Legislature(2013 - 2014)CAPITOL 120


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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved CSHJR 11(MLV) Out of Committee
Moved CSHB 164(MLV) Out of Committee
        HB 164-PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTION/MILITARY WIDOW(ER)                                                                    
1:22:15 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR LEDOUX announced that the  final order of business would                                                               
be  HOUSE BILL  NO. 164,  "An Act  authorizing municipalities  to                                                               
exempt from taxation, by ordinance  approved by the voters in the                                                               
municipality, the real property that  is the primary residence of                                                               
a resident  who is  at least  60 years  of age  and the  widow or                                                               
widower of a person who was  killed while in the military service                                                               
of the United States; and providing for an effective date."                                                                     
1:22:28 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  CHARISSE   MILLETT,  Alaska   State  Legislature,                                                               
speaking as  the sponsor,  related that  one of  her constituents                                                               
who lost her  husband in action worked hard to  pass an ordinance                                                               
in the Municipality of Anchorage  that would allow a property tax                                                               
exemption  for the  first $150,000  of  the assessed  value of  a                                                               
primary  residence for  a widow(er)  of a  person who  was killed                                                               
while in military  service.  The ordinance,  known as Proposition                                                               
7,  passed  in   2012,  but  will  not  take   effect  until  the                                                               
legislature amends  AS 29.45.030(e).   This  bill will  amend the                                                               
statute and allow  the exemption to take  effect.  Unfortunately,                                                               
the bill  as drafted only allows  widows(ers) over the age  of 60                                                               
to  receive the  exemption, but  the intent  was to  help younger                                                               
families also.   An amendment will  be offered to change  the age                                                               
requirement so  the exemption will  apply to any  widow(er) whose                                                               
spouse  was  killed  during  military  service.    Representative                                                               
Millett advised  that about three  years after a  military spouse                                                               
is killed,  there is  a significant  reduction in  death benefits                                                               
and the  military pension is not  available until the age  of 62.                                                               
This bill will  encourage military families who  have invested in                                                               
a home to stay in Alaska.                                                                                                       
1:26:09 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE REINBOLD said  she is glad for  this assistance to                                                               
military families.                                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE HUGHES  expressed her appreciation to  the sponsor                                                               
and said she supported the change in the age requirement.                                                                       
CO-CHAIR FOSTER stated his support for  HB 164, and asked for the                                                               
range of  income that is  paid to a  survivor after a  spouse has                                                               
died in military service.                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE  MILLETT  was  unsure.     In  the  aforementioned                                                               
situation,  her  constituent  received survivor  status  pay  for                                                               
three  years and  is now  in retired  status and  must carry  the                                                               
burden of continuing insurance and  other benefits.  She will not                                                               
receive survivor's benefits until the  age of 62.  Representative                                                               
Millett  offered  to  find  out  the  exact  death  benefits  for                                                               
CO-CHAIR LEDOUX opened the meeting to public testimony.                                                                         
1:29:44 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG asked about  the bill's fiscal impact on                                                               
1:29:57 PM                                                                                                                    
MARTY  MCGEE, Assessor,  Municipality of  Anchorage, stated  that                                                               
approximately 250 widows(ers) are  enrolled in the entire program                                                               
and estimated the  legislation would add less  than 10 additional                                                               
people to those eligible to receive benefits.                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE   GRUENBERG   asked   whether  Mr.   McGee   found                                                               
subsection (e) confusing.                                                                                                       
MR. MCGEE  agreed, although  he said he  has a  working knowledge                                                               
and understanding of [subsection (e)].                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG suggested using  the bill to clarify the                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT  opined the abovementioned  amendment will                                                               
make the section more clear.                                                                                                    
1:32:37 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR LEDOUX said she was  unsure whether the amendment is the                                                               
place to do so.                                                                                                                 
1:33:10 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE HUGHES  asked for  clarification on the  change in                                                               
the number of people who qualified for the exemption.                                                                           
MR. MCGEE  explained that the  Municipality of Anchorage  may add                                                               
10 more  exemptions to the current  number as the result  of this                                                               
legislation.    This  is  primarily  due to  the  change  in  age                                                               
determination,  and that  the interpretation  of existing  law is                                                               
that the deceased  was a disabled veteran prior to  death.  House                                                               
Bill  164  clarifies  that  the  deceased does  not  have  to  be                                                               
disabled prior  to death, and  that the exemption applies  to the                                                               
widow(er)  of those  who  died  in service.    Mr.  McGee saw  no                                                               
problem  with the  interpretation  of HB  164  and supported  the                                                               
removal of the age requirement.                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE HUGHES asked on what the estimate was based.                                                                     
MR. MCGEE responded the estimate of  10 is based on the number of                                                               
those  who  have  inquired  about  the  exemption  but  who  were                                                               
ineligible due to age.                                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG called  attention  to page  2, line  3,                                                               
which read:                                                                                                                     
     ... a person who was killed while in the military ...                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG   said  "killed"  means  death   by  an                                                               
accident, intentional homicide,  or in combat.   He asked whether                                                               
the survivor  would be  excluded from the  exemption if  a person                                                               
simply died while on active duty.                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  MILLETT  said  yes.     In  further  response  to                                                               
Representative  Gruenberg, she  surmised expanding  the exemption                                                               
to those who died would include  a large group of people, and the                                                               
intent of the legislation is  to assist young families during the                                                               
beginning of their  military service.  She said this  is a policy                                                               
call, but  preferred to  retain the  present language  because it                                                               
matches Anchorage's municipal policy.                                                                                           
1:37:31 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG advised  it is  important to  determine                                                               
whether a death is natural,  accidental, a suicide, or a homicide                                                               
to avoid possible controversy on  determining whether a widow(er)                                                               
is eligible for the exemption.   He pointed out that the survivor                                                               
and family are just as needy  regardless of how the spouse passed                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT said her answer is unchanged.                                                                            
CO-CHAIR  LEDOUX  urged the  sponsor  to  consider whether  other                                                               
service-related deaths could be  applicable without expanding the                                                               
exemption to all deaths.                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT offered  to clarify the bill  by using the                                                               
military's definition of "killed  while during military service."                                                               
This  definition will  address service-related  death benefits  -                                                               
her understanding is that suicide is  not included - and she will                                                               
provide the  definition to the  next committee of referral  or at                                                               
the next meeting.                                                                                                               
CO-CHAIR LEDOUX suggested  the sponsor work on the  bill prior to                                                               
its hearing at the next committee of referral.                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE  HUGHES agreed  that there  would be  instances in                                                               
which a service member may suffer a service-related death.                                                                      
1:41:53 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG   said  service-connected  disabilities                                                               
have been greatly  expanded to include type 2  diabetes for those                                                               
exposed to Agent Orange.  He  gave a personal example of service-                                                               
related  disease  and  death  that   occurred  many  years  after                                                               
military service.  Because this  legislation is broadly remedial,                                                               
he expressed his hope that the  bill would "cast the net broadly"                                                               
to prevent litigation on behalf of a widow(er).                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE REINBOLD agreed to  further discussion at the next                                                               
committee of referral, of which she is a member.                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG offered  to help the sponsor.   Also, he                                                               
asked   to  contact   the  Municipality   of  Anchorage   on  the                                                               
retroactivity authorized in Section 2.                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT  confirmed that the  municipality approved                                                               
[retroactivity] in the legislation.                                                                                             
1:45:52 PM                                                                                                                    
JEFFREY  MITTMAN, Executive  Director,  American Civil  Liberties                                                               
Union  of Alaska  (ACLU of  Alaska), expressed  ACLU of  Alaska's                                                               
support  for  HB  164,  and  asked the  committee  to  address  a                                                               
possible  situation  wherein  a  service member  who  is  legally                                                               
married in another  state to a person of the  same sex is killed,                                                               
but the widow(er)  is denied the benefit granted by  HB 164 under                                                               
the terms of the Alaska State  Constitution.  He stated that this                                                               
is  not  only  morally  but legally  wrong,  because  the  Alaska                                                               
Supreme Court has  ruled on this issue in  Alaska Civil Liberties                                                             
Union v.  State of  Alaska, Municipality  of Anchorage  (AkCLU v.                                                           
State).  Furthermore,  the Alaska Trial Court has  decided on the                                                             
property tax exemption  issue which is currently  under appeal to                                                               
the state supreme court.  With  minor amendments, the bill can be                                                               
brought  in  line  with  Alaska   constitutional  law  and  avoid                                                               
litigation.  He  recalled in the 26th Alaska  State Legislature a                                                               
similar  amendment was  made to  Senate  Bill 278  thus there  is                                                               
precedent to recognize  current Alaska law.   The important moral                                                               
issue is  that it is  essential for  all states to  recognize and                                                               
honor  all service  members and  veterans,  especially those  who                                                               
give  their  lives.    Mr.   Mittman  urged  that  amending  this                                                               
legislation will not be seen as  making a moral judgment on same-                                                               
sex  marriage  or homosexuality,  but  instead  that all  service                                                               
members deserve  to be honored  and their families should  not be                                                               
discriminated against.                                                                                                          
1:48:56 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE REINBOLD asked how many  people in Alaska would be                                                               
affected by  this change.   She said she  did not want  to hinder                                                               
the bill's passage.                                                                                                             
MR. MITTMAN  said because of historic  and ongoing discrimination                                                               
against Lesbian,  Gay, Bisexual  and Transgender  (LGBT) families                                                               
in Alaska, no  one has exact numbers.  However,  there is no need                                                               
to hold  the bill because  the amendments  are very simple.   Mr.                                                               
Mittman stressed that  the amendments are important  even if only                                                               
one family is affected.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  said he feels strongly  about both this                                                               
issue  and the  bill, and  has a  deep moral  commitment to  this                                                               
cause.  He said he was  prepared to offer an amendment to address                                                               
this issue; however,  he said he does not want  to jeopardize the                                                               
bill and asked for advice from other members of the committee.                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT  advised that  the case of  Schmidt et.al,                                                             
v. State of Alaska, Municipality  of Anchorage (Schmidt v. State)                                                           
is on  appeal and no  decision has been  made on the  legality of                                                               
same-sex  marriage  benefits  in  the   state.    She  urged  the                                                               
committee to move the bill as it  is and amend at a later date if                                                               
necessary.  In further response  to Representative Gruenberg, she                                                               
said the Alaska  Supreme Court case in question  has been briefed                                                               
and offered to provide copies.                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG said  he  was  interested in  receiving                                                               
copies of the brief.  He asked Mr. Mittman for further comments.                                                                
1:52:28 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. MITTMAN  explained there  are two related  court cases.   The                                                               
first  case, AkCLU  v. State  was decided  by the  Alaska Supreme                                                             
Court and  established that because  of the prohibition  of same-                                                               
sex   marriage  in   the  Alaska   State  Constitution,   it  was                                                               
unconstitutional  to  deny  same-sex couples  benefits  that  the                                                               
state  provides to  opposite-sex  couples.   On  that basis,  the                                                               
Alaska Trial Court  ruled in favor of same-sex  couples in regard                                                               
to  the property  tax exemption  in Schmidt  v. State,  which was                                                             
appealed, and  is now awaiting  a decision.   He said,  "But with                                                               
respect to whether  or not there's an open question  of law, that                                                               
question of law has already been decided."                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG asked  for  the name  and  cite of  the                                                               
first case.                                                                                                                     
MR. MITTMAN responded it was  AkCLU v. State, and further details                                                             
are provided in the committee packet.                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said he did  not want to slow the bill's                                                               
progress  but  asked  for  assurance   that  the  issue  will  be                                                               
addressed if the court decision is made known.                                                                                  
CO-CHAIR LEDOUX  preferred further  discussion take place  in the                                                               
next  committee of  referral  which is  the  House Community  and                                                               
Regional Affairs Standing Committee (HCRA).                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE REINBOLD  said she is comfortable  moving the bill                                                               
as it is and further discussion may be a political maneuver.                                                                    
1:55:18 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  stated he  would not oppose  moving the                                                               
bill with the  abovementioned assurance from the  sponsor and the                                                               
chair of the next committee of referral.                                                                                        
CO-CHAIR LEDOUX restated her assurance  there will be discussion,                                                               
but there is no assurance that anything will change.                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE  MILLETT   said  she  is  also   open  to  further                                                               
discussion,  but  believes  no  decision has  been  made  on  the                                                               
constitutionality  of the  tax exemption.   Her  intention is  to                                                               
help  widows(ers)  whose  spouses  volunteered to  serve  in  the                                                               
military stay  in the state.   There was  no intention to  make a                                                               
political statement.                                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG   said  he  did  not   impugn  anyone's                                                               
The committee took an at-ease from 1:57 p.m. to 1:58 p.m.                                                                       
1:58:40 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  LEDOUX,  after  determining   no  one  else  wished  to                                                               
testify, closed public testimony.                                                                                               
1:58:49 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE REINBOLD  moved to  adopt Conceptual  Amendment 1,                                                               
which  would  eliminate  the age  requirement  for  a  widow(er).                                                               
There being no objection, Conceptual Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                   
1:59:34 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE REINBOLD  moved to report HB  164, 28-LS0635\A, as                                                               
amended,  out of  committee with  individual recommendations  and                                                               
the accompanying  fiscal notes.   There being no  objection, CSHB
164(MLV)  was reported  out  of the  House  Special Committee  on                                                               
Military and Veterans' Affairs.                                                                                                 

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 164 Hearing Request 03142013.pdf HMLV 3/19/2013 1:00:00 PM
HB 164
HB 164 Sponsor Statement.pdf HMLV 3/19/2013 1:00:00 PM
HB 164
HB0164A.pdf HMLV 3/19/2013 1:00:00 PM
HB 164
HB 164 News Release 03132013.pdf HMLV 3/19/2013 1:00:00 PM
HB 164
HB 164 Supporting Documents - Letter Theresa Dayton 3-14-2013.pdf HMLV 3/19/2013 1:00:00 PM
HB 164
HJR 11 House Military Veterans Affairs Hearing Request 03132013.pdf HMLV 3/19/2013 1:00:00 PM
HJR 11A.pdf HMLV 3/19/2013 1:00:00 PM
HB164-Fiscal Note.pdf HMLV 3/19/2013 1:00:00 PM
HB 164