Legislature(1997 - 1998)

03/19/1998 04:37 PM MLV

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
             HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON                                        
           MILITARY AND VETERANS' AFFAIRS                                      
                   March 19, 1998                                              
                     4:37 p.m.                                                 
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                
Representative Beverly Masek, Chair                                            
Representative Joe Ryan                                                        
Representative Pete Kott                                                       
Representative Eldon Mulder                                                    
Representative Richard Foster                                                  
Representative Reggie Joule                                                    
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                 
Representative Irene Nicholia                                                  
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                             
CONFIRMATION HEARING:                                                          
ANG Assistant Adjutant General                                                 
     Brigadier General Stephen P. Korenek                                      
     - CONFIRMATION ADVANCED                                                   
HOUSE BILL NO. 356                                                             
"An Act establishing the Joint Committee on Military Bases in                  
Alaska; and providing for an effective date."                                  
     - MOVED CSHB 356(MLV) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                    
* HOUSE BILL NO. 464                                                           
"An Act relating to state veterans' home facilities."                          
     - MOVED HB 464 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                           
(* First public hearing)                                                       
PREVIOUS ACTION                                                                
BILL: HB 356                                                                   
SHORT TITLE: JOINT TASK FORCE ON MILITARY BASES                                
SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVES(S) MULDER, Dyson, Foster, Croft, Ivan              
Jrn-Date    Jrn-Page           Action                                          
01/26/98      2138     (H)  READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S)                  

01/26/98 2138 (H) MLV 03/10/98 (H) MLV AT 4:30 PM CAPITOL ROOM 124 03/10/98 (H) MINUTE(MLV) 03/19/98 (H) MLV AT 4:30 PM CAPITOL 124 BILL: HB 464 SHORT TITLE: NURSING CARE AT STATE VETERANS' HOME SPONSOR(S): STATE AFFAIRS Jrn-Date Jrn-Page Action 03/04/98 2499 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S) 03/04/98 2499 (H) MLV, STATE AFFAIRS 03/19/98 (H) MLV AT 4:30 PM CAPITOL 124 WITNESS REGISTER Brigadier General Stephen P. Korenek P.O. Box 1774 Nome, Alaska 99762 Telephone: (907) 443-5158 POSITION STATEMENT: Discussed his qualifications with regards to his appointment as Assistant Adjutant General. KURT P. AUTOR P.O. Box 23-2021 Anchorage, Alaska 99523 Telephone: (907) 561-2552 POSITION STATEMENT: Opposed confirmation of General Korenek on behalf of his clients. BARBARA COTTING, Legislative Assistant to Representative Jeannette James Alaska State Legislature Capitol Building, Room 102 Juneau, Alaska 99801 Telephone: (907) 465-6822 POSITION STATEMENT: Presented HB 464. JAMES L. KOHN, Director Division of Alaska Longevity Programs Department of Administration P.O. Box 110211 Juneau, Alaska 99811-0211 Telephone: (907) 465-2159 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on HB 464. ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 98-3, SIDE A Number 001 CHAIR BEVERLY MASEK called the House Special Committee on Military and Veterans' Affairs meeting to order at 4:37 p.m. Members present at the call to order were Representatives Masek, Ryan, Kott, Mulder, Foster and Joule. CONFIRMATION HEARING [NOTE: THE RECORDING EQUIPMENT, DURING A MAJOR PORTION OF THIS MEETING, MALFUNCTIONED. MANY PARTS OF THIS MEETING WERE INAUDIBLE.] CHAIR MASEK announced the committee would have a confirmation hearing for Brigadier General Stephen P. Korenek. She noted that Mr. Korenek was connected via teleconference. She asked him to discuss his qualifications regarding the appointment. Number 110 STEPHEN P. KORENEK informed of the committee of his service in the U.S. Army Infantry, the National Guard, and his education and his work experience with the Department of Corrections and other state agencies. He informed the committee that he as been married for 30 years and has raised four children in Alaska [A copy of Mr. Korenek's resume is located in the committee file]. Number 0437 REPRESENTATIVE JOE RYAN asked what the total amount of time was that he spent in Nome. MR. KORENEK informed the committee he moved to Nome in September, 1982, and moved away on October 1, 1997. Number 472 REPRESENTATIVE REGGIE JOULE said he is concerned about some information he recently received relating to issues regarding discrimination, particularly relating to Alaskan Natives in the National Guard. MR. KORENEK stated that he believes that points were raised in 1994, when General Lestenkof was appointed Adjutant General. He appointed a Board of Inquiry which met with representatives across the state from the civil sector. He informed the committee of others who were on the board. They address quite a few issues that were brought to them by members of the Guard, primarily full-time military employees. The board developed a report that was published. Mr. Korenek informed the committee that he reviewed that report a couple of years ago and the National Guard has been working since then to ameliorate any of those issues that proved to be substantive. He noted it is currently an ongoing process. REPRESENTATIVE JOULE asked if there has been a resolution to any the issues. MR. KORENEK said he believes that a lot of those issues have been "put to bed." He noted that a couple of the Native officers have been promoted to the rank of colonel. REPRESENTATIVE JOULE said he had just received the information and hasn't had an opportunity to digest it all. He said, "It has a long, long history out in rural Alaska and we've watched a lot of the folks get involved in the military through the National Guard and, you know, move up through the system. And as I recall a few years ago about some of the issues of discrimination, but I never did hear what the outcomes of those were. And your name is brought up in association with this and that does concern me some, but not having had an opportunity to digest all the information, I think that at this point that I would just voice that I do have some concerns in this area. I want to be really careful though." MR. KORENEK informed the committee that he was living in Nome when that situation was occurring and the board meetings were being held in Anchorage. He stated, "I don't recall, in any way, any substance of issue that my name was brought in that. So I would be happy to look at that material when you're done with it and see if there is anything I could address (indisc.)." Number 802 CHAIR MASEK asked Representative Joule if he would share his information with the committee members so they can see what he is speaking about. REPRESENTATIVE JOULE indicated he would share the information. REPRESENTATIVE RICHARD FOSTER informed the committee that he is aware of these charges. He said, "But you know they've been going on since General Hugh Cox was put in during the Hickel Administration and they surfaced around 1993, against General Cox. I've known General Korenek now for 15 years. I'm the former executive officer -- number 2 in command, of the Scout Battalion in Nome and I'm part Eskimo. I've never heard anybody ever tell me that Steve Korenek was racist. I've, every summer now for the last ten years, I've made it point to knock on every door in every village in Western Alaska. I've never had one single person tell me, that's enrolled in the National Guard, they had some kind of racial problems with Steve Korenek. He's a professional, he's a Vietnam Veteran. There hasn't been a month that I haven't talked to him in the last ten years, in particular, not only in relation to his probation activities, but in relation to National Guard functions, about how things were going. And I've always been impressed by his professionalism. The only person that has (indisc.) these charges, and I think they're a matter of the record, is General Cross although there is a little bit of back up information here from some retired people, including Colonel Soxton and I believe a Colonel Austin. The main charges by Colonel Cross, in 1992, against General Cox was that he wasn't promoted to a full bird colonel. He said that was racist and that General Cox wasn't promoting him because he was Eskimo. I believe that's been through the courts. As a matter of fact the lawyer, Autor, I don't know how to pronounce that, in paperwork that Representative Joule has, explains that it's under administrative appeal right now. And that not being able to get anywhere that way, he's taking political leverage to try to force promotion of Cross to be the assistant adjutant general. But you know the fact is Steve Korenek was confirmed by this committee last year and there was no charges of racism brought against him at that time, either here or in the Senate. And it's only been because of this new position in which he slotted that these charges have resurfaced again. It's just like a bad apple in a barrel, I don't know where these charges are coming from. I don't feel that there is any substance to them. As a former army officer myself and having been in the National Guard stationed in Nome and knowing every Native on the entire Seward Peninsula, never having gotten any complaints about racial problems directed against him - you know, I'm big supporter of Steve and he's weathered a lot storms as far as he is and I'm very supportive of this slot that he's being fitted into right now. I don't feel that there is any substance at all to these allegations." KURT P. AUTOR testified via teleconference. He informed the committee he has been working on matters on behalf of a dozen different guardsmen that represent a wide cross section of members of the guard. He said he has accumulated evidence from before 1992, and it has left him in a state of absolute disbelief that a public agency has been allowed, through senior commands, to operate in this way. Mr. Autor said, "I need to emphasize, in light of Representative Foster's comments, this is not a personal attack against General Korenek. This is not a personal attack against any individual. What this is, is an attempt to initiate reform efforts that are very badly needed. Indeed, Representative Foster, with all due respect, confirms that these allegations have been going back since 1992, and the fact of the matter is that (indisc.) and they are not being corrected by the senior command. It is important for (indisc.) of the organization and the interest of public accountability that I am coming before this committee to bring serious focus on the allegations that I am presenting and that in fact I can support actual evidence. The nomination, I oppose on behalf of my clients, the confirmation of General Korenek because of how it relates to the larger issue of a (indisc.) pattern, illegal activities and corrupt (indisc.) engaged by the senior command." Mr. Autor continued to give testimony against the confirmation of General Korenek and discussed other issues not relating to the confirmation. CHAIRMAN MASK asked Mr. Autor to submit any written comments to the committee. REPRESENTATIVE FOSTER noted that he has served under three different governors over the last ten years. He said, "In the last 12 years, Native people have been in charge of the major general slot of the adjutant general - the commissioner of Military and Veterans Affairs have been Native. It was General Schaffer for four years under Cowper, it's been four years now under Lestenkof, a Native general that has been running the Guard and we've only had four with General Cox. Nearly 70 percent of the time in the last 12 years, we've had Natives in charge of the entire Guard for the entire state." He stated he fully supports the confirmation of Mr. Korenek. Number 1757 REPRESENTATIVE ELDON MULDER made a motion to forward General Kornek's name to the full confirmation process of the legislature. There being no objection, it was so ordered. REPRESENTATIVE FOSTER said, "I'm a Native, I'm a former member member - officer of the National Guard for the state of Alaska. I've served with the Guard in Nome and with my fellow Natives (indisc.), and I've been real proud. I've never heard of any racism charges leveled against anybody in my entire district in ten years. And, you know, Steve Korenek has been in the military now for 30 years and I think it's a shame -- I think it's shameful that people can politically assassinate them on unsubstantiated charges of racism, you know, in an effort to get themselves promoted or some other agenda, who knows what it is. But I think that proceedings like this where charges are leveled against a professional army officer are shameful." HB 356 - JOINT TASK FORCE ON MILITARY BASES Number 1875 CHAIR MASEK announced the next order of business would be HB 356, "An Act establishing the Joint Committee on Military Bases in Alaska; and providing for an effective date," sponsored by Representative Mulder. REPRESENTATIVE MULDER informed the committee that the Senate has a counter measure that reflects the same legislation. A concern was raised, at the previous hearing on the bill, in relation to the fiscal note. He said he would propose that the committee adopt the Senate companion fiscal note to CSSB 255, which is dramatically pared down. He stated it was his intention to pare the fiscal note down when the bill came to the House Finance Committee, but he is more than willing to do it at this point in time. CHAIR MASEK questioned if that was a motion. REPRESENTATIVE MULDER responded, "Consider it a motion. So moved, Madam Chairman." CHAIR MASEK asked if there was any debate or comments regarding HB 356. There were no comments. Number 1923 REPRESENTATIVE RYAN made a motion to move CSHB 356(MLV) out of committee with the accompanying fiscal notes and with individual recommendations. There being no objection, CSHB 356(MLV) moved out of the House Special Committee on Military and Veterans' Affairs. HB 464 - NURSING CARE AT STATE VETERANS' HOME Number 1945 CHAIR MASEK announced the last order of business would be HB 464 "An Act relating to state veterans' home facilities," sponsored by the House State Affairs Committee. BARBARA COTTING, Legislative Assistant to Representative Jeannette James, Alaska State Legislature, came before the committee to explain the legislation. She informed the committee members that several weeks ago Veterans Organizations visited her office and presented some of their legislative priorities and HB 464 is a result of her conversation. Ms. Cotting read the following statement into the record: "House Bill 464 amends Chapter 98, Session Laws of Alaska 1992. This special law of Alaska authorizes an Alaskan veterans' home and includes verbiage identifying domiciliary care. However, in order for the state to recuperate approximately 65 percent of the construction costs of the home from the Veteran's Administration, the law must include nursing facilities. Without them, the state will have to shoulder the burden of all construction costs. "Further, veterans' homes in other states are self sufficient in many cases because they contain nursing facilities. The nursing facility allows the state to collect medical fees from Medicare, Medicaid, and other third party health insurance. This offsets any state operating costs." MS. COTTING noted that many of the veterans are out-of-state at another meeting, so they couldn't be in attendance to testify on the bill. She noted that she is not an expert on the details of the legislation. Number 2021 REPRESENTATIVE JOULE indicated there is a huge fiscal note. CHAIR MASEK stated that she assumes the bill will pick up another committee of referral. REPRESENTATIVE JOULE referred to medical care for veterans and asked if there is currently an arrangement with the hospitals around the state where the veterans can get their medical conditions taken care of. MS. COTTING explained she does not know the answer to the question, but would defer to anyone who does. Number 2062 REPRESENTATIVE RYAN stated, "A facility would establish a Medicaid number with the Medicaid portion of our health, education and social service. And they would submit a claim of code - proper authorized codes, and then they would argue whether they're going to get paid. Not all payments are as speedy - as expedited as they should, but eventually they sort things out and the payment comes considering the service provided, what particular service it was and what the eligibility of the recipient was. It is pretty much straight forward. They're the same as the hospital or anybody else would bill. I'll give you a small conflict on this, my wife is a registered nurse and works in nursing facilities. In case anybody - there's a conflict there I'm declaring. It's generally similar to a nursing home, long-term care facility if you have the nursing services available. People who have to have medical procedures or nursing care would come under regular insurance and/or whatever their eligibility would be. The Veteran's Administration (VA) -- adds a coverage for these people they would be reimbursed through, however that was with the VA." Number 2118 REPRESENTATIVE JOULE said there is nursing care facility for the elderly in Kotzebue. He said if a new veterans' facility was constructed, would those people in Kotzebue have to the use the new facility first, wherever it was located rather than the one in their home community. REPRESENTATIVE RYAN said his knowledge of the actual veterans' care facility is some years dated, but the last time he was aware, since they did not have a veterans' facility in the state, most facilities that offered medical care were eligible to provide care to veterans and be reimbursed by the VA. He referred to a military hospital (indisc.) in Fort Wainwright and said he is not sure if the one at Elmendorf provides the same thing, but he knows that private medical facilities also had that ability because evidently the federal government didn't want to incur the cost putting a facility in Alaska. It is just a lot easier to use the existing facilities and to pay for the care. Number 2183 JAMES L. KOHN, Director, Division of Alaska Longevity Programs, Department of Administration, came before the committee. He noted he is the author of the fiscal note. He explained the information that Representative Ryan discussed is correct. Mr. Kohn read the following paragraph out of letter from Senator Murkowski with regard to the possible construction of a VA home in the state of Alaska: "We should also realize that we have VA community nursing home program now. It obligates the federal government to pay the total cost of care of veterans that the VA places in community nursing homes. We need to realize that after the home is opened, if the home was established, we will be exchanging some of that federal money for state obligations and it will not be on a one to one trade, in fact it's nowhere near a one to one trade." MR. KOHN said if a veteran has a long-term care need and is eligible, they're able to enter their community program, the Veteran's [Administration] are at this time obligated to pay those total costs. If you build a veterans' home in North Pole and you live in Ketchikan, you'll have to go to North Pole to get that kind of care. Number 2263 REPRESENTATIVE JOULE indicated he knows some of the veterans who are at the senior facilities. He said, "They want to be close to home because they're in their -- you know, that's about as close as they can get, if they're from the villages, to their family. And they're not going to be around much longer and to be totally some place else -- I know this sounds kind of cruel, but to die alone is a lonely thing. In terms of -- they're getting care currently under this current system. This is not broken. What are we doing?" MS. COTTING said the bill was introduced as a direct response to a response by the Veteran's Association. She said since they are not in attendance to present their rationale, she can't speak for them. She noted that she believes there is a compromise that is currently being worked on. She said pointed out that the next committee of referral is the House State Affairs Committee that Representative James chairs. Ms. Cotting stated, "If it's possible to move this out and then anybody who has watched State Affairs the last few years knows it will get a thorough hearing in there. It won't get rushed through. I think the sponsor of the bill, Representative James, would give it a good hearing in State Affairs. If the committee would care to move it on out since we don't know when you'll be meeting again, that might be an option. Granted, the bill is flawed as it is and there needs to be a lot more work on it." She said Representative Joule's point is true in that it would be terrible to take people away from their homes in their last years. Number 2344 REPRESENTATIVE RYAN stated he agrees with Representative Joule. He said we have a unique situation in Alaska and they don't do this anywhere else. He discussed the hardship of uprooting people that would have to move to the home. Number 2379 REPRESENTATIVE MULDER said he believes that there are quite a few good reasons for considering the bill. He said, "I probably would advocate that we just turn a blind eye at this point in time towards the fiscal note because certainly the $10 oil, most things with fiscal notes has pretty though scrutiny up in Finance right now. But look just at the merits of the issue and I think that we've raised some concerns today, but I think there are also some merits to it in terms of the focus and attention that are placed on veterans by VA homes and domiciliary. So with that, Madam Chairman, I would move that we pass [HB] 464 along to State Affairs, knowing it will pick up a Finance referral as well, and along with its accompanying fiscal notes and individual recommendations." CHAIR MASEK asked if there was an objection. Hearing none, HB 464 was moved out of the House Special Committee on Military and Veterans' Affairs. ADJOURNMENT Number 2420 CHAIR MASEK adjourned the House Special Committee on Military and Veterans' Affairs at 5:21 p.m.

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