Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/17/2003 09:04 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                                                                                                                                
     SENATE BILL NO. 148                                                                                                        
     "An Act relating  to allowable absences for certain  members of                                                            
     the armed forces and  their spouses and dependents for purposes                                                            
     of eligibility for  permanent fund dividends; and providing for                                                            
     an effective date."                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
This  was the first  hearing  for this  bill in  the Senate  Finance                                                            
Committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Wilken  stated  this bill  sponsored  by  Senator  Cowdery                                                            
"amends  the State  statute  governing  allowable absences  for  the                                                            
permanent  fund dividend  for  members of  the United  States  armed                                                            
forces."                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MARK RIEHLE,  Staff to Senator Cowdery,  testified this legislation                                                             
is  a "correction  of  an oversight"  in  allowable  permanent  fund                                                            
dividend  absences.  He  shared  that a  discrepancy  arose  in  the                                                            
instance  of  a 20-year  Alaska  resident  and  member of  the  Navy                                                            
Reserve  who  was  activated  to  military  service   following  the                                                            
terrorist events  of September 11,  2001. This resident,  Mr. Riehle                                                            
reported, was recently  denied a dividend after serving overseas for                                                            
ten months and  upon return to the country, spending  seven weeks in                                                            
California caring  for his quadriplegic brother. Mr.  Riehle pointed                                                            
out the time spent  on active military duty is an  allowable absence                                                            
and that under  normal circumstances  a seven week absence  from the                                                            
State is also allowable.  However, he stated that because the seven-                                                            
week absence  immediately followed  discharge from active  duty, the                                                            
resident was  disqualified from receiving  a dividend. He  explained                                                            
this is due  to separate requirements  applied to military  personal                                                            
that  require a  resident  to return  to Alaska  within  45 days  of                                                            
discharge.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Riehle  requested  the  Committee   join  Senator  Cowdery  "in                                                            
sponsoring this  cause in demonstrating your patriotic  thank you to                                                            
the members  of the Reserves, the  Guards, and those in active  duty                                                            
military."                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
KIERKE  KUSSART  testified  as a  private  citizen although  she  is                                                            
employed  by the Permanent  Fund Dividend  Division. She stated  the                                                            
argument that  because civilians are  allowed to be absent  180 days                                                            
during a qualifying  year, military personnel should  be granted the                                                            
same allowance.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Kussart  referenced a handout  titled, "A brief overview  of PFD                                                            
rules pertaining to SB 148," which reads as follows.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     Civilian (no special circumstances)                                                                                        
     Can be  gone up to 180 days in  a calendar year for  any reason                                                            
     as long  as home is  maintained in state  (own, rent,  storage)                                                            
     and residency ties are not created in other states.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     Military Active Duty                                                                                                       
     Must have AK as home of record.                                                                                            
     Can  be gone  a whole year  - must  return for  3 days every  2                                                            
     years minimum.                                                                                                             
     After 5 years absence must have 30 days in AK.                                                                             
     Does not have to maintain home in AK.                                                                                      
     Can obtain other states  drivers license, vehicle registration,                                                            
     resident hunting and fishing licenses.                                                                                     
     Can purchase home in another state.                                                                                        
     Spouse can work full time in another state.                                                                                
     Once  out of AK for  over 180 days in  a calendar year  only 45                                                            
     days can be for non-military reasons.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     Main Points                                                                                                                
     1. Discharge is  a scheduled event and can be planned for. Upon                                                            
        discharge the military will ship the applicant's belongings                                                             
        to any address the applicant chooses.                                                                                   
     2. Once returns  to civilian status the applicant may have many                                                            
        more ties to outside than to AK. Needs to return to fulfill                                                             
        statement of intent.                                                                                                    
     3. In my opinion  six months is an excessive amount of time for                                                            
        a move back to AK, especially since military members are                                                                
        used to moving without much notice. Now that they are free                                                              
         from military obligation it is time to come home.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SFC 03 # 59, Side B 09:52 AM                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Kussart  opined that six months  is an excessive amount  of time                                                            
to be absent from Alaska  for discharged military personnel who have                                                            
possibly established  residency in another state.  She suggested two                                                            
or three months was adequate.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Senator Cowdery  commented that military  personnel should  be given                                                            
some freedoms when not on active duty.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Bunde  clarified  that  while   on active   duty,  military                                                            
personnel  could be absent  from the  State more  than 180 but  that                                                            
only 45 of those days could be for non-military activities.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Kussart affirmed.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Senator Cowdery indicated  he had been unaware of the 45-day absence                                                            
limitation.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Kussart noted  for the record that she was on  leave status from                                                            
the State during this hearing.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Senator Olson asked the  percentage of military personnel who become                                                            
ineligible  for the permanent fund  dividend after leaving  military                                                            
duty.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Kussart did  not have that information as a private  citizen and                                                            
indicated the Division could provide it upon request.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Senator B.  Stevens pointed out the  matter addresses two  different                                                            
types of active  duty. He listed one  as regular military  personnel                                                            
serving  on active  duty and  the other  as reservists  or  National                                                            
Guard members called to  deployment. He told of a reservist residing                                                            
in  his district  who was  deployed  and is  now "facing  a  similar                                                            
challenge"  in eligibility  for Public Employees  Retirement  System                                                            
(PERS) benefits.  He asked whether the differences  could be defined                                                            
in statute.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Cowdery learned  this situation  is a  rare occurrence.  He                                                            
shared  that the  Department had  suggested  granting discretionary                                                             
authority to the commissioner  to grant exceptions; however, Senator                                                            
Cowdery indicated he does not favor this option.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Senator B. Stevens expressed that a distinction must be made.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Senator Cowdery stated  the intent of the legislation would apply to                                                            
those  military  personnel  on  active  duty and  that  no  specific                                                            
distinction was made.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Senator  B. Stevens  stressed  the  issue is  that the  resident  in                                                            
question  was not  on active  duty but  rather a  reservist who  was                                                            
deployed. He stated that  if the resident had not been deployed, his                                                            
seven-week absence would  not have disqualified him from receiving a                                                            
dividend.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Senator Taylor remarked  that this resident should have been treated                                                            
as any  other citizen.  He  agreed with  Senator B.  Stevens that  a                                                            
distinction should be made. He surmised that this affects many                                                                  
residents, as many reservists have been deployed.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Wilken ordered the bill HELD in Committee.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                

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