Legislature(1993 - 1994)
02/10/1994 05:00 PM MLV
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON MILITARY AND VETERANS AFFAIRS February 10, 1994 5:00 p.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Representative Eldon Mulder, Co-Chair Representative Richard Foster, Co-Chair Representative Mike Navarre Representative Ed Willis MEMBERS ABSENT Representative Pete Kott OTHER LEGISLATORS PRESENT Representative Jim Nordlund COMMITTEE CALENDAR *HJR 51: Requesting the governor to file suit in the United States Supreme Court against the United States government alleging violations of the civil rights of Americans listed as prisoners of war or missing in action in Southeast Asia; and requesting the other states to join in this suit. MOVED OUT OF COMMITTEE *HB 364: "An Act relating to allowable absences from the state for purposes of eligibility for permanent fund dividends; and providing for an effective date." MOVED OUT OF COMMITTEE *HB 421: "An Act authorizing grants for temporary housing assistance during emergencies and disasters." MOVED OUT OF COMMITTEE (* First public hearing.) WITNESS REGISTER JEFF MORRISON, Director Administrative Services Department of Military & Veterans Affairs P.O. Box 110900 Juneau, AK 99801-0900 Phone: (907) 465-4730 Position Statement: Observer WALT WILCOX, Legislative Aide Representative Jeannette James Alaska State Legislature State Capitol, #501 Juneau, AK 99801-1182 Phone: (907) 465-3743 Position Statement: Addressed committee on HJR 51 ON behalf of sponsor ERV MARTIN, Director Division of Emergency Services Department of Military & Veterans Affairs P.O. Box 5750 Ft. Richardson, AK 99505 Phone: (907) 428-7000 Position Statement: Observer TOM WILLIAMS, Director Permanent Fund Dividend Division Department of Revenue P.O. Box 110460 Juneau, AK 99811 Phone: (907) 465-2323 Position Statement: Addressed the committee on HB 364 PREVIOUS ACTION BILL: HJR 51 SHORT TITLE: SUIT RE POWS & MIAS AGAINST U.S. & OTHERS SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVE(S) JAMES,Therriault,Martin,Mulder JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 01/19/94 2108 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME/REFERRAL(S) 01/19/94 2109 (H) MLV, STATE AFFAIRS 02/09/94 2327 (H) COSPONSOR(S): MARTIN, MULDER 02/10/94 (H) MLV AT 05:00 PM CAPITOL 17 BILL: HB 364 SHORT TITLE: PFD PROGRAM/ALLOWABLE ABSENCES SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVE(S) NORDLUND BY REQUEST JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 01/12/94 2038 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME/REFERRAL(S) 01/12/94 2039 (H) MLV, FINANCE 02/10/94 (H) MLV AT 05:00 PM CAPITOL 17 BILL: HB 421 SHORT TITLE: GRANTS FOR HOUSING DURING DISASTER SPONSOR(S): SPECIAL CMTE MILITARY & VETERANS AFFAIRS JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 01/31/94 2206 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME/REFERRAL(S) 01/31/94 2206 (H) MLV, FINANCE 02/10/94 (H) MLV AT 05:00 PM CAPITOL 17 ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 94-3, SIDE A Number 000 CO-CHAIR ELDON MULDER called the meeting of the House Special Committee on Military & Veterans Affairs to order at 5:25 p.m. Members present were Representative Kott and Representative Navarre. CHAIR MULDER also noted for the record that Tom Williams from the Permanent Fund Division (PFD), Jeff Morrison from the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs (DMVA), and Erv Martin from the Division of Emergency Services (DES) were also present at the meeting. Number 005 HJR 51 - SUIT RE POWS & MIAS AGAINST U.S. AND OTHERS WALT WILCOX, AIDE TO REPRESENTATIVE JEANNETTE JAMES, Prime Sponsor of HJR 51, stated that HJR 51 requests the Governor to sue the U.S. and some other foreign countries to find out where MIA's and POW's from Alaska are located. He stated that Thomas Anderson, United States Marine Corps, and Howard M. Koslosky, United States Navy, are still not accounted for and he believes that the federal government has not told everything they know. Mr. Wilcox asked if there were any questions. Number 011 REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE asked if the families of Thomas Anderson and Howard Koslosky had been contacted regarding this resolution. MR. WILCOX answered that he had not contacted them. REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE asked if the reference to the "inferior courts" on page 2, line 20, meant the lower courts. He noted that this seemed fairly negative. MR. WILCOX replied that this was what they are called and further stated that the court of jurisdiction was the Supreme Court, as noted in the resolution. REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE stated he believed that Senator Murkowski chaired the Military & Veterans Affairs Committee and was fairly active in attempting to report on what had happened to POW's & MIA's. He stated he thought the whereas clause beginning on page 2, line 17, was a direct criticism on Senator Murkowski. REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE also noted that on page 2, line 24, the resolution authorizes another suit against the federal government and he asked if anyone had assessed the likelihood of success of the suit and what the costs would be. He also noted the resolution did not have a fiscal note and that a suit against the federal government would cost money. Representative Navarre stated that the resolution ought to be referred to the Finance Committee so that the costs could be considered. Number 030 REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked if Representative Navarre had any suggested amendments. REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE suggested amending the bill on page 2 to delete lines 17-19. MR. WILCOX stated that the sponsor would accept that amendment. He stated that the point was there are 512 people still unaccounted for, so the government has failed somewhere. Mr. Wilcox requested that lines 17-19 on page 2 be deleted. REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE moved the amendment. REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked if there was any objection to the amendment. Hearing none, the amendment passed. Number 036 REPRESENTATIVE MULDER stated that he had the same question regarding a fiscal note for the bill. He asked if the other states who had approved this type of legislation have recommended suit or authorized suit. MR. WILCOX answered that the other states had recommended suit. Mr. Wilcox further stated that this resolution respectfully requests the Governor to authorize suit and that the Governor does not have to do this if he so chooses. Mr. Wilcox stated that this was a nationwide effort among all 50 states. Number 044 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT asked Representative Navarre what his concerns were on page 2, line 21. REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE stated that he did not have any. Number 050 MR. WILCOX told Representative Navarre that he would not a oppose changing the word "inferior" on page 2, line 20, to "lower." REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE said that he would suggest that. REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked Representative Navarre if he would like to offer that as an amendment. REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE replied that he would and moved the amendment. REPRESENTATIVE MULDER stated that it had been moved that the committee amend page 2, line 20, to read "Whereas the lower courts of the federal judiciary . . ." and asked if there was any objection. Hearing none, the amendment passed. Number 056 REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE stated that he was concerned with this problem, but he really did not know enough about it because his only exposure on this was from the media. He stated that he would not propose moving this bill out of committee because he did not feel he knew enough about the facts presented in this bill. MR. WILCOX offered to provide Representative Navarre with further background. Number 066 REPRESENTATIVE MULDER stated that he thought the delegation has been good proponents for greater information, release and exploration for those unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. He further stated that his reasons for cosponsoring this legislation and scheduling it for a hearing is that while there are still individuals lost or unaccounted for, it is worthwhile in his mind to continue the pursuit of closure, not only for the affected families, but for the sake of the country as a whole. REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE said that he was aware that when President Clinton opened trade relations with Vietnam he made comments that he was concerned with this problem and that this might help get more information on POW's and MIA's. REPRESENTATIVE KOTT called the member's attention to lines 1-3 on page 2. He asked if the resolution was using the correct terminology in referring to Russia and Soviet Union. MR. WILCOX stated that the Soviet Union no longer exists and that Russia still exists as a state. REPRESENTATIVE KOTT asked if the reference to "the president of Russia" on page 2, line 1, referred to the current president of Russia. MR. WILCOX replied that that was correct. REPRESENTATIVE KOTT stated that since the resolution made reference to "General Tran Von Kwong" on page 1, line 12, maybe the resolution should also specify the president of Russia by name as well. Number 085 REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked if it was President Yeltsin. MR. WILCOX stated that he did not remember. Number 087 REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE suggested that perhaps the committee could make a conceptual amendment to find the proper name of the president of Russia. Number 088 MR. WILCOX stated that the presidents of the Soviet Union are the ones that we are familiar with and that the presidents of Russia have been less well known. He again stated that he did not recall what the name was. Number 089 REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked if the sponsor would consider a friendly conceptual amendment to list that individual by name. MR. WILCOX stated that Representative James would consider that a friendly amendment. Number 091 REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE referenced page 2, lines 1-2, "...that the Soviet Union took members of the American armed forces into Russia..." and asked if that was the Soviet Union or Russia. MR. WILCOX replied that it stated that they were taken into Russia and also said that the sponsor would consider adding this to the conceptual amendment since there is some confusion over the proper names in that part of the world. Number 095 REPRESENTATIVE MULDER stated that it could be more clearly specified. Representative Mulder said that there was a conceptual amendment made to page 2, lines 1 and 2, in relation to specifying who the president of Russia is and where exactly in Russia U.S. personnel were held. REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked if there were any objections to the amendment. Hearing none, the amendment was adopted. REPRESENTATIVE KOTT moved HJR 51 as amended from committee with individual recommendations. Number 104 REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked if there was any objection to moving HJR 51 as amended from committee. Hearing no objection, HJR 51 was passed out of the committee. Number 106 HB 364 - PFD PROGRAM/ALLOWABLE ABSENCES REPRESENTATIVE MULDER welcomed Representative Jim Nordlund, Prime Sponsor of HB 364, to the committee and asked him to present the bill. Number 108 REPRESENTATIVE NORDLUND stated that HB 364 adds service in the Public Health Service (PHS) and in the U.S. Merchant Marine to the list of allowable absences for eligibility for permanent fund dividends. He stated that he sponsored this bill at the request of constituents, one of which is a Merchant Mariner and one who is a member of the Public Health Service, because he believes that these people are entitled to the exemptions. Representative Nordlund stated that members of the Public Health Service are commissioned officers, much like military personnel, and are required to leave the state on assignment against their will for duty assignments. He said, due to the nature of their job, Merchant Mariners cannot be physically located in the state because their job requires them to be on their ship. He said that his intention is to ensure that these people who are domiciled in the state are still considered eligible when they are required to be at sea for more that six months. REPRESENTATIVE NORDLUND also added that there was a recent Superior Court decision that stated that PHS commissioned officers should be eligible for statutory allowable absences under the permanent fund dividend program. REPRESENTATIVE NORDLUND stated that even if this bill does not pass, he thought the court would order the payment of these PHS officers. Representative Nordlund then said that he would be happy to answer any questions. REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE asked what the position of the Department of Revenue was. REPRESENTATIVE MULDER replied that Tom Williams from the Permanent Fund Dividend Division would present the department's position. REPRESENTATIVE MULDER stated that he saw that there would be 532 members of the PHS who would be affected and asked how many Merchant Mariners would be affected. REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE answered that there were approximately 191. REPRESENTATIVE NORDLUND said that number is hard to determine and the Department of Revenue would probably have a problem with this and stated further that when you count the number that apply and meet the requirements for the dividend program the number would not be that high. He said that there were 14,000 Merchant Mariners nationwide. Number 146 REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked if there was an active component of Merchant Mariners in Alaska. REPRESENTATIVE NORDLUND answered that there is no chapter of Merchant Mariners in the state and that he thought it was a national service that did not isolate by state. REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked if the likely scenario would be the following: an Alaskan joins the Merchant Marine and ends up traveling around the world and not like military, who sometimes are assigned here, then become residents and are eligible for the dividend program. REPRESENTATIVE NORDLUND replied that this is the intent, but probably there is nothing to prohibit someone who is in the Merchant Marine from moving to Alaska and then becoming eligible for the dividend program, much like the military. Number 155 REPRESENTATIVE NORDLUND stated that he had an amendment that he would be willing to offer that may have some constitutional questions. He said that it is not his intent to allow someone who just maintains a mailbox address in Alaska and is actually domiciled in San Francisco from benefitting from the program. Representative Nordlund said that his intent is to provide eligibility for people who are domiciled in the state except when they are at sea and that he would be open to any way to clarify that. REPRESENTATIVE MULDER stated that it is very difficult to stipulate what you have to have to establish residency in Alaska. Representative Mulder stated that it was a policy question of whether Merchant Mariners should be considered in the same manner as any other branch of military service. Number 169 TOM WILLIAMS, DIRECTOR OF THE PERMANENT FUND DIVIDEND DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, stated that the Department of Revenue does not support any expansion of allowable absences. He stated that there is a challenged court decision by Judge Dana Fabe that did not conclude that PHS were military, because they are not classified as such by federal law, but PHS does have a lot of similarities to the uniformed military services. He said that he did not believe that they are transferred out against their will, but there is the opportunity to transfer and there have been agreements by PHS officers where they are guaranteed to come back to Alaska. Mr. Williams stated that the court decision stated that PHS officers should be treated similar to the military and be allowed to remain eligible when they are absent because of their similarities to the military. The court has remanded the specific cases in the suit back to the department to make other determinations. MR. WILLIAMS said that the department originally determined that they were not eligible because their absence was not allowable in statute. Now, they are remanded back to determine eligibility based on all factors, after which they will go back to the court. Mr. Williams stated that the department has spoken with the Attorney General's Office about the appeal of this case once it is finalized. He said that the PHS includes mostly physicians and some engineers that do serve often side-by-side with military personnel, but not in all cases. With respect to Merchant Mariners, MR. WILLIAMS said that his investigation has shown that there is no Merchant Marine corps like the Coast Guard or the Navy. He said that nongovernment owned commercial vessels make up the Merchant Marine of the United States and that the Coast Guard issues cards to qualified Merchant Mariners. Mr. Williams stated that anyone who was issued a Merchant Marine card and was serving at sea under the auspices of that card would qualify for an allowable absence. He said that it is really not affiliated with the military and is a commercial service and raises the question of what basic private employment jobs should be considered an allowable absence. MR. WILLIAMS said that the department proposed some regulations related to working out-of-state. Under the current regulations, if you accept a job out-of-state and it is not for one of the fully allowable absences, you do not retain eligibility for the permanent fund program. MR. WILLIAMS explained that the department had proposed regulations concerning accepting part-time employment out-of-state that stipulated an individual could remain eligible if they maintained a physical home here at all times. He said that these regulations were designed to take care of construction workers or those who had to leave the state during a slow period and most often left their family here. Upon advice of the Department of Law, these regulations would be constitutionally questionable because it faces an economic test, namely, someone may not be able to financially maintain a home here. Consequently, these regulations were not adopted under the advice of the Attorney General. MR. WILLIAMS said that administering the program to PHS officers would not be a problem, because they do have leave and earnings statements from which they would be able to determine eligibility. He said that there would be some problems or questions that would have to be answered for determining eligibility for service in the Merchant Marine. Mr. Williams said that when you look at any allowable absence, you also look at the "piggyback provision" of the spouse and children. Number 233 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT asked Mr. Williams if the department would be neutral or possibly supportive of the inclusion of the PHS officers, but not so amenable to the Merchant Marine. He also asked that if the court decision prevailed, would the commissioner incorporate this into regulation. MR. WILLIAMS replied that the department does not support opening the program to the PHS as opposed to the Merchant Marine. He said that the department does not support adding any additional allowable absences. Mr. Williams said if the Supreme Court ruled that Judge Fabe was correct in his ruling, then the commissioner would go in and add this to PFD regulations. He added that he does not believe that will occur. Number 250 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT asked if the department knew how many Merchant Mariners would be included under this provision. MR. WILLIAMS answered that he had no way to estimate this, but that they had some cases from Ketchikan in the past. Number 257 REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE asked if the general philosophy of the department was against any opening of the allowable absence provisions and further asked if the department would prefer to have it closed to the military. MR. WILLIAMS asked for clarification. REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE asked if it was correct that the department did not want any expansion of the current allowable absences. MR. WILLIAMS said the department is not supportive of any expansion, and with respect to PHS, the department does not see any particularly unique argument that would convince them to open it up. He said that members of the PHS have repeatedly asked the commissioner to adopt a regulation and the department concluded that there were not enough similarities to the military that would suggest that it was warranted. Number 272 REPRESENTATIVE MULDER stated that during testimony on a similar bill, the Representative from Kodiak made a suggestion that perhaps the statutes should be amended to say that anyone who is gone from the state for longer than 150 consecutive days is not eligible, and the department liked this idea. REPRESENTATIVE MULDER said that he understood that this would make it easier for the department. MR. WILLIAMS agreed that it would make the program easier and more equitable to administer. Number 278 REPRESENTATIVE NORDLUND stated that he thought that it was appropriate for the department to speak of how a program may be easier to administer, but it is up to the legislature to decide who in eligible for the dividend program. He stated that for whatever the reason, it is up to the legislature to decide this and it has to be based on the merits. REPRESENTATIVE NORDLUND referenced a statement made by Mr. Williams that he was not sure if PHS officers did not have to leave the state against their will. He said that the court stated in its decision that PHS officers, like members of the armed services, serve at the pleasure of their superior officers and do not have control over where they are commissioned. REPRESENTATIVE NORDLUND stated that the question of whether the legislature should allow anybody who is employed outside of the state to be eligible for the dividend is a valid concern, but when your job in on a ship in the middle of the sea where you couldn't possibly be residing in another state. He said that if in fact these people are residents and they just happen to be out at sea for more than six months a year, they should receive the permanent fund out of fairness. Number 302 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT stated that out of fairness, every Alaskan citizen who has an occupation that takes them out-of-state, whether they be a Merchant Mariner or an employee of ARCO or BP, should then be included, otherwise it is discriminating one class of occupations against another. Representative Kott said that this was discussed in the Judiciary Committee and that there are constitutional questions when you start separating classes. He stated that when you are a Merchant Mariner, or ARCO employee, quite often there is no choice of where you are assigned. REPRESENTATIVE KOTT proposed an amendment to include all occupations. REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE objected. REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked for a roll call on the amendment Amendment to HB 364 Add to AS 43.23.095 (8) "(J) out-of-state employment." ROLL CALL: Representative Mulder: No Representative Navarre: No Representative Kott: No YEAS: 0 NAYS: 3 ABSENT: 2 The Amendment failed. Number 320 REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked if there were any further amendments. REPRESENTATIVE KOTT stated that he had an amendment that he would hold at that time Number 323 REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE moved HB 364 from committee with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal note. Number 325 REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked if there was any objection. There being none and HB 364 was moved from committee. HB 421 - GRANTS FOR HOUSING DURING DISASTER Number 331 ERV MARTIN, DIRECTOR OF THE DIVISION OF EMERGENCY SERVICES, DEPARTMENT OF MILITARY AND VETERANS AFFAIRS, stated that this bill would amend AS 26.23.100(a) to authorize the DES to issue grants to victims whose house becomes uninhabitable due to a disaster. He stated that present state law does not parallel federal provisions. He said that DES has found that during disasters in Crown Point, Moose Pass and mudslides in Kodiak, they have to negotiate leases for temporary housing. Mr. Martin said that this can be a very lengthy process, especially when there are a lot of victims, and it may even preclude victims from getting housing in a timely fashion. He said the DES is asking for minor modifications to the law that would allow DES to issue direct grants to these people. Number 343 REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE moved HB 421 from committee with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal note. Number 346 REPRESENTATIVE MULDER asked if there were objections to moving HB 421 from committee. There being none, the bill was moved from committee. Number 366 There being no further business, CHAIR MULDER adjourned the committee meeting at 6:03 p.m.