Legislature(2017 - 2018)SENATE FINANCE 532

05/01/2018 01:30 PM FINANCE

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Delayed to 2:00 p.m. --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Moved HB 56 Out of Committee
Moved HB 150 Out of Committee
Moved CSHB 217(FIN) Out of Committee
Moved CSHB 219(JUD) Out of Committee
Moved SCS CSHB 299(FIN) Out of Committee
Moved SCS CSHB 151(FIN) Out of Committee
CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 151(FIN)                                                                                                
     "An Act  relating to  the duties  of the  Department of                                                                    
     Health and  Social Services;  relating to  training and                                                                    
     workload standards  for employees of the  Department of                                                                    
     Health and Social Services  and providing immunity from                                                                    
     damages related to those  standards; relating to foster                                                                    
     care  home licensing;  relating to  civil and  criminal                                                                    
     history  background checks  for  foster care  licensing                                                                    
     and payments; relating to placement  of a child in need                                                                    
     of aid; relating to the  rights and responsibilities of                                                                    
     foster parents; requiring the  Department of Health and                                                                    
     Social Services  to provide information  to a  child or                                                                    
     person  released  from  the department's  custody;  and                                                                    
     providing for an effective date."                                                                                          
2:45:05 PM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair Bishop  MOVED to  ADOPT the  committee substitute                                                                    
for CSHB 151(FIN), Work Draft 30-LS0451\P (Laffen, 5/1/18).                                                                     
Co-Chair MacKinnon OBJECTED for discussion.                                                                                     
2:45:24 PM                                                                                                                    
JULI  LUCKY, STAFF,  SENATOR ANNA  MACKINNON, explained  the                                                                    
committee substitute (CS). She  indicated that the committee                                                                    
had expressed concerns and wanted  to hold the Department of                                                                    
Health  and Social  Services  (DHSS)  accountable to  ensure                                                                    
that the  provisions in the  bill would improve  the system.                                                                    
The  changes  in  the  CS   were  advanced  to  address  the                                                                    
concerns. She read from the  document titled "Explanation of                                                                    
Changes SCS  for CS for  HB 151 version:  30-LS0451\P" (copy                                                                    
on file) and the intent language:                                                                                               
     Adds  Section  2,  which requires  an  audit  to  begin                                                                    
     within one  year and requires the  Office of Children's                                                                    
     Services  to cooperate  in completing  the  audit as  a                                                                    
     condition of accepting  additional funding provided for                                                                    
     in this bill. See page 2, lines 4-9.                                                                                       
          LEGISLATIVE  INTENT.  It  is  the  intent  of  the                                                                    
          legislature  that the  division of  the Department                                                                    
          of Health and  Social Services with responsibility                                                                    
          over the  custody of children,  in   accepting the                                                                    
          additional   resources  made   available  to   the                                                                    
          division under this Act, be  subject to  and agree                                                                    
          to cooperate with a  special audit conducted under                                                                    
          AS  24.20.281, as  approved  by  the   Legislative                                                                    
          Budget and  Audit Committee,  to begin  within one                                                                    
          year after  the effective  date of   secs. 1  - 22                                                                    
          and 24 of this Act.                                                                                                   
     Adds additional  content to be  provided if  a staffing                                                                    
     report is needed under AS  47.14.112(b), which is added                                                                    
     by this  bill. See  page 12, line  22 through  page 13,                                                                    
     line 5.                                                                                                                    
     Adds additional content to be  provided in the existing                                                                    
     annual  report required  under AS  18.05.020. See  page                                                                    
     13, line 18 though page 14, line 9.                                                                                        
Ms.  Lucky  elaborated  that   the  second  provision  added                                                                    
additional items  to the staffing  report that  was required                                                                    
if  case  limits  were  not  met.  She  read  the  following                                                                    
additional items from the CS as noted above:                                                                                    
     (1)  the  number  of employees  who  vacated  positions                                                                    
     during the 28 reporting period;                                                                                            
    (2) the number of funded positions that are vacant;                                                                         
     (3)  a  description  of efforts  made  to  recruit  and                                                                    
     retain employees;                                                                                                          
     (4)  if the  department determines  additional employee                                                                    
     positions  are necessary  to  meet  the standards,  the                                                                    
     number and cost of the additional positions;                                                                               
     (5) if the department  determines additional funding is                                                                    
     necessary  to  meet  the   standards,  the  amount  and                                                                    
     purpose of the additional funding; and                                                                                     
     (6) the  effects on a  child and the child's  family of                                                                    
     the department's inability to meet the standards.                                                                          
Ms. Lucky commented on the third change that required                                                                           
additional content to the annual report. She read the                                                                           
additional items from the CS:                                                                                                   
     (1) the number of  frontline social workers employed by                                                                    
     the division,  the annual average turnover  rate of the                                                                    
     workers,  and the  average caseload  of the  workers on                                                                    
     January 1 and July 1 of that year;                                                                                         
   (2) the number of children removed from their homes;                                                                         
     (3)  the   achievement  of  success  measured   by  the                                                                    
           (A) rate of family reunification;                                                                                    
           (B) average length of time children spent in                                                                         
               custody of the  department;                                                                                      
           (C) rate of placement with an adult family                                                                           
               member or family friend;                                                                                         
           (D) number of children placed in a permanent                                                                         
           living arrangement with a guardian or                                                                                
               biological or adoptive parent;                                                                                   
         (E) number of children released from the                                                                               
               department's custody;                                                                                            
      (4) if the department has met or exceeded the                                                                             
     caseload standards under this chapter and, if the                                                                          
     standards were exceeded, the number of caseworker                                                                          
     positions in the division that could be eliminated and                                                                     
     the amount of funding that could be reduced while                                                                          
     continuing to meet but not routinely exceed the                                                                            
     caseload standards;                                                                                                        
      (5) the performance of the department on federal                                                                          
     benchmarks focused                                                                                                         
     on the safety, well-being,  and permanent placements of                                                                    
     foster children compared with the previous five years.                                                                     
2:49:47 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator Olson queried how the sponsor of the bill felt                                                                          
about the changes in the CS. Co-Chair MacKinnon stated that                                                                     
the sponsor would be available to speak to the changes.                                                                         
Ms. Lucky  remarked that she  had been working  closely with                                                                    
the sponsor,  committee members, the Legislative  Budget and                                                                    
Audit Committee (LBA),  and DHSS to ensure  the changes were                                                                    
acceptable,  enforceable,  and  did not  impact  the  fiscal                                                                    
Senator Olson asked whether  Representative Gara favored the                                                                    
changes in the bill.                                                                                                            
2:50:50 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   LES   GARA,   SPONSOR,   replied   in   the                                                                    
affirmative. He  believed the new  provisions made  the bill                                                                    
Co-Chair MacKinnon  WITHDREW the  OBJECTION. There  being NO                                                                    
further  OBJECTION, the  proposed  committee substitute  was                                                                    
2:51:20 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  MacKinnon asked  Representative  Gara to  describe                                                                    
what  the  bill  accomplished  and  how  the  bill  improved                                                                    
outcomes  for  foster  children.  She shared  that  she  and                                                                    
Senator  von   Imhof  met  with  Kris   Curtis,  Legislative                                                                    
Auditor, Alaska Division of Legislative  Audit to figure out                                                                    
how  to  structure  an  audit  "to  understand  the  dynamic                                                                    
situation  that children  in foster  care were  facing," how                                                                    
the   state  was   responding  to   their  needs,   and  how                                                                    
efficiently DHSS was functioning.  In addition, she met with                                                                    
Senator Steadman, Chair  of LBA to determine  if the funding                                                                    
source was available.  The bill was held  in committee until                                                                    
the members could ascertain whether  the department was able                                                                    
to accomplish the goals of the bill.                                                                                            
Representative  Gara communicated  that  the  state had  the                                                                    
worst rates  of child  abuse, neglect,  and sexual  abuse in                                                                    
the country.  The state  had numerous  youths in  the foster                                                                    
care   system.  He   delineated   that  evidence   supported                                                                    
establishing  rational  caseload   limits  for  workers  who                                                                    
provided  support  for  the children  and  families  in  the                                                                    
system. A  direct link  existed between  caseworker turnover                                                                    
and  failure within  the system  for children  and families.                                                                    
The goal of  the bill was not to put  the foster care system                                                                    
out  of business  but to  get children  out of  foster care.                                                                    
When crafting  the legislation, he  followed the  best model                                                                    
in the country,  which was from the state of  New Jersey. He                                                                    
noted  that New  Jersey had  been court  ordered to  fix its                                                                    
foster care system and the  Alaska legislature was acting on                                                                    
its  own  accord. He  recounted  that  the bill  established                                                                    
nationally  recognized case  limits  that reduced  turnover.                                                                    
Reduced  staff  turnover  ensured  that  caseworkers  had  a                                                                    
relationship  with the  families  and  children they  worked                                                                    
with. In addition, new case  workers would receive a minimum                                                                    
of six  weeks of training and  would carry no more  than six                                                                    
cases/families in  the first three  months, and  12 families                                                                    
in the  first six months.  For other case workers,  the bill                                                                    
established a statewide average caseload  of no more than 13                                                                    
families  per worker.  He furthered  that the  bill remedied                                                                    
internal practices  within the  Office of  Children Services                                                                    
(OCS)  and adopted  the "Prudent  Parent Standard"  that was                                                                    
adopted by 13  other states. He explained  that the standard                                                                    
allowed  foster  parents to  travel  with  the foster  child                                                                    
without special  permission. He offered that  OCS would work                                                                    
with families  on issues like  variances for  building codes                                                                    
to  help  families obtain  a  foster  care license  quickly.                                                                    
Another provision  empowered foster youth, beginning  at age                                                                    
14, to  participate in their  case plan,  which strengthened                                                                    
the ability  for siblings  to stay  together or  in contact.                                                                    
The bill  recognized that  youth without  family connections                                                                    
needed  to  maintain  contact  with  positive  prior  foster                                                                    
families   and   required   OCS    to   help   sustain   the                                                                    
relationships.  The bill  also strengthened  the requirement                                                                    
to search for  relatives before placing a  child with foster                                                                    
parents, recognizing  that placements with family  are often                                                                    
the best and  most loving option for youth  and could become                                                                    
permanent. He  pointed out that  some minor  provisions like                                                                    
guaranteeing that foster children  left foster care with all                                                                    
their  basic  documents  necessary  in life  such  as  birth                                                                    
certificates, were included in the bill.                                                                                        
2:57:39 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair MacKinnon asked  whether Representative Gara wanted                                                                    
to  add   further  comments  regarding  reductions   in  the                                                                    
caseworker  turnover   rate  as  a  goal   of  the  training                                                                    
standards.  Representative Gara  reported that  the evidence                                                                    
in New  Jersey showed  that reduced turnover  rate decreased                                                                    
the time children spent in  foster care. The caseworkers had                                                                    
more time to  find family members, get children  back in the                                                                    
custody  of   their  parents   when  appropriate,   or  find                                                                    
permanent   homes.  The   overall   limits,  training,   and                                                                    
decreased  caseload  in  the   first  three  months  largely                                                                    
contributed to treating children  with dignity and minimized                                                                    
trauma.  He pointed  out that  lowered caseloads  within the                                                                    
first three  months was  recognized as  a gold  standard and                                                                    
the federal  government paid 75  percent of the  costs under                                                                    
the standard.                                                                                                                   
Senator Stevens thought that  the legislation was important.                                                                    
He  referenced  OCS's  failure  to  find  foster  children's                                                                    
family members  and wondered how  the bill ensured  that the                                                                    
provision  would be  followed. Representative  Gara answered                                                                    
that the  decreased case loads  would enable  the caseworker                                                                    
more  time to  identify family  members. He  elucidated that                                                                    
the process was difficult and  required working with the ex-                                                                    
custodial  parents. The  bill  provided  a supervisor  check                                                                    
list that ensured the search was thoroughly undertaken.                                                                         
3:00:50 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair MacKinnon  related that  one of the  challenges the                                                                    
committee explored was how to  distinguish between goals and                                                                    
standards versus  limits. She understood  limits differently                                                                    
than Representative Gara. She  noted that the bill contained                                                                    
limits on  new hires  during training, but  also established                                                                    
standards   for   caseloads,    training,   prudent   parent                                                                    
standards,  etc., and  thought that  standards offered  DHSS                                                                    
flexibility in implementation  versus limits. She determined                                                                    
that  standards were  easier to  report about  and evaluate.                                                                    
She observed  that the bill  was adopting standards  and not                                                                    
limits.  She  asked  whether the  sponsor  agreed  with  her                                                                    
interpretation.   Representative   Gara  was   in   complete                                                                    
agreement with  Co-Chair MacKinnon's statements  and offered                                                                    
that the 13 caseload limit was an average and not a limit.                                                                      
3:02:32 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair MacKinnon  cited the Legal  Memo dated May  1, 2018                                                                    
regarding DHSS workload standards  (copy on file) related to                                                                    
the  new committee  substitute. She  reported that  the bill                                                                    
would need a  title change. She read from  the legal opinion                                                                    
regarding workload standards:                                                                                                   
     ? The  report must  explain the reasons  the department                                                                    
     was unable to meet  the standards and include specified                                                                    
     information. The  draft includes no  other consequences                                                                    
     or  penalties   for  failure   to  meet   the  workload                                                                    
Co-Chair MacKinnon  emphasized that  she wanted  the opinion                                                                    
on  the  record  to  point  out  that  the  legislature  was                                                                    
responsible for providing the resources  and tools for youth                                                                    
placed in foster care and  ensure they get the best possible                                                                    
3:04:06 PM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair Bishop  reviewed the DHSS fiscal  impact note, FN                                                                    
12  (DHS), allocated  to  Children's  Services Training.  He                                                                    
noted that the total  expenditure was $145.6 thousand; $62.6                                                                    
thousand  from   federal  receipts   and  $83   thousand  in                                                                    
Undesignated General Funds (UGF).                                                                                               
Co-Chair MacKinnon  indicated that  the other  fiscal impact                                                                    
note,  FN11 (DHS),  was for  DHSS, allocated  to Front  Line                                                                    
Social Workers.                                                                                                                 
3:05:25 PM                                                                                                                    
CHRISTY  LAWTON, DIRECTOR,  OFFICE  OF CHILDREN'S  SERVICES,                                                                    
ANCHORAGE (via  teleconference), spoke  to the  fiscal note.                                                                    
She reported  that the  fiscal note  was allocated  to Front                                                                    
Line Social Workers  in the amount of $1.970  million for FY                                                                    
2019  was funded  at  75 percent.  The  amount increased  to                                                                    
$2.35 million in FY 2020  and the outyears. Federal Receipts                                                                    
covered $799  thousand and the remaining  $1.551 million was                                                                    
GF. She elucidated that the  department worked diligently to                                                                    
develop  a  methodology for  the  fiscal  note numbers.  The                                                                    
department  relied on  prior reports  on workloads  from the                                                                    
contracted  experts,  Hornby  Zeller  Associates,  Inc.  The                                                                    
reports contained staffing formulas  for best case scenarios                                                                    
based on the  "national lens of child  welfare." Without any                                                                    
national  agreed upon  data available,  the department  used                                                                    
the reports  to help  build the  fiscal notes.  In addition,                                                                    
the department  recognized the 31 new  positions received in                                                                    
FY 2018 that reduced the HB 151 fiscal note.                                                                                    
3:07:20 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair MacKinnon  related that there was  concern over the                                                                    
21 new  positions requested in  the fiscal note.  She shared                                                                    
that she  had met with  DHSS regarding the fiscal  note. She                                                                    
had   requested  information   regarding  the   department's                                                                    
vacancy rate  and asked for  the current figure.  Ms. Lawton                                                                    
replied  that  a  current  vacancy   rate  estimate  was  48                                                                    
positions. Co-Chair  MacKinnon voiced  that often  money was                                                                    
not appropriated for new positions  due to a vacancy factor.                                                                    
She asked how  many positions within the  vacancy factor did                                                                    
not have funding attached to them.                                                                                              
3:09:21 PM                                                                                                                    
SHAWNDA   O'BRIEN,  ASSISTANT   COMMISSIONER,  FINANCE   AND                                                                    
MANAGEMENT  SERVICES,   DEPARTMENT  OF  HEALTH   AND  SOCIAL                                                                    
SERVICES,  stated that  DHSS  had  performed assessments  or                                                                    
"true up" over the last  several years on the budget numbers                                                                    
and positions  and eliminated or reduced  the positions that                                                                    
were not  funded. She delineated that  funding positions and                                                                    
the  vacancy factor  created confusion.  The vacancy  factor                                                                    
was applied  to the  cost of the  positions and  "the number                                                                    
was reflective of how the  positions were funded." Often the                                                                    
position  costs  exceeded   the  funding  appropriated.  The                                                                    
vacancy factor  was a  "tool imposed by  OMB to  account for                                                                    
things  like  turnover."  Therefore,  positions  were  never                                                                    
fully  funded   under  the  assumption  that   turnover  and                                                                    
vacancies  will happen.  She furthered  that the  department                                                                    
did not hold  most positions vacant, especially  in the case                                                                    
of front  line social workers  and continued to  recruit the                                                                    
positions  because historically,  the  vacancy exceeded  the                                                                    
vacancy factor.                                                                                                                 
3:10:59 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator von Imhof relayed that  every department had vacancy                                                                    
factors and  a mechanism had  not been developed  other than                                                                    
undertaking  a   payroll  analysis  that   measured  payroll                                                                    
against  the  budget appropriated  for  a  fiscal year.  She                                                                    
surmised  that  OCS  currently had  219  positions  and  the                                                                    
department typically had between  48 to 65 positions vacant.                                                                    
She  deduced that  not  all the  OCS  positions were  filled                                                                    
during  a  fiscal  year.  She  asked  whether  all  the  219                                                                    
positions  were  fully  funded  and  if  extra  funding  for                                                                    
positions  was discovered  during the  true up.  She thought                                                                    
the  excess  might  be  spent on  other  things  within  the                                                                    
department, "which was not necessarily  a bad thing but it's                                                                    
just important to know" the  details. Ms. O'Brien provided a                                                                    
real  example.  She  explained  that  in  FY  2017  the  219                                                                    
positions for  front line social  workers cost  $50 million.                                                                    
The positions  were funded using  federal funds and  GF. The                                                                    
amount approved  was $47.9 million. She  emphasized that the                                                                    
department  rarely   received  the  total  amount   for  the                                                                    
positions.   She  indicated   that   for  larger   budgetary                                                                    
components  like the  front line  social workers  DHSS never                                                                    
received  the  total  amount necessary  to  keep  the  total                                                                    
amount  of  positions  fully staffed  throughout  the  year.                                                                    
Throughout the  FY 17  fiscal year  she discovered  that the                                                                    
department was  collecting more federal funds  than spending                                                                    
GF.  The  department  requested increased  federal  spending                                                                    
authority  by  $6.5  million  to  continue  to  collect  the                                                                    
federal  receipts  the  department claimed  to  expend.  The                                                                    
department  expended the  excess  GF to  offset foster  care                                                                    
special  needs and  the base  rate because  the expenditures                                                                    
for  the components  increased due  to increased  caseloads.                                                                    
Rather than  increase the supplemental  request for  FY 2017                                                                    
the department  used the excess  general funds in  the front                                                                    
line social worker component to offset the need.                                                                                
3:15:26 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair MacKinnon  asked that if the  committee reduced the                                                                    
vacancy  factor  would  the   department  need  the  21  new                                                                    
positions. Ms. O'Brien surmised  that Co-Chair MacKinnon was                                                                    
asking if  all the positions  were filled "rather  than have                                                                    
the vacancies." She recounted that  Ms. Lawton believed that                                                                    
the division "would have adequate  staffing if the positions                                                                    
did not turnover and was able to retain staff."                                                                                 
Co-Chair MacKinnon  relayed that  Senator von  Imhof's staff                                                                    
explained  the  vacancy factor  to  her  in context  of  the                                                                    
fiscal  note. She  characterized the  situation as  a "surge                                                                    
program." She  provided the example of  a department vacancy                                                                    
rate of 49  percent and the division's  219 caseworkers with                                                                    
a  49  percent turnover  rate.  She  stated that  the  three                                                                    
factors  together meant  the department  could never  "catch                                                                    
up." The division was losing  too many employees; therefore,                                                                    
the fiscal note  represented a "surge" in  spending to raise                                                                    
the number of social workers  in order to implement the best                                                                    
practice  provisions in  the bill.  The result  would reduce                                                                    
the turnover rate  in the long term decreasing  the need for                                                                    
personnel if the caseloads were managed at a lower level.                                                                       
Vice-Chair   Bishop   appreciated   the   clarity   Co-Chair                                                                    
MacKinnon  provided. He  believed that  the state  could not                                                                    
afford a  50 percent  increase in  OCS cases  in the  next 4                                                                    
years. The current increase of  social workers was necessary                                                                    
to "stem the tide" of future cases.                                                                                             
Co-Chair   MacKinnon   relayed   that   she   received   the                                                                    
information regarding  the vacancy rate: 46  caseworkers and                                                                    
two supervisory positions were currently vacant.                                                                                
3:18:54 PM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair Bishop MOVED to REPORT SCS CSHB 151(FIN) from                                                                        
committee with individual recommendations and accompanying                                                                      
fiscal notes. There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered.                                                                      
SCS CSHB 151(FIN) was REPORTED out of committee with a "do                                                                      
pass" recommendation and with two fiscal impact notes: FN                                                                       
11 (DHS) and FN 12(DHS).                                                                                                        
3:19:22 PM                                                                                                                    
AT EASE                                                                                                                         
3:21:48 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair MacKinnon discussed committee business.                                                                                

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB219 CSSD Letter to S FIN.pdf SFIN 5/1/2018 1:30:00 PM
HB 219
HB 299 Additional Backup - Legal Services.pdf SFIN 5/1/2018 1:30:00 PM
HB 299
HB151 SCS FIN work draft version P.pdf SFIN 5/1/2018 1:30:00 PM
HB 151
HB151 SCS FIN v. P Explanation.pdf SFIN 5/1/2018 1:30:00 PM
HB 151
HB 299 Amendment 1 Stevens.pdf SFIN 5/1/2018 1:30:00 PM
HB 299
HB 151 Legal Services Memo HB 151 v.P.pdf SFIN 5/1/2018 1:30:00 PM
HB 151