Legislature(2005 - 2006)BELTZ 211
04/27/2005 01:30 PM COMMUNITY & REGIONAL AFFAIRS
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CSHB 27(FIN)-MUNI PROP TAX EXEMPTION FOR POLICE HOMES CHAIR GARY STEVENS announced HB 27 to be the next order of business. 1:36:57 PM REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG, Co-Sponsor, said the purpose of HB 27 is to encourage law enforcement officers to purchase and live in homes in certain areas of a municipality that are in need of more police protection. The bill gives municipalities the option to enact an ordinance to exempt up to $150,000 of assessed valuation on a primary permanent residence of a law enforcement officer who lives in an area the municipality recognizes as high crime. He clarified that municipalities may not enact such an ordinance without passing this type of legislation. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG defined an eligible area as "either a weed and seed program, a renaissance or, alternatively as an area that has a higher occurrence of crime than a municipality as a whole. Or it could meet both A and B." He said co-sponsor, Representative Chenault believes this legislation would be helpful in Nikiski and he believes it would be helpful in parts of Anchorage. 1:39:08 PM CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked if it's true that this isn't an obligation; it's an opportunity for a municipality. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG agreed. SENATOR BERT STEDMAN questioned why this couldn't be handled at a local level. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG replied it can, but under AS 29.45.050 an enabling state law is required. SENATOR STEDMAN asked if there is a reason that firefighters aren't included. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG replied that would be a good idea. Currently volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel have a $10,000 exemption under another provision. SENATOR STEDMAN said he was referring to fulltime paid rather than volunteer firefighters. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said he wasn't sure it would help as much to have a firefighter on the block as a policeperson, but he wouldn't have a problem with including firefighters if it would help keep crime down. 1:42:09 PM SENATOR THOMAS WAGONER asked for an explanation of the statement that two or more individuals are eligible for an exemption on the same property. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG explained that particular language was taken from the subsection dealing with volunteer firefighters. The idea is that the exempted valuation wouldn't be more than $300,000 for a single property. This would accommodate the instances in which one law enforcement officer marries another, but wouldn't extend to multiple family members that are in law enforcement or groups of officers going together to buy a single residence. CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked if this would apply only to actively employed law enforcement officers. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said the intent is to cover just the actively employed, but the municipal ordinance would address the particulars. CHAIR GARY STEVENS noted Mr. Van Sant, the state assessor, was available for questions. CHIEF WALT MONEGAN, Anchorage Police Department (APD), spoke in support of HB 27. Over the years several different housing incentives have been offered and about 12 APD members have participated. That indicates that the proposal has merit, he said. He supports the bill because neighborhoods feel safer; neighborhoods get to know the resident officer; officers are reminded that they are citizens in the community; and they provide positive role models for youth. Certainly, the program would aid in officer recruitment and retention. Finally, he said he supports including firefighters in the bill. 1:49:31 PM SENATOR WAGONER questioned whether police officers were aware of the bill. CHIEF MONEGAN replied some are and the union representatives keep members informed as well. SENATOR WAGONER asked if he'd gotten any feedback. CHIEF MONEGAN replied officers are waiting to see whether the program becomes available. SENATOR JOHNNY ELLIS stated support for the bill and said he represented some of the low-income high-crime areas in Anchorage and he knows that if cops make a decent salary and live in more affluent neighborhoods it fosters bad feelings. Hopefully this will encourage folks that could afford to live in better areas to move into less affluent areas because that would help to improve those neighborhoods. CHIEF MONEGAN said when neighborhoods benefit there is an operational benefit for the department in that crime goes down. It's a plus to see neighborhoods change complexion for the better, he said. 1:53:17 PM SERGEANT MIKE COUTURIER, Representative, Anchorage Police Department Employee Association (APDEA), stated that the association supports HB 27. His job includes recruitment and retention and this will be a distinct aid in attracting applicants. More than likely, he said, the primary use will come from officers that are attracted from out of state. The association has the information on its web site and members have already shown interest in the idea. CHAIR GARY STEVENS recapped this would be at the option of the local government and it could exempt city police departments and state troopers. He asked if that was Sergeant Couturier's understanding. SERGEANT COUTURIER said yes. CHAIR GARY STEVENS observed that the comments had been positive. He was asked to hold the bill to review several issues, but it would be dealt with quickly at the next hearing. CSHB 27(FIN) was held in committee.