Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/18/2004 03:05 PM House HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               

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