Legislature(2013 - 2014)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)
04/16/2014 07:00 AM Senate LABOR & COMMERCE
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 357-ACCESS TO LICENSED PREMISES 7:32:47 AM CHAIR DUNLEAVY reconvened the meeting and announced the consideration of HB 357."An Act relating to the purchase of alcoholic beverages at a club and to access by certain persons under 21 years of age to a club's licensed premises when alcoholic beverages are present." He noted that this was the first hearing. 7:33:49 AM REPRESENTATIVE DAN SADDLER, Alaska State Legislature Juneau, Alaska, sponsor of HB 357 stated that this legislation is not a bill to allow anybody under the age of 21 to drink alcohol legally. He continued to introduce the legislation paraphrasing the following sponsor statement: House Bill 357 is an effort to support the young men and women serving in the armed services in Alaska, by clarifying language to make it easier for them to enjoy companionship in the clubhouses of service and patriotic organizations. Young soldiers, airmen, sailors, marines and coast guard personnel stationed in Alaska face special challenges. Separation from loved ones, the rigors of barracks life and the monotony of three mess hall meals a day can take their toll on morale. Patriotic clubs - such as those operated by the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and others - are places to relax with buddies and enjoy the special understanding and support from others who have "been there" and understand the rigors of military life. The Legislature recognized this value, and in 2006 passed SB 209 to allow these young men and women access to such clubs using their military ID cards. However, some language remains in statute that creates confusion as to when such access is permitted. HB 357 will eliminate that confusion by making it clear that such access is not limited solely to special events. It is important to note that HB 357 makes no change in law that would allow service members under the age of 21 to purchase or consume alcohol in service clubs. Your support of HB 357 will be a clear demonstration that Alaska understands and works to address the special needs of those who defend our freedom. REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER pointed out that Section 1 of the bill removes the provision that limits access to special occasions and also allows access to accompanying spouses. Section 2 allows persons under age 21 to enter licensed premises if they are members or guests of a member of the patriotic club. Military commanders sometimes use patriotic clubs for off-base commander calls and excluding soldiers who are under 21 would potentially erode unit cohesion and diminish morale in a small unit. Section 3 is conforming language to allow the club admission granted in Section 2. He concluded that the bill does not grant underage drinking, it clarifies that soldiers over 21 and their spouses do not have to wait for a special occasion to enter a licensed patriotic club and that soldiers under age 21 can visit a patriotic club if they are members or guests. 7:36:21 AM SHIRLEY COTÉ, Director, Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC), said she was available to answer questions. CHAIR DUNLEAVY asked if she had any thoughts on HB 357. MS. COTÉ answered no. SENATOR MICCICHE referenced Section 3 and asked if she sees situations when this legislation could cause confusion for servers trying to determine ages. MS. COTÉ said she believes there is a risk. SENATOR MICCICHE asked for suggested solutions. MS. COTÉ replied the board has a compliance check program but amendments several years ago to AS 04.06.110 made it more difficult to get into clubs than the typical beverage dispensary or retail store or restaurant. She reiterated that she has some concern with the legislation. SENATOR OLSON asked if the risk is great enough that she is not in favor of the bill. MS. COTÉ said she's a state employee so she's trying to remain as neutral as possible on the bill. SENATOR OLSON asked, "If you had a son that was less than 21 years old, would you like to see this bill go through, from a personal standpoint?" MS. COTÉ replied she doesn't analyze bills from a personal standpoint. SENATOR MICCICHE asked if the bill could be amended to bring more comfort. MS. COTÉ said she has no doubt about the sponsor's commitment to keep under age people from having access to alcohol and she understands the motivation to allow access to all military personnel. However, there is concern because it's comparatively difficult for the ABC compliance officers to gain access to these clubs to check whether or not underage persons have access to alcohol. CHAIR DUNLEAVY opened and closed public testimony. 7:42:14 AM At Ease 7:42:54 AM CHAIR DUNLEAVY reconvened the meeting and asked if there were additional questions or comments. SENATOR MICCICHE asked the sponsor what he would suggest to allow access to the ABC Board to ensure that under age people aren't drinking alcohol. REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER pointed out that state law already has provisions to allow access to licensed premises to persons between the ages of 16 and 21 if they are accompanied by an adult guardian and are not in the section of the premises that serves alcohol. Second, ABC enforcement officers have been offered access to patriotic clubs for enforcement activities with the knowledge of the club managers. Third, this legislation extends access to a very small subset of under age 21 people. Finally, the ABC director has not opposed the bill. SENATOR MICCICHE asked the sponsor to discuss the requirement to possess a valid active duty military identification card to gain access to these clubs. REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER restated that a provision in current state law says that a person under age 21 who possesses a valid active duty military identification card is eligible for access to a patriotic club as long as the person doesn't drink and is not in the section where the alcohol is being served. SENATOR MICCICHE commented on the tendency with veteran bills to be overly patriotic at the expense of close scrutiny for potential issues. REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER noted that earlier testimony indicated that there aren't many violations at VFW clubs. 7:46:29 AM SENATOR MICCICHE asked Ms. Coté to discuss compliance levels at patriotic clubs. MS. COTÉ confirmed there is not a preponderance of violations a VFW clubs. CHAIR DUNLEAVY found no further questions or comments and solicited a motion. 7:46:56 AM SENATOR MICCICHE moved to report HB 357, Version A, from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note(s). CHAIR DUNLEAVY announced that without objection HB 357 was reported from the Senate Labor and Commerce Standing Committee.