Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/18/2003 03:31 PM Senate STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
            SENATE STATE AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                           
                         March 18, 2003                                                                                         
                           3:31 p.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Gary Stevens, Chair                                                                                                     
Senator John Cowdery, Vice Chair                                                                                                
Senator Fred Dyson                                                                                                              
Senator Gretchen Guess                                                                                                          
Senator Lyman Hoffman                                                                                                           
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 10                                                                                                  
Relating to the Pledge of Allegiance.                                                                                           
     MOVED SJR 10 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                              
HOUSE BILL NO. 140(efd fld)                                                                                                     
"An Act relating to benefits for retired teachers or employees                                                                  
who participated in retirement incentive programs and are                                                                       
subsequently reemployed as a commissioner."                                                                                     
     MOVED SCS HB 140(efd fld) (STA) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                           
SENATE BILL NO. 115                                                                                                             
"An Act allowing expenses of the correctional industries program                                                                
that may be financed from the correctional industries fund to                                                                   
include the salaries and benefits of state employees."                                                                          
     MOVED SB 115 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                              
SENATE BILL NO. 24                                                                                                              
"An Act providing special absentee ballots for voters in remote                                                                 
     MOVED SB 24 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                               
CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 46(STA)                                                                                                   
"An Act relating to printing of ballot titles and propositions                                                                  
on primary election ballots."                                                                                                   
     MOVED CSHB 46 (STA) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                       
PREVIOUS ACTION                                                                                                               
SJR 10 - No previous action to record.                                                                                          
HB 140 - No previous action to record.                                                                                          
SB 115 - No previous action to record.                                                                                          
SB 24 - No previous action to record.                                                                                           
HB 46 - No previous action to record.                                                                                           
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
Jacqueline Tupou                                                                                                                
Staff to Senator Lyda Green                                                                                                     
Alaska State Capitol, Room 516                                                                                                  
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Introduced SJR 10                                                                                         
Guy Bell                                                                                                                        
Director, Division of Retirement and Benefits                                                                                   
Department of Administration                                                                                                    
PO Box 110200                                                                                                                   
Juneau, AK  99811-0200                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on HB 140                                                                                      
Jerry Burnett                                                                                                                   
Director, Division of Administrative Services                                                                                   
Department of Corrections                                                                                                       
431 N. Franklin, Suite 400                                                                                                      
Juneau, AK 99801                                                                                                                
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on SB 115                                                                                       
Senator Georgianna Lincoln                                                                                                      
Alaska State Capitol, Room 11                                                                                                   
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Sponsor SB 24                                                                                             
Sara Boario                                                                                                                     
Chief of Staff to Senator Georgianna Lincoln                                                                                    
Alaska State Capitol, Room 11                                                                                                   
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on SB 24                                                                                        
Virginia Breeze                                                                                                                 
Division of Elections                                                                                                           
P.O. Box 110017                                                                                                                 
Juneau, AK 99811-0017                                                                                                           
POSITION STATEMENT: Answered questions on SB 24 and HB 46                                                                     
Representative Mike Hawker                                                                                                      
Alaska State Capitol, Room 434                                                                                                  
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Prime Sponsor HB 46                                                                                       
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
TAPE 03-9, SIDE A                                                                                                             
CHAIR  GARY  STEVENS called  the  Senate  State Affairs  Standing                                                             
Committee meeting  to order  at 3:31  p.m. Present  were Senators                                                               
Dyson, Cowdery, Guess and Chair  Stevens. Senator Hoffman arrived                                                               
The first order of business was SJR 10.                                                                                         
             SJR 10-PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE RESOLUTION                                                                         
MS. JACQUELINE TUPOU, staff to Senator Lyda Green, paraphrased                                                                  
from the sponsor statement:                                                                                                     
     Senate  Joint Resolution  10 resolves  that the  Alaska                                                                    
     State  Legislature  supports  a review  by  the  United                                                                    
     States  Supreme Court  of the  Newdow V.  U.S. Congress                                                                    
     In Newdow  vs. United States  Congress, a panel  of the                                                                    
     Ninth  Circuit  decided  that  the  recitation  of  the                                                                    
     Pledge   of   Allegiance    in   public   schools   was                                                                    
     unconstitutional.  The Ninth  Circuit Court  of Appeals                                                                    
     confirmed this  decision and granted  a 90 day  stay to                                                                    
     the  California  School  District   to  appeal  to  the                                                                    
     Supreme  Court.  If  this  decision  is  not  reviewed,                                                                    
     public  schools  in   nine  western  states,  including                                                                    
     Alaska, will be banned from reciting the pledge.                                                                           
     SJR  10  expresses  the support  of  the  Alaska  State                                                                    
     Legislature for the review of  Newdow vs. U.S. Congress                                                                    
     by  the United  States Supreme  Court and  of our  firm                                                                    
     belief  of  the principles  and  ideals  stated in  our                                                                    
     nation's Pledge of Allegiance.                                                                                             
     I  ask  for  your  support   in  the  passage  of  this                                                                    
There were no questions.                                                                                                        
CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked for a motion.                                                                                          
SENATOR  JOHN  COWDERY made  a  motion  and asked  for  unanimous                                                               
consent to  move SJR 10  and attached fiscal note  from committee                                                               
with  individual recommendations.  There being  no objection,  it                                                               
was so ordered.                                                                                                                 
          HB 140-BENEFITS FOR CERTAIN RIP PARTICIPANTS                                                                      
CHAIR  GARY STEVENS  explained the  House  removed the  effective                                                               
date clause for HB  140. He asked Mr. Guy Bell  to comment on the                                                               
MR.  GUY  BELL, Division  of  Retirement  and Benefits  Director,                                                               
testified  via teleconference  and described  the legislation  as                                                               
narrowly construed.                                                                                                             
It  would  allow  a  person  who  has  participated  in  a  state                                                               
sponsored  retirement  incentive  program  to  return  to  Public                                                               
Employees   Retirement  System   (PERS)  or   Teachers  Employees                                                               
Retirement  System   (TRS)  employment  as  a   State  of  Alaska                                                               
commissioner  without losing  any  benefits  from the  retirement                                                               
incentive program  (RIP). There would  be no actuarial  impact on                                                               
the  retirement systems  because  the employee  and the  employer                                                               
paid the  full cost of the  RIP at retirement so  the fiscal note                                                               
is zero.                                                                                                                        
The individual  would also be  able to participate in  the waiver                                                               
process enacted by the Legislature  two years ago. This means the                                                               
person could  continue receiving  his or her  retirement benefits                                                               
by  agreeing  not to  accrue  any  additional retirement  service                                                               
during reemployment.                                                                                                            
CHAIR GARY  STEVENS asked  him to clarify  that a  retired person                                                               
who took  the RIP would  not be  eligible for additional  PERS or                                                               
TRS benefits.                                                                                                                   
MR. BELL  explained a person who  has taken the RIP  and wants to                                                               
return  to  state  employment  is   subject  to  substantial  RIP                                                               
penalties. The  penalties are up  to 110 percent of  the benefits                                                               
they received  through the  RIP. They  lose the  incentive credit                                                               
they received  by virtue  of the  RIP, the  cost of  the benefits                                                               
already received,  and they waive  the benefits they earned  as a                                                               
result of the RIP.                                                                                                              
CHAIR GARY  STEVENS asked if anyone  had ever chosen to  pay back                                                               
the 110 percent.                                                                                                                
MR.  BELL thought  perhaps one  or two  had done  so. He  said he                                                               
could  get  the exact  numbers  but  it  would  be a  very  small                                                               
CHAIR  GARY  STEVENS  said  that wasn't  necessary,  but  it  was                                                               
interesting that so few had taken advantage of the option.                                                                      
SENATOR JOHN  COWDERY asked  for confirmation  there would  be no                                                               
additional  cost  to  the  state beyond  the  earned  salary  and                                                               
MR. BELL said that was correct.                                                                                                 
SENATOR FRED DYSON  asked for an estimated  individual amount for                                                               
a 110 percent payback.                                                                                                          
MR. BELL said it could be  tens of thousands of dollars depending                                                               
on the individual circumstances.                                                                                                
SENATOR DYSON then asked if it might be up to $100,000.                                                                         
MR.  BELL  thought  the  amounts  would  probably  be  less  than                                                               
$50,000, but individual circumstances vary tremendously.                                                                        
SENATOR GRETCHEN GUESS asked him  why there were penalties at all                                                               
if there was no fiscal impact.                                                                                                  
MR. BELL replied there were  three different retirement incentive                                                               
program  bills  and  the  last two  in  particular  included  RIP                                                               
penalties.  Typically, a  person could  claim up  to three  years                                                               
credit  in  the retirement  system  and  the individual  and  the                                                               
employer each  paid a percentage  of the full actuarial  costs of                                                               
those additional  three years of  credit. The Legislature  made a                                                               
determination  that  if  a  person  chose  to  return  to  public                                                               
employment after  taking the  RIP, there should  be some  sort of                                                               
penalty. Referring to  this as a RIP penalty  is his terminology.                                                               
The payment  is not to  make the retirement system  whole; rather                                                               
it's a penalty that is paid  to return to public employment after                                                               
having participated in the RIP.                                                                                                 
SENATOR GUESS  asked if  the fiscal  note would  be zero  if this                                                               
were open to all teachers instead of just commissioners.                                                                        
MR. BELL replied  it would. HB 20  would do the same  for all TRS                                                               
members who participated in a RIP  and for the same reasons there                                                               
would be no actuarial impact on the retirement system.                                                                          
CHAIR GARY STEVENS thanked Mr. Bell for his complete answers.                                                                   
There was no further testimony.                                                                                                 
SENATOR  GUESS observed  this is  open to  all commissioners  but                                                               
it's  geared  for  the Commissioner  of  Education  because  this                                                               
Administration is having  difficulty finding commissioners. Since                                                               
there  would be  no fiscal  impact she  was unclear  why teachers                                                               
weren't included as  well since Alaska has  a significant teacher                                                               
shortage. She  noted the previous Commissioner  of Education took                                                               
significant   financial  and   retirement  penalties   to  become                                                               
commissioner  and  SB  38  would   do  nothing  to  rectify  that                                                               
CHAIR GARY STEVENS  advised HB 20 would allow all  teachers to be                                                               
hired back  without having to  pay the 110 percent  penalty. Both                                                               
bills are quite  similar and if SB 140 passes  it might give more                                                               
credibility to the need to make it available to everyone.                                                                       
SENATOR LYMAN  HOFFMAN asked what  kind of message this  sends to                                                               
other commissioners  who retired  and participated  in a  RIP. He                                                               
said  this person  "retired,  he  RIPed out  early,  he knew  the                                                               
CHAIR GARY STEVENS  said it was reasonable to  make the exception                                                               
for the  single position because  the most likely  candidates for                                                               
the Commissioner  of Education  job would  be current  or retired                                                               
SENATOR HOFFMAN asked  if the same argument couldn't  be made for                                                               
someone such  as Commissioner of Public  Safety William Tandeske.                                                               
Making the one  exception is unfair to  Commissioner Tandeske and                                                               
others  returning under  the same  circumstance.  He asked,  "Why                                                               
aren't we opening it up to all commissioners?"                                                                                  
CHAIR  GARY STEVENS  asked Mr.  Bell  to comment  on whether  all                                                               
commissioners could take advantage of the waiver.                                                                               
MR.  BELL  explained   the  bill  would  allow   anyone  who  has                                                               
participated  in   a  public  employees  or   teacher  retirement                                                               
incentive  program  to return  as  a  commissioner of  any  state                                                               
agency.  If a  person retired  without participating  in a  state                                                               
sponsored RIP  and is  returning as  commissioner, they  have the                                                               
waiver  option available  to them.  He  said, "In  some ways  you                                                               
could argue it's a level playing field."                                                                                        
SENATOR HOFFMAN  asked which other currently  hired commissioners                                                               
would be eligible.                                                                                                              
MR.  BELL  said  he  doesn't   track  the  retirement  status  of                                                               
commissioners  so  he  wasn't  aware  of  any  others  that  were                                                               
currently hired who participated in a state sponsored RIP.                                                                      
SENATOR  GUESS commented  there  is an  immediate effective  date                                                               
with the amendment  so Senator Hoffman's point  still stands. She                                                               
asked when the RIP took place.                                                                                                  
MR. BELL  advised there have  been several; the last  was enacted                                                               
in 1996 and  he thought it expired in 2000.  His staff could give                                                               
a complete history of RIPs if she so desired.                                                                                   
SENATOR  GUESS  said that  wasn't  necessary.  She asked  him  to                                                               
confirm that a commissioner who  would have been eligible but was                                                               
hired previously could  not take advantage of  the waiver because                                                               
they were already hired.                                                                                                        
MR. BELL thought  she was correct because of  the effective date.                                                               
People in  place today wouldn't  benefit; only those  hired after                                                               
the bill is enacted would benefit.                                                                                              
SENATOR HOFFMAN commented this isn't  a level playing field. It's                                                               
just  level  for those  commissioners  that  are not  yet  hired.                                                               
Previously hired  commissioners wouldn't  find the  playing field                                                               
level at all.                                                                                                                   
MR.   BELL   explained  he   doesn't   believe   there  are   any                                                               
commissioners   hired  under   the  current   Administration  who                                                               
participated in  a state  sponsored retirement  incentive program                                                               
and therefore  haven't been faced  with the  penalties associated                                                               
with the RIP. There may be  commissioners who have been hired and                                                               
are participating in the waiver  option, but he doesn't know that                                                               
for  sure.  This  would  allow   newly  hired  commissioners  who                                                               
participated  in a  state  sponsored RIP  to  participate in  the                                                               
waiver option that is available  to people who didn't participate                                                               
in a state sponsored RIP.                                                                                                       
CHAIR GARY  STEVENS announced there  was an amendment  before the                                                               
committee and he would like a motion to adopt.                                                                                  
SENATOR COWDERY made a motion to adopt amendment #1 for HB 140.                                                                 
SENATOR GUESS objected  to ask a question. She  asked if changing                                                               
the title wouldn't require a concurrent resolution.                                                                             
SENATOR HOFFMAN  replied, "If it  gets to the floor  you're going                                                               
to need one."                                                                                                                   
SENATOR GUESS  asked whether a  concurrent resolution  was needed                                                               
to move the bill from committee.  She said she was looking to the                                                               
senior member for an answer.                                                                                                    
SENATOR COWDERY replied, "I don't believe so."                                                                                  
SENATOR  HOFFMAN said  a concurrent  resolution  would be  needed                                                               
when the bill passed from the Rules Committee.                                                                                  
CHAIR GARY STEVENS agreed.                                                                                                      
He  asked  for objections  to  amendment  #1. There  being  none,                                                               
amendment #1 was adopted.                                                                                                       
He asked for further discussion.                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS  said she wouldn't  object to moving the  bill from                                                               
committee, but  she implored the Administration  and the majority                                                               
to consider two points:                                                                                                         
   · First, she thought this was the appropriate vehicle to take                                                                
     up HB 20. It's an important bill to take up now                                                                            
     particularly if there is an immediate effective date for                                                                   
     next year's hiring. This would be good for education today.                                                                
   · Second, the previous Commissioner of Education shouldered                                                                  
     significant financial burden and lost years in retirement                                                                  
     for public service. She asked them to consider making the                                                                  
     bill retroactive to 1994.                                                                                                  
There was no further discussion.                                                                                                
CHAIR  GARY STEVENS  asked for  a motion  to move  the bill  from                                                               
SENATOR COWDERY made  a motion to move SCS HB  140(efd fld) (STA)                                                               
from committee  with individual  recommendations and  zero fiscal                                                               
note. There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                              
        SB 115-CORRECTIONAL INDUSTRIES PROGRAM EXPENSES                                                                     
CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked Mr. Burnett to introduce SB 115.                                                                       
MR.  JERRY   BURNETT,  Department  of  Corrections   Director  of                                                               
Administrative   Services,   explained   the  bill   allows   the                                                               
Correctional  Industries Fund  to  pay state  employee wages  and                                                               
benefits  for  the  product  managers  employed  in  correctional                                                               
industries.  Effectively, $960,000  would  be  paid from  product                                                               
revenues instead of from the general fund.                                                                                      
CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked what  the current product revenue figure                                                               
MR.  BURNETT  replied  the estimate  for  FY04  is  approximately                                                               
$4,150,000. If SB 115 passes, they  would have to manage the fund                                                               
more aggressively in an effort to increase revenues.                                                                            
CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked him to elaborate.                                                                                      
MR.  BURNETT added  they have  product managers  and correctional                                                               
inmates  who  are  employees.  Currently   they  run  the  Juneau                                                               
Commercial  Laundry,  Fairbanks  Garment/Flat goods  Shop,  Kenai                                                               
Office Furniture  Systems Plant, Eagle River  Garment Shop, Kenai                                                               
Metals  Plant,  Seward Wood  Furniture  Plant,  Palmer Auto  Body                                                               
Shop, and Juneau Staph Guard Hospital Laundry.                                                                                  
SENATOR JOHN COWDERY  asked if the purpose was  to shift employee                                                               
costs from the general fund.                                                                                                    
MR. BURNETT replied  the salaries and benefits of  all 14 product                                                               
managers  associated with  correctional industries  are currently                                                               
paid from the general fund.  This bill would allow their salaries                                                               
and benefits to be paid from correctional industries revenues.                                                                  
SENATOR  HOFFMAN asked  if the  salaries and  benefits for  those                                                               
positions would remain the same.                                                                                                
MR. BURNETT replied there is no proposal to change them.                                                                        
SENATOR GUESS asked for the current revenues and expenditures.                                                                  
MR.  BURNETT   advised  current  revenues  for   Fy04  are  about                                                               
$4,150,000 and  without any changes,  they expect to have  a fund                                                               
balance  of  about $300,000  at  the  end  of this  fiscal  year.                                                               
Therefore,  they  would need  to  increase  revenues to  pay  the                                                               
salaries and benefits.                                                                                                          
SENATOR GUESS  asked what would  be eliminated if  those revenues                                                               
don't increase.                                                                                                                 
MR. BURNETT  said they  would have  to "find  efficiencies within                                                               
the department to cover the costs."                                                                                             
SENATOR GUESS queried  whether passing this bill  would result in                                                               
positions being cut.                                                                                                            
MR. BURNETT replied  they did not plan to cut  any positions as a                                                               
result of passing SB 115.                                                                                                       
SENATOR  GUESS  questioned  whether  the  salaries  and  benefits                                                               
discussed could  be part  of the reduction  if the  department is                                                               
unable to make up the more than $600,000 difference.                                                                            
MR.  BURNETT wasn't  able to  offer an  answer regarding  how the                                                               
department would  handle reductions if  they were unable  to make                                                               
up the revenues.                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS  said she wasn't  making herself clear.  She wanted                                                               
to  know if  including salaries  and  benefits would  make it  an                                                               
option to  exclude them in  a reduction because they  wouldn't be                                                               
excluded now.                                                                                                                   
MR.  BURNETT replied  salaries and  benefits  are currently  paid                                                               
from  the  general fund  and  a  general  fund reduction  to  the                                                               
department could result in a cut to those positions.                                                                            
SENATOR  GUESS  said  she  was  talking  about  the  Correctional                                                               
Industry Fund.                                                                                                                  
MR.  BURNETT advised  cutting  positions would  be  one of  their                                                               
options if  the industry fund  was unable to  generate sufficient                                                               
revenues to pay for the salaries and benefits of its employees.                                                                 
SENATOR  GUESS  asked, "But  it  wouldn't  be  right now  if  the                                                               
Correctional Industries  Fund fell  short. You  couldn't actually                                                               
reduce salaries and benefits."                                                                                                  
MR.  BURNETT  replied,  "Currently,  if  correctional  industries                                                               
revenues were  to fall short, it  is likely that we  would reduce                                                               
the number  of product managers we  have even though it  is not a                                                               
direct  relationship to  the general  fund. We  would because  we                                                               
wouldn't have  sufficient work and  sufficient income  to justify                                                               
those positions."                                                                                                               
CHAIR GARY STEVENS commented the task  isn't easy but the idea is                                                               
the program should pay its way.                                                                                                 
MR. BURNETT agreed.                                                                                                             
SENATOR  HOFFMAN   asked  how  they   planned  to   generate  the                                                               
additional revenue.                                                                                                             
MR.  BURNETT wasn't  in a  position  to answer.  The manager  was                                                               
going to retire  and the department would look for  a new manager                                                               
with the entrepreneurial skills to actualize the goal.                                                                          
SENATOR COWDERY  asked what  the money  in the  fund is  used for                                                               
MR.  BURNETT replied  it  is used  to buy  supplies  and pay  for                                                               
equipment  and  pay the  salaries  of  the  inmates who  work  in                                                               
correctional industries.                                                                                                        
SENATOR COWDERY asked how much inmates are paid per hour.                                                                       
MR.  BURNETT wasn't  sure,  but  thought they  were  paid in  the                                                               
neighborhood of  fifty cents per  hour. Even so, they  would need                                                               
significant new revenues.                                                                                                       
SENATOR   DYSON  advised   he  has   a  continuing   interest  in                                                               
correctional  industries.  The  capacity   crisis  in  the  state                                                               
prisons makes  it very  difficult to  take advantage  of training                                                               
and  job opportunities.  The prison  population must  become more                                                               
stable before meaningful training is  possible. He sees no reason                                                               
why  the auto  body shop  at Sutton  couldn't one  day become  as                                                               
successful as the  Nevada prison auto shop  where inmates restore                                                               
antique and  classic automobiles.  The men  and women  trained in                                                               
that Nevada  shop have few  discipline problems and  an extremely                                                               
low recidivism  rate. Those  inmates have  a trade  and typically                                                               
one or two job offers when they  are released so they are able to                                                               
support themselves and their families.                                                                                          
SENATOR  COWDERY asked  whether  Florence,  Arizona inmates  were                                                               
required to  get a GED  [General Educational  Development] before                                                               
they could apply for a job while in prison.                                                                                     
SENATOR HOFFMAN recalled  inmates were required to  work toward a                                                               
GED before they could get TV privileges.                                                                                        
SENATOR COWDERY thought the idea was worthwhile.                                                                                
CHAIR GARY  STEVENS acknowledged  that Mr.  Burnett had  his work                                                               
cut out  for him, but this  could provide a good  opportunity for                                                               
everyone involved.                                                                                                              
There was no further testimony.                                                                                                 
CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked for a motion to move SB 115.                                                                           
SENATOR DYSON  made a motion to  move SB 115 and  attached fiscal                                                               
note from committee with  individual recommendations. There being                                                               
no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                                
                SB  24-SPECIAL ABSENTEE BALLOTS                                                                             
SENATOR  GEORGIANNA LINCOLN,  prime sponsor,  advised Ms.  Boario                                                               
would introduce the  bill and Ms. Breeze was  available to answer                                                               
MS. SARA  BOARIO, chief of  staff to Senator  Georgianna Lincoln,                                                               
summarized the purpose of SB 24.                                                                                                
     SB 24  offers a voter  living in a remote  location the                                                                    
     opportunity to  vote using  the 60-day  special advance                                                                    
     absentee  ballot.  In   current  statute,  only  voters                                                                    
     living,  working or  traveling  outside  of the  United                                                                    
     States are  eligible for this special  ballot. However,                                                                    
     distance,   terrain   and   natural   conditions   have                                                                    
     prevented  voters  in  remote  areas  from  reaching  a                                                                    
     community  with a  polling place  or from  receiving by                                                                    
     mail  ballots. The  current absentee  ballot is  mailed                                                                    
     out 14 to 15 days in advance.                                                                                              
     The Division  of Elections supports  this bill  as they                                                                    
     already distribute the  60-day special advance absentee                                                                    
     ballot  and  this  legislation   will  not  impose  any                                                                    
     administrative difficulties. This bill  also has a zero                                                                    
     fiscal note.                                                                                                               
Last  session there  were  a couple  of  questions regarding  the                                                               
interpretation   of   the   words  "remote"   and   "reasonable."                                                               
Legislative  legal advised  them to  review how  the Division  of                                                               
Elections applies  their current regulations to  determine who is                                                               
a  permanent  absentee  voter. This  should  provide  information                                                               
regarding  how the  division  would apply  SB  24 in  determining                                                               
eligible remote voters. One of  the criteria the division uses to                                                               
identify permanent absentee  voters is if the voter  resides in a                                                               
remote area in  Alaska where distance, terrain,  or other natural                                                               
conditions  deny a  voter reasonable  access to  a voting  place.                                                               
Because   the  definition   of  "remote"   is  inherent   in  the                                                               
regulations, for SB  24 a remote area is one  in which reasonable                                                               
access to a  polling place is denied by  the conditions outlined.                                                               
The  key phrase  is  reasonable access;  legislative legal  found                                                               
that courts have  interpreted "reasonable" as a  matter of degree                                                               
dependent  upon the  specific facts  of the  case and  is usually                                                               
determined by the  agency. The Division of  Elections does review                                                               
the specific conditions of all  permanent absentee voters and the                                                               
voters that  would benefit from  SB 24 are already  identified in                                                               
the division's voter registration system.                                                                                       
SENATOR GUESS  asked her to  confirm that the words  "remote" and                                                               
"reasonable" are  established in regulation and  that individuals                                                               
would have  to apply  for the  special ballot  just as  they must                                                               
apply for any other absentee ballot.                                                                                            
MS. BOARIO agreed.                                                                                                              
SENATOR  GUESS  then  asked  whether  eligible  voters  would  be                                                               
notified that this option is available.                                                                                         
MS.  VIRGINIA BREEZE,  legislative  liaison for  the Division  of                                                               
Elections,  affirmed that  voters  would have  to  apply for  the                                                               
special ballot. Because  this would be a new  option, there would                                                               
be a method to inform voters.                                                                                                   
CHAIR GARY  STEVENS asked Ms.  Breeze about the letter  dated May                                                               
9, 2002  and signed by  Election Administrative  Supervisor, Gail                                                               
Fenumiai where she stated, "The  division believes it would be an                                                               
unnecessary  expense to  expand  the use  of  the 60-day  special                                                               
advance ballot  to all Alaskan  voters." He was  confused because                                                               
all other  correspondence from the division  indicates this would                                                               
be a good idea.                                                                                                                 
MS. BREEZE  agreed the letter  did cause some confusion,  but she                                                               
thought the  answer lay  in the last  paragraph. It  stated, "The                                                               
only way for a permanent absentee  voter to vote is by mail. They                                                               
do not have  access to any other options to  exercise their right                                                               
to vote. The  division feels it is in the  best interest of these                                                               
voters  that they  be extended  another  alternative for  voting,                                                               
such  as  is   the  case  with  voters  in   urban  Alaska."  She                                                               
interpreted this to mean the division  does not intend to do this                                                               
for every  voter in the  State of  Alaska. Just voters  living in                                                               
remote locations would be eligible.                                                                                             
There were no further questions.                                                                                                
CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked for a motion.                                                                                          
SENATOR GUESS  made a motion  to move  SB 24 from  committee with                                                               
individual recommendations  and zero fiscal note.  There being no                                                               
objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                                   
                HB  46-PRIMARY ELECTION BALLOTS                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE MIKE  HAWKER, prime  sponsor, explained  he became                                                               
aware  of the  need  for this  legislation  while campaigning  in                                                               
Eagle River.  A number of  people were concerned with  the change                                                               
in election laws  relating to the primary  elections. The concern                                                               
stemmed  from the  requirement that  voters had  to declare  some                                                               
political party affiliation  to access any of the  ballots. HB 46                                                               
is carefully crafted to stay  clear of any issues surrounding the                                                               
initiative  process  or the  overall  theory  behind the  primary                                                               
election process. It  simply provides that, in  addition to party                                                               
ballots, a ballot would be  available that would present only the                                                               
propositions  and/or ballot  initiatives being  voted on  in that                                                               
primary election. The ballot would  be available to any qualified                                                               
voter that  chose that ballot  rather than having to  declare any                                                               
party affiliation.                                                                                                              
The  ballot would  be a  "no  party" ballot  which is  not to  be                                                               
confused  with a  non-partisan or  undeclared voter  designation.                                                               
There are voters  with certain religious affiliations  who have a                                                               
proscription   against  partisan   participation,  but   want  to                                                               
participate "in the  advisory capacity as voters  in this state."                                                               
He  said HB  46 is  "a fix  to a  small area  that I  believe was                                                               
overlooked in last year's election  statutes."  Certainly, no one                                                               
voting favorably on  this legislation would prejudice  his or her                                                               
own  opinions  on  any  of  the  larger  issues  related  to  the                                                               
initiative and/or primary  process in the State of  Alaska. HB 46                                                               
very simply  enfranchises the voters who  were disenfranchised in                                                               
the last election.                                                                                                              
SIDE B                                                                                                                          
4:20 pm                                                                                                                         
CHAIR GARY STEVENS recapped HB  46 as legislation that would give                                                               
voters who  did not want  to participate in partisan  politics an                                                               
opportunity to vote.                                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE  HAWKER replied  that is  the full  intent of  the                                                               
SENATOR  GRETCHEN GUESS  said, "Anyone  regardless  of party  can                                                               
choose the ballot."                                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  HAWKER advised  the  technical  structure of  the                                                               
bill  provides that  the Division  of Elections  shall prepare  a                                                               
ballot that  only offers propositions. AS  15.25.060(b) reads, "A                                                               
voter  may   vote  only  one  primary   election  ballot."  which                                                               
encompasses all the available ballots.  It then defines political                                                               
party ballots.                                                                                                                  
SENATOR GUESS asked if  it would be a no party  name ballot or an                                                               
initiative only ballot.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  HAWKER repeated  it is  a ballot  for initiatives                                                               
and  propositions only.  Voters selecting  this ballot  would not                                                               
have the opportunity to vote for people.                                                                                        
SENATOR  GUESS recommended  he change  his  description from  "no                                                               
party" to "proposition only" because  so many people associate no                                                               
party with non-partisan.                                                                                                        
With regard  to the fiscal note,  she asked if it  was his intent                                                               
that the cost of  this bill would be absorbed into  the cost of a                                                               
primary election.                                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  HAWKER explained  he gave  considerable attention                                                               
to the statute regarding the  preparation of a fiscal note before                                                               
concluding  that this  was a  zero fiscal  note. That  particular                                                               
statute provides  that the fiscal  note is to  present additional                                                               
appropriation that  may be necessary  to implement the  bill. The                                                               
Division of Elections  enters a budget cycle knowing  there is an                                                               
election  coming,  but  they never  know  definitively  how  many                                                               
ballots they will need to  print. The division believes that this                                                               
bill, in  and of itself, would  have no impact on  their decision                                                               
regarding how much to budget  for printing costs. Of course there                                                               
would be  costs associated  with printing  the ballot,  but those                                                               
costs could  be accommodated within  the division's  current year                                                               
budget  and  future printing  costs  would  not require  them  to                                                               
accommodate an increment for HB 46.                                                                                             
SENATOR  HOFFMAN asked  if there  would  be six  or seven  ballot                                                               
choices with passage of this bill.                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  HAWKER   wasn't  sure   how  many   ballots  were                                                               
authorized, but  this would be  a ballot  in addition to  all the                                                               
party ballots.                                                                                                                  
SENATOR HOFFMAN  remarked the  additional option  makes it  a bit                                                               
more complicated but less controversial.                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  HAWKER agreed;  any time  an additional  decision                                                               
must be made  it complicates matters a bit, but  this would be an                                                               
improvement because it would make  it possible for more people to                                                               
vote. He  added the  record shows they  have strong  support from                                                               
the American  Civil Liberties Union,  political parties,  and the                                                               
Division of Elections.                                                                                                          
SENATOR GUESS noted  the letter from Randy  Ruedrich and remarked                                                               
she was unclear whether he was  extending his support of HB 46 as                                                               
Commissioner on  the Alaska Oil  and Gas  Conservation Commission                                                               
or as State Chairman of the Republican Party of Alaska.                                                                         
There were no further questions asked of Representative Hawker.                                                                 
CHAIR  GARY STEVENS  asked Ms.  Breeze whether  the division  was                                                               
comfortable  accepting the  additional responsibility  associated                                                               
with passage of the legislation.                                                                                                
MS.  BREEZE stated  the  division  had no  trouble  with the  six                                                               
ballot  primary  last year  and  they  anticipated no  difficulty                                                               
adding an additional ballot.                                                                                                    
CHAIR GARY  STEVENS asked how  many ballots they  anticipate this                                                               
next year.                                                                                                                      
MS. BREEZE informed him there  are four ballots currently, but it                                                               
is unclear what the total would be.                                                                                             
There were no further questions asked of Ms. Breeze.                                                                            
CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked for a motion to move the bill.                                                                         
SENATOR COWDERY made a motion  and asked for unanimous consent to                                                               
move CSHB 46 and zero  fiscal note from committee with individual                                                               
recommendations. There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                   
CHAIR GARY STEVENS adjourned the meeting at 4:30 pm.                                                                            

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