Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/08/2003 03:40 PM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
         SB 148-PFD: ALLOWABLE ABSENCE FOR MILITARY SVC                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
ANNETTE SKIBINSKI,  staff to Senator  Cowdery, introduced  SB 148                                                               
by relating  a story  about a constituent  who was  activated and                                                               
sent  overseas  for  ten  months then  left  Alaska  on  personal                                                               
business  upon his  return. He  was gone  more than  the 45  days                                                               
allowed and was subsequently denied a dividend.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
The existing  statute allows a  member of the military  to remain                                                               
outside Alaska for up  to 45 days a year in  addition to the time                                                               
served on active duty. SB 148  would amend the statute to allow a                                                               
180 day absence  from Alaska per year in addition  to active duty                                                               
time.  Spouses   and  dependent   children  would   be  similarly                                                               
exempted.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
She  noted  the  $30,000  fiscal note  reflects  the  retroactive                                                               
clause. The  Department of  Revenue would  use dividend  funds to                                                               
notify  military personnel  of  the new  statutory provision  and                                                               
extended deadline.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  COWDERY  commented  the   existing  statute  appears  to                                                               
penalize those  called to active  duty and  he was sure  that was                                                               
unintended.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRED DYSON remarked the bill makes sense.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GRETCHEN  GUESS agreed  and said she  would like  to move                                                               
the bill.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  GARY STEVENS  advised  there were  others  that wanted  to                                                               
testify.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS.  SKIBINSKI noted  the individual  that precipitated  the bill                                                               
was recalled to active duty and unavailable to testify.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GARY  STEVENS asked Mr.  Persily to give an  explanation of                                                               
the costs associated with the retroactive clause.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
LARRY PERSILY, Deputy Commissioner  to the Department of Revenue,                                                               
explained  extending  the   application  deadline  would  require                                                               
extensive notification. The department  would search the database                                                               
and  identify everyone  who claimed  military  absence in  recent                                                               
years and notify them  of the changes. It would be  a wise use of                                                               
a  small  amount   of  dividend  funds  to  send   a  letter  and                                                               
application to everyone who may  be qualified due to the extended                                                               
deadline.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GARY STEVENS  asked what the impact would be  to extend the                                                               
deadline  to September  15,  2003. He  asked  how the  department                                                               
would  estimate  how   much  money  to  hold  to   pay  the  late                                                               
applicants.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. PERSILY replied they would  have to make the determination on                                                               
the  dividend  before any  late  applications  came in  and  were                                                               
reviewed. They would examine the  number of applications in June,                                                               
July, August and  September plus those under review  and make the                                                               
estimate.  The dividend  fund has  a few  million dollar  balance                                                               
that rolls over every year  because it's not possible to estimate                                                               
exactly  how many  checks would  be  paid. They  would make  sure                                                               
sufficient  funds   were  held   out  to  cover   any  successful                                                               
applications submitted under the extended deadline.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
He  further  explained  this  would also  cover  people  who  are                                                               
discharged from the  military and have just 45 days  to return to                                                               
Alaska.  It's the  intent  of  the statute  to  have them  return                                                               
because  they  have  been  claiming  Alaska  as  their  home  and                                                               
collecting  the dividend  while  they  were stationed  elsewhere.                                                               
With this  change they would  have 180  days to return  to Alaska                                                               
after their  discharge. As  noted by the  sponsor, it  would also                                                               
cover   people  called   to   active   duty  unexpectedly.   Both                                                               
populations would be covered.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR COWDERY asked whether he supported the bill.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. PERSILY replied  he has no problem with  the legislation. The                                                               
department just asks that the intention is clear.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
GALE HALLER  from Dillingham  asked that the  bill be  amended to                                                               
include  cases  such as  hers.  She  is  an Alaska  resident  and                                                               
married  someone  in the  military  who  did not  meet  residency                                                               
requirements  to  receive  a  dividend.   When  her  husband  was                                                               
transferred out  of state she  moved with  him. As a  result, she                                                               
became  ineligible  to receive  a  dividend  herself because  her                                                               
absence was not  exempted. She argued her  eligibility should not                                                               
be based on the eligibility of her spouse.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS  asked that Ms.  Skibinski clarify the  problem Ms.                                                               
Haller spoke to.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MS. SKIBINSKI  remarked Mr. Persily  might have  more information                                                               
than she,  but at  one time military  personnel were  covered and                                                               
spouses  and children  were  not.  She agreed  to  look into  the                                                               
matter further if the Chair so desired.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GARY STEVENS  said they would stick to the  bill before the                                                               
committee,  but  asked Mr.  Persily  to  clarify that  particular                                                               
situation.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. PERSILY  said, "If  I understand correctly,  the law  says if                                                               
you  leave the  state on  an  allowable absence,  you can  remain                                                               
eligible for  the dividend. If  you are accompanying  your spouse                                                               
who's on an  allowable absence, you and your  children can remain                                                               
eligible. In  this case,  because the  husband was  not eligible,                                                               
her  departure  was  not  an   allowable  absence.  She  was  not                                                               
accompanying an  eligible Alaskan on an  allowable absence." This                                                               
would apply  to military,  to students, or  to someone  going out                                                               
for medical  care. If  a person  leaves the state  to care  for a                                                               
terminally  ill  parent  and  the spouse  goes  too  both  remain                                                               
eligible, but the spouse has  no rights if the individual tending                                                               
to their parent isn't eligible.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  COWDERY asked  if it  was correct  that this  bill would                                                               
make it  possible for military  personnel to remain out  of state                                                               
for up to 180 days, but at 181 days they would be ineligible.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. PERSILY  said if,  in addition  to military  service, someone                                                               
stayed away for  181 days before they came back  to Alaska, they,                                                               
their spouse, and their children would all be denied.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR COWDERY recapped the story that precipitated the bill.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR DYSON said, "Let's move it."                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GARY  STEVENS responded  we have  a motion  to move  SB 148                                                               
with  the attached  fiscal note  and individual  recommendations.                                                               
There being no objection it was so ordered.                                                                                     

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