Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 211

02/19/2009 09:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved CSSB 72(STA) Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSSB 79(STA) Out of Committee
         SB  79-MED BENEFITS OF DISABLED PEACE OFFICERS                                                                     
CHAIR MENARD announced the consideration of SB 79.                                                                              
SENATOR MEYER moved to adopt  the committee substitute (CS) to SB
79,  labeled  26-LS0389\E,  as a  working  document.  Hearing  no                                                               
objection, Version E was before the committee.                                                                                  
9:04:06 AM                                                                                                                    
TREVOR  FULTON,  Aide  to Senator  Lesil  McGuire,  Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature,  said the  changes  in  the CS  are  outlined in  an                                                               
accompanying  legal memo.  The two  questions that  came up  last                                                               
week were who  was included in this legislation and  if it can be                                                               
retroactive.  The  drafter  explained  that  it  is  explicit  in                                                               
statute  as to  who qualifies  as a  peace officer.  The CS  also                                                               
makes the bill  retroactive to July 1, 2006, "so  anybody who may                                                               
have slipped through that gap should be covered."                                                                               
9:05:28 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KOOKESH asked  who pays the premium if it  is waived. The                                                               
insurance  company doesn't  belong  to the  state. The  insurance                                                               
company is not going to do it out of the goodness of its heart.                                                                 
MR.  FULTON said  it  is  his understanding  that  what is  being                                                               
waived  is the  state's  payment  of those  premiums.  So if  the                                                               
disabled individual chooses  to continue the coverage,  he or she                                                               
will have to pay that premium.                                                                                                  
SENATOR PASKVAN said it is the  other way around. If there was no                                                               
change, the officer would have to  pay the personal premium if he                                                               
or she was disabled during the  gap. Under SB 79 the peace office                                                               
will not have  to pay the premium.  It will be paid  by the state                                                               
because of the disability in the line of duty.                                                                                  
9:07:09 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. FULTON  said he misunderstood  the question.  Senator Paskvan                                                               
is correct.                                                                                                                     
SENATOR KOOKESH asked if the  premiums are included in the fiscal                                                               
MR.  FULTON said  he believes  they are.  Pat Shier  compiled the                                                               
fiscal note, and he can speak to that.                                                                                          
SENATOR MEYER asked for clarification  that village public safety                                                               
officers (VPSOs) and dispatchers are not included in this.                                                                      
MR. FULTON said he doesn't know.                                                                                                
SENATOR  KOOKESH said  VPSOs are  not state  employees; they  are                                                               
independent  contractors with  the nonprofits  around the  state.                                                               
Eventually he wants to get them into the state benefit system.                                                                  
9:08:59 AM                                                                                                                    
KEVIN BROOKS, Deputy  Commissioner, Department of Administration,                                                               
Juneau, said correctional officers  are included in P-retirement,                                                               
but dispatchers are  not. VPSOs as contractors  are not included,                                                               
but it is  conceivable that a VPSO could work  for a municipal or                                                               
state PERS employer.                                                                                                            
SENATOR KOOKESH said VPSOs are all employed by non-profits.                                                                     
MR. BROOKS said, in that case, they will not be covered.                                                                        
9:10:42 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  PASKVAN  said  there  had  been  a  question  of  adding                                                               
correctional officers and firefighters, but  he does not see them                                                               
expressly included in the language.                                                                                             
MR. BROOKS said he worked  with Senator McGuire. Current statutes                                                               
identify who is in P-retirement,  and by referencing that statute                                                               
it includes correctional officers in Title 39.                                                                                  
SENATOR  PASKVAN   said  the  referenced  statutes   include  law                                                               
enforcement officers, correctional officers, and firefighters.                                                                  
MR. BROOKS  said that is  the definition section in  statute that                                                               
clearly lays those  out. Regarding the question of  who pays, the                                                               
state  self-insures.  There  is   a  health  premium  for  active                                                               
employees that covers the cost  of claims. When a person retires,                                                               
it  is   factored  into  the   retirement  rates   determined  by                                                               
actuaries.  That is  the  $570,000 present  value  in the  fiscal                                                               
note, "and that  would be reflected at increased  rates over time                                                               
to cover the costs that  the actuaries estimate would be impacted                                                               
by this piece of legislation."                                                                                                  
MR. BROOKS  said he checked to  see if anyone has  fallen through                                                               
the  cracks  and   found  four  inquiries  to   the  Division  of                                                               
Retirement and  Benefits. One went  to an appeal and  was denied.                                                               
He  doesn't know  how many  people  did not  inquire. Mr.  Brooks                                                               
would  like  a  discussion  on what  defines  a  disability.  One                                                               
example of an  actual case was a firefighter who  had an allergic                                                               
reaction  to  the masks  required  in  his  job, "and  under  the                                                               
definitions, he's disabled  for that line of work but  able to do                                                               
all  the other  functions  of  the job."  The  statute and  rules                                                               
create  a disincentive  to try  and find  gainful employment  for                                                               
that individual. This  person was very interested  in working. He                                                               
couldn't wear the mask, but he  could carry the weight and do all                                                               
other parts of the job. Disability  can be a tragic injury in the                                                               
line of duty, but there  are other types of disabilities. Getting                                                               
a person back to  work would hold down costs. There  are a lot of                                                               
barriers to reemployment.                                                                                                       
9:16:00 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  PASKVAN  said  there  was   a  discussion  about  adding                                                               
correctional officers  and firefighters  to the language,  and he                                                               
wants to confirm that they will be covered with this CS.                                                                        
DAN  WAYNE, Attorney,  Legislative Legal  Services, Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature,  said  the definition  in  AS  39.35.680 covers  the                                                               
whole  chapter including  this statute.  The definition  of peace                                                               
officer includes  "a long list of  folks including firefighters."                                                               
It  is  unambiguous.  By  adding   names,  it  might  create  the                                                               
impression that some others will  be left out. Rather than moving                                                               
the whole definition  into the statute, the  standard practice is                                                               
to have the statute rely on the definition.                                                                                     
SENATOR PASKVAN said he is looking  at AS 39.35.680 (30) and sees                                                               
the  specific  definition.  "I  want  to  make  sure  that  we're                                                               
following that."                                                                                                                
JOHN  CYR, Executive  Director,  Alaska  Public Safety  Employees                                                               
Association, Anchorage,  said his association supports  the bill.                                                               
The problem has affected at least one of its members.                                                                           
SENATOR KOOKESH said this hearing  establishes a record. He asked                                                               
if anyone opposes the bill.                                                                                                     
MR. FULTON said no one has expressed opposition to his office.                                                                  
SENATOR MEYER asked if the administration supports SB 79.                                                                       
9:21:27 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. BROOKS  said it is  neutral on the  bill because of  the cost                                                               
and the  debate regarding  pension funds,  but it  recognizes the                                                               
need to address this gap. There  is a cost involved and Alaska is                                                               
billions of dollars underfunded in these pension funds.                                                                         
9:22:22 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  MEYER moved  to  report the  CS to  SB  79, labeled  26-                                                               
LS0389\E,  from  committee  with individual  recommendations  and                                                               
attached fiscal  note(s). There being no  objection, CSSB 79(STA)                                                               
moved out of committee.                                                                                                         
The committee took an at-ease at 9:23 a.m.                                                                                      

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