Legislature(2017 - 2018)GRUENBERG 120

04/18/2017 03:00 PM House STATE AFFAIRS

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                    HB 235-NORTH STAR MEDAL                                                                                 
3:07:41 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS  announced that the first  order of business                                                               
would be  HOUSE BILL  NO. 235,  "An Act  creating the  North Star                                                               
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS,  as prime  sponsor of  HB 235,  stated that                                                               
the intent  of HB 235  is to  recognize first responders  and law                                                               
enforcement personnel  at the state  level like the  Purple Heart                                                               
does  on the  national level.    He mentioned  that the  proposed                                                               
legislation was  the idea of  former Representative Bob  Lynn and                                                               
resulted from collaboration with Mr. Lynn.                                                                                      
3:09:14 PM                                                                                                                    
STEPHANIE   GILARDI,  Staff,   Representative  Jonathan   Kreiss-                                                               
Tomkins, Alaska  State Legislature,  on behalf  of Representative                                                               
Kreiss-Tomkins,  prime sponsor  of  HB 235,  stated  that HB  235                                                               
would create the North Star Medal,  which would serve as a symbol                                                               
of gratitude  from the people  of Alaska to first  responders and                                                               
law enforcement personnel.  She  asserted that the medal is meant                                                               
to  be  a  rare  and  high  honor  awarded  by  the  governor  to                                                               
individuals who are  injured or killed in the line  of duty while                                                               
exhibiting  great   courage  in  the  service   of  their  fellow                                                               
Alaskans.  She said that  firefighters, peace officers, emergency                                                               
medical  technicians   (EMTs),  and   search  and   rescue  (SAR)                                                               
volunteers would all be eligible for  the award.  The category of                                                               
peace  officer includes  police officers,  Village Public  Safety                                                               
Officers (VPSOs), Alaska State  Trooper (AST) troopers, municipal                                                               
police, and corrections officers.                                                                                               
MS. GILARDI relayed  that other states, such  as Idaho, Illinois,                                                               
Oregon, and Texas, have similar  awards honoring first responders                                                               
and  law  enforcement for  meritorious  conduct  and/or death  or                                                               
injury in  the line of  duty.   She maintained that  the proposed                                                               
legislation  would  create an  award  that  would honor  Alaska's                                                               
fallen heroes.                                                                                                                  
MS.  GILARDI  stated that  there  is  one comparable  award  that                                                               
currently  exists in  Alaska  -  the Alaska  Medal  of Heroism  -                                                               
created  by  the legislature  in  1965,  which has  been  awarded                                                               
several  times  to recognize  heroic  and  valorous deeds.    She                                                               
offered  that the  difference  [between that  medal  and the  one                                                               
currently being  proposed] is  that the  Alaska Medal  of Heroism                                                               
can  be awarded  to  any person  and most  often  is awarded  for                                                               
spontaneous acts  of bravery,  such as  saving people  from fire,                                                               
car crashes, or airplane wrecks.   The North Star Medal would not                                                               
duplicate this award.   While the recipients of  the Alaska Medal                                                               
of  Heroism are  ordinary  citizens  responding to  extraordinary                                                               
events with courage, the North  Star Medal would honor people who                                                               
"show up" each day knowing that  during their work, they could be                                                               
asked to sacrifice their lives to protect their fellow Alaskans.                                                                
MS. GILARDI  relayed that  nominations for  the North  Star Medal                                                               
may originate  within communities  and [state] departments.   The                                                               
nominee  names   would  be  passed  on   to  the  highest-ranking                                                               
supervisor in  that department and forwarded  to the commissioner                                                               
of the  Department of Public  Safety (DPS), who would  review the                                                               
nominations  and pass  them on  to the  governor.   She said  the                                                               
medals would be  awarded by the governor in  a ceremony occurring                                                               
no more  than once per year;  if the honoree is  no longer living                                                               
or unable to  accept the award, it would be  presented to his/her                                                               
next of kin.                                                                                                                    
MS.  GILARDI related  that staff  has been  working closely  with                                                               
DPS;  the DPS  already creates  and  designs awards  for its  own                                                               
employees  and would  be amenable  to  designing this  one.   She                                                               
thanked  Commissioner  Monegan  for  assisting  with  naming  the                                                               
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS  mentioned that  HB 235 would  complement HB
23  [signed  into  law  6/21/17],   which  created  benefits  for                                                               
survivors of those felled in the line of duty.                                                                                  
3:13:06 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE TUCK asked  if the Purple Heart may  be awarded to                                                               
a  member of  the  [Alaska] National  Guard or  a  member of  the                                                               
organized militia of Alaska who respond to emergencies.                                                                         
MS. GILARDI responded  that there is a military  honor, which was                                                               
created in 2007  - the Alaska Declaration of Honor  - that may be                                                               
awarded to members of the military such as guardsmen.                                                                           
3:13:54 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON asked  which award - the  North Star Medal                                                               
or the Alaska  Medal of Heroism - would be  appropriate for a SAR                                                               
MS. GILARDI answered  that she included the  SAR volunteers among                                                               
those  eligible  for  the  North Star  Medal  because  they  work                                                               
closely with law  enforcement and have made  commitments to serve                                                               
in an organization  devoted to helping other people;  they are on                                                               
call  like  first  responders;  and   they  are  willing  to  put                                                               
themselves in danger.                                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON offered that  SAR volunteers would be like                                                               
volunteer  firefighters who  are members  of an  active volunteer                                                               
MS. GILARDI replied, that's correct.                                                                                            
3:15:31 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  WOOL  referred to  the  letter,  included in  the                                                               
committee   packet,  from   the   Alaska  Correctional   Officers                                                               
Association  (ACOA) and  asked for  confirmation that  this group                                                               
would be included under the category "peace officers."                                                                          
MS. GILARDI answered, "Yes they are."                                                                                           
3:16:05 PM                                                                                                                    
BOB LYNN  testified, "There  is a medal  that Alaska  needs, that                                                               
too many people deserve, but nobody  wants."  He relayed that the                                                               
U.S.  Armed Forces  has the  Purple  Heart, which  is awarded  to                                                               
someone  who is  wounded  or  killed in  a  hostile  action.   He                                                               
maintained that  Alaska law enforcement heroes  and those working                                                               
with  them, who  are  wounded  or killed  by  hostile actions  by                                                               
opponents of  law and order -  thugs, criminals, and the  scum of                                                               
humanity - are  deserving of such a  medal.  He said  that HB 235                                                               
proposes  such a  medal, which  would be  titled the  "North Star                                                               
Medal."   He offered that  Alaska's budget issues  are important,                                                               
but  so   is  honoring  law  enforcement   through  the  proposed                                                               
legislation.  He stated that without  the help and support of the                                                               
military overseas and law enforcement  at home, all other issues,                                                               
including budget issues,  are moot.  He maintained  that when law                                                               
enforcement  officers   are  wounded  or  killed   on  behalf  of                                                               
Alaskans, there needs  to be special recognition by  the State of                                                               
Alaska; that  is what  is proposed  under HB 235;  and it  is the                                                               
least Alaska can do.                                                                                                            
MR. LYNN  stated that he has  a special interest in  the proposed                                                               
legislation due to  having been a law officer  himself and having                                                               
many family members  in law enforcement.  He said,  "By the grace                                                               
of God,  none of our family  were ever wounded or  killed, but we                                                               
had comrades  and friends  who were."   He maintained  that these                                                               
people  should have  been awarded  special  recognition by  their                                                               
states, just  as a  member of  the military  is awarded  a Purple                                                               
Heart by  a grateful nation.   He urged the committee  to pass HB
3:19:08 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH  expressed his appreciation and  support for                                                               
the proposed legislation.                                                                                                       
3:20:27 PM                                                                                                                    
WALT MONEGAN, Commissioner Designee,  Department of Public Safety                                                               
(DPS),  stated that  his father,  Walt Monegan,  Jr., was  a U.S.                                                               
(Marine Corps)  marine, killed  in action  during the  Korean War                                                               
and  posthumously  awarded  the  Congressional  Medal  of  Honor.                                                               
Commissioner  Monegan  relayed that  he  was  in utero  when  his                                                               
father died, so  never met his father.  He  stated that the medal                                                               
is proudly  displayed in his  home and  has served as  a physical                                                               
reminder since childhood that "I,  too, must believe in something                                                               
larger than myself."                                                                                                            
Commissioner  Monegan offered  that  the  award being  considered                                                               
under HB  235 is  a similar  form of  recognition [as  the Purple                                                               
Heart]  of a  first  responder who  has answered  a  threat in  a                                                               
manner that is above and beyond  the call of duty.  He maintained                                                               
that the medal  will honor its wearer and his/her  family, and it                                                               
will serve  as a reminder  that there  are still brave  and noble                                                               
Alaskans  who  also  believe  in  things  that  are  bigger  than                                                               
3:22:10 PM                                                                                                                    
ED MERCER, Deputy Chief, Juneau  Police Department (JPD), relayed                                                               
a story of heroism and sacrifice  as follows:  On April 2015, two                                                               
general police officers responded to  a call involving an airline                                                               
passenger  who violated  a rule  on the  airplane.   The officers                                                               
contacted  the  passenger  near  the  tarmac,  who  provided  the                                                               
officers  with a  fake name,  then became  increasingly agitated.                                                               
The  man took  off  running  toward the  restricted  area of  the                                                               
tarmac, and both officers pursued him.   After a brief chase, the                                                               
officers tackled  the man;  the man tried  to take  one officer's                                                               
handgun; and the  other officer tried to subdue  the man applying                                                               
several  soft- and  hard-hand techniques  to no  avail.   The man                                                               
continued  to try  to remove  the  officer's gun,  but the  other                                                               
officer hit the man until the  man stopped.  The man then started                                                               
to grab the officer's taser and  was stopped only after the other                                                               
officer pulled out  his taser and demanded the man  to stop.  The                                                               
man  was  arrested,   and  JPD  learned  that  the   man  had  an                                                               
outstanding  warrant  in another  state.    Although no  one  was                                                               
killed in this incident, one  of the officers sustained an injury                                                               
resulting in months of missed work, surgery, and rehabilitation.                                                                
MR.  MERCER  stated that  he  believes  policing  is one  of  the                                                               
noblest  professions a  person can  undertake.   It  is one  with                                                               
incredible  rewards  and  responsibilities; however,  it  is  not                                                               
without risk or sacrifice.  He  said that the story he related is                                                               
just  one  example, and  he  maintained  that across  Alaska  law                                                               
enforcement, fire fighters, first  responders, and SAR volunteers                                                               
risk their lives  daily in service to the  communities of Alaska.                                                               
He asserted  that it is  for this reason  he supports HB  235 and                                                               
the North Star Medal.                                                                                                           
3:24:32 PM                                                                                                                    
DAVID  CAMPBELL, Lieutenant,  Juneau  Police Department,  relayed                                                               
that in preparation for testifying,  he walked through the police                                                               
department and  asked each officer he  encountered whether he/she                                                               
had  ever been  injured or  assaulted in  the line  of duty.   He                                                               
stated that except  for two officers, every officer  with whom he                                                               
spoke had been assaulted.  He  offered that he has been assaulted                                                               
four times over the course of his  22 years with JPD.  He related                                                               
the story  of one officer:   The  officer arrested a  suspect who                                                               
sucker  punched him,  grabbed him  in  a headlock,  and tried  to                                                               
gouge  out his  eye.   The  officer was  rescued  by an  off-duty                                                               
police officer from  Colorado; the suspect was  tasered and taken                                                               
into custody.   The officer missed  time from work while  his eye                                                               
was recovering from a scratched cornea.                                                                                         
MR.  CAMPBELL  attested  to  the  humility  of  that  officer  in                                                               
relating his story and of all  the officers who told Mr. Campbell                                                               
of their injuries  on the job.   He stated that he  looked at the                                                               
Law  Enforcement Officers  Killed and  Assaulted (LEOKA)  Program                                                               
statistics for  2016 and learned  that for JPD with  55 officers,                                                               
there were 20 reports of officers  injured in the line of duty by                                                               
assaultive behavior.                                                                                                            
MR. CAMPBELL maintained that the North  Star Medal is a good idea                                                               
for two reasons.  First,  it would counteract "police cynicism" -                                                               
the tendency  of police officers  to contract a negative  view of                                                               
society  after  dealing  with  negative things  every  day.    He                                                               
maintained that  two of  his favorite  days of  the year  are the                                                               
[National]  Police Memorial  Day and  the National  Night Out  in                                                               
Juneau, because  regular citizens  come out  to these  events and                                                               
thank the police for the work  they do; it demonstrates to police                                                               
officers that  there are good  people "out there" who  care about                                                               
them.   He asserted  that this  medal would  represent a  show of                                                               
support and respect from the highest office in the state.                                                                       
MR. CAMPBELL offered the second  reason that the North Star Medal                                                               
is  a good  idea:   the  average  citizen in  the  state may  not                                                               
realize how dangerous  it is to be a law  enforcement officer; it                                                               
would  be a  reminder that  not  just those  making the  ultimate                                                               
sacrifice should be  recognized, but people who  get assaulted on                                                               
a regular  basis.  He suggested  that the award may  counter some                                                               
of the  negative rhetoric against  police officers,  heard across                                                               
the nation.                                                                                                                     
3:27:37 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   JOHNSON  thanked   the  officers   for  serving;                                                               
mentioned that  she has attended  the [National]  Police Memorial                                                               
Day  in Anchorage;  and expressed  her support  for the  proposed                                                               
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS concurred.                                                                                                 
3:28:44 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE TUCK  asked if any  police officers  have received                                                               
the Alaska Medal of Heroism.                                                                                                    
MR.  CAMPBELL replied  that  he  did not  know,  but  JPD has  an                                                               
internal process  to bestow awards;  the officer in  Mr. Mercer's                                                               
narration  was  given a  local  award.    He maintained  that  he                                                               
supports  the North  Star Medal  for law  enforcement as  well as                                                               
civilians, because  he believes that statewide  recognition would                                                               
"go a  long way" to let  Alaskans know that sacrifices  are being                                                               
3:29:54 PM                                                                                                                    
DARYL    WEBSTER,   Assistant    Superintendent,   Lemon    Creek                                                               
Correctional  Center  (LCCC),  Department of  Corrections  (DOC),                                                               
testified  that he  is in  support of  HB 235,  because he  was a                                                               
police officer for 28 years before  working for DOC.  He said his                                                               
father  was  a  police  officer;  and as  a  child,  Mr.  Webster                                                               
experienced his  first police officer  funeral when  his father's                                                               
best friend  was shot to  death, while  on duty, by  a barricaded                                                               
armed robber.   He relayed that  during the time he  was a police                                                               
officer, he  attended the funerals  of two of his  coworkers, who                                                               
were shot  to death.   He added that  many of his  coworkers have                                                               
been injured, as has he.                                                                                                        
MR. WEBSTER asserted that he  is sensitive to the sacrifices that                                                               
Alaska's first  responders make  and the  need to  recognize them                                                               
for those sacrifices.  He maintained  that the award would send a                                                               
message to  Alaska's emergency service workers  that Alaskans are                                                               
aware of  what they  do.  He  offered that it  is easy  for first                                                               
responders   to   feel  that   their   work   and  suffering   is                                                               
unappreciated  except  by  their   coworkers;  they  need  to  be                                                               
reminded that  Alaskans understand "what they're  going through."                                                               
He asserted  that workers in  this field recognize that  they may                                                               
be injured  or killed, but  they want it  to mean something.   He                                                               
offered that sometimes all that is  needed is a small but sincere                                                               
gesture to  inspire other people to  heroic service, and it  is a                                                               
gesture worth making.                                                                                                           
MR. WEBSTER reiterated that the  award would demonstrate Alaska's                                                               
recognition  that the  sacrifice  of an  officer  is not  his/her                                                               
sacrifice  alone   but  is  the  sacrifice   of  his/her  family,                                                               
colleagues,  and  society.    He  offered  his  support  for  the                                                               
proposed legislation.                                                                                                           
3:32:20 PM                                                                                                                    
TROY  LARUE,  Division  Operations Manager,  Statewide  Aviation,                                                               
Department  of  Transportation   &  Public  Facilities  (DOT&PF),                                                               
testified  that   he  has  worked   with  many   dedicated  first                                                               
responders across  the state for 20  years.  He said  that Alaska                                                               
has an  extremely diverse  population in all  walks of  life, but                                                               
saving lives transcends all personal  differences.  He maintained                                                               
that  emergency responders,  whether  volunteers  or paid  staff,                                                               
spend countless hours  in training and preparation  to save lives                                                               
and  property.    He  stated that  when  an  emergency  responder                                                               
arrives  at  a  scene,  most  of  the  time  he/she  has  limited                                                               
information as  to what  he/she might be  facing; the  first rule                                                               
for a responder is "to stay the  rescuer and not join the list of                                                               
people  who need  to be  rescued."   He  said that  unfortunately                                                               
there are occasions  when some of Alaska's  first responders find                                                               
themselves in harm's way; and Alaska  needs a clear vision of how                                                               
it  honors  its  fallen  and injured  emergency  personnel.    He                                                               
expressed his  belief that  HB 235  is more  than a  provision to                                                               
hand  out  awards;  it  is  a method  to  show  appreciation  for                                                               
personal sacrifice when tragedy strikes.                                                                                        
3:34:23 PM                                                                                                                    
STEVE  BEAR,  Colonel,  Director,  Division  of  Alaska  Wildlife                                                               
Troopers  (AWT), Department  of  Public  Safety (DPS),  testified                                                               
that the  Purple Heart  was created  for military  personnel many                                                               
years ago, because it realized  the importance of recognizing the                                                               
sacrifices that people  make, and the North Star  Medal would "go                                                               
a long  way" towards doing  the same.   He mentioned that  in his                                                               
many years  with DPS  and the  military, he  has become  aware of                                                               
many people deserving of such a  medal and the importance of such                                                               
recognition  to their  families.   He offered  that these  public                                                               
servants work  for individual departments but  serve all citizens                                                               
of the  State of Alaska.   He expressed his appreciation  for the                                                               
inclusion  of SAR  volunteers, because  there are  many organized                                                               
SAR  groups who  save many  lives every  year; and  without their                                                               
service, there would be many more deaths in Alaska.                                                                             
3:36:43 PM                                                                                                                    
NICK SZABO, Vice President, Alaska  Search and Rescue Association                                                               
(ASARA),  referred  to the  letter  from  Corey Aist,  President,                                                               
ASARA [included in  the committee packet].  He  stated that ASARA                                                               
represents  over 750  SAR volunteers  across the  state, who  are                                                               
organized into  about 50  SAR teams;  most are  unpaid volunteers                                                               
dispatched by the Alaska State  Troopers (AST) [DPS] to assist in                                                               
searching  for and  rescuing lost  people in  the wilderness  and                                                               
back country.   He  pointed out  that HB 235  would not  cost the                                                               
state money.   He  maintained that ASARA  fully supports  HB 235,                                                               
and he urged the committee to support the proposed legislation.                                                                 
3:38:10 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  JOHNSON  reiterated   that  she  appreciates  the                                                               
proposed  legislation, especially  considering  the  size of  the                                                               
state and the abundance of outdoor activity in the state.                                                                       
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS announced that HB 235 would be held over.                                                                  

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB235 Sponsor Statement 4.17.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 235
HB235 Supporting Document NCSL Awards for Law Enforcement or First Responders 4.17.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 235
HB235 Letter of Support - Juneau Police Department 4.17.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 235
HB235 Letter of Support Public Safety Employees Association 4.17.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 235
HB235 Letter of support - Chief Martines Fairbanks Airport 4.15.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 235
HB235 Letter of Support - City and Borough of Juneau 4.16.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 235
HB235 ver D 4.17.17.PDF HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 235
HB0125 ver 30LS0467D 3.27.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 125
HB0125 Sponsor Statement 3.27.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 125
HB0125 Letter of Support 002 4.17.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 125
HB0125 Letter of Support 001 Berkowitz 4.17.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 125
HB0125 Letters of Support 4.17.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 125
HB 224 Sponsor Statement 4.18.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 224
HB 224 Sectional Analysis 4.18.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 224
HB244 Fiscal Note DOA 4.15.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 244
HB 224 Letter of Support Nikiski.PDF HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 224
HB 224 Letter of Support Juneau.PDF HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 224
HB 224 Letter of Support Dillingham.PDF HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 224
HB235 Letter of Support ACOA 4.17.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 235
HB235 Fiscal Note DPS 4.17.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 235
HB235 Letter of Support ASARA 4.18.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 235
HB235 Letter of Support Anchorage Police Dept 4.12.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 235
HB224 Letter of Support Nome Public Schools 4.18.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 224
HB224 Letters of Support 4.18.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 224
HB 224 Letter of Support Hoonah City Schools 4.18.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 224
HB 224 Letter of Support Southwest Region 4.18.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 224
HB235 Letter of Support APDEA 4.18.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 235
HB 224 Supporting Document - Letter LYSD 5.19.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 224
HB 224 Supporting Document - Letter NWABSD 5.19.17.pdf HSTA 4/18/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 224