Legislature(2011 - 2012)HOUSE FINANCE 519

04/12/2012 09:00 AM FINANCE

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Continued at 5:30 p.m. Today --
Moved HCS SB 137(FIN) Out of Committee
Heard & Held
Moved HCS CSSB 135(FIN) Out of Committee
Scheduled But Not Heard
<Pending Referral>
Scheduled But Not Heard
Scheduled But Not Heard
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
SENATE BILL NO. 137                                                                                                           
     "An Act requiring suicide awareness and prevention                                                                         
     training for certain school personnel."                                                                                    
9:59:00 AM                                                                                                                    
AT EASE                                                                                                                         
10:00:50 AM                                                                                                                   
10:00:53 AM                                                                                                                   
Vice-Chair Fairclough MOVED to  ADOPT the proposed committee                                                                    
substitute  for SB  137,  Work  Draft 27-LS0994\D  (Mischel,                                                                    
4/11/12) as a working document.                                                                                                 
Co-Chair Stoltze OBJECTED for the purpose of discussion.                                                                        
Vice-Chair  Fairclough  explained  the changes  in  the  new                                                                    
committee   substitute  (CS)   and   drew  the   committee's                                                                    
attention to page  1, line 9 of the  bill, where legislative                                                                    
intent language  had been inserted; furthermore,  on page 2,                                                                    
line 21, a sunset provision  was added that would repeal the                                                                    
act on July 1, 2016.                                                                                                            
Co-Chair  Stoltze interjected  that  the  bill's sunset  was                                                                    
structured to initiate a review  of the program, rather than                                                                    
an automatic repeal.                                                                                                            
Co-Chair  Stoltze WITHDREW  his  OBJECTION.  There being  NO                                                                    
further OBJECTION, Work Draft 27-LS0994\D was ADOPTED.                                                                          
SENATOR BETTYE DAVIS, SPONSOR, communicated  that she had no                                                                    
problems with the  proposed CS. She explained  that the bill                                                                    
required  annual  mandatory   youth  suicide  awareness  and                                                                    
prevention    training    for   teachers,    administrators,                                                                    
counselors, and specialists employed  by the school district                                                                    
for grades 7  through 12. She related that  the training was                                                                    
important because  Alaska had the  nation's highest  rate of                                                                    
suicide  per  capita,  specifically among  teenagers,  young                                                                    
men,  and  Alaska  Natives.   She  detailed  that  education                                                                    
awareness  was  the  key  to  suicide  prevention;  training                                                                    
teachers  to  recognize  the  signs of  at  risk  youth  and                                                                    
learning how  to intervene  had been  proven to  help reduce                                                                    
teen  suicides  in  many other  states.  The  bill  provided                                                                    
specific immunity to teachers  and school districts for acts                                                                    
of  omission while  performing the  duties authorized  under                                                                    
Section 3, subsections  (c) and (d) of  the legislation. She                                                                    
stressed  that SB  137 had  bipartisan support,  as well  as                                                                    
broad support  in the health and  education communities. She                                                                    
highlighted the zero fiscal note  and asked the committee to                                                                    
support  the  legislation  in  order   to  help  reduce  the                                                                    
"epidemic" of  youth suicide  that was  devastating families                                                                    
and communities throughout the state.                                                                                           
Co-Chair   Stoltze   pointed   out  that   the   legislative                                                                    
internship program was a  very important educational program                                                                    
and welcomed an intern from Senator Davis's office.                                                                             
10:03:58 AM                                                                                                                   
KATYA  WASSILLIE, INTERN,  SENATOR  BETTYE DAVIS,  discussed                                                                    
the  relevance  of the  bill  to  rural Alaska.  During  her                                                                    
experience as  a student in  rural Alaska, she  had observed                                                                    
the  closeness  between  the   students  and  teachers.  She                                                                    
believed  the   close  relationship  between   students  and                                                                    
teachers  was unique  in rural  Alaska because  the teachers                                                                    
were part  of a  small community  and had  interactions with                                                                    
students that  were much different  than in  urban settings;                                                                    
teachers in rural Alaska spent  time with students in school                                                                    
programs after the  school day had ended, as  well as during                                                                    
community  events.  She  concluded that  teachers  in  rural                                                                    
settings were  in a good  position to notice when  a student                                                                    
was showing potential signs of suicide.                                                                                         
Representative  Gara thanked  the sponsor  for bringing  the                                                                    
bill  forward and  told a  relevant personal  story about  a                                                                    
friend who  had lost  a child to  suicide. He  believed that                                                                    
teacher and counselor intervention  and education would help                                                                    
save  lives.  He thought  that  there  were members  of  the                                                                    
committee who were directly affected by the issue.                                                                              
Representative Costello  discussed a former student  who had                                                                    
lost  a  sibling to  suicide.  She  believed that  the  bill                                                                    
worked to  address a significant  problem in the  state, but                                                                    
wondered whether  there were concerns related  to increasing                                                                    
training requirements for teachers.  She added that creating                                                                    
small  learning environments  within larger  school settings                                                                    
would allow  a close  relationship to form  between students                                                                    
and teachers  and would  result in  benefits far  beyond the                                                                    
academics.   She  stressed   the  importance   of  providing                                                                    
opportunities for  teachers to  get to know  their students.                                                                    
Senator  Davis  replied that  the  teachers  union was  very                                                                    
supportive  of the  bill  and did  not see  it  as an  added                                                                    
training  burden;  teachers  would  be  allowed  to  do  the                                                                    
training at their own leisure.  She emphasized that the bill                                                                    
was not only  intended for teachers, but  was also inclusive                                                                    
of all  school employees  who interacted with  students. She                                                                    
offered that  she had not  heard any objections to  the bill                                                                    
and reiterated  that there were  not any  concerns regarding                                                                    
an  increased   training  burden.  She  observed   that  the                                                                    
legislation  was only  part  of the  answer  to the  suicide                                                                    
problem in Alaska.                                                                                                              
10:08:15 AM                                                                                                                   
Co-Chair Stoltze  related a personal  story. He  agreed that                                                                    
it was  important to reach  other school staff and  that the                                                                    
custodian often  had a good  and trusting  relationship with                                                                    
Representative Wilson  supported the bill, but  believed the                                                                    
Department of Education and  Early Development (DEED) should                                                                    
provide  a  list of  all  of  the training  requirements  on                                                                    
school district  staff. She commented  that she  was pleased                                                                    
that  the  bill allowed  school  employees  to complete  the                                                                    
training online,  rather than requiring an  in-service to do                                                                    
Vice-Chair  Fairclough pointed  out for  the record  that on                                                                    
page  2,  line  6  of  the   bill,  the  use  of  the  title                                                                    
"commissioner"  was referring  to the  commissioner of  DEED                                                                    
and  noted that  the  bill did  not  explicitly state  which                                                                    
commissioner  it was  referencing.  Senator Davis  responded                                                                    
that the bill was referencing the commissioner of DEED.                                                                         
Vice-Chair Fairclough  wondered where  exactly in  the state                                                                    
statutes  the legislation  would  be  inserted and  observed                                                                    
that the only reference code that  she could see was on page                                                                    
2, line 18 of the bill.                                                                                                         
JEAN   MISCHEL,   ATTORNEY,  LEGISLATIVE   LEGAL   SERVICES,                                                                    
LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS  AGENCY (via  teleconference), explained                                                                    
that   due  to   the  sunset   provision,  which   gave  the                                                                    
legislation an effective  date of less than  five years, the                                                                    
law was considered  to be temporary. The law  would not have                                                                    
a place  in statutes, but  would reside in the  session laws                                                                    
as  temporary law,  unless the  legislature voted  to extend                                                                    
the  program. She  added that  legal services  could clarify                                                                    
the  use of  the  terms "department"  and "commissioner"  on                                                                    
page 2, line 18.                                                                                                                
JAMES  BIELA,  FIELD  ADVOCATE AND  BOARD  MEMBER,  AMERICAN                                                                    
FOUNDATION     FOR     SUICIDE    PREVENTION-ALASKA     (via                                                                    
teleconference), vocalized the  foundation's support for the                                                                    
legislation. He urged the committee  to pass the bill and he                                                                    
related that  he was  assigned to  five villages  and worked                                                                    
with  families, students,  and school  personnel on  suicide                                                                    
prevention. He discussed that  teachers and school employees                                                                    
were the main contact for  students and were often the first                                                                    
to  identify  at risk  students.  He  relayed that  teachers                                                                    
often referred  students to him  when they noticed  a sudden                                                                    
behavior   change,   but   that  teachers   sometimes   felt                                                                    
uninformed on the  signs of suicide. He mentioned  a case in                                                                    
which  a   teacher  had  not  been   interested  in  suicide                                                                    
training, but  subsequent to the  training, the  teacher had                                                                    
used the  acquired knowledge to  identify and help  save the                                                                    
life  of a  student on  the verge  of suicide.  He discussed                                                                    
other trainings  that were conducted  in his area  that were                                                                    
done  at no  cost to  the district.  The More  Than Sad  and                                                                    
Signs  of Suicide  programs were  also accessed  annually by                                                                    
the school  districts. He stressed that  increased trainings                                                                    
would  prevent  further deaths  and  related  that the  most                                                                    
recent suicide had  been the past weekend, when  a young man                                                                    
took  his life  in Bethel.  He encouraged  the committee  to                                                                    
pass the legislation.                                                                                                           
10:14:42 AM                                                                                                                   
CLARK  FLATT, PRESIDENT  AND  CHIEF  EXECUTIVE OFFICER,  THE                                                                    
JASON     FOUNDATION,      HENDERSON,     TENNESSEE     (via                                                                    
teleconference),  testified  in  support  of  the  bill.  He                                                                    
explained that the legislation had  been named after his son                                                                    
and was also known as the  Jason Flat Act. He expressed that                                                                    
the legislation was  very important. The act  had first been                                                                    
passed in  Tennessee in 2007  and recently, Utah  had become                                                                    
the eighth state  to pass the legislation.  He detailed that                                                                    
a  marked  annual  reduction  in  youth  suicide  rates  was                                                                    
visible  in Tennessee  and compared  that  reduction to  the                                                                    
rising  rates in  other  areas. He  discussed  the value  of                                                                    
equipping  teachers with  the information  and knowledge  to                                                                    
help  identify and  refer  students that  were  at risk  for                                                                    
suicide within  the school  system. He  stated the  2009 and                                                                    
2011  Youth  Risk  Behavioral   Survey  showed  that  Alaska                                                                    
continued to  increase in  "those" statistics  and commended                                                                    
the state for its work on the issue.                                                                                            
SHARON   STRUTZ-NORTON,   BOARD    MEMBER,   STATE   SUICIDE                                                                    
PREVENTION  COUNCIL, HOMER  (via  teleconference), spoke  in                                                                    
favor of the  bill. She relayed that the bill  was needed to                                                                    
address  suicide  prevention  in   the  school  system.  She                                                                    
discussed  that youths  had shared  stories at  local health                                                                    
fairs  about  themselves  or friends  who  had  contemplated                                                                    
suicide.  She believed  that  teachers, counselors,  nurses,                                                                    
coaches, and  janitors were  in a  prime position  to detect                                                                    
behavioral changes,  seek appropriate assistance,  and refer                                                                    
to  resources; however,  prevention training  was needed  to                                                                    
provide  the knowledge,  confidence, and  direction to  help                                                                    
the  individuals  know  how to  handle  the  situation.  She                                                                    
pointed out  that the  bill did not  have a  cost associated                                                                    
with it  and that  many free educational  resources existed.                                                                    
She urged the committee's support of the legislation.                                                                           
KATE   BURKHART,  EXECUTIVE   DIRECTOR,  STATEWIDE   SUICIDE                                                                    
PREVENTION   COUNCIL,  DEPARTMENT   OF  HEALTH   AND  SOCIAL                                                                    
SERVICES,  expressed  the  council's  full  support  of  the                                                                    
legislation.  She  detailed that  the  bill  fit within  the                                                                    
council's recommended  statewide plan for the  upcoming five                                                                    
years,  which   would  require   training  for   all  school                                                                    
personnel; she believed that the bill was a great start.                                                                        
Co-Chair Thomas CLOSED public testimony.                                                                                        
10:19:34 AM                                                                                                                   
AT EASE                                                                                                                         
10:19:41 AM                                                                                                                   
Vice-Chair Fairclough  pointed to the zero  fiscal note from                                                                    
the Department of Education and Early Development.                                                                              
10:20:18 AM                                                                                                                   
Vice-Chair Fairclough MOVED to  report HCSSB 137(FIN) out of                                                                    
committee   with   individual    recommendations   and   the                                                                    
accompanying fiscal  note. There being NO  OBJECTION, it was                                                                    
so ordered.                                                                                                                     
10:20:31 AM                                                                                                                   
HCSSB  137(FIN) was  REPORTED out  of committee  with a  "do                                                                    
pass" recommendation  and with  a previously  published zero                                                                    
fiscal note: FN2 (DEED).                                                                                                        
10:20:36 AM                                                                                                                   
AT EASE                                                                                                                         
10:21:39 AM                                                                                                                   
Co-Chair Stoltze  stated that the committee  intended recess                                                                    
and continue with the meeting later in the day.                                                                                 
10:22:18 AM                                                                                                                   
5:32:20 PM                                                                                                                    

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 135 Sponsor Statement.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 135
SB 135 Sectional Summary.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 135
SB 135 Letters of Support.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 135
SB 135 Explanation of Changes.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 135
SB 137 Sponsor Statement Rev. 1-23-2012.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 137
SB 137 Sectional Summary 27-LS0094M 1-24-2012.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 137
SB 137 Legal Memo 2-17-2012.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 137
SB 137- AK Suicide Prev.Plan. 2012-17.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 137
SB 137 - Explanation of Changes rev. 3-16-2012.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 137
SB 19 - Explanation of Changes.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 19
SB 19 - Relevant Statutes.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 19
SB 19 - Sponsor Statement.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 19
SB 19 - Letter Support MotoQuest.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 19
SB 19 - Letter Support Harley.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 19
SB 19 - Letter Support AMA.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 19
SB 137 Supporting Documents-Northern Light 2-6-2012.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 137
SB 137 Supporting Documents-Bullets-Jason Foundation.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 137
SB 137 Supporting Documents- NCSL.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 137
SB 137 Supporting Documents -AkSCA.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 137
SB 137 Supporting Documents - Facts & Information.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 137
SB 137 Supporting Documents DHSS Ltr.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 137
SB 137 Supporting Documents - CDC -Suicide Nationwide.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 137
SB 137 Supporting Document - APOA 2-10-2012.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 137
SB137 CS WORKDRAFT FIN 27-LS0994-D.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 137
SB135 CS WORKDRAFT 27-LS0966-I.pdf HFIN 4/12/2012 9:00:00 AM
SB 135