Legislature(1993 - 1994)

04/25/1994 09:12 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 the next order of business before the Senate State Affairs                    
 Committee and calls Ms. Gruening to testify.                                  
 MELINDA GRUENING, Aide to Representative Green, prime sponsor of              
 HB 400, reads the sponsor statement for HB 400.  Ms. Gruening, in             
 the sponsor statement, says that the only cost of filing an appeal            
 for a permanent fund dividend is 29 cents.                                    
 Number 388                                                                    
 SENATOR MILLER asks Ms. Gruening if the intent of HB 400 is to                
 discourage appeals.                                                           
 MS. GRUENING responds that is correct.  Representative Green is               
 hoping that HB 400 will have a chilling effect on those filing                
 frivolous appeals.                                                            
 Number 393                                                                    
 SENATOR TAYLOR thinks that HB 400 will probably have a chilling               
 effect.  However he disagrees that the only thing a person is out             
 for filing an appeal is a 29 cent stamp.  Senator Taylor asks what            
 the current status is on prosecutions of people who receive                   
 dividends they are not entitled to receive.  He thinks that under             
 the laws passed, there is supposed to be a heck of a lot more risk            
 than a 29 cent stamp.  Senator Taylor asks if 25$ is a good fee,              
 why not 100$ or 150$.                                                         
 Number 435                                                                    
 TOM WILLIAMS, Director, Permanent Fund Dividend Division, states              
 the division does receive a lot of applications from individuals              
 who are clearly ineligible.  The division is active in                        
 investigation of persons receiving dividends to which they were not           
 entitled.  The division routinely prosecutes cases and makes press            
 announcements on those prosecutions every month or two.  Last year            
 there were eight or nine prosecutions.  Every fraud tip is actively           
 pursued.  Mr. Williams describes the penalties for those found                
 guilty of fraud.  Mr. Williams states he will provide the                     
 statistics the division has regarding fraud cases.                            
 Number 463                                                                    
 SENATOR MILLER asks Mr. Williams what his thoughts are on raising             
 the 25$ appeal fee.                                                           
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks Representative Green to respond to that                   
 Number 467                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE JOE GREEN, prime sponsor of HB 400, responds 25$ was           
 a compromise charge.  Significantly larger numbers were discussed,            
 but it was found that many representatives thought even 25$ was too           
 high a figure.  One of the concerns that was expressed was if the             
 figure was to high, a judge might decide the number was arbitrary,            
 capricious, and unreasonable.                                                 
 SENATOR TAYLOR comments a judge could always waive the fee for an             
 indigent person.                                                              
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN states there is also a provision in the bill             
 allowing the division to waive the fee for an indigent person.                
 Number 483                                                                    
 MS. GRUENING adds that a concern was also expressed that a higher             
 fee would put undue hardship on families who appeal; if there were            
 five people in a family, the filing fee would be 125$.  Some people           
 who file appeals are eligible; some of the appeals are overturned.   ed.  
 Number 490                                                                    
 SENATOR TAYLOR comments he finds quite a few appeals are                      
 overturned, and then what we're really looking at is someone in the           
 division exercising a lack of discretion that is so incredible it             
 makes one wonder if they even get out of bed in the morning.                  
 Senator Taylor states one person on his staff spends three-quarters           
 of her time during the interim working on dividend appeals.                   
 Senator Taylor states the commander of the Coast Guard base in                
 Ketchikan, and his family, had their dividend applications thrown             
 out simply because they were military.                                        
 Number 507                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks Mr. Williams if the Permanent Fund Dividend               
 Division prosecutes those cases where people move after they apply            
 for dividends.                                                                
 Number 519                                                                    
 MR. WILLIAMS responds the eligibility requirements require an                 
 individual to have the intent to remain permanently in Alaska when            
 they sign their application.  If that intent subsequently changes,            
 then they are still eligible for that dividend.  The question                 
 becomes, when they signed, did they really intend to leave.  The              
 division looks at a variety of indicators to determine the person's           
 intent.  It is hard to measure intent in objective terms.                     
 MR. WILLIAMS adds that most of the concerns the division receives             
 relate to individuals who are absent for lengthy periods of time.             
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks if there are further questions or if anyone               
 else wishes to testify on HB 400.                                             
 SENATOR TAYLOR asks Mr. Williams to submit information to the                 
 committee on prosecutions of cases of fraud.                                  
 SENATOR MILLER makes a motion to discharge HB 400 from the Senate             
 State Affairs Committee with individual recommendations.                      
 Number 554                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN, hearing no objection, orders HB 400 released from             
 committee with individual recommendations.                                    

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