Legislature(2013 - 2014)HOUSE FINANCE 519

02/20/2013 01:30 PM FINANCE

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01:36:08 PM Start
01:38:20 PM Confirmations: Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority Board of Trustees
02:13:26 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Confirmation Hearings: Alaska Mental Health TELECONFERENCED
Trust Authority Board of Trustees
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                  HOUSE FINANCE COMMITTEE                                                                                       
                     February 20, 2013                                                                                          
                         1:36 p.m.                                                                                              
1:36:08 PM                                                                                                                    
CALL TO ORDER                                                                                                                 
Co-Chair Austerman called the House Finance Committee                                                                           
meeting to order at 1:36 p.m.                                                                                                   
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Representative Alan Austerman, Co-Chair                                                                                         
Representative Bill Stoltze, Co-Chair                                                                                           
Representative Mark Neuman, Vice-Chair                                                                                          
Representative Mia Costello                                                                                                     
Representative Bryce Edgmon                                                                                                     
Representative Les Gara                                                                                                         
Representative Lindsey Holmes                                                                                                   
Representative Scott Kawasaki, Alternate                                                                                        
Representative Cathy Munoz                                                                                                      
Representative Steve Thompson                                                                                                   
Representative Tammie Wilson                                                                                                    
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Representative David Guttenberg                                                                                                 
ALSO PRESENT                                                                                                                  
PRESENT VIA TELECONFERENCE                                                                                                    
Paula Easley, Trustee Mental Health Authority; Russell                                                                          
Webb, Trustee Mental Health Authority;                                                                                          
     ^CONFIRMATIONS: ALASKA MENTAL HEALTH TRUST AUTHORITY                                                                     
     BOARD OF TRUSTEES                                                                                                        
     Paula Easley, Anchorage                                                                                                    
     Russell Webb, Anchorage                                                                                                    
1:38:20 PM                                                                                                                    
PAULA   EASLEY,  TRUSTEE   MENTAL   HEALTH  AUTHORITY   (via                                                                    
teleconference),  testified to  her intention  to seek  more                                                                    
accurate  statewide  data  regarding beneficiary  needs  and                                                                    
services so that trustees could  make the best decisions for                                                                    
allocating trust resources  and fro funding recommendations.                                                                    
She stated that  within the next year  the legislature would                                                                    
have a clearer picture of  the mental health need around the                                                                    
state. She  asserted that the  trustees were aware  that the                                                                    
cost of  behavioral health services would  only increase due                                                                    
to   potential   Affordable   Care  Act   requirements   and                                                                    
population  growth.  She  said  that  intensive  efforts  to                                                                    
generate  long-term revenues  from trust  lands and  natural                                                                    
resources would continue to be  a major focus. She felt that                                                                    
the trust  office was  performing better  than ever  and was                                                                    
making long  rage plans  to insure  that funding  for future                                                                    
needs  was   in  place.  She   noted  that  the   trust  was                                                                    
experiencing a rapid growth in  the senior population, which                                                                    
was the most costly of all age groups.                                                                                          
1:40:59 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Gara  appreciated the  past work done  by Ms.                                                                    
Easley and  the relationship he  and she had  cultivated. He                                                                    
wondered  whether the  trust  could  receive royalties  from                                                                    
Cook Inlet gas leases.                                                                                                          
Ms.  Easley stated  that the  trust was  working on  getting                                                                    
natural  gas leases.  She  said that  if  anything could  be                                                                    
done, the trust land office was  doing it. She said that the                                                                    
trust  was   optimistic  with   the  exploration   that  was                                                                    
currently occurring.                                                                                                            
Representative Gara  asked if the  trust currently  had Cook                                                                    
Inlet gas leases.                                                                                                               
Ms. Easley stated yes.                                                                                                          
Representative  Gara noted  that  the  state was  struggling                                                                    
with  whether  or not  to  accept  the Affordable  Care  Act                                                                    
provision on  federal funding to  expand Medicaid.  He asked                                                                    
if the trust had an opinion on the matter.                                                                                      
Ms. Easley  responded that she  was looking into  the issue.                                                                    
She stated that the amount  of information on both sides was                                                                    
overwhelming. She  felt that at  this point the  trust would                                                                    
lean towards supporting  the expansion. She added  that on a                                                                    
personal level  she was seldom  a fan of  federal government                                                                    
operation,  she believed  that the  best  services could  be                                                                    
rendered closest to the people  who would benefit from them.                                                                    
She  hoped that  the  state would  make  the most  effective                                                                    
decision. She believed that  there was considerable research                                                                    
being done on the issue.                                                                                                        
1:44:42 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Gara stated that she had his vote.                                                                               
Representative  Holmes appreciated  the work  of the  board.                                                                    
She discussed the Long House  issue and how her district was                                                                    
going to  deal with  housing people  with mental  illness or                                                                    
chronic substance  abuse. She  shared that  similar projects                                                                    
had been completed in a  piecemeal manner and encouraged the                                                                    
trust to  have more  community conversations  concerning how                                                                    
to house people.                                                                                                                
1:46:21 PM                                                                                                                    
Ms. Easley stated that she would be happy to accommodate.                                                                       
1:46:46 PM                                                                                                                    
RUSSELL   WEBB,  TRUSTEE   MENTAL   HEALTH  AUTHORITY   (via                                                                    
teleconference),  testified  that  the trust  was  making  a                                                                    
serious  effort  to  develop resources  in  order  to  build                                                                    
principal and  increase the spendable  income of  the trust.                                                                    
He believed that the trust land  office in the best shape he                                                                    
had ever witnessed. He shared  that the trust was working to                                                                    
develop  its resources.  He  noted the  gas  leases in  Cook                                                                    
Inlet, multiple mining and  mineral development leases, gold                                                                    
leases in the Fairbanks area  and coal leases in other areas                                                                    
of  the state.  He admitted  that  none of  the leases  were                                                                    
without controversy  but they  hold a  potential opportunity                                                                    
that the trustees  could not ignore. He  understood that the                                                                    
trust  would  be the  largest  contributor  to services  for                                                                    
trust beneficiaries,  but he hoped to  focus trust resources                                                                    
on the problems  that were significant in the  impact to the                                                                    
state, predominately housing.                                                                                                   
1:50:27 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Gara  offered  appreciation for  Mr.  Webb's                                                                    
work  with the  trust. He  hoped that  the trust  would look                                                                    
into  spreading some  of  the services  around  the city  of                                                                    
Anchorage, rather  than containing them to  areas where land                                                                    
prices  were low.  He understood  the  benefit of  providing                                                                    
"wet"   housing,  but   urged  the   trust  to   keep  those                                                                    
establishments out of neighborhoods.                                                                                            
Mr. Webb  appreciated the comment.  He stated that  his work                                                                    
with various entities required  different tactics. He opined                                                                    
that  housing  for  the  people  served  by  the  trust  was                                                                    
unwelcome in  virtually any neighborhood.  He said  that the                                                                    
challenge  of  the trust  was  to  try to  find  appropriate                                                                    
housing  for  the people  it  served,  while respecting  the                                                                    
desires of the community. He  shared that the difficulty was                                                                    
finding   ways  of   developing   housing   that  was   less                                                                    
concentrated. He understood that  people in communities were                                                                    
concerned about  potentially dangerous problems.  He assured                                                                    
the committee that the trust  was sensitive to locations for                                                                    
the housing projects.  He relayed that he  lived in Downtown                                                                    
Anchorage and encountered the mentally  ill on a daily basis                                                                    
as he walked the trail system.                                                                                                  
1:55:09 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Gara  stated that one  of the areas  that the                                                                    
trust held a  coal lease was in the Chuitna  Coal Mine area,                                                                    
which would  tear up 17  miles of salmon stream  and replace                                                                    
it  in 30  years. He  hopes that  Mr. Webb  would exert  any                                                                    
control he had over the  development of the project in order                                                                    
to limit the environmental devastation.                                                                                         
1:56:08 PM                                                                                                                    
Mr. Webb  was aware of and  shared some of the  concerns. He                                                                    
reminded the committee that he  retained a different role as                                                                    
a trustee  than he had in  his private life. He  assured the                                                                    
committee that the  trust was attempting to  be sensitive to                                                                    
the  larger  community  as   resources  were  developed.  He                                                                    
offered that  none of the  members of the board  were mining                                                                    
experts. He stressed that the  trustees were eager to listen                                                                    
to  the concerns  that people  brought for  the as  resource                                                                    
development work progressed. He said  that the trust had the                                                                    
responsibility to  address the concerns  to the best  of its                                                                    
1:57:42 PM                                                                                                                    
Ms. Easley  interjected that  the state  requirements during                                                                    
the   regulatory  process   required   the  most   stringent                                                                    
restrictions on  impact to the  residents and  businesses in                                                                    
the area  of the  Chuitna Coal Mine.  She believed  that the                                                                    
regulatory  process was  reasonable and  was confident  that                                                                    
the involved departments would do  everything in their power                                                                    
to ensure that people were protected.                                                                                           
1:59:02 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stoltze  queried the growing demographic  of people                                                                    
with autism  and drug  addiction. He  wondered how  Mr. Webb                                                                    
would prioritize funding.                                                                                                       
Mr. Webb replied that he  focused on those with the greatest                                                                    
need. He thought  that the assistance should go  to the most                                                                    
vulnerable. He saw alcohol as  an issue with the longest and                                                                    
most  severe   impact  on  the   state  both   directly  and                                                                    
indirectly.  He believed  that getting  ahead  of the  curve                                                                    
regarding  domestic violence  and  child abuse  should be  a                                                                    
priority.  He  advocated  for focusing  resources  on  those                                                                    
problems   that  caused   the   state   the  most   profound                                                                    
2:03:00 PM                                                                                                                    
Ms. Easley agreed  with Mr. Webb. She said  that the impacts                                                                    
of substance  abuse were  could be  found across  the board.                                                                    
She  thought that  the focus  should be  on prevention.  She                                                                    
expressed  concern at  the  lack of  available  jobs in  the                                                                    
places where  they were needed.  She noted that  people felt                                                                    
more dignified  when they could provide  for their families.                                                                    
She  advocated  for  opportunities,  particularly  in  rural                                                                    
areas,  for  jobs  in the  natural  resource  industry.  She                                                                    
opined  that  the  sense of  hopelessness  felt  from  being                                                                    
unemployed  set   the  stage   for  domestic   violence  and                                                                    
substance abuse.                                                                                                                
2:06:36 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Stoltze appreciated  the comments.  He noted  that                                                                    
Representative Wilson had joined the meeting.                                                                                   
Representative Munoz  asked about  the development  plan for                                                                    
the sub-port land in Downtown Juneau.                                                                                           
Ms. Easley  stated that an  attempt to develop the  land had                                                                    
yet to work  out. She said that plans for  the land had been                                                                    
placed on hold for the time being.                                                                                              
Co-Chair Stoltze thanked the trustees for their service.                                                                        
2:09:05 PM                                                                                                                    
Ms. Easley  noted that  the trust had  been focusing  on the                                                                    
employment of  beneficiaries. She  reiterated that  when the                                                                    
economy was  thriving there would be  more opportunities for                                                                    
trust beneficiaries to become employed.                                                                                         
Co-Chair Stoltze  stated that the committee  could not block                                                                    
a confirmation.                                                                                                                 
Representative Costello MOVED that  the names of Paula Easly                                                                    
and  Russel  Webb  be  forwarded   from  the  House  Finance                                                                    
Committee  as reconfirmations  to the  Alaska Mental  Health                                                                    
Board of Trustees on February 20, 2013.                                                                                         
There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered.                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stoltze discussed housekeeping.                                                                                        
Vice-Chair Neuman stated  that budget subcommittee overviews                                                                    
were complete.                                                                                                                  
Co-Chair Stoltze further discussed housekeeping.                                                                                
2:13:26 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Kawasaki  queried  when a  list  of  invited                                                                    
testimony  for  the  February  21,  2013  meeting  would  be                                                                    
Co-Chair Stoltze said tomorrow.                                                                                                 
Vice-Chair Neuman  stated that the invited  testimony for HB                                                                    
24 would  include a representative  from the  National Rifle                                                                    
Representative  Gara  spoke  to the  invited  testimony.  He                                                                    
hoped that the testimony would be as balanced as possible.                                                                      
Co-Chair  Stoltze  believed  that there  would  be  vigorous                                                                    
debated from both sides.                                                                                                        
Co-Chair  Stoltze reminded  the committee  that it  would be                                                                    
the first hearing of the legislation.                                                                                           
The meeting was adjourned at 2:16 p.m.                                                                                          

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