Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/21/1995 03:35 PM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SSTA - 3/21/95 HB 4 PERMANENT FUND DIVIDEND ELIGIBILITY CHAIRMAN SHARP brings up HB 4 as the next order of business before the Senate State Affairs Committee and calls the first witness. Number 441 ROD MOURANT, Aide to Representative Pete Kott, prime sponsor of HB 4, gives background information on HB 4. Mr. Mourant mentions the court case which disallowed "piggybacking", and states HB 4 would make piggybacking a statutorily allowable absence. Mr. Mourant states allowable absences are for medical reasons, educational reasons, military service, vocational, professional, and special training not available in state, and for service in congress or the peace corps. He knows one woman who is being denied a dividend while she accompanies and cares for her husband who is undergoing cancer treatment out of state. Mr. Mourant also knows a fourth- generation Alaskan who has been denied a dividend while he accompanies his wife, who is out of state attending school. He informed the committee that HB 4 passed the house unanimously. Number 486 SENATOR LEMAN asks Mr. Mourant if this bill is the same as Representative Parnell's bill last year. REPRESENTATIVE PETE KOTT, prime sponsor of HB 4, responds HB 4 is virtually identical. He stated the bill passed both houses last year, but the house was unable to concur with an amendment made in the senate, and so the bill died. Number 492 CHAIRMAN SHARP comments he is caused heartburn by military people who satisfy the residency requirement and become eligible for a dividend, and then come back for one day on a military transport plane just to satisfy the dividend requirement after they are transferred out of state. He has a problem with people who weren't eligible for a dividend when they went in the military continuing eligibility after they leave the state. Chairman Sharp knows the Soldiers & Sailors Relief Act requires that anyone in the military cannot lose a benefit because of military service. But he is not sure, if it is a benefit they did not have when they joined the service, that the benefit would necessarily have to follow them forever. Number 510 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT states he completely agrees with the chairman's comments; there are a number of abuses with the permanent fund dividend program. He spent twenty-two years in the military, and certainly insured that he stayed in the state. But there are a number of other individuals out there who are probably cheating the system, not to cast any negative aspersions on anyone. In addition, there are probably a lot of other individuals who come to the state and collect dividends while here, but do not intend to stay indefinitely. Representative Kott informs the committee that last year there was an attempt to establish a program within the Department of Revenue. This program would have set up an escrow account for people eligible for dividends who were residing out of state, and after these people had returned to the state and maintained residency for one year, they would have received the money owed them. That became a little unmanageable though; there were a couple of snags. But that is one way to address that particular issue. Number 535 SENATOR DONLEY asks what is new in Section 2. MR. MOURANT responds the new structure in Section 2 is at the request of the Permanent Fund Dividend Division. No provisions are being changed, other than paragraph (8) under Section 2. SENATOR DONLEY asks Mr. Mourant to confirm that paragraph (7) is in existing statute. MR. MOURANT replies paragraph (7) is currently in statute. SENATOR DONLEY asks if anyone has raised the possibility of adding a military service exception regarding the home of record of an individual when they entered the military. Number 549 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT is not aware of anyone in the legislature attempting to address that particular matter. SENATOR DONLEY asks Representative Kott how he would feel about that. The military personnel still in state would still be eligible. REPRESENTATIVE KOTT thinks it is something that could be looked into, but it might also get into the issue of equal protection. You have out-of-state military personnel, but you also have students and other categories, and you would have to address that group as a whole, rather than single out one class. He thinks the legality of that would have to be addressed. Number 561 SENATOR DONLEY thinks there is a rational distinction between the classes of the military and students. He thinks the state could meet a federal test. Number 567 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT is not sure; there is also the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act that has to be taken into consideration as well. MR. MOURANT adds that service in congress is also an allowable absence. It does not state "service to the Alaska delegation in congress." There are individuals who have maintained their residency in Alaska, who work for other states' delegations in congress who are eligible for a dividend. Number 570 SENATOR DONLEY says that those people all established residency in Alaska first, before they began their service in congress. CHAIRMAN SHARP thinks they probably were residents before they became engaged in an exemption. TAPE 95-12, SIDE B SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asks Mr. Mourant if Alaska residents who work for other states' delegations in congress are really eligible for a dividend. MR. MOURANT replies he assumed they were eligible, but he sees that a representative from the Permanent Fund Dividend Division is shaking her head "no." He apologizes: they are eligible to vote in this state. SENATOR DONLEY says it appears paragraph (8) affects two classes of people: the spouse who married an eligible recipient in Alaska, and the spouse who married the eligible recipient after the recipient left Alaska. MR. MOURANT responds the spouse, or "piggybacker", must be independently eligible, on their own merits. A spouse cannot be eligible simply because they are married to a recipient with an allowable absence. CHAIRMAN SHARP comments he had a constituent who was a life-long Alaskan who was denied a dividend because she married a military person who wasn't eligible, and they had never even left the state. The chairman asks about the potential cost of the bill. He asks if anyone will be eligible, or if only people who applied for dividends and were denied will be eligible. Number 560 WENDY HUGHES, Dividend Appeals Unit, Permanent Fund Dividend Division, Department of Revenue, replies there were 2,690 people who were denied a dividend. As of December 31, there 1,373 people who had appealed. So it would be just those additional people who had not appealed in a timely manner who would be allowed to appeal before September 1. CHAIRMAN SHARP asks if the bill would include piggybacking children. MS. HUGHES responds the bill does not include piggybacking children, because the court ruling regarding piggybacking only affected spouses; it did not affect piggybacking children. CHAIRMAN SHARP asks Ms. Hughes if most people affected by this bill are military, or if there are students involved too. MS. HUGHES believes about 40% are probably military, and 40%-45% are probably students. CHAIRMAN SHARP asks Ms. Hughes if she knows how many people qualify under the military service allowable absence. MS. HUGHES replies she does not know offhand, but could get that information for the committee. CHAIRMAN SHARP asks if the department keeps track of allowable absences applied for and paid by paragraphs (1)-(6) in HB 4. MS. HUGHES responds the department does keep track of that. CHAIRMAN SHARP asks that the information be provided to the committee. Number 528 SENATOR LEMAN asks if the department keeps track of the military personnel who say they intend to return to Alaska when they retire, and those who actually do return to Alaska when they retire. MS. HUGHES replies the department does not keep track of that. SENATOR LEMAN asks if there is any way that information could be tracked. MS. HUGHES thinks that would be pretty exhaustive to attempt. The other consideration is those who discontinue filing, even though they might keep their residency, simply because they don't meet the two-year physical presence requirement. They might not be dropping simply because they didn't intend to return. So the department really doesn't have any numbers on that. CHAIRMAN SHARP announces HB 4 will be held until Tuesday's meeting so that the committee can review information it has requested from the Department of Revenue.