Legislature(2017 - 2018)GRUENBERG 120

02/16/2017 03:00 PM House STATE AFFAIRS

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Heard & Held
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSHB 3(MLV) Out of Committee
             HB 20-SOLEMNIZE MARRIAGE: ELECTED OFFICIALS                                                                    
3:11:37 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  KREISS-TOMKINS   announced  that  the  next  order  of business                                                          
would   be  HOUSE  BILL   NO.  20,  "An   Act  relating   to  marriage                                                          
solemnization;   and  authorizing  elected  public   officials  in  the                                                         
state to solemnize marriages."                                                                                                  
3:13:47 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   MATT CLAMAN,  Alaska  State  Legislature,  introduced                                                          
HB  20,   as  prime   sponsor.     He  stated   that   in  financially                                                          
challenging   times,  the  elected   officials  of  the  Alaska   State                                                         
Legislature   have   a  role  in  reducing   "red   tape"  and  making                                                          
government   accessible   to  the  public.     He  asserted  that   his                                                         
intent   for   introducing   HB   20   is   to  make   marriage    more                                                         
accessible.    He relayed  that  HB  20 would  allow  couples  to  have                                                         
their  marriages   solemnized  directly   by elected   officials.    He                                                         
said  that performing   marriage  ceremonies  is  a privilege,  and  he                                                         
expressed  that  elected officials   would be  fortunate  to have  that                                                         
3:14:30 PM                                                                                                                    
SARA  PERMAN,   Staff,  Representative   Matt   Claman,  Alaska   State                                                         
Legislature,  presented  HB  20 on  behalf of  Representative  Claman,                                                          
prime  sponsor.   She  stated  that  HB 20  would  amend  two statutes                                                          
within  the  Alaska  Marriage   Code,  and  the  changes  would   allow                                                         
marriages  to  be solemnized  by  elected  officials  of the  State  of                                                         
Alaska.    She  relayed  that  Section  1  of  HB  20  would  amend  AS                                                         
25.05.261(a),   which  relates   to  who  may  solemnize  a  marriage.                                                          
She said  that  currently  the statute  reads  that a marriage  may  be                                                         
solemnized  by:   a  minister,  priest,  or  rabbi  [of any  church  or                                                         
congregation   in   the  state];   a  commissioned    officer  of   the                                                         
Salvation  Army;  a  marriage  commissioner   or judicial   officer  of                                                         
the  state;   or   before  or   in  any   religious   organization   or                                                         
congregation.    She  said that  HB  20 would  change  the  statute  to                                                         
include   individuals   holding  elected   office   in  the  State   of                                                         
Alaska.   She  went on  to say  that Section  2  of HB 20  would  amend                                                         
the  statute  to specify  that  a marriage  solemnized  by  an elected                                                          
official is considered valid.                                                                                                   
MS.  PERMAN stated  that  the purpose  of  HB 20  is to  make marriage                                                          
accessible    for  all   Alaskans.      She   maintained    that   [the                                                         
institution  of]  marriage  "opens  several doors,"  including  access                                                          
to  healthcare  and  eligibility   for  family  medical   leave.    She                                                         
said  that  there are  over  1,100  places  in federal  law,  relating                                                          
to  programs,  where  being  married   "really  makes  a  difference."                                                          
She  relayed  that  the  sponsor   believes  HB  20  to  be  a "family                                                          
first"  bill,  and  it  allows  people  to  receive  better  benefits,                                                          
which  is  good for  all  Alaskans.    She offered  that  HB  20  would                                                         
allow  elected  officials  to be  good  stewards  of government.    She                                                         
added  that it  would encourage  elected  officials  to  interact  on a                                                         
one-on-one  basis  with constituents,   providing  a service  that  has                                                         
a  long-lasting  impact   on them.    She  conceded   that  the Alaska                                                          
Marriage  Code  currently   allows  anyone  to  apply  for  a marriage                                                          
commissioner   appointment;    however,   there  is   a  $25  fee;   it                                                         
requires  application  for  a  marriage  license  with the  Department                                                          
of   Health   and   Social   Services    (DHSS);   and   it   requires                                                          
application   for the  marriage   commissioner  appointment   with  the                                                         
Alaska  Court  System.   She  maintained  that  HB  20 would  simplify                                                          
the process.                                                                                                                    
MS.  PERMAN  offered  that  HB 20  would  be advantageous   to couples                                                          
not  affiliated  with  a  particular   religious  institution.     They                                                         
would  be  able  to  ask  an elected   official  [to  solemnize   their                                                         
marriage]   rather  than  have   to  [ask  someone  to]  apply   for  a                                                         
marriage   commissioner  appointment.     She  concluded   that  HB  20                                                         
would  make a  real difference   in small  towns  or rural  areas  with                                                         
somewhat  limited   resources  by  allowing  a  couple  the  option  of                                                         
asking an elected official to conduct a marriage ceremony.                                                                      
MS. PERMAN  mentioned  that  DHSS assigned  a  zero fiscal  note to  HB
20.   She  added  that  HB 20  would  remove  the  financial  cost  for                                                         
citizens   who  would  be   paying  the  $25   fee  for  the  marriage                                                          
commissioner's appointment.                                                                                                     
3:17:30 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   BIRCH asked  what  duties an  elected  official  would                                                         
have  in  solemnizing   a marriage,   with  regard  to  verifying   the                                                         
paper work and signing the marriage certificate.                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   CLAMAN responded  that  there  is a two-step  process                                                          
for marriages.    The couple  must  get a marriage  license  from  DHSS                                                         
and  then  find  someone  to  solemnize,   or  perform,  the  marriage                                                          
ceremony.    He opined  that  the  official  performing   the marriage                                                          
would  not have  a duty to  verify  the paperwork,  but  would sign  as                                                         
the  officiating  person   and attach  the  authorizing   certificate.                                                          
He  added  that the  marrying  couple   would also  need  to  sign  the                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE   BIRCH   mentioned   that  witness   signatures   would                                                         
also be required.                                                                                                               
3:20:00 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  KREISS-TOMKINS   asked if  HB  20 would  apply  to  all elected                                                          
office holders, even school board members.                                                                                      
MS.  PERMAN  answered   yes,  the  legislation   would  apply   to  all                                                         
elected   officials  holding   public  office   within  the  State   of                                                         
CHAIR  KREISS-TOMKINS  asked  if HB  20 would  include  tribal council                                                          
members and if further definition is needed.                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   CLAMAN  responded  that  staff did  not  research  the                                                         
question  of  tribal   officials.    He  said  HB  20  was  written  to                                                         
allow  a public  official  to perform  a marriage  ceremony  by virtue                                                          
of  his/her   being   elected,   and   this   would  include   someone                                                          
appointed to fill an elected seat.                                                                                              
3:21:10 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE    JOHNSON   asked   if   an   elected   official    can                                                         
relinquish the privilege of officiating a marriage ceremony.                                                                    
MS.  PERMAN  replied   yes.   Section   1,  subsection  (a)  specifies                                                          
that  marriages  "may"  be  solemnized,   rather  than  "shall."    She                                                         
said this would give one the opportunity to decline.                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE    JOHNSON   asked  for   clarification    that  as   an                                                         
elected  official,   she  would  not   have  the  title  of  "marriage                                                          
MS.  PERMAN  confirmed  that Representative   Johnson  would  not  have                                                         
that  title   and  would   not  be  obligated   to   perform  marriage                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE    JOHNSON   stated   that   she   has   a   letter   of                                                         
opposition  because  of  the concern  that  HB 20  could  be construed                                                          
as a duty of an elected official - to solemnize marriages.                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE   CLAMAN  responded  that  he  did  not view  HB  20  as                                                         
creating  a  duty.    Performing   a  marriage  ceremony   would  be  a                                                         
choice,  not a  requirement.   He  added that  First Amendment  rights                                                          
have  guaranteed  that  religious  officials  may  decline  to perform                                                          
marriage  ceremonies  both  for religious  or  any other  reasons.   He                                                         
reiterated   that  HB  20  would  not  create  a  duty   to perform   a                                                         
marriage   function,   and   an   elected   official   could   not   be                                                         
compelled to perform a ceremony against his/her will.                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE   JOHNSON asked  if there  was  an expectation  that  an                                                         
elected  official  would  perform  a  marriage  ceremony  and  have  to                                                         
give a reason for not wanting to do so.                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE   CLAMAN  stated  his  belief   that  it  would  not  be                                                         
necessary  to give  a reason  for not  wanting  to perform  a marriage                                                          
CHAIR  KREISS-TOMKINS  clarified  that  the answer  to  Representative                                                          
Johnson's question is "no."                                                                                                     
3:25:52 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   WOOL  asked  if  there  is  a  shortage  of  marrying                                                          
MS.  PERMAN responded   that there  is  likely no  shortage  of people                                                          
available  to  perform  marriage  ceremonies,  because  of  the option                                                          
to  apply for  a  marriage  commissioner  appointment.    She  said  HB
20 would provide an alternate route to simplify the process.                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   WOOL said  his  only concern  is  that  someone  might                                                         
pressure  an  elected  official  to  perform  a marriage   ceremony  if                                                         
no one  else  was available  and  insist  that it  was  his/her public                                                          
duty.   He  added that  he  understands  the concern  that  performing                                                          
marriage   ceremonies  might  be  viewed   as  another  obligation   of                                                         
public office.                                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE   KNOPP requested  more  clarity  in the  definition  of                                                         
public  official  and whom  that  included.   He  asked if  an elected                                                          
official    would   include    those   in   utility    companies    and                                                         
3:29:53 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   CLAMAN referred   to page  1 of  HB 20,  beginning  on                                                         
line  6, which  states "elective  public  office".   He  asserted  that                                                         
an  elected  official  of  a utility   company  does  not  hold public                                                          
office,  but  corporate   office.   He  opined  that  the  use  of  the                                                         
term  "public   office"  would  also  preclude   a  tribal  government                                                          
3:30:50 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   BIRCH  asked how  many  people  pay  the $25  fee  and                                                         
what agency collects that money.                                                                                                
3:31:26 PM                                                                                                                    
NANCY  MEADE,  General   Council,  Administrative   Staff,   Office  of                                                         
the  Administrative  Director,  Alaska  Court  System,  testified  that                                                         
court   system   personnel   perform   many   non-religious   marriage                                                          
ceremonies   and issue  the  marriage   commissions.    She  said  that                                                         
each  marriage  ceremony  performed  through  the  court  system  costs                                                         
$25,  and last  year there  were about  650 of  them.   She added  that                                                         
the  average  number   is  about  600-650  per  year,  and   the  court                                                         
system  collects  $25 for  each  one.   She stated  that  in 2016,  the                                                         
court  system  issued  marriage   commissions  to  1,678  individuals,                                                          
who  each paid  $25  for a  commission.    She relayed  that  the  fees                                                         
are  collected  by  the  court   system  and  are  deposited  directly                                                          
into  the general  fund.   She added  that the  court system  does  not                                                         
retain any of its filing fees.                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE   BIRCH  mentioned  that  about  1,600  commissions   at                                                         
$25  each comes  to  [$40,000],  and  he  asked for  clarification   of                                                         
the "600" number mentioned.                                                                                                     
MS.  MEADE clarified   that "650"  represents  the  number  of times  a                                                         
judge,  law  clerk,  or  magistrate   performed  a  marriage  ceremony                                                          
[in 2016].   She  confirmed  that the  court  system budget  would  not                                                         
be affected by HB 20.                                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE   BIRCH  estimated  that  about  2,200  marriages   were                                                         
outside of the religious realm.                                                                                                 
3:33:32 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  MEADE,  in response   to Representative   Wool,  reiterated   that                                                         
the 600-plus  marriage  ceremonies   conducted  at the  courthouse  are                                                         
$25 each.                                                                                                                       
3:33:59 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   JOHNSON offered  that  she doesn't  see  the need  for                                                         
HB 20.   She  offered  that  she has  performed  marriage  ceremonies,                                                          
and any  elected  official  can already  perform  marriage  ceremonies                                                          
after applying for the marriage commission and paying the $25.                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE   CLAMAN   speculated   that   Representative   Johnson                                                          
enjoyed  performing   marriage  ceremonies   for  family  and  friends                                                          
when  she was  Mayor of  Palmer.   He offered  that  HB 20  would  make                                                         
it  more convenient   for an  elected  official  to do  the  same.   He                                                         
attested  that  under  HB  20, government   would  be more  accessible                                                          
to the public and would be viewed more favorably.                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE   JOHNSON  asked,   "What  brought  this   up  and  what                                                         
problem are we solving?"                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE   CLAMAN  opined that  part  of a  legislator's  job  in                                                         
government   is  to  look  for  ways  for   government  to  work   more                                                         
effectively   and efficiently   for  the  public.    He asserted   that                                                         
making  it easier  for people  to go  through  the process  of getting                                                          
married is "a positive."                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE   JOHNSON  stated that  one  does not  have  to wait  to                                                         
get  a  form  and   spend  money  before   being  able  to  perform   a                                                         
marriage ceremony.                                                                                                              
3:38:36 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  KREISS-TOMKINS   opened  public  testimony   on HB  20.    After                                                         
ascertaining   that  there  was  no  one  who wished   to testify,   he                                                         
closed public testimony.                                                                                                        
[HB 20 was held over.]                                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB0020 Hearing Request Memo 2.2.2017.PDF HSTA 2/16/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 20
HB0020 Sponsor Statement 2.8.17.pdf HSTA 2/16/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 20
HB0020 ver A 2.8.17.PDF HSTA 2/16/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 20
HB0020 Supporting Document - Texas Bill 2.8.17.pdf HSTA 2/16/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 20
HB020 Fiscal Note HSS 2.14.17.pdf HSTA 2/16/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 20
HCR005 Sponsor Statement 2.9.17.pdf HSTA 2/16/2017 3:00:00 PM
HCR005 ver A 2.9.17.PDF HSTA 2/16/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB020 Alaskans Together for Equality Letter of Support 2.16.17.pdf HSTA 2/16/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 20
HCR005A Additional Documents 2.16.17.PDF HSTA 2/16/2017 3:00:00 PM
HCR005A PowerPoint 2.16.17.pdf HSTA 2/16/2017 3:00:00 PM