Legislature(2015 - 2016)BILL RAY CENTER 208

06/04/2016 11:00 AM House LABOR & COMMERCE

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11:05:01 AM Start
11:05:11 AM HB4002
12:09:28 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
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**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
          HOUSE LABOR AND COMMERCE STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                         
                          June 4, 2016                                                                                          
                           11:05 a.m.                                                                                           
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Representative Kurt Olson, Chair                                                                                                
Representative Gabrielle LeDoux                                                                                                 
Representative Cathy Tilton                                                                                                     
Representative Andy Josephson                                                                                                   
Representative Sam Kito                                                                                                         
Representative Mike Chenault (alternate)                                                                                        
Representative Jim Colver                                                                                                       
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Representative Shelley Hughes, Vice Chair                                                                                       
OTHER LEGISLATORS PRESENT                                                                                                     
Representative Lora Reinbold                                                                                                    
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
HOUSE BILL NO. 4002                                                                                                             
"An Act  relating to major  medical insurance coverage  under the                                                               
Public  Employees'  Retirement  System   of  Alaska  for  certain                                                               
surviving spouses  and dependent  children of peace  officers and                                                               
firefighters; and providing for an effective date."                                                                             
     - HEARD & HELD                                                                                                             
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
BILL: HB 4002                                                                                                                 
SHORT TITLE: INS. FOR DEPENDS. OF DECEASED FIRE/POLICE                                                                          
SPONSOR(s): RULES BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR                                                                                    
05/23/16       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
05/23/16       (H)       L&C, FIN                                                                                               
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WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
BRANDY JOHNSON                                                                                                                  
Fairbanks, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in favor of HB 4002.                                                                           
NIKKI TOLL                                                                                                                      
Wasilla, Alaska                                                                                                                 
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in favor of HB 4002.                                                                           
KIM RUDGE-KARIC                                                                                                                 
Kasilof, Alaska                                                                                                                 
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in favor of HB 4002.                                                                           
CARL BERGER                                                                                                                     
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in favor of HB 4002.                                                                           
MEGAN LITSTER                                                                                                                   
Petersburg, Alaska                                                                                                              
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in favor of HB 4002.                                                                           
CODY LITSTER, Alaska Wildlife Trooper                                                                                           
Division of Alaska Wildlife Troopers                                                                                            
Department of Public Safety                                                                                                     
Petersburg, Alaska                                                                                                              
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in favor of HB 4002.                                                                           
KEITH MALLARD                                                                                                                   
(No address provided), Idaho                                                                                                    
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in favor of HB 4002.                                                                           
ANDREW MERRILL, Captain                                                                                                         
Division of Alaska State Troopers                                                                                               
Department of Public Safety                                                                                                     
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in favor of HB 4002, and answered                                                              
WALT MONEGAN, Commissioner                                                                                                      
Department of Public Safety                                                                                                     
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the hearing on HB 4002.                                                                 
ANDY HOLLEMAN, President                                                                                                        
Anchorage Education Association                                                                                                 
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in favor of HB 4002.                                                                           
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
11:05:01 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR KURT  OLSON called  the House  Labor and  Commerce Standing                                                             
Committee meeting to order at  11:05 a.m.  Representatives Olson,                                                               
Tilton,  Kito, Josephson,  LeDoux, and  Chenault were  present at                                                               
the call to order.   Representative Colver arrived as the meeting                                                               
was in progress.  Also present was Representative Reinbold.                                                                     
       HB 4002-INS. FOR DEPENDS. OF DECEASED FIRE/POLICE                                                                    
11:05:11 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR OLSON  announced that the  only order of business  would be                                                               
HOUSE BILL NO. 4002, "An  Act relating to major medical insurance                                                               
coverage under the Public Employees'  Retirement System of Alaska                                                               
for  certain surviving  spouses and  dependent children  of peace                                                               
officers and firefighters; and providing for an effective date."                                                                
11:05:56 AM                                                                                                                   
BRANDY JOHNSON remarked:                                                                                                        
     My  name  is  Brandy  Johnson  and  I  am  representing                                                                    
     myself, my husband,  and my three daughters  as well as                                                                    
     current  and past  Alaska State  Troopers, and  all law                                                                    
     enforcement  that's  part   of  the  Public  Employees'                                                                    
     Retirement System.  Scott's job  was that of a sergeant                                                                    
     with  the state  troopers.   He  was shot  to death  by                                                                    
     Nathanial  Kangas on  May 1,  2014, in  Tanana, Alaska,                                                                    
     while in  the line of  duty.  Scott had  worked twenty-                                                                    
     three years  with the state  when he was  murdered, two                                                                    
     years shy of retiring  and qualifying for major medical                                                                    
     coverage for  our family.   My first question  to state                                                                    
     trooper  representatives  helping  me after  Scott  was                                                                    
     killed  was,   "Do  I  and   the  girls   have  medical                                                                    
     benefits?"   I was  initially told that  I was  set for                                                                    
     life  by one  lieutenant.   However, that  was not  the                                                                    
     case, I later was told  that my family's benefits would                                                                    
     expire at the end of the month, May 31, 2014.                                                                              
MS. JOHNSON continued as follows:                                                                                               
     Finding  this out,  I  was  shocked, disappointed,  and                                                                    
     angry.  Scott was  specifically still working to obtain                                                                    
     the health benefits for his  family.  I had thought the                                                                    
     medical  coverage would  have been  similar to  what we                                                                    
     were been getting prior to  Scott's murder.  I felt his                                                                    
     last three years of service  were all for nothing since                                                                    
     he could have retired at  his twenty-year mark with the                                                                    
     State   of    Alaska.      Scott   always    took   his                                                                    
     responsibilities very  seriously to protect  the people                                                                    
     of Alaska.   I had  believed upon his death,  the state                                                                    
     would also take the responsibility  to now take care of                                                                    
     his family.   What  is frustrating  is that  the person                                                                    
     who murdered my husband and  his father who helped move                                                                    
     my  husband's dead  body, they  have health  benefit or                                                                    
     health  coverage while  they  are incarcerated.   I  am                                                                    
     speaking  today to  ask for  your support  of HB  4002,                                                                    
     legislation that  will help take  care of  the families                                                                    
     of those peace  officers killed in the line  of duty in                                                                    
     the  State of  Alaska.   This  legislation will  ensure                                                                    
     that another wife or husband  will not, will be allowed                                                                    
     to  grieve, if  they  ever have  to  experience what  I                                                                    
     have,  instead of  trying to  ensure  their family  has                                                                    
     medical coverage.   And if we could get a  vote on this                                                                    
     bill  it would  be greatly  appreciated.   And I  would                                                                    
     like  to  thank you  for  your  time and  consideration                                                                    
11:08:33 AM                                                                                                                   
NIKKI TOLL remarked:                                                                                                            
     For the record my name is  Nikki Toll.  I am testifying                                                                    
     in support  of HB  4002 on behalf  of myself,  my three                                                                    
     sons,  and my  late  husband and  the  families of  the                                                                    
     Alaska State  Troopers.    My  late husband  was Alaska                                                                    
     State Trooper Tage Toll.  He  was killed in the line of                                                                    
     duty when Helo-1 crashed outside  of Talkeetna during a                                                                    
     successful  search  and  rescue mission  on  March  30,                                                                    
     2013.   Tage  is an  Alaskan  hero and  deserves to  be                                                                    
     honored.   Tage had  been an  Alaska State  Trooper for                                                                    
     ten years  at the point of  his death.  Tage  and I had                                                                    
     chosen Alaska  as our home,  my boys and I  continue to                                                                    
     make  that  choice  because,  because  it  is  a  truly                                                                    
     marvelous  place.   Tage  served  Alaska with  loyalty,                                                                    
     integrity,   courage,   compassion,   leadership,   and                                                                    
     accountability.   As a  family, we  were well  aware of                                                                    
     the dangers  that faced Tage when  he went on duty.   I                                                                    
     had  faith and  confidence in  his abilities  to handle                                                                    
     himself, and  in the  training and skills  he had  as a                                                                    
     law enforcement  officer. In reality,  nothing prepared                                                                    
     me for  the loss of  my best  friend, the father  of my                                                                    
     three children,  and the life  I had  invested nineteen                                                                    
     years.   I was a  proud Alaska  State Trooper wife.   I                                                                    
     was a homemaker.  I was a home  school mom.  Now I am a                                                                    
     single mom.   I have a  fulltime job.  My  children are                                                                    
     in three different schools.   The life I had known died                                                                    
     with Tage in that horrible crash.                                                                                          
MS. TOLL continued as follows:                                                                                                  
     When  Tage  was killed,  I  had  one day  of  insurance                                                                    
     coverage before,  under current  policy, it  expired at                                                                    
     the end  of the month.   Tage's body had not  even been                                                                    
     positively  identified yet,  and  my three  boys and  I                                                                    
     were without  insurance.   It was  only after  piles of                                                                    
     paperwork  and  corrections   to  an  inaccurate  death                                                                    
     certificate,  four months  later,  that I  was able  to                                                                    
     have the coverage  I have now through PERS,  but at 100                                                                    
     percent  of  the  cost  coming  out  of  Tage's  earned                                                                    
     retirement benefits.  Today,  I would like to challenge                                                                    
     you  to take  a hard  look at  what it  truly means  to                                                                    
     honor  a  hero.    Is   honor  simply  empty  words  of                                                                    
     sympathy?   Is it  statues and  plaques frozen  in time                                                                    
     with feeble promises to "never  forget"?  Or is it real                                                                    
     action?  Is it taking  the necessary measures to ensure                                                                    
     that the  individuals and families, who  dedicate their                                                                    
     lives to fulltime  service to the State  of Alaska, are                                                                    
     genuinely cared  for in tangible ways,  like having the                                                                    
     medical, medical  coverage they need?   I challenge you                                                                    
     to discern what "in the line  of duty" truly means.  As                                                                    
     state  troopers, both  Scott and  Tage were  members of                                                                    
     the  Special  Emergency  Reaction Team,  SERT.    Their                                                                    
     motto:  "I  will go into harm's way."   Can you look at                                                                    
     the  pictures of  the charred  wreckage  of the  Helo-1                                                                    
     crash site and  tell me Tage didn't  earn this coverage                                                                    
     and compensation?   Can you  consider the  over twenty-                                                                    
     three  and a  half years  of Scott's  faithful service,                                                                    
     only  to be  gunned  down in  his  final months  before                                                                    
     retirement, and  tell Brandy that  he didn't  earn this                                                                    
     coverage  and compensation?   This  isn't a  game.   We                                                                    
     aren't middle schoolers asking for  a new iPhone.  This                                                                    
     isn't  a handout  motivated by  some socialist  agenda.                                                                    
     What it takes  to earn this benefit, no  one ever wants                                                                    
     to experience.   This  has been  earned by  the service                                                                    
     and  sacrifice of  six hundred  pounds of  flesh, bone,                                                                    
     and  skin.   Alaska  State  Troopers  Gabe Rich,  Scott                                                                    
     Johnson and  Tage Toll  went into  harm's way  and paid                                                                    
     with  their lives  for the  wellbeing, protection,  and                                                                    
     safety  of  fellow  Alaskans.   Of  all  the  difficult                                                                    
     decisions  you  face  in  this  session,  this  one  is                                                                    
     simple.  Of all the  issues, concerns, and dollars that                                                                    
     might keep you up at night,  this one you can feel good                                                                    
     about, without compromise.  It  is time to do the right                                                                    
     thing.   It is time  to put real,  tangible, functional                                                                    
     action  to  the  word  honor.   Provide  the  necessary                                                                    
     medical  coverage  for  surviving families.    Issue  a                                                                    
     measure of  peace of  mind to those  men and  women who                                                                    
     continue to  serve.   Exhibit genuine,  long-term honor                                                                    
     that will never be forgotten.   I'm asking you to serve                                                                    
     the State  of Alaska with loyalty,  integrity, courage,                                                                    
     compassion,   leadership,    and   accountability,   by                                                                    
     supporting and  voting in  favor of  HB 4002  and honor                                                                    
     our Alaska heroes.                                                                                                         
CHAIR OLSON stated  the bill would be out of  committee next week                                                               
and to  the House Finance  Committee, whose members  are familiar                                                               
with the bill.                                                                                                                  
11:14:08 AM                                                                                                                   
KIM RUDGE-KARIC,  speaking for herself, expressed  her support of                                                               
HB 4002  as currently  written.    Police  officers, correctional                                                               
officers,  and firefighters  have no  choice in  facing dangerous                                                               
situations and  are due  compensation if they  are killed  in the                                                               
line of duty,  and their families deserve  compensation.  Working                                                               
in  dangerous  occupations  affects  both the  person  and  their                                                               
families, and she urged the committee to support the bill.                                                                      
11:15:17 AM                                                                                                                   
CARL BERGER,  speaking for  himself, stated that  he worked  as a                                                               
correctional officer at  one time.  He expressed  his support for                                                               
HB 4002, and  opined that the need has been  clearly expressed by                                                               
the  surviving family  members who  previously testified,  and he                                                               
also  supported their  ongoing efforts  to  get this  legislation                                                               
passed in order  to correct the situation.  He  questioned why it                                                               
has  taken the  legislature over  130 days  to address  this need                                                               
that has  been brought to its  attention "over and over,"  and to                                                               
correct the  existing problem.   The governor has  again proposed                                                               
the  legislation  so the  legislature  can  respond, although  it                                                               
seems  some members  are blocking  the bill,  which is  shameful.                                                               
Mr. Berger strongly  urged for the committee to  take action, and                                                               
he restated his support for HB 4002.                                                                                            
11:18:07 AM                                                                                                                   
MEGAN  LITSTER said  she was  speaking for  herself and  her four                                                               
children.   Ms.  Litster  said  her husband  is  an Alaska  State                                                               
Trooper and she  expressed her support for those  who have worked                                                               
tirelessly  on all  of  the various  versions of  HB  4002.   Law                                                               
enforcement officers  and firefighters are regular  people who do                                                               
extraordinary jobs  with pride and  courage, who take an  oath to                                                               
serve and  protect all Alaskans  and visitors,  and a few  do not                                                               
come  home.   What  happens next  is  up to  the  members of  the                                                               
committee, whether their sacrifice  is honored and their families                                                               
are  supported.    The  response  to those  who  ask  why  police                                                               
officers  and firefighters  are special,  is that  these men  and                                                               
women are  willing to  lay down  their lives  for our  safety and                                                               
freedom.    These  benefits  are necessary,  and  she  urged  the                                                               
committee to pass this very important and overdue bill.                                                                         
11:20:24 AM                                                                                                                   
CODY  LITSTER,  Alaska  Wildlife   Trooper,  Division  of  Alaska                                                               
Wildlife Troopers, DPS,  said he was representing  his family and                                                               
himself.   On April 1, 2013,  he received a phone  call about the                                                               
crash of  Helo-1.  In  the tragic  accident he lost  two friends,                                                               
and  later at  the funeral  services  he was  astounded to  learn                                                               
their  survivors  were  going  to  lose  their  health  benefits.                                                               
Although  providing  health  benefits  for  survivors  of  police                                                               
officers and firefighters  - who lose their lives in  the line of                                                               
duty -  is a benefit seldom  utilized, the fact remains  that law                                                               
enforcement officers  and firefighters  die in  the line  of duty                                                               
every day,  and he has  lost other  friends and mentors  in these                                                               
professions.   When these losses  occur, the  least we can  do is                                                               
take care of those left behind.                                                                                                 
11:22:04 AM                                                                                                                   
KEITH  MALLARD,  representing  himself,  said he  has  spent  his                                                               
entire adult  life in public service,  as a corpsman in  the U.S.                                                               
Navy and  as a law enforcement  officer in Alaska.   He expressed                                                               
support of the bill, and as  a public servant, and as someone who                                                               
has lost friends in the line  of duty, after which their families                                                               
have lost benefits  and after two years the mistake  has not been                                                               
[Due   to  technical   difficulties,   portions   of  audio   are                                                               
indiscernible throughout.]                                                                                                      
11:24:44 AM                                                                                                                   
ANDREW MERRILL, Captain, Division  of Alaska State Troopers, DPS,                                                               
offered to answer questions related to HB 4002.                                                                                 
CHAIR OLSON  asked how many  VSPOs are  on contract and  how many                                                               
are employed by PERS employers.                                                                                                 
CAPTAIN  MERRILL  responded that  all  but  six are  employed  by                                                               
nonprofit corporations or associations;  the only VPSOs with PERS                                                               
are those are employed by the Northwest Arctic Borough.                                                                         
11:26:02 AM                                                                                                                   
[Due   to  technical   difficulties,   portions   of  audio   are                                                               
indiscernible throughout.]                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX  asked whether  VPSOs, who are  employed by                                                               
the Northwest Arctic Borough, are  covered by the current version                                                               
of the bill.                                                                                                                    
CHAIR OLSON said that witnesses  indicated by nodding their heads                                                               
that the six VPSOs employed by PERS employers would be covered.                                                                 
CAPTAIN MERRILL encouraged the committee to support the bill.                                                                   
11:28:00 AM                                                                                                                   
WALT MONEGAN, Commissioner, Department  of Public Safety, said he                                                               
was representing  himself and  DPS. Commissioner  Monegan learned                                                               
from  over 33  years with  the Anchorage  Police Department  that                                                               
police   officers,   troopers,    and   firefighters   are   rare                                                               
commodities.   Police officers and firefighters  are often tested                                                               
and  cannot hesitate  about  danger, or  dwell  on their  family.                                                               
Health  insurance  would make  all  feel  more comfortable  about                                                               
their families.   Commissioner Monegan  spoke further  in support                                                               
of brave men and women, and urged for the support they deserve.                                                                 
[Due   to  technical   difficulties,  portions   of  Commissioner                                                               
Monegan's testimony  were reconstructed from the  secretary's log                                                               
11:30:46 AM                                                                                                                   
ANDY  HOLLEMAN,   President,  Anchorage   Education  Association,                                                               
speaking  on behalf  of the  members of  the Anchorage  Education                                                               
Association (AEA),  who are  over 3,000  educators who  staff the                                                               
Anchorage School  District, expressed  support for  HB 4002.   He                                                               
said the  members of AEA do  not expect the benefits  in the bill                                                               
to apply  to all  public employees  in Alaska;  men and  women in                                                               
certain positions  place themselves in dangerous  situations as a                                                               
normal part of their daily job,  which is not the situation faced                                                               
by many  other public employees.   As public safety  officers and                                                               
firefighters provide  a line of  safety for residents,  they need                                                               
to know that  we will provide reasonable care  for their families                                                               
if they do  not go home again.  Further,  the relatively low cost                                                               
of the  bill should  be borne  by all, and  not by  the surviving                                                               
families of  those who serve.   Mr. Holleman urged  the committee                                                               
to do the right  thing and report the bill out  of committee.  As                                                               
citizens, we  have a collective honor  to uphold, just as  we ask                                                               
men and women in uniform to serve with honor as well.                                                                           
11:32:26 AM                                                                                                                   
The committee took an at-ease from 11:32 a.m. to 11:55 a.m.                                                                     
11:55:24 AM                                                                                                                   
The committee took an at-ease from 11:55 a.m. to 12:09 p.m.                                                                     
12:09:20 PM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR OLSON,  after ascertaining  that no  one further  wished to                                                               
testify, closed public testimony.                                                                                               
[HB 4002 was held over.]                                                                                                        
12:09:28 PM                                                                                                                   
There being no further business before the committee, the House                                                                 
Labor and Commerce Standing Committee meeting was adjourned at                                                                  
12:09 p.m.