Legislature(2009 - 2010)CAPITOL 106

03/12/2009 08:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS


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08:06:33 AM Start
08:07:13 AM HB77
08:35:25 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
*+ HB 73 HONORARY CONSUL LICENSE PLATES TELECONFERENCED
<Bill Hearing Canceled>
*+ HB 77 PUBLIC EMPLOYEE DISASTER LEAVE TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSHB 77(STA) Out of Committee
*+ HB 76 LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL & LB&A MEMBERSHIP TELECONFERENCED
Scheduled But Not Heard
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
HB  77-PUBLIC EMPLOYEE DISASTER LEAVE                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
8:07:13 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
VICE CHAIR SEATON  announced that the only order  of business was                                                               
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."                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
8:07:36 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  CHARISSE   MILLETT,  Alaska   State  Legislature,                                                               
introduced  HB 77  as  prime  sponsor.   She  said disasters  can                                                               
strike anywhere at any time,  and Alaska's unique geography makes                                                               
responding  to   disasters  more   challenging.     The  proposed                                                               
legislation would permit state employees  to take unpaid leave to                                                               
join the American  Red Cross and use their skills  to help during                                                               
disasters that  strike the state.   Forty-seven  states currently                                                               
allow their  employees to do  so.  Disaster training  is provided                                                               
at no  cost to the state  and its employees.   Employees would be                                                               
allowed  15 days  of  unpaid leave  without  losing any  employee                                                               
benefits.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   MILLETT  noted   that  there   is  a   committee                                                               
substitute  for  HB  77,  which   includes  the  Alaska  Railroad                                                               
Corporation in the  list of exempted entities,  which include the                                                               
University  of  Alaska  Anchorage  and the  court  system.    She                                                               
explained  that  was an  oversight  that  would be  corrected  by                                                               
adopting the committee substitute.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
8:10:06 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JOHNSON moved  to  adopt  the proposed  committee                                                               
substitute (CS)  to HB 77,  Version 26-LS0250\S,  Wayne, 3/10/09,                                                               
as a work draft.  There  being no objection, Version S was before                                                               
the committee.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT,  in response to Representative  Gatto and                                                               
Vice Chair  Seaton, noted  that the  definition of  "disaster" is                                                               
found  in Version  S,  on  page 2,  lines  [18-19],  and read  as                                                               
follows:                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
               (1)    "disaster"   means    an   event    or                                                                    
     circumstance  that  has   been  formally  designated  a                                                                    
     disaster  at level  II or  higher by  the American  Red                                                                    
     Cross;                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
8:12:47 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JEFF  TURNER,  Staff,  Representative  Charisse  Millett,  Alaska                                                               
State  Legislature,   responding  to   questions  on   behalf  of                                                               
Representative  Millet,  prime sponsor  of  HB  77, explained  to                                                               
Representative  Gruenberg  that  representatives  of  the  Alaska                                                               
Railroad Corporation  expressed concern about how  the bill would                                                               
apply to their  employees and asked to be exempted  at this time.                                                               
He commented that the Alaska  Railroad Corporation is a separate,                                                               
public corporation  and, thus, treats its  employees differently.                                                               
He   clarified  that   consideration  of   the  Alaska   Railroad                                                               
Corporation may be  made in future legislation, but  would not be                                                               
made in HB 77.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
8:13:43 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  TURNER, in  response to  Vice Chair  Seaton, confirmed  that                                                               
disasters referred  to in  the bill would  be those  disasters in                                                               
Alaska declared by the American Red Cross.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
8:14:17 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. TURNER,  in response to Representative  Gatto, explained that                                                               
if a state employee chose to  volunteer for an American Red Cross                                                               
disaster  relief, that  employee  would be  on  unpaid leave  and                                                               
would  not be  covered by  workman's compensation,  but would  be                                                               
covered by state health insurance.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
8:14:53 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  TURNER,   in  response  to  Representative   Petersen,  said                                                               
although the  bill covers disasters  in Alaska, a  state employee                                                               
with  American  Red Cross  disaster  training  could ask  his/her                                                               
supervisor for  unpaid time  off to help  the American  Red Cross                                                               
with  disasters  outside  Alaska.   The  bill  puts  language  in                                                               
statute related to in-state disasters.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
8:15:40 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. TURNER confirmed  for Representative Gruenberg that  HB 77 is                                                               
modeled upon legislation from other states.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG asked if the  other states have a clause                                                               
similar  to the  language on  page 2,  lines 1-3,  which read  as                                                               
follows:                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
          (b) Leave without pay under this section is                                                                           
     subject to  approval by the supervisor  of the employee                                                                    
     who  requests   it;  however,   approval  may   not  be                                                                    
     unreasonably withheld.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.  TURNER  offered  his understanding  that  that  language  is                                                               
standard.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
8:16:17 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG,  in  response to  Vice  Chair  Seaton,                                                               
noted  that the  language on  page 1,  lines 13-14  addresses the                                                               
issue of instate disasters.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
8:16:53 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
VICE CHAIR SEATON opened public testimony.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
8:17:41 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
NICKI NEAL,  Director, Division of  Personnel &  Labor Relations,                                                               
Department  of Administration  (DOA), in  response to  a question                                                               
from Representative Gatto, said  the term "unreasonably withheld"                                                               
is standard language used in  collective bargaining, and it means                                                               
that if  the work allows, the  request an employee makes  to take                                                               
unpaid  leave to  take  part  in disaster  relief  work with  the                                                               
American Red Cross  cannot be denied.  In response  to Vice Chair                                                               
Seaton,  she  confirmed  that  if  an  employee's  leaving  would                                                               
adversely affect an agency or put  someone at risk, and there was                                                               
no replacement for that employee,  then a supervisor could refuse                                                               
that  request.    In  response  to  Representative  Johnson,  she                                                               
confirmed  that  another  reason  a  supervisor  could  deny  the                                                               
employee  the  aforementioned  request   is  if  that  employee's                                                               
absence  at that  time would  result in  an undue  burden on  the                                                               
state's budget.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
8:19:37 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MICHELLE  HOULIHAN, Chief  Executive Officer,  Alaska Chapter  of                                                               
the American Red Cross, stated  that HB 77 would improve Alaska's                                                               
disaster  preparedness  and  allow  state  employees  to  benefit                                                               
fellow  Alaskans.   She  reported that  since  the earthquake  of                                                               
1964, the American Red Cross  has been designated as the disaster                                                               
response agency for  the state, and it has  perpetuated that role                                                               
over the years.   She said allowing state  employees to volunteer                                                               
will strengthen  the agency's volunteer  numbers and allow  it to                                                               
"provide quality service during times of disaster and need."                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
8:21:00 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  TURNER,  in  response  to  a  question  from  Representative                                                               
Gruenberg, said the proposed bill  applies to state employees and                                                               
does not include those serving in the Alaska National Guard.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  suggested  the  sponsor  may  want  to                                                               
consider that possibility.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
8:21:47 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  asked if all classes  of municipalities                                                               
currently have the  power by ordinance to  allow [their employees                                                               
to  take unpaid  leave to  respond to  disasters as  American Red                                                               
Cross volunteers].                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MS. HOULIHAN said she does not know.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. TURNER said he could find out.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
8:22:58 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON asked about training opportunities.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS.  HOULIHAN, in  response  to  Representative Johnson,  relayed                                                               
that the American Red Cross  offers volunteer training at no cost                                                               
to any individual who wants to  volunteer.  She named some of the                                                               
areas in which  a person can be trained,  including mental health                                                               
and case management.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JOHNSON  opined that  that  training  is a  great                                                               
opportunity to improve the State of Alaska's workforce.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MS. HOULIHAN,  in response to Representative  Petersen, confirmed                                                               
that the names of those  who have undergone training are provided                                                               
on a  list so that  the American Red  Cross can contact  them and                                                               
ask if they would like to help out during a disaster.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
8:24:12 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. HOULIHAN,  in response to Representative  Gruenberg, said the                                                               
State of Alaska  would not be held responsible in  the event that                                                               
a state  employee committed  a tort  while volunteering  with the                                                               
American Red  Cross.   In response to  a follow-up  question, she                                                               
said she would need to  verify her present understanding that the                                                               
American Red Cross would not  be responsible should such an event                                                               
occur.  She confirmed that the American Red Cross is insured.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
8:25:10 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON,  after ascertaining that there  was no one                                                               
else  to  testify,  closed  public   testimony.    He  asked  the                                                               
committee members  to express their  wishes regarding  whether to                                                               
move the bill or hold on to it.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
8:27:59 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
VICE CHAIR  SEATON, in response  to Representative  Johnson, said                                                               
he thinks most of  the time a member of the  National Guard is an                                                               
employee of "somebody else."  He  asked Mr. Turner to ensure that                                                               
the proposed  legislation does not  allow a person working  a job                                                               
while  serving in  the National  Guard "to  qualify and  take off                                                               
from his other  employer."  He said  he does not think  that is a                                                               
problem, but wants to make certain it is not.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
8:29:13 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  PETERSEN pointed  out  that if  the disaster  was                                                               
serious enough,  a person  serving in the  National Guard  may be                                                               
called out by  the governor anyway and would  not be volunteering                                                               
at that point.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
VICE  CHAIR SEATON  reminded the  committee that  the bill  deals                                                               
with level  II disasters declared  in Alaska by the  American Red                                                               
Cross, not disasters declared by state.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
8:30:15 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  noted that on  page 2, lines  19-20, in                                                               
the  original  bill  version, the  language  specifies  that  the                                                               
Alaska  Railroad Corporation  and  the University  of Alaska  are                                                               
included  in "state  government";  however,  when those  entities                                                               
were  dropped  in Version  S,  the  language left  only  mentions                                                               
"state government", and he said that  may not be clear years from                                                               
now that  that does not  include the Alaska  Railroad Corporation                                                               
and  the University  of Alaska.    He suggested  that Mr.  Turner                                                               
speak   with  the   bill  drafter   regarding  the   term  "state                                                               
government" to ensure that the intent is clear.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. TURNER  said in his  discussions with the bill  drafter, that                                                               
issue was discussed; however, he  said he would contact Mr. Wayne                                                               
again to double-check.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  recollected  having seen  language  in                                                               
statute   that   specifically   mentions  the   Alaska   Railroad                                                               
Corporation "as being excluded."                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JOHNSON indicated  that he  thinks Representative                                                               
Gruenberg is right that the language is in statute.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
The committee took an at-ease from 8:32:42 AM to 8:33:25 AM.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
8:33:27 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON moved to report CSHB 77, Version 26-                                                                     
LS0250\S,  Wayne,  2/10/09,  out  of  committee  with  individual                                                               
recommendations and  the accompanying fiscal notes.   There being                                                               
no objection,  CSHB 77(STA) was  reported out of the  House State                                                               
Affairs Standing Committee.                                                                                                     

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
01 HSTA - HB0077A.PDF HSTA 3/12/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 77
01 HB0076A.pdf HSTA 3/12/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 76
02 HSTA - HB 77 Sponsor Statement.doc HSTA 3/12/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 77
03 HSTA - HB 77 PR - Millett Intro's Red Cross Disaster Assistance Bill.doc HSTA 3/12/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 77
04 HSTA HB 77 State Disaster Leave Law Chart 2008.doc HSTA 3/12/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 77
05 HSTA HB 77 OR Disaster Leave Law 7 08.pdf HSTA 3/12/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 77
06 HSTA HB 77 Alaska Needs a Disaster Leave Bill.doc HSTA 3/12/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 77
07 HSTA HB 77 - RC letter of support.pdf HSTA 3/12/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 77
02 CS HB 76.pdf HSTA 3/12/2009 8:00:00 AM
03 Sponsor Statement.doc HSTA 3/12/2009 8:00:00 AM
04 Explanation of Changes.doc HSTA 3/12/2009 8:00:00 AM
05 HB76-LEG-COU-3-11-09.pdf HSTA 3/12/2009 8:00:00 AM
3-10-09 Blank CS for HB 77 26-LS0250 Version S.pdf HSTA 3/12/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 77
3-9-09 What changes were to CS HB 77.doc HSTA 3/12/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 77
HB077-DOA-DOP-03-11-09.pdf HSTA 3/12/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 77