Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

03/16/2010 01:30 PM LABOR & COMMERCE

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved SB 264 Out of Committee
Scheduled But Not Heard
Moved CSSB 261(L&C) Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
          SB 261-ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE CONTROL BD MEMBERS                                                                      
1:52:11 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR PASKVAN  announced SB  261 to be  up for  consideration. He                                                               
moved to bring  the committee substitute (CS) for SB  261 (), 26-                                                               
LS1406\E, before the  committee. There were no  objections and it                                                               
was so ordered.                                                                                                                 
1:53:24 PM                                                                                                                    
TIM BENINTENDI, staff  to Senator Olson, sponsor of  SB 261, said                                                               
this  measure  would  respond  to an  array  of  alcohol  related                                                               
problems particular  to small communities  in rural  Alaska. Such                                                               
problems are  well known,  but wellness  services cannot  keep up                                                               
with,  let  alone contain,  the  adverse  impacts of  small  town                                                               
alcohol consumption.                                                                                                            
He said  they feel the  need is at hand  to raise the  profile of                                                               
this particular dimension to the  problem of alcohol in Alaska by                                                               
bringing it  into a  public forum  where more  specific attention                                                               
and action could be brought to address the issue.                                                                               
He said  the state's  Alcoholic Beverage  Control (ABC)  Board is                                                               
composed of  five members, two  of whom must be  actively engaged                                                               
in the alcoholic  beverage industry and three  who must represent                                                               
the general  public. Currently,  SB 261 would  refine one  of the                                                               
public member  seats to be  a resident of  a rural area.  This is                                                               
where the CS  diverges from the original bill  that established a                                                               
population figure  of 4500  in defining  rural areas  and further                                                               
said  that  applicants must  be  from  communities that  are  not                                                               
accessible by road or rail system to Anchorage or Fairbanks.                                                                    
MR. BENINTENDI  explained that in  the State Affairs  Committee a                                                               
couple of questions came up  about that definition. Someone asked                                                               
about a resident of Auke Bay.  The short answer was that Auke Bay                                                               
is within a  borough that has resources as well  as being a place                                                               
name in the Juneau area. The  CS modifies the definition of rural                                                               
area  by deleting  the population  criteria and  adding that  the                                                               
applicants' community  would have had  to have participated  in a                                                               
local option election under AS 04.11.491.  It was felt that was a                                                               
stronger  way to  identify communities  with these  acute alcohol                                                               
In  short, he  said, the  tightened definition  of community  now                                                               
includes  the small  municipalities and  adds the  provision that                                                               
the applicants'  community could be an  established village under                                                               
AS   04.21.080,  which   would  bring   in  communities   in  the                                                               
unorganized borough.  It includes all so-called  hub communities,                                                               
which was  Representative Herron's intention when  he recommended                                                               
the provision.  Mr. Benintendi said  the sponsor  was comfortable                                                               
with the  definition. It suits  the purpose of the  bill, doesn't                                                               
put anybody out and passes legal muster.                                                                                        
SENATOR  BUNDE said  the fiscal  note is  zero because  the board                                                               
currently has  a rural resident,  and asked if that  member would                                                               
meet the criteria of the CS.                                                                                                    
MR. BENINTENDI  answered that member  happened to be  a gentleman                                                               
from  Cordova, but  he was  a  Governor's appointment  and not  a                                                               
designated seat.  Right now, the  three general public  seats are                                                               
not further defined.                                                                                                            
1:58:55 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BUNDE  remarked that would  make two-thirds of  the seats                                                               
urban Alaskan and  one-third rural, and he asked  if that somehow                                                               
follows the general populations of these areas.                                                                                 
MR. BENINTENDI  replied that  he didn't think  the intent  was to                                                               
follow  a  population  dynamic  but  to  provide  for  the  small                                                               
communities.  However, he  said he  didn't know  what portion  of                                                               
their  populations  would be  represented  in  the overall  state                                                               
SENATOR BUNDE stated  that he would hate to think  one seat would                                                               
be designated  to a  relatively small  population and  would feel                                                               
more comfortable  if Mr. Benintendi  could look at  those numbers                                                               
and find some balance.                                                                                                          
CHAIR  PASKVAN  said there  is  a  rural  seat was  being  filled                                                               
informally now and  he thought the intent,  appropriately, was to                                                               
reflect that informal nature.                                                                                                   
SENATOR BUNDE  said his concern was  that they would carve  out a                                                               
small enough niche  that 100 people would have one  seat and that                                                               
600,070  would have  two  seats; then  fairness  would become  an                                                               
2:01:23 PM                                                                                                                    
BERDA  WILLSON,  Chairperson,  Kawerak Regional  Wellness  Forum,                                                               
Nome, AK,  said she  had seen  the ravages  of alcohol  and other                                                               
substance  abuse  in  rural  Alaska. She  said  the  Forum  works                                                               
closely with  all other agencies  on wellness and  safety issues.                                                               
She mentioned the high rates of  suicide in her area are possibly                                                               
the highest  in the nation  and according to the  police, alcohol                                                               
is involved  in 90  percent of  the cases.  It is  accompanied by                                                               
child abuse and  domestic violence. Ms. Willson said  they want a                                                               
voice  on the  ABC board  that understands  the real  problems of                                                               
rural Alaska where  most of the villages are dry,  but alcohol is                                                               
still sold.                                                                                                                     
SENATOR BUNDE said  the ABC board currently has  a rural resident                                                               
and asked if she wanted a northwestern resident specifically.                                                                   
MS. WILLSON answered yes, and pointed  out that he was looking at                                                               
the whole population,  but she was looking at the  lives that are                                                               
lost or damaged, accidents and violence.                                                                                        
2:08:42 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BUNDE thanked  her for her work on the  safety patrol and                                                               
said  that  he  understood  that   safe  patrol  and  bootlegging                                                               
problems  were local  implementation issues.  He wanted  a better                                                               
grasp of  what she thought  the ABC Board  could and would  do to                                                               
help with this problem if this bill passed.                                                                                     
MS.  WILLSON  answered  that  they  could  do  more  stings,  for                                                               
instance, and  at times  like 5  a.m. in  the morning  or provide                                                               
more undercover agents.  For instance she was talking  to some of                                                               
the patrolmen who were on patrol  last night who said they had to                                                               
go into  the bars and  escort overly intoxicated people  out, but                                                               
she thought that was the role of the bars.                                                                                      
SENATOR  BUNDE said  it is  currently  against the  law to  serve                                                               
someone who is  intoxicated. He was wondering what  new laws they                                                               
might come up with if this bill passes.                                                                                         
MS. WILLSON answered that she would  be happy if the current laws                                                               
were complied  with. She said the  Board conducted a sting  up in                                                               
Nome and cited  one establishment, but she heard  that instead of                                                               
closing  the  establishment immediately  they  let  it stay  open                                                               
through Iditarod so it wouldn't lose money, and then closed it.                                                                 
2:11:26 PM                                                                                                                    
SHIRLEY  GIFFORD,  Director,  Alcoholic Beverage  Control  Board,                                                               
Alaska  Department of  Public Safety  (DPS), said  she had  every                                                               
intention of going to Nome  and talking with Ms. Willson's group.                                                               
She said  that she had spent  some time in Nome  as interim chief                                                               
and  it was  the eye  opener for  her in  terms of  experience in                                                               
rural Alaska  as she had served  most of her career  in Anchorage                                                               
where  she finished  her  career as  captain  of detectives.  She                                                               
mentioned that she  had also spent time in Soldotna  as the Chief                                                               
of Police.                                                                                                                      
MS.  GIFFORD said  as  director of  the ABC  Board  that she  was                                                               
neutral on  SB 261, only  because the  board already had  a rural                                                               
member, Belen Cook, who does a  tremendous job. Ms. Cook took her                                                               
place when she left the board to become the director.                                                                           
CHAIR  PASKVAN asked  if it  was fair  to say  that while  she is                                                               
neutral as  the director  that it  is a good  thing that  a rural                                                               
member sits on the board.                                                                                                       
MS.  GIFFORD answered  yes. Life  is very  different in  the Bush                                                               
than it  is in the  urban communities,  but she also  agreed that                                                               
this is not  the last or the greatest tool  for the problems that                                                               
are occurring in rural Alaska. She  said that Nome is a focus for                                                               
the Board, and  they will continue to do  compliance checks there                                                               
and listen  to what  the needs are  using the  four investigators                                                               
that  she has.  She added  that she  depends on  local and  state                                                               
police  to  assist   them  in  enforcing  Title  4   and  13  AAC                                                               
SENATOR BUNDE  thanked her for  her past service and  the courage                                                               
she displayed in  taking on alcohol problems in  Alaska and asked                                                               
what the board would do differently if this bill passed.                                                                        
MS.  GIFFORD  answered  that  the   board  wouldn't  do  anything                                                               
differently,  because it  already has  rural representation,  and                                                               
her voice  is getting stronger  the more experience she  gets and                                                               
they will continue doing compliance checks.                                                                                     
She said mandating a rural member  would not be a fix-all, but it                                                               
might  make people  feel a  little  bit better  knowing they  are                                                               
represented. She  said the bootlegging  issues are dealt  with by                                                               
the State Troopers and the Board's  focus is on how the licensees                                                               
follow  the laws  and  90 percent  of them  are  doing the  right                                                               
MR.  BENINTENDI  responded  to Senator  Bunde's  earlier  concern                                                               
about delegating  one seat  to a  small population  by explaining                                                               
that in  modifying the  definition of  a rural  area for  the CS,                                                               
they did ensure that all of  the so-called regional hubs would be                                                               
hooked in. For  example, in the original version  a resident from                                                               
Bethel would  not be eligible  to apply  for that seat,  but once                                                               
the definition was changed a  Bethel person would be eligible. He                                                               
estimated that it  might broaden the base of  applicants to about                                                               
20 percent of the state's  population, not just a couple hundred.                                                               
He also  remarked that while  there has  been a history  of rural                                                               
residents sitting  on the board,  this measure would  ensure that                                                               
at least one seat would be for a rural resident.                                                                                
2:21:14 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR PASKVAN closed public testimony and found no discussion.                                                                  
SENATOR  MEYER moved  to  report  CSSB 261  (),  version E,  from                                                               
committee  with  individual  recommendations  and  attached  zero                                                               
fiscal note(s).                                                                                                                 
SENATOR  BUNDE objected.  He explained  that he  was not  against                                                               
having more enforcement of alcohol  problems throughout the state                                                               
particularly in  rural areas, but  the state already has  laws on                                                               
the books that would solve these  problems if they had the people                                                               
to do the  enforcement. He thought that maybe the  focus for them                                                               
should  be on  enforcement  and not  on what  he  thought was  an                                                               
illusionary   effort.  He   didn't   see   anything  being   done                                                               
differently,  and he  harbored  a great  concern  for a  possible                                                               
downside that  they would pass a  law that really has  minimal or                                                               
no  impact  and  the  public  becomes  discouraged  because  they                                                               
thought something would get better.                                                                                             
2:23:49 PM                                                                                                                    
A roll  call vote  was taken. Senators  Davis, Meyer  and Paskvan                                                               
voted yea; Senator Bunde voted  nay; so therefore, CSSB 261 (L&C)                                                               
moved from committee.                                                                                                           
2:24:26 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR PASKVAN took an at ease from 2:24 p.m. to 2:28 p.m.                                                                       
2:28:49 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR PASKVAN called the meeting back to order at 2:28 and said                                                                 
that Senator Davis asked to withdraw SB 11 from today's agenda.                                                                 
2:30:02 PM                                                                                                                    
Finding no further business to come before the committee, Chair                                                                 
Paskvan adjourned the meeting at 2:30 p.m.                                                                                      

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