Legislature(2021 - 2022)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

02/25/2021 03:30 PM COMMUNITY & REGIONAL AFFAIRS

Note: the audio and video recordings are distinct records and are obtained from different sources. As such there may be key differences between the two. The audio recordings are captured by our records offices as the official record of the meeting and will have more accurate timestamps. Use the icons to switch between them.

Download Mp3. <- Right click and save file as

* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
*+ SB 15 OPEN MEETINGS ACT; PENALTY TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
*+ SB 13 OIL AND GAS PROPERTY TAX TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
*+ SB 17 ENERGY EFFICIENCY & POLICY: PUB. BLDGS TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
                SB 15-OPEN MEETINGS ACT; PENALTY                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
3:31:54 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES  announced the consideration  of SENATE BILL  NO. 15                                                               
"An Act  relating to  the Open Meetings  Act; and  establishing a                                                               
civil penalty for violations of  the open meeting requirements by                                                               
members of governmental bodies."                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
She asked Melodie Wilterdink to introduce the bill.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
3:33:31 PM                                                                                                                    
MELODIE  WILTERDINK, Staff,  Senator Mia  Costello, Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, Juneau,  Alaska, introduced SB  15 on behalf  of the                                                               
sponsor, with a PowerPoint that is embodied in the sponsor                                                                      
statement:                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     The Open Meetings Act requires  that all meetings of an                                                                    
     Alaska governmental body of a  public entity be open to                                                                    
     the public,  unless exempt by statute  (the Legislature                                                                    
     and Judiciary  are exempt).  Despite the  challenges of                                                                    
     public  gathering   brought  on  by  COVID-19,   it  is                                                                    
     essential that  elected officials continue to  abide by                                                                    
     the  Open  Meetings  Act and  hold  meetings  that  are                                                                    
     available  to the  public. During  the summer  of 2020,                                                                    
     residents of  Anchorage tried repeatedly to  attend and                                                                    
     testify  at  assembly meetings  in  person,  but to  no                                                                    
     avail.  The Assembly  capped attendance  at 15  people,                                                                    
     preventing  anyone but  members, staff,  and the  press                                                                    
     from attending.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     Senate Bill  15 would establish  a civil penalty  of up                                                                    
     to  $1,000   for  elected   or  appointed   members  of                                                                    
     governmental bodies who violate  the Open Meetings Act.                                                                    
     The  purpose of  Senate  Bill 15  is  to encourage  the                                                                    
     continuation of  open public meetings,  despite current                                                                    
     and future challenges.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     In  1965,   the  late  Senator   Ted  Stevens      then                                                                    
     Representative  Stevens    introduced  House Bill  170,                                                                    
     "An Act requiring that the  meetings of agencies of the                                                                    
     state and its  subdivisions be open to  the public with                                                                    
     certain  exceptions," which  we  now know  as the  Open                                                                    
     Meetings Act. His  original bill included a  fine of up                                                                    
     to $1,000 for elected officials who violated the Act.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
She  noted that  many other  states attach  various penalties  to                                                               
violations of  the Open Meetings  Act. She directed  attention to                                                               
the comments on  slide 4 from Anchorage residents  when they felt                                                               
the Anchorage  Assembly was quelling their  opportunity to speak.                                                               
The slide read as follow:                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     The  Assembly used  COVID as  their excuse  to bar  the                                                                    
     public from  the meeting. In  my opinion, a  fine might                                                                    
     discourage them  from a repeat.  - Mary  Barr, resident                                                                    
     of District K                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
     I  personally   don't  understand  how   the  Anchorage                                                                    
     Assembly  can  unilaterally  decide how  the  money  is                                                                    
     spent without the  input from the people  that they are                                                                    
       appointed to represent.  Rose Hubbard, resident of                                                                       
     District H                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     It was  extremely frustrating that we  were not allowed                                                                    
     to go in ?  It was a quick and easy  way of shutting us                                                                    
     out,  not having  to listen  to us.    Christine  Hill,                                                                    
     resident of District L                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
3:35:47 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR WILSON  asked if the  bill changes the Open  Meetings Act                                                               
to apply to legislators.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS.  WILTERDINK  answered no;  the  legislature  is held  to  the                                                               
Uniform Rules.  To change whether  legislators receive  fines for                                                               
violating  similar rules  in the  Uniform Rules  would require  a                                                               
separate piece of legislation or a resolution.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  GRAY-JACKSON referenced  the  first quote  and said  she                                                               
knows  most of  the assembly  members and  does not  believe they                                                               
used COVID-19 as an excuse.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR HUGHES  asked Ms. Wilterdink if  she looked back at  any of                                                               
the  conversations  when  Representative  Stevens  had  the  Open                                                               
Meetings  Act  before the  legislature  and  why he  removed  the                                                               
penalty from the initial bill.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MS.  WILTERDINK answered  she was  not sure  because not  all the                                                               
committee meeting notes were unavailable.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR HUGHES asked  her if she had data from  other states on the                                                               
number of Open Meetings Act  violations and correlating penalties                                                               
from mild to severe.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS.  WILTERDINK answered  no, but  she would  follow up  with the                                                               
information.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR HUGHES  asked her if there  was a mechanism to  collect the                                                               
penalties indicated in the legislation.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MS. WILTERDINK  answered yes. She  explained the plan is  to have                                                               
the  Alaska   Public  Offices   Commission  (APOC)   collect  the                                                               
penalties.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR HUGHES asked Heather Hebdon  with APOC what it would entail                                                               
for APOC to collect the penalties.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
3:38:59 PM                                                                                                                    
HEATHER  HEBDON,   Executive  Director,  Alaska   Public  Offices                                                               
Commission,  Department  of  Administration,  Anchorage,  Alaska,                                                               
stated as far  as collecting the penalty, the  legislation is not                                                               
clear how APOC would determine  a violation occurred. They do not                                                               
have a  mechanism to identify a  violation or to determine  how a                                                               
violation  would be  presented to  APOC. APOC  not only  does not                                                               
regulate  the  Open Meetings  Act,  it  is  subject to  the  Open                                                               
Meetings Act  so the legislation  presents a question  of whether                                                               
there would be a conflict of interest in regulating the law.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR HUGHES stated the committee  might have some things to work                                                               
through,  but  APOC  first  needs   a  mechanism.  Secondly,  the                                                               
legislature would  have to give  APOC the authority to  deal with                                                               
the  Open Meetings  Act since  the commission  does not  have the                                                               
prescribed duties at this point. She  asked if those were the two                                                               
items she identified.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
3:40:42 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. HEBDON answered yes.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  HUGHES asked  Ms. Wilterdink  if she  and the  sponsor had                                                               
considered an amendment or committee  substitute to address those                                                               
points.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MS. WILTERDINK  answered yes; the  sponsor has an  amendment that                                                               
would  designate   APOC  for  fine  collections.   She  said  her                                                               
understanding  is APOC  would  follow a  similar  process to  the                                                               
public complaint process where somebody  brings a complaint about                                                               
an elected  official and  then it goes  through the  APOC process                                                               
where  the  commission  does  an   investigation  on  both  sides                                                               
followed by a recommendation and then a hearing.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  WILSON  asked if  APOC  would  work out  the  regulatory                                                               
language and process for fee collection should SB 15 pass.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
3:42:02 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. HEBDON  answered APOC currently  does not have  the statutory                                                               
authority  to determine  a violation  of the  Open Meetings  Act.                                                               
Without statutory authority,  she did not know  if the regulatory                                                               
process would be sufficient.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  WILSON asked  if  the commission  would  go through  the                                                               
regulatory  process to  collect fines  if the  committee were  to                                                               
amend the bill to give APOC the statutory authority.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS. HEBDON  replied she could not  speak to an amendment  she had                                                               
not seen, but  if APOC had the statutory authority  it would make                                                               
sense  to then  go through  the  regulatory process  to iron  out                                                               
details. She  added APOC  expects this  would have  a significant                                                               
fiscal impact on the commission.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR HUGHES  asked if  that was  due to  a tremendous  number of                                                               
violations. She  said she  thinks people would  be on  their toes                                                               
and violations would not be very frequent if SB 15 passed.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
She asked her if SB 15 would be  a lot of work for APOC, not just                                                               
the  development of  the  regulations, but  also  because of  the                                                               
large  number of  incidents  the commission  would  receive in  a                                                               
year.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
3:43:47 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  HEBDON answered  because APOC  does not  currently have  the                                                               
regulatory   authority,  the   commission  does   not  have   any                                                               
foundational  knowledge as  to how  many violations  might occur.                                                               
Because   of  the   definition  of   a  governmental   body,  the                                                               
legislation would have  far-reaching impacts all the  way down to                                                               
local community councils.  Given the size of the  agency and what                                                               
the commission  is currently responsible  for, it  is unrealistic                                                               
to think they could competently  regulate this. She reiterated it                                                               
is unclear how these violations would be identified.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  HUGHES said  she  had not  thought  about the  legislation                                                               
reaching down to the community  council level, because that means                                                               
it would apply to hundreds if not thousands.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
She asked  Sara Chambers  if she  knew how  many state  and local                                                               
officials are in the state.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
3:45:26 PM                                                                                                                    
SARA CHAMBERS,  Director, Division of Corporations,  Business and                                                               
Professional  Licensing, Department  of Commerce,  Community, and                                                               
Economic Development,  Juneau, Alaska,  replied she did  not know                                                               
but she would refer the question  to the director of the Division                                                               
of Community and Regional Affairs.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MS.  CHAMBERS noted  she  was responsible  for  the 21  licensing                                                               
boards.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  HUGHES asked  how the  bill would  apply to  the licensing                                                               
boards.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MS. CHAMBERS  answered the division  has 21 boards,  appointed by                                                               
the governor  and confirmed by  the legislature, that  manage all                                                               
governing  functions for  half of  the licensing  programs. Since                                                               
the boards  fall under  the definition  that is in  the law  as a                                                               
public  official,   they  would  be   subject  to  a   fine.  The                                                               
department's  concern is  that board  members are  volunteers and                                                               
finding  enough volunteers  to meet  certain criteria  is already                                                               
difficult.  The bill  would be  another deterrent  and risk  that                                                               
volunteers would  take when  they consider  whether to  serve the                                                               
state.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GRAY-JACKSON  noted that  by charter the  Municipality of                                                               
Anchorage Assembly  is responsible for the  38 community councils                                                               
it  established.  She  suggested making  the  Anchorage  Assembly                                                               
responsible for  identifying and fining those  community councils                                                               
for violations of the Open Meetings Act.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
3:47:35 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  HUGHES asked  Ms. Chambers  if boards  and commission  are                                                               
subject to the Open Meetings Act.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MS. CHAMBERS answered yes.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  HUGHES  commented  on the  informal  nature  of  community                                                               
council  meetings  and  asked  Ms.   Wilterdink  if  the  sponsor                                                               
intended the legislation to go to the community council level.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MS. WILTERDINK  answered yes,  the sponsor  intended the  bill to                                                               
cover everybody covered by the  Open Meetings Act. The exceptions                                                               
are the legislature and the judiciary.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  HUGHES  asked  Ms. Wilterdink  to  provide  the  sectional                                                               
analysis for SB 15.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
3:49:00 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. WILTERDINK read the sectional analysis for SB 15:                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     Section 1                                                                                                                
     AS  44.62.310(h),  page 1,  lines  4-6,  is amended  to                                                                    
     define  the terms  "knowingly"  and "public  official."                                                                    
     Under this  section, "knowingly" has the  meaning given                                                                    
     in  AS  11.81.900(a)(2),   "public  official"  has  the                                                                    
     meaning given in AS 39.50.200(a)(9).                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     Section 2                                                                                                                
     Page 1, lines  7-10, is amended to add  a civil penalty                                                                    
     of up to  $1,000 for elected or appointed  members of a                                                                    
     governmental body  who knowingly attend a  meeting that                                                                    
     violates the Open Meetings Act.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     Section 3                                                                                                                
     Page 1,  lines 11-14, and  page 2, line 1,  it provides                                                                    
     that  the  penalties  added  by   this  bill  apply  to                                                                    
     offenses occurring  on or after  the effective  date of                                                                    
     this Act.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
3:50:13 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES  asked how the  two statutory references  define the                                                               
terms "knowingly" and "public officials."                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS. WILTERDINK  answered her general  understanding is  that that                                                               
"public  official" effectively  is everybody  who is  not in  the                                                               
legislature  and   not  in  the  judiciary.   The  definition  of                                                               
"knowingly" is as follows:                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     A person acts  knowingly with respect to  conduct or to                                                                    
     a  circumstance   described  by  a  provision   of  law                                                                    
     defining an offense  when the person is  aware that the                                                                    
     conduct  is of  that  nature or  that the  circumstance                                                                    
     exists.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
     When knowledge  of the existence  of a  particular fact                                                                    
     is  an  element  of  an   offense,  that  knowledge  is                                                                    
     established  if  a person  is  aware  of a  substantial                                                                    
     probability  of   its  existence,  unless   the  person                                                                    
     actually believes it does not exist.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     A person  who is unaware  of conduct or  a circumstance                                                                    
     of  which the  person would  have been  aware had  that                                                                    
     person  not  been   intoxicated,  acts  knowingly  with                                                                    
     respect to that conduct or circumstance.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
3:52:03 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  GRAY-JACKSON noted  that the  Municipality of  Anchorage                                                               
has its own  ethics code and commission to  address violations of                                                               
the Open Meetings Act. She asked how that works with this bill.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MS.  WILTERDINK answered  she would  look into  it and  follow up                                                               
with the answer.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  GRAY-JACKSON added  that the  Municipality of  Anchorage                                                               
also has a  reprimand in code for violations, and  how that works                                                               
with the bill should also be investigated.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR HUGHES  opined that  was important  information to  have on                                                               
the  record. She  offered her  understanding that  some municipal                                                               
officials  raised this  concern with  the sponsor.  She asked  if                                                               
they filed a complaint through the Municipality of Anchorage.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS.  WILTERDINK  replied she  had  not  seen complaints  to  that                                                               
effect. She  has seen some concerns  about the bill that  she was                                                               
happy to share with the committee.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
3:54:35 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES held SB 15 in committee.                                                                                           

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 13 Version B.PDF SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 13
SB 13 Sectional Analysis.pdf SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 13
SB 13 Sponsor Statement.pdf SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 13
SB 13 Supporting Document - 2019-02 AML resolution - Reimburse Property Tax Exemption.pdf SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 13
SB 13 Supporting Document - Higher Education Fund, UA Summary.pdf SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 13
SB 13 Supporting Document - Legislative Finance Email on Capital Income Fund.pdf SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 13
SB 13 Supporting Document - Revenue Sourcebook 2020 Excerpts.pdf SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 13
SB 13 Supporting Document - Senior Citizen Property Tax Exemption History.pdf SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 13
SB 13 Supporting Document - Senior Property Tax Exemption - Jurisdiction.pdf SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 13
SB 17 v. A Legislation.pdf SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 17
SB 17 v. A Sectional Analysis 1.27.2021.pdf SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 17
SB 17 v. A Sponsor Statement 1.27.2021.pdf SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 17
SB 17 v. A Supporting Document - Energy Program Overview Brief.pdf SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 17
SB 17 v. A Supporting Document - EPSC Diagram.JPG SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 17
SB 17 v. A Supporting Document - HB 306 2010 State Energy Policy.PDF SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
HB 306
SB 17
SB 17 v. A Supporting Document - State ESPC Policies.pdf SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 17
SB 17 v. A Supporting Document - NMESCO_Begich.pdf SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 17
SB 17 v. A Supporting Document - Sustainable Energy Act Annual Report to Legislature (2020)_Final.pdf SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 17
SB15 Sectional Analysis 2.23.21.pdf SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
SJUD 3/17/2021 1:30:00 PM
SB 15
SB15 Stupport Document States with Open Meetings Penalties Table.pdf SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
SJUD 3/17/2021 1:30:00 PM
SB 15
SB 15 Version B.PDF SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
SJUD 3/17/2021 1:30:00 PM
SB 15
SB15 Stupport Document States with Open Meetings Penalties Map.pdf SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 15
SB15 Sponsor Statement 2.24.21 A.pdf SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 15
SB15 Presentation 2.25.21.pdf SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
SJUD 3/17/2021 1:30:00 PM
SB 15
SB13 AOGA Letter of Opposition - 2.25.21.pdf SCRA 2/25/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 13