Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205

02/14/2006 03:30 PM STATE AFFAIRS


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Audio Topic
03:37:07 PM Start
03:37:30 PM SB290
03:58:02 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
*+ SB 274 STATE FIREARM DISPOSAL AND INVENTORY TELECONFERENCED
<Bill Hearing Rescheduled to 2/23/06>
*+ SB 290 LIFE INSURANCE FOR NATIONAL GUARD TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
            SB 290-LIFE INSURANCE FOR NATIONAL GUARD                                                                        
                                                                                                                              
3:37:30 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR   GENE  THERRIAULT   announced  SB   290  to   be  up   for                                                               
consideration.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
JOSH  TEMPEL, Staff  to  Senator Huggins,  named  the four  brave                                                               
National  Guard members  who  lost their  lives  in a  helicopter                                                               
crash in Iraq  on January 7, 2006 as the  introduction of SB 290.                                                               
He stated  that the  bill demonstrates  support for  our National                                                               
Guard troops  by adding a  new section  to AS 26.05,  which would                                                               
reimburse  National Guard  soldiers for  the $27  per month  life                                                               
insurance  premiums while  they  are serving  in  a combat  zone,                                                               
retroactive to January 1, 2006.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR THERRIAULT  explained that  Section 1 sets  up the  fund to                                                               
hold  appropriations and  subject  to subsection  (c), the  funds                                                               
would  be available  for the  commissioner of  the Department  of                                                               
Revenue to pay the premiums  if the National Guard member submits                                                               
for reimbursement.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
He read subsection (d) on page 2,  lines 5 and 6 and asked if the                                                               
language was  included to  keep the funds  from being  swept into                                                               
the CBR at the end of the year.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
JOHN  CRAMER,  Administrative  Service  Director,  Department  of                                                               
Military &  Veterans Affairs (DMVA), explained  that the language                                                               
refers  to the  fact that  once the  appropriation is  made, it's                                                               
there to  be utilized  as intended in  the appropriation.  To get                                                               
the fund up and running, money must be placed in the fund.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR THERRIAULT  responded he's  mindful of the  sweep provision                                                               
of the CBR, which  is that at the end of  each fiscal year, every                                                               
dollar   that's   "available"   -  according   to   the   court's                                                               
interpretation - is  automatically swept into the  CBR. There's a                                                               
way to  establish a fund  so that  the surplus doesn't  get swept                                                               
and he asked  if subsection (d) gets to that  specifically so the                                                               
fund wouldn't be subject to the annual sweep.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. CRAMER said he thought that is the case.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGGINS  remarked he would  prefer that the money  not be                                                               
subject to the sweep provision.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR THERRIAULT noted that only  those soldiers in active combat                                                               
would be subject to the  premium reimbursement. He then asked why                                                               
the fiscal note extends just two years.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR.  CRAMER replied  because it's  unclear whether  or not  there                                                               
will be deployments beyond two years.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
3:45:04 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  ELTON  asked  what  the  fiscal note  would  be  if  the                                                               
effective date  were January 1,  2005. That change  would provide                                                               
reimbursement for soldiers who were deployed and had returned.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. CRAMER  responded it  would make  an additional  300 soldiers                                                               
eligible for the reimbursement.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  ELTON asked  if  the expectation  is  that 700  soldiers                                                               
would be deployed in 2006.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. CRAMER answered  deployment of between 700  and 1000 soldiers                                                               
is anticipated this year.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  ELTON  suggested  that   the  committee  make  the  bill                                                               
retroactive to  January 1, 2005  so that all the  Alaska National                                                               
Guard members  who have been  and will be deployed  would benefit                                                               
from the program.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGGINS said  he wouldn't object if the  numbers work. He                                                               
then explained that  a reimbursement program would  be far easier                                                               
to administer than any other method.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR THERRIAULT  asked if  the life  insurance is  mandatory and                                                               
how the premium is paid.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR. CRAMER replied  the insurance is optional and  the premium is                                                               
automatically deducted from the paychecks.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  THERRIAULT  noted  that  makes  it  easy  to  verify  that                                                               
premiums had been paid.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR ELTON asked  about the notion of  establishing a deadline                                                               
for applying for the reimbursement.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR. CRAMER replied that had  been considered and the decision was                                                               
to place constraints in regulation rather than in the bill.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR ELTON said there could be an ongoing liability.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGGINS  responded he'd like  the constraints to  be made                                                               
through regulation.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  THERRIAULT asked  if  there might  be  more potential  for                                                               
challenges if the cutoff dates  were in regulation rather than in                                                               
the bill.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. CRAMER agreed that could  happen, but if the regulations were                                                               
implemented  right  away  those  being deployed  would  have  the                                                               
information  before leaving  so  opportunity  for challenges  and                                                               
misunderstandings would be greatly reduced.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGGINS  advised that this  information could be  part of                                                               
the pre deployment packets.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
3:52:36 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. CRAMER  advised that the  Department of Fish and  Game wanted                                                               
to honor  National Guard members  by offering them a  hunting and                                                               
fishing  license free  of charge  and that  idea might  be merged                                                               
with SB 290.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGGINS  said he'd like  the bill to  be held over  so he                                                               
could thoroughly review the idea.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  THERRIAULT  noted it  wouldn't  greatly  impact the  ADF&G                                                               
budget.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. CRAMER  reported that the  cost of a combination  hunting and                                                               
fishing  license is  $46 and  the department  estimated that  the                                                               
impact would be in the neighborhood of $5,000.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  THERRIAULT   said  he  didn't  have   any  problem  giving                                                               
consideration  to  merging  the  bills. Holding  the  bill  would                                                               
provide opportunity for staff to check on the sweep language and                                                                
to learn whether or not there might be problems associated with                                                                 
a cut off date if it isn't mentioned in statute.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR THERRIAULT announced he would hold SB 290.                                                                                

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