Legislature(2009 - 2010)HOUSE FINANCE 519

03/31/2009 01:30 PM House FINANCE

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved CSHB 77(FIN) Out of Committee
Moved Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
HOUSE BILL NO. 77                                                                                                             
     "An Act allowing certain public employees to take leave                                                                    
     without pay to volunteer with the American Red Cross in                                                                    
     a disaster."                                                                                                               
1:40:17 PM                                                                                                                    
77. This bill allows Alaska to  join forty seven other states                                                                   
to permit state  employees to take unpaid leave for  up to 15                                                                   
regularly  scheduled   work  days  to  serve   as  Red  Cross                                                                   
volunteers in the  event of a Level II in-state  disaster. If                                                                   
the Red  Cross activates  an event,  Red Cross trained  state                                                                   
workers would  be called  upon to take  leave to  assist. The                                                                   
Red Cross  provides training at no  cost to the state  or the                                                                   
1:42:32 PM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair  Thomas questioned  what would  happen to  a state                                                                   
worker's retirement  if the  volunteer were severely  injured                                                                   
and  not  able  to  return  to  work.  Representative  Millet                                                                   
remarked  that  the  Red Cross  provides  insurance  for  the                                                                   
volunteer  while deployed  on  the disaster  duty. The  state                                                                   
retirement   question   would   need  further   research   to                                                                   
determine. Vice-Chair  Thomas asked  if the state  worker was                                                                   
not able  to return to work,  could the worker  retire early.                                                                   
Representative Millet  agreed that unique  situation requires                                                                   
further discovery  before she  can answer. Vice-Chair  Thomas                                                                   
voiced his  concern that  the state could  be liable  for the                                                                   
state  worker's disability.  Representative Millet  clarified                                                                   
that state  workers would not  be on the front  lines working                                                                   
in dangerous  positions,  but assisting  to provide  shelter,                                                                   
clothing,  food, and  other  logistical  aspects of  disaster                                                                   
relief.  Vice-Chair Thomas  noted  that  state workers  would                                                                   
still  have  to  get  into  vehicles,   airplanes  and  other                                                                   
potentially dangerous situations.                                                                                               
1:44:48 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Gara asked if  there were any  state agencies                                                                   
that  would   not  give   state  workers   time  off   during                                                                   
emergencies, if  requested. Representative Millet  noted that                                                                   
has  not  been  a  problem,  but   this  bill  clarifies  the                                                                   
situation  for the  future. The  statute  notes the  training                                                                   
aspect  of volunteering.  Representative Gara  asked why  the                                                                   
Alaska Railroad Corporation employees were being exempted.                                                                      
JEFF TURNER,  STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE MILLET remarked  that the                                                                   
Alaska Railroad  Corporation and  the Alaska Housing  Finance                                                                   
Corporation  were excused  at  their request.  Representative                                                                   
Gara  asked why  they wanted  exemption.  Mr. Turner  replied                                                                   
that complexities  involved in these positions  would need to                                                                   
be dealt with  in different legislation.  Representative Gara                                                                   
agreed there might be union employees  involved, but remarked                                                                   
that there were  union employees within state  employment. He                                                                   
noted that exempting the Alaska  Railroad Corporation and the                                                                   
Alaska   Housing  Finance   Corporation   may  show   special                                                                   
1:47:05 PM                                                                                                                    
Mr. Turner  expressed that the  Alaska Railroad  supports the                                                                   
legislation,  but  a  railroad  corporate  attorney  reviewed                                                                   
items  within  the  bill  that  needed  to  be  addressed  in                                                                   
separate legislation.  He indicated that the  Alaska Railroad                                                                   
memo would be  sent to the committee. Co-Chair  Stoltze asked                                                                   
if there was any analysis from  the state legal division. Mr.                                                                   
Turner  replied  the  only  analysis   was  from  the  Alaska                                                                   
Railroad Corporation.  Co-Chair  Stoltze observed that  state                                                                   
legal advice should have been consulted.                                                                                        
1:47:50 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Kelly  commented  that  he would  prefer  all                                                                   
railroad  employees  available  for  the  railroad  should  a                                                                   
disaster   strike.    Co-Chair   Stoltze    appreciated   the                                                                   
speculation,  but  the  reasons   for  exemption  were  still                                                                   
unknown. Representative  Kelly  reiterated that a  supervisor                                                                   
makes the call  and it can not be unreasonably  withheld, but                                                                   
voiced his opinion  that the language be reconsidered  so the                                                                   
supervisor  is   in  total  control.  Representative   Millet                                                                   
expressed  the  willingness  to  entertain  any  suggestions.                                                                   
Representative  Gara   noted  that  taking   out  "reasonably                                                                   
withheld" keeps  the law as  it is right now.  Representative                                                                   
Kelly agreed that was part of his problem with the bill.                                                                        
1:50:01 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Millet stressed  that a Level II disaster must                                                                   
be declared before  anything takes place. Alaskans  should be                                                                   
first responders  to an emergency rather than  importing help                                                                   
from outside.  This bill  would be  identify those  employees                                                                   
with trained skills  to assist in a disaster.  Representative                                                                   
Kelly  agreed but  expressed some  problems he  had with  the                                                                   
bill. He  noted that certain  employees should stay  in place                                                                   
with their  own divisions, but  that other responders  should                                                                   
be released for duty should they volunteer.                                                                                     
Mr. Turner  indicated that the  bill drafters based  the bill                                                                   
on legislation  passed a  year ago  defining the ability  for                                                                   
state employees to take off from  work for various compelling                                                                   
reasons.  He declared  this bill  meets the  approval of  the                                                                   
Department  of Administration.  He added  the bill carries  a                                                                   
zero fiscal  note. Co-Chair Stoltze  questioned why  the bill                                                                   
is specific to just the American Red Cross.                                                                                     
1:52:41 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Millet  noted that  the  Red  Cross has  been                                                                   
identified  as  a primary  disaster  relief agency  for  many                                                                   
states.  In addition,  the Red  Cross  offers free  volunteer                                                                   
training. Mr.  Turner interjected that former  Governor Egan,                                                                   
in 1964,  designated the  Red Cross  as the primary  disaster                                                                   
relief agency in Alaska.                                                                                                        
1:54:02 PM                                                                                                                    
MICHELLE  HOULIHAN,   CEO,  AMERICAN  RED  CROSS   OF  ALASKA                                                                   
testified via  teleconference, believed this bill  will allow                                                                   
Alaskans the preparedness to respond  to instate emergencies.                                                                   
The  bill  allows   supervisors  the  discretion   of  giving                                                                   
permission for  employees to deploy  in disaster  relief. She                                                                   
added that training  is free. Representative  Gara questioned                                                                   
if this  bill allows state workers  to take time off  for the                                                                   
training. Ms.  Houlihan responded  that training time  is not                                                                   
included,  but most  training  is offered  after work  hours.                                                                   
Representative  Gara asked  if there  was anything else  that                                                                   
other  states do  that  is not  included  in  this bill.  Ms.                                                                   
Houlihan  responded that  the  majority of  states allow  for                                                                   
leave without pay, however 70  percent of the other 47 states                                                                   
do allow for deployment outside of their own state.                                                                             
1:56:58 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stoltze MOVED Amendment #1, 26-LS0250\P.1\Wayne:                                                                       
     Page 2, lines 10 - 12:                                                                                                     
     Delete all material and insert:                                                                                            
          "(d) Notwithstanding (g) of this section, each of                                                                     
     the following is not eligible for leave without pay                                                                        
     under this section:                                                                                                        
               (1)  an employee of the Alaska Housing                                                                           
     Finance Corporation or the Alaska Railroad Corporation;                                                                    
               (2) a civilian or enlisted member of the                                                                         
     organized militia under AS 26.05.010."                                                                                     
Co-Chair Hawker OBJECTED for discussion.                                                                                        
Representative Millet  explained that this  amendment removes                                                                   
the National  Guard, as  they will  be responding with  other                                                                   
duties in an emergency.                                                                                                         
1:58:54 PM                                                                                                                    
MCHUGH PIERRE,  LIAISON, DEPARTMENT OF MILITARY  AND VETERANS                                                                   
AFFAIRS,  supported this  bill,  but believed  that when  the                                                                   
National Guard is  on state active duty, they  are needed for                                                                   
the  disaster  they  are  responding to  and  should  not  be                                                                   
allowed to take time away from  that disaster. Representative                                                                   
Gara remarked  that  he was still  not clear  why the  Alaska                                                                   
Railroad  and Alaska  Housing  Finance  Corporation would  be                                                                   
exempt  from  in  the  bill.   He  agreed  with  the  example                                                                   
presented by Representative Kelly  that the law states that a                                                                   
supervisor   should   grant   this   leave   unless   it   is                                                                   
unreasonable.  He agreed  it made  sense if  an employee  was                                                                   
attending to their own division's  response to a disaster the                                                                   
worker should  not volunteer to go elsewhere.  Representative                                                                   
Millet  responded  that  the  formal  request  from  the  two                                                                   
divisions can be sent to the committee.                                                                                         
2:00:43 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair   Hawker   WITHDREW   OBJECTION.  There   being   NO                                                                   
OBJECTION, it was so ordered.                                                                                                   
Representative Kelly moved Conceptual Amendment #2:                                                                             
     Page 2, lines 2-3,                                                                                                         
     Delete after "it;" however, approval may not be                                                                            
     unreasonably withheld.                                                                                                     
Co-Chair Stoltze OBJECTED for discussion.                                                                                       
Representative  Kelly   responded  that  he  would   be  more                                                                   
comfortable with  the bill if  the supervisor was  given more                                                                   
latitude.  It should  be clear  that the  supervisor has  the                                                                   
right  to agree  to  or  reject the  request.  Representative                                                                   
Fairclough   requested  a   definition  for   "unreasonable."                                                                   
Representative  Gara replied  that there  are many  standards                                                                   
affecting if  something is  done reasonably or  unreasonably.                                                                   
The only  way it would come  into effect is if  someone sued,                                                                   
which was hard to imagine.                                                                                                      
Representative Kelly restated his position.                                                                                     
Co-Chair Stoltze WITHDREW his objection.                                                                                        
Representative Gara OBJECTED.                                                                                                   
Representative  Gara  pointed   out  that  if  Representative                                                                   
Kelly's  amendment  is passed  then  this  law would  not  do                                                                   
anything  so  it  would  be unnecessary  to  pass  the  bill.                                                                   
Representative  Millet  remarked  she  was  comfortable  with                                                                   
removing the language addressed  by Representative Kelly. She                                                                   
stressed that the  point of the bill is that in  the event of                                                                   
a disaster,  state  employees can  take time  off to  assist.                                                                   
Representative Crawford reiterated  the strongest part of the                                                                   
bill is  that approval  may not  be "unreasonably  withheld."                                                                   
The right exists  now for anyone to ask their  supervisor for                                                                   
permission  to  leave  to  assist   in  a  disaster  and  the                                                                   
supervisor  can give  permission or  not. If  the wording  is                                                                   
taken  out there  is nothing  to the  bill. Co-Chair  Stoltze                                                                   
remarked he  was comfortable either  way. He did  not believe                                                                   
the  conceptual  amendment offered  by  Representative  Kelly                                                                   
damages the bill.                                                                                                               
2:06:14 PM                                                                                                                    
Mr. Turner reiterated  that the Department  of Administration                                                                   
was   comfortable  with   this   bill.  Representative   Gara                                                                   
questioned what the  bill would do if the language  was taken                                                                   
out.  Representative  Millet  believed  it  identified  state                                                                   
employees who  had received special  training and  were ready                                                                   
to  respond  in  case  of  a  disaster.  Representative  Gara                                                                   
stressed  he does  not  want to  pass out  a  bill that  does                                                                   
Representative Gara maintained his OBJECTION.                                                                                   
Co-Chair  Hawker interjected  with a  reference to a  statute                                                                   
code that he saw nothing referring  to "leave without pay" or                                                                   
"leave with  pay" for  the purposes that  this bill  has been                                                                   
brought forward.  He agreed that  Representative Kelly  had a                                                                   
point of wanting  to invest a certain amount  of control with                                                                   
the employee's supervisor. The  bill would still put into law                                                                   
a  statutory  concept  that  it is  an  allowable  action  or                                                                   
activity. He also  agreed with Representative  Kelly that the                                                                   
amendment does  accomplish something good  without mitigating                                                                   
the  entire  purpose  behind the  bill.  Representative  Gara                                                                   
stressed that  it important to  note that today,  without the                                                                   
bill, any employee  can ask their supervisor for  time off to                                                                   
do something and the supervisor  can say yes or no. This bill                                                                   
will just say what is already allowed by law.                                                                                   
A roll call vote was taken on  the motion to ADOPT conceptual                                                                   
Amendment #2:                                                                                                                   
Representative Foster was absent from the vote.                                                                                 
FAVOR: Joule, Kelly, Thomas, Austerman,  Fairclough, Stoltze,                                                                 
OPPOSED: Salmon, Crawford, Gara                                                                                               
The MOTION PASSED (7-3)                                                                                                         
Representative Fairclough  spoke to some  comments concerning                                                                   
the worthiness  of the  putting this  into statute.  The bill                                                                   
clarifies   the   workman's   compensation   position.   When                                                                   
employees ask  their supervisor,  under a bargaining  or non-                                                                   
bargaining unit, there is ambiguity  on who is responsible in                                                                   
case  of  an   injury.  This  bill  provides   the  necessary                                                                   
allocation on  who is responsible  if an employee  is injured                                                                   
while  on leave to  assist in  an emergency.  She noted  that                                                                   
some  other states  have chosen  to provide  paid leave.  She                                                                   
encouraged her  colleagues to support  this bill as  a useful                                                                   
tool  to provide  the means  for employees  to volunteer  and                                                                   
become  better  prepared to  respond  to emergencies  in  the                                                                   
2:13:37 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Gara believed that  it is clear if an employee                                                                   
takes  "leave without  pay" that  the employee  will not  get                                                                   
state  workman's compensation.  He  stressed  this bill  does                                                                   
nothing to promote  time off, but more likely  deters someone                                                                   
from taking the time off.                                                                                                       
2:14:29 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stoltze  commented on the zero fiscal  note from the                                                                   
Department of  Administration. Co-Chair Hawker  asked if this                                                                   
bill will  require any reprogramming  in the state  personnel                                                                   
system to account for leave without pay.                                                                                        
DIANE KIESEL, DIRECTOR, DIVISION  OF PERSONNEL, DEPARTMENT OF                                                                   
ADMINISTRATION testified via teleconference,  that there is a                                                                   
code  already built  into the  system that  allows for  leave                                                                   
without pay.                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Hawker MOVED to report  CSHB 77 (STA) as amended out                                                                   
of  Committee   with  individual   recommendations   and  the                                                                   
accompanying zero fiscal.                                                                                                       
Co-Chair Stoltze OBJECTED for discussion.                                                                                       
Vice-Chair  Thomas  did not  believe  his question  had  been                                                                   
answered   concerning   employees  severely   injured   while                                                                   
volunteering. He  wondered if  the employee could  not return                                                                   
to  work would  that  employee still  be  eligible for  state                                                                   
retirement. Co-Chair Stoltze asked  if this bill relates to a                                                                   
former  bill  by Representative  Meyers  providing  workman's                                                                   
compensation.  Representative Millet  did not believe  taking                                                                   
time  off from  work for  disaster or  personnel leave  would                                                                   
change anything under this legislation.  Ms. Kiesel responded                                                                   
that it  would depend  on the benefit  selection made  by the                                                                   
employee.   She  understood   it  to   be  a   non-occupation                                                                   
disability.  Co-Chair   Hawker  referred  to  Section   1  AS                                                                   
23.30.244  of the bill  adds statute  to the recently  passed                                                                   
legislation that  reviewed emergency  and disaster  relief as                                                                   
far as  state employees. As a  general rule employees  in the                                                                   
state temporarily engaged as civilian  volunteers are brought                                                                   
under the state  workman's compensation, but  the language in                                                                   
Section  1   exempts  persons   injured  in  the   course  of                                                                   
performing as  a Red Cross  volunteer while on  leave without                                                                   
pay. Representative  Gara asks if that means  the state gives                                                                   
workman's compensation  to others who do volunteer  work, but                                                                   
not  if  volunteering  on  a disaster  with  the  Red  Cross.                                                                   
Representative  Millet remarked  that the  Red Cross  has its                                                                   
own  workman's  compensation.   Mr.  Turner  added  that  the                                                                   
Department  of Administration  declared that  as long  as the                                                                   
state employee  is on  payroll, either  working on  the first                                                                   
day of the  month or takes vacation  day on the first  day of                                                                   
the month,  they are covered  for state health  insurance for                                                                   
that month.                                                                                                                     
2:21:29 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Fairclough  expressed another benefit  of bill                                                                   
is that  it maintains the  employees state of  Alaska medical                                                                   
coverage.   Representative  Millet   clarified  that   if  an                                                                   
employee was  injured while  on a  Red Cross emergency,  that                                                                   
employee  would be covered  under the  Red Cross  disability.                                                                   
The  state insurance  would  not cover  the  injury, but  the                                                                   
employee  would still  have their  own  health insurance  for                                                                   
other  ailments.   The  bill  removed  the   state  from  the                                                                   
responsibility  for workman's  compensation  and also  allows                                                                   
the  employee  to  maintain  their  state  of  Alaska  health                                                                   
insurance.  Representative Gara  stressed the  bill does  not                                                                   
change any of that. Representative  Millet clarified that she                                                                   
was   referring   to  the   employee   who   did  not   check                                                                   
"occupational disability"  as a benefit; the  Red Cross would                                                                   
cover it.                                                                                                                       
Co-Chair  Stoltze  WITHDREW  his OBJECTION.  There  being  NO                                                                   
OBJECTION, it was so ordered.                                                                                                   
CSHB  77 (FIN)  was  REPORTED  out of  Committee  with a  "no                                                                   
recommendation" and with a     previously   published    zero                                                                   
fiscal note: FN1 (ADM)                                                                                                          
2:24:04 PM                                                                                                                    

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
Alaska Needs a Disaster Leave Bill.doc HFIN 3/31/2009 1:30:00 PM
HB 77
Dan WayneLegal memo.pdf HFIN 3/31/2009 1:30:00 PM
HB 77
HB 77 - Summary of Changes.doc HFIN 3/31/2009 1:30:00 PM
HB 77
HB 77 Sponsor Statement.doc HFIN 3/31/2009 1:30:00 PM
HB 77
OR Disaster Leave Law 7 08.pdf HFIN 3/31/2009 1:30:00 PM
HB 77
PR - Millett Intro's Red Cross Disaster Assistance Bill.doc HFIN 3/31/2009 1:30:00 PM
HB 77
RC letter of support.pdf HFIN 3/31/2009 1:30:00 PM
HB 77
State Disaster Leave Law Chart 2008.doc HFIN 3/31/2009 1:30:00 PM
HB 77
Red Cross bill news release.doc HFIN 3/31/2009 1:30:00 PM
HB 77
UA Bond Debt Cap 1990 Statute.pdf HFIN 3/31/2009 1:30:00 PM
HB 184
HB 184 Sponsor Statement.pdf HFIN 3/31/2009 1:30:00 PM
HB 184
HB 77 Amendment 1 Version P1.pdf HFIN 3/31/2009 1:30:00 PM
HB 77
UA HB 184 Support Letter.pdf HFIN 3/31/2009 1:30:00 PM
HB 184
UA Receipt Authority Email.pdf HFIN 3/31/2009 1:30:00 PM
HB 184