Legislature(1997 - 1998)

04/02/1998 08:00 AM House STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
       HOUSE STATE AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE                                  
                   April 2, 1998                                               
                     8:00 a.m.                                                 
                                                                               
                                                                               
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                
                                                                               
Representative Jeannette James, Chair                                          
Representative Ivan Ivan, Vice Chairman                                        
Representative Ethan Berkowitz                                                 
Representative Joe Ryan                                                        
Representative Kim Elton                                                       
Representative Mark Hodgins                                                    
                                                                               
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                 
                                                                               
Representative Al Vezey                                                        
                                                                               
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                             
                                                                               
HOUSE BILL 464                                                                 
"An Act relating to state veterans' home facilities."                          
                                                                               
     - TECHNICAL CHANGE IN TITLE FOR CSHB 464(STA)                             
                                                                               
SENATE BILL 309                                                                
"An Act relating to the use of force by peace officers and                     
correctional officers."                                                        
                                                                               
     - MOVED HCSSB 309(STA) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                   
                                                                               
CS FOR SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION 22(STA)                                    
Relating to promotion of Kids Voting Alaska programs.                          
                                                                               
     - MOVED CSSCR 22(STA) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                    
                                                                               
HOUSE BILL 44                                                                  
"An Act relating to admission to an Alaska Pioneers' Home."                    
                                                                               
     - MOVED CSHB 44(STA) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                     
                                                                               
(* First public hearing)                                                       
                                                                               
PREVIOUS ACTION                                                                
                                                                               
BILL: HB 464                                                                   
SHORT TITLE: NURSING CARE AT STATE VETERANS' HOME                              
SPONSOR(S): STATE AFFAIRS                                                      
                                                                               
Jrn-Date    Jrn-Page           Action                                          
 3/04/98      2499     (H)  READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S)                  
 3/04/98      2499     (H)  MLV, STATE AFFAIRS                                 
 3/19/98               (H)  MLV AT 4:30 PM CAPITOL 124                         
 3/19/98               (H)  MINUTE(MLV)                                        
 3/20/98      2680     (H)  MLV RPT 1DP 5NR                                    
 3/20/98      2680     (H)  DP: FOSTER; NR: RYAN, MULDER, KOTT,                
 3/20/98      2680     (H)  MASEK, JOULE                                       
 3/20/98      2680     (H)  FISCAL NOTE (ADM)                                  
 3/20/98      2680     (H)  ZERO FISCAL NOTE (DHSS)                            
 3/31/98               (H)  STA AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 102                         
 3/31/98               (H)  MINUTE(STA)                                        
 4/02/98               (H)  STA AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 102                         
                                                                               
BILL: SB 309                                                                   
SHORT TITLE: USE OF NONLETHAL AND DEFENSIVE WEAPONS                            
SPONSOR(S): SENATOR(S) WARD, Donley, Halford, Green, Mackie, Leman,            
Pearce, Taylor                                                                 
                                                                               
Jrn-Date    Jrn-Page           Action                                          
 2/16/98      2525     (S)  READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S)                  
 2/16/98      2526     (S)  STA, JUD                                           
 2/26/98               (S)  STA AT 3:30 PM BELTZ ROOM 211                      
 2/26/98               (S)  MINUTE(STA)                                        
 3/03/98               (S)  MINUTE(STA)                                        
 3/04/98      2734     (S)  STA RPT 3DP 1NR                                    
 3/03/98      2734     (S)  DP: GREEN, MACKIE, WARD  NR: DUNCAN                
 3/03/98      2734     (S)  ZERO FISCAL NOTE (COR)                             
 3/13/98               (S)  JUD AT 1:30 PM BELTZ ROOM 211                      
 3/13/98               (S)  MINUTE(JUD)                                        
 3/18/98               (S)  JUD AT 1:30 PM BELTZ ROOM 211                      
 3/18/98               (S)  MINUTE(JUD)                                        
 3/19/98               (S)  MINUTE(RLS)                                        
 3/19/98      2894     (S)  JUD RPT 1DP 1NR 1AM                                
 3/18/98      2894     (S)  DP: TAYLOR NR: PARNELL AM: ELLIS                   
 3/18/98      2894     (S)  ZERO FN  ADM)                                      
 3/19/98      2894     (S)  PREVIOUS ZERO FN (COR)                             
 3/20/98      2918     (S)  RULES TO CALENDAR 3/20/98                          
 3/20/98      2920     (S)  READ THE SECOND TIME                               
 3/20/98      2920     (S)  ADVANCED TO THIRD READING UNAN                     
                            CONSENT                                            
 3/20/98      2920     (S)  READ THE THIRD TIME SB 309                         
 3/20/98      2920     (S)  COSPONSOR(S): DONLEY, HALFORD, GREEN               
 3/20/98      2920     (S)  MACKIE, LEMAN, PEARCE, TAYLOR                      
 3/20/98      2921     (S)  PASSED Y18 N- E2                                   
 3/20/98      2921     (S)  ADAMS NOTICE OF RECONSIDERATION                    
 3/23/98      2957     (S)  RECONSIDERATION NOT TAKEN UP                       
 3/23/98      2958     (S)  TRANSMITTED TO (H)                                 
 3/24/98      2722     (H)  READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S)                  
 3/24/98      2722     (H)  STATE AFFAIRS, JUDICIARY                           
 3/31/98               (H)  STA AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 102                         
 3/31/98               (H)  MINUTE(STA)                                        
 4/02/98               (H)  STA AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 102                         
                                                                               
BILL: SCR 22                                                                   
SHORT TITLE: KIDS VOTING ALASKA PROGRAMS                                       
SPONSOR(S): SENATOR(S) MILLER, Pearce, Ellis, Phillips, Mackie,                
Taylor, Leman, Lincoln, Kelly, Sharp, Duncan, Hoffman, Green                   
                                                                               
Jrn-Date    Jrn-Page           Action                                          
 2/06/98      2422     (S)  READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S)                  
 2/06/98      2422     (S)  STATE AFFAIRS                                      
 2/26/98               (S)  STA AT 3:30 PM BELTZ ROOM 211                      
 2/26/98               (S)  MINUTE(STA)                                        
 3/02/98               (S)  MINUTE(RLS)                                        
 3/02/98      2700     (S)  STA RPT CS 5DP SAME TITLE                          
 3/02/98      2700     (S)  DP: GREEN, DUNCAN, MILLER, MACKIE,                 
                            WARD                                               
 3/02/98      2700     (S)  ZERO FISCAL NOTE TO SB & CS (S.STA)                
 3/04/98      2735     (S)  RULES TO CALENDAR 3/4/98                           
 3/04/98      2738     (S)  READ THE SECOND TIME                               
 3/04/98      2738     (S)  STA CS ADOPTED UNAN CONSENT                        
 3/04/98      2738     (S)  COSPONSOR(S):  MACKIE, TAYLOR, LEMAN,              
 3/04/98      2738     (S)  LINCOLN, KELLY, SHARP, DUNCAN,                     
 3/04/98      2738     (S)  HOFFMAN, GREEN                                     
 3/04/98      2738     (S)  PASSED Y20 N- CSSCR 22(STA)                        
 3/04/98      2740     (S)  TRANSMITTED TO (H)                                 
 3/06/98      2532     (H)  READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S)                  
 3/06/98      2532     (H)  STATE AFFAIRS                                      
 3/31/98               (H)  STA AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 102                         
 3/31/98               (H)  MINUTE(STA)                                        
 4/02/98               (H)  STA AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 102                         
                                                                               
BILL: HB  44                                                                   
SHORT TITLE: ADMISSION TO PIONEERS' HOMES                                      
SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVES(S) BRICE                                           
                                                                               
Jrn-Date    Jrn-Page           Action                                          
 1/13/97        39     (H)  PREFILE RELEASED 1/3/97                            
 1/13/97        39     (H)  READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S)                  
 1/13/97        39     (H)  STA, HES, FINANCE                                  
 3/31/98               (H)  STA AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 102                         
 3/31/98               (H)  MINUTE(STA)                                        
 4/02/98               (H)  STA AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 102                         
                                                                               
WITNESS REGISTER                                                               
                                                                               
CRAIG JOHNSON, Legislative Administrative Assistant                            
  to Senator Jerry Ward                                                        
Alaska State Legislature                                                       
Capitol Building, Room 423                                                     
Juneau, Alaska  99801                                                          
Telephone:  (907) 465-4921                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on behalf of Senator Ward,                      
                     sponsor of SB 309.                                        
                                                                               
MARY GORE, Legislative Assistant to                                            
  Senator Mike Miller                                                          
Alaska State Legislature                                                       
Capitol Building, Room 107                                                     
Juneau, Alaska  99801                                                          
Telephone:  (907) 465-3803                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on behalf of Senator Miller,                    
                     sponsor of SCR 22.                                        
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE TOM BRICE                                                       
Alaska State Legislature                                                       
Capitol Building, Room 426                                                     
Juneau, Alaska  99801                                                          
Telephone:  (907) 465-3466                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  Presented HB 44.                                          
                                                                               
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                               
                                                                               
TAPE 98-45, SIDE A                                                             
Number 0001                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIR JEANNETTE JAMES called the House State Affairs Standing                  
Committee meeting to order at 8:00 a.m.  Members present at the                
call to order were Representatives James, Berkowitz, Ryan, Elton,              
and Hodgins.  Representative Ivan arrived at 8:20 a.m.                         
                                                                               
HB 464 - NURSING CARE AT STATE VETERANS' HOME                                  
                                                                               
CHAIR JAMES announced the first order of business is HB 464, "An               
Act relating to state veterans' home facilities."                              
                                                                               
CHAIR JAMES noted the committee amended the title of HB 464 and                
passed CSHB 464(STA) out on March 31, 1998.  She reported the                  
drafter suggested a new title change.                                          
                                                                               
     "An Act authorizing state veterans' home facilities to provide            
     nursing home care with related medical services."                         
                                                                               
Number 0009                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIR JAMES asked if there were objections to the title change.                
There being none, CSHB 464(STA) moved from the House State Affairs             
Standing Committee.                                                            
                                                                               
SB 309 - USE OF NONLETHAL AND DEFENSIVE WEAPONS                                
                                                                               
CHAIR JAMES announced the next order of business would be SB 309,              
"An Act relating to the use of force by peace officers and                     
correctional officers," sponsored by Senator Jerry Ward.                       
                                                                               
Number 0017                                                                    
                                                                               
CRAIG JOHNSON, Legislative Administrative Assistant to Senator                 
Jerry Ward, Alaska State Legislature, came before the committee to             
present the sponsor statement.  He indicated this is a very simple             
bill.  He stated that technology has somewhat caught up with some              
of our laws and said the way the law currently reads is that any               
projectile fired from a weapon capable of firing a lethal                      
projectile is considered a lethal weapon.  He explained that SB 309            
removes the incapacitating rounds that the police officers use in              
situations that are not intended to permanently injure or kill                 
someone.  It takes them off the list of nonlethal weapons.  He                 
referred to an article from the Anchorage Daily News entitled,                 
"Bullet stops suicide", which is in the committee members' packets.            
He said the incident described in the newspaper happened after                 
Senator Ward filed SB 309.  He indicated they didn't plan it, but              
it couldn't have happened at a better time.  Mr. Johnson explained             
that it was a situation where a woman was holding herself hostage              
with a knife, threatening to commit suicide.  The police department            
determined that the best way to stop this attempt was to use a                 
beanbag round.  He noted that it prevented an officer from having              
to go in and disarm the individual; it protected her life and it               
protected his life.                                                            
                                                                               
MR. JOHNSON noted that this bill was generated as a request from               
the Anchorage Police Department SWAT Team.  He pointed out that                
Senator Ward's son-in-law is a member of the Anchorage SWAT Team.              
He indicated that the SWAT team doesn't feel like they're                      
protected.  He said if they use one of these rounds under specific             
orders from their supervisors with proper training, there is still             
the opportunity that they could face liability based upon using a              
lethal firearm in a nonlethal situation.                                       
                                                                               
Number 0045                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE JOE RYAN stated that on the surface, SB 309 doesn't             
appear to have any problems.  He then asked what if a peace                    
officer/guard used a nonlethal firearm and he's a little close and             
causes grievous bodily harm or death.  He said a person can be                 
killed if they're close enough from the (indisc.) on a blank round.            
He said he is concerned about taking the liability away from police            
officers, especially prison guards, and he is concerned that                   
someone will get hurt and the peace officer/guard will walk free.              
He asked how the legislature can make sure that the officers are               
responsible for their actions.                                                 
                                                                               
MR. JOHNSON said, "The bill clearly states that operating within               
the guidelines and by a fully-trained officer."  He said the bill              
would not cover an officer who has not been properly trained or is             
not operating within the specified guidelines set forth by the                 
Department of Corrections.  The bill would not cover someone who               
blatantly did it.  This bill would cover the rare accident.  SB 309            
does not indemnify someone from being sued.  He said if an officer             
acts negligent, they should be held responsible for their actions.             
                                                                               
Number 0067                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE RYAN said if he inadvertently kills someone, it's               
manslaughter.  If a public employee inadvertently kills someone,               
it's a civil law suit and he indicated that that bothers him that              
public employees are not tried under the same criminal statutes                
that any other citizen would be.  He said he does not trust any                
officers or guards because if you don't watch them, they will do               
some of the worst things that have ever been done.                             
                                                                               
CHAIR JAMES said she would like to respond to Representative Ryan's            
last statement from her position on that issue.  Speaking only for             
herself, she said there is a world of people who make mistakes; and            
there is a world of people who have the wrong attitude and are not             
trustworthy.  She said she is not willing to take the position that            
no one is trustworthy.  She likes to believe that everyone is                  
trustworthy and when she finds they are not, then she will know                
that.  She can't live in fear of every single person.                          
                                                                               
Number 0080                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE KIM ELTON stated that he does not see a distinction             
between correctional officers who are employed by the state or                 
correctional officers who are employed by a private firm.  He asked            
what the definition of a peace officer is.                                     
                                                                               
MR. JOHNSON advised that there is a statutory definition of peace              
officer and correctional officer.  He noted that one of the                    
amendments proposed in a previous committee mentioned "guard"                  
throughout the legislation and the Department of Corrections                   
testified on behalf of that bill in support of it and asked to have            
the term "guard" changed to "correctional officers."  They found               
that correctional officers have no status in statute, where guard              
did, and it would have required a substantial rewrite to make that             
change.  He then referred to Representative Elton's question                   
regarding the definition of peace officer.  He indicated that                  
private correctional officers are very new to Alaska and he does               
not know if they have defined that yet.  He commented that the                 
operative term in the bill is "properly trained."  If a                        
correctional officer has been through the SWAT team training and               
has been trained to use the nonlethal firearm and beanbags, he                 
thinks they would fall under this legislation.   He reiterated that            
"proper training" and "under orders" covers that area.                         
                                                                               
Number 0095                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE ELTON asked if "proper training" would be defined by            
the court.                                                                     
                                                                               
MR. JOHNSON replied he believes it's a police standard that they               
would have to meet.  Currently, there are only about half a dozen              
police officers in Anchorage that are trained to use the nonlethal             
firearms, which is the SERT (Special Emergency Reaction Team) team             
and the SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) team.  He indicated that            
they are highly trained and go through regular psychological                   
testing, which is the type of training that would have to be met               
prior to anyone being allowed to use the nonlethal weapons and be              
covered by this legislation.  If a police officer used the                     
nonlethal weapon and was not properly trained they would be liable             
and this legislation would not be in effect.                                   
                                                                               
Number 0104                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE ETHAN BERKOWITZ commented that he has worked with a             
number of police officers and correctional officers and in response            
to Representative Ryan's comments, he would venture to say that                
their degree of trustworthiness is "higher than in this body."  He             
said in his way of thinking, this bill is simple; it just defines              
nonlethal firearms.  He said, "These ballistics that you show in               
here clearly are not designed for lethal purposes.  But like                   
anything they can be used in a lethal fashion and there's no                   
exemption under this statute when these are used in a lethal                   
fashion.  And there's no immunization.  Part of this, it seems to              
me this is a straight-forward definitional bill."                              
                                                                               
CHAIR JAMES noted for the record that Representatives Ivan is                  
present.                                                                       
                                                                               
Number 0113                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE MARK HODGINS agreed with Representative Berkowitz on            
the nonlethal firearm definition, however, he would like a                     
definition of "defensive weapon."  He indicated he would like to               
know if a "357" is a defensive weapon, as well as stun guns and                
pepper sprays.  He said there are numerous weapons that might be               
used that would fit under the definition of defensive weapon.                  
                                                                               
MR. JOHNSON responded that this was designed primarily for prison              
guards who may be in a riot situation.  Regarding the different                
types of weapons that fall under the definition of defensive                   
weapon, he indicated that the way that the statute reads currently             
is "any projectile fired from a weapon capable of firing a lethal              
projectile is considered a lethal projectile" even though they were            
not designed to do so.  He is not certain that there is a                      
projectile designed for a 357 that's designed not to be lethal.                
The statutes cover pepper spray and the other types of net guns                
that are fired out of a special weapon.  This bill is designed to              
address that very narrow definition of what a lethal projectile is.            
If a person fired a 357 in a defense mode, that's not what this                
bill is designed to do.                                                        
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ said it seems the concerns that Mr.                   
Johnson raised are addressed in a nonlethal definition.  He                    
indicated the definition of nonlethal as it is used in the statute             
is the projectile and that defines what type of firearm is being               
used.  He said "defensive weapon" has no meaning and it's vague and            
he thinks the intent of this bill is covered by using the nonlethal            
firearm definition.                                                            
                                                                               
Number 0138                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE RYAN said he has a question about the physical                  
properties.  He gave an example using a 12-gauge shotgun and asked             
what is the range on the shotgun before a shot delivers "X" amount             
of force and a shot that could concentrate that force and cause                
some serious harm and/or penetration.                                          
                                                                               
MR. JOHNSON explained that the design of bag is such that when it              
hits on a corner, the lead shot expands.  It is designed to                    
distribute the weight evenly, less so if it hits flat.  He                     
indicated that's where the "proper training" and "under direction"             
comes in.  He said he would be remiss to say that people have not              
been injured by this.  When a police officer has to make a decision            
whether or not to fire a projectile, it is a very unique situation             
similar to the suicide situation addressed earlier, but not to the             
level of a police officer taking their revolver out and firing it,             
but at a level below that.  He said the police view it as a long               
baton.  If you hit someone in the head with a baton, you can do                
serious damage, but if a person is properly trained and needs to               
subdue a suspect and if it's used properly, it's a very effective              
tool.  Mr. Johnson referred to the suicide case and said the way               
the law is currently written, the officer that fired the projectile            
was equivalent to an officer pulling out his 38 mm and shooting the            
woman in the arm.  He said that situation would be totally frowned             
upon and the officer would be in a lot of trouble, but by statute              
it's the same because he fired a lethal projectile.  He noted that             
it is the belief of the sponsor that a person acting under                     
training, under the rules of engagement of the Department of                   
Corrections, should not be held accountable as if they pulled out              
their 38 revolver out and shot someone.  He indicated that the                 
purpose of the statute is only for projectiles fired from weapons              
capable of firing a lethal projectile.  It's a fairly narrow                   
definition of what this does.  It doesn't take in the new                      
technologies of the nets and the phone and the pepper sprays, but              
those are not designed to be fired from weapons capable of firing              
lethal projectiles.                                                            
                                                                               
CHAIR JAMES said, "The feelings I have on this bill is that I think            
that it has gone through other committees and come out this way.               
I'm a little uncomfortable with the defensive weapons that you say             
that it's the load that makes the determination, not the physical-             
ness of the weapon.  This does have a Judiciary referral, which I              
feel real comfortable with [Representative] Brian Porter on that               
and his police experience.  I guess without anyone giving me any               
real ways that we need to amend this bill, I would be comfortable              
sending it on to Judiciary where it will get another review."                  
                                                                               
Number 0180                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ made a motion to delete "(1)" and ", or               
(2) defensive weapon" on page 1, line 8, to so it would read:                  
"...use includes the use of a nonlethal firearm."  Also, on page 1,            
line 9, to delete "or a defensive weapon" so it would read "...a               
nonlethal firearm does not amount to the use of deadly force...."              
                                                                               
CHAIR JAMES asked whether there was any objection.                             
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE RYAN asked Mr. Johnson if the sponsor would be                  
comfortable with the amendments made by Representative Berkowitz.              
                                                                               
MR. JOHNSON said any time there's a change to someone's bill,                  
there's a certain level of uncomfortableness.  He indicated that               
the bill was drafted with the assistance of the Anchorage Police               
Officers Association and their attorneys, and it is based on a bill            
that was drafted out of Iowa and they basically had the same                   
problem.  He said, "This bill has been thought out by people who               
know more about this than I and probably more than the sponsor                 
does."  He noted that it was done at the request of the Anchorage              
Police Department with a lot of input.  He said until he can                   
communicate with the sponsor, attorneys, and other people that had             
input, the sponsor might want to have the opportunity to review the            
amendment by Representative Berkowitz before it is enacted.                    
                                                                               
Number 0205                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIR JAMES said the definition of "defensive weapons" is broad.               
She indicated that she doesn't expect legislators/staffers to                  
submit legislation to the committee without the possibility of it              
being amended, and she feels a little uncomfortable that Mr.                   
Johnson is not able to respond to the amendment.  However, if the              
committee passes the amendment and the bill moves to the Judiciary             
Committee, she would suggest - if the amendment is not a good                  
amendment and if Mr. Johnson has a good argument that it should not            
be changed - that the sponsor has a right to bring that up when                
they present the bill to the Judiciary Committee.  She indicated if            
this was the last committee of referral she would like to hold the             
bill and check with the sponsor, but since it is not, she would                
rather not hold the bill.                                                      
                                                                               
MR. JOHNSON reiterated that he still has a certain level of                    
uncomfortableness.                                                             
                                                                               
CHAIR JAMES said she understands that Mr. Johnson can't tell about             
another person's comfort level.                                                
                                                                               
Number 0216                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE HODGINS said he wanted more information on the                  
mechanics of the bill.  He said if the committee changes the bill              
and then it's changed back to it's present form in the next                    
committee because of an argument, he asked, "Does that mean that               
that is a [committee substitute] CS and it has to go back through              
the Senate side?"                                                              
                                                                               
CHAIR JAMES advised that two things can happen:  they could amend              
the bill in committee today and it can go to the Judiciary                     
Committee and Judiciary can take the original bill and not the                 
amended one.  She explained that Judiciary cannot take their CS,               
but they can take the one that State Affairs passes out, and/or if             
they wanted to, they can do a different CS.  She indicated that                
anytime there is a change to a bill on one side or the other, the              
bill has to go back for concurrence.  She remarked that intense                
scrutiny of a legislation is certainly warranted.                              
                                                                               
Number 0227                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIR JAMES again asked if there was an objection to the motion                
made by Representative Berkowitz.  There being no objection, it was            
so ordered.                                                                    
                                                                               
Number 0229                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ made a motion to move HCSSB 309 as amended            
out of committee with individual recommendations and attached zero             
fiscal notes.  There being no objection, HCSSB 309(STA) moved out              
of the House State Affairs Standing Committee.                                 
                                                                               
CSSCR 22(STA) - KIDS VOTING ALASKA PROGRAMS                                    
                                                                               
CHAIR JAMES announced the next order of business is CSSCR 22(STA),             
Relating to promotion of Kids Voting Alaska programs, sponsored by             
Senator Miller.                                                                
                                                                               
Number 0236                                                                    
                                                                               
MARY GORE, Legislative Assistant to Senator Mike Miller, Alaska                
State Legislature, indicated there isn't a sponsor statement                   
because it is self-explanatory.  Basically the resolution supports             
Kids Voting Alaska program which began in Fairbanks in 1992.  She              
stated Kids Voting is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization funded             
by businesses, (primarily Alyeska, National Bank of Alaska and                 
Carrs Quality Center) and is operated by hundreds of volunteers                
across the state.                                                              
                                                                               
MS. GORE said the goal is to teach Alaska youth about the                      
fundamental democratic principals of voting and promote good                   
lifelong voting habits.  The curriculum will be taught in at least             
35 school districts during the school year and during the next                 
general election.  About 90 percent of kids eligible around the                
state (120,000) will have the opportunity to vote in the general               
election.                                                                      
                                                                               
MS. GORE indicated she heard about the program through Senator                 
Duncan's staff who actually worked the polls in Juneau, and her                
kids started talking at the dinner table about the different issues            
that were going to be on the ballot and about the different people             
that were up for election.  They started encouraging their parents.            
The children said, "We need to vote mom, we have to go to the poll             
on the day that they're going to have the election."  Ms. Gore said            
she couldn't say if there was a larger turn out at the polls in                
Juneau, but she does know that one family felt it was unqualified              
success just based on the discussion that it led to at their own               
dinner table.                                                                  
                                                                               
Number 0251                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE HODGINS noted this is a good idea.  He asked if it's            
self-explanatory and there's no reason for a sponsor statement why             
is there a committee substitute.                                               
                                                                               
MS. GORE replied in a committee on the Senate side they added two              
more people that they wanted the resolution sent to.                           
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE RYAN said he tracked the kids' voting candidates,               
their votes versus the general election, and there was a wide                  
disparity between how the kids voted from what they heard in school            
and how the general population voted.  He indicated it favored                 
people not particularly in his party.                                          
                                                                               
CHAIR JAMES stated, in that respect, there is that concern and                 
especially in the conservative ranks.  She said she shares the                 
concern for the education that we're giving our children not being             
balanced in many cases.  A balanced education is very important and            
we shouldn't be on one side or the other of the issue.  Chair James            
mentioned the teachers in the North Pole school have done a very               
good job of making it balanced.                                                
                                                                               
MS. GORE noted that the program itself, the curriculum, is designed            
to be nonpartisan.                                                             
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ observed the students are voting the right            
way because they're studying the issues.                                       
                                                                               
Number 0271                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE IVAN IVAN made a motion to move CSSCR 22(STA) out of            
committee with individual recommendations and attached zero fiscal             
note.  There being no objection, CSSCR 22(STA) moved out of the                
House State Affairs Standing Committee.                                        
                                                                               
HB 44 - ADMISSION TO PIONEERS' HOMES                                           
                                                                               
CHAIR JAMES announced the last order of business would be HB 44,               
"An Act relating to admission to an Alaska Pioneers' Home,"                    
sponsored by Representative Tom Brice.                                         
                                                                               
Number 0282                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE TOM BRICE said the idea of HB 44 came to him during             
some discussion he was having with some people who were trying to              
gain admission to the Alaska Pioneers' Home.  He informed the                  
committee that the people he spoke with were concerned that the                
rates were going to grow so fast that they were going to be unable             
to afford them.  He told the committee if a person got on the                  
waiting list for the Pioneers' Home in January under a fixed income            
which they could afford at that time, and perhaps in a year when               
they finally gain admittance, that that amount of income would not             
be sufficient to cover the costs associated with getting in.  He               
said it was suggested that it be put in statute that at the time a             
person gets on the waiting list, that they be locked in at that                
rate.  He said locking a person in at that rate causes some major              
constitutional issues about equal protection and equal access, but             
what can be done is ensuring that a person would not be                        
disqualified from entering the Pioneers' Home based upon their                 
ability to pay.                                                                
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE noted that the Department of Administration               
made a suggestion to Section 1 on page 1 beginning on line 9 which             
reads:                                                                         
                                                                               
     An applicant who is otherwise qualified for admission to the              
     home may not be disqualified for admission based on failure to            
     make an initial payment or provide security for the monthly               
     payments provided for in the agreement entered into AS                    
     47.55.030(a) if the commissioner of administration determines             
     that the applicant is financially unable to make the payment              
     or provide the security.                                                  
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE said instead of using the wording "based on               
failure to make an initial payment" it could be based on some type             
of statement that the applicant is financially unable to make the              
initial payment.  He said "failure" means a person doesn't pay,                
even though they might be financially able to, but they don't.                 
                                                                               
CHAIR JAMES suggested using the term "inability" instead of                    
"failure."                                                                     
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE said that would be fine.                                  
                                                                               
Number 0303                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE RYAN asked, "Isn't this the way the Pioneers' Home              
was originally set up?  That the old people when they reach a                  
certain age they have a place to go."                                          
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE stated that we all know what the original                 
purpose of the Pioneers' Home was for.  He said he is not quite                
sure it's necessarily there anymore, but he does know that in the              
scheme of things, it's very important that the state work with the             
community in providing long-term care.  He said the bill would                 
definitely add a certain amount of comfort in those making                     
application that they know they would not be denied access to the              
Pioneers' Home based upon ability.                                             
                                                                               
CHAIR JAMES said the Pioneers' Home was originally intended for                
pioneers who had lived in Alaska for 25 years and for those people             
who were here at statehood.  She pointed out that the law cannot               
require a person to be a pioneer, therefore, the Pioneers' Home has            
to be open to anyone who has lived in Alaska for one year.  Now the            
Pioneers' Home is a state-paid nursing facility.  She said over the            
last few years the rates have been greatly increased because it is             
such an expensive operation.  Even at the rates people are being               
charged, it still does not cover the costs.  She indicated that all            
of the people in the Pioneers' Homes are not paying what it costs,             
but those who can are paying a much higher fee.  She noted that                
there's been a lot of distress from the pioneers on that issue                 
because even though they have the money to pay, they have other                
things they like to do with their money besides pay for their board            
and room.  When the rates kept rising, they began to worry that                
they wouldn't be able to stay there anymore.                                   
                                                                               
Number 0322                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIR JAMES noted that the legislature passed legislation a couple             
of years ago that said if a person is already in a pioneer home and            
if the rates increased so that person would not be able to pay                 
anymore, that they can't be kicked out.  She said when she                     
evaluates the legality of it with equal protection, if there are               
some people who are in the pioneer homes who don't have to pay,                
then the people who are qualified to be in there should be owed the            
same benefit.  If we don't do that, that there might be an                     
opportunity to challenge that.  Chair James commented that pioneer             
homes are an extremely expensive way to provide a home for these               
people and pointed out that there are other assisted-living homes              
available, which are much less expensive and more efficient so that            
people can live more of a normal life instead of an institutional              
life.  In conclusion she said, "We don't have enough places that's             
why there's a waiting list and I think this is a good way to go on             
this issue, but it doesn't cover the whole concern that we have,               
and it's a big one.  And I've been very frustrated with this whole             
issue for the six years I've been here, as to how to manage the                
growing cost of the pioneers homes.  Not necessarily because it                
doesn't provide a good home for some people, but that it is so                 
extremely costly more than other systems."                                     
                                                                               
Number 0337                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE HODGINS noted that there is a zero fiscal note and              
said if people are going to be allowed not to pay, it seems there              
would be some sort of fiscal note generated.                                   
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE said, "It's current policy, it's not statute,             
but it is policy, and as we know, policies can change with the                 
winds of the wind that someone will not be denied admittance.  So              
they are currently doing this."  He said his concern is that under             
the constant pressures that Chair James has brought forth that that            
policy will change.  And that some time in the future it could be              
reasonably assumed that the administration of the Pioneers' Home               
would definitely base one's acceptance upon ability to pay.                    
                                                                               
Number 0348                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE RYAN made a motion to replace the word "failure"                
with the word "inability" on page 1, line 10.  There being no                  
objection, it was so ordered.                                                  
                                                                               
Number 0350                                                                    
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE HODGINS made a motion to move HB 44 out of committee            
as amended with individual recommendations and attached zero fiscal            
note.  There being no objection, CSHB 44(STA) moved out of the                 
House State Affairs Standing Committee.                                        
                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE HODGINS noted that Representative Vezey has not been            
in committee and he has not seen committee packets for him and                 
asked if he is still on the committee.                                         
                                                                               
CHAIR JAMES informed the committee that she requested from the                 
leadership to have Representative Vezey replaced.  She indicated               
that the leadership asked her for a list of five names whom she                
would like on the committee and she gave them a list of four people            
and she is waiting for a replacement.  She pointed out that the                
replacement has to have certain qualifications and they must be a              
majority member.                                                               
                                                                               
CHAIR JAMES announced that the committee would hear SB 105 on                  
Saturday, April 4, regarding ethics and said it is the only item on            
the agenda.  She noted that there is a majority caucus on Saturday             
as well and asked if any of the members would not be at the                    
meeting.  She noted that there wouldn't be enough majority members             
in attendance for Saturday's committee meeting, therefore, they                
would not be able to move SB 105 out of committee that day.                    
                                                                               
ADJOURNMENT                                                                    
                                                                               
Number 0377                                                                    
                                                                               
CHAIR JAMES adjourned the House State Affairs Standing Committee               
meeting at 8:57 a.m.                                                           

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