Legislature(1999 - 2000)
03/21/2000 08:10 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 331-ALASKA NATL GUARD/NAVAL & STATE MILITIA Number 0628 CHAIR JAMES announced the next order of business, HOUSE BILL NO. 331, "An Act relating to payment, allowances, and benefits of members of the Alaska National Guard and Alaska Naval Militia in active service; relating to computation of certain benefits for members of the Alaska State Militia; and providing for an effective date." [Before the committee was CSHB 331(MLV).] CAROL CARROLL, Director, Administrative Services Division, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said she has online Colonel Craig Christensen, Rick Turcic, and General Westall to answer questions. She explained that HB 331 proposes three amendments to current statute. The first is to change the name of the Alaska State Militia to the Alaska State Defense Force. Therefore, Sections 1-4 and Section 11 merely change the name. She explained that in statute now there is something called the Organized Militia, made up of the National Guard, the Naval Militia, and the Alaska State Militia (to be called Alaska State Defense Force). MS. CARROLL explained that second, HB 331 streamlines the process for calculating pay for the National Guard and the Naval Militia section of Alaska's Organized Naval Militia when they are called to state active duty. She mentioned that the governor does that for search and rescue, an emergency or a disaster. In the [legislators'] packet she had provided a two-page description of current calculations used to calculate both pay and allowances for members of the National Guard and the Naval Militia. She informed the committee that HB 331 will allow the department to multiply the minimum base pay by 200 percent to arrive at active duty pay. The first page shows how many steps the department must perform now to accomplish payment, and the second page shows how much the process would be streamlined by HB 331. MS. CARROLL remarked that the third thing that HB 331 does is institute a statutory method of paying the Alaska State Defense Force when called to state active duty. She added that about a year ago the department was notified by the Department of Law that the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs had been paying the Alaska State Defense Force in error. She recognized that her department was paying them the same way as the Naval Militia and the National Guard. Since that time the department has been bringing members of the Alaska State Defense Force on active duty and paying them as non-permanent state employees. That does cause some problems because the Alaska State Defense Force is a military unit under military command structure and discipline. The Alaska State Defense Force also has the protection of statute in that the members have other jobs; therefore, they have a protection from their employers to go back to that job after they have fulfilled their service for the state. She said that the fact that the department hires Alaska State Defense Force members as state employees causes some confusion in the [payment] process. She noted that the third section of HB 331 would fix the confusion because Alaska State Defense Force members would be paid as if they were state employees using state employee pay scales, but they would still be under military command discipline. Number 0955 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked how National Guard members are compensated now. Number 0964 MS. CARROLL replied that they are paid federal wages. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked at what [pay scale] they work, and how that is established. MS. CARROLL answered that all National Guard and Naval Militia people are paid based on their federal pay level and housing allowance, rations allowance and other factors. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked if the federal pay level and allowance are higher or lower for a Naval Militia captain who is temporarily placed into a National Guard unit. MS. CARROLL replied that the National Guard and the Naval Militia will still be paid. Number 1006 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked if Alaska State Defense Force members are compensated upon being called to active duty at the same rate as National Guard members when National Guard members have replaced the Alaska State Defense Force at the scene of a disaster or emergency. He further asked if the formula as written in HB 331 compensates the Alaska State Defense Force at a rate comparable to the [National] Guard. MS. CARROLL answered that the method of payment is different, but she cannot say if pay rates are different. She said the National Guard and the Naval Militia will be paid a daily rate. Number 1061 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked if HB 331 pays a higher rate than National Guard pay. CHAIR JAMES pointed out that there is a zero fiscal note for HB 331. Number 1092 TOM WESTALL, General, Alaska State Defense Force, testified via teleconference from Anchorage. He said that Alaska State Defense Force soldiers, since they are in state military formations, would get pay commensurate with whatever job they happen to take in an emergency situation. During an emergency the Alaska Division of Emergency Services or [Alaska State] Troopers would have to hire civil employees anyway, and certain tasks would be assigned. He explained that to pay Alaska State Defense Force members by rank is cumbersome when coming in under emergency capacity because the first one on the scene may be an individual with the rank of major, but the job needing attention may be a telephone receptionist or telephone coordinator. He commented that the major would not be paid by his rank but would be paid by the classified job description of whatever job that major was performing. He indicated this method of payment is beneficial, economically manageable for the state, and provides an immediate service. Number 1223 GENERAL WESTALL mentioned that the Defense Force can call up 100 soldiers within 24 hours at any given moment. This [capability] provides an excellent utility for the Division of Emergency Services to go into operation in any emergency without having to stop to do outside hiring to fill all those positions needed for a 24-hour operation. In 72 hours, the current staffing of Emergency Services would be exhausted without some augmentation. The State Defense Force supplies the force multiplier that can make the organization operate for 24 hours a day and provides immediate emergency response. The Defense Force has had much experience since 1983 in emergency response; therefore, the utility aspects are very advantageous to the state, plus the pay is appropriate to the job being performed instead of paying a high-ranking person to do an ignominious task. He added that the jobs are already classified in the personnel management system; therefore, the department is not changing any pay scale or pay rate but merely providing a service that is already a known quantity. Number 1311 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said it seems the pay system could be a nightmare if the major came on duty in an ignominious position for three hours and then went to another job and over a period of 24 hours he had seven different jobs. He asked if the major in such an instance would fill a timecard in for seven different positions. GENERAL WESTALL replied that such a scenario does not usually happen. He noted that he has one battalion already pre-trained to go into emergency services in their state emergency coordination center. He explained that those jobs have already been pre-[assigned] and those personnel know exactly what they are going to do so the emergency center can [start] operating very quickly. He mentioned that pre-trained personnel are staffed appropriate to their rank and so most of them receive minimum daily pay anyway but there will be some supervising officers that would naturally take a supervisory position. He indicated that the scenario as described by Representative Green happens when soldiers are rapidly deployed into the field and end up performing a variety of jobs. He agreed that in those cases there is some mismatch of Defense ranks versus the job being performed and occasionally a switch from one job title to another. He remarked that Emergency Services staff keep track of the payroll and try to minimize administrative nightmares, but he acknowledged that what Representative Green had described does occur occasionally. Number 1459 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said he is concerned because if the department has established an emergency team and then replaces them with soldiers from the Naval Militia, for example, then the second group should receive comparable pay. It seems much easier to him that the department would pay like [duties] for like [duties] instead of going through extra work to figure pay rates. REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON inquired as to what was the basis for the 200 percentile. He asked if the percentile was supposedly going to hold everybody on par with the position that they are replacing. Number 1577 CRAIG CHRISTENSEN, Colonel, Chief of Staff, Alaska Army National Guard, testified via teleconference from Anchorage. He said he has become familiar with the pay system by reason of his senior position. He noted that National Guard officers are federally recognized. He added that they have a federal promotion system that requires years of service and determining factors that require education, which system is totally separate from the Alaska State Defense Force. He explained that Alaska State Defense Force individuals are promoted under a different system, are appointed and can be appointed with no military service based on their civilian experience, so the department is talking about two totally separate systems. He commented that the Alaska State Defense Force also is a cadre outfit, meaning that it is top-rank heavy and has many officers in the cadre leadership. He mentioned that the Alaska State Defense Force waits for mobilization before filling its enlisted ranks. Number 1714 COLONEL CHRISTENSEN informed the committee that the department had reviewed pay rates from colonel down to private and found that it required 345 hand calculations across pay tables to start with basic pay entry date, years of service, how many dependents, ration allowances, cost of living allowance (COLA), and many other calculations to produce payroll. He emphasized that the department was seeking a simple, equitable way to pay individuals according to their rank and benefits they were already receiving. He remarked that the department made two schedules wherein a captain's pay was calculated using the current method of 345 steps and then captain's basic military pay using the 200 percentile was calculated. He said that 200 times the basic pay for a captain was $18 less than he/she would have received if pay had been calculated with the 345 steps; therefore, the pay rate is very close. He added that for first lieutenant pay, the calculations happened to be equal, and a second lieutenant makes a little more using the 200 percentile. He stated that the 200 percentile initiative has been offered to the Alaska National Guard Officer's Association and Enlisted Associations, and there has been no objection from either one of those associations. Number 1776 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN made a motion to move CSHB 331(MLV) out of committee with individual recommendations and the attached zero fiscal note; he asked for unanimous consent. There being no objection, CSHB 331(MLV) moved from the House State Affairs Standing Committee.