Legislature(2003 - 2004)
05/04/2004 08:02 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 385-SECURITY;DIV. HOMELAND SECURITY/EMER. MGT Number 0200 CHAIR WEYHRAUCH announced that the next order of business would be CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 385(JUD) am, "An Act relating to homeland security, to civil defense, to emergencies and to disasters, including disasters in the event of attacks, outbreaks of disease, or threats of attack or outbreak of disease; establishing the Alaska division of homeland security and emergency management in the Department of Military and Veterans' Affairs and relating to the functions of that division and that department; and providing for an effective date." Number 0219 REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG moved to adopt CSSB 385(JUD)am [as the work draft]. [No further action occurred regarding this motion.] Number 0230 JOHN CRAMER, Director, Administrative Services Division, Department of Military & Veterans' Affairs (DMVA), reviewed a portion of the sponsor statement [included in the committee packet]. He listed the primary purpose of the legislation as follows: One, to amend the existing civil defense statutes to update them for homeland security purposes; two, to amend existing disaster statutes to make them applicable to homeland security in outbreaks of disease; three, to combine two divisions in the DMVA into the single division of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management; and four, to establish the Homeland Security And Emergency Management subcommittee as a legislative subcommittee of the Joint Armed Services Committee. Number 0294 MR. CRAMER stated that the civil defense chapter in the DMVA statute, AS 26.20, was enacted in 1951, during the Cold War. The proposed legislation would update that chapter to make it relevant to homeland security; it specifies that DMVA shall coordinate homeland security and civil defense functions in the state, in cooperation with and with assistance from other state agencies. It would authorize the DMVA to undertake certain homeland security planning and preparedness activities, and it also repeals obsolete and potentially far-reaching civil defense powers and requirements existing today. The bill would authorize the governor to declare an emergency and to exercise specified emergency powers in the event of a terrorist attack or a credible threat of imminent attack in the state. Mr. Cramer explained that in order for a situation to be considered a credible threat, it would require certification by the commissioner of DMVA, in consultation with the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety (DPS), based on specific, reliable information that there is a high probability of an attack in the near future. The bill would also authorize the governor to declare a disaster, and exercise his/her disaster powers in the event of an attack or imminent threat of attack, or an outbreak of disease or an imminent threat of an outbreak - again, requiring certification of the threat. He noted that such declarations would be effective for a maximum of 30 days, and the legislature may also terminate the declared emergency or disaster at any time. Number 0749 SENATOR FRED DYSON, Alaska State Legislature, as chair of the Senate Health, Education and Social Services Standing Committee ("SHES"), sponsor of SB 385, noted that the fundamental change [proposed via SB 385] reflects the difference of the threats that are faced in what he termed "asymmetrical warfare," where there is no clearly defined enemy from a specific location. He opined that it may be necessary to intervene before an attack happens, and the bill would allow the department and the governor to initiate action when there is a credible threat of an imminent terrorist attack. He described preparations that had been made during a recent threat of attack on Valdez, Alaska, to protect the area, though no attack was forthcoming. He indicated that the reason for that may have been that "the bad guys saw the preparation and quit," or it may have been that the information regarding the threat may not have been accurate. However, the bill would authorize what the department thinks needs to be done and what was done at the time [of the threat to Valdez]. SENATOR DYSON noted that the bill also addresses the issue of roadblocks. He said it would allow people the opportunity to turn around if they come across a roadblock. He reiterated some of the other changes that Mr. Cramer had previously reviewed. He stated his belief that the government needs to have the option of acting ahead of an attack. Number 0735 SENATOR DYSON emphasized the importance of maritime safety. He noted, "Ninety-five percent of our freight moves ... by boat and without that we're in trouble." He said there are a lot of hazardous materials that come out of Prince Rupert, Canada. He also noted that 600,000 people come by cruise ship, and mentioned the oil out of Valdez. He said, "Those things move us up on the probable targets that would attract terrorist attention." He indicated that a big impact would be made in just 3.5 days without the ability to ship oil to the Lower 48. SENATOR DYSON reminded members that he is on the Joint Armed Services Committee, and on the Military and Veterans Affairs finance subcommittee. He continued as follows: I did not want to ask the Department of Military & Veterans' Affairs questions about their preparedness in open meetings, because I would not want our enemies to know even the little bit that I know, let alone the embarrassing questions that I might want to be asking these fellows about their preparedness. So this bill authorizes a vetted subcommittee of military and veterans' affairs who must pass a security test [and] sign an agreement on confidentiality to be insiders and be ... the legislature's audit and oversight. Number 0864 REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG, regarding Senator Dyson's last point, noted that the House Special Committee on Military and Veterans' Affairs would normally have oversight "on that and on this bill." He asked how Senator Dyson would feel about having that committee involved. SENATOR DYSON replied, "I'm not sure that's precluded." REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said he would like to see that put in the bill, because normally those on that committee would have jurisdiction over the department. SENATOR DYSON responded, "The way it's set up now is as a subcommittee of that, and if you have members of the special committee that are also ... [members] of the joint committee, they could certainly be a part of it." He cautioned that adding an amendment so late in this process may complicate matters. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said he doesn't want to jeopardize the bill, but he thinks it's a good idea. Number 0980 SENATOR DYSON stated that a fair amount of effort was made to "get everybody on board," including maintaining active communication with the [Alaska Civil Liberties Union (AkCLU)]. Number 1007 JAMES N. BUTLER III, Attorney at Law, Baldwin & Butler, LLC, informed the committee that most of his work involves oil companies and public sector clients in the area of incident management, and emergency response and preparedness. He noted that he has served for approximately one year as the public representative on the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), and that SERC has not had a chance to take a formal position on the proposed legislation. MR. BUTLER stated that he is in complete agreement that the proposed authorities to act and take what are anticipated to be fairly new powers - such as limiting public access to open areas - is an important step forward. He expressed concern, however, that there is more complexity to the bill than seems to be suggested. He illustrated that it's not crystal clear who, specifically, at the state agency will be in charge of these events. Noting that the bill uses the term "coordination" a lot, he warned that providing for a unified command structure should be a part of the planning process. MR. BUTLER said he hopes that the committee has had a chance to review administrative order 170 (AO 170), which he said was developed years ago as an attempt to develop an actual standardized system to manage the resources used in emergency management in Alaska. He stated: Recognizing that the homeland security threats are, in many cases, almost more of a police function than an emergency management function, I think that ... we might be missing an opportunity to make sure that Alaska - like many other states - has a system that is required to be followed in order to get some of the pass-through money ensuring standardization and more effective use of limited resources. MR. BUTLER directed attention to page 19, Section 14. He said he's heard a lot of testimony regarding issues of borders, oil terminals, marine trade, and cruise ships. He said he thinks it's important to understand that the requirements of the chapter may not apply to many of the examples that have been used, because most of those facilities are already subject to federal homeland security requirements. He stated that he thinks this is an example of why it's so important to understand, holistically, how this "fix" is going to fit in to that federal system. He said he's aware that the both DPS and the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) have the right to limit access to roads. He continued as follows: I think it's important for the committee to look at the section that describes the power of this new division, and understand what it is doing. It's creating a police function authority within the division to investigate and assess threats from attack. It's looking at organizing the chains of command and, in fact, coordinating the deployment of the state militia. While I don't have a problem with that, necessarily, I want to make sure that the legislature has the opportunity to clearly understand that we'll be relying on future plans and, to the extent that there's assumptions in those plans, I think none of us want to see that happen. MR. BUTLER stated that while he applauded the legislature's interest to monitor and keep track of the developments in "this particular area," he is concerned that more levels of oversight would be created, which would create more potential for confusion over who is responsible for what. He suggested that the committee get information on SERC, which has many of the same responsibilities that this committee would have regarding the response to a disaster. He indicated he understands that the committee is considering the issues revolving around pre-disaster or pre-attack. He said, "So, it's adding more pieces to the equation that might be a net benefit, but I think that before we create committees that have requirements to meet in secret to talk about how planning occurs, I think we should tread cautiously." CHAIR WEYHRAUCH announced that SB 385 would be held over.