Legislature(2017 - 2018)SENATE FINANCE 532
04/11/2017 01:30 PM FINANCE
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SENATE BILL NO. 51 "An Act extending the termination date of the Board of Veterinary Examiners; and providing for an effective date." 2:23:59 PM Vice-Chair Bishop MOVED to ADOPT proposed committee substitute for SB 51, Work Draft 30-LS0465\U (Bruce, 4/7/17). Co-Chair MacKinnon OBJECTED for discussion. 2:24:38 PM SHAREEN CROSBY, STAFF, SENATOR NATASHA VON IMHOF, explained that the CS would extend the termination date of the Board of Veterinary Examiners. Co-Chair MacKinnon WITHDREW her OBJECTION. There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered. 2:25:39 PM KRIS CURTIS, AUDITOR, DIVISION OF LEGISLATIVE AUDIT, of the "Performance Audit of the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development, Board of Veterinary Examiners", dated March 18, 2016 (copy on file). She stated that the board was serving in the public's best interest by effectively licensing and regulation veterinarians and veterinary technicians. She said that the division recommended an 8-year extension, which was the maximum allowed for in statute. She noted one recommendation, found on Page 7, that the board chair should review the annual report for accuracy and completeness before final submission to the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development. She noted the schedule of revenues and expenditures found on Page 6, Page 5 contained a schedule of licenses. 2:27:48 PM Co-Chair MacKinnon referred to the chart on Page 6; she clarified that the board had a surplus in its account in FY 13, which resulted in a decrease in fees. She expressed concern that the board was going to enter deficit spending. Ms. Curtis replied that the division did not issue recommendations if the department had appropriately increased and decreased fees in the past and appropriate action was expected to be taken in the future. She explained that only when boards failed to respond to deficits and surpluses that recommendations were issued. 2:28:52 PM Co-Chair MacKinnon asked why the fees had not been increased in light of the looming deficit spending. JANEY HOVENDEN, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF CORPORATIONS, BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONAL LICENSING, DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE, COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, stated that prior to the last renewal cycle, the fees had been raised from $300 to $500. She said that the board was in the black for FY 17 by $25,303. Co-Chair MacKinnon observed that in FY 16 and FY 17 there had been a budget deficit carryforward. 2:30:34 PM AT EASE 2:33:04 PM RECONVENED Co-Chair MacKinnon clarified that the differences in the legislative audit accounting versus the department was that the legislative audit was calculating through the fiscal year, while the department was calculating through the calendar year. Ms. Hovenden restated that before the last renewal cycle, a fee analysis had been conducted, it had been determined that feed needed to be increased from $300 biannually, to $500 biannually. Co-Chair MacKinnon assured the committee that legislative audit and the department would come to terms on the actual numbers. 2:34:14 PM Senator Olson asked whether there were ongoing investigations or complaints to licensees. Ms. Hovenden stated that she would need to investigate the issue and get back to the committee. 2:34:40 PM Co-Chair MacKinnon reiterated that the CS was a simple extension bill. 2:35:00 PM Co-Chair MacKinnon OPENED public testimony. DR. RACHEL BERNGARTT, BOARD OF VETERINARY EXAMINERS, JUNEAU, testified in support of the legislation and that she was available for questions. She believed that the board was functional, unique, and necessary. She shared that the board regulated licensees and veterinary technicians. She shared that the board offered courtesy licenses for veterinarians coming in the state for special events and temporary licenses for veterinarians coming from out of state to provide relief service. She relayed that all applications were forwarded to the board for review. 2:37:12 PM BRIAN BERUBE, ALASKA NATIVE TRIBAL HEALTH CONSORTIUM, ANCHORAGE (via teleconference), called in to speak to the alteration of the make up of the board. He hoped for additional rural input and further discussion on services in rural Alaska. Co-Chair MacKinnon explained that the issue was not discussed in the current legislation. Mr. Berube thought that many people in the state were concerned about the issue and wondered who he could talk to to bring the subject to light. Co-Chair MacKinnon restated that the current bill was an extension bill and that another piece of legislation could be introduced that proposed to change the make up of the board. 2:39:48 PM PAMELA SANASH, SELF, NENANA (via teleconference), spoke in opposition to the bill. She reiterated previous testimony concerning an amendment in another committee that would have changed the make-up of the current board. Co-Chair MacKinnon restated that the issue was not discussed in the current committee substitute. Ms. Sanash testified in support of a sunset of the board in 2 years. She also suggested that the board should be completely dismantled. She said that traveling veterinarians to her rural community had been blocked by the board, which had resulted in danger to the human and animal public. She believed that the board was corrupt and should be reduced or abolished. She lamented that her area had been without animal vaccinations for 2 years because traveling veterinarians could not obtain courtesy licensure through the board. 2:44:06 PM LEA MCKENZIE, SELF, SUTTON (via teleconference), testified in opposition to the bill. She echoed previous concerns about traveling veterinarians obtaining licensure; she said that they were not flat out denied but were not made to feel welcome, either. 2:46:47 PM ROMAINE KOBILSEK, SPAY ARKANSAS, ARKANSAS (via teleconference), testified in opposition to the bill. She expressed concern for the long tern extension of the board given the current non-welcoming climate and the fee schedule. She argued that the board was not working in the best interest of the state by increasing the fee schedule, which made it difficult for non-profit veterinarians to afford to provide services in the state. She argued that traveling veterinarians provided services for animals that would otherwise go without. 2:51:12 PM Co-Chair MacKinnon CLOSED public testimony. 2:52:03 PM Vice-Chair Bishop asked whether Ms. Berngartt agreed with the 8-year extension proposed in the bill. Dr. Berngartt replied in the affirmative. She specified that all 50 states had boards that regulated veterinarians and veterinary technicians. 2:52:33 PM AT EASE 2:52:53 PM RECONVENED Co-Chair MacKinnon shared that the current bill version had a narrow scope but that she would allow for questions that pertained to previous versions. Vice-Chair Bishop expressed concern for animal care in rural Alaska. She wondered whether the board supported veterinarians from out of state providing services in rural Alaska. Dr. Berngartt confirmed that receiving animal care in rural Alaska was difficult. She said that board members were not aware where people intended to practice when they applied for a permanent license. She argued that the board did not control courtesy license fees. 2:56:14 PM Dr. Berngartt disagreed with the statement that the board was not welcoming to outside veterinarians. She asserted that the same criteria were used to review every application and that board members did not make personal judgements about applicants. She said that a courtesy license for a special event had never been denied to a qualified applicant. She stressed that the powers of the board were outlined in statute and regulation. She explained that the job of the board was to regulate, not recruit, licensees. She relayed that the Alaska Veterinary Rural Outreach was a private non-profit in the state that practiced sterilization of animals. She added that other outside companies that wanted to work in the state could obtain the courtesy license - highlighting the fees were not set by the board. She said that outside experts conducting scientific research were required to obtain a courtesy license. She concluded that the requirements were not targeting rural veterinarians but were covering the cost of operating the board. She lamented that the licensure was expensive but felt that the necessity outweighed the expense. 2:58:43 PM Vice-Chair Bishop expressed discomfort about licensees not disclosing where they would be practicing, specifically. Dr. Berngartt clarified that specifics had to be given for courtesy licensure but that temporary licensees did not have to provide the same detail. Vice-Chair Bishop asked whether the board might consider adding a request for information regarding where an applicant would be practicing. Ms. Berngartt expressed confusion with the line of questioning. 3:00:01 PM Vice-Chair Bishop continued discussing the question of temporary licenses and where applicants might practice under those licenses. He wondered whether it would be helpful to ask temporary license recipients where they anticipated practicing. Dr. Berngartt replied that temporary veterinary license application required naming the practice that the applicant would be filling in for; however, occasionally practices did outreach clinics in area outside of their physical location. She thought that it could be restrictive to veterinarians to anticipate every physical location of practice. 3:01:24 PM Co-Chair MacKinnon recalled public testimony from Arkansas that licensing fees had been inappropriately increased. She asked whether the state had the statutory power to increase fees or if it was the responsibility of the board. Ms. Hovenden stated that AS 08.01.065 stipulated set fees that approximated the cost of the program. She added that the division considered advise from the board regarding fee changes. She relayed that the fee schedule was ultimately the responsibility of the state. She noted the program's past deficit, had lead to the rise in fee. She furthered that the courtesy license fee was less because it covered a shorter duration of coverage. Co-Chair MacKinnon stated that it had been suggested that the state was charging fees for veterinarians coming to the state to perform a public service. She wondered whether all of the fees associated with the practice were justified Ms. Hovenden relayed that all applicants went through identical screening and required board approval. Dr. Berngartt affirmed that all licensing was reviewed in the same manner. Co-Chair MacKinnon queried the timeline and possible challenges for the licensing process. 3:05:23 PM Dr. Berngartt said that she could not speak to having ever missed a deadline or failed to license an applicant in a timely manner. She could not speak to the licensing practices of other states. She said that if people were under investigation for misconduct - states did communicate on the matter. Ms. Hovenden had found that since 2012, through March 2017, there had been no courtesy licenses denied. 3:06:56 PM Senator Micciche understood that the bill would extend the termination date of the board but that the issues surrounding veterinary practices in the state could be approached through specific legislation. He offered to help to work to craft solutions for problems in rural areas of the state. 3:08:18 PM Senator Olson asked whether the veterinary community had a national databank for licensees. Dr. Berngartt stated that there was an American Association of State Veterinary Boards but thought that there was not a national database. She continued that every state had its own licensing exam and standards. 3:10:41 PM Senator Olson asked for commentary on the testimony that had recommended a shorted board extension. Dr. Berngartt thought that the testifier was possibly misinformed of the term limits for board members. She did not believe that the board should be involved in dictating where veterinarians practiced in the state. She believed that communities needed to develop strategies to provide veterinary services in their areas. She stressed that the board could not provide direct services. 3:12:45 PM Vice-Chair Bishop asked whether an individual homeowner in rural Alaska could administer a vaccination with a hypodermic needle. Dr. Berngartt specified that there were vaccines that individuals could order but there were quality control issues. She added that private individuals could not administer the rabies vaccine at home. She recalled that there had been a lay vaccinator program, which had provided the vaccine, training, and refrigeration but that the program had been discontinued due to funding and liability. She thought that the question should be directed to the Department of Epidemiology. 3:14:17 PM Senator Micciche relayed that he was ok with the bill moving forward. Co-Chair MacKinnon thought that the bill could be used to address the proper licensure needed to ensure proper animal care in the state. 3:15:44 PM Co-Chair MacKinnon drew attention to the Page 4 of the audit findings: Two regulatory changes improved and increased veterinary services in bush communities. Regulation 12 AAC 68.041 added spay-and neuter clinics to the courtesy license definition of special event. This allows visiting veterinarians to provide spay-and- neuter services in bush communities. Additionally, regulation 12 AAC 68.300 amended veterinary technician duties to allow licensed veterinary technicians, employed by a licensed veterinarian, to receive guidance remotely while providing services in communities with no established veterinary practice. Co-Chair MacKinnon asked whether there was additional information in the audit regarding rural communities. Ms. Curtis stated that the audit had been structured to examine the rural issue during the planning phase, field work had been done to see what the board had done in response to the concerns, it had been identified that the board had acted to change regulation and make improvements in the area. 3:17:23 PM Senator Micciche wondered which agency the committee should work with to answer the concerns of rural Alaska. Ms. Curtis thought there was a state veterinarian, employed by the state, who would be a resource for rural Alaskans. Senator Micciche appreciated the testifier from Arkansas and spoke to the vast size of the state. Co-Chair MacKinnon stated that the committee could discuss the fiscal note the following day. Co-Chair MacKinnon discussed housekeeping.