House passes PFD bill broadening eligibility

Posted: Wednesday, April 02, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The House passed a bill that would allow people to receive permanent fund dividends if they leave the state to care for terminally ill grandparents.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Hugh Fate, R-Fairbanks, was broadened from its original form. Fate's draft simply added the words ''or grandparent'' to a section of state statute that lets people remain eligible for the dividend while out of state caring for a terminally ill parent, spouse, sibling, child or stepchild.

Last year 140 people received dividends under the current stipulation.

''The intent of this bill before us is to add one word, and that's a grandparent,'' Fate said Monday.

But House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, D-Anchorage, proposed an amendment to broaden the language to allow absences for a person caring for any terminally ill family member, with family defined through ''blood, marriage, adoption, guardianship, or whose close association is the equivalent of a family relationship.''

Berkowitz argued that the current language excludes everyone from aunts to step-grandchildren.

But others expressed concerns that the amendment would overextend the definition, or make it easier to abuse the law. Rep. Norm Rokeberg, R-Anchorage, argued that it would be difficult for the state to decide what constitutes a family relationship.

Fate shared that opinion and objected to the amendment, saying it reached beyond his intent of the bill.

Berkowitz brought out a revised amendment that would restrict ''family member'' definitions to the second degree of kinship. That means the language would allow for family members such as fathers, mothers, aunts and uncles, but would draw the line at cousins. The bill would also incorporate relations through marriage, adoption and guardianship.

House members passed the revised bill by a 32-2 vote. Voting no were Reps. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, and Beverly Masek, R-Willow.

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