Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/08/2003 03:40 PM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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.