Legislature(2021 - 2022)ADAMS 519

05/05/2021 09:00 AM FINANCE

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ HB 155 COURT SYSTEM PROVIDE VISITORS & EXPERTS TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
+ HB 110 AGE FOR NICOTINE/E-CIG; TAX E-CIG. TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                  HOUSE FINANCE COMMITTEE                                                                                       
                        May 5, 2021                                                                                             
                         9:02 a.m.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
9:02:28 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CALL TO ORDER                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Merrick called the  House Finance Committee meeting                                                                    
to order at 9:02 a.m.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Representative Neal Foster, Co-Chair                                                                                            
Representative Kelly Merrick, Co-Chair                                                                                          
Representative Dan Ortiz, Vice-Chair                                                                                            
Representative Bryce Edgmon                                                                                                     
Representative DeLena Johnson                                                                                                   
Representative Andy Josephson                                                                                                   
Representative Bart LeBon                                                                                                       
Representative Steve Thompson                                                                                                   
Representative Adam Wool                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Representative Ben Carpenter                                                                                                    
Representative Sara Rasmussen                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
ALSO PRESENT                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Mike   Mason,  Staff,   Representative   Chris  Tuck;   Doug                                                                    
Wooliver,  Deputy  Administrative   Director,  Alaska  Court                                                                    
System;  Representative  Sara   Hannan,  Sponsor;  Stephanie                                                                    
Andrew,  Staff,  Representative  Sara Hannan;  Nancy  Meade,                                                                    
General Counsel, Alaska Court System.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
PRESENT VIA TELECONFERENCE                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
James Stinson,  Director, Office  of Public  Advocacy; Katie                                                                    
Steffens,  Deputy Program  Manager,  Tobacco Prevention  and                                                                    
Control,  Department  of  Health and  Social  Services;  Joe                                                                    
Darnell,  Investigator  III,  Tobacco Section,  Division  of                                                                    
Behavioral   Health,  Department   of   Health  and   Social                                                                    
Services.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SUMMARY                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
HB 110    AGE FOR NICOTINE/E-CIG; TAX E-CIG.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
          HB 110 was HEARD and HELD in committee for                                                                            
          further consideration.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
HB 155    COURT SYSTEM PROVIDE VISITORS & EXPERTS                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
          HB 155 was HEARD and HELD in committee for                                                                            
          further consideration.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Merrick reviewed the agenda for the meeting.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
HOUSE BILL NO. 155                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     "An  Act  relating   to  court-appointed  visitors  and                                                                    
     experts;  relating  to the  powers  and  duties of  the                                                                    
     office of  public advocacy; relating to  the powers and                                                                    
     duties of  the Alaska  Court System; and  providing for                                                                    
     an effective date."                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
9:03:02 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MIKE MASON, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS TUCK, introduced                                                                        
himself. He read the prepared statement:                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     "Good morning. I'm Mike  Mason, staff to Representative                                                                    
     Chris  Tuck.  He apologizes  for  not  being here  this                                                                    
     morning.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     The development  of House Bill  155 is the result  of a                                                                    
     meeting  Rep. Tuck  had scheduled  with James  Stinson,                                                                    
     the  Executive   Director  of  the  Office   of  Public                                                                    
     Advocacy in  early March  of this  year. Unfortunately,                                                                    
     Rep.  Tuck got  called away  at the  last minute  and I                                                                    
     ended   up   taking   the  meeting.   After   a   short                                                                    
     conversation I was convinced to  try and help, and Rep.                                                                    
     Tuck agreed. We had the bill drafted and introduced.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     Very simply, House Bill 155  transfers the Alaska Court                                                                    
     Visitor Program  from the Office of  Public Advocacy to                                                                    
     the  Alaska Court  System. This  transfer would  move a                                                                    
     program from the executive branch  of government to the                                                                    
     judicial branch  of government. However, it  takes this                                                                    
     branch of government to make it happen.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
     Rep.  Tuck  decided to  sponsor  House  Bill 155  after                                                                    
     learning  two facts.  There is  no legislative  history                                                                    
     explaining  why the  Court Visitor  Program was  placed                                                                    
     under the  direction of the  Office of  Public Advocacy                                                                    
     (OPA - part of the  executive branch). The Alaska Court                                                                    
     System and  the Office  of Public Advocacy  support the                                                                    
     transfer of  the program. (Both  sides will  testify to                                                                    
     that fact).                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     Currently, the  Office of  Public Advocacy  is required                                                                    
     by  law  to provide  court  visitor  services. A  court                                                                    
     visitor is  a neutral person with  specialized training                                                                    
     or experience.  (Law, medical care,  mental healthcare,                                                                    
     pastoral care,  social work) The individuals  chosen to                                                                    
     serve   as    court   visitors    conduct   independent                                                                    
     investigations  and make  recommendations to  the court                                                                    
     system   about   guardianships   or   conservatorships.                                                                    
     Guardianships  are  used  to  protect  individuals  who                                                                    
     cannot care  for their well-being due  to incapacity or                                                                    
     disability.  Conservatorships  are  used to  manage  an                                                                    
     incapacitated person or  minor's financial and personal                                                                    
     affairs.   Court    visitors   also    participate   in                                                                    
     psychotropic medication  proceedings during involuntary                                                                    
     commitments  to  investigate  whether the  patient  can                                                                    
     give or withhold informed consent.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     The Court Visitor  Program was created in  1984, and in                                                                    
     recent years  it has become  apparent that  the program                                                                    
     should  be  under the  direction  of  the Alaska  Court                                                                    
     System.  As  its name  implies,  the  Office of  Public                                                                    
     Advocacy does advocacy. Court  visitors do not function                                                                    
     in an advocacy position.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     As  you   will  hear   in  just   a  moment   from  the                                                                    
     representatives of  the Office  of Public  Advocacy and                                                                    
     the Court  System? there is a  fundamental inefficiency                                                                    
     within   the  Court   Visitor  Program.   As  currently                                                                    
     written, state law gives the  Office of Public Advocacy                                                                    
     the  responsibility  of  providing  court  visitors  in                                                                    
     guardianship  and  involuntary medication  proceedings.                                                                    
     (OPA  pays   the  bills).   The  Alaska   Court  System                                                                    
     contracts and  pays for the  court visitors  that serve                                                                    
     in conservatorship proceedings.  (Court system pays the                                                                    
     bills)                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     House   Bill   155    solves   this   inefficiency   by                                                                    
     transferring  the entire  Alaska Court  Visitor Program                                                                    
     to the Alaska Court System.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     As you will hear in just  a moment, House Bill 155 is a                                                                    
     collaborative effort  between the executive  branch and                                                                    
     the judicial  branch, asking the legislative  branch to                                                                    
     fix a flaw  in state law that hampers  a good program's                                                                    
     effectiveness.   Invited   testimony   includes   James                                                                    
     Stinson,  the   Director  of   the  Office   of  Public                                                                    
     Advocacy, and Doug  Wooliver, the Deputy Administrative                                                                    
     Director for the Alaska Court System.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     The Office  of Public  Advocacy's budget for  the Court                                                                    
     Visitor   Program  is   $854,400.   (Included  in   the                                                                    
     Governor's FY 22 budget request).  The fiscal note from                                                                    
     the  Court System  notes that  cost  plus 1  additional                                                                    
     staff person to oversee  the training, supervision, and                                                                    
     scheduling  of court  visitors.  ($960,600 Included  in                                                                    
     the Court System's  FY 22 budget request).  If the bill                                                                    
     passes, the  funding would be  reflected in  the fiscal                                                                    
     note section of the budget bill, HB 69."                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Mason was available for questions.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
9:07:01 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Johnson asked  if  someone  online would  be                                                                    
available  to review  the fiscal  note. Mr.  Mason responded                                                                    
that  the  Alaska Court  System  and  the Office  of  Public                                                                    
Advocacy could provide details of the fiscal note.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Johnson asked  if  the bill  was a  transfer                                                                    
from  one department  to another  with no  additional costs.                                                                    
Mr. Mason stated  that everyone worked together  on the bill                                                                    
and  the parties  could explain  what was  reflected in  the                                                                    
fiscal note.  The court system  would take over  the current                                                                    
costs. He  noted there was an  additional position reflected                                                                    
in the note. The Office  of Public Advocacy's budget for the                                                                    
Court  Visitor Program  was $854,400  which was  included in                                                                    
the governor's  FY 22 budget  request. The fiscal  note from                                                                    
the Alaska  Court System reflected  that cost plus  the cost                                                                    
of  one  additional  staff  person  who  would  oversee  the                                                                    
training,   supervision,  and   the   scheduling  of   court                                                                    
visitors. The  amount was $960,600  and was included  in the                                                                    
Alaska  Court System's  FY 22  budget request.  If the  bill                                                                    
passed, the  funding would be  reflected in the  fiscal note                                                                    
section of  the budget  bill. Mr.  Stinson and  Mr. Wooliver                                                                    
could  provide  additional details.  Representative  Johnson                                                                    
thought  she  might have  additional  questions  at a  later                                                                    
time.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Merrick  indicated the  committee would  be hearing                                                                    
invited testimony.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
9:09:05 AM                                                                                                                    
AT EASE                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
9:09:34 AM                                                                                                                    
RECONVENED                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
DOUG WOOLIVER, DEPUTY  ADMINISTRATIVE DIRECTOR, ALASKA COURT                                                                    
SYSTEM, agreed that the change  had been overdue. The Alaska                                                                    
Court System  had had several  meetings over the  years with                                                                    
OPA about  transferring the Court Visitors  Program from OPA                                                                    
to  the Alaska  Court System.  The transfer  made sense.  He                                                                    
explained that when OPA was  created, it was responsible for                                                                    
things  related  to  guardianships and  the  Court  Visitors                                                                    
Program  was  lumped into  the  office.  However, the  Court                                                                    
Visitors  Program   was  really  a  court   function.  Court                                                                    
visitors served as  experts for the court.  They reported to                                                                    
the court  and were  neutral evaluators  investigating cases                                                                    
to   ensure   that   the  request   for   guardianships   or                                                                    
conservatorships were appropriate.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Wooliver continued  that both  entities  had wanted  to                                                                    
make the  change for several years,  but it fell off  of the                                                                    
radar. Commissioner Dave Donley contacted  him to try to get                                                                    
legislation   passed  in   the  current   session.  It   had                                                                    
originally showed up  as a budget item. There  was a deficit                                                                    
in OPA's budget and an  increment in the Alaska Court System                                                                    
Budget. However, it  took legislation to make  such a change                                                                    
which  was reflected  in the  fiscal note.  The request  had                                                                    
been  removed in  the  budget and  into  the present  fiscal                                                                    
note. Should the  bill pass, the transfer  would take place.                                                                    
If not,  he would  address the bill  again in  the following                                                                    
year.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Wooliver  informed the committee  that the  court system                                                                    
normally did  not take positions  on bills. However,  HB 155                                                                    
was an exception because it  had been a joint effort between                                                                    
the Alaska  Court System  and OPA.  He addressed  the fiscal                                                                    
note. The difference  in the note was that  the Alaska Court                                                                    
System would add a staff  person that would do the training,                                                                    
scheduling, and hiring,  of the court visitors.  If the bill                                                                    
did not  pass, OPA  indicated it would  hire a  person which                                                                    
was reflected in the office's budget request.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Merrick  noted Representative  Wool had  joined the                                                                    
meeting.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Representative Josephson  asked if  Mr. Wooliver  would need                                                                    
space  in  the  court  house to  house  the  employees.  Mr.                                                                    
Wooliver replied  that the  court visitors  were contractors                                                                    
who did not need to be housed.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Representative Johnson  asked where  the new  employee would                                                                    
be  housed. Mr.  Wooliver  replied that  the position  would                                                                    
likely be housed in the Anchorage Court House.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Merrick  thanked Mr.  Wooliver  for  being in  the                                                                    
meeting. Mr. Wooliver thanked the  committee for hearing the                                                                    
bill.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
9:14:26 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JAMES  STINSON, DIRECTOR,  OFFICE  OF  PUBLIC ADVOCACY  (via                                                                    
teleconference),  echoed Mr.  Wooliver's  comments. When  he                                                                    
became  director of  OPA about  3 years  prior, the  program                                                                    
struck  him as  an  oddity.  He spoke  with  people who  had                                                                    
institutional knowledge and had  been around OPA for several                                                                    
years. They  shared the same  opinion. There seemed to  be a                                                                    
consensus and a legislative audit  that agreed that it was a                                                                    
strange program to  house in the executive  branch under the                                                                    
Department of  Administration (DOA).  The only  inference to                                                                    
OPA had to  do with guardianships. Therefore,  it was placed                                                                    
with OPA  rather than the  court system. He noted  the court                                                                    
system did  conservatorships which  was the reason  it never                                                                    
made much sense  for an arm of the court  system to be house                                                                    
in  OPA. It  did not  matter  how effectively  OPA tried  to                                                                    
communicate  with an  arm of  the court  system, ultimately,                                                                    
the court system  would be able to communicate  with its own                                                                    
arm more efficiently.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Stinson  conveyed that  OPA provided  respondent counsel                                                                    
in  proceedings  often  arguing against  a  court  visitor's                                                                    
opinion.  Conservatorship was  a  serious  restriction to  a                                                                    
person's  financial   liberty,  and  guardianship   was  the                                                                    
highest  form of  a person's  liberty  restriction. In  such                                                                    
cases, a person had the right  to an attorney. The Office of                                                                    
Public  Advocacy   provided  that  attorney   which  created                                                                    
additional tension. He was not  sure if it created an actual                                                                    
conflict  but certainly  the perception  of a  conflict. The                                                                    
Alaska statutes  outlined that OPA could  not exercise undue                                                                    
influence over court visitors. The  boundaries were clear in                                                                    
statute. However,  they were murkier around  OPA's oversight                                                                    
of court  visitors. Several issues  had allowed  the program                                                                    
to  stumble  along  without  much  meaningful  oversight  or                                                                    
training.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Stinson suggested  that by  placing the  program within                                                                    
the court system judges and  court visitors could be trained                                                                    
together.  The  court  system could  cater  the  program  to                                                                    
regions  that  had  different challenges  outside  of  urban                                                                    
areas. He thought the legislation  was a win for all parties                                                                    
and  would  result in  better  outcomes.  He believed  there                                                                    
would be a  more efficient administration of  the program as                                                                    
a court function saving the state money.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Merrick  commented that the committee  loved saving                                                                    
money. She directed Mr. Stinson to review the fiscal note.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
9:18:07 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Stinson  indicated the Office  of Public  Advocacy would                                                                    
be  transferring  contract  dollars   to  the  Alaska  Court                                                                    
System,  as  there were  no  dedicated  PCNs. The  work  was                                                                    
performed by  independent contractors  rather than  State of                                                                    
Alaska  employees.  The   program  had  grown  substantially                                                                    
primarily  due  to an  aging  population.  He conveyed  when                                                                    
someone was under guardianship there  was a 3-year review in                                                                    
which  a  court visitor  provided  an  update to  the  court                                                                    
system as  to whether the person  still needed guardianship.                                                                    
There  was  an  important  liberty  interest  at  stake.  It                                                                    
ultimately  stacked  costs  because  guardianships  had  the                                                                    
potential  to  last a  long  time.  A person  could  require                                                                    
guardianship or conservatorship for  their natural life. The                                                                    
court system wanted to have  a sufficient amount of money to                                                                    
fund paying court  visitors, but they also  needed some sort                                                                    
of  administrative oversight  position to  make the  program                                                                    
function well and  to ensure training. He  reported that OPA                                                                    
did not have  such a position. He thought  it was reasonable                                                                    
for the  Court System to  request an added position.  If OPA                                                                    
were to  continue administrating the program,  it would want                                                                    
to  add a  position  to provide  the  best possible  service                                                                    
despite the challenges.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Representative Johnson  asked Mr.  Stinson to  identify some                                                                    
of the savings. Mr. Stinson  responded that savings would be                                                                    
attained  through increasing  efficiencies.  He thought  the                                                                    
program  would grow,  as it  was  a a  mandated service.  He                                                                    
suggested that  the Alaska  Court System  would be  a better                                                                    
steward  of  funding  because  they would  be  able  to  set                                                                    
standards of  practice, directly supervise its  own arm, get                                                                    
rid   of   problem   contractors,   help   improve   problem                                                                    
contractors,  set  minimum   standards,  and  set  reporting                                                                    
requirements.  It was  a direct  court function.  He thought                                                                    
the result would be less waste and more efficiency.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Representative Johnson disagreed. She  thought it might work                                                                    
better  within the  court  system and  be  a better  program                                                                    
overall. She wanted to be  clear that if the legislature was                                                                    
increasing costs, the program should improve.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
9:22:30 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Merrick OPENED public testimony.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
9:22:40 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Merrick CLOSED public testimony.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Merrick  indicated  amendments  were  due  in  the                                                                    
current day by 6:00 p.m.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
HB  155  was  HEARD  and   HELD  in  committee  for  further                                                                    
consideration.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
HOUSE BILL NO. 110                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     "An  Act raising  the minimum  age  to purchase,  sell,                                                                    
     exchange,  or  possess  tobacco, a  product  containing                                                                    
     nicotine,  or an  electronic smoking  product; relating                                                                    
     to   transporting   tobacco,   a   product   containing                                                                    
     nicotine,  or an  electronic smoking  product; relating                                                                    
     to  the taxation  of electronic  smoking products;  and                                                                    
     providing for an effective date."                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
9:23:06 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SARA HANNAN, SPONSOR,  explained HB 110 taxed                                                                    
vaping products  or electronic smoking devices.  There was a                                                                    
section  included  in  the   bill  that  defined  electronic                                                                    
smoking  devices.  The  bill  raised  the  minimum  age  for                                                                    
purchasing tobacco in  Alaska to 21. It  also prohibited the                                                                    
sales of tobacco  products over the internet  and required a                                                                    
third party  verification for a  delivery. If a  person were                                                                    
to order  tobacco products  from a shop  in Anchorage  to be                                                                    
delivered to Nome, they would  have to verify their age with                                                                    
the  delivery   person  upon  arrival.   It  would   not  be                                                                    
considered an internet sale.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Hannan relayed  that  the  bill also  placed                                                                    
vaping  products into  Alaska's tobacco  taxation structure.                                                                    
In Alaska, tobacco taxes were  uniform by type. However, the                                                                    
statutes  distinguished  cigarettes,   cigars,  and  chewing                                                                    
tobacco  by type.  Vaping was  not taxed,  as it  was not  a                                                                    
thing the last time tobacco  taxes were modified. Vaping was                                                                    
not mentioned  in the statute  and therefore not  taxed. She                                                                    
thought  vaping  was similar  to  all  of Alaska's  nicotine                                                                    
products, and  currently vaping was extremely  popular among                                                                    
underage  smokers. Between  2017  and 2018  the Centers  for                                                                    
Disease  Control's National  Youth Tobacco  Survey saw  a 78                                                                    
percent increase in  the use of e-cigarettes  by high school                                                                    
students. Many  people knew, and  she knew as a  high school                                                                    
teacher, that the  United States had done a  really good job                                                                    
in its  campaign to  reduce smoking.  Several kids  would be                                                                    
aghast if they were accused  of smoking a cigarette, as they                                                                    
would never consider  it. However, kids did  not view vaping                                                                    
in the  same tone or  tenor or  with the same  risk-level or                                                                    
concern.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Hannan  continued  that  young  people  were                                                                    
price-sensitive in  everything they  did, and  tobacco taxes                                                                    
had  always   been  part  of   a  regime  to   reduce  youth                                                                    
participation in  smoking. She  reported that 80  percent of                                                                    
high schoolers that smoked e-cigarettes  did not perceive it                                                                    
as a  risky behavior. She  asserted that vaping was  just as                                                                    
risky to a  person's long-term health as  other smoking. The                                                                    
time to stop a person's  addiction was prior to starting the                                                                    
habit. She thought  price sensitivity was good if  it kept a                                                                    
person from becoming a participant.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Representative Hannan  concluded that HB 110  would have the                                                                    
effect of  keeping someone from  starting to vape.  It would                                                                    
reduce youth  entering the smoking  arena. As a  side effect                                                                    
it would  also improve  the revenue  picture for  Alaska. It                                                                    
would not be  a huge revenue producer but  would be expected                                                                    
to  produce   about  $2.5  million  in   revenues.  She  was                                                                    
available for questions.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
9:28:29 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Representative Thompson  asked whether a  military exemption                                                                    
could apply. Representative Hannan  replied that the federal                                                                    
government had already  changed the legal smoking  age to 21                                                                    
through  an  initiative, T-21,  by  President  Trump. As  of                                                                    
December  2019, the  federal  smoking age  was  21, and  the                                                                    
Department of  Defense was required  to restrict  smoking on                                                                    
bases to anyone  under 21 and restrict the  sale of products                                                                    
to 21 years of age or older.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Thompson clarified  that a  person under  21                                                                    
would  be breaking  the law  if they  were in  possession of                                                                    
smoking  products or  caught  smoking. He  asked  if he  was                                                                    
correct.    Representative   Hannan    responded   in    the                                                                    
affirmative.  The federal  law  was currently  21. The  bill                                                                    
would bring  Alaska statutes  into compliance  and alignment                                                                    
with the federal government's actions in 2019.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Thompson wondered  whether the  state should                                                                    
also change  its law  for smoking Marijuana,  as it  did not                                                                    
conform  with federal  law. Representative  Hannan responded                                                                    
that  Alaska did  not  have  to change  the  law around  the                                                                    
smoking age. Alaska  sometimes blatantly disregarded federal                                                                    
law. It  was a policy question.  She asserted it was  a good                                                                    
thing  to  do  in  order to  discourage  young  people  from                                                                    
smoking.  She indicated,  when she  first introduced  a vape                                                                    
tax bill a  couple of years ago, she did  not include an age                                                                    
change.  The   age  change  came  about   from  the  federal                                                                    
government.  It seemed  appropriate to  be aligned  with the                                                                    
federal  government.  It  also  created  a  larger  age  gap                                                                    
between  high schoolers  and adults.  By the  time a  person                                                                    
turned 21 they  were in a different  population setting. She                                                                    
thought the bill was constructive in discouraging smoking.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Thompson did  not  disagree.  He planned  on                                                                    
introducing an amendment.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
9:32:11 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Merrick  noted  Vice-Chair Ortiz  had  joined  the                                                                    
meeting.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Wool shared  some  of the  same concerns  of                                                                    
Representative  Thompson.  He  had  more  of  a  Libertarian                                                                    
approach to the issues.  He grew up in an era  where at 18 a                                                                    
person could vote,  drink, smoke, join the army,  or carry a                                                                    
gun. At 18 a person could go  to war and kill people. He was                                                                    
of  the mindset  of someone  being an  adult at  age 18.  He                                                                    
stated that  currently a  person could smoke  at age  18 and                                                                    
could  purchase  cigarettes  at age  19  (to  avoid  tobacco                                                                    
products being brought  into school). At his  high school he                                                                    
could smoke  outside. He came  from a  different generation.                                                                    
His problem was  that if a person  had to be 21  in order to                                                                    
buy or smoke  tobacco or vape products, a  20-year old would                                                                    
be breaking the law.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Representative Wool continued that  the other problem he had                                                                    
was  that if  a  person  got caught,  they  would enter  the                                                                    
criminal  justice system.  He did  not  think Alaska  needed                                                                    
more  kids in  the criminal  justice system.  He also  asked                                                                    
about  enforcement and  whether  it would  be selective.  He                                                                    
suggested that minorities would  more likely be charged with                                                                    
infractions.  He was  glad  the fine  was  removed from  the                                                                    
bill.  However,  an offender  would  be  required to  attend                                                                    
cessation classes.  He did  not have  a problem  with taxing                                                                    
vaping  products. However,  he  did have  a  problem with  a                                                                    
young  person  having to  attend  a  class or  entering  the                                                                    
criminal  justice  system.  He  asked the  bill  sponsor  to                                                                    
comment.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
9:36:16 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Hannan  thought  most  teenagers  in  Alaska                                                                    
first  entered   into  the  court  system   through  parking                                                                    
infractions. Smoking infractions  would be treated similarly                                                                    
as  a  civil  penalty  rather than  a  criminal  penalty.  a                                                                    
smoking  infraction would  be a  ticketed offense  much like                                                                    
parking violations  unless they reached a  criminal level. A                                                                    
violation  for drunk  driving was  different than  a parking                                                                    
violation. Traffic citations were  part of the civil system.                                                                    
Ms.  Mead from  the Alaska  Court System  was available  for                                                                    
questions.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Hannan  noted   Katie  Steffens,  a  tobacco                                                                    
expert  from  the  the  Department   of  Health  and  Social                                                                    
Services (DHSS), was  available online who might  be able to                                                                    
address  the comments  made about  the  under 18  population                                                                    
receiving citations for tobacco violations.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Wool  would  be   happy  to  hear  from  Ms.                                                                    
Stephens  and wanted  to  hear  from Ms.  Mead  as well.  He                                                                    
disagreed that the infraction was like a parking ticket.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Merrick   indicated  Ms.   Mead  was   an  invited                                                                    
testifier  who   would  be   presenting  to   the  committee                                                                    
momentarily.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
9:38:52 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
KATIE STEFFENS,  DEPUTY PROGRAM MANAGER,  TOBACCO PREVENTION                                                                    
AND CONTROL,  DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND  SOCIAL SERVICES (via                                                                    
teleconference), deferred  to Joe  Darnell who  could better                                                                    
address the question.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Representative Wool  did not know  the numbers.  He wondered                                                                    
who would  pay for cessation  classes. He suggested  that if                                                                    
he were a kid, he would not want to have to pay for them.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
9:40:28 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
STEPHANIE   ANDREW,  STAFF,   REPRESENTATIVE  SARA   HANNAN,                                                                    
thought Ms.  Steffens spoke more to  public health concerns.                                                                    
She suggested  she speak to the  question the representative                                                                    
had about the  health impacts of an 18 year  old versus a 21                                                                    
year old.  She suggested Ms.  Mead could speak to  the court                                                                    
implications.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Wool assumed  the health  impacts for  an 18                                                                    
year old and a 21 year old were similar.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Merrick indicated  the committee  would move  to a                                                                    
question from  Representative Josephson and then  would have                                                                    
Ms. Mead come to the table.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Josephson  recalled  Senator  Stevens  being                                                                    
involved  in  reform  efforts.  He noted  two  bills  SB  15                                                                    
[Legislation    passed    in    2018    -    Short    Title:                                                                    
E-Cigs/Tobacco/Nicotine  and  Minors;   Sales]  and  SB  182                                                                    
[Legislation  introduced  in 2020  -  Short  Title: Age  for                                                                    
Nicotine/E-Cig;  Tax  E-Cig].  He recalled  sitting  in  the                                                                    
Labor  and Commerce  Committee and  looking at  a PowerPoint                                                                    
about  dismantling  one  of  the  vaping  devices  and  what                                                                    
portion  of the  device could  be  sold. He  asked for  some                                                                    
context around other laws that have affected e-cigarettes.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Representative Hannan did  not believe SB 15  became law, as                                                                    
she  and  Senator  Stevens had  companion  legislation.  The                                                                    
bills  were  not identical,  as  there  were two  definition                                                                    
changes.  Senator Stevens'  bill  mentioned e-hookahs  while                                                                    
HB 110  referred  to them  as  e-smoking  devices. His  bill                                                                    
changed the  age and taxes  and currently sat in  the Senate                                                                    
Finance  Committee. She  asked  if Representative  Josephson                                                                    
wanted to know more about the devices.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Josephson  would  look  to  see  what  other                                                                    
recent  bills  became  law and  impacted  the  industry.  He                                                                    
wanted to get an overall  sense of the issue. Representative                                                                    
Hannan  did not  believe  anything had  been  passed in  the                                                                    
Alaska  Legislature  on the  subject.  She  noted that  when                                                                    
cannabis industry  regulations and laws were  put into place                                                                    
vaping of cannabis was taxed  and vape products were defined                                                                    
in    relation   to    cannabis   taxation.    She   thought                                                                    
Representative  Josephson's  recollection  might be  from  6                                                                    
years prior.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Vice-Chair Ortiz thought  there was a reference  made to Mr.                                                                    
Darnell who  might be able to  address enforcement. Co-Chair                                                                    
Merrick  replied  that the  committee  could  hear from  Mr.                                                                    
Darnell following  Ms. Mead's  testimony. The  committee had                                                                    
been joined by Representative Edgmon.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
9:44:01 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
NANCY MEADE,  GENERAL COUNSEL, ALASKA COURT  SYSTEM, thought                                                                    
the  concern  was  centered  on   AS.11.76.105  on  page  2,                                                                    
starting  at  line  21  of  the  bill.  The  provision  made                                                                    
possession  of  tobacco,  electronic  smoking  products,  or                                                                    
nicotine  products  by someone  under  21  a violation.  The                                                                    
provision  was  being  changed  from   age  19  to  age  21.                                                                    
Electronic smoking  products were  added to the  provision 2                                                                    
years  prior.   The  section  was  enforced   by  local  law                                                                    
enforcement  officers and  Alaska State  Troopers who  could                                                                    
issue a citation for a  violation. The court system received                                                                    
such  citations  in some  years  but  none in  other  years.                                                                    
Occasionally,  the court  system would  receive a  bubble of                                                                    
citations  likely related  to a  sting operation.  She could                                                                    
supply  specific  data to  anyone  interested.  There was  a                                                                    
contrasting provision  in AS.11.76.100  through AS.11.76.109                                                                    
giving  authority  to  the  Division  of  Behavioral  Health                                                                    
within  the  Department of  Health  and  Social Services  to                                                                    
issue  citations.  She  elaborated   that  DHSS  could  cite                                                                    
vendors and sellers  and take license action if  there was a                                                                    
conviction.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Mead  continued that AS.11.76.105,  the possession  of a                                                                    
minor,  was a  violation  which required  a mandatory  court                                                                    
appearance. Some  traffic citations allowed for  a person to                                                                    
send  in a  payment for  a fine  and plead  guilty to  close                                                                    
their case. However, possession of  a minor required a court                                                                    
appearance.  The statute  outlined  that a  person would  be                                                                    
subject to a fine of between zero and $500.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Mead  pointed to page  15 of  the bill which  stated the                                                                    
court  could  refer the  defendant  to  a tobacco  education                                                                    
program  in  lieu of  a  fine.  The  court system  had  some                                                                    
concern  with the  provision, as  it did  not keep  track of                                                                    
tobacco education programs. If the  court ordered a minor or                                                                    
a 20  year old to participate  in such a class,  it would be                                                                    
lacking information  about enforcing  the provision  and any                                                                    
necessary  follow-up. The  court was  not in  a position  to                                                                    
provide information  to a  person ordered  to take  a class.                                                                    
The  court  was not  sure  if  the programs  were  available                                                                    
statewide.  She   reiterated  the  provision   was  somewhat                                                                    
concerning  for  the court  system.  She  was available  for                                                                    
questions.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
9:48:13 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Vice-Chair Ortiz  responded to Ms. Mead's  comment about the                                                                    
statute  requiring  a  court   appearance.  He  wondered  if                                                                    
Representative  Wool  had  a valid  concern  about  a  young                                                                    
person  being  entered  into the  legal  system  creating  a                                                                    
permanent record.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Ms.  Mead  replied  that  anyone who  was  issued  a  ticket                                                                    
received a minor  offence. A person under 21  who received a                                                                    
violation for possession of  tobacco or electronic cigarette                                                                    
products would  need to appear  in court. Whereas,  a person                                                                    
receiving  a  traffic  violation would  not  necessarily  be                                                                    
required to appear in court.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Hannan   relayed  that  the   violation  was                                                                    
already in  statute; only  the age would  change from  19 to                                                                    
21. The bill was not creating the violation.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Josephson   spoke  of  a  bill   by  Senator                                                                    
Micciche offered  in a prior  legislative session.  The bill                                                                    
would  have softened  the penalties  for  a minor  consuming                                                                    
alcohol.  He  wondered  if  such  penalties  required  court                                                                    
appearances. Ms. Mead replied in the affirmative.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Josephson   suggested  the   two  violations                                                                    
paralleled  each other  in terms  of court  appearances. Ms.                                                                    
Mead   responded,  "Somewhat."   She   explained  that   the                                                                    
processing  of  a  minor  consuming  alcohol  changed  to  a                                                                    
straight  violation  in 2016  with  the  passage of  SB  165                                                                    
[Short  Title: Alcohol:  Board;  Minors; Marijuana  Checks].                                                                    
The  underaged  person received  a  citation.  There was  an                                                                    
accompanying oddity  with the violation penalty  that stated                                                                    
the penalty would  be $500. However, a young  person had the                                                                    
option  of taking  an alcohol  education  course and  having                                                                    
their fine reduced to $50.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
9:52:18 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Wool asked  if  an  alcohol violation  would                                                                    
stay on a  person's record. If so, he wondered  if there was                                                                    
an option  to get  the violation  removed from  their record                                                                    
under   certain   conditions.   Ms.  Mead   explained   that                                                                    
everything stayed on a person's  official criminal record in                                                                    
Alaska. Expungement was  not an option. There  was a special                                                                    
provision for minors consuming in  SB 165 that specified the                                                                    
records could not appear on  Court View. However, they would                                                                    
remain  in   a  person's   official  record   maintained  by                                                                    
Department of Public Safety.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Wool  responded to  Representative  Hannan's                                                                    
comment. He understood the law  was already in existence but                                                                    
did not  support the bill  or more  kids going to  court. He                                                                    
was skeptical  about the costs  of the mandated  classes and                                                                    
wondered if a new industry would  pop up. He was curious how                                                                    
classes  would  be  offered  and  paid  for.  Representative                                                                    
Hannan would ask  DHSS for a list of  programs. She referred                                                                    
to page 15 regarding deferment  to class. There was a member                                                                    
in another committee who did  not want a fine imposed. Their                                                                    
approach  to amending  the  bill  was to  do  away with  the                                                                    
violations  completely  and  to   simply  impose  a  tobacco                                                                    
education program  instead. She had heard  tobacco education                                                                    
programs  were  available  in some  places  in  Alaska.  She                                                                    
believed   Katie    Steffens   could    provide   additional                                                                    
information.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Ms.  Steffens  spoke  to  how   the  program  was  currently                                                                    
structured.  The program  had 23  grant-funded organizations                                                                    
throughout  the   state  who  helped  support   the  tobacco                                                                    
prevention  and education  efforts  in Alaskan  communities.                                                                    
She  spoke of  the grantees  going into  classrooms to  talk                                                                    
with kids. The  program also had statewide  partners such as                                                                    
the  American Lung  Association who  offered online  courses                                                                    
such as its'  In-Depth program. The program  offered a youth                                                                    
component  and  a  component for  parents  or  guardians  to                                                                    
access  information  about   certain  products  through  the                                                                    
Alaska Tobacco Quit Line. She  indicated that the community-                                                                    
based efforts helped in preventing  kids from starting a bad                                                                    
habit.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
9:56:47 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JOE DARNELL, INVESTIGATOR III,  TOBACCO SECTION, DIVISION OF                                                                    
BEHAVIORAL HEALTH, DEPARTMENT OF  HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES                                                                    
(via teleconference),  asked Vice-Chair Ortiz to  repeat his                                                                    
question.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Vice-Chair  Ortiz asked,  under  the  current situation  and                                                                    
absent  the passage  of the  bill,  what enforcement  looked                                                                    
like  in  relation  to  enforcing  the  state's  regulations                                                                    
around tobacco - specifically the  possession of tobacco. He                                                                    
asked if  it would change  in any  way with the  adoption of                                                                    
the bill.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Mr.   Darnell  responded   that  the   department  did   not                                                                    
administer enforcement  citations. Rather, the  Alaska State                                                                    
Troopers  and local  police  officers  issued citations.  He                                                                    
spoke with  several local police departments  and found that                                                                    
sometimes there  would be no citations  and suddenly several                                                                    
citations.  Typically, the  increase was  due to  the school                                                                    
administration noticing  a problem  and requesting  that the                                                                    
school resource  officer start  issuing tickets.  He thought                                                                    
raising the  age possession  would help  with issues  at the                                                                    
school.  It would  create  a greater  age  gap between  high                                                                    
school students  and 21-year-olds  making it  more difficult                                                                    
for  kids  to get  tobacco  products.  He suggested  that  a                                                                    
21-year-old was  less likely  to hang  out with  high school                                                                    
kids. The peer-to-peer  aspect would go away.  He also noted                                                                    
for retailers  it would be  much easier  to be in  line with                                                                    
federal law.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Representative Wool noted Ms. Mead  reported up to 80 minors                                                                    
under 19  had been cited.  He asked  for the make-up  of the                                                                    
kids  that had  been cited.  He opined  that minorities  and                                                                    
lower income  folks were more  likely to have to  go through                                                                    
the court system  rather than be expulsed  in a non-criminal                                                                    
way. He asked if it was  the same for tobacco citations. Ms.                                                                    
Mead deferred to Mr. Darnell.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
10:00:55 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Darnell responded  that some  schools in  Anchorage had                                                                    
requested   that   the   school  resource   officers   issue                                                                    
citations. One of  the schools was South High  School in the                                                                    
Hillside area - a wealthy neighborhood in Anchorage.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Josephson  had  seen many  national  stories                                                                    
that   e-cigarettes  were   more   dangerous  than   regular                                                                    
cigarettes. He wondered if he was accurate.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Hannan  indicated  Representative  Josephson                                                                    
was correct. In 2018 or 2019  there had been a flurry across                                                                    
the  United  Stated of  black  market  vape cartridges  that                                                                    
resulted  in some  lung damage  for  young people.  However,                                                                    
they were  not commercially  produced nicotine  or cannabis.                                                                    
They  were a  hybrid garage-manufactured  on a  large scale.                                                                    
She did not want to engage in  what she saw as issues on the                                                                    
periphery  about  taxation  of  vape  products.  There  were                                                                    
certainly  people who  advocated  that  they were  healthier                                                                    
than cigarettes. However, there  was a significant amount of                                                                    
research that showed they were  damaging. She noted that the                                                                    
Alaska   statutes  on   taxing  tobacco   products  exempted                                                                    
cessation products  from that taxation such  as nicotine gum                                                                    
and patches. If vaping was  found to be a cessation strategy                                                                    
and devise by the FDA, they  would be exempt from the taxes.                                                                    
She thought it was the  reason why Alaska taxed the products                                                                    
and why it tried to defer  young people from using them. She                                                                    
did not think vaping was a health-producing activity.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Merrick  thanked the bill  sponsor and  the invited                                                                    
testifiers. She reviewed the agenda for the afternoon.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Representative Thompson  asked if an amendment  deadline had                                                                    
been  set for  HB  110. Co-Chair  Merrick  responded in  the                                                                    
negative.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
HB  110  was  HEARD  and   HELD  in  committee  for  further                                                                    
consideration.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
ADJOURNMENT                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
10:04:38 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
The meeting was adjourned at 10:04 a.m.                                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 110 Supporting Documents 4.14.21.pdf HFIN 5/5/2021 9:00:00 AM
HB 110
CSHB 110 Sectional Summary 4.14.2021.pdf HFIN 5/5/2021 9:00:00 AM
HB 110
CSHB 110 Summary of Changes - 4.14.2021.pdf HFIN 5/5/2021 9:00:00 AM
HB 110
CSHB 110 Sponsor Statement 4.14.2021.pdf HFIN 5/5/2021 9:00:00 AM
HB 110
HB 110 Opposition - Alex McDonald, 4.10.21.pdf HFIN 5/5/2021 9:00:00 AM
HB 110
HB 110 Public Testimony by 050421.pdf HFIN 5/5/2021 9:00:00 AM
HB 110
HB 110 Opposition - Shaun D'Sylva, 4.10.21.pdf HFIN 5/5/2021 9:00:00 AM
HB 110
HB 110 Support Received as of 4.10.21.pdf HFIN 5/5/2021 9:00:00 AM
HB 110
HB 155 Sectional Analysis 3.30.2021.pdf HFIN 5/5/2021 9:00:00 AM
HB 155
HB 155 Sponsor Statement 3.30.2021.pdf HFIN 5/5/2021 9:00:00 AM
HB 155
HB 155 Testimony Office of Public Advocacy 4.3.2021.pdf HFIN 5/5/2021 9:00:00 AM
HB 155