Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/26/2004 09:01 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
     CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 301(HES)                                                                                            
     "An Act  relating to the Alaska  Pioneers' Home and  the Alaska                                                            
     Veterans'  Home; relating to  eligibility for admission  to the                                                            
     Alaska  Pioneers' Home and Alaska  Veterans' Home; relating  to                                                            
     the eligibility of  residents for the Alaska Pioneers' Home and                                                            
     the  Alaska  Veterans'  Home  for  general  relief assistance;                                                             
     relating to state  veterans' home facilities; making conforming                                                            
     amendments; and providing for an effective date."                                                                          
This  was the first  hearing  for this  bill in  the Senate  Finance                                                            
Co-Chair Wilken  stated that the Senate  Rules Committee  by Request                                                            
of  the  Governor  sponsors  this legislation.  He  noted  that  the                                                            
legislation   would  establish  "a   statutory  framework   for  the                                                            
operation of  a Veterans Home in accordance  with federal  law," and                                                            
would  provide the  Department  of Health  and Social  Services  the                                                            
ability  to  acquire  additional  funding  sources  for  the  Alaska                                                            
Pioneers' Home  and Alaska Veterans'  Home systems. He noted  that a                                                            
Letter of Intent accompanies the bill.                                                                                          
DENNY  DEWITT, Special  Assistant  to the  Governor,  Office of  the                                                            
Governor stated  that CS SB 301(HES) would allow the  Palmer Pioneer                                                            
Home to be  converted into the State's  Veterans' Home, culminating                                                             
twenty  years of  efforts to  create such  a Home in  the State.  He                                                            
reviewed  that, at the  direction of Governor  Frank Murkowski,  the                                                            
Administration worked with  the federal Veterans Administration (VA)                                                            
to determine workable  parameters through which a  Home could become                                                            
a reality;  and it was through this  process, he continued,  that it                                                            
was concluded  that converting  the existing  Palmer Pioneers'  Home                                                            
into a Veterans'  Home could enable  veterans to be able  "to secure                                                            
the veterans benefits to which they are entitled."                                                                              
Mr. DeWitt continued  that, initially, the VA has  specified that 79                                                            
of the Home's 82 total  bed capacity would be for veterans. However,                                                            
he furthered,  after lengthy  discussions,  the VA is contemplating                                                             
granting  a waiver to  the State  through which  the entire  82 beds                                                            
would be  available  for veterans.  He mentioned  that after  an the                                                            
Palmer  Home inspection  and a  review of  the both  the Palmer  and                                                            
Anchorage Pioneers'  Home programs,  the VA was "somewhat  amazed at                                                            
the quality  and type of care" being  offered in the Pioneers'  Home                                                            
system,  and were contemplating  incorporating  some of the  State's                                                            
program into its national VA system.                                                                                            
Mr. DeWitt noted  that the VA would pay approximately  65 percent of                                                            
the  estimated  $3.5 million  capital  improvements  that  would  be                                                            
required  to  align   the  Palmer  facility  with  VA  construction                                                             
standards,  and he  stated that  a final  agreement  with the VA  is                                                            
nearing completion.  He clarified  that the State's funding  support                                                            
for  this   endeavor  is   included  in   the  FY  04  Supplemental                                                             
Appropriations  bill, and  he expressed  that the  adoption of  this                                                            
bill would  provide for the Veteran's  Home authorization  and would                                                            
allow  the State  to  move forward  were  the  supplemental  funding                                                            
request authorized.                                                                                                             
Mr. DeWitt explained that  the bill's drafting incorporates the term                                                            
"and  Veteran's  Home"  everywhere   in  Statute  that  there  is  a                                                            
reference to the  Pioneers' Home. He also noted that  the bill would                                                            
provide  the State the  ability to  require Home  residents to  seek                                                            
other forms  of assistance,  such  as Medicaid,  prior to using  the                                                            
assistance provided by the Home.                                                                                                
He  noted that  the  Administration  has  worked with  veterans  and                                                            
Pioneers'  Home groups to  address their  concerns. He also  pointed                                                            
out that this  committee substitute  addresses the preponderance  of                                                            
the  concerns  expressed  regarding  the  transition  phase  of  the                                                            
project.  He stressed that  the bill would  specify that no  current                                                            
resident  of the  Palmer  Pioneers'  Home would  be  displaced as  a                                                            
result of this  legislation. He stated  that the State has  received                                                            
transitional  authority from the VA  that would allow for  a gradual                                                            
transition   to  the  75-percent   veterans/25-percent  non-veteran                                                             
ultimate occupancy,  as required by  the federal VA home  system. He                                                            
reminded  that  additional  information  had  been provided  to  the                                                            
Committee during  the February 5, 2004 Veteran's Home  Presentation.                                                            
Senator  Dyson asked regarding  the correctness  of the grammatical                                                             
language change  regarding the word "voter" to "voter's"  in Sec. 2,                                                            
subsection (10) on page three, line three that reads as follows.                                                                
     (10) The address of  a voter as it appears on an official voter                                                            
     registration  card  is  presumptive  evidence of  the  person's                                                            
     voting  residence.  This presumption  is  negated  only by  the                                                            
     voter's [VOTER]  notifying the director in writing  of a change                                                          
     of voting residence.                                                                                                       
     New Text Underlined [DELETED TEXT BRACKETED]                                                                             
Co-Chair Green  stated that the question  should be deferred  to the                                                            
bill's drafter.                                                                                                                 
Mr. Dewitt agreed that this was a drafting change.                                                                              
Senator Dyson  asked regarding how  the Statute change would  affect                                                            
the other Pioneers' Homes in the State.                                                                                         
Mr. Dewitt understood that  this change would not have any affect on                                                            
the State's other Pioneers'  Homes as the change would be limited to                                                            
adding  the  term  "and  Veterans'  Home"  following  any  Statutory                                                            
references to the Pioneers' Home.                                                                                               
Senator  Dyson asked  whether the  reference to  the Pioneers'  Home                                                            
should  more correctly  be referenced  as "Pioneers'  Homes" in  the                                                            
bill's title and in body of the bill.                                                                                           
Mr. Dewitt again deferred to the bill's drafter.                                                                                
Co-Chair Wilken  stated that this  question would be addressed  with                                                            
the bill's drafter.                                                                                                             
[NOTE:  The bill's  drafter,  Jean  Mischel,  Attorney, Legislative                                                             
Legal  Services,  stated  that  drafting  regulations   require  the                                                            
singular rather than the  plural noun to be used, and use of such is                                                            
not a limiting factor.]                                                                                                         
Amendment #1: This amendment  inserts the words "Sitka and at other"                                                            
following  "at" in Sec.  15, subsection  (a) page  6, line 31.  This                                                            
language would read as follows.                                                                                                 
     Sec. 15. AS 47.55.010 is repealed and reenacted to read:                                                                   
          Sec. 47.55.010. Maintenance of Alaska Pioneers' Home and                                                              
     Alaska Veterans' Home.  (a) The state shall maintain facilities                                                            
     known as the Alaska  Pioneers' Home at Sitka and at other sites                                                            
     designated  by the commissioner of health and  social services.                                                            
Co-Chair Green, by request,  moved for the adoption of Amendment #1.                                                            
Co-Chair Wilken objected for explanation.                                                                                       
Co-Chair  Green explained  that this  language was  included in  the                                                            
original  Statute;  however,  she  continued,  as  the  Statute  was                                                            
repealed and reenacted,  this phrase was deleted. She noted that the                                                            
Pioneers' Home and others  have requested that the original language                                                            
be retained.                                                                                                                    
Mr. DeWitt stated  that the language was omitted as  the result of a                                                            
"stylist drafting  decision", and, he noted that the  Administration                                                            
supports the amendment.                                                                                                         
Co-Chair Wilken removed his objection.                                                                                          
There being no further objection, Amendment #1 was ADOPTED.                                                                     
Amendment  #2: This amendment  inserts  ", up to  50 percent  of the                                                            
total floor  space in a home,"  in Sec. 15  (e) on page eight,  line                                                            
seven, following "space".                                                                                                       
Co-Chair Green moved to adopt Amendment #2.                                                                                     
Co-Chair Wilken objected.                                                                                                       
Mr. Dewitt  explained that one component  of this legislation  is to                                                            
address the leasing of  excess space in the Pioneers' Home system in                                                            
order to allow them to be financially viable.                                                                                   
Co-Chair  Green   asked  for  clarification  regarding   where  this                                                            
proposed  language should  be inserted,  as she  noted, it might  be                                                            
more correctly placed on line six as opposed to line seven.                                                                     
Mr. DeWitt understood  the location of inserting the  language to be                                                            
Co-Chair Wilken removed his objection.                                                                                          
There being no other objection, Amendment #2 was ADOPTED.                                                                       
Senator  Dyson  noted  that  language  on page  six,  line  26  also                                                            
contains  language pertinent  to his earlier  concern regarding  the                                                            
singular and plural correctness  of Pioneers' "Home" verses "Homes."                                                            
JAMES VAN HORN,  State Commander, Alaska Department  of the American                                                            
Legion, testified  via teleconference  from Ketchikan in  support of                                                            
the bill.  He stated that  the veterans groups  in Alaska have  been                                                            
actively involved in the  long-term efforts to establish a Veterans'                                                            
Home  in  the State.  He  noted  that  the minimum  per  veteran  VA                                                            
monetary contribution  is $26.95 per day. This he  calculated would,                                                            
for an 82-bed facility,  amount to $800,000 in new federal monies to                                                            
be available  to the State,  per year, to  assist in offsetting  the                                                            
cost of operating the facility.                                                                                                 
LEON  BERTRAN,  State  Services  Officer,  Alaska  American  Legion,                                                            
testified via teleconference  from Anchorage and also spoke in favor                                                            
of this legislation.                                                                                                            
Mr. Van Horn  voiced his appreciation  for Legislature's  efforts in                                                            
support  of establishing  a  Veterans' Home  and  for their  funding                                                            
appropriation to support the 2003 Veterans' Home Study.                                                                         
Co-Chair  Wilken  clarified   that  the  funding  support  for  this                                                            
legislation  is included  in the FY  04 Fast  Track Supplement  bill                                                            
rather than in  the Department of Health and Social  Services fiscal                                                            
note #1 which is a zero fiscal note.                                                                                            
AT EASE 9:20 AM / 9:20 AM                                                                                                       
Conceptual  Amendment #3: This amendment  corrects the placement  of                                                            
the language  being  inserted by Amendment  #2 to  specify that  the                                                            
words being  inserted  should be inserted  on page  eight, line  six                                                            
rather than line seven. This language would read as follows.                                                                    
     (e)  The  department  may  engage  in  activities  directed  to                                                            
     increase revenue from  a home. These activities may include the                                                            
     lease  of excess bed  or floor space,  up to 50 percent  of the                                                            
     total  floor space in  a home, or lease  of space or  buildings                                                            
     that are not in use or are underutilized.                                                                                  
Co-Chair Green  moved for the adoption  of Conceptual Amendment  #3.                                                            
Without objection, Conceptual Amendment #3 was ADOPTED.                                                                         
Co-Chair  Green moved to  report the bill,  as amended, and  the HES                                                            
Committee   Letter  of   Intent  from  Committee   with   individual                                                            
recommendations and accompanying fiscal note.                                                                                   
There  being  no  objection,  CS  SB  301(FIN)   was  REPORTED  from                                                            
Committee  accompanied  by the HES  Committee Letter  of Intent  and                                                            
with zero fiscal  note #1 from the  Department of Health  and Social                                                            

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