Legislature(2003 - 2004)
03/26/2004 09:01 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 Committee. 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 correct. 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 Services.