Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 106


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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Moved CSHB 258(HES) Out of Committee
Moved CSHB 412(HES) Out of Committee
Scheduled But Not Heard
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
HB 412-TUITION WAIVERS:MILITARY/POLICE/FIRE                                                                                   
CHAIR  WILSON announced  that final  order of  business would  be                                                               
HOUSE  BILL  NO.   412,  "An  Act  relating  to   the  waiver  of                                                               
undergraduate expenses  for a spouse  or dependent of  a deceased                                                               
resident peace  officer or member  of the armed services  or fire                                                               
5:11:22 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JAY RAMRAS, Alaska State Legislature, presented                                                                  
HB 412 as prime sponsor paraphrasing from the following sponsor                                                                 
statement [original punctuation provided]:                                                                                      
     Everyday, we  enjoy the  freedoms and  security granted                                                                    
     to us by our Constitution  and laws. These rights, that                                                                    
     so many  take for  granted, are  there because  men and                                                                    
     women  work  everyday  to assure  they  are  protected.                                                                    
     Alaskans who  put on  a uniform and  put their  life on                                                                    
     the line, be  it a police officer, a  firefighter, or a                                                                    
     member of  the armed  services deserve our  respect and                                                                    
     When they  give the  ultimate sacrifice to  protect us,                                                                    
     we  as  Alaskans  have  an  obligation  to  help  their                                                                    
     families,  in  more  than just  the  short  term.  Most                                                                    
     families,  have not  only lost  a spouse  or a  parent,                                                                    
     they have  lost a major  source of income. HB  412 will                                                                    
     offer these surviving family  members an opportunity to                                                                    
     advance  their lives  by  attending  the University  of                                                                    
     Alaska for a very reduced cost.                                                                                            
     Existing language  in AS.14.43.085  allows a  waiver of                                                                    
     fees  and  tuition. HB  412  expands  that language  to                                                                    
     include  on-campus  room and  board.  The  cost to  the                                                                    
     State and the University is  small when compared to the                                                                    
     price of giving  ones life in service to  our state and                                                                    
     By  combining these  cost reductions  with the  limited                                                                    
     compensation  provided by  the  Federal Government,  an                                                                    
     Alaskan student  could receive  a University  of Alaska                                                                    
     education at  little or  no expense.  HB 412  will show                                                                    
     our  men and  women who  selflessly give  of themselves                                                                    
     that we  support them, not  only while they  serve, but                                                                    
     we will  also be  there should  they make  the ultimate                                                                    
5:13:18 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  RAMRAS  explained  that   this  bill  is  to  add                                                               
language  to existing  statute.   On  page 1,  line 8,  following                                                               
"fees" insert  ", and on-campus room  and board costs".   On page                                                           
2,  line 1,  before  "who" insert  "service,  or first  responder                                                           
service", on line 4, following  "fighter" add ";or", and on lines                                                       
5  and 6  add a  new sub-paragraph  "(C) duties  as an  ambulance                                                           
service  or  first responder  service  provider".   Expanding  on                                                           
these changes he  said, the inclusion of room and  board costs is                                                               
an  expansion on  the current  tuition and  fees waiver,  and the                                                               
benefit is extended to  policeman, law enforcement, firefighters,                                                               
and emergency  firefighters.   He pointed  out that  the attached                                                               
fiscal note is difficult to interpret  because of the lack of use                                                               
of this  waiver based on the  state's safety record.   He said he                                                               
expects that  some eligible dependants  may not have  enjoyed the                                                               
benefit as it  exists, due to the room and  board costs not being                                                               
5:14:32 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA  highlighted that other states  who provide                                                               
a  similar benefit  do  not  provide room  and  board, but  often                                                               
include a  limit on  the number  of years  for eligibility.   She                                                               
suggested  establishing  a  maximum  number  of  years  for  this                                                               
benefit, which represents an additional  annual cost to the state                                                               
of approximately $1,000 per recipient.                                                                                          
5:15:45 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  RAMRAS responded  that it  was his  understanding                                                               
that an age limit was stipulated  in the bill, and suggested that                                                               
the  House Finance  committee could  address that  situation when                                                               
the bill  appears before  it.  Regarding  the additional  cost of                                                               
the  fiscal   note,  he  said,   "I  would  be  quite   proud  to                                                               
participate"   in  providing   an  additional   benefit  to   the                                                               
dependents of  uniformed Alaskans who have  sacrificed themselves                                                               
in the line of service.                                                                                                         
5:17:07 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  CISSNA cautioned  that providing  young adults  a                                                               
benefit without limits  is not always helpful,  stressing that an                                                               
age limit might be a reasonable part of this legislation.                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE  RAMRAS pointed  out that  this benefits  children                                                               
whose parents  will have died  in uniformed service of  the state                                                               
or  federal government.   Further,  he said  that at  the federal                                                               
level an  age limit of 23  does apply, and, as  sponsor, he would                                                               
find it acceptable to entertain an age limit amendment.                                                                         
5:19:28 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  said that the bill  also includes spouses,                                                               
which would  make it difficult to  impose an age limit.   Also he                                                               
asked who the addition of "first responder" would include.                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  RAMRAS   answered  that  first   responder  would                                                               
include   paramedics   and   members  of   the   volunteer   fire                                                               
departments.  Addressing Representative  Cissna, he said that the                                                               
Iowa War  Orphans Education Aid has  no income or age  limits but                                                               
provides a maximum of $3,000 per year, per student.                                                                             
5:20:47 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  ANDERSON  stated  his  support for  HB  412,  and                                                               
expressed opposition  to an amendment that  would be restrictive.                                                               
He  provided a  hypothetical scenario,  and suggested  that there                                                               
could be any number of scenarios which are not readily evident.                                                                 
5:21:54 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  WILSON indicated  that by  including  ambulance and  first                                                               
responder service  providers, it  appears to encompass  more than                                                               
uniformed officers of the state or federal government.                                                                          
5:22:31 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE RAMRAS  offered that  a uniformed officer  is lost                                                               
on the average of one per decade in Alaska.                                                                                     
5:22:48 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  CISSNA clarified  that she  does not  oppose this                                                               
bill but is  looking for a possible limit on  the number of years                                                               
that  this benefit  could be  received rather  than an  open door                                                               
policy.    She  pointed  out  that this  is  a  generous  benefit                                                               
equating to $5,500 per year for a recipient.                                                                                    
5:23:46 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING stated  his support for HB  412, and asked                                                               
if this bill covers Village Police Safety Officers (VPSOs).                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  RAMRAS offered  that  he assumed  VPSOs would  be                                                               
included, but  could not give an  absolute answer.  To  a further                                                               
question, he confirmed  that to remain in good  standing for this                                                               
benefit  a student  would be  required  to maintain  a 2.0  grade                                                               
point average.                                                                                                                  
5:24:52 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  pointed out that  a VPSO does  not qualify                                                               
as  a  peace  officer  for  definition  purposes  under  existing                                                               
statute, and requested that this  eligibility be firmed up as the                                                               
bill  moves  through committee.    He  stressed  that this  is  a                                                               
generous benefit, that should be  provided to the appropriate and                                                               
deserving dependants.                                                                                                           
5:26:10 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  offered and moved  Amendment 1 on  page 1,                                                               
line 8, following "costs" insert for  a period up to five years".                                                           
There being no objection, Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                              
5:27:55 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KOHRING  moved  to  report HB  412,  Version  24-                                                               
LS1553\F,   as  amended,   out  of   committee  with   individual                                                               
recommendations and  the accompanying fiscal notes.   There being                                                               
no  objection,  CSHB  412(HES)  was reported  out  of  the  House                                                               
Health, Education and Social Services Standing Committee.                                                                       

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