Legislature(2021 - 2022)ADAMS 519

04/05/2022 01:00 PM House FINANCE

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01:32:02 PM Start
01:33:03 PM HB313
02:00:01 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Delayed to 1:30 pm --
-- Please Note Time Change --
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                  HOUSE FINANCE COMMITTEE                                                                                       
                       April 5, 2022                                                                                            
                         1:32 p.m.                                                                                              
1:32:02 PM                                                                                                                    
CALL TO ORDER                                                                                                                 
Co-Chair Merrick called the  House Finance Committee meeting                                                                    
to order at 1:32 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 Andy Josephson                                                                                                   
Representative Bart LeBon                                                                                                       
Representative Sara Rasmussen                                                                                                   
Representative Steve Thompson                                                                                                   
Representative Adam Wool                                                                                                        
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Representative DeLena Johnson                                                                                                   
ALSO PRESENT                                                                                                                  
Representative  Tiffany  Zulkosky,  Sponsor;  Kelly  Howell,                                                                    
Special Assistant to the  Commissioner, Department of Public                                                                    
PRESENT VIA TELECONFERENCE                                                                                                    
Joel   Hard,  Director,   Village   Public  Safety   Officer                                                                    
Operations, Department of  Public Safety, Anchorage; Richard                                                                    
Peterson,  President, Central  Council of  Tlingit &  Haida,                                                                    
Juneau;   Brian   Ridley,  Chief/Chairman,   Tanana   Chiefs                                                                    
Conference,  Tanana; Jackie  Boyer,  Native Peoples  Action,                                                                    
Eagle River.                                                                                                                    
HB 313    VILLAGE PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICER GRANTS                                                                                  
          HB 313 was HEARD and HELD in committee for                                                                            
          further consideration.                                                                                                
Co-Chair Merrick reviewed the agenda for the meeting.                                                                           
HOUSE BILL NO. 313                                                                                                            
     "An Act requiring  background investigations of village                                                                    
     public safety  officer applicants by the  Department of                                                                    
     Public Safety;  relating to  the village  public safety                                                                    
     officer program; and providing for an effective date."                                                                     
1:33:03 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE TIFFANY ZULKOSKY, SPONSOR, introduced HB 313                                                                     
and read the sponsor statement (copy on file):                                                                                  
     This bill implements nine  recommendations of the joint                                                                    
     legislative VPSO  Working Group's 2020  report. Created                                                                    
     in the  late 1970's, the Village  Public Safety Officer                                                                    
     (VPSO)  program's stated  purpose is  to assist  in the                                                                    
     protection  of  "life   and  property"  and  coordinate                                                                    
     probation and parole in rural communities.                                                                                 
     Currently ten  entities operate  VPSO grants.  Eight of                                                                    
     the  ten   grantees  are  regionally   based  nonprofit                                                                    
     corporations  whose  missions  are to  cultivate  self-                                                                    
     determination  among local  tribal citizens.  One is  a                                                                    
     federally  recognized tribe,  and the  Northwest Arctic                                                                    
     Borough,  a home  rule  regional  government seated  in                                                                    
     Kotzebue, is  the only grantee  organization that  is a                                                                    
     municipal government.                                                                                                      
     While the  VPSO program  has provided  valuable service                                                                    
     to  participating  areas,  the  past  decade  has  seen                                                                    
     shrinking numbers  of VPSOs, significant  difficulty in                                                                    
     recruitment  and retention  of officers,  and community                                                                    
     needs that  surpass the current duties  of VPSOs. There                                                                    
     is undoubtedly a  need to address the  crisis in public                                                                    
    safety infrastructure and service in rural Alaska.                                                                          
     On May  9th, 2019,  Senate President Cathy  Giessel and                                                                    
     House Speaker Bryce Edgmon announced  the creation of a                                                                    
     Joint   House/Senate    Working   Group    to   provide                                                                    
     substantive policy recommendations  related to the VPSO                                                                    
     program. Appointed  to the working group  were: Senator                                                                    
     Donny Olson,  Co-Chair; Representative Chuck  Kopp, Co-                                                                    
     Chair;  Senator  Click  Bishop;  Senator  Mike  Shower;                                                                    
     Representative Bryce Edgmon;  and Representative George                                                                    
     The  working  group  was assigned  to  coordinate  with                                                                    
     stakeholders to  examine the  underlying causes  of the                                                                    
     recruitment   and   retention  obstacle   and   provide                                                                    
     proposals  to   turn  around   the  epidemic   rate  of                                                                    
     personnel turnover within the VPSO program.                                                                                
     The  working group  held  meetings, attended  community                                                                    
     meetings,  participated  in   listening  sessions,  and                                                                    
     worked  with stakeholders  to arrive  at the  proposals                                                                    
     outlined  in  this   report.  The  proposals  primarily                                                                    
     address the  core problem of  increasing the  number of                                                                    
     VPSO's available to communities.                                                                                           
     House Bill  313 incorporates eight of  the nine Working                                                                    
     Group's short-term recommendations.                                                                                        
Representative  Zulkosky indicated  she  would  be happy  to                                                                    
review the  sectional analysis but  was aware  the committee                                                                    
was short on time.                                                                                                              
Co-Chair  Merrick suggested  that  the  committee hear  from                                                                    
invited testifiers.                                                                                                             
1:37:18 PM                                                                                                                    
JOEL   HARD,  DIRECTOR,   VILLAGE   PUBLIC  SAFETY   OFFICER                                                                    
OPERATIONS,  DEPARTMENT OF  PUBLIC  SAFETY (DPS),  ANCHORAGE                                                                    
(via teleconference),  spoke in  support of  the HB  313 and                                                                    
discussed  the  flexibility  that  the  bill  provided.  The                                                                    
statute  that authorized  VPSOs  had been  interpreted in  a                                                                    
narrow  manner,  which  he argued  had  contributed  to  the                                                                    
difficulty in VPSO retention. He  explained that the lack of                                                                    
necessary  infrastructure such  as VPSO  housing and  office                                                                    
space  had  discouraged  retention.  The  bill  allowed  the                                                                    
program  to be  interpreted  more broadly  and allowed  more                                                                    
funding to be dedicated to support VPSOs.                                                                                       
Mr. Hard added  that the bill also  enabled more flexibility                                                                    
in staffing,  such as  the ability to  assign more  than one                                                                    
officer to a  single village and to permit  more officers to                                                                    
travel  between  village  locations. He  asserted  that  the                                                                    
inclusion  of   language  in  the  bill   that  specifically                                                                    
permitted  more  staffing  flexibility contributed  to  more                                                                    
consistency  for the  program grantees  and greater  clarity                                                                    
for DPS.  Additionally, the bill provided  for more advanced                                                                    
VPSO training, which  was a critical piece  in ensuring that                                                                    
officers  were trained  for  the duties  asked  of them.  He                                                                    
thanked the committee.                                                                                                          
1:41:42 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Foster  appreciated Mr. Hard's perspective  and his                                                                    
1:42:04 PM                                                                                                                    
RICHARD PETERSON,  PRESIDENT, CENTRAL  COUNCIL OF  TLINGIT &                                                                    
HAIDA, JUNEAU  (via teleconference),  spoke in favor  of the                                                                    
legislation.  He  indicated  that  VPSOs  were  critical  in                                                                    
Tlingit  and  Haida  communities without  direct  access  to                                                                    
public  safety  infrastructure  such  as  the  Alaska  State                                                                    
Troopers. For  this reason, VPSOs  had been a  vital partner                                                                    
for DPS and  the Alaska State Troopers.  The DPS contributed                                                                    
to  the  improvement of  the  VPSO  program by  implementing                                                                    
enhancements to  the program, elevating  the program  in the                                                                    
commissioner's  office,  and  improving  the  management  of                                                                    
grants.  He  asserted  that  while the  role  of  VPSOs  had                                                                    
changed over the  years, Alaska statutes had  not evolved at                                                                    
the same rate.                                                                                                                  
Mr. Peterson  continued that the opportunity  allotted by HB
313  to implement  the recommendations  of the  VPSO working                                                                    
group  would contribute  toward improved  village safety  in                                                                    
rural Alaska.  The VPSOs were  committed to  improved public                                                                    
safety  and  played an  integral  role  in providing  public                                                                    
safety  services.  He  emphasized  that  updating  the  VPSO                                                                    
program  to specifically  allow expenditures  for equipment,                                                                    
infrastructure,  transportation,  facility upkeep,  and  the                                                                    
maintenance  of  an   increased  geographic  presence  would                                                                    
contribute  to   the  productivity  and  longevity   of  the                                                                    
program. He  appreciated the  opportunity to  testify before                                                                    
the committee.                                                                                                                  
1:45:11 PM                                                                                                                    
BRIAN  RIDLEY,  CHIEF/CHAIRMAN,   TANANA  CHIEFS  CONFERENCE                                                                    
(TCC), TANANA  (via teleconference), spoke in  support of HB
313. He provided  detail about the TCC  region that included                                                                    
42  communities  and  37  federally  recognized  tribes.  He                                                                    
detailed that  TCC provided VPSO services  through an annual                                                                    
grant  with  DPS. He  shared  that  TCC  was united  in  its                                                                    
approval  of  the  legislation. Additionally,  he  expressed                                                                    
support  for  the  legislation   on  behalf  of  the  Alaska                                                                    
Regional  Coalition. Over  the  years,  the expectations  of                                                                    
VPSOs had changed beyond the  original scope of the program,                                                                    
but these changes would be  codified with the passage of the                                                                    
bill.  He echoed  that retention  and  recruitment of  VPSOs                                                                    
would be  aided by HB  313. The  reform to the  VPSO program                                                                    
was  one  of  TCC's  highest  priorities  in  2022,  and  he                                                                    
expressed TCC's appreciation  to Representative Zulkosky and                                                                    
Representative Edgmon for working on the legislation.                                                                           
Mr.  Ridley explained  that prior  to the  formation of  the                                                                    
2016 legislative working group, TCC  identified a need for a                                                                    
VPSO  contractor caucus.  The caucus  facilitated discussion                                                                    
between all VPSO grantees on  proposed solutions to the VPSO                                                                    
contract. It  was clear through the  caucus discussions that                                                                    
the  program needed  to be  standardized to  allow for  more                                                                    
flexibility, reflect  the needs of rural  Alaska, and ensure                                                                    
the   safety  of   community  members.   He  expressed   his                                                                    
appreciation to the legislature  for its willingness to work                                                                    
with the tribes and attend  stakeholder meetings such as the                                                                    
Alaska Tribal  Unity Gathering and the  Alaska Federation of                                                                    
Natives' Annual Convention. It was  exemplary of good reform                                                                    
work being done through tribal consultation.                                                                                    
Mr. Ridley  furthered that although  VPSO hires  had already                                                                    
increased due  to the work,  there were still VPSOs  in only                                                                    
27 percent  of communities that needed  officers. He offered                                                                    
an example of a first  responder who managed a public safety                                                                    
situation with  "two men with  their rifles" in lieu  of law                                                                    
enforcement. He  speculated that the  presence of a  VPSO in                                                                    
the  community would  have negated  such measures.  He urged                                                                    
members to  support HB  313. He also  asked members  to keep                                                                    
the  items  related  to  the  VPSO  program  in  the  FY  23                                                                    
operating budget.                                                                                                               
1:50:52 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Merrick OPENED public testimony.                                                                                       
1:51:12 PM                                                                                                                    
JACKIE BOYER, NATIVE PEOPLES ACTION  (NPA), EAGLE RIVER (via                                                                    
teleconference),  spoke in  support of  HB 313.  She relayed                                                                    
NPA's  appreciation  for  the work  done  by  Representative                                                                    
Zulkosky,  Senator Olson,  and  DPS. The  next  step was  to                                                                    
implement  the recommendations  of the  VPSO working  group,                                                                    
such  as  increased  flexibility in  the  program,  modified                                                                    
funding,  and   added  clarification  and   codification  in                                                                    
statute.    She    asserted    that    implementing    these                                                                    
recommendations  would  strengthen  public safety  in  rural                                                                    
Alaska  as well  as address  VPSO retention  and recruitment                                                                    
issues. The  legislature had heard  powerful stories  of how                                                                    
VPSOs  helped  communities  in   Alaska,  and  she  implored                                                                    
members  to   support  community  members  by   passing  the                                                                    
1:52:45 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Merrick CLOSED public testimony.                                                                                       
1:52:59 PM                                                                                                                    
AT EASE                                                                                                                         
1:53:23 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Merrick invited DPS to review the fiscal notes.                                                                        
1:53:41 PM                                                                                                                    
KELLY  HOWELL,   SPECIAL  ASSISTANT  TO   THE  COMMISSIONER,                                                                    
DEPARTMENT OF  PUBLIC SAFETY, reviewed the  fiscal note with                                                                    
the  control code  AxkeY. It  required the  Criminal Records                                                                    
and  Identification  Bureau  within  the DPS  to  audit  the                                                                    
grantee  organizations.  She  explained  that  the  grantees                                                                    
would  be recipients  of  background  check information  and                                                                    
would  therefore  be required  to  comply  with the  Federal                                                                    
Bureau of  Investigation (FBI) criminal  justice information                                                                    
security  policies. She  offered clarification  that because                                                                    
there were only 10 grantee  organizations, DPS was to absorb                                                                    
the audits that would be required for compliance.                                                                               
Ms. Howell reviewed the second  fiscal note with the control                                                                    
code  zvsTO.   The  fiscal  note  required   long-term  non-                                                                    
permanent funding  for one  additional Alaska  State Trooper                                                                    
who  would  be  responsible   for  conducting  the  required                                                                    
background   checks.   It    also   required   funding   for                                                                    
psychological  examinations  for existing  firearm  carrying                                                                    
VPSOs  as  well  as psychological  examinations  for  future                                                                    
1:55:48 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Thompson was curious  about travel related to                                                                    
the new position.                                                                                                               
Ms. Howell responded that generally  the state hired retired                                                                    
state  troopers to  be background  investigators and  travel                                                                    
was  not  normally  required.  The  troopers  conducted  the                                                                    
investigations  through phone  interviews  and other  online                                                                    
research. She  emphasized that travel was  not necessary for                                                                    
the position.                                                                                                                   
Representative Thompson  asked how the process  of obtaining                                                                    
a  firearm certification  worked without  requiring officers                                                                    
to travel.                                                                                                                      
Ms. Howell  responded that all  VPSOs receive  that training                                                                    
at the Public Safety Training Academy in Sitka, Alaska.                                                                         
Co-Chair  Merrick invited  Representative  Zulkosky to  make                                                                    
closing comments.                                                                                                               
1:57:46 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Zulkosky  appreciated   the  opportunity  to                                                                    
present  HB  313.  She  thanked   several  people  who  came                                                                    
together  to negotiate  the  resources.  She expressed  that                                                                    
every Alaskan should feel safe where they lived.                                                                                
1:58:48 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  LeBon  thanked Representative  Zulkosky  for                                                                    
bringing the  legislation forward.  He hoped the  bill moved                                                                    
quickly through the body.                                                                                                       
Co-Chair  Merrick  reviewed  the agenda  for  the  following                                                                    
HB  313  was  HEARD  and   HELD  in  committee  for  further                                                                    
2:00:01 PM                                                                                                                    
The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 p.m.                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 313 Sectional Analysis version B.pdf HFIN 4/5/2022 1:00:00 PM
HB 313
HB 313 Sponsor Statement.pdf HFIN 4/5/2022 1:00:00 PM
HB 313
HB313 Version B Explanation of changes.pdf HFIN 4/5/2022 1:00:00 PM
HB 313