Legislature(2015 - 2016)CAPITOL 120

02/10/2015 01:00 PM House MILITARY & VETERANS' AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved CSHJR 13(MLV) Out of Committee
Heard & Held
        HB  61-MILITARY MERITORIOUS AWARD LICENSE PLATES                                                                    
1:37:24 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HERRON announced  that the final order of  business would be                                                              
HOUSE  BILL NO.  61, "An  Act relating  to  special motor  vehicle                                                              
registration  plates for  recipients  of the  Bronze Star,  Silver                                                              
Star, or  other meritorious service  awards; and providing  for an                                                              
effective date."                                                                                                                
1:37:40 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  LES GARA,  Alaska State  Legislature, speaking  as                                                              
the  sponsor, informed  the  committee  HB 61  adds  the honor  of                                                              
license  plates  for those  who  have demonstrated  bravery  while                                                              
serving the  U.S. Armed Forces in  combat.  There are  a number of                                                              
military license  plates -  for example,  recipients of  the Medal                                                              
of Honor are recognized  - but two that are missing  are for those                                                              
who  receive   honors  for  fighting   in  the  armed   forces  in                                                              
operations that involve  hostile or enemy forces,  and receive the                                                              
Silver Star Medal  or the Bronze Star Medal.   Representative Gara                                                              
said he was  contacted by a  veteran in this regard,  and observed                                                              
that there  are few  ways for  the public  to appreciate  veterans                                                              
who have  served in the  military.  For those  who want to  have a                                                              
license   plate,   it   is  a   dignified   and   state-sanctioned                                                              
recognition  of  a  veteran's  sacrifice.     The  bill  adds  two                                                              
categories  of license  plates  issued by  the  Division of  Motor                                                              
Vehicles  (DMV), Department  of Administration  (DOA).  The  first                                                              
category is  the Silver and Bronze  Star, which would  be designed                                                              
by DMV and sold  for $35; the bill has a fiscal  note [Identifier:                                                              
HB061-DOA-DMV-02-06-15]  of $8,000 to  pay for the  initial design                                                              
and press  of the license  plate.  Also,  the bill  eliminates the                                                              
need  for repeated  appeals  for  license plate  recognition;  the                                                              
committee  substitute  gives  DMV   the  authority  to  add  other                                                              
recognition  license  plates  for  medals  that  demonstrate  both                                                              
bravery and  merit.   For example,  a Bronze Star  V Medal  can be                                                              
received for valor  in combat, and the Bronze Star  M Medal can be                                                              
received  for  merit  in  military operations.    He  described  a                                                              
situation in which a Bronze Star M Medal may be awarded.                                                                        
1:42:28 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA pointed  out  that currently  license  plates                                                              
are unavailable  for those  who have  received the second  highest                                                              
ranking awards,  the Distinguished Service Cross,  the Navy Cross,                                                              
and the  Air Force  Cross, and  he urged  that these  designations                                                              
should  also  be added  by  DMV.   He  characterized  the  present                                                              
relevant  legislation  as a  "patchwork,"  and opined  DMV  should                                                              
have  the authority  to  add  appropriate license  plates  without                                                              
further  legislative  involvement.   Referring  to  the  committee                                                              
substitute,  he said a  change was  made to  correct a  mistake in                                                              
the original  bill by replacing  "shall" with "may"  regarding the                                                              
issuing of lower ranking awards.                                                                                                
1:44:49 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  COLVER  moved  to  adopt  the  proposed  committee                                                              
substitute (CS)  for HB 61,  labeled 29-LS0287\H,  Martin, 2/6/15,                                                              
as the working document.                                                                                                        
[There being no objection, Version H was before the committee.]                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  LYNN declared a  conflict of  interest as he  is a                                                              
Bronze Star Medal recipient.                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE TUCK  asked whether  U.S. Marines are  eligible for                                                              
the Navy Cross or a separate medal.                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG inquired as  to the current  regulations                                                              
regarding a license plate for a recipient of the Medal of Honor.                                                                
1:46:46 PM                                                                                                                    
AMY  ERICKSON,   Director,  Division  of  Motor   Vehicles  (DMV),                                                              
Department  of Administration  (DOA),  verified  that  a Medal  of                                                              
Honor license  plate is  authorized by  statute; however,  one has                                                              
never  been requested,  and  thus  has never  been  designed.   In                                                              
further  response to  Representative Gruenberg,  she provided  the                                                              
following citation:  AS 28.10.181(l).                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN  urged that the  Medal of Honor  license plate                                                              
be provided at no cost to the recipient.                                                                                        
CHAIR  HERRON suggested  that the  committee ask  the director  to                                                              
design  the license  plate,  possibly  under a  subsequent  fiscal                                                              
note.  He  surmised fiscal note [Identifier:  HB061-DOA-DMV-02-06-                                                              
15] does not apply to Version H.                                                                                                
1:49:04 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. ERICKSON said  correct.  In further response  to Chair Herron,                                                              
she  clarified  that the  bill  would  now  limit DMV  to  issuing                                                              
license plates for  the Bronze Star, Silver Star,  and meritorious                                                              
CHAIR HERRON assured  Ms. Erickson that the sponsor  and committee                                                              
staff will work  with her to ensure "that the numbers  to push out                                                              
a fiscal  note  are accurate."   He  noted the  large deficit  the                                                              
state is  facing, and suggested  finding a private  sector sponsor                                                              
to pay the expense identified in the fiscal note.                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  pointed out this was a one-time  $8,000 cost,                                                              
followed   by  fees   that  make   the  program   self-sustaining.                                                              
Although  the state  is in fiscal  dire straits,  "at $8,000  this                                                              
didn't seem  to be the kind of  amount of money that's  ... really                                                              
concerning us in this building," he said.                                                                                       
CHAIR HERRON  offered to  ask his Veterans  of Foreign  Wars (VFW)                                                              
post for a contribution.                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  expressed concern that contributors  may seek                                                              
changes to the bill.                                                                                                            
1:51:43 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. ERICKSON,  in response to  Chair Herron, expressed  her belief                                                              
that DMV  cannot accept  private  sector funds  for the design  of                                                              
license plates.                                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN  observed there  are many varieties  of awards                                                              
for  meritorious  service; he  asked  for clarification  on  DMV's                                                              
authorization of  license plates  issued in recognition  of awards                                                              
or decorations.                                                                                                                 
CHAIR  HERRON expressed  his  intent  to hold  the  bill over  and                                                              
attempt to obtain a zero fiscal note.                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE   GARA,  in  response   to  Representative   Tuck's                                                              
earlier question,  said members  of the  Marine Corps  qualify for                                                              
the Navy Cross.                                                                                                                 
1:53:34 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HERRON opened public testimony on HB 61.                                                                                  
1:53:46 PM                                                                                                                    
LARRY  GORDAOFF,  Founder,  Alaska  Native  Veterans  Association,                                                              
informed the  committee he  is not a recipient  of a  Bronze Star,                                                              
but  is  representing  a  member of  the  Alaska  Native  Veterans                                                              
Association  who  is  a  Bronze Star  recipient  from  service  in                                                              
Afghanistan.  In  answer to the earlier question  about soliciting                                                              
private  donations for  the license  plate  program, he  cautioned                                                              
that  according  to the  American  Legion, Department  of  Alaska,                                                              
national approval is  required to request funds and  takes "a long                                                              
drawn-out process."   Mr. Gordaoff  said the mission  statement of                                                              
the Alaska  Native  Veterans Association  is:   To give a  helping                                                              
hand up  - not a  handout - to Alaska  Native veterans;  to answer                                                              
concerns of  the veterans and their  needs; to help  the community                                                              
give respect to  all veterans and stay non-political.   He relayed                                                              
the story  of a veteran named  Christopher Thomas who  requested a                                                              
Bronze  Star license  plate  from  DMV and  was  told the  license                                                              
plates are  not available in Alaska.   After research  showed that                                                              
many  other  states  have  the   plates  available,  Mr.  Gordaoff                                                              
contacted  Representative  Gara  for  assistance  in  getting  the                                                              
special plates  for Alaska Bronze  Star recipients.   He explained                                                              
the heroic  circumstances that led  to the Bronze Star  award, and                                                              
pointed  out the  great  honor of  having  a  Bronze Star  license                                                              
plate to show  the respect that recipients deserve.   Mr. Gordaoff                                                              
concluded that  the Bronze Star  license plate should  be afforded                                                              
to all Bronze Star  recipients who live in Alaska,  and Mr. Thomas                                                              
should receive  the first  one issued.   He expressed  his support                                                              
for the bill.                                                                                                                   
1:57:12 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  discussed   various  levels  of  medals                                                              
awarded for  valor in combat; he  asked whether the  sponsor would                                                              
support including other awards in the bill.                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  said the intention  of the bill was  to grant                                                              
DMV  the  authority  to allow  someone  to  apply  for  additional                                                              
license  plates.   He  opined others  who  have  served in  combat                                                              
would quality for  valor and merit, and - if they  desired - could                                                              
apply to DMV.                                                                                                                   
MR. GORDAOFF  expressed his belief  that currently available  is a                                                              
license plate from DMV that indicates a branch of service.                                                                      
MS. ERICKSON  confirmed that DMV  offers license plates  with unit                                                              
designators, but not specifically for bravery or honor.                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG supported giving  "an added  measure for                                                              
these  people who've  been  in hostile  combat  and have  actually                                                              
been under fire."                                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN  asked what happens to the  license plate when                                                              
one sells the car.                                                                                                              
MS.  ERICKSON  responded  that registration  plates  stay  with  a                                                              
vehicle except for special plates that go with the applicant.                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE TUCK  asked for the sponsor's intent  regarding the                                                              
Distinguished Cross awards.                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA expressed his  belief that the  Distinguished                                                              
Cross, the Navy  Cross, and the Air Force Cross should  be part of                                                              
the bill.                                                                                                                       
2:02:50 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  HERRON  supported directing  DMV  to  design the  Medal  of                                                              
Honor  license plate  in  anticipation of  an  application from  a                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG surmised  an amendment  was required  to                                                              
make the Medal of Honor license plate available at no cost.                                                                     
MS. ERICKSON  stated AS 28.10.421  (11) directs that the  Medal of                                                              
Honor license plate was to be issued at no cost.                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   TUCK  questioned   whether  the  license   plates                                                              
created by the bill  would not be designed unless  requested by an                                                              
MS. ERICKSON said that is correct.                                                                                              
CHAIR HERRON said:                                                                                                              
     It is a key  question, so if one is not  requested, then                                                                   
     it  should, in  theory, then  we  could have  literally,                                                                   
     zero  fiscal  note,  because none  have  been  requested                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE   TUCK  expressed   his   understanding  that   the                                                              
committee  was discussing  adding to  the bill's  fiscal note  the                                                              
cost of designing the Medal of Honor license plate.                                                                             
CHAIR HERRON said  additional research is needed  before voting on                                                              
the bill.                                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE TUCK  surmised that unless one requests  one of the                                                              
license plates in the bill, "a design is not necessary."                                                                        
CHAIR HERRON stated  his desire to see the Medal  of Honor license                                                              
plate designed  and "ready  to go, when  the first Medal  of Honor                                                              
winner shows up to apply for one."                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX  questioned whether, if no  one applies, the                                                              
fiscal  note would  be indeterminate,  rather than  a zero  fiscal                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA advised  that  at the  time of  the Medal  of                                                              
Honor  legislation, there  must have  been a  fiscal note  because                                                              
the state  was picking  up  the cost of  the license  plates.   He                                                              
noted that  unit awards already  qualify for a special  designated                                                              
license plate,  and asked for  clarification on which  unit awards                                                              
are currently covered by statute.                                                                                               
MS. ERICKSON offered to provide a list.                                                                                         
HB 61 was held over.                                                                                                            

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB61 Sponsor Statement.pdf HMLV 2/10/2015 1:00:00 PM
HB 61
HB 61 Supporting Document What the state currently offers.pdf HMLV 2/10/2015 1:00:00 PM
HB 61
HB 61 Supporting Documents Medals and their meaning.pdf HMLV 2/10/2015 1:00:00 PM
HB 61
HB 61 Supporting Documents Medals in order of rank.pdf HMLV 2/10/2015 1:00:00 PM
HB 61
HJR 13 Sponsor Statement.pdf HMLV 2/10/2015 1:00:00 PM
HJR 13
HJR013A.PDF HMLV 2/10/2015 1:00:00 PM
HJR 13
HB 61 Fiscal Note - HB061-DOA-DMV-02-06-15.pdf HMLV 2/10/2015 1:00:00 PM
HB 61
HJR13 Fiscal Note - HJR13-LEG-SESS-02-09-2015.pdf HMLV 2/10/2015 1:00:00 PM
HB 61 Draft Committee Substitute Ver H.pdf HMLV 2/10/2015 1:00:00 PM
HB 61