Legislature(2013 - 2014)BUTROVICH 205

03/06/2014 09:00 AM Senate STATE AFFAIRS

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09:00:42 AM Start
09:01:34 AM SJR23
09:24:51 AM Confirmation Hearings
10:02:31 AM SJR18
10:29:17 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Confirmation Hearings: TELECONFERENCED
Commissioner Curtis Thayer, Dept. of
Michele Christiansen, State Commission for
Human Rights
Richard Burton, Alaska Police Standards Council
Nora Barlow, Violent Crimes Compensation Board
Immanuel Lewis, State Commission for Human
Moved SJR 23 Out of Committee
Heard & Held
Scheduled But Not Heard
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
            SENATE STATE AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                           
                         March 6, 2014                                                                                          
                           9:00 a.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Fred Dyson, Chair                                                                                                       
Senator Cathy Giessel, Vice Chair                                                                                               
Senator John Coghill                                                                                                            
Senator Bill Wielechowski                                                                                                       
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Senator Bert Stedman                                                                                                            
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
CONFIRMATION HEARINGS                                                                                                           
     Commissioner, Department of Administration                                                                             
          Curtis Thayer                                                                                                         
     Alaska State Commission for Human Rights                                                                               
          Michele Christiansen                                                                                                  
     Alaska Police Standards Council                                                                                        
          Richard Burton                                                                                                        
     Violent Crimes Compensation Board                                                                                      
          Nora Barlow                                                                                                           
     Alaska State Human Rights Commission                                                                                   
          Immanuel Lewis                                                                                                        
     - CONFIRMATIONS ADVANCED                                                                                                   
SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 23                                                                                                  
Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State of                                                                      
Alaska relating to contracting state debt for postsecondary                                                                     
student loans.                                                                                                                  
     - MOVED SJR 23 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                            
SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 18                                                                                                  
Requesting the United States Congress to call a convention of                                                                   
the states to propose amendments to the Constitution of the                                                                     
United  States  that  impose fiscal  restraints  on  the  federal                                                               
government,  limit  the power  and  jurisdiction  of the  federal                                                               
government, and limit  the terms of office  of federal government                                                               
officials; and urging the legislatures  of the other 49 states to                                                               
request the  United States Congress  to call a convention  of the                                                               
     - HEARD & HELD                                                                                                             
SENATE BILL NO. 149                                                                                                             
"An Act relating to public  hearings on initiatives and referenda                                                               
scheduled  to  appear  on  the   ballot;  and  providing  for  an                                                               
effective date."                                                                                                                
     - SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD                                                                                                  
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
BILL: SJR 23                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: CONST. AM: STUDENT LOAN DEBT                                                                                       
SPONSOR(s): SENATOR(s) FAIRCLOUGH                                                                                               
02/14/14       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/14/14       (S)       STA, EDC                                                                                               
03/06/14       (S)       STA AT 9:00 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
BILL: SJR 18                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: FEDERAL CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION                                                                                  
SPONSOR(s): SENATOR(s) DYSON                                                                                                    
02/05/14       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/05/14       (S)       STA                                                                                                    
02/27/14       (S)       STA AT 9:00 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
02/27/14       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
02/27/14       (S)       MINUTE(STA)                                                                                            
03/06/14       (S)       STA AT 9:00 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
SENATOR ANNA FAIRCLOUGH                                                                                                         
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT: Sponsor of SJR 23.                                                                                        
DIANE BARRANS, Executive Director                                                                                               
Alaska Student Loan Corporation                                                                                                 
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT: Provided departmental information on SJR 23.                                                              
MIKE COONS, representing himself                                                                                                
Palmer, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT: Opposes SJR 23.                                                                                           
CURTIS THAYER, Commissioner-Designee                                                                                            
Department of Administration                                                                                                    
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION   STATEMENT:    Addressed   questions    regarding   his                                                             
appointment    as   Commissioner    for    the   Department    of                                                               
IMMANUEL LEWIS, Commissioner-Designee                                                                                           
Alaska State Commission for Human Rights                                                                                        
Office of the Governor                                                                                                          
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION   STATEMENT:    Addressed   questions    regarding   his                                                             
appointment as  Commissioner for the Alaska  State Commission for                                                               
Human Rights.                                                                                                                   
MICHELE CHRISTIANSEN, Commissioner-Designee                                                                                     
Alaska State Human Rights Commission                                                                                            
Office of the Governor                                                                                                          
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION   STATEMENT:    Addressed   questions    regarding   her                                                             
appointment as  Commissioner for the Alaska  State Commission for                                                               
Human Rights.                                                                                                                   
NORA BARLOW, Board Member-Designee                                                                                              
Violent Crimes Compensation Board                                                                                               
Alaska Department of Administration                                                                                             
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION   STATEMENT:    Addressed   questions    regarding   her                                                             
appointment to the Violent Crimes Compensation Board.                                                                           
RICHARD BURTON, Council Member-Designee                                                                                         
Alaska Police Standards Council                                                                                                 
Department of Public Safety                                                                                                     
Ketchikan, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION   STATEMENT:    Addressed   questions    regarding   his                                                             
appointment to the Alaska Police Standards Council.                                                                             
TYLER BELK, Staff                                                                                                               
Senator Dyson                                                                                                                   
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT: Presented an overview for SJR 18.                                                                         
ROBERT KELLY, Staff Council                                                                                                     
Convention of States Project                                                                                                    
Citizens for Self-Governance                                                                                                    
Purcellville, Virginia                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SJR 18.                                                                                          
ZABRINA BYFUGLIEN, Student                                                                                                      
Tri-Valley High School                                                                                                          
Healy, Alaska                                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SJR 18.                                                                                          
MADISON OWEN, Student                                                                                                           
Tri-Valley High School                                                                                                          
Healy, Alaska                                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SJR 18                                                                                           
ISABELLA SAXE, Student                                                                                                          
Tri-Valley High School                                                                                                          
Healy, Alaska                                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SJR 18.                                                                                          
NICOLE MCMASTER, Student                                                                                                        
Tri-Valley High School                                                                                                          
Healy, Alaska                                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SJR 18.                                                                                          
DAVID EICHLER, State Director                                                                                                   
Convention of States Project                                                                                                    
North Pole, Alaska                                                                                                              
POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SJR 18.                                                                                          
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
9:00:42 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR FRED DYSON called the Senate State Affairs Standing                                                                     
Committee meeting to order at 9:00 a.m. Present at the call to                                                                  
order were Senators Wielechowski, Giessel, and Chair Dyson.                                                                     
CHAIR DYSON reviewed the committee calendar.                                                                                    
              SJR 23-CONST. AM: STUDENT LOAN DEBT                                                                           
9:01:34 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DYSON welcomed Senator Fairclough to introduce SJR 23.                                                                    
9:01:42 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  ANNA  FAIRCLOUGH,   Alaska  State  Legislature,  Juneau,                                                               
Alaska, stated that  SJR 23 amends the  Alaska Constitution which                                                               
is  a very  serious  matter.  She explained  that  SJR 23  simply                                                               
allows  the Legislature  to authorize  a loan  for post-secondary                                                               
students.  She  added that  SJR  23  fits into  a  constitutional                                                               
amendment  and allows  for a  post-secondary education  bond that                                                               
would  have to  come to  the Legislature  for approval.  She said                                                               
ultimately the resolution  would have to go to voters  and ask if                                                               
they agreed  with the Legislature.  She pointed out  that current                                                               
state  law  under  the Alaska  Constitution  allows  for  capital                                                               
improvement  indebtedness and  housing  loans  for veterans.  She                                                               
detailed that  SJR 23 would  expand the legislative  authority to                                                               
cover a debt for one more entity.                                                                                               
9:03:23 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR COGHILL joined the committee meeting.                                                                                   
SENATOR GIESSEL asked why SJR 23 is needed.                                                                                     
SENATOR FAIRCLOUGH  answered that students across  the nation are                                                               
experiencing  a  high debt  load,  something  that the  country's                                                               
Founding Fathers  probably never  considered. Debt  was something                                                               
different many years  ago than it is today. She  said the state's                                                               
students  are borrowing  at  a  much higher  rate  than they  can                                                               
achieve or  acquire. The federal  national loan program was  at 7                                                               
percent and has  been reduced to 3.86 percent. She  said the hope                                                               
is for student  to go and try to access  federal loans first. She                                                               
remarked that currently because of  the structure of the Alaska's                                                               
loan system, the  state is financing 2014 loan  debt for students                                                               
at 7.30  percent via the  Alaska Supplemental Education  Loan and                                                               
Family Education Loan.                                                                                                          
She said SJR 23's purpose is  to first, extend student loans at a                                                               
lower  interest  rate by  using  the  full  faith and  credit  in                                                               
Alaska's  AAA credit  rating. Second,  over time  the Legislature                                                               
could  assist  students  by  refinancing  their  higher  interest                                                               
SENATOR   WIELECHOWSKI   stated    that   he   supports   Senator                                                               
Fairclough's efforts.  He asserted that the  Legislature needs to                                                               
drive down outrageously  high loan costs for  student. He pointed                                                               
that the priorities  are wrong when banks can get  loans for less                                                               
than 1 percent and Alaska is charging students 7 percent.                                                                       
He  asked how  much the  interest rates  can be  driven down.  He                                                               
inquired if  lowering interest rates  was a better  approach than                                                               
funding loans through the State's General Fund.                                                                                 
SENATOR  FAIRCLOUGH responded  that the  lowest debt  to students                                                               
would occur through the State's  General Fund. She said using the                                                               
State's General  Fund is a  challenge due to volatile  oil prices                                                               
and tight  budgetary times.  She stated that  SJR 23  would offer                                                               
loans  that would  be a  percent  or percent-plus  below what  is                                                               
currently offered.                                                                                                              
9:06:23 AM                                                                                                                    
DIANE   BARRANS,   Executive   Officer,   Alaska   Student   Loan                                                               
Corporation (ASLC), Juneau,  Alaska, noted that she  was also the                                                               
Executive  Director of  the  Alaska  Commission on  Postsecondary                                                               
Education. She said Senator Fairclough  has done an excellent job                                                               
of explaining  the objective and  the reasons behind SJR  23. She                                                               
noted that Senator Fairclough is  correct that, depending what is                                                               
occurring  in  the  market,  general   obligation  bonds  can  be                                                               
accessed with  the Alaska's  AAA credit behind  it to  achieve at                                                               
least a percentage point reduction  below what could otherwise be                                                               
achieved.  She added  that another  benefit would  be the  rating                                                               
agencies and  investors looking at  Alaska's credit,  rather than                                                               
scrutinizing  education loans,  revenue will  be provided  to pay                                                               
down bonds  and the credit criteria  may be widened so  that more                                                               
Alaska students can qualify.                                                                                                    
9:08:25 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR FAIRCLOUGH pointed  out that around the time  of the 2008                                                               
financial crisis,  the federal government actually  increased the                                                               
credit  scores   required  to  access   loans.  She   noted  that                                                               
previously, students were considered a  good risk if they did not                                                               
have credit. Currently  the new definition requires  a student to                                                               
have a minimum credit score  and students are not qualifying. She                                                               
provided an example of having to  co-sign for her son in order to                                                               
obtain a student loan for college.                                                                                              
9:10:05 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  WIELECHOWSKI  said college  student  debt  has become  a                                                               
national crisis. He pointed out  that there is a trillion dollars                                                               
of outstanding student  loan debt. He asked how  much the student                                                               
loan interest rates  will be reduced and how much  the state will                                                               
pay  in  addition  to  what  the students  will  be  charged.  He                                                               
inquired if  SJR 23  is the  best way to  get the  interest rates                                                               
down for students.                                                                                                              
MS. BARRANS replied  that a significant change  to interest rates                                                               
can be  made. She pointed  out that market-based rates  have been                                                               
at historical  lows over  the past several  years and  her intent                                                               
was not  to over promise what  using the state's AAA  rating will                                                               
allow for  the lowest  possible cost of  funds. She  continued to                                                               
explain as follows:                                                                                                             
     If we were  in the market today with AAA  debt, I think                                                                    
     we would  be in the  4.5 to 4.6 percent  range. Compare                                                                    
     to if we were in  market today with student loan backed                                                                    
     bonds, we  would be  at least a  percentage and  a half                                                                    
     higher than  that. So that's  kind of  the differential                                                                    
     that you  can achieve, but  again it would allow  us as                                                                    
     well  to  make  the  loans  more  widely  available  to                                                                    
     students. Right  now, as Sen  Fairclough points  out in                                                                    
     her  sponsor  statement, we  deny  over  40 percent  of                                                                    
     applicants  who  come to  us  now.  We are  failing  to                                                                    
     really deliver  the kind of program  to state residents                                                                    
     that  we   should  both  with  respect   to  price  and                                                                    
     availability.  To  your   second  more  broad  question                                                                    
     regarding is  this the best  approach, I  would suggest                                                                    
     that it is, not only will  we not be looking at a year-                                                                    
     to-year situation where  if we were to go  to a general                                                                    
     fund supported  program where we  have to rely  on what                                                                    
     other priorities the state  is dealing with financially                                                                    
     and we can't make a  long term commitment to borrowers,                                                                    
     but we  are using  the state's credit  very efficiently                                                                    
     without  associating a  financial  obligation upon  the                                                                    
     state. The  loans themselves can  be structured  to pay                                                                    
     down  the  bonds, avoid  any  potential  burden on  the                                                                    
     state general  fund, but still  deliver a  product that                                                                    
     would rival any other  non-federal loan in the country.                                                                    
     We  would  hopefully  be  second  to  none  under  this                                                                    
9:13:33 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  WIELECHOWSKI  asked if  SJR  23  is essentially  revenue                                                               
neutral  by passing  through costs  with administrative  fees. He                                                               
inquired if  the state is losing  money or will SJR  23 allow the                                                               
state to make money.   He addressed delinquency rates and queried                                                               
if the state anticipates a problem.                                                                                             
MS.  BARRANS answered  that cost  is rather  revenue-neutral. She                                                               
explained that the  business model has been to keep  costs to the                                                               
borrower  as low  as possible  while remaining  in a  position to                                                               
demonstrate good faith  in repaying bond holders.  She noted that                                                               
hundreds of  millions of dollars  of bonds have been  issued over                                                               
the years without ever having  to statutorily ask the Legislature                                                               
for  funds  to  cover  bond  shortfalls.  She  pointed  out  that                                                               
borrowers  have  been  provided  with benefits  in  the  form  of                                                               
credits that are  applied to loans. She explained  that a student                                                               
who attends  school in  Alaska and  is making  automated payments                                                               
can receive  a 0.75  percent credit.  She said  delinquency rates                                                               
are quite low and average in the  5 to 8 percent range. She noted                                                               
that delinquency rates increased  during the recessionary period,                                                               
but rates have declined during the  past two years. She set forth                                                               
that ASLC is  in a very good situation to  look at supporting the                                                               
next generation of student loan financing.                                                                                      
CHAIR DYSON invited public testimony.                                                                                           
9:17:07 AM                                                                                                                    
MIKE  COONS,  representing  himself,   Palmer,  Alaska,  said  he                                                               
opposed SJR 23 and noted  the nation's propensity for debt rather                                                               
than  savings.  He  stated  that   lowered  interest  rates  will                                                               
exasperate student debt.                                                                                                        
9:20:08 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DYSON announced  that public testimony is  closed. He asked                                                               
to confirm that if  SJR 23 gets on the ballot  and is approved by                                                               
voters,  SJR would  have  to  come back  to  the Legislature  for                                                               
authorization by specific law.                                                                                                  
SENATOR  FAIRCLOUGH  concurred  with   Mr.  Coons'  concern  with                                                               
student debt  and noted  that she  supported savings.  She stated                                                               
that voting  for SJR 23  supports loans  for students who  do not                                                               
have savings or  parents that can help out. She  pointed out that                                                               
ASLC already has the capacity to  borrow, so there is nothing new                                                               
that  would have  to  happen.  She agreed  with  previous SJR  23                                                               
testimony that a student can carry  less debt if they graduate on                                                               
time. She  added that the  state should help  students understand                                                               
the cost of  education and the debt that will  have to be carried                                                               
in the future.                                                                                                                  
9:22:21 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR COGHILL  noted that  the student loan  program is  a tool                                                               
that allows the state to put together  a way to make the best use                                                               
of its money. He added that  the concept really comes down to the                                                               
cost of money.                                                                                                                  
SENATOR  GIESSEL agreed  with Mr.  Coons  and Senator  Fairclough                                                               
that debt is  not good. She stated that she  supports SJR 23, but                                                               
noted that  the resolution  does not  get at  the problem  of why                                                               
secondary-education is becoming more expensive.                                                                                 
CHAIR DYSON announced that the Chair will entertain a motion.                                                                   
9:23:36 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR GIESSEL  moved to report  SJR 23 from  committee, labeled                                                               
28-LS1394\U with  individual recommendations and  attached fiscal                                                               
9:23:50 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DYSON  announced that  seeing no  objection, SJR  23 passed                                                               
out of the Senate State Affairs Standing Committee.                                                                             
9:23:57 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DYSON declared that the committee will stand at ease.                                                                     
^CONFIRMATION HEARINGS                                                                                                          
                     CONFIRMATION HEARINGS                                                                                  
           Commissioner, Department of Administration                                                                       
                Alaska Police Standards Council                                                                             
            Alaska State Commission for Human Rights                                                                        
               Violent Crimes Compensation Board                                                                            
9:24:51 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  DYSON  set forth  that  the  committee  will take  up  the                                                               
appointment    of   Commissioner    for    the   Department    of                                                               
Administration, Curtis Thayer.                                                                                                  
9:25:08 AM                                                                                                                    
CURTIS     THAYER,    Commissioner-Designee,     Department    of                                                               
Administration,  Juneau, Alaska,  revealed that  he was  born and                                                               
raised  in  Alaska,  graduated   from  Bartlett  High  School  in                                                               
Anchorage,  and attended  college  at the  University of  Alaska-                                                               
He noted that he had previously  worked for the Federal Bureau of                                                               
Investigation   as  a   paralegal,  Congressman   Don  Young   in                                                               
Washington  D.C. for  seven years,  Senator  Lisa Murkowski,  and                                                               
Senator Ted Stevens. He continued  that he returned to Alaska and                                                               
entered  into the  private sector  with  BP, ConocoPhillips,  and                                                               
ExxonMobil.  He  said  he  also worked  for  Enstar  Natural  Gas                                                               
Company as the Director of Corporate and External Affairs.                                                                      
He revealed that the Governor  gave him a very unique opportunity                                                               
and asked  if he  would join  his administration  in 2009  as the                                                               
Deputy   Commissioner  of   Commerce,   Community  and   Economic                                                               
Development.  He  noted  that  is  role  as  Deputy  Commissioner                                                               
encompassed  the   direct  oversight  of  Alaska's   Banking  and                                                               
Securities    Division,   Division    of   Insurance,    Economic                                                               
Development,  Corporations-Business  and Professional  Licensing,                                                               
and Community & Regional Affairs. He  added that he served on the                                                               
boards  for  the  Alaska   Housing  Finance  Corporation,  Alaska                                                               
Gasline   Development  Corporation,   and   the  Alaska   Seafood                                                               
Marketing  Institute.  He  noted  that  he  currently  serves  as                                                               
Chairman for the Alaska Board of Marine Pilots.                                                                                 
He  said the  Governor  asked  him to  take  an opportunity  that                                                               
presented  itself in  the Department  of Administration  (DOA) to                                                               
serve  as   Deputy  Commissioner.   He  revealed  that   his  DOA                                                               
responsibilities   included  oversight   for:  the   Division  of                                                               
Administrative Services,  Division of General  Services, Division                                                               
of Personnel,  Labor Relations, and  Division of  Motor Vehicles.                                                               
He  said the  Governor asked  in  December if  he would  consider                                                               
serving as the DOA Commissioner when Becky Hultberg resigned.                                                                   
9:28:13 AM                                                                                                                    
He said there  are a lot of challenges ahead  at DOA. He declared                                                               
that the previous  commissioner left DOA in  better condition and                                                               
noted that  he is hopeful to  do the same. He  explained that DOA                                                               
is  a  customer  service  oriented department  and  acts  as  the                                                               
state's cost center. He remarked  that state agencies that do not                                                               
fit in other departments are placed in DOA.                                                                                     
MR.  THAYER revealed  that DOA  has anything  from Personnel  and                                                               
Labor Relations to  the Public Defender Agency,  Office of Public                                                               
Advocacy, Retirement  and Benefits,  Division of  Motor Vehicles,                                                               
and  General Services.  He summarized  that DOA  is all  customer                                                               
service,   whether   customers   are  employees,   retirees,   or                                                               
He  informed the  committee that  he looks  at three  things when                                                               
hiring  somebody:  good  employees,  trustworthy  employees,  and                                                               
loyal  employees.  He  asserted  that  he  asks  nothing  of  his                                                               
employees that he would not ask of himself to do.                                                                               
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI  noted that  his office  has been  trying to                                                               
get a  side-by-side on the  retiree healthcare changes.  He asked                                                               
if he could receive an updated copy.                                                                                            
MR. THAYER  responded that DOA  has been working on  the side-by-                                                               
side  and noted  that  the delay  was caused  when  DOA moved  to                                                               
SENATOR   WIELECHOWSKI  noted   receiving  e-mails   from  Public                                                               
Employees  Retirement  System  (PERS)  and  Teachers'  Retirement                                                               
System (TRS)  retirees who asked  if their pensions  and benefits                                                               
were safe.                                                                                                                      
9:31:17 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  THAYER answered  that he  did  not believe  the benefits  of                                                               
retirees  can be  diminished, whether  that be  their pension  or                                                               
healthcare. He  addressed the unfunded  liability that  the state                                                               
carries which is  currently a little shy of $12  billion. He said                                                               
the  unfunded  liability  is something  that  everyone  struggles                                                               
with, including the Legislature and  the Governor. He pointed out                                                               
that the  Governor has  a proposal  to move  $3 billion  into the                                                               
PERS and TRS  liability to ultimately cap  the state's obligation                                                               
at  $500 million.  He  explained  that DOA  is  working with  the                                                               
Legislature  on addressing  the PERS  and TRS  issue. He  said he                                                               
personally would rather see the state  take a "bite at the apple"                                                               
now  to start  to  resolve the  unfunded  liability problem  than                                                               
"kick the can down the road."                                                                                                   
9:32:13 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI  expressed his  appreciation in  the efforts                                                               
to pay  down the PERS  and TRS  debt. He pointed  out recruitment                                                               
and retention,  noting that many  legislators believe  that there                                                               
should be a defined benefit  system for employees. He stated that                                                               
there was an  effort in the House to return  the defined benefits                                                               
for public  safety officers. He  asked for Mr.  Thayer's thoughts                                                               
regarding recruitment and retention and  whether or not the state                                                               
is doing what is needed to keep people working for the state.                                                                   
MR.  THAYER replied  that  DOA  has a  very  robust retention  in                                                               
payroll and does  not see an issue with retention.  He noted that                                                               
Alaska  is the  only  state  in the  union  that  did not  freeze                                                               
salaries  after  2008 and  added  that  the state  has  increased                                                               
salaries.  He voiced  concern  for a  pending  bill that  defines                                                               
benefits  for  police  and  firefighters  that  could  easily  be                                                               
expanded and put  the state back into the  current situation with                                                               
PERS and TRS.                                                                                                                   
9:35:14 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR   WIELECHOWSKI  asserted   that   there   is  a   win-win                                                               
opportunity if the  state setup a Taft-Hartley like  plan for its                                                               
employees where  they can  make a contribution  and then  be off-                                                               
the-hook. He pointed  out that employees' concerns  relate to not                                                               
knowing how  long they  are going to  live and  their investments                                                               
tend to  be conservative.  He said  pooling investors  allows for                                                               
greater  returns due  to the  use of  professional investors.  He                                                               
asserted that a  system could be developed where  the state makes                                                               
a  contribution  and  then is  off-the-hook.  He  encouraged  Mr.                                                               
Thayer to  look in  the pending bill's  direction for  all public                                                               
CHAIR DYSON noted a question from  a constituent who asked if Mr.                                                               
Thayer  is  aware that  employees  of  the Alaska  Department  of                                                               
Natural Resources'  Fire and Aviation  Program are  classified as                                                               
clerical workers rather than first responders.                                                                                  
MR.  THAYER replied  that  he  is aware  of  the  issue and  DOA-                                                               
Retirement and  Benefits is addressing  whether personnel  are on                                                               
the front  lines or back  at headquarters  where the fire  is 200                                                               
miles away.                                                                                                                     
CHAIR DYSON noted  that his constituent is a fire  chief and said                                                               
the people  he is referring  to are  among the very  best trained                                                               
brush fire people in the state.                                                                                                 
9:37:54 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DYSON asked  if there was objection to  moving Mr. Thayer's                                                               
appointment forward. [No objection  noted.] He read the following                                                               
     In accordance with Article 3,  Section 25 of the Alaska                                                                    
     Constitution,   AS   39.05.080,   the   State   Affairs                                                                    
     Committee  reviewed   the  following   and  recommended                                                                    
     appointment  be  forwarded  to the  Joint  Session  for                                                                    
     consideration:  Commissioner   of  the   Department  of                                                                    
     Administration,  Curtis Thayer.  This does  not reflect                                                                    
     the  intent  of any  of  the  members  to vote  for  or                                                                    
     against  the  confirmation  of  the  individual  during                                                                    
     further sessions.                                                                                                          
9:38:31 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DYSON declared that the committee will stand at ease.                                                                     
9:39:38 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DYSON set forth that  the committee take up the appointment                                                               
of  Immanuel   Lewis  as  Commissioner   for  the   Alaska  State                                                               
Commission for Human Rights.                                                                                                    
9:39:57 AM                                                                                                                    
IMMANUEL  LEWIS, Commissioner-Designee,  Alaska State  Commission                                                               
for  Human Rights  (ASCHR), Office  of  the Governor,  Anchorage,                                                               
Alaska, stated  that he has been  a resident of Alaska  for three                                                               
years and  has been involved  in different businesses as  well as                                                               
non-profits by helping youths and adults that are at-risk.                                                                      
He  noted that  his résumé  shows that  he has  moved around  the                                                               
country a  lot and  explained that being  an African  American in                                                               
Georgia,  he has  seen discrimination  and  how it  can affect  a                                                               
person's life.  He explained that he  has learned a lot  from the                                                               
different organizations  and businesses  that he has  worked for.                                                               
He set forth that he will bring to ASCHR a well balanced view.                                                                  
9:41:21 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI  asked to clarify  that Mr. Lewis  has lived                                                               
in Alaska for three years.                                                                                                      
MR. LEWIS responded yes.                                                                                                        
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if Mr.  Lewis feels like he has enough                                                               
knowledge  about the  state  to  be able  to  effectively sit  on                                                               
MR. LEWIS replied  that he does. He noted his  first position was                                                               
a Government Account  Manager with AT&T and  the position allowed                                                               
him to  travel around  the state  and work  with state  and local                                                               
government as well as  nonprofit organizations, school districts,                                                               
and  regional hospitals.  He said  he  has traveled  most of  the                                                               
state  both  in  Southeast  Alaska, Western  Alaska,  and  up  to                                                               
Fairbanks  and Barrow.  He  remarked that  he  has learned  about                                                               
different  communities  in  each  area and  the  needs  of  those                                                               
communities  as   well  as   the  people   that  live   in  those                                                               
communities. He  asserted that  his knowledge  of the  state goes                                                               
beyond  some of  the people  who have  lived in  Alaska a  little                                                               
SENATOR  WIELECHOWSKI noted  that ASCHR  addresses: race,  color,                                                               
religion,  sex,  national   origin,  physical  disabilities,  and                                                               
mental disabilities. He  pointed out that there is  a bill moving                                                               
through   the   Legislature   to   include   sexual   orientation                                                               
MR. LEWIS  replied that he  believes that the addition  of sexual                                                               
orientation  is  needed.  He   asserted  that  addressing  sexual                                                               
orientation is the  way the rest of the country  is moving and it                                                               
is fair to put that into place.                                                                                                 
9:43:17 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DYSON declared  that the committee will move  on to address                                                               
the appointment  of Michele Christiansen as  Commissioner for the                                                               
Alaska State Human Rights Commission (ASHRC).                                                                                   
9:43:52 AM                                                                                                                    
MICHELE CHRISTIANSEN,  Commissioner-Designee, Alaska  State Human                                                               
Rights  Commission, Office  of the  Governor, Anchorage,  Alaska,                                                               
explained that  she was born  and raised in Alaska,  although she                                                               
is not an  Alaska native, she is native to  Alaska. She explained                                                               
that  her  background  is  in  corporate  compliance  and  ethics                                                               
programs  as well  as being  the  Office Manager  for the  Alaska                                                               
Justice  Center as  an advocate  for  Alaska Natives  due to  the                                                               
inequities  in the  criminal and  justice system.  She summarized                                                               
that her history shows her strong belief in equality.                                                                           
9:47:40 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  GIESSEL   noted  Ms.   Christiansen's  résumé   and  her                                                               
comprehensive view  of Alaskans.  She addressed  her applications                                                               
for the  Alaska Bar Association, Alcohol  Beverage Control Board,                                                               
Regulatory Commission  of Alaska,  and the  Workers' Compensation                                                               
Board. She  noted that  the four  agencies that  Ms. Christiansen                                                               
applied  for are  very  different than  the  Commission on  Human                                                               
Rights. She asked Ms. Christiansen to address the difference.                                                                   
MS. CHRISTIANSEN  replied that her  application pertained  to her                                                               
changing  jobs   and  learning  more   about  the   Human  Rights                                                               
CHAIR DYSON revealed that he served on ASHRC for three years.                                                                   
MS. CHRISTIANSEN noted  that she has dealt with a  lot of issues,                                                               
especially  through   the  Alaska  Native  Justice   Center.  She                                                               
asserted  that  inequities  exist  and serving  on  ASHRC  is  an                                                               
important mission.                                                                                                              
9:49:48 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  DYSON asked  the committee  if  there is  an objection  to                                                               
moving Ms.  Christiansen's nomination forward, [no  objection was                                                               
9:50:36 AM                                                                                                                    
NORA BARLOW,  Board Member-Designee, Violent  Crimes Compensation                                                               
Board  (VCCB), Alaska  Department  of Administration,  Anchorage,                                                               
Alaska, explained  that she is  a current VCCB board  member. She                                                               
said she was  originally appointed to serve for  a retired member                                                               
in addition to  a one term reappointment. She set  forth that she                                                               
enjoys her  work, considers  serving to  be important,  and asked                                                               
that she be reconfirmed.                                                                                                        
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI thanked  Ms. Barlow for the  great work that                                                               
she is doing on VCCB.                                                                                                           
CHAIR DYSON  addressed legislation that will  significantly equip                                                               
VCCB to do a lot more.                                                                                                          
MS. BARLOW thanked  Chair Dyson and noted being  aware of pending                                                               
legislation to assist VCCB.                                                                                                     
9:52:42 AM                                                                                                                    
RICHARD  BURTON,  Appointee,   Alaska  Police  Standards  Council                                                               
(APSC), Department of Public  Safety, Ketchikan, Alaska, revealed                                                               
that he came  to Alaska in 1952  and was one of  the first Alaska                                                               
State Troopers  hired during  statehood. He  pointed out  that he                                                               
has worked  in all regions of  the state. He said  he started his                                                               
law enforcement career without professional  training and noted a                                                               
need  to  hire professional  police  officers  and public  safety                                                               
officers. He  revealed that he has  been on APSC for  a number of                                                               
years, serving as  the commissioner twice. He stated  that one of                                                               
the reasons why he would like  another a term is to finish APSC's                                                               
current review  of regulations  and statutes.  He shared  his law                                                               
enforcement background since retirement  and noted his occasional                                                               
role  in  assisting with  breakdowns  in  police departments.  He                                                               
asserted that  he is familiar  with the effect that  good conduct                                                               
and good people have on  law enforcement. He shared that recently                                                               
there has  been some bizarre  behavior done by people  who should                                                               
not have been hired in the first place.                                                                                         
9:56:38 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DYSON asked to clarify that  APSC is not bound to just deal                                                               
with cases brought  before the council, but  APSC can investigate                                                               
anonymous whistle-blower incidences.                                                                                            
MR. BURTON answered yes. He  shared that APSC has addressed cases                                                               
in the manner  Chair Dyson described, but noted that  APSC is not                                                               
an appeals court for law enforcement officers.                                                                                  
CHAIR DYSON  shared his background  as a supervisor where  he was                                                               
told that  he could not  provide references for  former employees                                                               
beyond  their dates  of  employment. He  revealed  knowing a  law                                                               
enforcement  individual   who  had   worked  at   various  police                                                               
departments  and bargained  for release  from employment  without                                                               
reference being  made to his  work record.  He asked if  a police                                                               
department  can  ask  for  a   release  from  a  law  enforcement                                                               
candidate to receive information from a previous employer.                                                                      
MR.  BURTON  responded   that  if  a  candidate   lies  on  their                                                               
application,  the  incident  is considered  perjury  because  the                                                               
application is done under oath. He  added that APSC has the power                                                               
of subpoena  in order to  investigate cases. He said  an incident                                                               
does  not require  APSC  to wait  for a  police  chief to  submit                                                               
information; APSC views a case  as whether it meets the standards                                                               
to decertify or not decertify.                                                                                                  
CHAIR DYSON said  he is pleased that Mr. Burton  is accepting his                                                               
appointment because he has the  courage and integrity to weed-out                                                               
the bad  guys. He  shared that  he used  to be  able to  say with                                                               
great  pride  that  in  Alaska  there were  no  "dirty"  cops  or                                                               
corrections officers,  no unnecessary violence, and  no unethical                                                               
behavior,  in  particular  sexual exploitation.  He  stated  that                                                               
people like Mr. Burton serving on APSC will be a real asset.                                                                    
10:00:44 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  DYSON asked  if  there  was any  objection  to moving  Mr.                                                               
Burton  and all  of  the [previous]  recommendations forward.  He                                                               
stated  that   seeing  no  objection,   he  read   the  following                                                               
     In accordance with Article 3,  Section 25 of the Alaska                                                                    
     Constitution,   AS   39.05.080,   the   State   Affairs                                                                    
     Committee  reviewed   the  following   and  recommended                                                                    
     appointments to  be forwarded to the  Joint Session for                                                                    
     consideration:  State   Commission  of   Human  Rights,                                                                    
     Michele  Christiansen;  Alaska   State  Commission  for                                                                    
     Human Rights,  Immanuel Lewis; Alaska  Police Standards                                                                    
     Council,  Richard Burton;  Violent Crimes  Compensation                                                                    
     Board, Nora  Barlow. This does  not reflect  the intent                                                                    
     of  any of  the  members  to vote  for  or against  the                                                                    
     confirmation   of   the  individuals   during   further                                                                    
10:01:32 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR DYSON declared that the committee will stand at ease                                                                      
            SJR 18-FEDERAL CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION                                                                        
10:02:31 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR DYSON announced that the committee will take up SJR 18.                                                                   
10:04:29 AM                                                                                                                   
TYLER  BELK,  Staff,  Senator Dyson,  Alaska  State  Legislature,                                                               
Juneau,  Alaska, inferred  that  the committee  was addressing  a                                                               
resolution  that looks  at one  of the  great documents  in human                                                               
history, the  United States Constitution. He  said the Convention                                                               
of States (COS) is a means  to examine and amend the Constitution                                                               
without putting  the document's entirety  and integrity  at risk.                                                               
He asserted  that COS is  a great opportunity to  operate without                                                               
ramification and  the possibilities  are endless. He  pointed out                                                               
that COS  is non-partisan and  topic-based. He said the  "will of                                                               
the  time" will  determine what  is covered  in the  COS. He  set                                                               
forth that a  COS will be a monumental occasion  in United States                                                               
history  that  looks  at something  that  essentially  binds  the                                                               
10:06:01 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR DYSON stated that it is  often very difficult for change to                                                               
come  from  any bureaucracy  and  the  process often  takes  some                                                               
outside action to overcome the  institutional inertia. He said it                                                               
appears  to   him  that  the  Founding   Fathers  recognized  the                                                               
bureaucratic process  and wanted to  have a way for  the citizens                                                               
to   initiate  and   affect  the   possibility   to  change   the                                                               
Constitution. He pointed  out that SJR 18 is a  first step to get                                                               
Alaska in the queue of states  that are considering calling for a                                                               
COS  and  there  will  be  several  steps  pertaining  to  rules,                                                               
delegation selection,  delegation discipline,  topic limitations,                                                               
topic  agreement,  and COS  ratification  by  two thirds  of  the                                                               
states prior to going  on a ballot. He set forth  that the COS is                                                               
a very complicated  process. He pointed out  that the individuals                                                               
working on the  COS have been very careful about  the process and                                                               
noted that  most objections  have been dealt  with in  a credible                                                               
10:07:54 AM                                                                                                                   
ROBERT  KELLY,  Staff  Council,  Convention  of  States  Project,                                                               
Citizens for Self-Governance, Purcellville, Virginia.                                                                           
CHAIR DYSON asked  if there were three or four  groups across the                                                               
nation that are working somewhat in  parallel on COS. He asked if                                                               
Mr. Kelly to specify what his organization does.                                                                                
10:08:31 AM                                                                                                                   
MR.  KELLY   replied  that  he  represents   Citizens  for  Self-                                                               
Governance  and  the  organization  sponsors  the  Convention  of                                                               
States Project (COSP).  He said COSP is arguing for  an Article V                                                               
Convention that specifies a particular  set of topics for the COS                                                               
to cover.                                                                                                                       
He said there  are three different approaches  from a legislative                                                               
standpoint on how an Article V Convention can be run:                                                                           
   1. COS could be run as an unlimited convention, effectively                                                                  
     allowing the  COS to consider  any sort of  issue determined                                                               
     to  be in  the  best  interest of  the  American people.  He                                                               
     pointed out that  an unlimited COS is not  the best approach                                                               
     because  the COS  needs guidance  and limitations  to ensure                                                               
     the process stays within proper Constitutional boundaries.                                                                 
   2. Set out a specific topic or set of topics, allowing the COS                                                               
     some  discretion   to  consider   exactly  how   to  propose                                                               
     solutions  and word  amendments; however,  it also  keeps it                                                               
     closely within  certain boundaries  and that's  the approach                                                               
     COSP is taking.                                                                                                            
   3. Hold the COS to propose specific amendments and layout in                                                                 
     advance  the  amendments  that the  COS  can  propose;  that                                                               
     really limits the discretion of the COS.                                                                                   
He reiterated  that COSP's approach  in SJR  18 is in  the middle                                                               
realm by setting out  a set of topics that the  COS has to adhere                                                               
to, but  allows the COS  some discretion  to propose a  number of                                                               
amendments within those  topics. He explained that  the topics in                                                               
in SJR 18 are:                                                                                                                  
   1. Place fiscal restraints on the federal government.                                                                        
   2. Limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.                                                               
   3. Impose term limits on federal officials and members of                                                                    
MR. KELLY  said COSP believes the  use of set-topics is  the best                                                               
approach  because  COS  will  have the  ability  to  address  the                                                               
problem  of  federal  overreach  as  a  whole  and  allow  for  a                                                               
"holistic" solution to massive imbalance  of power in the federal                                                               
government; a COS  limited to a single  isolated amendment cannot                                                               
do that.  He explained  that COSP  likes the  idea of  a balanced                                                               
budget  amendment,  but  passing   one  in  the  current  federal                                                               
political climate is  likely to result in a massive  tax hike. He                                                               
set forth  that COSP believes a  better approach is to  allow the                                                               
COS  to consider  the problem  as a  whole, to  consider it  as a                                                               
topic, and to allow the  COS to formulate exactly what amendments                                                               
will address a problem; for  example, federal overreach. He noted                                                               
that  the  topic-based approach  was  the  approach the  Founding                                                               
Fathers used  for the  vast majority of  the 32  conventions that                                                               
they  held  in the  years  leading  up  to  the adoption  of  the                                                               
10:11:33 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  WIELECHOWSKI  noting  seeing some  commentary  from  law                                                               
professors that  there is some  question as  to whether or  not a                                                               
COS  could be  limited to  specific items  in the  resolution; in                                                               
other words,  once you  got there, anything  would be  opened. He                                                               
asked  if  there  was  legal precedent  that  would  address  the                                                               
concerns the anything would be opened.                                                                                          
MR.  KELLY  replied that  the  Supreme  Court  has never  had  an                                                               
opportunity   to  address   the  legal   question  that   Senator                                                               
Wielechowski presented  for an Article  V Convention.  He pointed                                                               
out that there  is an extensive set of  historical practice, both                                                               
by the Founding Fathers and  by Americans since the founding. The                                                               
Founding  Fathers   themselves  held  at  least   32  conventions                                                               
themselves in  the 100 years  leading up  to the adoption  of the                                                               
Constitution.  He   noted  having   records  of  at   least  four                                                               
conventions since the  founding. He said in the  vast majority of                                                               
the  conventions, the  Founding Fathers  and the  individuals who                                                               
held conventions  after the  founding, a  specific topic  for the                                                               
COS  had been  set  out to  consider and  that  was the  backdrop                                                               
against which the  Founding Fathers were adding  the provision to                                                               
the Constitution  and the Founding  Fathers limited their  COS to                                                               
specific topics  and stayed within  boundaries. He  asserted that                                                               
from  a historical  record that  it is  clear that  an Article  V                                                               
Convention could also be limited within specific topics.                                                                        
CHAIR DYSON announced  that SJR 18 will be held  in committee and                                                               
asked that Mr. Kelly call back to testify at the next meeting.                                                                  
MR.  KELLY confirmed  that  he  will be  available  for the  next                                                               
hearing for SJR 18.                                                                                                             
10:14:10 AM                                                                                                                   
ZABRINA  BYFUGLIEN,  Student,   Tri-Valley  High  School,  Healy,                                                               
Alaska, stated that  she supports SJR 18 and the  COS in order to                                                               
address federal overreach.                                                                                                      
10:16:46 AM                                                                                                                   
MADISON  OWEN, Student,  Tri-Valley High  School, Healy,  Alaska,                                                               
stated that she supports  SJR 18 and noted that the  COS is not a                                                               
partisan  issue and  ultimately returns  the Constitution  to the                                                               
Founding Father's original intentions.                                                                                          
10:19:23 AM                                                                                                                   
ISABELLA SAXE,  Student, Tri-Valley  High School,  Healy, Alaska,                                                               
said  she  supports   SJR  18  due  to   the  federal  government                                                               
overstepping its bounds. She addressed  fears for a "runaway" COS                                                               
and  noted  that  checks  are  in  place  to  prevent  a  runaway                                                               
10:22:25 AM                                                                                                                   
NICOLE MCMASTER, Student, Tri-Valley  High School, Healy, Alaska,                                                               
said  she  supports  SJR  18  due  to  the  federal  government's                                                               
overreach and continued debt spending.                                                                                          
10:24:50 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR DYSON commended the students  for their testimony. He noted                                                               
that his  staff member  that presented  SJR 18  is an  intern and                                                               
encouraged  the  Healy  students  to pursue  their  interests  in                                                               
SENATOR  GIESSEL thanked  the students  for  their testimony  and                                                               
noted her  appreciation for their  knowledge of  American history                                                               
and  critical thinking  skills. She  remarked that  the students'                                                               
testimony provide her with hope for the next generation.                                                                        
10:26:31 AM                                                                                                                   
DAVID  EICHLER, State  Director,  Convention  of States  Project,                                                               
North Pole,  Alaska, said he  supports SJR  18 and its  intent to                                                               
enact limitations on the federal government.                                                                                    
CHAIR DYSON remarked that the process for  a COS is going to be a                                                               
long fight. He surmised that the  process to have a COS will take                                                               
three years or longer. He  encouraged volunteers like Mr. Eichler                                                               
to continue their commitment for a COS and not to quit.                                                                         
SENATOR  COGHILL noted  the  case brought  forward  by the  Healy                                                               
students was  articulate and  emphasized the need  for SJR  18 to                                                               
keep pressure on  the federal government to have  a discussion on                                                               
having a  COS to deal  with the  national debt. He  remarked that                                                               
the students pointed  out that they already owed for  a debt that                                                               
had been left to them and future generations.                                                                                   
10:29:07 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR DYSON announced  that the committee will  reconvene [SJR 18                                                               
was held until the next committee meeting.]                                                                                     
10:29:17 AM                                                                                                                   
There being no further business to come before the committee,                                                                   
Chair Dyson adjourned the Senate State Affairs Standing                                                                         
Committee at 10:29 a.m.                                                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects