Legislature(2019 - 2020)BARNES 124
05/10/2019 03:15 PM LABOR & COMMERCE
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HB 113-MILITARY FAMILY EMPLOYMENT PREFERENCE 4:06:28 PM CHAIR WOOL announced that the final order of business would be CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 113(MLV), "An Act relating to private sector and state employment preferences for active service members, veterans, and spouses and dependent children of active service members and veterans; relating to employment preferences for surviving spouses of deceased service members and veterans; and relating to employment preferences for disabled veterans and former prisoners of war." 4:06:55 PM REPRESENTATIVE SHARON JACKSON, Alaska State Legislature, as prime sponsor, introduced HB 113. She paraphrased the sponsor statement [included in the committee packet], which read in its entirety as follows [original punctuation provided]: The purpose of House Bill 113 is to extend current hiring preferences to military spouses and dependent children in the State of Alaska and the private sector. Military families fall into two categories: Blue Star or Gold Star Families. Blue Star families are military spouses and dependents of active service members and veterans. Gold Star families are spouses and children of a deceased service members who died while in active duty. A recent report from the Department of Defense found that a quarter of military spouses are unemployed or underemployed. There are several efforts being done in all 50 states, but Alaska is one of the few states that do not extend employment preferences to military spouses. There are roughly 151,881 military spouses and dependents in Alaska according to the Alaska Department of Military & Veteran Affairs. This is a small but significant way to honor our service members and their families, who often fall between the cracks while also making a sacrifice to serve their country. 4:10:21 PM ERIC CORDERO, Staff, Representative Jackson, Alaska State Legislature, presented the changes made to CSHB 113 (MLV) on behalf of Representative Jackson, prime sponsor. It was clarified that active duty service members, as well as their spouses and dependents qualify for hiring preferences. Stepchildren were also added to the definition of dependents. The CS added definitions to the State Personnel Act in section 3 for consistency and removed redundant language in other sections. He continued by explaining that another change was adding the words "disabled veteran" to section 4 for consistency with federal definitions. The CS also clarified that HB 113 should not be interpreted to amend the terms of a collective bargaining agreement. 4:11:48 PM MR. CORDERO turned attention to the sectional analysis [included in the committee packet] and read the following [original punctuation provided]: Section 1. AS 18.80.200(c) This section does not prohibit a private employer from having hiring preferences for persons described in Section 2 of this bill. Section 2. AS 23.88.010 This section repeals and reenacts the current statute by adding definitions removed from Section 1 for clarity. This section does not prohibit a private employer from having hiring preferences to active- military, veterans and families. This section adds language to include spouses and dependent children of deceased service members to the list. 4:12:36 PM REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS sought clarification on the meaning of "preference." REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON explained that some businesses use a point system for hiring and this bill gives preference to veterans during that process with the addition of 5-10 points. MR. CORDERO added that the State of Alaska uses different tools to make hiring decisions. When there is a numerical tool being used, veterans and members of the national guard will automatically get 10 points once they pass the minimum requirements to qualify for that position. If a numerical tool is not being used, the benefit is that they will automatically be selected for an interview. 4:15:11 PM MR. CORDERO continued with the sectional analysis and read the following: Section 3. AS 39.25.150(19) This section amends the State Personnel Act to reference definitions as stated in Section 4 for consistency. Section 4. AS 39.25.159(a) This section amends the employment preference for veterans or former prisoners of war by adding new language to include families of an active-duty service member, veteran, or former prisoner of war. This section clarifies the type of preference given the hiring process and whether the applicant is disabled or not. Subsection (B) is removed for consistency Section 5. AS 39.25.159(d) This section clarifies that a person may receive an employment preference under only one of the categories described in sections 3 and 4. A person may use the preference without limitation when being considered for a position for which persons who are not currently state employees are being considered. If the recruitment for a position is limited to state employees, preference under (a) or (c) of this section may not be counted. This section adds language to include spouses or dependent children for consistency with other sections. Section 6 AS 39.25.159 (e) This section clarifies that this bill does not involve interpreting amendments of a collective bargaining agreement and makes a reference to subsection (a) of Section 4. Section 7 AS 39.25.159(f) This section defines a dependent child. Section 8 AS 39.25.159(c) This section removes language that has been included in Section 4 of this bill. 4:17:24 PM REPRESENTATIVE HANNAN sought clarification on the preference for a surviving spouse. She asked when that benefit is given and how long it lasts. MR. CORDERO offered his understanding that currently there is no limit to how long that benefit lasts. 4:20:36 PM TERRE GALES, Director, Division of Labor Standards and Safety, Department of Labor & Workforce Development, asked for the question to be repeated. REPRESENTATIVE HANNAN repeated her previous question, asking when preference for a surviving spouse is given and how long they receive it for. MR. GALES said it appears to be permanent. 4:22:00 PM REPRESENTATIVE REVAK questioned whether the Department of Military & Veterans' Affairs (DMVA) has a position on this bill and asked about the unemployment rate in the veteran community. 4:22:26 PM VERDIE BOWEN, Director of Veterans Affairs, Office of Veterans Affairs, Department of Military & Veterans' Affairs, said the DMVA is in full support of this bill. He added that the unemployment rate for veterans in this state is the same as non- veterans. He noted that the unemployment rate for active duty military spouses is generally much higher than spouses of those that do not serve. 4:23:05 PM REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS asked if the nature of preference for state employment is typically put into place with statute or regulation. REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON said currently, it is in statute. MR. CORDERO noted that it is put into place with statute in other states as well. 4:26:59 PM REPRESENTATIVE STORY pointed out that when she was checking on military preference and points for a Senate bill, the division of personnel said they do not currently use preference points. She asked if that is true and questioned whether this bill adds a point system. REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON said the federal government has preference points and the intent of this bill is to implement a point system for the state of Alaska. CHAIR WOOL sought clarification on the conditions under which a dependent or spouse qualifies for benefits. He asked if the benefits only become available when the veteran is deceased. MR. CORDERO answered yes, if he or she died while in service. According to the bill, he said, if the spouse is disabled the percentage would be higher. He added if the tool being used is numerical versus nonnumerical, the nonnumerical benefit is getting an interview. MR. CORDERO, responding to a follow-up question from representative Wool, explained that according to current statute, the hiring benefit for nonnumerical tools is the assurance of an interview if the veteran applicant meets the minimum qualifications. CHAIR WOOL surmised that hiring preferences are required by the state. MR. CORDERO said correct, adding that hiring preferences are optional to the private sector. 4:29:32 PM MR. GALES acknowledged that the top qualified applicant will be selected for an interview; however, a veteran will be selected for an interview as long as they reach the minimum qualifications. He noted that if a spouse remarries after their partner dies in service, he or she will cease to receive preference from the federal government. CHAIR WOOL asked if the process is the same for dependents. MR. GALES said yes, adding that once an adult is married, they lose those benefits. CHAIR WOOL questioned whether there was an age cut-off for dependents as well. 4:30:49 PM REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON answered 23 years old. 4:32:25 PM REPRESENTATIVE STORY mentioned that her research on veterans has shown that not having employment is one of the biggest hurdles a family can face. 4:33:36 PM CHAIR WOOL announced HB 113 was held over.