Legislature(1997 - 1998)
03/10/1998 08:00 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 329 - HARBORVIEW DEVELOPMENTAL CENTER Number 0171 CHAIR JAMES announced the next order of business would be HB 329, "An Act amending the definition of correctional facility to include a therapeutic treatment center; providing for the conveyance of the Harborview Developmental Center and appurtenant land to the City of Valdez for the purpose of conversion and lease of a part of the center for a therapeutic treatment center for the Department of Corrections; providing that such a land conveyance counts toward the general grant land entitlement of the City of Valdez; and providing for an effective date," sponsored by Rules by request of the Governor. She informed the committee that the bill had been previously heard. Number 0201 LARRY STREUBER, Facilities/Planning Chief, Division of Administrative Services, Department of Health and Social Services, came before the committee. He said Harborview, for many years, was the facility in the state for the developmentally disabled population. Three years ago a decision was made to close Harborview and move the residents out into community settings. Harborview is a valuable asset and to protect Harborview the Department of Health and Social Services implemented an asset protection plan January 1. Mr. Streuber informed the committee that when all the residents were moved out, the department divided the mechanical electrical operations of the building into logical units and reduced the energy necessary to keep the building functional, but not operating at full capacity. One maintenance mechanic was retained to oversee the operations of the whole building. He said he would like to point out that the Valdez Regional Health Authority, which has the community hospital, still occupies approximately 17 percent of that complex. An important point to note is that if the facility isn't transferred to the city of Valdez, it remains a state responsibility. He stated that the state will have the responsibility to protect that building and take care of it until a final disposal can be arranged. If the building is to remain in state ownership, in fiscal year (FY) 99 the department estimates that it would take about $265,000 to keep that building in asset protection. CHAIR JAMES asked if there were any questions. There being none, she asked if anybody was willing to make a motion to move the bill. Number 0233 REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ made a motion to move HB 329 out of committee with the attached fiscal notes and with individual recommendations. Number 0242 REPRESENTATIVE DYSON objected. He stated that was asked to read a missive from Senator Jerry Ward. He read, "As chair of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Corrections, my concerns are not directed toward the merit of filling the economic void left by the Governor's decision to close the Harborview Hospital or the clear and present need for a substance abuse treatment amongst the majority of Alaska's inmates. My concerns question whether funding is small isolated therapeutic (indisc.) is the highest and best used of correctional resources at a time when our prisons and jails are faced with the worst overcrowding in state history. I need not remind the committee that the Department of Corrections' operating budget is the fastest growing budget amongst the state agencies. Revenue enhancement, programs efficiencies, economies of scale, are but a few of the messes we're trying to ploy to hold the line in Corrections' spending. The Harborview proposal doesn't simply fail the wide stewardship tests, if there is no rational relationship to the commitment we have to reduce unnecessary spending and increase government efficiency. At a daily operating rate of $124.37 per inmate, per bed, the Harborview proposal ranks as a third highest bed rate in Alaska. Only Bethel and Ketchikan slightly edge out the Harborview - is the costliest correction service in the state. Indeed when custody is considered, these are the most expensive low custody beds in the nation. These inmates are indeed low custody. Wouldn't it be wiser to establish therapeutic pre-release communities -- the existing half-way house at two-thirds to one- half the cost? Again, I do not dispute the need for this type of program for Alaska's felony inmate population. These programs, however, must be funded in the context of our higher need for safe secure prisons and jails. There can be no question that Corrections can achieve a significantly better bang for it's buck by developing programs of sites that are closer to professional treatment resources which provided greater economies of scale. The formula we must apply in the committee is the greatest service for the highest number of offenders or lowest cost without unreasonable reduction in quality. The Harborview proposal fails this test. Corrections has several sites which house hundreds of low custody prisoners. There is no reason for a therapeutic community cannot be established within the confines and programmatic structures of existing facility or halfway house. Indeed, the Palmer Correctional Center at Sutton was the preferred site for the program of the last Administration. That whole plan was scrapped in this Administration for reasons that appear to have little to do with sound correction practice. Indeed, the economies of scale, extraordinary facilities and lower costs to the proposed Fort Greely prison makes more sense than the Harborview proposal. The legislature chooses to fund this program. Let's call it what it is, gratuitous government handout to the city of Valdez. There are at times sound policy reasons for such government subsidies and this may be one of those times, but let's not fool ourselves into believing this proposal is the wisest use of correction resources or is, as the commissioner so often says, sound correctional practice. Thank you for your attention and consideration." Number 0307 CHAIR JAMES noted she spoke with Senator Ward's staff the previous day and there was a request to hold the bill. She said his reason is purely financial. Chair James said that is not an issue for the State Affairs Committee, it is an issue for the Finance Committee. She noted the next committee of referral is the Judiciary Committee. REPRESENTATIVE DYSON questioned what the responsibility is of the State Affairs Committee. CHAIR JAMES stated there are certain agencies that the State Affairs Committee does overlook. One is the Troopers and the Department of Transportation, the Department of Administration, but actually any bill could fall within the committee's purview. Chair James said although the committee's purview is financial as well as it is Judiciary, as well as how it affects other issues, the primary responsibility for the financial decisions is in the Finance Committee. If that is the only reason why this bill should not go forward, the proper place to make that decision is in the Finance Committee. Number 0341 REPRESENTATIVE DYSON said, "If indeed it was rational to send this bill to us, what's our responsibility? What are the questions we should be asking? What are the public policy issues involved in this bill that we have a responsibility for? They escape me." CHAIR JAMES responded, "Before I try really hard to not answer your question again, Representative Dyson, well maybe Representative Vezey wants to shed some light on that issue or maybe he has a different idea that he wants to speak about. So Representative Vezey, you're up." Number 0354 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said he would like to change the subject. He stated he cannot vote to move HB 329 out of committee with the current fiscal notes. He stated a fiscal note is an authorization of spending and there is no way he would vote for that level of spending. He said if the committee or sponsor wants to revise the fiscal note, he would give the bill due consideration. Number 0365 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON stated he is interested in the bill simply because he thinks the affairs of the state are well served by whether or not we're releasing people who are closer to rehabilitation than not. He said he believes that is an issue that should be considered in the State Affairs Committee and the other committees. He referred to the fiscal note and said the unfortunate thing about a fiscal note is a fiscal note tells us what we're going to be spending now. A fiscal note doesn't necessarily reflect what we're going to be saving in the future. Representative Elton said there is a cost to rehabilitation and it is an up-front cost and the fiscal note reflects that we've got to pay it. The fiscal note doesn't reflect what will be saved in the future. He said he believes the experience in other jurisdictions has shown that we won't get 100 percent rehabilitation. The experience in other jurisdictions has reflected that there will be a significant cost savings in the future because some of these people aren't going to be coming back through the public safety network or the court network. He stated the fiscal note may reflect an up-front cost, but doesn't reflect our downstream savings. Number 0398 REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ pointed out that the savings for prevention of alcohol kind of runs seven to one. So we might have a fiscal note of $2.4 million, but the savings are going to be closer to $20 million. CHAIR JAMES said she would be very surprised if the fiscal note passes the Finance Committee, but she is willing to move the bill forward to the next committee of referral. Number 0405 A roll call vote was taken. Representatives Berkowitz, Elton, Hodgins and James voted in favor of moving the bill. Representatives Dyson and Vezey voted against moving the bill. So HB 329 moved out of the House State Affairs Standing Committee.