Legislature(2007 - 2008)SENATE FINANCE 532

03/15/2007 09:00 AM FINANCE

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09:33:52 AM Start
09:34:18 AM HB18
09:42:46 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Senate Bill:
Retirement Systems Technical
<Pending Introduction & Referral>
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
< Abpve Bill Hearing Postponed>
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSHB 18(FIN) Out of Committee
     SENATE CS FOR CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 18(SED)                                                                                
     "An  Act amending  the functions  and powers  of the  Alaska                                                               
     Commission on  Postsecondary Education; and relating  to the                                                               
     repayment    provisions    for   medical    education    and                                                               
     postsecondary degree program participants."                                                                                
This was  the third hearing for  this bill in the  Senate Finance                                                               
Co-Chair Stedman communicated  that the intent today  would be to                                                               
report  this  Washington,  Wyoming, Alaska,  Montana,  and  Idaho                                                               
postsecondary medical education  program (WWAMI) legislation from                                                               
9:35:10 AM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Stedman communicated  that his  and Co-Chair  Hoffman's                                                               
offices  have  discussed  with Representative  Kevin  Meyer,  the                                                               
bill's sponsor, concerns about the  physician shortage in Alaska,                                                               
particularly in Rural  Alaska. As a result  of these discussions,                                                               
an  amendment  was  developed  which  would  further  incentivize                                                               
graduates of the WWAMI program to practice in the State.                                                                        
Amendment #1: This amendment inserts  a new section into the bill                                                               
following line 17 page 2 as follows:                                                                                            
     *Sec. 3. AS 14.43.510(b) is amended to read:                                                                               
          (b) If a program participant under (a) of this section                                                                
     has graduated  from the medical education  program for which                                                               
     the financial  support was received  and is employed  in the                                                               
     state  in  the  field  for which  the  person  received  the                                                               
     financial support,  including employment  in the state  in a                                                               
     medical  residency program,  the repayment  obligation shall                                                               
     be forgiven  and considered  a grant in  an amount  equal to                                                               
     the following percentages plus accrued interest:                                                                           
               (1) for employment in rural areas of the state,                                                                
                    (A) one year employment, 33 1/3 percent;                                                                  
                    (B) two years employment, an additional 33                                                                
          1/3 percent;                                                                                                        
                    (C) three years employment, an additional 33                                                              
          1/3 percent;                                                                                                        
               (2) for employment in areas of the state that are                                                              
     not rural,                                                                                                               
                    (A) [(1)] one year employment, 20 percent;                                                                
                    (B)   [(2)]   two    years   employment,   an                                                             
          additional 20 percent;                                                                                                
                    (C) [(3)] three years employment, an                                                                      
          additional 20 percent;                                                                                                
                    (D)   [(4)]   four   years   employment,   an                                                             
          additional 20 percent;                                                                                                
                    (E)   [(5)]   five   years   employment,   an                                                             
          additional 20 percent.                                                                                                
This amendment  adds another new  bill section following  line 28                                                               
on page 2 as follows.                                                                                                           
     *Sec. 5. AS 14.43.510 is amended by adding a new subsection                                                                
     to read:                                                                                                                   
          (i) In this section, "rural" means a community with a                                                                 
     population of  7,500 or less  that is not connected  by road                                                               
     or rail  to Anchorage or  Fairbanks or with a  population of                                                               
     3,500  or  less  that  is  connected  by  road  or  rail  to                                                               
     Anchorage or Fairbanks.                                                                                                    
     New text underlined [DELETED TEXT BRACKETED]                                                                             
Senator Olson moved Amendment #1.                                                                                               
9:35:44 AM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stedman objected for purposes of discussion.                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE  KEVIN  MEYER,  the bill's  sponsor,  thanked  the                                                               
Committee  for  considering  this legislation.  It  has  garnered                                                               
widespread support  from members of  the Senate and the  House of                                                               
Representative Meyer voiced his approval of the amendment.                                                                      
9:36:48 AM                                                                                                                    
MICHAEL   PAWLOWSKI,  Staff   to   Representative  Kevin   Meyer,                                                               
explained  that the  amendment would  change  the program's  loan                                                               
obligation  provisions in  that the  loan obligation  of a  WWAMI                                                               
student who,  after completing  their residency  program, returns                                                               
to the  State and practices  for three years  in a Rural  area or                                                               
five years in a non-Rural area would be forgiven.                                                                               
Mr.  Pawlowski  also  noted  that   the  definition  of  a  rural                                                               
community  is  specified  in the  amendment.  The  definition  is                                                               
similar to  that specified  for the  rural payback  provisions of                                                               
the  Teacher Education  Program;  the difference  being that  the                                                               
minimum size  of a community was  increased to 7,500 as  that was                                                               
deemed the size required to support physician services.                                                                         
9:38:06 AM                                                                                                                    
Mr.  Pawlowski pointed  out  that a  listing  of communities  and                                                               
their  populations  [copy  on  file]   had  been  distributed  to                                                               
Members. This would  allow them to determine  whether a community                                                               
qualified for rural or non-rural status.                                                                                        
Mr.  Pawlowski  concluded that  the  adoption  of this  amendment                                                               
would   encourage   WWAMI   graduates  to   practice   in   rural                                                               
9:38:42 AM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stedman removed his objection to Amendment #1.                                                                         
Senator Olson  asked whether  data was  available to  support the                                                               
position  that  providing  additional forgiveness  incentives  to                                                               
WWAMI  graduates   for  practicing  in  Rural   Alaska  would  be                                                               
9:39:14 AM                                                                                                                    
Mr.  Pawlowski  communicated that  no  such  data was  available;                                                               
however,  the Alaska  Commission on  Postsecondary Education  has                                                               
deemed the  incentive "workable"  since a similar  incentive plan                                                               
that encourages  teachers to work  in rural communities  has been                                                               
9:39:33 AM                                                                                                                    
There being no further objection, Amendment #1 was ADOPTED.                                                                     
9:39:47 AM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stedman, while voicing  support of the program, asserted                                                               
that  the  implementation  of  the  expanded  program  should  be                                                               
monitored  "going forward".  This  would assist  in averting  any                                                               
detrimental  impact on  the State's  operating budget  and insure                                                               
that  the need  to increase  physician  service in  the State  to                                                               
offset  such   things  as   retiring  physicians   and  increased                                                               
population demands was being met.                                                                                               
Co-Chair  Stedman  stated that  the  costs  of the  program  were                                                               
specified in Department of Education  and Early Development (DOE)                                                               
fiscal note #1.                                                                                                                 
9:40:30 AM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Stedman  deemed  the University  of  Alaska's  FY  2008                                                               
budget as  "the appropriate place"  in which to address  the cost                                                               
of expanding  the WWAMI program.  That budget is  currently being                                                               
Co-Chair Stedman  supported moving  the bill from  Committee with                                                               
the  aforementioned  DOE  fiscal   note  and  the  House  Finance                                                               
Committee's zero fiscal note #2.                                                                                                
9:41:11 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator Olson emphasized "the importance  of this bill". It would                                                               
assist  in increasing  the number  of doctors  in both  urban and                                                               
rural  areas  of  the  State.  It would  also  help  address  the                                                               
physician shortage projected  to result from doctors  who will be                                                               
retiring in the  future and the impact that  would be experienced                                                               
by an aging State population.                                                                                                   
Senator  Olson  moved  to  report  the  bill,  as  amended,  from                                                               
Committee  with   individual  recommendations   and  accompanying                                                               
fiscal notes.                                                                                                                   
There  being no  objection, SCS  CSHB 18(FIN)  was REPORTED  from                                                               
Committee with  two previous  zero fiscal  notes: fiscal  note #1                                                               
from  the  Department  of Education  and  Early  Development  and                                                               
fiscal note  #2 from  the House  Finance Committee  pertaining to                                                               
the University of Alaska.                                                                                                       
Co-Chair  Stedman noted  that the  bill would  move forward  with                                                               
recognition  of the  need to  accommodate the  impending deadline                                                               
for the following year's WWAMI program student enrollment.                                                                      

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