Legislature(2003 - 2004)
03/18/2004 03:05 PM House HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 353-JURY DUTY EXEMPTION FOR CERTAIN TEACHERS Number 1543 CHAIR WILSON announced that the next order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 353, "An Act relating to jury duty; and amending Rule 15(k), Alaska Rules of Administration." Number 1554 REPRESENTATIVE MARY KAPSNER testified as sponsor of HB 353. She explained that this bill allows for teachers whose schools fall under the designation of not meeting adequate yearly progress (AYP) under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) to be exempt from jury duty. She commented that she knows the members are aware of the fact that all teachers are now required to be highly qualified teachers. This adds an extra burden because substitute teachers most often are not highly qualified teachers. In many cases it is difficult to find teachers who at the minimum have a high school diploma. Representative Kapsner told the members that it is her hope that one day this will not be a concern because all of Alaska's schools will be meeting AYP and teachers will not be exempted. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER explained that the Lower Kuskokwim School District brought this problem to her attention. Bethel has the third busiest court system after Anchorage and Fairbanks, she said. Residents in Bethel and 11 villages in a 50-mile radius are asked to come in to participate in jury duty. Until this year jury duty meant three months of service and four months for grand jury. The court system has been helpful in working with the communities to shorten the required length of time in serving on jury duty, she added. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER told the members that from September 1 to December 15, 2003, the Lower Kuskokwim School District's payroll records show 107.5 days that its teachers were out of the classroom performing jury duty. She added that most of those schools are not meeting AYP. CHAIR WILSON asked what the requirements are for persons serving as substitute teachers. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER responded that requirements for substitute teaching is up to the individual school districts. She added that it is not necessary to be a certified teacher. In the Lower Kuskokwim School District the minimum requirements is that substitute teachers have a high school diploma. Representative Kapsner added that it can be difficult to find someone in the village who is available to substitute. Sometimes substitutes are 19 year-olds who just graduated the year before. Number 1685 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO commented that his trip to Kipnuk was enlightening. He told the members that it could be days of waiting to get in or out of a village for jury duty. With AYP requirements this can be a real strain on the school district. Representative Gatto said he supports this bill. Number 1721 REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL asked if it is necessary to reference public law [on page 1, line 5 and 7] where it says: (b) A person may claim exemption and may be excused from service as a juror if it is shown that the person is a teacher in a school that has failed to make adequate yearly progress under P.L. 107-110. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL asked if this reference is for definition purposes only. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER replied that she is unsure, and asked if the bill drafter is in the committee room. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL noted that the next committee of referral is the House Judiciary Standing Committee and suggested that the question could be addressed in that committee. He said he does understand the need for teachers in these circumstances to be excused. However, he struggles with the idea that if he were an accused person who knew that a certain segment of society would be excused from jury duty, he might feel that it would be necessary to appeal for a trial outside of that area. Representative Coghill asked Representative Kapsner if she has consider that scenario. Number 1791 REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER replied that she has looked at that situation. She emphasized that this bill is not an effort to allow a particular group to shirk its civic duty. In looking at the problem Representative Kapsner said she really tried to balance the stress that is put on the schools and the students and the burden it would place on the court system. She explained that one theory she has is that in many cases teachers would not be a jury of their peers. For instance, if most of the teachers are first or second year Alaskan citizens from the Lower-48 those teachers [are not peers of rural residents]. She said she understands that most attorneys would like to have a teacher in the jury pool because of the education level and language level that brings to the jury. Representative Kapsner noted that not all teachers are from out of state or out of the region, in fact, many teachers have been in the villages for 20 years or more. Number 1860 REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL commented that there could be schools in the Anchorage School District that are not meeting AYP. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER agreed that every district has schools which do not meet AYP. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL referred to the term "may" [on page 1, line 5] that says: (b) A person may claim exemption and may be excused from service as a juror ... . REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL commented that he is concerned about that language. Number 1894 REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER emphasized that it is her goal that this will not even be an issue for very long. As soon as schools reach AYP, then this would not be an issue. Even if a teacher may be called to jury duty it creates a lot of stress within the school district. She emphasized that this legislation is one thing that can be done to help the schools. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL responded that he appreciates what Representative Kapsner is saying and will likely vote to pass the bill from committee. He said he has to ask about the guy who runs the generator, the Village Public Safety Officer, or the only Alaska State Trooper, all of whom may be the only ones who are available for their duty. Representative Coghill said he assumes the court system will take all of that into account. He summarized that he is concerned with the many jobs where there is little or no backup, and questioned whether all of them should be exempted from jury duty. Number 1982 REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA commented that there are nine school months in the year, so theoretically there are another three months that teachers could be called to jury duty. She emphasized that it is important for the members to prioritize what is important. She stated that she believes it is important to keep the commitments to the schools by keeping the teachers in the classroom to ensure that the policy that is already in place is then met. Number 2019 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO commented that maybe this questions would be better addressed in the House Judiciary Standing Committee. He said he wants to make sure that when the bill refers to "teachers" it is referring to "classroom teachers". He pointed out that a principal could be a teacher and not be a classroom teacher. It is certainly possible for the principal to leave town and not have it impact the classroom. Another important point would be to specify that the exemption is good for only the school term. Representative Gatto agreed with Representative Cissna's comments that teachers should not be given a "free pass" during the summer months. Perhaps teachers should be given a delay in serving on jury duty rather than an exemption. CHAIR WILSON commented that in earlier discussion in the House Special Committee on Education there was a suggestion that some language should be inserted that clarified that only schools that were off the road system would qualify. For example, she said she believes it is a lot easier to find substitute teachers in Anchorage as opposed to a village. She asked if other members have any thoughts on this point. Number 2078 REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER replied that she believes it would be important to talk with administrations from some of the larger school districts because it is her understanding that finding substitute teachers is a problem for those districts as well. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL commented that when the bill gets to the House Judiciary Standing Committee there will be talk of the law of general applicability. If this exemption is good for one community, it is good for all of them since this bill is really in response to the AYP requirements and the hardship jury duty service incurs. For example, Tok, Dot Lake, or even North Pole could experience some of the same problems communities not on the road system have, he said. DOUG WOOLIVER, Administrative Attorney, Alaska Court System, testified on HB 353 and answered questions from the members. In response to the question by Representative Coghill on language which refers to "may," he said he read that language to mean it is the discretion of the teacher to ask for an exemption from jury duty. For example, judges are exempt from jury duty, but some choose to be seated as jurors. He suggested if the members wish to make that language clear it should be run by the drafter for clarification. Number 2197 REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL replied that he believes the language should be clarified. He said he would like to see judges have discretion. MR. WOOLIVER commented that there are many other important community professions that serve an important function and whose absence may have a detrimental effect on a community if they are called away to jury duty. He told the members that Alaska Statutes use to have a long list of professions that could be exempted. For example, a public health nurse, use to be exempt if he/she is the only health care professional in a town. Mr. Wooliver told the members that anyone who is called for jury duty can automatically defer service for up to ten months. In particular hardship cases, he said, individuals have been excused for a particular call. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL said that if it is the wish of the legislature that an individual claim that exemption, then the language should be "to be excused" rather than "may be excuse". He commented that he would like to give the judge discretion, and wondered if the House Judiciary Standing Committee might be better at devising the language for this. CHAIR WILSON agreed with Representative Coghill's comments that it is important to give the judge discretion. Number 2326 REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER asked Mr. Wooliver how many judges he believes would look at the discretionary language and say teachers should not be exempt. MR. WOOLIVER responded that he does not know. He said he believes judges would look at this as a preference that the legislature wishes these teachers be given an exemption from jury duty. Mr. Wooliver pointed out that some judges could look at the language and be unclear as to whether this is a redundancy in the sentence or whether this is really granting the judge discretion to deny the exemption. Number 2330 REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL told the members an amendment could be made [on page 1, line 5] after the word "excused" insert the words "by the court". He noted that the language may not be the exact wording that should be used. TAPE 04-20, SIDE B Number 2349 MR. WOOLIVER suggested another option which would be to delete the second "may" [on page 1, line 5]. He said that would take away the discretion, but it would clearly say that the teacher could claim an exemption and be excused from service. Number 2330 REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL moved Amendment 1 as follows: On Page 1, Line 5, after "exemption and" Delete "may" Number 2307 CHAIR WILSON objected for purposes of discussion. She pointed out that by removing "may" from this sentence the wording would read as follows: (b) A person may claim exemption and be excused from service as a juror ... . CHAIR WILSON pointed out that language would automatically give teachers an exemption. REPRESENTATIVE GATTO said he believes the first "may" in the sentence handles the issue. He said he believes that the language is clear by removing the second "may" in the sentence. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL commented that he does not want to hold the bill up over this issue; however, there needs to be clarification that there is some discretion by the judge. He pointed out that the next committee of referral is the House Judiciary Standing Committee and believes that committee could more appropriately address the question. Number 2253 CHAIR WILSON agreed that she will have a discussion with the House Judiciary Standing Committee chair to address the issue of court discretion. REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA told the members that it is her opinion that the highest priority in this issue is addressing the needs of students who are having a hard time reaching AYP. She said she does not believe that the courts should have a higher value in this particular instance. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL said he agrees that students are a high priority, but constitutionally [a defendant's] right to a fair trial is also a high priority and that is his reason for suggesting the need for some judicial discretion. MR. WOOLIVER said that he believes his earlier suggestion of removing the second "may" [on page 1, line 5] removes the discretion by the courts. Judges do currently have the discretion of providing a teacher with an exemption if a teacher says there is a burden. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL commented that he believes his earlier suggestion of inserting [on page 1, line 5] the words "by the court" after the word "excused" would be clarifying language. The language would read as follows: (b) A person may claim exemption and may be excused by the court from service as a juror ... . MR. WOOLIVER urged the committee to be sure to tell the court what the members want it to know. CHAIR WILSON said she believes the language could be read in two different ways. Number 2083 REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL withdrew Amendment 1. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL moved to adopt Amendment 2, as follows: On Page 1, Line 5, after "excused" Insert "by the court" Number 2064 REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA objected to Amendment 2. She told the members that she prefers that the highest priority remain the welfare of the students. A roll call vote was taken. Representatives Coghill, Gatto, Wolf, and Wilson voted in favor of Amendment 2. Representatives Cissna and Kapsner voted against it. Therefore, Amendment 2 was adopted by a vote of 4-2. Number 1960 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO moved Amendment 3 [later conceptual Amendment 3], as follows: On Page 1, Line 7 Delete "teacher has the meaning" Insert "teacher means a person who serves a school district in a teaching capacity and is required to be certified in order to hold that position." Number 1957 CHAIR WILSON objected to the motion for discussion purposes. She agreed to strike the sentence and asked if it would be better to simply say, "if it is shown that a person is a classroom teacher in a school that has failed." REPRESENTATIVE GATTO responded that he is not sure, but the current language has the definition of a "teacher as a person who serves the school district in a teaching ... ." He stated that he just wants to use the same language that is in statute. CHAIR WILSON pointed out that part of the language would be left out. REPRESENTATIVE GATTO replied that he would like to leave out the part [of the definition] that refers to those who serve in counseling or administrative capacities. Number 1900 REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER told the members that her father was a principal and also a teacher in four schools. She commented that most school districts are so strapped that many counselors also teach. Number 1882 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO agreed that is a good point. As long as an individual is a teacher in the classroom, even if the individual may have other jobs, that person would be exempt from jury duty. REPRESENTATIVE GATTO restated Amendment 3 [later conceptual Amendment 3] as follows: On Page 1, Line 7, after "in this subsection," Delete "teacher has the meaning" Insert "teacher means a person who serves a school district in a teaching capacity and is required to be certified in order to hold the position." REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL said he appreciate what Representative Gatto is trying to achieve with this amendment. He suggested that if court discretion is left in the bill, a judge would be able to discern the level of need. He said he is opposed to the amendment. REPRESENTATIVE GATTO replied that he is simply trying to place a higher bar for an individual to be excused from jury duty because he believes citizens have an obligation to serve. He pointed out that Representative Kapsner's bill is trying to defend the classroom by keeping the classroom teacher there. The idea that there may be other positions which may merit exemptions are separate issues. The committee took an at-ease from 4:10 p.m. to 4:11 p.m. Number 1749 REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER suggested that Amendment 3 be changed to a conceptual amendment to address the definition of a classroom teacher. Number 1722 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO restated his motion to adopt conceptual Amendment 3, to define a teacher as a classroom teacher. There being no objection, conceptual Amendment 3 was adopted. Number 1525 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO moved conceptual Amendment 4 to define the term during the year when this exclusion would apply. He suggested language be crafted that would define the time when school is not in session for a week or longer. CHAIR WILSON objected to the motion. She explained that jury duty is not just one week of service; it is usually a month or more. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL pointed out that many teachers have to take classes in the summer for recertification tests. He reiterated the importance of court discretion. REPRESENTATIVE GATTO said the original intent of the bill was to deal with schools off of the road system. He commented that every school has teachers that will be required to take special classes. The intent of this bill, and the reason he supports it, is the difficulty that occurs during the school year for those teachers in rural areas. This exemption should not be offered outside of the school year, he emphasized. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER asked if a conceptual amendment could be offered that inserts language that addresses the time during the school year. Number 1525 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO withdrew Amendment 4 and moved new Amendment 4 to read: Page 1, Line 4 After the word "juror" Insert "during the school year" CHAIR WILSON objected to the motion. She pointed out that many of the teachers leave the area during the summer months. A roll call vote was taken. Representatives Cissna, Kapsner, Gatto, and Wolf voted in favor of Amendment 4. Representatives Wilson and Coghill voted against it. Therefore, Amendment 4 was adopted by a vote of 4-2. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL moved to report HB 353 out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSHB 353(HES) was report out of House Health, Education and Social Services Standing Committee.