Legislature(2005 - 2006)BELTZ 211

03/29/2005 03:30 PM Senate STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
Moved HJR 8 Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Moved SB 132 Out of Committee
Moved CSSB 143(STA) Out of Committee
           SB 59-PFD ALLOWABLE ABSENCE FOR DIPLOMATS                                                                        
CHAIR   GENE  THERRIAULT   announced   SB  59   to   be  up   for                                                               
3:58:17 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR FRED DYSON, sponsor, explained  that SB 59 adds diplomats                                                               
serving in  the U.S. Foreign  Service to  the list of  people who                                                               
qualify for  an allowable absence  for purposes of  continuing to                                                               
receive  a  Permanent  Fund  dividend  while  living  outside  of                                                               
Alaska. Thirty Alaskans might be serving in this category.                                                                      
CHAIR  THERRIAULT referenced  the fiscal  note and  asked how  he                                                               
proposed to define and limit "diplomat."                                                                                        
4:00:45 PM                                                                                                                    
LUCKY  SCHULTZ,  Staff to  Senator  Dyson,  said  it would  be  a                                                               
Foreign Service officer  or a specialist on active  duty with the                                                               
U.S. Department of State.                                                                                                       
CHAIR THERRIAULT  questioned whether the definition  is currently                                                               
in statute or would it be developed under regulation.                                                                           
MR.  SCHULTZ said  the proposal  is  to provide  a definition  in                                                               
either the new or an additional section.                                                                                        
CHAIR THERRIAULT asked  if the drafter advised that  there was no                                                               
definition for the term.                                                                                                        
SCHULTZ answered no.                                                                                                            
CHAIR THERRIAULT pointed out  that legislators frequently receive                                                               
requests to  include different categories  of individuals  to the                                                               
allowable absence list and he has  a strong view on the issue. He                                                               
wasn't sure  how the sponsor  would prevent a sort  of "Christmas                                                               
treeing of the idea."                                                                                                           
SENATOR DYSON acknowledged it's a legitimate concern.                                                                           
CHAIR  THERRIAULT asked  if these  individuals  reside in  Alaska                                                               
when they aren't assigned elsewhere.                                                                                            
SENATOR  DYSON  said  he  assumes that  they  maintain  a  voting                                                               
address here  and use Alaska as  a residence of record.  When not                                                               
assigned they return to the state.                                                                                              
4:04:27 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR THOMAS  WAGONER said  he doesn't object  to the  bill but                                                               
he'd like sideboards  requiring the funds be placed  in a special                                                               
account  until the  individual returns  and establishes  the fact                                                               
that he/she is going to reside in the state.                                                                                    
CHAIR  THERRIAULT  said  that discussion  was  held  for  college                                                               
students that went out of state  for school. The legal advice was                                                               
that  if  you  make  the determination  that  the  individual  is                                                               
eligible, it's a  property right and there is no  ability to deny                                                               
SENATOR WAGONER responded  we should ask the legal  minds to give                                                               
us a method that will work instead of a reason why it won't.                                                                    
SENATOR BETTYE  DAVIS asked  the sponsor  if he  is aware  of any                                                               
individuals  who previously  served in  the U.S.  Foreign Service                                                               
and now reside in Alaska.                                                                                                       
SENATOR DYSON replied  he probably does but he  couldn't think of                                                               
anyone right then.                                                                                                              
CHAIR  THERRIAULT  advised  that  he  wanted  to  work  with  the                                                               
sponsor's staff on the definition for "diplomat."                                                                               
SENATOR DYSON  said he  understood that a  diplomat was  going to                                                               
call in from Mexico.                                                                                                            
4:07:49 PM                                                                                                                    
JOEL KOPP testified that he  is a Foreign Service officer working                                                               
in Monterrey Mexico.  He was born, went to school,  and worked in                                                               
Alaska before  joining the  Foreign Service. Up  to that  time he                                                               
qualified  for and  received every  Permanent Fund  dividend that                                                               
was issued.                                                                                                                     
He  said  he  is  testifying  to  communicate  that  denying  the                                                               
Permanent  Fund dividend  because he  and other  Alaskans are  in                                                               
diplomatic service  is inconsistent with  what appears to  be the                                                               
values of  the PFD program as  evidenced by the list  of absences                                                               
that are allowed.                                                                                                               
Military  personnel  and  congressional staffers  are  apparently                                                               
included because  they have chosen  a profession of  high service                                                               
to  the  U.S. that  requires  absence  from  the state.  He  said                                                               
diplomats consider it  an honor to represent  the U.S. government                                                               
abroad  and Alaska  should be  proud  of its  residents who  have                                                               
achieved that  profession. Support  should be  expressed tangibly                                                               
by not denying a dividend.                                                                                                      
It's important  to realize  that he isn't  a resident  of another                                                               
state.  If he's  not an  Alaskan then  he's stateless  because if                                                               
Alaska  doesn't treat  him as  a resident  there is  certainly no                                                               
other state that would do so.                                                                                                   
The argument put forth that  diplomats should be excluded because                                                               
they don't need  the money is unsustainable. The  PFD program has                                                               
always  been  about  equal treatment  for  Alaskans.  It  doesn't                                                               
matter how much money you have or don't have.                                                                                   
Another  argument is  that  if  the program  is  open to  Foreign                                                               
Service personnel  it would open  the door for other  groups. His                                                               
response  is that  there  may or  may not  be  other groups  that                                                               
should be included in the PFD  program. Offering that as a reason                                                               
is a  red herring,  he said.  Each group  should be  evaluated on                                                               
Alaska  Foreign Service  personnel  are a  small  group that  has                                                               
little political power. However,  they serve and represent Alaska                                                               
in a way that would make Alaska proud.                                                                                          
He thanked Senator Dyson for sponsoring the bill.                                                                               
4:13:48 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR THERRIAULT asked if he was hired directly out of Alaska.                                                                  
MR. KOPP  said yes, the State  Department paid for his  move from                                                               
CHAIR THERRIAULT  asked if his tour  of duty that has  a definite                                                               
end date  after which he  would be required  to move back  to the                                                               
MR. KOPP explained  that when you're in the  Foreign Service your                                                               
tour of duty is either in  a foreign country or in Washington DC.                                                               
Tours always have a definite  time and between tours the diplomat                                                               
is allowed  home-leave and by  congressional law you  must return                                                               
to your  home. He  said he  would be back  in Alaska  this coming                                                               
CHAIR  THERRIAULT asked  if his  next tour  of duty  would be  in                                                               
Washington DC.                                                                                                                  
MR. KOPP said it would, but  there is no standard regarding where                                                               
you would go.                                                                                                                   
CHAIR THERRIAULT asked if his family was with him.                                                                              
MR. KOPP answered yes, he's married with three sons.                                                                            
SENATOR  CHARLIE  HUGGINS  asked   when  he  joined  the  Foreign                                                               
JOEL replied his hiring date was 2002.                                                                                          
SENATOR  HUGGINS asked  if there  was  any doubt  when he  joined                                                               
about whether or not he would receive the Permanent Fund.                                                                       
MR. KOPP said,  "I wanted to be denied the  dividend just to have                                                               
that  as  the  listed  reason  as  the  refusal..."  He  said  he                                                               
continued  to apply  and  then once  he moved  over  seas he  was                                                               
SENATOR HUGGINS  said then  when you  left Alaska  you understood                                                               
you wouldn't receive the dividend.                                                                                              
MR. KOPP replied he realized that was almost a certainty.                                                                       
SENATOR DYSON said  his argument for sponsoring the  bill is that                                                               
a  condition of  the  job  makes it  difficult  to impossible  to                                                               
return   to  the   state   every  180   days   to  maintain   the                                                               
qualification. He asked if that is true.                                                                                        
MR. KOPP agreed it is virtually impossible.                                                                                     
4:18:16 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR THOMAS WAGONER asked how military personnel are treated.                                                                
CHAIR  THERRIAULT stated  that military  service is  an allowable                                                               
SENATOR WAGONER  asked if there  weren't sideboards  limiting the                                                               
number of years.                                                                                                                
CHAIR  THERRIAULT replied  they must  remain in  active duty  and                                                               
after  a certain  number of  years the  requirement becomes  more                                                               
SENATOR  WAGONER  suggested  reviewing the  requirements  because                                                               
there is  a parallel.  Both entail  reassignments away  from home                                                               
SENATOR  DYSON  said  that's what  we're  amending.  He  directed                                                               
attention to item 3  at the bottom of page 1 and  the top of page                                                               
2,  the additions  in  the  old Section  14,  and the  renumbered                                                               
Section 15.                                                                                                                     
MR.  KOPP  agreed  there  are  a lot  of  parallels  between  the                                                               
military and diplomatic service.                                                                                                
4:20:26 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGGINS suggested  there are  differences. He  asked Mr.                                                               
Kopp if he carries a weapon.                                                                                                    
MR. KOPP answered no.                                                                                                           
SENATOR   HUGGINS   asserted   the   differences   outweigh   the                                                               
4:21:18 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR THERRIAULT announced he would hold SB 59.                                                                                 

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