Legislature(2021 - 2022)DAVIS 106

03/08/2022 08:00 AM House TRIBAL AFFAIRS

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08:03:43 AM Start
08:04:18 AM HB313
09:02:54 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
-- Invited & Public Testimony --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
           HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON TRIBAL AFFAIRS                                                                          
                         March 8, 2022                                                                                          
                           8:03 a.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Representative Tiffany Zulkosky, Chair                                                                                          
Representative Dan Ortiz                                                                                                        
Representative Zack Fields                                                                                                      
Representative Mike Cronk                                                                                                       
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Representative Geran Tarr                                                                                                       
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
HOUSE BILL NO. 313                                                                                                              
"An  Act requiring  background investigations  of village  public                                                               
safety  officer applicants  by the  Department of  Public Safety;                                                               
relating  to  the  village public  safety  officer  program;  and                                                               
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
     - HEARD & HELD                                                                                                             
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
BILL: HB 313                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: VILLAGE PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICER GRANTS                                                                               
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) ZULKOSKY                                                                                          
02/11/22       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/11/22       (H)       TRB, FIN                                                                                               
03/01/22       (H)       TRB AT 8:00 AM DAVIS 106                                                                               
03/01/22       (H)       -- MEETING CANCELED --                                                                                 
03/03/22       (H)       TRB AT 8:00 AM DAVIS 106                                                                               
03/03/22       (H)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
03/03/22       (H)       MINUTE(TRB)                                                                                            
03/08/22       (H)       TRB AT 8:00 AM DAVIS 106                                                                               
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
MICHAEL NEMETH, Coordinator                                                                                                     
Village Public Safety Officer Program                                                                                           
Aleutian Pribilof Island Association                                                                                            
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Provided invited testimony during the                                                                    
hearing on HB 313.                                                                                                              
VIVIAN KORTHUIS, Chief Executive Officer                                                                                        
Association of Village Council Presidents                                                                                       
Bethel, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Provided invited testimony during the                                                                    
hearing on HB 313.                                                                                                              
EILEEN ARNOLD, Executive Director                                                                                               
Tundra Women's Coalition                                                                                                        
Bethel, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Provided invited testimony during the                                                                    
hearing on HB 313.                                                                                                              
GINA APPELONI, Director                                                                                                         
Village Public Safety Officer Program                                                                                           
Kawerak, Inc.                                                                                                                   
Nome, Alaska                                                                                                                    
POSITION STATEMENT:  Provided invited testimony in support of HB
SERGEANT ZACHERY WEST, Village Public Safety Officer                                                                            
Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska                                                                         
Kasaan, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 313.                                                                          
DANIEL NELSON                                                                                                                   
Napaskiak, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the hearing on HB 313.                                                                  
BRANDON AGUCHAK, Tribal Administrator                                                                                           
Native Village of Scammon Bay                                                                                                   
Scammon Bay, Alaska                                                                                                             
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the hearing on HB 313.                                                                  
ROBERT NICK, PhD, representing self                                                                                             
Native Village of Nunapitchuk                                                                                                   
Nunapitchuk, Alaska                                                                                                             
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the hearing on HB 313.                                                                  
JOEL HARD, Director                                                                                                             
Village Public Safety Officer Program                                                                                           
Department of Public Safety                                                                                                     
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Provided information regarding the fiscal                                                                
notes for HB 313.                                                                                                               
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
8:03:43 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  TIFFANY ZULKOSKY  called  the House  Special Committee  on                                                             
Tribal Affairs  meeting to  order at  8:03 a.m.   Representatives                                                               
Ortiz, Cronk,  and Zulkosky  were present at  the call  to order.                                                               
Representative Fields arrived as the meeting was in progress.                                                                   
          HB 313-VILLAGE PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICER GRANTS                                                                       
8:04:18 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR ZULKOSKY  announced that the  only order of  business would                                                               
be   HOUSE   BILL  NO.   313,   "An   Act  requiring   background                                                               
investigations  of village  public safety  officer applicants  by                                                               
the Department of  Public Safety; relating to  the village public                                                               
safety officer program; and providing for an effective date."                                                                   
CO-CHAIR  ZULKOSKY  announced  the  committee  would  begin  with                                                               
invited testimony.                                                                                                              
8:04:59 AM                                                                                                                    
MICHAEL  NEMETH,  Coordinator,   Village  Public  Safety  Officer                                                               
Program,  Aleutian  Pribilof  Island Association  (APIA),  shared                                                               
that he  has been a Village  Public Safety Officer (VPSO)  for 20                                                               
years.  He  said APIA sees HB 313  and SB 81 as tools  to use for                                                               
the improvement  of public safety  in Alaska.   He said  the bill                                                               
would  ensure   communication  between   the  grantees   and  the                                                               
Department  of Public  Safety (DPS).    He pointed  out that  the                                                               
relationship has been good lately,  but that could change without                                                               
legislation to  solidify it.   He stated one important  aspect of                                                               
HB 313 is the provision related  to minimum training.  He pointed                                                               
out  that AS  13.96.100 states  that minimum  training for  VPSOs                                                               
shall be 240 hours,  and he pointed out that 96  hours of that is                                                               
taken  for  rural  fire  protection  specialist  training,  which                                                               
leaves [only] 144  hours for law enforcement,  search and rescue,                                                               
and emergency  medical training.   He  indicated support  for the                                                               
650-hour minimum that  would be established under HB  313 for law                                                               
enforcement training.  He said  that number comes from the Alaska                                                               
Police  Standards  Council  (APSC)  as  the  minimum  requirement                                                               
accepted  by  APSC  for  reciprocity from  another  agency.    In                                                               
addition,  there  would  be  the  96 hours  for  the  rural  fire                                                               
protection  specialist training,  40 hours  of medical  training,                                                               
and 40  hours of  search and  rescue training.   All in  all, the                                                               
total  training  time under  HB  313  would  be  826 hours.    He                                                               
reiterated that  it is  a good  time to advance  the work  of the                                                               
VPSO working  group while there  is momentum in  state government                                                               
for advanced public safety.                                                                                                     
8:09:37 AM                                                                                                                    
VIVIAN KORTHUIS,  Chief Executive  Officer (CEO),  Association of                                                               
Village   Council    Presidents   (AVCP),    offered   background                                                               
information  regarding AVCP.   She  emphasized the  remoteness of                                                               
the 38 communities overseen by AVCP.   She talked about the rates                                                               
of  domestic  violence and  assault,  noting  they are  10  times                                                               
higher  in these  villages than  in  the rest  of the  U.S.   The                                                               
majority  of  the villages  have  access  only to  part-time  law                                                               
enforcement, while some have none,  and Alaska State Troopers can                                                               
respond only  to "serious felonies."   She  said this is  why the                                                               
VPSO program is so important.                                                                                                   
MS. KORTHUIS  talked about  the challenges  of the  VPSO program,                                                               
including  difficulty with  recruitment  and retention,  salaries                                                               
below market,  the need for  flexibility to meet  regional needs,                                                               
and consistent legislative  budget cuts.  She said  AVCP is happy                                                               
to  see  the  positive  changes in  the  relationship  with  DPS,                                                               
including  a   newly  created  position   of  director   of  VPSO                                                               
operations in  the Office  of the  Commissioner.   She emphasized                                                               
the need to  continue recruitment and retention  efforts, as well                                                               
as to have  flexibility in addressing the  specific public safety                                                               
needs of the communities served by VPSOs.                                                                                       
8:15:05 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. KORTHUIS  said that  in 2016,  tribes determined  that public                                                               
safety was  the region's  number one priority.   She  stated that                                                               
AVCP has worked  hard to address public  safety needs, organizing                                                               
planning sessions with  DPS, the Alaska State  Troopers, and VPSO                                                               
grantee organizations.   The process identified  the VPSO program                                                               
as  one [solution]  to the  need  for local  law enforcement  for                                                               
every  rural community  in Alaska.   She  said the  strategies to                                                               
strengthen the  VPSO program included:   funding appropriation, a                                                               
recruiting   strategy,  changes   to   program  governance,   and                                                               
clarification of VPSO  roles and responsibilities.   She said the                                                               
Alaska VPSO  Working Group expanding on  these recommendations in                                                               
its 2020  report.  She echoed  that HB 313 incorporates  eight of                                                               
the  nine recommendations  from the  report; these  changes would                                                               
strengthen and  support the VPSO  program by clarifying  the role                                                               
of  VPSOs, increasing  funding  and  flexibility, and  leveraging                                                               
government to government relations with tribes in the state.                                                                    
MS.  KORTHUIS  characterized  the healthcare  system  and  public                                                               
safety system as the right and  left hands working together.  She                                                               
added, "I  feel our villages have  one hand tied behind  our back                                                               
with public safety  and all its challenges."   She emphasized the                                                               
need for  health care and  public safety  in every village.   She                                                               
spoke of  making rural Alaska safer,  and she opined that  HB 313                                                               
is  "a big  step  in the  right direction."    She concluded  her                                                               
testimony by stating AVCP's support for HB 313.                                                                                 
8:19:45 AM                                                                                                                    
The committee took an at-ease from 8:19 a.m. to 8:20 a.m.                                                                       
8:20:39 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR ZULKOSKY  explained there had been  technical difficulty in                                                               
attempting  to get  Gina Appeloni  on  line to  testify, and  the                                                               
committee  would try  again to  hear her  testimony later  in the                                                               
8:21:29 AM                                                                                                                    
EILEEN  ARNOLD,  Executive  Director,  Tundra  Women's  Coalition                                                               
(TWC), agreed with Ms. Korthius'  analogy regarding one hand tied                                                               
behind  the  back.    She   talked  about  working  in  a  multi-                                                               
disciplinary team,  with the three responding  entities being law                                                               
enforcement,  medical services,  and victim  services.   She said                                                               
when  there is  no law  enforcement,  victims call  TWC, and  she                                                               
emphasized how  unnerving it  is to receive  such a  call without                                                               
the presence of  law enforcement for support.   She gave examples                                                               
of the  lack of  support that  is available  to victims  when law                                                               
enforcement  is   not  available  locally.     She  stressed  the                                                               
importance  of  providing  trauma-informed  training  [to  VPSOs]                                                               
because of  the tremendous impact  of "doing crisis  response has                                                               
on first  responders."  She  said this would impact  retention of                                                               
VPSOs.    Ms. Arnold  said  she  supports "roving"  VPSOs,  which                                                               
alleviates  the stress  on VPSOs  that are  serving in  a village                                                               
where they grew  up and know everyone.  She  concluded by stating                                                               
that victim services  needs law enforcement to be able  to do its                                                               
8:29:40 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  ORTIZ  inquired whether  Ms.  Arnold,  in her  12                                                               
years of experience  in her field, thinks that  in general, VPSOs                                                               
are effective  in meeting the  needs of law enforcement  in their                                                               
MS. ARNOLD prefaced her answer  by reminding Representative Ortiz                                                               
that   she  lives   in   Bethel  rather   than   in  a   village.                                                               
Notwithstanding that,  she answered yes.   She spoke  again about                                                               
the importance of having a multi-disciplinary team.                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE ORTIZ  referred to Ms. Arnold's  support of roving                                                               
service  and suggested  that a  VPSO living  in the  community in                                                               
which  he/she was  raised may  be beneficial  in terms  of having                                                               
built a trust with those served.                                                                                                
MS. ARNOLD  answered that both  rotation and maintaining  a local                                                               
VPSO  should be  supported, depending  on what  is working  best.                                                               
She stressed the importance of  flexibility.  She gave an example                                                               
of a VPSO  being closely related to the  perpetrator, noting that                                                               
sometimes there is "safety in anonymity."                                                                                       
8:34:48 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  ZULKOSKY proffered  that similar  to what  Ms. Arnold  was                                                               
expressing,  there is  a health  aide  program that  incorporates                                                               
both local  and imported helpers.   She talked  about familiarity                                                               
with families and cultures.                                                                                                     
8:35:38 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS asked whether TWC  or its partners has seen                                                               
capital  funding   to  expand  shelter  services   in  Bethel  or                                                               
MS.  ARNOLD, in  response, commended  the federal  government for                                                               
providing  specific  victim  services funding;  however,  capital                                                               
funding  is needed  for transitional  housing.   She said  TWC is                                                               
advocating for  money to create infrastructure  of housing, human                                                               
services,  and  local  law  enforcement.     She  emphasized  how                                                               
important it  is for someone  to be able  to call someone  who is                                                               
doing  the same  work for  advice,  and she  speculated that  law                                                               
enforcement needs  the same  thing.  In  response to  a follow-up                                                               
question, she  confirmed she  has heard from  two or  three other                                                               
communities  that  want to  build  a  shelter.   In  response  to                                                               
another  question from  Representative Fields,  she reviewed  the                                                               
existing funding streams.                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS  indicated he thinks TWC's  needs should be                                                               
heard by the House Finance Committee.                                                                                           
8:39:00 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  ZULKOSKY  noted  that DPS  had  mentioned  the  imperative                                                               
nature  of  VPSOs  in  responding  to  sexual  assault  cases  in                                                               
communities, and  she asked Ms.  Arnold to share  her perspective                                                               
on that issue.                                                                                                                  
MS. ARNOLD, in  response, mentioned there is  sometimes a waiting                                                               
process  and the  inability to  travel from  villages to  Bethel,                                                               
sometimes for days.   She spoke about the  collection of forensic                                                               
evidence and the  importance of being able to  do that collection                                                               
8:42:03 AM                                                                                                                    
GINA APPELONI,  Director, Village Public Safety  Officer Program,                                                               
Kawerak, Inc., provided  invited testimony in support  of HB 313.                                                               
She  said Kawerak,  Inc. would  like  to see  the VPSO  statutory                                                               
regulations updated this year, since  only 3 of the approximately                                                               
15 regulations have  been updated since 1995.   She explained the                                                               
updates  would give  rural communities,  VPSOs, and  grantees the                                                               
support needed  to build a  stronger public safety program.   She                                                               
gave an example  from 1980 about the delays in  receiving help in                                                               
villages, and  she indicated  the same delays  exist today.   She                                                               
talked about  the legislature's ability  to change the  budget by                                                               
supporting HB 313,  and said the bill  would increase flexibility                                                               
and allow  unfunded mandates to  be funded, and that  would allow                                                               
the expansion of  the VPSO Program.  She mentioned  the repair of                                                               
public  safety buildings,  affordable  housing, training,  higher                                                               
pay, and better equipment.   She echoed the testimony of previous                                                               
speakers regarding  the positive  steps that  have been  taken in                                                               
the last several  years with respect to the VPSO  Program and the                                                               
importance  of  supporting  HB  313  to  continue  that  positive                                                               
movement in support of public safety.                                                                                           
8:44:39 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR ZULKOSKY opened public testimony on HB 313.                                                                               
8:45:26 AM                                                                                                                    
SERGEANT  ZACHERY WEST,  Village Public  Safety Officer,  Central                                                               
Council  Tlingit &  Haida  Indian Tribes  of  Alaska ("Tlingit  &                                                               
Haida"), testified in  support of HB 313.  He  said he has served                                                               
as a  VPSO in Kasaan for  10 years, and  he has also served  in a                                                               
roving  capacity   throughout  other  communities   in  Southeast                                                               
Alaska.  He said the  proposed legislation "represents many years                                                               
of  meaningful   discussion  about   how  to  make   the  program                                                               
stronger."   He emphasized  the role of  VPSOs in  public safety,                                                               
and he opined that reform is long overdue.                                                                                      
8:47:19 AM                                                                                                                    
DANIEL NELSON indicated  there is a small amount  of funding from                                                               
a stimulus  program, but it is  not enough.  He  related that his                                                               
community has a jail and VPSO housing,  but no VPSO.  He said the                                                               
presence  of  a  VPSO  makes  a difference  in  the  behavior  of                                                               
everyone.    He  remarked  that  without a  VPSO,  the  state  is                                                               
spending  more  money to  fly  an  Alaska  State Trooper  to  the                                                               
village each time an incidence requires one.                                                                                    
8:50:09 AM                                                                                                                    
BRANDON AGUCHAK, Tribal Administrator,  Native Village of Scammon                                                               
Bay, testified that  Scammon Bay, with a population of  675, is a                                                               
dry community accessible only by air.   He reported that in 2017,                                                               
the tribe "was  forced to lay off the entire  police force."  The                                                               
community has not had a VPSO  since 2017, and now there is higher                                                               
incidence of drug  and alcohol abuse.  He mentioned  the need for                                                               
sick leave and winter gear.   He emphasized that having a VPSO in                                                               
the  Native  Village  of  Scammon  Bay  would  greatly  help  the                                                               
8:52:38 AM                                                                                                                    
ROBERT NICK,  PhD, representing self, shared  his credentials and                                                               
said he is  speaking as a tribal  elder.  He said  he agrees with                                                               
previous speakers on  the importance of public  safety and having                                                               
the services of  the VPSO Program.  He said  the program needs to                                                               
be  expanded and  protocols need  to  be updated.   He  indicated                                                               
agreement with the provision of HB  313 that would "have back six                                                               
VPSOs."   He  said  he agrees.   He  said  background checks  are                                                               
important.   He  remarked that  some  tribes do  not have  public                                                               
safety  or a  health  aide  at present,  and  those services  are                                                               
important.    He  mentioned  that so  many  communities  are  not                                                               
connected by road.   He mentioned the use of  "board" roads, like                                                               
boardwalks, on wetlands where roads cannot be built.                                                                            
8:59:44 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR ZULKOSKY,  after ascertaining  that there  was no  one else                                                               
who wished  to testify, closed public  testimony on HB 313.   She                                                               
invited Joel Hard to discuss the fiscal notes for HB 313.                                                                       
9:00:19 AM                                                                                                                    
JOEL  HARD,  Director,  Village Public  Safety  Officer  Program,                                                               
Department  of Public  Safety (DPS),  responded that  he did  not                                                               
have  the fiscal  notes with  him, but  offered information  from                                                               
memory.   He stated that the  primary fiscal note relates  to the                                                               
background   investigator  position,   and   said  that   service                                                               
currently  is  borrowed  from the  Recruitment  Section  for  the                                                               
Alaska State  Troopers, within DPS.   He  said that "a  growth of                                                               
this program" would  provide "a position within  the VPSO Program                                                               
to  address those  background  needs."   Mr.  Hard explained  the                                                               
second fiscal  note relates  to psychological  testing.   He said                                                               
there are  currently 50 VPSOs in  the system, and he  offered his                                                               
understanding that  the fiscal note  estimates 50 VPSOs  would be                                                               
tested.  He opined that that  is "a bit elevated" and would cover                                                               
a worst-case scenario.  He  explained that "site testing would be                                                               
associated with  those going towards firearm  qualifications, and                                                               
we  don't have  any that  ... have  currently achieved  that, nor                                                               
have the  regional corporations  moved in  that direction."   The                                                               
third fiscal  note pertains to  the Criminal  Justice Information                                                               
[Services] (CJIS).   He explained  that when that  information is                                                               
given  to  private entities,  there  must  be an  audit  process;                                                               
however,  he offered  his understanding  that that  audit process                                                               
can  be absorbed  by  "the folks  that do  that"  for DPS,  since                                                               
"we're  only,  at  this  point, dealing  with  10  nonprofits  or                                                               
municipalities administering the grants."                                                                                       
9:02:31 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR ZULKOSKY thanked the testifiers.                                                                                          
[HB 313 was held over.]                                                                                                         
9:02:54 AM                                                                                                                    
There being no  further business before the  committee, the House                                                               
Special  Committee on  Tribal Affairs  meeting  was adjourned  at                                                               
9:03 a.m.                                                                                                                       

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