA  MENARD called  the  Senate  State Affairs  Standing                                                             
Committee meeting  to order at 9:01  a.m. Present at the  call to                                                               
order were Senators French, Meyer and Menard.                                                                                   
        SB 260-ELECTRIC & TELEPHONE COOPERATIVES' VOTING                                                                    
9:01:52 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MENARD announced  that the first order of  business to come                                                               
before the  committee was SB  260. She  turned the gavel  over to                                                               
Vice-Chair Meyer.                                                                                                               
SENATOR MENARD,  sponsor of SB  260, said SB 260  gives telephone                                                               
and electric cooperatives the option  of allowing members to vote                                                               
by  electronic transmission.  Currently, co-op  members may  only                                                               
vote in person  or by mail. These methods are  outdated and could                                                               
be  having   a  negative  impact   on  member   participation  in                                                               
elections. She  noted that the  fiscal note  for SB 260  is zero.                                                               
The Matanuska  Telephone Association  (MTA) members  have already                                                               
voted  to  adopt a  new  bylaw  allowing electronic  transmission                                                               
voting. MTA, and other co-ops,  now need the Legislature to amend                                                               
the statutes to allow electronic transmission voting.                                                                           
9:04:40 AM                                                                                                                    
PHIL  STEYER,  Director  of Government  Relations  and  Corporate                                                               
Communications,  Chugach   Electric  Association,   said  Chugach                                                               
Electric   is   an  Anchorage-based,   member-owned   cooperative                                                               
providing electric service and is  strongly supportive of SB 260.                                                               
He stated that electronic transmission  voting would be optional,                                                               
not mandatory, and  co-op members would also need  to amend their                                                               
bylaws to  enact it. Chugach  has already amended its  own bylaws                                                               
to  enable electronic  transmission  voting if  state statute  is                                                               
SENATOR FRENCH asked if co-ops are going to electronic voting.                                                                  
MR.  STEYER replied  that co-ops  in the  Lower 48  are going  to                                                               
electronic voting. He said Chugach  Electric has spoken with some                                                               
firms  who   provide  this  service  elsewhere   about  providing                                                               
electronic voting in Alaska.                                                                                                    
SENATOR FRENCH asked if SB 260 has had any opposition.                                                                          
MR. STEYER  replied no, not  that he knows of.  He said a  lot of                                                               
work  has been  done to  put the  idea of  electronic voting  out                                                               
there  and  take input  from  different  cooperatives during  the                                                               
resolutions process in the Alaska  Power Association.  Any issues                                                               
have been resolved to get to  SB 260 today. He explained that the                                                               
real key  for co-ops  is that electronic  voting is  optional and                                                               
would only  be taken  up by  co-ops whose  members vote  to amend                                                               
their bylaws.                                                                                                                   
9:08:05 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR FRENCH  asked if the implementation  of electronic voting                                                               
would cost the coops money or save them money.                                                                                  
MR. STEYER  replied that, for  Chugach Electric, he  believes the                                                               
costs  would  increase initially  but  would  decrease later  on.                                                               
Setting  up and  processing  electronic voting  would cost  money                                                               
initially.  He explained  that members  would still  be mailed  a                                                               
ballot packet,  with the option  for electronic  voting included,                                                               
for at  least the first  few years. Eventually, the  system could                                                               
change so  that members who  prefer to vote  electronically would                                                               
notify the  co-op and not be  sent a packet. Money  will be saved                                                               
in the long-term.                                                                                                               
VICE-CHAIR MEYER asked if a  paper trail will be available should                                                               
the validity of the electronic voting be challenged.                                                                            
MR. STEYER replied  that the method used  to implement electronic                                                               
voting would  determine if a  paper trail would be  kept; Chugach                                                               
Electric has not  decided on the method. He said  Chugach, or any                                                               
co-op, should not engage in  electronic voting unless an election                                                               
would be fair, secure and able to withstand any challenge.                                                                      
SENATOR MENARD  said different companies  that set  up electronic                                                               
voting would have securities in place.                                                                                          
9:12:05 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MEYER noted that other  states use electronic voting with                                                               
RICHARD   GAZAWAY,  Advisory   Section  Manager,   Department  of                                                               
Commerce,  Community  &  Economic Development  (DCCED),  said  he                                                               
prepared the fiscal note and is available for questions.                                                                        
GREG BERBERICH, CEO, Matanuska  Telephone Association (MTA), said                                                               
MTA  is   a  member-owned  cooperative  providing   local,  long-                                                               
distance,  wireless  broadband  internet  and  DTV  services.  He                                                               
stated his support  for SB 260 and said the  Internet has changed                                                               
communication and  business. In 2007, MTA  members overwhelmingly                                                               
voted  to  adopt a  change  in  its  bylaws to  allow  electronic                                                               
voting.  He  said  electronic  voting will  be  faster  and  more                                                               
efficient, save printing costs,  make counting more efficient and                                                               
reduce wasted paper.                                                                                                            
9:15:08 AM                                                                                                                    
He noted that MTA's bylaw  includes provisions that if electronic                                                               
voting is  conducted, members  will have  three options  to vote:                                                               
electronically, in person or by mail upon request.                                                                              
SENATOR MEYER  asked if  MTA has an  auditor during  elections to                                                               
verify  that  someone is  not  voting  in  person, on  paper  and                                                               
MR.  BERBERICH replied  yes  and said  that  an independent  firm                                                               
conducts the elections.                                                                                                         
9:16:15 AM                                                                                                                    
VICE-CHAIR MEYER closed public testimony.                                                                                       
SENATOR  FRENCH  moved  to  report SB  260  from  committee  with                                                               
individual  recommendations and  attached  fiscal note(s).  There                                                               
being no objection, the motion carried.                                                                                         
9:17:05 AM                                                                                                                    
VICE-CHAIR  MEYER announced  an at  ease from  9:17 a.m.  to 9:18                                                               
          SB 261-ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE CONTROL BD MEMBERS                                                                      
9:18:40 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MENARD said the next item  to come before the committee was                                                               
SB 261.                                                                                                                         
TIM BENINTENDI,  aide to Senator  Olson, said SB 261  responds to                                                               
the   array  of   alcohol  related   problems  unique   to  small                                                               
communities  in rural  Alaska. Wellness  services cannot  keep up                                                               
with the adverse impact of  alcohol related problems. The profile                                                               
of  these problems  needs  to be  raised.  The state's  Alcoholic                                                               
Beverage Control  Board (ABC) is  comprised of five  members, two                                                               
of  whom  must be  actively  engaged  in the  alcoholic  beverage                                                               
industry and three  of whom represent the general  public. SB 261                                                               
would require  one of  the three general  public positions  to be                                                               
filled  by a  resident of  a rural  area. SB  261 defines  "rural                                                               
area" as  a community with a  population of 4500 or  less that is                                                               
not  connected by  road  or  rail to  Anchorage  or Fairbanks.  A                                                               
defined  rural board  member could  affect policy  discussion and                                                               
ABC Board decisions in a positive way.                                                                                          
SENATOR  MEYER  asked  for examples  of  communities  that  would                                                               
MR.  BENINTENDI listed  several communities  that would  qualify:                                                               
Dillingham,  Unalaska, any  community  in  the Lincoln  Peninsula                                                               
Borough, Nome  and Kotzebue. He  noted he is referring  to cities                                                               
or communities as opposed to census  areas. He stated that SB 261                                                               
would  not take  effect until  the next  available public  member                                                               
seat turns over.                                                                                                                
9:22:49 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MEYER  noted some  areas under  4500 are  dry communities                                                               
and asked  if someone from a  dry community should be  on the ABC                                                               
MR. BENINTENDI  replied yes,  an applicant  from a  dry community                                                               
would  be valid.  He  explained that  while  dry communities  are                                                               
officially  dry, they  still have  alcohol  related problems  and                                                               
rural representation  on the ABC  Board could bring  attention to                                                               
these problems and some specific focus into the forum.                                                                          
SENATOR FRENCH said he questioned how  to define a rural area. He                                                               
asked if our  statutes define "community" and how big  of an area                                                               
a community is.                                                                                                                 
MR. BENINTENDI replied that he  originally looked at a definition                                                               
of a small community as 5500  people. He said communities of that                                                               
size  have   more  resources;  SB   261  is  aiming   at  smaller                                                               
communities and their issues.                                                                                                   
SENATOR  FRENCH asked  if  Auke  Bay or  Douglas,  in the  Juneau                                                               
region, are smaller communities.                                                                                                
MR. BENINTENDI replied  that Auke Bay and Douglas  are within the                                                               
Juneau City and Borough and would not be eligible.                                                                              
SENATOR FRENCH  said someone  from the  greater Juneau  area, for                                                               
example,  should not  be  the rural  representative.  He said  he                                                               
supports the  idea of  SB 261 but  is concerned  that "community"                                                               
could be interpreted as a subset of a city or a borough.                                                                        
9:26:08 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  MENARD asked  about Southeast  communities  that would  be                                                               
MR.  BENINTENDI replied  he thought  any community  outside of  a                                                               
borough in Southeast  would qualify. He noted  that Ketchikan and                                                               
Sitka would be too big but Skagway and Angoon would be eligible.                                                                
DALE FOX,  President and CEO,  Alaska Cabaret,  Hotel, Restaurant                                                               
and  Retailers  Association  (CHARR),  noted only  ten  days  had                                                               
passed  since SB  261 was  posted online  and CHARR'S  Government                                                               
Affairs  Committee has  not  had  a chance  to  review it.  CHARR                                                               
members have  expressed, through initial emails,  that they don't                                                               
think a problem  exists and that governors have done  a great job                                                               
of balancing  boards. He  said the five  current ABC  members are                                                               
from Anchorage,  Fairbanks, Juneau and Cordova.  Belen Cook, from                                                               
Cordova,   would   fit   the  definition   of   rural   community                                                               
representative according  to SB  261. He noted  that Ms.  Cook is                                                               
Chair of the  annual Sobriety Celebration in Cordova  and is very                                                               
concerned about  alcohol issues.  He asked  the committee  not to                                                               
pass SB 261  out until the industry has an  opportunity to review                                                               
and discuss it.                                                                                                                 
9:29:14 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MENARD  said SB 261 goes  to Labor and Commerce  next which                                                               
would allow ample opportunity for CHARR to weigh in.                                                                            
ROBERT FROEHLE,  Superintendant, Nome Youth Facility  and member,                                                               
Regional Wellness Forum (RWF), said  the RWF is in strong support                                                               
of SB  261. He said he  appreciates that the ABC  Board currently                                                               
has a  member from Cordova  and would  like to ensure  that small                                                               
communities continue to  get representation. He said  he sees the                                                               
effects of  alcohol on  daily basis on  the community's  kids and                                                               
BIRDIE  TRAINOR,  Director,  Coed Wellness  Program  and  Suicide                                                               
Prevention Program,  testified on behalf of  Berda Willson, Chair                                                               
of the Regional Wellness Forum  (RFW). Ms. Trainer read a written                                                               
statement from Ms. Willson.  Ms.  Willson wrote that she has seen                                                               
the ravages  that alcohol and  substance abuse are  inflicting on                                                               
her people.  She wrote that  the RWF supports the  Safety Patrol,                                                               
made up  of about 150  volunteers, which patrols during  the PFD,                                                               
New Year's  Eve and the  Iditarod to keep residents  and visitors                                                               
safe  and  to  reduce  suicides, missing  persons  and  death  by                                                               
accident or freezing when people are intoxicated.                                                                               
9:33:17 AM                                                                                                                    
She wrote that  the RWF's next meeting will be  held at the Anvil                                                               
Mountain Correctional  Center where  inmates will talk  about how                                                               
RWF   can   help   them   prevent   repeating   their   mistakes.                                                               
Anecdotally,   90  percent   of  the   prisoners  would   not  be                                                               
incarcerated if alcohol  abuse were not a factor.  She wrote that                                                               
rural communities need a voice on  the ABC Board from someone who                                                               
understands rural  problems like  suicide, child  abuse, domestic                                                               
violence, accidental  death and  alcohol abuse.   She  noted that                                                               
while most villages are dry, alcohol  is sold or bootlegged.  Her                                                               
written statement concluded  that the RWF is  not against alcohol                                                               
consumption  and appreciates  the  ABC Board's  help in  ensuring                                                               
that liquor establishments conform to state law.                                                                                
9:34:48 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MENARD closed public testimony.                                                                                           
SENATOR MEYER asked if anyone from the ABC Board was present.                                                                   
CHAIR MENARD replied no.                                                                                                        
SENATOR MEYER  said that the  sponsor of  SB 261 wants  to ensure                                                               
that rural  representation on the  ABC Board continues,  which he                                                               
feels is a good idea.                                                                                                           
SENATOR FRENCH  concurred. He said  he has some concern  with the                                                               
definition of  "community" but noted that  a subsequent committee                                                               
can  grapple with  it to  make sure  the intention  of SB  261 is                                                               
CHAIR MENARD reported that Senator Kookesh joined the meeting.                                                                  
9:36:59 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  FRENCH  moved  to  report SB  261  from  committee  with                                                               
individual  recommendations and  attached  fiscal note(s).  There                                                               
being no objection, the motion carried.                                                                                         
9:37:24 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  MENARD, seeing  no further  business before  the committee                                                               
adjourned the meeting at 9:37 a.m.                                                                                              

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