Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)
02/18/2010 09:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS
Download Mp3. <- Right click and save file as
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 261-ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE CONTROL BD MEMBERS 9:18:40 AM CHAIR MENARD said the next item to come before the committee was SB 261. TIM BENINTENDI, aide to Senator Olson, said SB 261 responds to the array of alcohol related problems unique to small communities in rural Alaska. Wellness services cannot keep up with the adverse impact of alcohol related problems. The profile of these problems needs to be raised. The state's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC) is comprised of five members, two of whom must be actively engaged in the alcoholic beverage industry and three of whom represent the general public. SB 261 would require one of the three general public positions to be filled by a resident of a rural area. SB 261 defines "rural area" as a community with a population of 4500 or less that is not connected by road or rail to Anchorage or Fairbanks. A defined rural board member could affect policy discussion and ABC Board decisions in a positive way. SENATOR MEYER asked for examples of communities that would qualify. MR. BENINTENDI listed several communities that would qualify: Dillingham, Unalaska, any community in the Lincoln Peninsula Borough, Nome and Kotzebue. He noted he is referring to cities or communities as opposed to census areas. He stated that SB 261 would not take effect until the next available public member seat turns over. 9:22:49 AM SENATOR MEYER noted some areas under 4500 are dry communities and asked if someone from a dry community should be on the ABC Board. MR. BENINTENDI replied yes, an applicant from a dry community would be valid. He explained that while dry communities are officially dry, they still have alcohol related problems and rural representation on the ABC Board could bring attention to these problems and some specific focus into the forum. SENATOR FRENCH said he questioned how to define a rural area. He asked if our statutes define "community" and how big of an area a community is. MR. BENINTENDI replied that he originally looked at a definition of a small community as 5500 people. He said communities of that size have more resources; SB 261 is aiming at smaller communities and their issues. SENATOR FRENCH asked if Auke Bay or Douglas, in the Juneau region, are smaller communities. MR. BENINTENDI replied that Auke Bay and Douglas are within the Juneau City and Borough and would not be eligible. SENATOR FRENCH said someone from the greater Juneau area, for example, should not be the rural representative. He said he supports the idea of SB 261 but is concerned that "community" could be interpreted as a subset of a city or a borough. 9:26:08 AM CHAIR MENARD asked about Southeast communities that would be eligible. MR. BENINTENDI replied he thought any community outside of a borough in Southeast would qualify. He noted that Ketchikan and Sitka would be too big but Skagway and Angoon would be eligible. DALE FOX, President and CEO, Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association (CHARR), noted only ten days had passed since SB 261 was posted online and CHARR'S Government Affairs Committee has not had a chance to review it. CHARR members have expressed, through initial emails, that they don't think a problem exists and that governors have done a great job of balancing boards. He said the five current ABC members are from Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and Cordova. Belen Cook, from Cordova, would fit the definition of rural community representative according to SB 261. He noted that Ms. Cook is Chair of the annual Sobriety Celebration in Cordova and is very concerned about alcohol issues. He asked the committee not to pass SB 261 out until the industry has an opportunity to review and discuss it. 9:29:14 AM CHAIR MENARD said SB 261 goes to Labor and Commerce next which would allow ample opportunity for CHARR to weigh in. ROBERT FROEHLE, Superintendant, Nome Youth Facility and member, Regional Wellness Forum (RWF), said the RWF is in strong support of SB 261. He said he appreciates that the ABC Board currently has a member from Cordova and would like to ensure that small communities continue to get representation. He said he sees the effects of alcohol on daily basis on the community's kids and families. BIRDIE TRAINOR, Director, Coed Wellness Program and Suicide Prevention Program, testified on behalf of Berda Willson, Chair of the Regional Wellness Forum (RFW). Ms. Trainer read a written statement from Ms. Willson. Ms. Willson wrote that she has seen the ravages that alcohol and substance abuse are inflicting on her people. She wrote that the RWF supports the Safety Patrol, made up of about 150 volunteers, which patrols during the PFD, New Year's Eve and the Iditarod to keep residents and visitors safe and to reduce suicides, missing persons and death by accident or freezing when people are intoxicated. 9:33:17 AM She wrote that the RWF's next meeting will be held at the Anvil Mountain Correctional Center where inmates will talk about how RWF can help them prevent repeating their mistakes. Anecdotally, 90 percent of the prisoners would not be incarcerated if alcohol abuse were not a factor. She wrote that rural communities need a voice on the ABC Board from someone who understands rural problems like suicide, child abuse, domestic violence, accidental death and alcohol abuse. She noted that while most villages are dry, alcohol is sold or bootlegged. Her written statement concluded that the RWF is not against alcohol consumption and appreciates the ABC Board's help in ensuring that liquor establishments conform to state law. 9:34:48 AM CHAIR MENARD closed public testimony. SENATOR MEYER asked if anyone from the ABC Board was present. CHAIR MENARD replied no. SENATOR MEYER said that the sponsor of SB 261 wants to ensure that rural representation on the ABC Board continues, which he feels is a good idea. SENATOR FRENCH concurred. He said he has some concern with the definition of "community" but noted that a subsequent committee can grapple with it to make sure the intention of SB 261 is fulfilled. CHAIR MENARD reported that Senator Kookesh joined the meeting. 9:36:59 AM SENATOR FRENCH moved to report SB 261 from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note(s). There being no objection, the motion carried.