Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/29/2003 01:42 PM Senate STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 14-PERMANENT FUND ALLOWABLE ABSENCES JIM POUND, staff to Representative Hugh Fate, paraphrased from the sponsor statement. HB 14 makes changes to existing statute and defines the legal definition of family. Once passed into law, the Permanent Fund Division of the Department of Revenue will be able to clearly consider the family through first cousins for the purpose of granting this exemption. By changing the language, a family member will be able to provide care for a terminally ill family member in their final days without being penalized by the state. This expansion of existing language defines a legal family member as related through blood to the second degree, under the rules of canon law, marriage, adoption, or guardianship. This addition to existing language will show Alaskans that we do believe the family is more than one or two generations. The family is still the strongest single unit that makes this state great, and we as legislators need to acknowledge that by passing HB 14. He noted there were several proposed amendments. When the House amended the bill on the floor, the definition of family became too broad. The amendments address that oversight. SENATOR COWDERY asked if the definition of family member included those involved in same-sex marriages and long-term non- marriage relationships. MR. POUND replied same-sex marriages are specifically not included. SENATOR COWDERY asked how divorced individuals would be affected. MR. POUND explained the bill uses canon law to define family, which would affect members of a divorced family. SENATOR COWDERY questioned the number of people that might be impacted. MR. POUND acknowledged he didn't know. CHAIR GARY STEVENS informed members the discussion centered on version \A.A and the proposed amendment was \AA.1. SENATOR FRED DYSON expressed bewilderment. CHAIR GARY STEVENS pointed to page 3, lines 3-5 and read, "'family member' means a person legally related to the individual through blood to the second degree of kindred computed under the rules of canon law, marriage, adoption, or guardianship." The proposed amendment would delete "marriage, adoption, or guardianship" and insert "through blood, marriage, or adoption" on line 5. It would also delete "blood" on page 3, line 4 and insert "guardianship or,". MR. POUND agreed. SENATOR HOFFMAN noted that the phrase on page 2, line 7 "parent, spouse, sibling, child, or stepchild;" was replaced with "family member;" but wasn't changed in paragraph (6). MR. POUND acknowledged it was an oversight. SENATOR DYSON questioned whether there was discussion about grandparents. MR. POUND said the original bill was directed strictly toward grandparents and during the House floor debate they expanded the term to "family" in the event the definition of a family was changed in the future. SENATOR DYSON asked if it was Mr. Pound's understanding that grandparents are included as family members through blood relation to the second degree. MR. POUND said second degree, without the amendments, stretches to second cousin, which is part of the reason for the proposed amendments. That expansion is greater than intended, but grandparents are certainly included as written. SENATOR DYSON asked how the amendment included grandparents. MR. POUND replied it was based on canon law and the marriage process. The canon law definition of marriage deals primarily with three generations of the existing family. SENATOR DYSON asked that it be part of the record that it is clearly understood that the canon law concept includes grandparents and that Representative Fate and the House of Representatives is not against grandparents. MR. POUND assured him that was correct. CHAIR GARY STEVENS agreed that the term "canon law" didn't make it clear that grandparents were included. SENATOR GRETCHEN GUESS wasn't sure why the term canon law was used. She then asked whether second cousins were included or excluded. MR. POUND advised second cousins would not be included if the amendments were adopted. SENATOR GUESS requested an explanation for using canon law. CHAIR GARY STEVENS said he was interested in the explanation as well. MR. POUND replied Representative Kerttula wanted to use the term to define family. SENATOR DYSON suggested holding the bill so that Representative Kerttula could offer an explanation for using canon law. CHAIR GARY STEVENS agreed he wasn't comfortable passing the bill from committee at that time. SENATOR COWDERY had no objection. SENATOR HOFFMAN asked that Mr. Pound also find out how many people were affected currently and the projected number if the bill were to pass. In addition, he asked how many members from one family could qualify under the providing care provision. MR. POUND pointed out page 2, line 11 makes it clear just one person would qualify. SENATOR GUESS said it wasn't clear that just one family member could qualify. CHAIR GARY STEVENS pointed out the bill didn't limit the number of family members who could qualify to travel. SENATOR GUESS added she would be interested to learn why paragraph (7) was changed while (6) and (8) were not. MR. POUND acknowledged it was an oversight due to the House floor amendments. CHAIR GARY STEVENS recapped the requested changes and held HB 14 in committee.