Legislature(2021 - 2022)BUTROVICH 205

03/08/2022 03:30 PM Senate STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved SR 3 Out of Committee
Moved CSSB 152(STA) Out of Committee
Heard & Held
Moved SB 92 Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
            SB 152-LEGISLATIVE SESSIONS IN ANCHORAGE                                                                        
3:56:10 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SHOWER announced the consideration of SENATE BILL NO. 152                                                                 
"An  Act relating  to the  convening  of the  legislature at  the                                                               
capital and  in the  Municipality of  Anchorage; relating  to the                                                               
location of  legislative sessions; and relating  to the emergency                                                               
relocation of functions of state government."                                                                                   
CHAIR SHOWER solicited  a motion to adopt  the proposed committee                                                               
3:56:55 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  REINBOLD moved  to adopt  the committee  substitute (CS)                                                               
for SB 152, work order 32-LS1306\I, as the working document.                                                                    
CHAIR SHOWER objected for purposes of discussion.                                                                               
CHAIR SHOWER,  speaking as  sponsor of SB  152, explained  the CS                                                               
seeks to  address the  concern that deleting  the phrase  "if the                                                               
legislature is convened in a  municipality other than the capital                                                               
city" in several places throughout  the bill might be interpreted                                                               
as an  intent to move the  capital from Juneau. The  CS addresses                                                               
that to clarify  that the bill is only  talking about legislative                                                               
sessions and the intent is to move the session every other year.                                                                
SENATOR REINBOLD stated that she plans to be a co-sponsor.                                                                      
3:59:42 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR   SHOWER  removed   his  objection;   finding  no   further                                                               
objection, the CS for SB 152 was adopted.                                                                                       
SENATOR KAWASAKI noted that the  fiscal note is indeterminate. He                                                               
said he read the analysis and it raised some questions.                                                                         
4:00:32 PM                                                                                                                    
JESSICA  GEARY, Executive  Director, Legislative  Affairs Agency,                                                               
Alaska  State  Legislature,  Juneau,   Alaska,  stated  that  the                                                               
analysis reflects the challenge to  quantify the costs when there                                                               
are  no specifics  in the  bill about  the policy  decisions that                                                               
need to be made.                                                                                                                
4:01:26 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KAWASAKI  referenced the  second paragraph of  the fiscal                                                               
note analysis.                                                                                                                  
      This fiscal note is indeterminate as several policy                                                                       
     decisions are necessary to estimate the fiscal impact                                                                      
     of this legislation, such as:                                                                                              
He  asked if  she  had any  cost estimates  for  the two  special                                                               
sessions under Governor Palin and  Governor Walker that were held                                                               
outside the capital city.                                                                                                       
MS.  GEARY  said  yes,  but  it   is  not  an  apples  to  apples                                                               
comparison. Special  sessions are  limited in duration  and scope                                                               
and the  upfront costs are  spread over  just a few  days whereas                                                               
for a  regular session the upfront  costs are spread over  a much                                                               
longer timeframe.                                                                                                               
The  cost for  the two  day  special session  in Anchorage  under                                                               
Governor Palin was  in the neighborhood of $78,000  per day while                                                               
the general  estimate for  a special session  in Juneau  is about                                                               
$30,000 per day. In regular  sessions the range of topics covered                                                               
is  much  broader, more  staff  is  needed,  and more  bills  are                                                               
drafted, all of  which makes a comparison  difficult. She offered                                                               
to provide the historical cost  information she had if that would                                                               
be useful to the committee.                                                                                                     
SENATOR KAWASAKI  said he believes that  information is necessary                                                               
to provide a baseline.                                                                                                          
SENATOR  KAWASAKI asked  the sponsor  whether a  facility in  the                                                               
Municipality of  Anchorage had  been identified  that potentially                                                               
had  10 committee  rooms, 60  legislative  offices with  adequate                                                               
space  for  partisan  staff  as well  as  staff  for  legislative                                                               
finance,  legal services,  information technology,  security, and                                                               
printing and documents, all with adequate parking.                                                                              
4:05:07 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SHOWER asked if he was requesting the cost estimates.                                                                     
SENATOR  KAWASAKI  answered  yes.  He  acknowledged  he  was  not                                                               
familiar with  the availability of buildings  in the Municipality                                                               
of  Anchorage that  could accommodate  the  legislature during  a                                                               
regular  session  but he  wondered  whether  a new  building  was                                                               
envisioned. He asked if that was the intent.                                                                                    
4:06:03 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SHOWER said  buildings have  been identified  in the  past                                                               
that would  serve the purpose, but  at this point the  concept is                                                               
at the 30 thousand foot level. He  added that he did not care one                                                               
way  or  the other  whether  legislative  sessions were  held  in                                                               
Juneau or elsewhere  but he did know that others  had very strong                                                               
feelings about  more access to  their legislators  during regular                                                               
sessions. He  agreed that  there would  be associated  costs, but                                                               
pointed out that  there would be savings as well  on per diem. He                                                               
described the  bill as a  balanced bridge approach  that responds                                                               
to the will of the people.  He also predicted that the bill would                                                               
die in finance without getting a hearing.                                                                                       
He committed to  get the requested information from  Ms. Geary to                                                               
add to the  broad discussion. He opined that  it wouldn't matter,                                                               
but he still wanted to move the bill from committee.                                                                            
4:08:30 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KAWASAKI  said the information  matters if  the committee                                                               
intends to move the bill. He  asked the sponsor to comment on the                                                               
statement about per diem in the fiscal note.                                                                                    
     Per  Diem. This  bill  would result  in  a savings  for                                                                  
     legislator  per  diem  due to  approximately  24  fewer                                                                    
     legislators being eligible;  however, overall, per diem                                                                    
     cost  would  increase  significantly  as  a  result  of                                                                    
     approximately  40  non-partisan   staff  relocating  to                                                                    
     Anchorage    a net increase of  16 individuals eligible                                                                    
     to receive  per diem.  Further, the Anchorage  per diem                                                                    
     rate is  traditionally higher than the  Juneau per diem                                                                    
     rate.  Relocation. This  bill would  result in  minimal                                                                    
     savings f                                                                                                                  
CHAIR SHOWER said  Ms. Geary would need to  expand the discussion                                                               
in  the fiscal  note, but  he  recalled that  rates in  Anchorage                                                               
during regular sessions  are cheaper than in  Juneau. Further, it                                                               
would actually be  33 legislators plus their staff  who would not                                                               
be  eligible for  per  diem because  legislators  from the  MatSu                                                               
Valley fall  into the 50-mile  radius. He restated that  the bill                                                               
offers a balanced approach.                                                                                                     
4:10:22 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. GEARY agreed  that per current rules, members  within the 50-                                                               
mile radius of the regular session  would not be eligible for per                                                               
diem.  She said  the per  diem rate  for Anchorage  is $354  year                                                               
round  whereas the  Juneau  rate is  set  by Legislative  Council                                                               
policy and does not change  throughout the session. Currently the                                                               
rate is  $307 per day, but  if that were adjusted  seasonally the                                                               
summer rate would be $367 per day.                                                                                              
CHAIR  SHOWER asked  whether Legislative  Council  could set  the                                                               
same policy for a regular session in Anchorage.                                                                                 
MS.  GEARY   answered  yes;  that   is  within  the   purview  of                                                               
Legislative Council.                                                                                                            
CHAIR SHOWER  opined that rather  than saying the  Anchorage rate                                                               
is higher, it  would be more accurate to say  that the rate would                                                               
be whatever Legislative Council wanted it to be.                                                                                
4:11:58 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  REINBOLD commented  on how  tight things  were when  the                                                               
capitol  building  was  being  remodeled  and  pointed  out  that                                                               
multiple special  sessions had  been held  in the  gymnasium. She                                                               
said the point is that  legislators do not need fancy facilities.                                                               
She opined that the bill  would reduce per diem, give legislators                                                               
more access  to the  people, and  expand the  pool of  people who                                                               
would run  for office.  She also  pointed out  that per  diem for                                                               
staff is  just one  percent of  what legislators  receive because                                                               
they receive  salaries year  round. She  urged legislators  to be                                                               
creative in  putting forward  ideas for  potential sites  to hold                                                               
regular legislative sessions.                                                                                                   
CHAIR SHOWER requested his staff provide clarifying comments.                                                                   
4:13:35 PM                                                                                                                    
SCOTT   OGAN,   Staff,   Senator  Mike   Shower,   Alaska   State                                                               
Legislature,  Juneau,  Alaska,  stated  that what  has  not  been                                                               
discussed  is  the  cost  savings  the  bill  represents  to  the                                                               
administration because most directors  and commissioners are paid                                                               
per  diem  when   they  travel  from  Anchorage   to  testify  on                                                               
CHAIR SHOWER said he had not thought to discuss that point.                                                                     
SENATOR REINBOLD  said people learned  to work remotely  over the                                                               
last  two years  so Legislative  Legal Services  and other  staff                                                               
should be able  to stay in Juneau and work  remotely if a regular                                                               
session were held in Anchorage.  She further suggested that VPSOs                                                               
could  provide  security and  pages  could  come from  the  local                                                               
community.  She  thanked  the   sponsor  for  bringing  the  bill                                                               
CHAIR  SHOWER  clarified  that  the  point is  not  to  move  the                                                               
capital.  Rather,  the  driving  point is  increased  access  and                                                               
getting people  more involved in  government. He agreed  with the                                                               
point that working remotely is much  easier today than it was two                                                               
years ago.                                                                                                                      
4:16:47 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HOLLAND agreed there is  a clamor to make the legislature                                                               
more accessible  by putting it  on the road system.  He described                                                               
SB 152 as a good bill.                                                                                                          
CHAIR SHOWER commented on the high cost to stay in Juneau.                                                                      
4:18:32 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KAWASAKI  noted that the  language in Section  3 confines                                                               
the second  legislative session to the  Municipality of Anchorage                                                               
so it could not be held in Fairbanks, for example.                                                                              
CHAIR SHOWER agreed that is how the bill was drafted.                                                                           
SENATOR  KAWASAKI said  he was  responding to  Senator Reinbold's                                                               
comment about moving legislative  sessions to different locations                                                               
when the bill clearly identifies the Municipality of Anchorage.                                                                 
SENATOR  REINBOLD said  she understands  that  but believes  that                                                               
other  options should  be  considered,  particularly for  special                                                               
4:19:33 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  KAWASAKI referenced  Mr.  Ogan's  point about  potential                                                               
cost savings to the administration  and asked if that means those                                                               
agencies  have not  been  consulted and  asked  to submit  fiscal                                                               
MR. OGAN  offered his understanding  that the  administration had                                                               
not submitted a fiscal note.                                                                                                    
CHAIR SHOWER clarified that the answer was no.                                                                                  
4:20:12 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  KAWASAKI  highlighted  the  points in  the  fiscal  note                                                               
analysis that discusses infrastructure.                                                                                         
     Infrastructure.  Video,  audio, and  hi-speed  internet                                                                  
     capabilities as  well as network support  would need to                                                                    
     be  installed  in  leased or  new  space  to  replicate                                                                    
     existing  capabilities for  committee rooms,  chambers,                                                                    
     and  offices.  Specifically, electronic  voting  boards                                                                    
     and     audio      system     in      the     chambers;                                                                    
     teleconference/videoconference      capable     systems                                                                    
     installed  in committee  rooms; security  camera system                                                                    
     for the building; as well  as specialized equipment for                                                                    
     the Offices  of the  Chief Clerk and  Senate Secretary;                                                                    
     commercial copiers; etc.  Additionally, per KTOO, Gavel                                                                    
     TV does not  have the resources to  support sessions in                                                                    
     a  location outside  the capital.  If similar  coverage                                                                    
     was desired,  either another entity or  the Legislature                                                                    
     would need  to provide professional  production quality                                                                    
     coverage  previously provided  by  Gavel TV,  including                                                                    
     camera/audio infrastructure as well as pro                                                                                 
He state that  Gavel Alaska is extremely important  to his mother                                                               
and the people of Alaska, all  of whom would lose that benefit if                                                               
sessions  were  held  outside  Juneau.  He  asked  how  the  bill                                                               
envisions offsetting that loss.                                                                                                 
4:21:07 PM                                                                                                                    
MR.  OGAN  said   he  imagines  a  transition   period  before  a                                                               
legislative session is  moved to set up  a functional replacement                                                               
system. Anchorage  was selected because most  legislators live in                                                               
the vicinity, he said.                                                                                                          
4:22:34 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SHOWER  pointed out that  most bills provide intent  but do                                                               
not tell people  how to do something, and the  same applies to SB
152. It is a reasonable  compromise to provide people more access                                                               
to their  legislators. There  is a solution  to all  the problems                                                               
that might be raised because every problem has a solution.                                                                      
CHAIR SHOWER requested a list  of all the questions and committed                                                               
to get  answers from Ms.  Geary and  the other agencies.  He said                                                               
the committee  will receive a  copy and that information  will be                                                               
in the bill packet.                                                                                                             
CHAIR SHOWER asked for final questions or comments.                                                                             
4:25:16 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KAWASAKI said he asked  the questions because the bill is                                                               
an important  policy decision and for  complete transparency it's                                                               
important to know  how it will work. He said  he didn't know that                                                               
legislators  would   receive  more  input  from   the  people  if                                                               
[legislative sessions] were  moved but he could say  that when he                                                               
participated  in  the  special  session in  the  Egan  Center  in                                                               
downtown Anchorage, almost no guests  attended the floor sessions                                                               
other  than family  of  legislators. In  the  special session  in                                                               
2015, the attendance was stronger  but it was largely confined to                                                               
the organized groups speaking on  the budget. Individual citizens                                                               
did not show up. He also mentioned poorly attended townhalls.                                                                   
SENATOR KAWASAKI  said the  legislature's work  is in  Juneau and                                                               
without additional  information about  the policy  decisions that                                                               
will make this  a bill that will improve  transparency and access                                                               
to the public, he couldn't support it.                                                                                          
CHAIR SHOWER  responded that  it's not  possible to  know whether                                                               
the bill  will increase access  until it's tried. He  opined that                                                               
plenty of  people will show up,  depending on the issue.  He said                                                               
he was in  Wasilla in 2019 and was swamped,  and all townhalls in                                                               
the MatSu are standing room only  and there is a desire for more.                                                               
He maintained that  the work can be wherever  legislators want it                                                               
to be.  He restated that  he was trying  to find a  solution that                                                               
would be satisfactory to both sides of the debate.                                                                              
SENATOR  REINBOLD  commented  that  the  listening  sessions  and                                                               
townhalls  she had  hosted usually  were very  busy because  they                                                               
were about issues that affected people's lives.                                                                                 
4:31:06 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HOLLAND commented  that facilities come and  go but there                                                               
was plenty of availability in Anchorage.                                                                                        
4:31:22 PM                                                                                                                    
At ease                                                                                                                         
4:31:38 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SHOWER reconvened the meeting.                                                                                            
SENATOR  HOLLAND continued  to  say that  this  is something  the                                                               
people of Alaska want to see happen.                                                                                            
CHAIR SHOWER  emphasized that this  bill is not about  moving the                                                               
capital;  rather,  it is  about  moving  every other  legislative                                                               
session to the Municipality of Anchorage.                                                                                       
4:32:56 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KAWASAKI said his recommendation  on the committee report                                                               
will be  "do not pass" because  he needs more information  on the                                                               
policy decisions, but  he appreciates that the  sponsor will move                                                               
through that.                                                                                                                   
CHAIR SHOWER restated  his commitment to work  through the policy                                                               
Finding no further questions or comments, he solicited a motion.                                                                
4:33:31 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  REINBOLD  moved  to  report CSSB  152,  work  order  32-                                                               
lS1306\I,  from  committee  with individual  recommendations  and                                                               
attached fiscal note(s).                                                                                                        
4:33:43 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SHOWER  found no objection  and CSSB 152(STA)  was reported                                                               
from the Senate State Affairs Standing Committee                                                                                

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 152 FN.pdf SSTA 3/8/2022 3:30:00 PM
SB 152
SB 152 CS.pdf SSTA 3/8/2022 3:30:00 PM
SB 152
SB92 FN FCS.pdf SSTA 3/8/2022 3:30:00 PM
SB 92
SB92 FN DPS.pdf SSTA 3/8/2022 3:30:00 PM
SB 92