Legislature(2015 - 2016)SENATE FINANCE 532

03/25/2015 02:00 PM Senate FINANCE

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Audio Topic
02:04:32 PM Start
02:05:14 PM SCR1
02:37:16 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Presentation: Overview FY17 Operating Budget
<Pending Referral>
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                 SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE                                                                                       
                      March 25, 2015                                                                                            
                         2:04 p.m.                                                                                              
2:04:32 PM                                                                                                                    
CALL TO ORDER                                                                                                                 
Co-Chair MacKinnon called the Senate Finance Committee                                                                          
meeting to order at 2:04 p.m.                                                                                                   
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Anna MacKinnon, Co-Chair                                                                                                
Senator Pete Kelly, Co-Chair                                                                                                    
Senator Peter Micciche, Vice-Chair                                                                                              
Senator Click Bishop                                                                                                            
Senator Mike Dunleavy                                                                                                           
Senator Lyman Hoffman                                                                                                           
Senator Donny Olson                                                                                                             
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
ALSO PRESENT                                                                                                                  
Tim Lamkin, Staff, Senator Gary Stevens; Senator Gary                                                                           
Stevens, Sponsor.                                                                                                               
PRESENT VIA TELECONFERENCE                                                                                                    
Michael   Poliakoff,  Vice-president   of  Policy   American                                                                    
Council  of Trustees  and  Alumni,  Virginia; Samuel  Stone,                                                                    
Executive  Director, Civics  Education Initiative,  Arizona;                                                                    
Stuart Thompson, Self, Mat-Su.                                                                                                  
SCR 1     CIVICS EDUCATION TASK FORCE                                                                                           
          SCR 1 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further                                                                     
SB 57     CLEAN AIR ACT PLAN                                                                                                    
          SB 57 was SCHEDULED but not HEARD.                                                                                    
SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 1                                                                                            
     Relating to a legislative task force on civics                                                                             
2:05:14 PM                                                                                                                    
TIM  LAMKIN,  STAFF,  SENATOR GARY  STEVENS,  explained  the                                                                    
resolution  had  grown out  of  the  quiet epidemic  amongst                                                                    
students in  the nation, prompted  by No Child  Left Behind,                                                                    
of  academic testing  overriding civics  education. He  said                                                                    
that liberal arts had been  left behind in public education,                                                                    
which  had been  recognized  by other  states, resulting  in                                                                    
policies to change curriculum in  order to highlight civics.                                                                    
He noted  that in  2000, the  legislature passed  House Bill                                                                    
192,  which required  school districts  to regularly  recite                                                                    
the Pledge  of Allegiance. He  shared that in order  to gain                                                                    
citizenship incoming citizens  had to pass a  civics rest by                                                                    
60 percent.  He opined  that 92  percent of  immigrants were                                                                    
passing the test  by 60 percent, compared to 3  to 4 percent                                                                    
of graduating  high school seniors  in Arizona  and Oklahoma                                                                    
in   2012.     He   concluded  that   America's  youth   was                                                                    
disassociated from the republic.                                                                                                
2:08:43 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR   GARY  STEVENS,   SPONSOR,   echoed  Mr.   Lamkin's                                                                    
comments.  He believed  that the  task force  would lead  to                                                                    
enforceable solutions. He felt  that Alaska could learn from                                                                    
other states. He stated that  the City of Boston had brought                                                                    
industry and educators  together to figure out  how to teach                                                                    
civics in  each classroom and incorporate  civics throughout                                                                    
the curriculum.                                                                                                                 
2:10:56 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator   Dunleavy  thought   that  the   issue  was   worth                                                                    
exploring. He opined that the  percentage of eligible voters                                                                    
in the country was in decline.  He said that 22 countries in                                                                    
the world  mandated voting.  He thought  that the  fact that                                                                    
American citizens  had the right  to choose not to  vote was                                                                    
problematic. He hoped  a task force could  make a difference                                                                    
in the present state of civics education in the country.                                                                        
2:12:33 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair MacKinnon wondered who would participate in the                                                                        
task force. Senator Stevens deferred to Mr. Lamkin.                                                                             
Mr. Lamkin spoke to Page 2, line 22 of the bill:                                                                                
FURTHER RESOLVED that the task force consists of 12 members                                                                     
as follows:                                                                                                                     
     (1)   three  members  of the  house of  representatives                                                                    
     appointed   by   the   speaker    of   the   house   of                                                                    
     representatives, including  one member of  the minority                                                                    
     organizational caucus;                                                                                                     
     (2)   three  members  of the  senate  appointed by  the                                                                    
     president of  the senate, including  one member  of the                                                                    
     minority organizational caucus;                                                                                            
     (3)     the   commissioner  of   education  and   early                                                                    
     development or the commissioner's designee;                                                                                
     (4)   five members of  the public appointed  jointly by                                                                    
     the  speaker of  the house  of representatives  and the                                                                    
     president of the senate as follows:                                                                                        
          (A)     one  member  of  the   National  Education                                                                    
          Association  who  is  a teacher  with  significant                                                                    
          teaching  experience in  civics or  social studies                                                                    
          (B)   one member  representing the  Association of                                                                    
          Alaska School Boards;                                                                                                 
          (C)  one member who  is a student enrolled in good                                                                    
          standing in  a public  high school  who will  be a                                                                    
          senior in  the school   on the  date of  the first                                                                    
          meeting  of  the  task  force;  the  student  must                                                                    
          demonstrate  an interest  in civics  education and                                                                    
          (D)    one member  who  is  a judge  or  otherwise                                                                    
          represents   the   judicial    branch   of   state                                                                    
          (E)  one member representing the                                                                                      
          University of Alaska;                                                                                                 
2:14:22 PM                                                                                                                    
MICHAEL   POLIAKOFF,  VICE-PRESIDENT   OF  POLICY   AMERICAN                                                                    
COUNCIL    OF   TRUSTEES    AND   ALUMNI,    VIRGINIA   (via                                                                    
teleconference),  discussed   the  presentation,  "Students,                                                                    
Citizens and Our Nation's Future" (copy on file).                                                                               
Mr. Poliakoff looked at Slide 2, "James Madison 1822":                                                                          
     Learned Institutions ought to  be favorite objects with                                                                    
     every  free  people. They  throw  that  light over  the                                                                    
     public mind  which is the best  security against crafty                                                                    
    & dangerous encroachments on the public liberty. …                                                                          
     What   spectacle  can   be   more   edifying  or   more                                                                    
     seasonable,  than  that  of Liberty  &  Learning,  each                                                                    
     leaning  on  the  other  for   their  mutual  &  surest                                                                    
Mr. Poliakoff  stated that civic  education had to  be based                                                                    
on   civil   knowledge   and  understanding   of   America's                                                                    
institutions  of government.  He noted  that SCR  1 properly                                                                    
began with a call to assess  the state of civic education in                                                                    
Alaska.  He  suggested that  no  student  should leave  high                                                                    
school  without   a  strong  foundation  in   United  States                                                                    
History;  including  how   the  institutions  of  government                                                                    
developed. He asserted that no  student should leave college                                                                    
without a  mature collegiate grasp of  American History, and                                                                    
the  successes and  failures of  its  free institutions.  He                                                                    
relayed  that the  country's founders  were  aware that  the                                                                    
lifespan of  liberty was  unlikely to  be long  without well                                                                    
informed, participating, citizens.                                                                                              
2:16:17 PM                                                                                                                    
Mr.  Poliakoff highlighted  Slide 3,  "National Perspectives                                                                    
on Historical Illiteracy":                                                                                                      
     Survey of 556 college seniors  at the "Top 25" National                                                                    
     Universities  and the  "Top 25"  National Liberal  Arts                                                                    
          •Beavis and Butthead 99 percent identified                                                                            
          •Snoop Doggy Dog 98 percent identified correctly                                                                      
          •George Washington as general at Yorktown 34                                                                          
          percent identified correctly                                                                                          
          •James Madison as Father of the Constitution 23                                                                       
          percent identified correctly                                                                                          
         •Abraham Lincoln as author of the words:                                                                               
          "Government of the people, by the people, for the                                                                     
          people" 22 percent identified correctly                                                                               
Mr.  Poliakoff  opined  that nationwide,  free  institutions                                                                    
were  threatened   by  a  plague  of   ignorance  and  under                                                                    
education  in civic  matters. He  shared  that the  American                                                                    
Council  surveyed  college  students and  college  graduates                                                                    
regularly  to  assess  the state  of  historical  and  civic                                                                    
knowledge, with terrifying results.                                                                                             
2:16:25 PM                                                                                                                    
Mr. Poliakoff discussed Slide 4, "It Gets Worse":                                                                               
     Results of a 2012 survey of recent college graduates                                                                       
     (G f K Custom Research North America)                                                                                      
     How Long Are Terms for Members of Congress?                                                                              
     38.4 percent identified correctly                                                                                          
     Who is Lady Gaga?                                                                                                        
     96.2 percent identified correctly                                                                                          
Mr. Poliakoff asserted  that voters that could  not name the                                                                    
term  lengths  of  the  representatives  they  elected  were                                                                    
unlikely to  be making  well informed decisions.  He relayed                                                                    
that a 2006 Pew Research  Report revealed that 26 percent of                                                                    
18 to  29 year-olds  polled could  name Condoleezza  Rice as                                                                    
the Secretary of  State; only 15 percent  knew that Vladimir                                                                    
Putin was president of Russia.                                                                                                  
2:17:16 PM                                                                                                                    
Mr. Poliakoff looked at Slide 5, "Cause and Effect":                                                                            
     ACTA'S Study of the Core Curriculum:                                                                                       
     What Will They Learn?                                                                                                      
     82 percent of four-year colleges and universities do                                                                     
     not require foundational study of American history or                                                                      
He noted  that the  proposed legislation looked  toward best                                                                    
practices in other  states. He said that  Texas, Georgia and                                                                    
Nevada   had  legislation   for  public   universities  that                                                                    
required all students to take  coarse work within their core                                                                    
curriculum  requirements   in  United  States   History  and                                                                    
Government.  He shared  that Arizona  and  North Dakota  had                                                                    
recently   passed   laws   mandating  that   students   pass                                                                    
examinations  showing civic  literacy. He  said that  Alaska                                                                    
did  very well  to  consider the  practices  of states  that                                                                    
required coarse  work based  on knowledge  and understanding                                                                    
of the  primary documents of American  and state government.                                                                    
He asserted  that the  initiatives in  other states  had not                                                                    
been  expensive. He  felt  that  community service  projects                                                                    
were  part  of an  important  ethic,  characteristic of  the                                                                    
U.S.,  and   were  a  key   part  of  religious   and  civic                                                                    
associations. He  contended that  schools and  colleges were                                                                    
the  unique and  essential place  for teaching  and learning                                                                    
about America's  history and government.  He hoped  that the                                                                    
initiative would  lead to new  requirements in the  state at                                                                    
the K-12 and collegiate levels.                                                                                                 
2:19:28 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Dunleavy understood  that there  were many  ways in                                                                    
which   historical  documents   could  be   interpreted.  He                                                                    
wondered  which interpretation  would be  taught in  schools                                                                    
and colleges.                                                                                                                   
Mr. Poliakoff replied that it  would be the best practice to                                                                    
bring case studies and real  life examples of how the system                                                                    
of  government in  the U.S.  worked. He  said that  teachers                                                                    
should  be honest  to teach  of  times when  the system  has                                                                    
failed. He  felt that  core knowledge  of documents  was the                                                                    
basis for  all discussion and  that there was  no substitute                                                                    
for the  civic empowerment that  came from knowing  the laws                                                                    
and institutions of  government in the nation,  and how they                                                                    
came to be.                                                                                                                     
2:22:16 PM                                                                                                                    
SAMUEL   STONE,   EXECUTIVE   DIRECTOR,   CIVICS   EDUCATION                                                                    
INITIATIVE,  ARIZONA  (via   teleconference),  testified  in                                                                    
support of  the resolution. He  shared that there  were many                                                                    
studies that  reflected the  importance of  the legislation.                                                                    
He asserted  that the United  States Civics  and Immigration                                                                    
Service (USCIS) exam  was very basic. He  felt that American                                                                    
students were  lacking in civics education.  He thought that                                                                    
stronger  civics education  in schools  could create  future                                                                    
civic leaders.  He hoped that  the task force  could explore                                                                    
options as to how schools  could improve civics programs and                                                                    
engage  students. He  noted that  the  founding fathers  had                                                                    
debated whether  the United States Constitution  should be a                                                                    
living or static document, which had led to the great                                                                           
growth of our society.                                                                                                          
Co-Chair MacKinnon OPENED public testimony.                                                                                     
2:26:58 PM                                                                                                                    
STUART THOMPSON, SELF, MAT-SU (via teleconference), read                                                                        
from a prepared testimony (copy on file):                                                                                       
     I  salute  the  chairman  and  members  of  the  Senate                                                                    
     Education  Committee. I  am  Stuart Thompson-an  Alaska                                                                    
     citizen  living in  Senator Huggins  district-acting on                                                                    
     behalf of  myself and posterity  in support  of Senator                                                                    
     Stevens  SCR 1.   I  have carefully  prepared 3  minute                                                                    
     testimony   that  succinctly   supplements  what   I've                                                                    
     already communicated. Start of my testimony.                                                                               
     My   previous  testimony   on   record  covered   clear                                                                    
     justification  for launching  a legislative  task force                                                                    
     on  civics  education,  and suggested  amendments  that                                                                    
     would strengthen results from  that task force. Some of                                                                    
     these  amendments apparently  have already  found favor                                                                    
     with Senator Stevens. I am happy to contribute.                                                                            
     There are two  matters I shall cover today.  One is why                                                                    
     I apparently come  across as a mad-dog  before you. The                                                                    
     other is arming you  against intimidation from Alaska's                                                                    
     apparent fiscal troubles in the  pursuit of your duties                                                                    
     under Article 7 of the Alaska Constitution.                                                                                
     First why do I seem to  come across as a mad-dog? There                                                                    
     are two well-evidenced  principles about all government                                                                    
     that  clarify  matters.  To  save  time,  consider  the                                                                    
     simplest one                                                                                                               
     Currently, citizens  are expected  to just  voice their                                                                    
     concerns   and   mere   opinions   about   bills-easily                                                                    
     accomplished in  three minutes. So  who am I to  try to                                                                    
     take time  to testify on relevant  facts, law, history,                                                                    
     and  bill improvements  as if  I was  one of  those so-                                                                    
     called  experts-who are  allowed  an hour  or more  for                                                                    
     "presentations"?  I  testify  the   way  I  do  because                                                                    
     history  teaches  that  multiple  minds-organized  even                                                                    
     incrementally-do  a  better  job  of  piecing  together                                                                    
     solutions than  even a couple  geniuses given  the same                                                                    
     task..  If   it  wasn't   for  this,   democracies  and                                                                    
     republics like  ours wouldn't ever have  reason to come                                                                    
     into  existence!  We'd  all  be  living  under  Plato's                                                                    
     philosopher   kings,   as   advised  by   councils   of                                                                    
     Second,  if you  think  favorably  of Senator  Steven's                                                                    
     SCR1, but  are discouraged  because of  Alaska's fiscal                                                                    
     troubles,   take  heart.   I   have  five   stand-alone                                                                    
     solutions for financing SCR1's task  force and even its                                                                    
     eventual    recommendations-all   arising    from   our                                                                    
     political  heritage.  None  depend  on  "stealing  from                                                                    
     Peter to pay Paul".  Naturally, I don't have sufficient                                                                    
     time  to elaborate  here and  now, and  finance is  not                                                                    
     under  this committee's  jurisdiction.  But since  past                                                                    
     Legislatures have been weak  in their fiduciary duties-                                                                    
     thereby creating  Alaska's current  fiscal troubles-you                                                                    
     senators  should  jointly  urge Finance  to  show  some                                                                    
     humility   and   consider   some   outside-of-the   box                                                                    
     So  all I  ask of  this  committee-beyond passing  this                                                                    
     bill  out-is for  its members  to  contrive making  the                                                                    
     Finance  Committee  give me  9  minutes  to present  my                                                                    
     ideas for financing SCR1 and  its inevitable task force                                                                    
     recommendations.  Senator  Dunleavy, you  might  remind                                                                    
     fellow Finance Committee  members that the time-honored                                                                    
     maxim   for  handling   fiscal  problems   is  creating                                                                    
     additional .income  streams while  concurrently cutting                                                                    
     expenditures. And  ask how they  can deny my  9 minutes                                                                    
     on  that basis.    Consequently if  they  baulk or  get                                                                    
     egotistical, Senator  Huggins can  legitimately execute                                                                    
     a  maneuver   as  Rules  Committee  Chairman.   He  can                                                                    
     threaten to bring this bill  and my fiscal testimony to                                                                    
     a  Committee  of  the Whole-due  to  Finance  Committee                                                                    
     As usual, I am faxing  this testimony to the Committee,                                                                    
     and as  a courtesy  I'll fax  the prepared  testimony I                                                                    
     want  to give  to  the Finance  Committee  as well.  It                                                                    
     doesn't matter which of my  solutions to financing SCR1                                                                    
     gets utilized -  they all achieve the  same result. But                                                                    
     what  is criminal-I  repeat  criminal-is rejecting  any                                                                    
     and all solutions to a  problem that I have drastically                                                                    
     proven  is  inherently  solvable.  Good  luck  on  your                                                                    
2:34:24 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair MacKinnon CLOSED public testimony.                                                                                     
2:34:43 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Stevens  noted that  there  was  more to  a  civics                                                                    
education than  the foundational  documents of  the country;                                                                    
the  documents  were  crucial,  but  there  were  additional                                                                    
classes  in  history, democracy,  government,  parliamentary                                                                    
procedure,  democratic  processes  and current  events  that                                                                    
were important.  He quoted Benjamin Franklin  in response to                                                                    
the question whether America was a republic or a monarchy:                                                                      
     "A republic, if you can keep it."                                                                                          
SCR  1  was   HEARD  and  HELD  in   committee  for  further                                                                    
Co-Chair MacKinnon discussed housekeeping.                                                                                      
2:37:16 PM                                                                                                                    
The meeting was adjourned at 2:37 p.m.                                                                                          

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