Legislature(2021 - 2022)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

04/27/2021 03:30 PM Senate COMMUNITY & REGIONAL AFFAIRS

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Heard & Held
Heard & Held
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
           SB 81-VILLAGE PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICER GRANTS                                                                       
4:04:20 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES announced  the consideration of SENATE  BILL NO. 81,                                                               
"An  Act requiring  background investigations  of village  public                                                               
safety  officer applicants  by the  Department of  Public Safety;                                                               
relating  to  the  village public  safety  officer  program;  and                                                               
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
CHAIR HUGHES  noted that the  proposed committee  substitute (CS)                                                               
for  SB  81  was  based  on  the  changes  the  sponsor's  office                                                               
SENATOR MYERS  moved to adopt  the CS for  SB 81, work  order 32-                                                               
LS0362\I, as the working document.                                                                                              
4:04:59 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES objected for discussion purposes.                                                                                  
4:05:09 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR DONNY  OLSON, Alaska  State Legislature,  Juneau, Alaska,                                                               
sponsor  of SB  81, characterized  the legislation  as a  work in                                                               
progress  over  the last  several  years.  It would  require  the                                                               
Department  of   Public  Safety   (DPS)  to   conduct  background                                                               
investigations on VPSO applicants  and provide an effective date.                                                               
He deferred further comment to his staff, Mr. Truitt.                                                                           
4:05:48 PM                                                                                                                    
KEN   TRUITT,   Staff,   Senator  Donny   Olson,   Alaska   State                                                               
Legislature,  reminded  the  committee that  during  the  initial                                                               
hearing  on  SB  81,  he mentioned  that  the  stakeholders  were                                                               
interested in amending the original  bill to retain management of                                                               
the VPSO  Program grant  within the  Department of  Public Safety                                                               
(DPS) rather than transferring it  to the Department of Commerce,                                                               
Community and Economic Development (DCCED).  That is what the CS,                                                               
version I, accomplishes. He noted  that only the former Section 5                                                               
was  affected.  It  proposed an  amendment  to  DCCED's  enabling                                                               
statute to give  specific authority to that  department to manage                                                               
the  grant. That  section was  removed, and  the subsequent  four                                                               
sections were renumbered accordingly.                                                                                           
4:07:30 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  HUGHES found  no  questions or  comments  and removed  her                                                               
objection. Finding no further objection,  CSSB 81, version I, was                                                               
adopted as the working document.                                                                                                
4:08:09 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES announced invited testimony.                                                                                       
4:08:18 PM                                                                                                                    
JASON WILSON, Manager, Public  Safety Department, Central Council                                                               
Tlingit  and  Haida  Indian Tribes  of  Alaska,  Juneau,  Alaska,                                                               
advised that he has been  the region's VPSO coordinator for about                                                               
16 years. He  related that Tlingit & Haida has  over 32,000 rural                                                               
tribal  citizens  throughout the  state,  many  of whom  live  in                                                               
communities that are  not connected to the road  system. They are                                                               
most accessible by boat or  plane. In these communities, the VPSO                                                               
program fills a  critical law enforcement need.  He reported that                                                               
Tlingit  & Haida  currently  has 10  VPSOs  located in  Hydaburg,                                                               
Saxman, Kake, Angoon, Pelican, Kasaan, and Thorn Bay.                                                                           
MR. WILSON stated  support for SB 81 and thanked  the sponsor and                                                               
his staff for  their tireless work on the  legislation to provide                                                               
more  flexibility within  the VPSO  program  so coordinators  are                                                               
able  fill VPSO  positions and  get the  equipment that  officers                                                               
need to do  their job. He said the program  was developed in 1978                                                               
and many  of the statutes  and regulations governing  the program                                                               
have not been updated since then.                                                                                               
He   mentioned   the   importance   of   government-to-government                                                               
communication  and expressed  confidence  that SB  81 would  help                                                               
ensure that  funding for  the VPSO Program  does not  change with                                                               
each administration  and DPS commissioner. He  reiterated Tlingit                                                               
and Haida's  support for SB 81  and its commitment to  stand with                                                               
the state  to find  solutions to provide  public safety  to rural                                                               
communities in Alaska.                                                                                                          
4:15:41 PM                                                                                                                    
MICHAEL  NEMETH,  VPSO  Coordinator,  Aleutian  Pribilof  Islands                                                               
Association (APIA), Anchorage, Alaska, stated  that he has been a                                                               
certified village public  safety officer since 2002  and the VPSO                                                               
Coordinator for APIA for the past  nine years. He described SB 81                                                               
as  a bipartisan  boots-on-the-ground all  stakeholder effort  to                                                               
improve the VPSO Program.                                                                                                       
He related that  the training requirement for VPSOs  under 13 AAC                                                               
96.100 of the  Alaska Administrative Code is 240  hours, which is                                                               
shamefully  low.  Officers  currently   receive  1,000  hours  of                                                               
training  at the  academy  as  well as  96  hours  of rural  fire                                                               
protection training, but an arbitrary  decision could reduce that                                                               
training to  the minimum. Additionally,  just some  VPSO programs                                                               
continue to provide emergency  trauma technician training because                                                               
it  is  no   longer  required.  This  change   was  made  without                                                               
consultation. He  said interpretation of the  code and regulation                                                               
has been  inconsistent and it  has affected the ability  of VPSOs                                                               
to do their job.                                                                                                                
4:18:32 PM                                                                                                                    
MR.  NEMETH highlighted  that  SB 81  sets  the minimum  training                                                               
requirement to 826  hours, 650 hours of which  is law enforcement                                                               
training. This  is the minimum  that the Alaska  Police Standards                                                               
Council will accept for a  police officer in Alaska. He expressed                                                               
support  for   96  hours  of  rural   fire  protection  training,                                                               
reinstating  the   40  hours   of  emergency   trauma  technician                                                               
training, and 40  hours for search and rescue. He  noted that the                                                               
Alaska Law  Enforcement Training  Academy currently  devotes just                                                               
eight  hours to  search  and  rescue. He  said  the proposed  new                                                               
minimum training hours will give  VPSOs confidence to fulfill the                                                               
duties of the position, help  with recruitment and retention, and                                                               
improve the overall quality of the officer.                                                                                     
4:21:21 PM                                                                                                                    
DARRELL  HILDEBRAND, VPSO  Coordinator,  Public Safety  Director,                                                               
Tanana  Chiefs  Conference,  Fairbanks, Alaska,  stated  that  he                                                               
retired as  an Alaska  State Trooper after  20 years  of service.                                                               
Tanana Chiefs Conference hired him  as the VPSO Coordinator about                                                               
18  months  ago.  He  stated  support for  SB  81  generally  and                                                               
specifically for the  flexibility to allow TCC  to utilize roving                                                               
VPSOs. He  noted that not  explicitly prohibited in  the previous                                                               
regulations, but  administrations viewed  the need to  budget for                                                               
them  differently.  SB   81  eliminates  the  fear   that  a  new                                                               
administration might withhold funding to  a grantee for using the                                                               
rover program.                                                                                                                  
MR. HILDEBRAND  highlighted the advantages of  roving VPSOs. They                                                               
serve   multiple   communities   with  less   manpower,   provide                                                               
continuity  of  service, and  provide  coverage  when the  Alaska                                                               
State Troopers (AST) cannot fly into  a village due to weather or                                                               
manpower issues. He  related that the TCC region  has 37 villages                                                               
with no public  safety presence except through  limited AST rural                                                               
visits.  The rover  program was  very effective  in the  past and                                                               
made it possible  for TCC to serve more  communities with limited                                                               
He acknowledged the  perceived drawback to the  rover program was                                                               
that it  created a significant  increase in TCC's  travel budget.                                                               
However,  the  positive  outcomes  included  community  policing,                                                               
identification of  infrastructure needs such as  fire protection,                                                               
general  outreach, and  increased  law  enforcement presence.  He                                                               
said the relationship with AST  counterparts is strong, the rover                                                               
program has a  proven record, and it is the  best solution to the                                                               
high  demand and  need  for  VPSOs in  the  TCC  region that  has                                                               
limited law enforcement resources.                                                                                              
MR. HILDEBRAND thanked  the sponsor for introducing  SB 81, which                                                               
would allow TCC the flexibility  to utilize rover VPSOs to better                                                               
serve communities.                                                                                                              
SENATOR  GRAY-JACKSON  asked  Mr.  Nemeth in  what  community  he                                                               
worked as a VPSO.                                                                                                               
MR.  NEMETH  answered  that  as  the  VPSO  Coordinator  for  the                                                               
Aleutian Pribilof  Island region he  is based in the  main office                                                               
in  Anchorage. He  noted  that as  an officer  he  served in  the                                                               
communities of Saint George and Nelson Lagoon.                                                                                  
4:25:56 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES asked  if he supported the 826 hours  of training or                                                               
if he  was suggesting  changes. She noted  he specified  40 hours                                                               
for emergency medical services training.                                                                                        
MR.  NEMETH  said having  the  826  hours  in  the bill  and  the                                                               
flexibility  to formulate  the training  as he  enumerated seemed                                                               
reasonable,  but   it  would  be  more   straightforward  it  was                                                               
specified in the bill.                                                                                                          
4:27:10 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES  asked him to submit  the list to the  committee and                                                               
she would  provide it  to the sponsor  to have  the conversation.                                                               
The address is scra@akleg.gov.                                                                                                  
CHAIR HUGHES  asked Mr. Hildebrand  if regional rover  VPSOs were                                                               
specifically mentioned in  the bill or if he  was suggesting they                                                               
be allowed.                                                                                                                     
4:27:55 PM                                                                                                                    
MR.  HILDEBRAND replied  the bill  does not  specifically mention                                                               
regional rovers, but  it allows grantees the  flexibility to work                                                               
with the program office ... [The call was dropped].                                                                             
CHAIR HUGHES asked the sponsor if  the use of regional rovers was                                                               
a specific provision in the bill.                                                                                               
4:28:38 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR OLSON  answered it was  a good  idea. He deferred  to Mr.                                                               
Truitt  to  point to  the  location  in  the bill  that  provides                                                               
flexibility to use rovers.                                                                                                      
4:28:50 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. TRUITT directed  attention to page 5, lines  4-10 that speaks                                                               
to one  VPSO per village and  the option for the  grant recipient                                                               
to  request more  than one.  He  said the  bill was  specifically                                                               
drafted  to  remove  the  prohibition  against  hiring  itinerant                                                               
roving VPSOs and make the practice acceptable.                                                                                  
CHAIR HUGHES  asked if he  was saying  that was addressed  in the                                                               
bill or if clarifying language was necessary.                                                                                   
MR.  TRUITT replied  he would  verify that  it was  addressed and                                                               
communicate the exact page and line.                                                                                            
4:30:19 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR GRAY-JACKSON  commented on  her experience with  the VPSO                                                               
Program when  she was  the city  manager for  the City  of Akutan                                                               
from 2009-2012.  She thanked  the sponsor  for bringing  the bill                                                               
forward and noted that she was a co-sponsor.                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES asked Mr. Truitt if he had closing comments.                                                                       
4:30:50 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. TRUITT answered  the Chair's question about  roving VPSOs. He                                                               
read subsection (f) on page  5 and relayed that Legislative Legal                                                               
did not  use the  term "roving" based  on their  drafting manual.                                                               
Rather, the  provision refers to traveling  village public safety                                                               
officers  who  serve  multiple   villages  within  the  grantee's                                                               
4:31:17 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  HUGHES asked  him to  follow  up with  Mr. Hildebrand  and                                                               
relay that information.                                                                                                         
4:31:57 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES [held SB 81 in committee.]                                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 10 Sponsor Statement 1.15.2021.pdf SCRA 4/27/2021 3:30:00 PM
HB 10
HB 10 Support Document-TDX.pdf SCRA 4/27/2021 3:30:00 PM
HB 10
HB 10 Support Letters 4.12.2021.pdf SCRA 4/27/2021 3:30:00 PM
HB 10
HB 10 V. A 4.12.2021.PDF SCRA 4/27/2021 3:30:00 PM
HB 10
HB 10 Land Status and Boundaries Map of Admiralty Island-Funter Bay 3.9.2021.pdf SCRA 4/27/2021 3:30:00 PM
HB 10
HB 10 PowerPoint Presentation 2.18.2021.pdf SCRA 4/27/2021 3:30:00 PM
HB 10
HB 10 Zero Fiscal Note HB010-DNR-PKS-03-05-2021.PDF SCRA 4/27/2021 3:30:00 PM
HB 10
HB 10 Sectional Analysis Version A 1.15.2021.pdf SCRA 4/27/2021 3:30:00 PM
HB 10
CSSB 81 v. I Legislation 4.27.21.pdf SCRA 4/27/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 81
CSSB 81 Version I Explanation of Changes 4.27.21.pdf SCRA 4/27/2021 3:30:00 PM
SFIN 2/28/2022 9:00:00 AM
SB 81
HB 10 Support Letter-Alaska Miners Association 4.27.21.pdf SCRA 4/27/2021 3:30:00 PM
HB 10
HB 10 Support Letter- Hecla Greens Creek Mining Company 4.27.21.pdf SCRA 4/27/2021 3:30:00 PM
HB 10