Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 211

03/19/2009 09:00 AM Senate STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSSB 69(STA) Out of Committee
Moved CSSB 78(STA) Out of Committee
Moved SCS CSHB 63(STA) Out of Committee
            SB  69-COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN                                                                        
CHAIR MENARD announced the consideration of SB 69.                                                                              
9:02:47 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BETTYE DAVIS,  Alaska State  Legislature, sponsor,  said                                                               
the Commission on  the Status of Women functioned  well for quite                                                               
awhile,  but it  went  away  once it  was  combined with  another                                                               
commission that never really got  funded. Many women asked her to                                                               
reestablish it.                                                                                                                 
CHAIR MENARD asked what commission it was combined with.                                                                        
9:03:44 AM                                                                                                                    
LYNDA ZAUGG, Staff to Senator Davis, Alaska State Legislature,                                                                  
said it was the Alaska Human Relations Commission. She read the                                                                 
following sponsor statement:                                                                                                    
          It is time to once again acknowledge the                                                                              
     contributions  of women  across Alaska.  It is  time to                                                                    
     re-establish the Commission on the Status of Women.                                                                        
          In 1976 the legislature established the first                                                                         
     Commission  on  the  Status of  Women  to  address  the                                                                    
     unique  needs  of  Alaska's  women  and  children.  The                                                                    
     Commission   was    tasked   with    implementing   the                                                                    
     recommendations contained  in the preliminary  study on                                                                    
     the status of women. The  Commission was to improve the                                                                    
     status of  women in Alaska through  research and making                                                                    
     and  implementing  additional  recommendations  on  the                                                                    
     opportunities,  needs, problems,  and contributions  of                                                                    
     women. The improvements made by  the commission were to                                                                    
     include, but  not limited to,  the areas  of education,                                                                    
     homemaking,   civil   &   legal  rights,   labor,   and                                                                    
     employment.  The  Women's  Commission was  merged  with                                                                    
     Alaska  Human  Relations   Commission  in  1993,  which                                                                    
     continues to exist in state  statute but has never been                                                                    
     funded and was declared inactive in 1996.                                                                                  
          Since 1993, the problems identified by the                                                                            
     Commission  on the  Status of  Women have  continued to                                                                    
     exist  with minimal  change and  with ongoing  negative                                                                    
     impacts  for Alaskan  women and  their families.  Women                                                                    
     represent half  of our state,  half of our  work force,                                                                    
     and consequently half  of our ability. In  order for us                                                                    
     to continue  to explore  and develop  our state  to its                                                                    
     full potential  we must  improve the  opportunities for                                                                    
     all citizens, including women.                                                                                             
          In Alaska, women in government still earn only 80                                                                     
     percent  of the  income of  men, while  in the  private                                                                    
     sector  women  earn  62.4 percent  of  men.  Women  and                                                                    
     children  continue to  be the  most  common victims  of                                                                    
     domestic  abuse. Women  in Alaska  lead  the nation  as                                                                    
     victims  of  sexual  assaults.  We  have  a  struggling                                                                    
     foster  child system.  Our high  school students,  both                                                                    
     male and  female, drop out  at alarming rates.  We have                                                                    
     one of the lowest  percentages of students entering and                                                                    
     completing  higher   education  programs.  We   have  a                                                                    
     significant  economic  divide  between  our  urban  and                                                                    
     rural communities  which negatively impacts all  of us.                                                                    
     These are  just a  few of the  issues facing  women and                                                                    
     children in our state that need to be addressed.                                                                           
          Reestablishing the Commission on the Status of                                                                        
     Women is  an excellent  way to  focus attention  on the                                                                    
     major issues that impact women and children.                                                                               
          The purpose of the commission would be to improve                                                                     
     the status of women by  conducting research, as well as                                                                    
     serve  as  a  referral   service  for  information  and                                                                    
     education to  help women  avail themselves  of existing                                                                    
     resources  to  meet   their  needs.  Additionally,  the                                                                    
     commission would make  and implement recommendations on                                                                    
     the opportunities,  needs, problems,  and contributions                                                                    
     of women  in the areas of  education, homemaking, civil                                                                    
     and legal rights, and labor and employment.                                                                                
          Alaska, with its unique culture, history, and                                                                         
     challenges  combined  with  its large  size  and  small                                                                    
     population,  calls for  innovative forward  thinking to                                                                    
     deal with  many of the difficult  issues facing Alaskan                                                                    
     women and their families.  The creation of a Commission                                                                    
     on  the  Status of  Women  will  once again  focus  the                                                                    
     attention of Alaskans on these critical issues.                                                                            
9:07:13 AM                                                                                                                    
ARLISS  STURGULEWSKI,  Former  Alaska State  Senator,  Anchorage,                                                               
said she  is affiliated with  many groups.  She was a  senator in                                                               
the 1980s  when the commission was  very active, and she  was sad                                                               
to see its demise. It is  critical that it be reestablished. This                                                               
is an  important time. Research  is needed in  domestic violence,                                                               
single head  of household families,  shelter, the  increasing and                                                               
shameful dropout  rates, the  need for  quality foster  care, and                                                               
the  need  for  referral  services to  assist  women  in  gaining                                                               
information and  education. The non-profit  YWCA worked  with the                                                               
University  of Alaska  Anchorage to  provide scholarships  for 10                                                               
women who  were the  single heads  of household.  It was  a major                                                               
cooperative effort and  showed what can be done  when people work                                                               
together. The commission  is needed to help  women, children, and                                                               
families. It is a crime that the commission disintegrated.                                                                      
9:10:24 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MENARD thanked Ms. Sturgulewski for her endless hard work.                                                                
CAREN  ROBINSON, Lobbyist,  Alaska  Women's  Lobby, Juneau,  said                                                               
the  women's   lobby  is  a   statewide  steering   committee  in                                                               
Fairbanks, Anchorage,  and Juneau. Its  mission is to  defend and                                                               
advance  the  rights  and  the  needs  of  women,  children,  and                                                               
families in Alaska. The lobby  fully supports re-establishing the                                                               
women's commission.  It is Alaska's 50-year  anniversary, and re-                                                               
establishing the  commission is a  wise investment that  can move                                                               
us  forward in  the next  50 years.  Women have  made significant                                                               
economic, political, and social advances,  but women are far from                                                               
enjoying gender equity.  Women earn less then  men, are seriously                                                               
underrepresented   in   political   offices,  and   make   up   a                                                               
disproportionate share of  people in poverty. Even  in areas that                                                               
have  seen  significant  advances  in women's  status,  rates  of                                                               
progress are  very slow. At the  rate of progress of  the past 10                                                               
years, women  will not meet wage  parity for more than  50 years.                                                               
It women  represented in Congress changes  at the rate it  did in                                                               
the 1990s, it will take more  than a century to achieve equity in                                                               
political  representation. To  make significant  progress, policy                                                               
researchers and advocates need reliable data about women.                                                                       
9:13:01 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. ROBINSON  said the first Alaska  Women's Commission initiated                                                               
a series of reports on the status  of women in Alaska. It was one                                                               
of the  most valuable things  it did  in advancing the  rights of                                                               
women. The  work of the  commission addressed  domestic violence,                                                               
welfare reform,  and other issues.  The reports are  needed today                                                               
to inform citizens about the  progress of women in Alaska related                                                               
to women  in other states, to  men, and to the  whole nation. The                                                               
commission  can  analyze  and  disseminate  information,  provide                                                               
baseline measures,  and most  importantly, identify  measures and                                                               
solutions to  equality barriers. "We've  come a long  way." Women                                                               
in  Alaska and  the U.S.  have  seen important  changes in  their                                                               
lives  and  their  access  to  political,  economic,  and  social                                                               
rights. There  is still  more to do.  Alaska women  could benefit                                                               
from  stronger  enforcement  of equal  opportunity  laws,  better                                                               
political  representation,  adequate  and  affordable  childcare,                                                               
stronger  poverty  reduction  programs,  and  other  policies.  A                                                               
women's  commission  would provide  the  focus  and direction  to                                                               
achieve  these  goals. She  noted  her  collection of  historical                                                               
booklets from  the commission. Joan  Katz wrote the  first status                                                               
report.  Later  work  was  done  by  the  last  commissioner  and                                                               
director Ruth Lister. She understood  women's problems. She wrote                                                               
a  report about  young  women  dropping out  of  school, and  her                                                               
recommendations likely have not been followed.                                                                                  
9:15:45 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. ROBINSON said she also wrote  about teen pregnancy and how to                                                               
educate young  men. The  Women's Legal  Rights Handbook  was used                                                               
the most, and it needs to be updated.                                                                                           
9:16:26 AM                                                                                                                    
HATTIE  GARDNER, President,  Alaska  Federation  of Business  and                                                               
Professional Women,  Anchorage, said  the federation  was founded                                                               
in 1919  and chartered in Alaska  in 1945. There are  three local                                                               
chapters in Alaska. The national  federation concentrates on fair                                                               
pay and getting veteran women back  into work. It works with AARP                                                               
on  divided-we-fall   health  issues   and  the   American  Heart                                                               
Association  on  reporting  heart health.  The  local  federation                                                               
concentrates on  scholarships for young women  and sometimes men,                                                               
global warming,  individual development  for women,  and training                                                               
for young women  and women who head  the household. Reinstituting                                                               
this commission  is important to  the federation.  The statistics                                                               
will  be used  to  plan  programs to  supply  information to  the                                                               
national group. The  group wants a place to  draw statistics from                                                               
for things like domestic violence and children in need.                                                                         
9:19:02 AM                                                                                                                    
ANNABELLE   STEVENS,   Member,   Federation   of   Business   and                                                               
Professional  Women,  Anchorage,  said  she has  been  coming  to                                                               
Juneau for over 35 years  on different issues, but reestablishing                                                               
the  women's commission  is  one  of the  most  important. It  is                                                               
"vital to the civil rights,  the labor, the employment, equal pay                                                               
of women, and I hesitate to  say homemaking because 100 years ago                                                               
women were  homemakers." Now  they are bread  winners, and  it is                                                               
important to  show how  much women  do. "Behind  every successful                                                               
man is a woman that has given him a hand up."                                                                                   
9:20:22 AM                                                                                                                    
RAMONA  DUBY, Member,  Federation  of  Business and  Professional                                                               
Women, Anchorage,  said she supports the  re-establishment of the                                                               
women's  commission and  she  echoes every  comment  made by  Ms.                                                               
Sturgulewski. She  got involved in  public policy at  the women's                                                               
commission  in the  1980s. It  assisted  her with  a legal  issue                                                               
against a state nonprofit. She  wants more meat in the commission                                                               
and have  it report  to the  legislature or  governor. It  is one                                                               
thing to get this vitally  needed information, but she would like                                                               
to see the information put to use.                                                                                              
9:22:13 AM                                                                                                                    
JANE  ANGVIK,   Member,  Alaska   Girl  Scouts,   Alaska  Women's                                                               
Political  Caucus,  Anchorage,  said  she has  been  involved  in                                                               
women's  issues for  many years.  She supports  SB 69  because it                                                               
will do research  to assist women in  economic situations. Alaska                                                               
women are underpaid relative to men.  It is important to focus on                                                               
women's  capacity to  be  able to  support  themselves and  their                                                               
families, and  the women's  commission can  do research  and make                                                               
recommendations  on that.  The  previous  commission developed  a                                                               
body of research that informed citizens and legislators.                                                                        
9:23:54 AM                                                                                                                    
BRITTANY  GOODNIGHT,  Member,  Alaska  Women's  Political  Caucus                                                               
board, Anchorage,  said she is  a young professional, and  she is                                                               
in Juneau  for the  Women's Summit.  She was  born and  raised in                                                               
Chugiak. As  a young woman,  she is shocked that  this commission                                                               
doesn't exist.  It could  guide the  legislature and  governor in                                                               
the  advancement  for  women  in  all  kinds  of  realms.  It  is                                                               
important to the state, her future, and her children's future.                                                                  
LATANYA  SEMONES,  Fairbanks,  said  she is  in  Juneau  for  the                                                               
Women's Summit, and  she echoes what everyone has said.  She is a                                                               
young Native woman. Re-establishing  the commission would offer a                                                               
huge opportunity for her  aunts, sisters, brothers, grandmothers,                                                               
and all her family in rural Alaska.                                                                                             
KATHERINE  FOREST, Anchorage,  said she  was born  and raised  in                                                               
Anchorage and is from a big  Hispanic family. She agrees with all                                                               
the previous testimony.                                                                                                         
9:26:17 AM                                                                                                                    
CLOVER SIMON,  Alaska Vice President,  Planned Parenthood  of the                                                               
Great Northwest,  Anchorage, said  her organization  serves women                                                               
and  children  and employs  mostly  women.  Her staff  are  often                                                               
single mothers. "Having the information  out there to legislators                                                               
about the importance  of bringing women up, I  think is paramount                                                               
to  the  future of  our  state."  Improving  the lives  of  women                                                               
improves  the  lives of  everyone  in  the community,  especially                                                               
children. She wants the bill to move forward.                                                                                   
9:27:27 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MEYER said  a witness said that the  commission should be                                                               
implemented  by  the  governor  or legislator.  Page  4  has  the                                                               
commission preparing a report and  will provide the governor with                                                               
copies of the report. He asked that the legislature be included.                                                                
SENATOR DAVIS said  the last commission reported  directly to the                                                               
governor. It  can report  to the legislature,  but the  closer to                                                               
the legislature  and the governor  the better. She  will consider                                                               
any recommendation that makes the bill stronger.                                                                                
SENATOR  MEYER said  it  is fine  for  the report  to  go to  the                                                               
governor, as long as the legislature is kept informed.                                                                          
SENATOR  DAVIS said  that can  be addressed  in the  bill if  the                                                               
committee wants.                                                                                                                
SENATOR MEYER said a simple amendment can do that.                                                                              
9:29:21 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MENARD noted the fiscal note of $505,000.                                                                                 
SENATOR  DAVIS  said that  is  what  came  back  to her,  and  it                                                               
establishes  the   same  positions   from  the   old  commission,                                                               
including  executive  director  and staff.  The  human  relations                                                               
commission was never funded. The commission went away in 1993.                                                                  
CHAIR MENARD asked if other states have similar commissions.                                                                    
SENATOR DAVIS said all other states have them in various forms.                                                                 
SENATOR FRENCH said  Senator Meyer made a good  suggestion, so he                                                               
moved Amendment 1,  as follows: Page 4, line  5, after "governor"                                                               
insert  "and the  legislature", and  strike all  of the  words on                                                               
line 6. Hearing no objection, Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                          
SENATOR FRENCH moved to report  SB 69, as amended, from committee                                                               
with  individual  recommendations  and attached  fiscal  note(s).                                                               
There being no objection, CSSB 69 (STA) passed out of committee.                                                                

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