Legislature(2021 - 2022)ADAMS 519

02/10/2022 01:30 PM House FINANCE

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved CSHB 187(STA) Out of Committee
-- Public Testimony --
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                  HOUSE FINANCE COMMITTEE                                                                                       
                     February 10, 2022                                                                                          
                         1:33 p.m.                                                                                              
1:33:15 PM                                                                                                                    
CALL TO ORDER                                                                                                                 
Co-Chair Merrick called the  House Finance Committee meeting                                                                    
to order at 1:33 p.m.                                                                                                           
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Representative Neal Foster, Co-Chair                                                                                            
Representative Kelly Merrick, Co-Chair                                                                                          
Representative Dan Ortiz, Vice-Chair                                                                                            
Representative Ben Carpenter                                                                                                    
Representative Bryce Edgmon                                                                                                     
Representative DeLena Johnson                                                                                                   
Representative Andy Josephson                                                                                                   
Representative Bart LeBon                                                                                                       
Representative Sara Rasmussen                                                                                                   
Representative Steve Thompson                                                                                                   
Representative Adam Wool                                                                                                        
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
ALSO PRESENT                                                                                                                  
Representative  James Kaufman,  Sponsor; Representative  Liz                                                                    
Snyder,   Co-Chair,  House   Health   and  Social   Services                                                                    
Committee; Noah Klein,  Counsel, Legislative Legal Services;                                                                    
Representative  Matt Claman,  Sponsor;  Emma Potter,  Staff,                                                                    
Representative  Matt Claman;  Helge Eng,  Director, Division                                                                    
of   Forestry,  Department   of  Natural   Resources;  Tessa                                                                    
Axelson, Executive Director, Alaska Forest Association.                                                                         
PRESENT VIA TELECONFERENCE                                                                                                    
Tanya  Keith, Chief,  Wage and  Hour Section,  Department of                                                                    
Labor  and  Workforce  Development;  Kelly  Manning,  Deputy                                                                    
Director, Division  of Innovation and  Education Excellence,                                                                    
Department  of   Education  and  Early   Development;  Jason                                                                    
Lassard,  Executive Director,  National  Alliance on  Mental                                                                    
Health Illness; Justin Pendergrass, Self, Wasilla; Alison                                                                       
Arians, Division of Forestry, Special Projects Coordinator.                                                                     
HB 60     PUBLIC SCHOOLS: MENTAL HEALTH EDUCATION                                                                               
          HB 60 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further                                                                     
HB 98     FOREST LAND USE PLANS; TIMBER SALES                                                                                   
          HB 98 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further                                                                     
HB 146    DISCLOSURE OF WAGE INFORMATION                                                                                        
          HB 146 was HEARD and HELD in committee for                                                                            
          further consideration.                                                                                                
HB 187    STATE AGENCY PUBLICATIONS                                                                                             
          CSHB 187(STA)  was REPORTED out of  committee with                                                                    
          six  "do   pass"  recommendations  and   five  "no                                                                    
          recommendation" recommendations  and with  one new                                                                    
          zero fiscal note by the Office of the Governor.                                                                       
Co-Chair Merrick reviewed the agenda for the day.                                                                               
HOUSE BILL NO. 187                                                                                                            
     "An Act relating to the  elimination or modification of                                                                    
     state   agency   publications    that   are   outdated,                                                                    
     duplicative, or excessive or that  could be improved or                                                                    
     consolidated  with  other publications  or  exclusively                                                                    
     delivered   electronically;   and  providing   for   an                                                                    
     effective date."                                                                                                           
1:33:55 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES  KAUFMAN, SPONSOR,  introduced himself.                                                                    
He acknowledged that the  committee had previously discussed                                                                    
the bill, but he would be  happy to summarize the bill again                                                                    
and answer questions.                                                                                                           
Representative  Thompson  asked  if  the  bill  sponsor  had                                                                    
received any pushback to the bill.                                                                                              
Representative Kaufman  responded that he had  only received                                                                    
positive feedback.                                                                                                              
Co-Chair  Foster  would  be supporting  the  bill  with  the                                                                    
caveat  that   it  would  not  reduce   or  prohibit  public                                                                    
announcements. His only concern was  that many people in the                                                                    
state did  not have reliable internet  and some publications                                                                    
needed to  be provided on paper.  He did not think  the bill                                                                    
would have a negative impact but wanted to be certain.                                                                          
Representative Kaufman indicated that  the bill was based on                                                                    
legislative   approval   with   checks  and   balances   and                                                                    
protections in place.                                                                                                           
Co-Chair   Merrick  reported   that  Representatives   Wool,                                                                    
Carpenter, and Johnson had joined the meeting.                                                                                  
1:37:19 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Merrick OPENED public testimony.                                                                                       
Co-Chair Merrick CLOSED public testimony.                                                                                       
1:37:40 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Edgmon  agreed that on the  surface, the bill                                                                    
seemed acceptable  and he would  be supporting the  bill. He                                                                    
supposed that  the individuals that  would be  most affected                                                                    
by  the bill  were  not  involved in  the  bill process.  He                                                                    
wanted  to   be  mindful  of   the  impacts  of   the  bill,                                                                    
particularly as  a rural legislator.  He suggested  that the                                                                    
legislature might consider implementing the bill in stages.                                                                     
Vice-Chair Ortiz agreed with Representative Edgmon and Co-                                                                      
Chair Foster.                                                                                                                   
Co-Chair  Foster  MOVED  to  report  CSHB  187(STA)  out  of                                                                    
Committee   with   individual    recommendations   and   the                                                                    
accompanying fiscal note.                                                                                                       
There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered.                                                                                    
CSHB 187(STA)  was REPORTED  out of  committee with  six "do                                                                    
pass"   recommendations   and   five   "no   recommendation"                                                                    
recommendations and  with one  new zero  fiscal note  by the                                                                    
Office of the Governor.                                                                                                         
1:39:41 PM                                                                                                                    
AT EASE                                                                                                                         
1:39:59 PM                                                                                                                    
HOUSE BILL NO. 146                                                                                                            
     "An   Act  relating   to   disclosure  of   information                                                                    
     regarding    employee   compensation    by   employers,                                                                    
     employees, and applicants  for employment; establishing                                                                    
     the  fund  for  protection of  compensation  disclosure                                                                    
     rights; and providing for an effective date."                                                                              
Co-Chair  Merrick  invited  the   bill  sponsor  to  present                                                                    
HB 146.                                                                                                                         
1:40:11 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  LIZ  SNYDER,   CO-CHAIR,  HOUSE  HEALTH  AND                                                                    
SOCIAL  SERVICES   COMMITTEE,  thanked  the   committee  for                                                                    
hearing  the bill  and hoped  it would  move quickly  out of                                                                    
committee.  She  reported  that  the  bill  helped  Alaskans                                                                    
return to  work and feel  secure in  their job as  the state                                                                    
recovered  from   the  economic  impacts  of   the  COVID-19                                                                    
pandemic. She indicated that the  bill established three new                                                                    
expectations, each  of which she would  summarize. The first                                                                    
expectation was that workers could  see the salary range for                                                                    
a position  as part of  its posting information,  the second                                                                    
was  that workers  would have  the right  to salary  history                                                                    
privacy,  and  the  third  was that  workers  could  not  be                                                                    
penalized  for discussing  compensation amongst  themselves.                                                                    
She  would   provide  additional  detail  on   each  of  the                                                                    
Representative  Snyder expanded  upon the  first expectation                                                                    
requiring that  salary and wage information  be available at                                                                    
the time  of posting. Only  about 12 percent of  current job                                                                    
postings  in the  state offered  detailed wage  information.                                                                    
She argued that Alaska was  competing in a global market and                                                                    
the  state  was losing  residents  every  year. She  thought                                                                    
knowing  the  salary  upfront  would  help  applicants  make                                                                    
informed  decisions  and encourage  people  to  stay in  the                                                                    
Representative  Snyder  continued   to  explain  the  second                                                                    
expectation  regarding  salary  history privacy,  which  was                                                                    
proposed  in an  effort to  minimize wage  scarring. When  a                                                                    
person  entered or  re-entered  the workforce  at  a low  or                                                                    
depressed  salary,  copious   research  suggested  that  the                                                                    
salary tended to stick with  the individual and persist over                                                                    
a person's  entire professional  career. She  explained that                                                                    
the  phenomenon  was  referred to  as  wage  scarring.  Even                                                                    
though  the mechanism  was  not  completely understood,  the                                                                    
depressed  wages could  also be  experienced  by a  person's                                                                    
children.  After the  2007 to  2009 recession,  only one  in                                                                    
four  displaced  workers  were   able  to  return  to  their                                                                    
original  earnings. She  hoped the  bill could  help protect                                                                    
workers in  Alaska from experiencing similar  situations due                                                                    
to the pandemic.                                                                                                                
Representative  Snyder reviewed  the third  exceptions which                                                                    
would  ensure   that  workers  could   discuss  compensation                                                                    
amongst  themselves. There  was already  a federal  law that                                                                    
ensured  that wage  discussion was  allowable, but  the bill                                                                    
would codify  it in  state statute.  She suggested  that the                                                                    
law was  poorly enforced and  the bill would help  the state                                                                    
enforce it  more effectively. If  any employer  penalized or                                                                    
restricted  discussion of  compensation,  it  was already  a                                                                    
violation  of federal  law. There  was significant  evidence                                                                    
that  similar laws  minimized wage  scarring.  She had  been                                                                    
cognizant  of the  language in  the  bill and  she had  made                                                                    
great   efforts  to   utilize  language   that  would   help                                                                    
businesses follow  the law  and take  action to  minimize or                                                                    
completely avoid  penalties. She  thanked the  committee for                                                                    
hearing the bill.                                                                                                               
Co-Chair  Merrick  invited Ms.  Tanya  Keith  to review  the                                                                    
fiscal note.                                                                                                                    
1:47:06 PM                                                                                                                    
TANYA  KEITH, CHIEF,  WAGE AND  HOUR SECTION,  DEPARTMENT OF                                                                    
LABOR  AND   WORKFORCE  DEVELOPMENT   (via  teleconference),                                                                    
reviewed the  fiscal note from  the Department of  Labor and                                                                    
Workforce Development  (DLWD) with  control code  AYpxa. The                                                                    
fiscal impact note reflected three  new positions that would                                                                    
be   responsible  for   facilitating   the  complaints   and                                                                    
investigations  that would  be  the result  of the  proposed                                                                    
regulations in the bill.                                                                                                        
Representative   Snyder  commented   that   she  had   spent                                                                    
significant time  looking at the  cost of  implementation of                                                                    
similar bills in other states.  She had included comparisons                                                                    
to other  states in members'  bill packets. The  fiscal note                                                                    
reflected  a  cost of  implementation  that  was similar  to                                                                    
states with  larger populations. She invited  the department                                                                    
to comment on  how it determined the amount.  She added that                                                                    
the fiscal  note also reflected some  previous language that                                                                    
had  since  been  eliminated  from the  bill.  It  was  also                                                                    
possible that the  bill would generate some  revenue and she                                                                    
did not believe  the potential revenue was  reflected in the                                                                    
fiscal note.                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Merrick asked  Ms. Keith  if the  department could                                                                    
provide an updated fiscal note.                                                                                                 
Ms. Keith responded in the affirmative.                                                                                         
1:49:57 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative    Thompson   was    concerned   about    the                                                                    
implications  of  the  bill  and   did  not  understand  the                                                                    
requirements being  imposed on the private  sector. He asked                                                                    
why the bill was being introduced.                                                                                              
Representative Snyder responded  that the primary motivation                                                                    
behind  the  legislation  was  to  minimize  wage  scarring,                                                                    
particularly   after    emerging   from    an   economically                                                                    
challenging time. Similar legislation  had been proven to be                                                                    
helpful  in  getting people  back  into  the workforce.  She                                                                    
argued  that  the  state placed  regulations  on  businesses                                                                    
often, and  she thought the regulations  associated with the                                                                    
bill  would  look  out  for Alaskan  workers  and  placed  a                                                                    
minimal burden on businesses.                                                                                                   
Representative Thompson thought the  bill might work for the                                                                    
public sector, but  not the private sector. He  asked if the                                                                    
bill effected small businesses.                                                                                                 
Representative Snyder responded in  the affirmative, but she                                                                    
was   open   to   amendments   that   would   consider   the                                                                    
circumstances of small businesses.                                                                                              
Representative  Thompson  wondered  whether  small  business                                                                    
would be permitted to post a "Help Wanted" sign in windows.                                                                     
Representative Snyder  thought it  might be helpful  to hear                                                                    
from  Legislative   Legal  Services.  She  thought   it  was                                                                    
becoming  more common  to see  salary ranges  on recruitment                                                                    
signs in Fred Meyers.                                                                                                           
Representative Thompson  reemphasized that he  was concerned                                                                    
specifically about small businesses.                                                                                            
1:52:41 PM                                                                                                                    
NOAH KLEIN, COUNSEL, LEGISLATIVE  LEGAL SERVICES, read lines                                                                    
9 through  12 on  page 2  of the bill  that referred  to the                                                                    
publishing  of employment  notices by  business. He  did not                                                                    
think it  would be prohibited  for Fred Meyer or  a mom-and-                                                                    
pop business to  publish solicitations as long  as the signs                                                                    
did not  specifically detail a  position without  offering a                                                                    
salary range. If  the sign simply said,  "Help Wanted" there                                                                    
would be no problems.                                                                                                           
1:53:40 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Carpenter   asked  for  details   about  the                                                                    
process   the  commissioner   of  DLWD   would  utilize   to                                                                    
investigate  and  convict  a   business  that  violated  the                                                                    
proposed law.                                                                                                                   
Ms. Keith replied that one  of the investigators in the Wage                                                                    
and Hour Division (WHD) would  determine whether a violation                                                                    
occurred. If it  was determined that there  was a violation,                                                                    
an  enforcement   action  by   the  commissioner   would  be                                                                    
Representative  Carpenter asked  whether there  would be  an                                                                    
appeal process for businesses.                                                                                                  
Ms. Keith  responded that there  would be an  appeal process                                                                    
where  a  business could  request  a  hearing to  provide  a                                                                    
defense against the allegations.                                                                                                
Representative  Carpenter   asked  who  would   receive  the                                                                    
Ms. Keith  indicated there would  be regulations  written to                                                                    
enforce the law,  but that had not happened  yet. In similar                                                                    
situations, there was an informal hearing process.                                                                              
Representative Carpenter  asked if it was  customary for the                                                                    
legislature  to  create  laws  that  would  give  regulatory                                                                    
authority  to  a  department  to  penalize  individuals.  He                                                                    
thought the specific penalization  was left up to regulation                                                                    
and not up to the legislature.                                                                                                  
Representative Snyder needed to refer to her notes.                                                                             
1:56:21 PM                                                                                                                    
AT EASE                                                                                                                         
1:56:41 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Snyder   echoed  Representative  Carpenter's                                                                    
request for clarification from Legislative Legal Services.                                                                      
Mr. Klein would  have to review statutes to  provide a broad                                                                    
response on whether it was  customary for the legislature to                                                                    
give  regulatory authority  to a  department. He  emphasized                                                                    
that  the   department  would   have  to   provide  adequate                                                                    
constitutional due process.                                                                                                     
Representative Carpenter  asked if  the state  was enforcing                                                                    
similar  provisions  already   through  the  National  Labor                                                                    
Relations Act.                                                                                                                  
Ms. Keith reported that WHD  was not currently investigating                                                                    
similar issues.                                                                                                                 
Representative Carpenter  asked if the division  was already                                                                    
asking for authority to investigate similar issues.                                                                             
Ms. Keith responded in the negative.                                                                                            
Representative Rasmussen referred to  AS 23.10.720 and asked                                                                    
whether  a  three-year  timeframe  was a  broad  statute  of                                                                    
limitation for  a variety  of regulations  or was  it simply                                                                    
applicable to wage information disclosure.                                                                                      
Mr.  Klein asked  Representative  Rasmussen  to restate  her                                                                    
Representative Rasmussen restated her question.                                                                                 
Mr.  Klein indicated  that three  years was  the statute  of                                                                    
limitations used in other areas of Alaska law.                                                                                  
Representative   Rasmussen   thought  businesses   with   50                                                                    
employees or less  should be exempt. She  thought that small                                                                    
businesses  were  operating  with small  margins  and  three                                                                    
years  was  a   significant  period  of  time   in  a  small                                                                    
businesses' life.  She asked how  the penalty  for violating                                                                    
the law was determined.                                                                                                         
2:01:13 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Snyder responded  that she  had looked  at a                                                                    
range of penalties used by  other states to determine a fair                                                                    
penalty  range. She  noted that  the penalty  she chose  was                                                                    
lower  than the  majority of  other states.  In addition  to                                                                    
reducing the range of penalties,  she used language to allow                                                                    
the commissioner  to determine whether a  business should be                                                                    
penalized  for each  day of  violation. There  was also  the                                                                    
option  for  a  company  to  conduct an  audit  to  fix  the                                                                    
Representative Rasmussen  asked if  there was  a cap  on the                                                                    
penalty amount.                                                                                                                 
Representative Snyder responded that there was no cap.                                                                          
Representative Wool asked if other  states with similar laws                                                                    
had exemptions based on business size.                                                                                          
Representative  Snyder  would  have   to  get  back  to  the                                                                    
committee with a response.                                                                                                      
Representative Wool noted  that he was the owner  of a small                                                                    
business and  hired hundreds of  people. He relayed  that he                                                                    
generally followed the practices  regulated by laws in other                                                                    
states  already.  He  wondered if  an  employee  voluntarily                                                                    
disclosed past wage information  whether a business would be                                                                    
permitted to verify the information.                                                                                            
Representative Snyder  responded that  the language  was not                                                                    
specifically in  the bill,  but she did  not think  the bill                                                                    
would  prohibit  verification  if  an  employee  voluntarily                                                                    
disclosed wage information.                                                                                                     
Representative  Wool relayed  that he  would sometimes  list                                                                    
the wage as  a number followed by  "depending on experience"                                                                    
or  "DOE"  in  solicitations  for  his  small  business.  He                                                                    
wondered if that would be permittable by the bill.                                                                              
Representative Snyder  responded that  her intention  was to                                                                    
encourage employers to post a specific range.                                                                                   
Mr. Klein indicated listing an  amount followed by DOE would                                                                    
be acceptable.                                                                                                                  
2:06:26 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative LeBon  wondered if Representative  Snyder had                                                                    
been contacted by a private  sector industry or any industry                                                                    
asking for help with wage disclosure.                                                                                           
Representative Snyder  responded that  was not how  the bill                                                                    
came to  be. However, Bank  of America, Wells  Fargo, Cisco,                                                                    
Google, and  others had  proactively adopted  the provisions                                                                    
proposed by the  bill. She thought companies  were trying to                                                                    
stay ahead of the trend.                                                                                                        
Representative  LeBon  asked  if   it  would  be  considered                                                                    
misleading if  he posted  a job in  the banking  sector with                                                                    
the  wage  listed  as,   "salary  depending  on  experience,                                                                    
training, and education level."                                                                                                 
Representative Snyder  asked Representative LeBon  to repeat                                                                    
his question.                                                                                                                   
Representative LeBon repeated his question.                                                                                     
Representative Snyder  would argue  that language  would not                                                                    
reflect  the   full  picture  of  the   description  of  the                                                                    
Representative LeBon  noted that  there were  other benefits                                                                    
to consider  in addition  to salary,  such as  bonuses, sick                                                                    
leave, and vacation. He suggested  the story was much larger                                                                    
than  the  salary   range.  He  wondered  if   it  would  be                                                                    
misleading if  one company had  a higher salary range  but a                                                                    
competitor  had  a  lower salary  range  but  more  generous                                                                    
Representative  Snyder   thought  the  bill   would  provide                                                                    
further incentive  for businesses to provide  greater detail                                                                    
about   benefits.  She   thought  it   would  help   educate                                                                    
applicants on  positions which would avoid  wasting the time                                                                    
of the applicant and the business.                                                                                              
Representative LeBon had hired many  people over the past 40                                                                    
years.  His motivation  was to  hire the  best person  every                                                                    
time and would  write job postings with the  goal to attract                                                                    
the best  talent. He continued  to emphasize that  the story                                                                    
was much bigger than simply a salary range.                                                                                     
2:11:47 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative   Josephson  asked   Mr.   Klein  about   the                                                                    
delegation of authority on regulations.  He referred to line                                                                    
18 on page 3 of the bill.                                                                                                       
Mr.  Klein indicated  he was  looking at  the line  to which                                                                    
Representative Josephson was referring.                                                                                         
Representative  Josephson  asked  about AS  23.10.085  which                                                                    
discussed  the  scope   of  administrative  regulations.  He                                                                    
thought  that   Alaska  law  allowed   DLWD  to   write  the                                                                    
regulations regarding minimum wage and payment of overtime.                                                                     
Mr. Klein responded in the affirmative.                                                                                         
Representative Josephson  added that there was  a case where                                                                    
the  authority was  disputed and  the United  States Supreme                                                                    
Court  was asked  to look  at the  issue, however  the court                                                                    
declined to address it. He asked if he was correct.                                                                             
Mr.  Klein  responded   that  Representative  Josephson  was                                                                    
2:13:29 PM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair Ortiz asked what prompted  the bill and what made                                                                    
it timely.                                                                                                                      
Representative Snyder  indicated the  bill was based  on her                                                                    
background  in  public  and community  health  and  economic                                                                    
wellbeing.  An important  part of  community health  was the                                                                    
ability  to  support  oneself financially.  She  was  highly                                                                    
informed  on wage  scarring and  she  became very  concerned                                                                    
about workers  not returning to the  workforce after leaving                                                                    
due to the pandemic.                                                                                                            
Vice-Chair  Ortiz asked  for a  more detailed  definition of                                                                    
the meaning of wage scarring.                                                                                                   
Representative Snyder  explained that  if a  person returned                                                                    
to the  workforce and accepted  a lower salary job  and then                                                                    
aspired to move to a different  job, it was more likely that                                                                    
the low wage  would be used as  justification for continuing                                                                    
to pay the individual poorly  if employers were permitted to                                                                    
ask about past wages.                                                                                                           
2:16:32 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Carpenter referred to page  2, line 16 of the                                                                    
bill. He  did not  understand the  language and  wanted more                                                                    
Representative  Snyder  indicated  that the  intent  of  the                                                                    
language was to  permit applicants and employees  to be free                                                                    
to talk about compensation with each other.                                                                                     
Representative  Wool  agreed   with  Representative  LeBon's                                                                    
earlier  point about  benefits being  an  important part  of                                                                    
compensation.  For example,  hospitals  were having  trouble                                                                    
competing  with traveling  nurses  because traveling  nurses                                                                    
were sometimes  paid three times  more than  in-house nurses                                                                    
but  did  not  receive  the  same  benefits.  He  understood                                                                    
wanting to  get people back  to work but thought  there were                                                                    
many jobs currently available  for prospective employees. He                                                                    
thought the  trades needed experienced workers.  He wondered                                                                    
if  businesses could  tell prospective  employees that  they                                                                    
could  disclose their  past wages  if they  so desired,  but                                                                    
that disclosure was not required.                                                                                               
Representative Snyder responded that  the intent of the bill                                                                    
was to prevent any sneaky  inquiries into past pay. However,                                                                    
there  was nothing  preventing an  employer from  asking for                                                                    
the desired salary range of a prospective employee.                                                                             
Representative  Rasmussen  thought  that  a  savvy  employee                                                                    
might look at the larger  picture of a compensation package,                                                                    
which would  include benefits. She  was concerned  that some                                                                    
employees might be deceived by a salary-only disclosure.                                                                        
Representative  Snyder  suggested  that  going  into  a  job                                                                    
interview with a seed of  information was better than having                                                                    
no information at all.                                                                                                          
2:22:43 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Merrick invited Representative Snyder to submit                                                                        
any additional comments she may have in writing to the                                                                          
HB 146 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further                                                                              
2:22:57 PM                                                                                                                    
AT EASE                                                                                                                         
2:24:22 PM                                                                                                                    
HOUSE BILL NO. 60                                                                                                             
     "An Act relating to mental health education."                                                                              
Co-Chair Merrick invited Representative Claman to begin.                                                                        
2:24:37 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE MATT CLAMAN, SPONSOR, introduced HB 60. He                                                                       
read a prepared statement:                                                                                                      
     "Co-chairs,  members of  the  House Finance  Committee,                                                                    
     thank you for  hearing House Bill 60,  which amends the                                                                    
     existing  K-12 public  school health  education statute                                                                    
     to include mental health education guidelines.                                                                             
     Currently the  health curriculum  guidelines, developed                                                                    
     by the state Board  of Education and Early Development,                                                                    
     include  learning  about  prevention and  treatment  of                                                                    
     diseases; "good" health  practices like diet, exercise,                                                                    
     and personal  hygiene; and "bad" health  habits such as                                                                    
     substance  abuse, alcoholism,  and physical  abuse. But                                                                    
     the guidelines do not address mental health.                                                                               
     House  Bill   60  is  not  an   unfunded  mandate.  The                                                                    
     legislation  maintains local  control of  curriculum by                                                                    
     allowing  school  districts  to  choose  to  adopt  the                                                                    
     mental health guidelines. When  a local school district                                                                    
     makes its  decision, we should have  guidelines for the                                                                    
     district to follow.                                                                                                        
     This  bill was  brought to  my attention  in 2019  by a                                                                    
     college student who  successfully advocated for similar                                                                    
     legislation when he was in  high school in Virginia. We                                                                    
     then  worked  with  a  group   of  Alaska  high  school                                                                    
     students   advocating  for   increased  mental   health                                                                    
     resources in Alaska's schools.  These students spoke of                                                                    
     their  own  struggles with  mental  health  as well  as                                                                    
     those of  their peers    some students even  said their                                                                    
     mental health  struggles began  as early  as elementary                                                                    
     school.  But  what  we continued  to  hear  from  these                                                                    
     students  was that,  while  they  learned about  signs,                                                                    
     symptoms,  and   treatments  for  physical   health  at                                                                    
     school,  there wasn't  much  conversation about  mental                                                                    
     health with their friends and teachers.                                                                                    
     Alaska's adolescent suicide rate  is three times higher                                                                    
     than  the nationwide  rate.  And  our state  adolescent                                                                    
     suicide  rates are  increasing. According  to the  2019                                                                    
     Alaska High  School Youth  Risk Behavior  Survey, which                                                                    
     surveyed  1,875 students  in grades  9-12 from  39 high                                                                    
     schools across  the state,  the percentage  of students                                                                    
     who have attempted suicide has  doubled since 2007. And                                                                    
     given that 50% of all  lifetime cases of mental illness                                                                    
     begin by  age 14, and 75%  by age 24, we  need to start                                                                    
     having  these conversations  about  mental health  with                                                                    
     our  children. Early  data from  2020 and  2021 suggest                                                                    
     that the COVID-19 pandemic and  its impact on youth has                                                                    
     exacerbated the mental health  crisis. The U.S. Surgeon                                                                    
     General  declared  a  youth  mental  health  crisis  in                                                                    
     December of  2021, and in  his advisory,  he emphasized                                                                    
     the "devastating"  impact that the pandemic  has had on                                                                    
     our children.                                                                                                              
     This  bill requires  the State  Board of  Education and                                                                    
     Early  Development to  work  with representatives  from                                                                    
     tribal and  mental health  organizations to  update the                                                                    
     health  education standards  to  include guidelines  on                                                                    
     mental health  education. Once the  legislation passes,                                                                    
     it  will  be  up  to  school  districts  across  Alaska                                                                    
     whether to  use these guidelines to  incorporate mental                                                                    
     health into  their health  education curriculum.  As is                                                                    
     the case with current  health education curriculum, the                                                                    
     Department  of  Education   and  Early  Development  is                                                                    
     available  to assist  schools  in incorporating  health                                                                    
     standards into local curricula.  To be clear, this bill                                                                    
     does  not  create  or  mandate  that  schools  adopt  a                                                                    
     We have  a responsibility  to treat the  current mental                                                                    
     health  crisis in  Alaska as  a  serious public  health                                                                    
     issue.  This bill  underscores the  notion that  mental                                                                    
     health  is just  as  important as  physical health  and                                                                    
     should   be  treated   as  such.   We  must   normalize                                                                    
     conversations about mental health  starting at an early                                                                    
     age, just  as we do  with physical health, in  order to                                                                    
     destigmatize mental  illness and increase  knowledge on                                                                    
     the  fundamental aspects  of mental  health as  well as                                                                    
     the  causes, risk  factors, and  treatments for  mental                                                                    
Representative Claman deferred to his staff to present the                                                                      
sectional analysis for HB 60.                                                                                                   
2:28:13 PM                                                                                                                    
EMMA POTTER, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE MATT CLAMAN, reviewed                                                                        
the sectional analysis in a prepared statement:                                                                                 
     "Good   afternoon   members   of  the   House   Finance                                                                    
     Committee. For the  record, my name is  Emma Potter and                                                                    
     I  am staff  to Representative  Matt Claman.  Thank you                                                                    
     for hearing House Bill 60.                                                                                                 
     Section  1  of  House  Bill  60  adds  intent  language                                                                    
     stating that it  is the intent of  the legislature that                                                                    
     the Board  of Education  and Early  Development develop                                                                    
     guidelines   for  instruction   in  mental   health  in                                                                    
     consultation with  the Department of Health  and Social                                                                    
     Services,  regional  tribal health  organizations,  and                                                                    
     representatives  of national  and  state mental  health                                                                    
     Section 2  amends AS 14.30.360(a) by  removing the word                                                                    
     "physical"  when  referencing  instruction  for  health                                                                    
     education  and adding  "mental health"  to the  list of                                                                    
     curriculum  items  each   district  includes  in  their                                                                    
     health education programs.                                                                                                 
     Section  3 amends  AS 14.30.360(b)  by adding  that, in                                                                    
     addition to  establishing guidelines  for a  health and                                                                    
     personal  safety  education  program, the  state  board                                                                    
     shall   establish    guidelines   for   developmentally                                                                    
     appropriate instruction in mental health.                                                                                  
     Section 4  amends the  uncodified law  of the  State of                                                                    
     Alaska by  providing that the State  Board of Education                                                                    
     and Early Development  shall develop the aforementioned                                                                    
     mental  health guidelines  within two  years after  the                                                                    
     effective date of this Act.                                                                                                
     Thank you for  hearing this bill. I would  also like to                                                                    
     inform the committee that  online for invited testimony                                                                    
     we have Jason Lessard  from National Alliance on Mental                                                                    
     Health   Anchorage   chapter    as   well   as   Justin                                                                    
     Pendergrass,  a  suicide  prevention specialist  at  MY                                                                    
     House in Wasilla."                                                                                                         
2:29:37 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative   Rasmussen  asked   for  someone   from  the                                                                    
Department  of Education  and  Early  Development (DEED)  to                                                                    
offer the department's opinion on the legislation.                                                                              
KELLY MANNING,  DEPUTY DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF  INNOVATION AND                                                                    
EDUCATION  EXCELLENCE,  DEPARTMENT  OF EDUCATION  AND  EARLY                                                                    
DEVELOPMENT  (via teleconference),  asked that  the question                                                                    
be repeated.                                                                                                                    
Representative   Rasmussen   asked  for   the   department's                                                                    
position on the legislation.                                                                                                    
Ms.  Manning indicated  the department  would implement  the                                                                    
bill if it were to be adopted.                                                                                                  
Representative  Rasmussen asked  if Ms.  Manning anticipated                                                                    
any challenges in implementing the bill.                                                                                        
Ms.  Manning  indicated the  process  would  take about  two                                                                    
years  and  would  include a  standard  update  process  and                                                                    
stakeholder input.                                                                                                              
Representative    LeBon   thought    local   school    board                                                                    
participation  would  be  warranted.   He  asked  if  school                                                                    
districts could opt in or out.                                                                                                  
Representative Claman  responded that  the bill  intended to                                                                    
establish  guidelines, but  districts would  not necessarily                                                                    
be required to follow all of the guidelines.                                                                                    
Representative LeBon asked if  most school districts already                                                                    
had a  mental health policy  or program. He asked  about the                                                                    
Anchorage School District (ASD) in particular.                                                                                  
Representative  Claman did  not  believe ASD  had adopted  a                                                                    
specific  mental   health  policy.   He  thought   this  was                                                                    
partially because there were no state guidelines in place.                                                                      
2:34:59 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative LeBon  wondered if  there would be  a minimum                                                                    
standard for mental health across districts.                                                                                    
Representative  Claman  relayed  that  the bill  was  not  a                                                                    
mandate.  Rather, it  intended  to provide  a curriculum  to                                                                    
districts. He  thought it would  be particularly  helpful in                                                                    
rural  districts  that  had fewer  resources  to  devote  to                                                                    
mental health.                                                                                                                  
Representative  Rasmussen  asked  how the  bill  would  help                                                                    
prevent or reduce suicide rates.                                                                                                
Representative Claman  thought there needed to  be a greater                                                                    
comfort  level  in  having  open  discussions  about  mental                                                                    
health. He  thought it was  important for kids to  feel like                                                                    
the resources were available to them.                                                                                           
2:37:14 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Rasmussen  shared an  experience of  losing a                                                                    
friend to suicide. She shared  the concern but could not see                                                                    
how the bill would increase  comfort levels in talking about                                                                    
mental health.  She wondered  if there might  be a  group of                                                                    
teachers that had additional training.  She was still trying                                                                    
to understand how the bill would result in fewer suicides.                                                                      
Representative Claman  responded that the  current situation                                                                    
was that  students were  confiding in  teachers who  did not                                                                    
have any relevant training and  had no guidelines to follow.                                                                    
The bill  would result  in teachers  in the  building having                                                                    
appropriate   training    and   students   would    have   a                                                                    
knowledgeable  person to  turn  to  rather than  potentially                                                                    
receiving  misinformation due  to lack  of training.  He had                                                                    
heard  from   students  that   having  more   teachers  with                                                                    
appropriate training would make a difference.                                                                                   
Representative   Rasmussen   relayed    her   son   was   in                                                                    
kindergarten  in   ASD  and   his  school   employed  health                                                                    
teachers. She  thought that some mental  health training had                                                                    
already  occurred  within  ASD.  She wondered  if  the  bill                                                                    
should be  attached to the  Department of Health  and Social                                                                    
Services (DHSS) instead of DEED.                                                                                                
Representative  Claman indicated  that  DEED had  tremendous                                                                    
experience   in   setting    guidelines   and   establishing                                                                    
curricula.  The focus  was  on the  schools  and he  thought                                                                    
involving DHSS would make the process more complicated.                                                                         
2:41:24 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Edgmon   was  intrigued  by  the   bill.  He                                                                    
understood the  practical reasoning  for it. He  thought the                                                                    
bill would bring the topic of  mental health to the Board of                                                                    
Education and he  did not think the board  dealt with mental                                                                    
health related matters.                                                                                                         
Representative Claman  replied that  his whole point  of the                                                                    
bill  was   to  introduce   guidelines  for   mental  health                                                                    
education in schools, not to force it on districts.                                                                             
Representative Edgmon  thought there  were already  a number                                                                    
of  health-related subjects  under the  purview of  DEED. He                                                                    
asked if he had given an accurate assessment.                                                                                   
Representative Claman responded in the affirmative.                                                                             
Representative   Edgmon   looked   forward   to   additional                                                                    
discussion surrounding the bill.                                                                                                
2:44:03 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Carpenter   agreed  there  was  a   need  to                                                                    
increase  the  discussion around  mental  health.  He had  a                                                                    
technical question  around the removal of  "physical" in the                                                                    
bill.  He  was concerned  that  curriculum  would no  longer                                                                    
include physical health.                                                                                                        
Representative  Claman   did  not   read  the   language  as                                                                    
excluding  physical health  in  any way.  He  did not  think                                                                    
including mental  health would  exclude physical  health. He                                                                    
would not  object to adding  the words "physical  health" to                                                                    
the language of the bill for clarity.                                                                                           
Representative  Carpenter argued  that the  use of  the word                                                                    
"heath"   meant  both   mental  and   physical  health.   He                                                                    
understood that  including "mental health"  specifically was                                                                    
to emphasize  the issue. He  suggested that  some curriculum                                                                    
that  would  be  encouraged  under  the  bill  were  already                                                                    
implemented by the school districts.                                                                                            
Ms. Manning  replied that the  state would  update standards                                                                    
and the districts would then  decide how the standards would                                                                    
be implemented.  She offered  to distribute  further details                                                                    
to the committee on current implementation.                                                                                     
Co-Chair  Merrick   thought  additional  details   would  be                                                                    
Representative  Claman   explained  that  the   deletion  of                                                                    
"physical  health" was  important because  he did  not think                                                                    
the language inherently included  mental health. However, he                                                                    
did  not  think  there  would  a  problem  with  adding  the                                                                    
language back to the list  of curriculum that the bill hoped                                                                    
to encourage.                                                                                                                   
2:48:09 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative   Carpenter   thought   that  the   list   of                                                                    
additional guidelines would exclude  physical health. He was                                                                    
open to being corrected by the attorneys in the room.                                                                           
Representative   Claman   thought   that   the   grammatical                                                                    
structure  of   the  language  mandated  the   inclusion  of                                                                    
physical health. He thought it  was a grammatical matter and                                                                    
that it was not ambiguous.                                                                                                      
Co-Chair  Merrick indicated  Legislative Legal  Services was                                                                    
not available online.                                                                                                           
Representative  Carpenter  was  concerned whether  the  bill                                                                    
would  be   effective  at   changing  policy   within  local                                                                    
districts.  He  wondered how  many  of  the districts  would                                                                    
design significant  curriculum. He  asked if  teachers would                                                                    
have to be specifically trained in mental health.                                                                               
Ms.  Manning indicated  that the  goal of  the board  was to                                                                    
establish standards.  She relayed that the  guidelines could                                                                    
be expanded  to include  training but  that it  would impact                                                                    
the fiscal note.                                                                                                                
Representative Carpenter thought  teachers needed additional                                                                    
training  to provide  sufficient education  on subjects.  He                                                                    
imagined that the districts would need more money.                                                                              
2:51:34 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Johnson  thought much of the  issue came down                                                                    
to  local  control.  She  thought  teachers  would  have  to                                                                    
exclude other  curriculum in order  to make time  for mental                                                                    
health  education.  She  asked   in  which  ways  would  the                                                                    
department encourage mental health education.                                                                                   
Representative  Claman rebutted  that there  was nothing  in                                                                    
the  bill that  required DEED  to do  anything and  that the                                                                    
bill was about  local control. The bill  intended to clarify                                                                    
that the state would  provide guidelines to districts should                                                                    
the districts choose to provide mental health education.                                                                        
Representative  Johnson  thought   it  sounded  like  school                                                                    
districts  would  be  encouraged to  provide  the  education                                                                    
which seemed  like a monetary  issue to her. Teachers  had a                                                                    
significant workload already, and  she though that the state                                                                    
would be  asking teachers  to do  more if  the bill  were to                                                                    
pass. She  was concerned about adding  guidelines in statute                                                                    
when the legislature was unaware of the content.                                                                                
Representative  Claman responded  that he  thought it  was a                                                                    
normal process for DEED and  a range of community experts to                                                                    
convene  and determine  guidelines.  The  bill would  create                                                                    
mental  health  guidelines which  would  be  referred to  by                                                                    
educators,   and  the   state   routinely  created   similar                                                                    
guidelines  for  educators.  He   thought  there  should  be                                                                    
guidelines specific to mental health.                                                                                           
Representative  Johnson thought  mental health  was just  as                                                                    
diverse  as  physical  health.   She  asked  whether  family                                                                    
planning clinics and gender studies  would be included under                                                                    
the  mental  health  umbrella.   She  had  received  several                                                                    
questions about the topics being discussed in schools.                                                                          
2:56:30 PM                                                                                                                    
AT EASE                                                                                                                         
2:56:39 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Claman referred  to a  two-page document  in                                                                    
members'  packets that  outlined  Alaska content  standards,                                                                    
"Skills for  a Healthy  Life" (copy  on file).  He predicted                                                                    
that if  mental health was  added to the document,  it would                                                                    
still  be   a  two-page   document  and  would   not  become                                                                    
particularly extensive.                                                                                                         
Representative  Johnson continued  to  express her  concerns                                                                    
about  adding  to  the  burden  on  teachers.  She  remained                                                                    
concerned  about  taking  away   local  control  and  wanted                                                                    
communities to  be able to  address mental health  crises in                                                                    
the way the community saw fit.                                                                                                  
Representative    Claman   fundamentally    disagreed   with                                                                    
Representative Johnson.  He stressed  that the bill  was not                                                                    
forcing districts to adopt the  guidelines. He did not think                                                                    
it was reasonable  to expect the legislature  to approve any                                                                    
and all  guidelines adopted by  local or state  agencies. He                                                                    
thought it  was reasonable  to allow  DEED to  determine the                                                                    
guidelines.  He emphasized  that the  bill was  not imposing                                                                    
anything  on  districts  or  requiring  districts  to  adopt                                                                    
mental health guidelines.                                                                                                       
2:59:55 PM                                                                                                                    
JASON  LASSARD,  EXECUTIVE  DIRECTOR, NATIONAL  ALLIANCE  ON                                                                    
MENTAL HEALTH ILLNESS (via  teleconference), relayed that he                                                                    
had worked  for Mental Health Advocacy  Through Storytelling                                                                    
(MHATS)   for  the   past  three   years  which   worked  to                                                                    
destigmatize mental  health and  offer resources  by telling                                                                    
true and  personal stories. There  was a  significant amount                                                                    
of data that  showed that access to  mental health resources                                                                    
decreased suicide rates.  He wanted to focus on  a couple of                                                                    
data points. First  was the prevalence of  mental illness in                                                                    
the United States: one in  five adults had a mental illness.                                                                    
Additionally, 50  percent of  all lifetime  mental illnesses                                                                    
would begin by  age 14, and 75 percent began  by age 24. The                                                                    
onset  of mental  illness  largely  occurred during  teenage                                                                    
years and it  was important for it to  be addressed quickly,                                                                    
safely, and in evidence-based programs.                                                                                         
Mr. Lassard  relayed an individual's personal  story wherein                                                                    
the individual did not feel  comfortable talking about their                                                                    
mental health struggles due to  societal stigmas and instead                                                                    
turned to  the internet for  help. The proposed bill  was of                                                                    
critical importance  to ensure  that students had  access to                                                                    
education  and resources  in their  communities and  did not                                                                    
have to  look to  places like the  internet, which  was rife                                                                    
with inaccuracies.  He reiterated  that the  bill was  not a                                                                    
mandate.  He was  regularly asked  to provide  mental health                                                                    
services to schools in his  area and such conversations were                                                                    
already happening  in schools without guidelines.  He wanted                                                                    
to ensure  that if and when  a district was ready  to engage                                                                    
in mental  health education, that  the programs  were vetted                                                                    
and  evidence  based.  He respectfully  asked  for  members'                                                                    
support.  The program  was intended  to simply  destigmatize                                                                    
the  conversations  around  mental health  and  suicide.  It                                                                    
would be up to the communities  to decide the focus of their                                                                    
own  programs,  whether  it be  suicide  prevention,  mental                                                                    
wellness, or something  else. He would like to  see the bill                                                                    
do more, but it was a  good first step. Given the statistics                                                                    
he mentioned at  the beginning of his  testimony, he thought                                                                    
it was beyond  time to address mental health  in schools. He                                                                    
was available for questions.                                                                                                    
3:05:49 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Edgmon noted  that Mr.  Lassard had  relayed                                                                    
that one in five adults had  a mental illness. He asked what                                                                    
the numbers were for individuals aged 14 and older.                                                                             
Mr. Lassard thought it was  17 percent but could confirm the                                                                    
information and get it to the committee.                                                                                        
Representative Carpenter  asked about the  responsibility of                                                                    
parents to speak  about mental health to  their children. He                                                                    
thought  it was  dangerous  for the  state  to teach  mental                                                                    
health  to  students.  He argued  that  conversations  about                                                                    
mental  health  should be  between  parents  or doctors  and                                                                    
Mr. Lassard indicated it was  a district-level decision. The                                                                    
parents that were involved with  their local districts would                                                                    
be part of  the conversation and the  decisions. He provided                                                                    
an  example of  a  school  in the  state  that attempted  to                                                                    
address  suicide   but  the  school   did  not   follow  any                                                                    
guidelines  or  best  practices.  There  was  no  space  for                                                                    
students to  ask questions  or be  part of  the conversation                                                                    
and the  misguided attempt had a  profoundly negative effect                                                                    
on   a  number   of  students   despite  there   being  good                                                                    
intentions. It was  a matter of setting  basic standards and                                                                    
guidelines  as  laid out  by  experts  and ensuring  a  safe                                                                    
environment for conversation.                                                                                                   
Representative  Carpenter   did  not  hear   anything  about                                                                    
empowering parents.                                                                                                             
Mr. Lassard  reiterated that empowering parents  happened at                                                                    
the local level. Parents would  be part of the discussion on                                                                    
whether  they  wanted to  bring  the  program to  the  local                                                                    
school district.                                                                                                                
3:10:05 PM                                                                                                                    
JUSTIN  PENDERGRASS,  SELF,  WASILLA  (via  teleconference),                                                                    
spoke  of  his  own  mental  health  problems  and  suicidal                                                                    
ideations. He had fallen into  a deep depression when he was                                                                    
young that nearly  took his life, and as a  result he became                                                                    
homeless  for five  years.  He was  enrolled  in school  and                                                                    
although it  was a safe place  for him, he was  not learning                                                                    
anything  about  mental health  and  his  education was  not                                                                    
helping his situation. He eventually  discovered the root of                                                                    
his mental illness and was able  to get help. Since then, he                                                                    
had dedicated his life to  helping others that suffered from                                                                    
similar  mental  illnesses.  The  opposite  of  suicide  was                                                                    
connection, and  therefore the only  way to  prevent suicide                                                                    
was to  create connection.  Mental illness  was on  the rise                                                                    
due to  the increased isolation  that had occurred  over the                                                                    
past few years due to the pandemic.                                                                                             
Mr. Pendergrass  argued that the state  had a responsibility                                                                    
to help  youth in crisis,  and the most reasonable  place to                                                                    
provide  help  was  within school  districts.  When  he  was                                                                    
young, he did not have a  parent at home that could help him                                                                    
through the  issues he was  experiencing and did not  have a                                                                    
safe  place  to  be  able   to  share  his  experience.  His                                                                    
financial situation prevented him  from getting help without                                                                    
his parents' assistance. He believed  it was unjust for kids                                                                    
in similar situations to not have access to help.                                                                               
Mr.  Pendergrass relayed  that  he was  currently a  suicide                                                                    
prevention specialist for  individuals aged 14 to  24 and 66                                                                    
percent  of the  induvials  he worked  with were  struggling                                                                    
with  suicide or  mental health  problems  upon intake.  The                                                                    
majority   of   the   individuals  he   worked   with   were                                                                    
misdiagnosing themselves  with a  variety of  disorders that                                                                    
they  did not  understand. He  thought schools  should be  a                                                                    
place  to   build  connections  and  become   educated,  but                                                                    
connections could  not be  made without  there being  a safe                                                                    
place  to do  so.  He  spoke about  a  school counselor  who                                                                    
created a safe space for him as  a teen and gave him a place                                                                    
to go  when he needed  one, but unfortunately  the situation                                                                    
did not last long because it  was not allowed by the school.                                                                    
He thought  it was  important for counselors  to be  able to                                                                    
provide mental health education and thought they were well-                                                                     
equipped  to  do  so. The  counselors  understood  that  the                                                                    
problem was  getting worse and there  needed to be a  way to                                                                    
address it.                                                                                                                     
Co-Chair Merrick thanked Mr. Pendergrass for his testimony.                                                                     
3:15:30 PM                                                                                                                    
AT EASE                                                                                                                         
3:16:08 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative   Johnson   thanked   Mr.   Pendergrass   for                                                                    
testifying before the  committee and for his  work in mental                                                                    
health. She wanted to connect  with him and local schools to                                                                    
help implement the changes in  the districts. She reiterated                                                                    
her for his testimony.                                                                                                          
Representative Wool supported the bill  and thought it was a                                                                    
good  start.   He  thought   mental  health   awareness  and                                                                    
education  were  vital. He  noted  his  daughter went  to  a                                                                    
weekly counseling class  as part of the  basic curriculum at                                                                    
her school. He  relayed that his daughter did  not think the                                                                    
mental health education received  in schools was sufficient.                                                                    
Mental   health  was   a  serious   problem  and   had  been                                                                    
exacerbated by  the pandemic. Teachers were  required to get                                                                    
continuing education  to maintain their license  already and                                                                    
he did not  think the bill would  cause additional expenses.                                                                    
He  thought  mental  health  could  be  part  of  continuing                                                                    
education for teachers.                                                                                                         
Representative  LeBon commented  that curriculum  committees                                                                    
needed to include robust  parental participation. He thought                                                                    
the  best curriculum  committees  were  comprised mostly  of                                                                    
parents who had children in the district.                                                                                       
HB  60  was   HEARD  and  HELD  in   committee  for  further                                                                    
3:20:42 PM                                                                                                                    
AT EASE                                                                                                                         
3:22:07 PM                                                                                                                    
HOUSE BILL NO. 98                                                                                                             
     "An Act relating to forest land use plans; relating to                                                                     
     forest land use plan appeals; relating to negotiated                                                                       
    timber sales; and providing for an effective date."                                                                         
3:22:15 PM                                                                                                                    
HELGE  ENG, DIRECTOR,  DIVISION OF  FORESTRY, DEPARTMENT  OF                                                                    
NATURAL RESOURCES,  introduced the  PowerPoint Presentation:                                                                    
"HB 98  (CSHB 98) Forest  Land Use Plans;  Negotiated Timber                                                                    
Sales;  Emergency Firefighters"  (copy on  file). He  shared                                                                    
that there  were a  couple of  trends that  precipitated the                                                                    
bill. One  of the trends was  to halt any old  growth timber                                                                    
sales  from  the Tongass  National  Forest,  which had  been                                                                    
catastrophic for  the timber  industry in  Southeast Alaska.                                                                    
The administration had responded  by increasing timber sales                                                                    
on  state lands  and the  bill  would make  the timber  sale                                                                    
process more flexible and more efficient.                                                                                       
Mr. Eng  turned to  slide 4 and  explained there  were three                                                                    
major elements  to the  bill. The first  issue was  that the                                                                    
timber industry was struggling to  survive. The solution was                                                                    
to change  the negotiated  timber sale  statutes to  allow a                                                                    
local  industry to  sell  all the  timber  it harvested  and                                                                    
export  it  if  necessary.  The next  element  was  limiting                                                                    
appeals for forest  land use plans.  He  explained that most                                                                    
timber was  sold competitively, and therefore  the sale went                                                                    
to the  highest bidder.  Logs from  domestic sales  could be                                                                    
used   domestically   or   could  be   exported.   Sometimes                                                                    
negotiated sales  occurred, which  were sales directly  to a                                                                    
particular  company. Under  existing  law, negotiated  sales                                                                    
had to be processed domestically  and could not be exported.                                                                    
The bill  would permit  timber from  negotiated sales  to be                                                                    
exported  to  allow  for flexibility  and  a  market  driven                                                                    
solution  in   order  to  make  timber   sales  nimbler.  He                                                                    
explained that expanded flexibility  would also help provide                                                                    
and protect jobs.                                                                                                               
Mr. Eng moved to slide 9  and relayed that the bill proposed                                                                    
that forest  land use plans  would no longer  be appealable.                                                                    
The bill pertained to state  lands only. The forest land use                                                                    
plans  step   was  the   last  step   in  the   sequence  of                                                                    
opportunities for the  public to comment on  the timber sale                                                                    
process. The asterisk  at the bottom of  the slide indicated                                                                    
that a  step was  subject to appeal.  He thought  there were                                                                    
already sufficient  opportunities for the public  to comment                                                                    
and  that limiting  appeal on  forest land  use plans  would                                                                    
streamline the  process. He reported that  appeals were rare                                                                    
and he had  only seen six appeals in the  last ten years and                                                                    
had  received   no  lawsuits.  The  Department   of  Natural                                                                    
Resources  (DNR) listened  to public  requests and  comments                                                                    
and most  of the issues  were resolved and not  elevated. He                                                                    
added that the  bill was also a response  to longer wildfire                                                                    
seasons  that involved  more intense  fires  that were  more                                                                    
difficult to control. The Division  of Forestry (DOF) needed                                                                    
to have  an increased presence and  more aggressive approach                                                                    
to address the change in wildfires.                                                                                             
3:30:42 PM                                                                                                                    
Mr. Eng turned to slide  10 and relayed that fire prevention                                                                    
efforts  were  paramount  to   be  proactive  in  addressing                                                                    
wildfire  danger. An  example of  a  prevention measure  was                                                                    
fuel  breaks, but  in order  to successfully  implement such                                                                    
measures, firefighting  crews needed to be  robust. The bill                                                                    
would change  existing law which did  not allow firefighting                                                                    
crews  to work  in  a non-emergency  capacity using  general                                                                    
funds. He thought  the change would help  prevent fires from                                                                    
spreading  and from  threatening  subdivisions. Fuel  breaks                                                                    
around  communities in  fire-prone areas could  dramatically                                                                  
increase  the  chances  of stopping  a  fire,  saving  human                                                                    
lives, and  save millions of  dollars. The cost of  the bill                                                                    
was small  when compared  to the  projected payoffs.  He was                                                                    
happy to answer questions.                                                                                                      
Representative Carpenter  wondered what  the reason  was for                                                                    
using firefighters to put in  fuel breaks. He thought anyone                                                                    
trained to make fuel breaks could do the job.                                                                                   
Mr. Eng  responded that the  department was willing  to hire                                                                    
anyone  who   was  properly   trained.  He   explained  that                                                                    
firefighting   crews   in   the  state   were   consistently                                                                    
diminishing  in size  and that  it was  an attrition  in the                                                                    
workforce.  Although anyone  who  was trained  could do  the                                                                    
job,  he thought  it made  the most  sense for  firefighting                                                                    
crews  to put  in fuel  breaks. Firefighters  would normally                                                                    
separate from employment following  the wildfire season, but                                                                    
the bill would allow  firefighters to continue working year-                                                                    
round putting in  fuel breaks. The state  would then benefit                                                                    
from having  a trained workforce  that would not need  to be                                                                    
retrained every  wildfire season. He  thought it was  a win-                                                                    
win solution.                                                                                                                   
3:34:51 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Edgmon  thought the bill was  interesting. He                                                                    
mentioned that  the bill focused  on state land  and thought                                                                    
the  proposed solutions  to help  the  timber industry  were                                                                    
reasonable.  He did  not understand  the thinking  regarding                                                                    
the application  of firefighting strategies. He  thought the                                                                    
bill  eliminated  the  best  interest  finding  process  for                                                                    
timber sales less than 500,000  board feet. He would like to                                                                    
learn more about the bill and the process.                                                                                      
Mr. Eng  responded that  the bill  did not  propose changing                                                                    
any  best  interest  findings.   He  indicated  law  already                                                                    
exempted timber sales  of less than 500,000  board feet from                                                                    
best  interest  findings.  It was  a  compromise  for  small                                                                    
purchasers to execute a timber sale more easily.                                                                                
Representative  Edgmon asked  if the  bill would  impact the                                                                    
Southcentral part  of the state  where there were  many old-                                                                    
growth  forests. He  did not  think  the bill  would have  a                                                                    
major impact on Southeast Alaska.                                                                                               
Mr. Eng relayed that the bill  came out of concerns from the                                                                    
timber industry  in Southeast Alaska.  The bill  would apply                                                                    
to all areas in the state.                                                                                                      
Representative Edgmon was trying  to understand how the bill                                                                    
applied to the state as  a whole when environments were very                                                                    
different across the state.                                                                                                     
Mr. Eng  thought Representative Edgmon had  a good question.                                                                    
The only  changes from existing  law proposed by HB  98 were                                                                    
the export  provisions for negotiated  sales and  changes to                                                                    
the  forest land  use  plan  appeals. He  did  not see  best                                                                    
interest findings or the public process being impacted.                                                                         
3:40:31 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative   Wool  asked   about  the   implications  of                                                                    
doubling the allowable acreage from  10 to 20 in forest land                                                                    
use plans. He thought this  seemed like an additional change                                                                    
proposed by the bill. He asked  if 20 acres was considered a                                                                    
small timber sale and what  500,000 board feet equated to in                                                                    
Mr.  Eng corrected  himself  and agreed  that  there was  an                                                                    
additional  change which  was  identified by  Representative                                                                    
Wool. The  existing language set  a 10-acre limit but  a 20-                                                                    
acre limit  equated to  500,000 board  feet. He  thought the                                                                    
change mostly consisted of clean-up  language and would make                                                                    
the provisions more consistent.                                                                                                 
Co-Chair Merrick indicated there was one invited testifier.                                                                     
3:43:07 PM                                                                                                                    
TESSA AXELSON,      EXECUTIVE   DIRECTOR,    ALASKA   FOREST                                                                    
ASSOCIATION, spoke  in support of  HB 98. The  Alaska timber                                                                    
industry was reliant  on a predictable timber  supply from a                                                                    
variety of  landowners. She  thought legislation  was needed                                                                    
to   streamline  processes   and  ensure   efficient  forest                                                                    
replanning. She saw the following  three primary benefits of                                                                    
the bill:  DNR would  be provided  the ability  to negotiate                                                                    
timber sales  with any timber  resource, the state  would be                                                                    
able to  conduct timber sales  more efficiently  by limiting                                                                    
forest  land use  appeals, and  environmental standards  and                                                                    
public  comment  opportunities  would  be  upheld.  She  was                                                                    
available for questions.                                                                                                        
Representative Wool asked  for information on the  size of a                                                                    
common small-lot timber sale.                                                                                                   
Ms. Axelson responded that it  would depend on the operator.                                                                    
All operators  needed roughly 500,000  board feet  of timber                                                                    
every year in order to  maintain operations. She would defer                                                                    
the definition of small-lot to Mr. Eng.                                                                                         
Co-Chair Merrick asked Mr. Eng to review the fiscal note.                                                                       
Mr.  Eng reported  that  the  fiscal note  from  DNR with  a                                                                    
control code of FZzrP was a zero fiscal impact note.                                                                            
3:47:24 PM                                                                                                                    
ALISON  ARIANS,  DIVISION   OF  FORESTRY,  SPECIAL  PROJECTS                                                                    
COORDINATOR (via  teleconference), offered to  speak further                                                                    
to the fiscal note.                                                                                                             
Co-Chair   Merrick   encouraged   Ms.  Arians   to   provide                                                                    
additional testimony.                                                                                                           
Ms.  Arians  relayed that  the  bill  could not  change  any                                                                    
program and  would therefore  not have  a fiscal  impact. It                                                                    
also  would  not   increase  expenditures  for  firefighters                                                                    
because the  general funds that  would be used  were already                                                                    
appropriated.  She  thought  it  was helpful  to  spend  the                                                                    
general funds that had already been appropriated.                                                                               
Representative  Wool  asked  for  clarification  around  the                                                                    
number of  acres that would  be exempt from forest  land use                                                                    
Mr.  Eng responded  that there  were  requirements that  the                                                                    
director or the  commissioner could only sell  up to 500,000                                                                    
board feet to the same operator  in one year. The intent was                                                                    
to avoid stacking timber sales.                                                                                                 
Representative  Wool asked  if Mr.  Eng's comment  about the                                                                    
director  or commissioner  only being  able to  sell 500,000                                                                    
board  feet  to  the  same   operator  in  one  year  was  a                                                                    
requirement to remain exempt from forest use plans.                                                                             
Mr. Eng responded, "That's correct."                                                                                            
3:50:46 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Edgmon  thought that  although it  might seem                                                                    
that there  would be less  work involved in the  timber sale                                                                    
process  if  the  bill  passed, there  would  be  more  work                                                                    
because  of  an increase  in  smaller  negotiated sales.  He                                                                    
thought the process would become more time intensive.                                                                           
Mr. Eng  replied, "Possibly."  He added  that for  the state                                                                    
and the  division, increasing  small sales  was more  than a                                                                    
financial decision. He thought  small sales would help small                                                                    
to medium  companies better facilitate their  businesses. It                                                                    
served a greater purpose to diversify the timber industry.                                                                      
Representative  Edgmon  thought  that the  department  would                                                                    
have  more work.  He suggested  that a  primer on  the topic                                                                    
would be  helpful. He suggested  more staff would  be needed                                                                    
Mr.  Eng   understood  and   would  be   happy  to   give  a                                                                    
presentation on the topic at a later date.                                                                                      
3:53:48 PM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair Ortiz  understood that  Mr. Eng reported  that HB
98 only applied to state-owned land.                                                                                            
Mr. Eng responded that  Vice-Chair Ortiz's understanding was                                                                    
correct for the  forest management aspects of  the bill. The                                                                    
firefighter aspect of  the bill applied to  the DNR's entire                                                                    
area of responsibility.                                                                                                         
Vice-Chair Ortiz asked what percent  of the Tongass National                                                                    
Forest the state had access to.                                                                                                 
Mr. Eng replied that it  was somewhat in flux. He understood                                                                    
that  a  very  small  percentage  of  the  approximately  18                                                                    
million acres of  the Tongass would be  available for timber                                                                    
3:55:21 PM                                                                                                                    
Ms. Axelson  responded that it  was very small but  that she                                                                    
would provide  the specifics to the  committee. However, the                                                                    
industry was reliant  on the small available  acreage of the                                                                    
Vice-Chair Ortiz noted that the  reason why the operators in                                                                    
Southeast were becoming more reliant  on the small available                                                                    
acreage  was because  over the  years,  the availability  of                                                                    
federal lands had decreased.                                                                                                    
Ms.  Axelson responded  that Vice-Chair  Ortiz was  correct.                                                                    
She  relayed that  the United  States Forest  Service (USFS)                                                                    
controlled  about  75  percent  of available  lands  in  the                                                                    
Tongass. There  were currently no  significant sales  on the                                                                    
horizon, and  she thought that  operators would  only become                                                                    
more reliant  on available lands.  It was also  important to                                                                    
note that  the industry  was transitioning from  being based                                                                    
on old growth forests to young growth forests.                                                                                  
3:56:45 PM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair Ortiz thought the bill  would be a way to support                                                                    
the few remaining  jobs in the timber  industry in Southeast                                                                    
and preserve  the economic level  of the industry.  He asked                                                                    
if he was correct.                                                                                                              
Ms. Axelson  replied in  the affirmative  and that  it would                                                                    
also help support operators in  the Fairbanks region and the                                                                    
Kenai Peninsula.                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Merrick thanked the presenters and reviewed the                                                                        
agenda for the following day.                                                                                                   
HB 98 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further                                                                               
3:57:53 PM                                                                                                                    
The meeting was adjourned at 3:57 p.m.                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 60 Sponsor Statment v. B.pdf HFIN 2/10/2022 1:30:00 PM
HB 60
HB 60 Summary of Changes.pdf HFIN 2/10/2022 1:30:00 PM
HB 60
HB 146, Fiscal Notes Table for Other States.pdf HFIN 2/10/2022 1:30:00 PM
HB 146
HB 146, IWPR Pay Secrecy Report.pdf HFIN 2/10/2022 1:30:00 PM
HB 146
HB 146, Letters of Support.pdf HFIN 2/10/2022 1:30:00 PM
HB 146
HB 146, Sectional Analysis Ver. B.pdf HFIN 2/10/2022 1:30:00 PM
HB 146
HB 146, Sponsor Statement.pdf HFIN 2/10/2022 1:30:00 PM
HB 146
HB 146, States with Salary History Bans.pdf HFIN 2/10/2022 1:30:00 PM
HB 146
HB 146, Summary of Changes Ver. A to Ver. B.pdf HFIN 2/10/2022 1:30:00 PM
HB 146
HB 146, University of Minnesota Paper.pdf HFIN 2/10/2022 1:30:00 PM
HB 146
HB 98 Sponsor Statement 2.11.21.pdf HFIN 2/10/2022 1:30:00 PM
HB 98
CSHB 98(RES) Sectional Analysis Version B 2.4.22.pdf HFIN 2/10/2022 1:30:00 PM
HB 98
HB 98 one-pager Timber Sales FLUPS 2.7.22.pdf HFIN 2/10/2022 1:30:00 PM
HB 98
HB 98 PowerPoint DNR 2.10.22.pdf HFIN 2/10/2022 1:30:00 PM
HB 98
HB 98 RDC Letter Support .pdf HFIN 2/10/2022 1:30:00 PM
HB 98
HB 60 Public Testimony Rec'd by 020922.pdf HFIN 2/10/2022 1:30:00 PM
HB 60
HB60 Coalition Letter of Support - 2022.2.10 - Final.pdf HFIN 2/10/2022 1:30:00 PM
HB 60
HB 98 Additional Information 2.17.22.pdf HFIN 2/10/2022 1:30:00 PM
HB 98
HB 98 DNR DOF Beetle Kill Info 022022.pdf HFIN 2/10/2022 1:30:00 PM
HB 98
HB 98 DNR DOF Bridge Timber Sale Strategy 022022.pdf HFIN 2/10/2022 1:30:00 PM
HB 98
HB 60 DEED Follow-Up 2.10.2022.pdf HFIN 2/10/2022 1:30:00 PM
HB 60
HB 60 Public Testimony Rec'd by 021522.pdf HFIN 2/10/2022 1:30:00 PM
HB 60
HB 146 Support Letter Teamsters 021522.pdf HFIN 2/10/2022 1:30:00 PM
HB 146
HB 146 Public Testimony Red'd by 050222.pdf HFIN 2/10/2022 1:30:00 PM
HB 146