Legislature(1993 - 1994)
02/23/1994 09:15 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
MINUTES SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE February 23, 1994 9:15 a.m. TAPES SFC-94, #29, Side 1 (000-end) SFC-94, #29, Side 2 (end-350) CALL TO ORDER Senator Drue Pearce, Co-chair, convened the meeting at approximately 9:15 a.m. PRESENT In addition to Co-chairs Pearce and Frank, Senators Kerttula, Jacko and Sharp were present. Senators Kelly and Rieger joined the meeting after it was in progress. ALSO ATTENDING: Senator Randy Phillips, sponsor of SB 26; Senator Halford; Representative Mulder; Margaret Branson, resident of Seward; Jeff Morrison, Legislative Liaison, Department of Military & Veteran Affairs; Rosalee Walker, resident of Juneau; Marshall Lind, speaking as a private citizen; David Harding, aide to Representative Maclean, sponsor of HB 73; Raymond Goad, aide to Representative Brice, sponsor of HJR 36; Elmer Lindstrom, Special Assistant, Department of Health & Social Services; Ella Fitzgerald, Public Assistant Program Manager I, Division of Medical Assistance, Department of Health & Social Services; and Mike Greany, Director, Legislative Finance Division; aides to committee members and other members of the legislature. SUMMARY INFORMATION SB 26: An Act relating to the location of the convening of the legislature in regular session; and providing for an effective date. Senator Randy Phillips, sponsor of SB 26, testified in support of the bill. Margaret Branson, Rosalee Walker, and Marshall Lind, speaking as private citizens, testified in opposition to SB 26. Discussion was had by Senators Kerttula, Kelly and Sharp regarding fiscal notes and the initiative coming before voters about moving the capital to Wasilla. SB 26 was HELD in committee. SB 329: An Act establishing a grant program relating to veterans' services. Senator Jacko, sponsor of SB 329 testified in support of the bill. Jeff Morrison, Legislative Liaison, Department of Military & Veteran Affairs, spoke to his concerns regarding page 2, lines 5-7 that at least 25 percent of the money received under the grant be used for expenses in communities with a population of less than 400. Senator Kelly brought some questions to the committee as to what percent of veterans were in rural areas and what qualified a person as a "veteran." SB 329 was REPORTED OUT of committee with individual recommendations and a zero fiscal note from the Department of Military & Veteran Affairs. CSHB 59: An Act making a special appropriation to the Department (MLV) of Natural Resources for refunds to certain veterans who purchased state land and for reimbursement to the University of Alaska for the veterans' land discount applied to land transferred to the University of Alaska; and providing for an effective date. Representative Mulder, co-sponsor of HB 59, spoke in support of CSHB 59(MLV). Senator Rieger MOVED an amendment changing the date on line 13 to June 30, 1995, and deleting line 14 (Sec. 3). The amendment was ADOPTED with no objections. SCSCSHB 59(FIN) was REPORTED out of committee with a "do pass" and a zero fiscal note for the Department of Natural Resources. HB 73: An Act relating to state and local taxation and other state regulation as affected by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, as amended, and related federal statutes; and providing for an effective date. David Harding, aide to Representative Maclean, sponsor of HB 73, testified in support of the bill. Discussion followed between Co-chairs Frank, Pearce, Senators Jacko, and Rieger regarding concerns over federal statutes. HB 73 was HELD in committee. CSHJR 36 Urging the federal Department of Health and Human (HES) Services to repeal the "100-hour rule" relating to employment of certain persons receiving AFDC and to replace it with a regulation that will serve as an incentive for AFDC recipients to accept employment of more than 100 hours a month. Raymond Goad, aide to Representative Brice, sponsor of HJR 36, spoke in support of the resolution. Elmer Lindstrom, Special Assistant, Department of Health & Social Services attempted to answer Co-chair Frank's question regarding the "100 hour rule." Senator Sharp asked a question regarding Medicaid eligibility. CSHJR 36(HES) was REPORTED OUT of committee with a "do pass" and a zero fiscal note for the Department of Health & Social Services. SENATE BILL NO. 26: An Act relating to the location of the convening of the legislature in regular session; and providing for an effective date. CO-CHAIR PEARCE announced that SB 26 was before the committee. She invited Senator Phillips, sponsor of the bill, to join the members at the table. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS said SB 26 would move only the legislature from Juneau to Anchorage. The primary motivation was to give people of Alaska access to the legislature. He felt the people had the right to have access to policy makers. He said in a survey done in his district, four out of five people favored the move. He then spoke to the fiscal notes for each department. He had asked each department to show how much money had been spent on employee travel during the legislative session. He asked the committee to look at the fiscal notes with this in mind. He said over half of the legislators were within a 50 mile radius of Anchorage for some cost savings. He felt the capitol building could be a museum piece and the tourism industry would provide some income for maintenance. Senator Phillips said he had talked to Alaska Pacific University and there were buildings available that could be used on campus to house the legislature. He also thought the business people in Anchorage could help with any needs if the legislature would move. Senator Kerttula disagreed with moving the legislature and not the capital. He felt the interaction was too great for the process to be separated. He asked how that would be addressed. Senator Phillips agreed with Senator Kerttula's comments but he believed the teleconference tool could be used. Senator Kerttula noted there was an initiative to move the capital to one area and a bill to move the legislature to another. He found it disturbing. Senator Phillips thought this bill would be a more responsible answer to voter access to the legislature than moving the whole capital to Wasilla. However, he said he was not opposed to moving the capital to Wasilla. Senator Kelly said that he saw the 1993 survey but wanted to know the results of the 1994 survey. Senator Phillips said that it was 52 percent for and 48 percent against the legislative move but a 65 percent for moving the whole capital. Senator Kelly noticed that his constituents had turned around from 1993 to 1994. Senator Phillips maintained that priority of access was very important. Co-chair Pearce announced that Margaret Branson would testify via teleconference from Seward. MARGARET BRANSON, citizen and resident of Seward, said SB 26 was a back door approach to moving the capital. She disagreed that the legislative branch could function in a vacuum from the executive branch, and it showed a misunderstanding of our form of government. One could not function without the other, nor at a distance of 1,000 miles. She did not know of one government in the world that functioned in such a way. She knew it was not a matter of office space. She did not think Anchorage was more accessible to people than Juneau. In this year of declining revenues and budget crisis, it seemed self-indulgent to exercise such a move. She was opposed to SB 26. In answer to Senator Kelly, Ms. Branson said she was the chairperson for the last capital site planning commission. She said she had not looked at the financial figures for years but assured the committee that it was not a simple matter to move the legislature. She also noted that people elect officials to represent them so they do not have to go to council meetings, borough meetings, etc. She felt this was also true of the legislature. MARSHALL LIND, speaking as a private citizen, testified concerning a new communication system. He said he had been involved in education for over 30 years and just lately had seen video conferencing as an alternative way to communicate that could benefit many people in the state. The quality would not be the same as broadcast but would worked well. He said from personal experience it had saved time and money. The University was using this system in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau. A unit would come on-line in Bethel and the North Slope Borough had this for some time in their school system. He listed many ways this system could be used. He saw it as an opportunity to solve the problem of citizen access and at the same time it could benefit schools and other situations. Senator Phillips said that if the legislature moved to Anchorage, it could be used in the same way. In answer to Senator Sharp's question regarding cost, Mr. Lind said voice per hour per site was approximately $30. With three sites it was about $90 per site. For four sites it became less expensive. A bridge could accommodate 24 different locations. Mr. Lind guessed the cost of hardware and hourly rate would go down. Senator Kelly said he had used the University's video conferencing and it was interesting. He had asked Mike Harmon to look into the cost for setting up such a system for the legislature. He felt it would be more effective even though the teleconference system in place now was very satisfactory. ROSALEE WALKER, citizen and resident of Juneau, testified against SB 26. She said she did not care if the move only cost $1,000, it was $1,000 more than the state could spare right now. She reminded the committee that legislators represented the entire state and there were segments of the state in third world conditions. To move the legislature to pacify a select number of constituents was irresponsible. Also, to move one section of the government would cause more confusion than it would help. Change in location was not what was needed but change in behavior was what she wanted to see. If she was separated from her legislator, she would pick up the phone or write a letter. She asked the committee to refuse this concept. Co-chair Pearce announced that SB 26 would be HELD in committee. SENATE BILL NO. 329: An Act establishing a grant program relating to veterans' services. Co-chair Pearce announced that SB 329 was before the committee. She asked Senator Jacko to speak to the bill. SENATOR JACKO, sponsor of SB 329, said that the bill basically affirmed that the welfare of Alaska residents was important to the state of Alaska, it permitted more efficient operations of the Veteran services programs, and improved legislative oversight of program accomplishments and emphasized the need for veterans in a remote areas. He encouraged the department to simplify existing regulations and streamline grantee selections to reduce overhead even more than it had already. He noted that SB 329 had a zero fiscal note. This bill called for a report on a quarterly basis. He said that for years, the rural areas had been ignored in the area of veteran services. He urged the department to find creative ways to fill the void. A list of names and phone numbers was not enough. Because of funding reductions, almost three-quarters of Alaska veterans would go unserved, particularly in rural areas and small towns. This was offensive to him and he wanted a more equitable distribution of the much needed services. In answer to Senator Kelly, Senator Jacko said the VPSO program was codified in statute and before it was a line item. This bill did not effect VPSO's, only veterans. JEFF MORRISON, Legislative Liaison, Department of Military & Veteran Affairs, said his department had no problem with establishing this in statute. Currently, regulations were in place that created a grant program for administering the Veteran Service Officer Grant Program. This would give statutory recognition to it. The department had concern with language on page 2, lines 5-7, that would require 25 percent of the money be spent on areas with a population of less than 400. He said there were overriding practical concerns about putting this in statute. First, the department and the veteran service organization were very supportive of the concept of outreach to rural Alaska. Money targeted for that area had doubled but the practical aspect was that, in order to maximize the travel funds and make the money most efficient, the veteran's service officers would travel to Bethel and Nome and by a variety of means, get the word out to surrounding communities including scanners on TV, word of mouth, advertisement through senior centers, and other efforts to let veterans know that they would be at a certain place at a certain time. They would meet with anyone, receive phone calls on the advertised 800 number and do anything they could to reach the communities short of traveling to them. Traveling to smaller communities was very expensive and could incur costs if up to $200 a veteran. Working out of a hub community would drop it to $25 a veteran. It would be very difficult to keep track of what percent was used to reach the smaller communities. A reporting system was being developed to track recipients by general area using veteran's telephone number. He was concerned that this requirement would require time that would be better used in contacts and services to the veterans. In answer to Senator Kelly, Mr. Morrison did not know how many of the veterans lived in areas with a population less than 400. He thought this might be part of the problem. He believed that a veteran needed to have 20 years of service to receive benefits. Senator Jacko MOVED for passage of SB 329 out of committee with individual recommendations. No objection being heard, it was REPORTED OUT of committee with individual recommendations, and a zero fiscal note for the Department of Military & Veteran Affairs. Co-chairs Pearce and Frank, and Senator Jacko signed "do pass." Senators Kelly and Rieger signed "no recommendation." CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 59(MLV): An Act making a special appropriation to the Department of Natural Resources for refunds to certain veterans who purchased state land and for reimbursement to the University of Alaska for the veterans' land discount applied to land transferred to the University of Alaska; and providing for an effective date. Co-chair Pearce announced that HB 59 was before the committee and invited Representative Mulder to come to the table. REPRESENTATIVE MULDER said HB 59 dealt with making veterans and the University, who purchased land under the land discount program, eligible for reimbursement. End SFC-94 #29, Side 1 Begin SFC-94 #29, Side 2 He said that the Sixteenth Legislature passed HB 134 which made the current veterans land benefit retroactive to April 1993 but no appropriation was included in that bill. HB 59 would reimburse anyone eligible for their discount in the land purchase or transfer. He said the Department of Natural Resources supported this legislation. In answer to Senator Rieger, Representative Mulder said this bill was drafted last year and the date would need to be changed. Senator Rieger MOVED amendment 1 which would update page 1, line 13 to June 30, 1995, and delete Section 3. No objection being heard, it was ADOPTED. Senator Kelly MOVED for passage of SCSCSHB 59(FIN) from committee with individual recommendations. No objection being heard, it was REPORTED OUT of committee with a "do pass" and zero fiscal note for the Department of Natural Resources. Co-chairs Pearce and Frank, Senators Jacko, Kelly and Rieger signed "do pass." HOUSE BILL NO. 73: An Act relating to state and local taxation and other state regulation as affected by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, as amended, and related federal statutes; and providing for an effective date. Co-chair Pearce announced that HB 73 was before the committee. She invited David Harding, aide to Representative Maclean, sponsor of HB 73, to join the members at the table. DAVID HARDING said HB 73 was simple and straight forward. It would bring state law into compliance with federal law regarding the exemption of certain native lands from property taxation. Several years ago the Alaska Native Lands Settlement Act was amended to continue an exemption from federal, state or local property taxes on ANCSA lands until development would occur on those lands. HB 73 reflected those changes. The bill also included other technical changes pointed out by the attorney. The bill would not expand or reduce any benefits or protections already mandated by federal law. It simply cleaned up state law and insured that obsolete state statutes do not lead to misinterpretation by assessors or others who might work with Alaska's tax law. He said it passed the House unanimously and carried a zero fiscal note. In answer to Senator Jacko, Mr. Harding said that it did not pass two years ago. In answer to Co-chair Frank, Mr. Harding went into more detail on the technical changes listed in the bill. Co-chair Pearce referenced Mr. Chenoweth's memo dated February 24, 1994. Discussion was had by Mr. Harding, Senator Rieger and Co-chair Frank regarding this memo. Co-chair Pearce announced that HB 73 would be HELD in committee so the members interested could further pursue the information in the memo by Mr. Chenoweth. CS FOR HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 36(HES): Urging the federal Department of Health and Human Services to repeal the "100-hour rule" relating to employment of certain persons receiving AFDC and to replace it with a regulation that will serve as an incentive for AFDC recipients to accept employment of more than 100 hours a month. Co-chair Pearce announced that HJR 36 was before the committee that repealed the "100 hour rule" for the AFDC program. She invited Raymond Goad, aide to Representative Brice to come to the table. She also noted that Ella Fitzgerald, Public Assistant Program Manager I, Division of Medical Assistance, Department of Health & Social Services, was in the audience to answer questions. RAYMOND GOAD said that the DH&SS had developed regulations relating to the aid to families with dependent children unemployed parent program. This set out the number of hours a parent could work without losing eligibility for the program. The threshold was set at 100 hours per month. If a job was exceeded by 100 hours per month, that family become ineligible for AFDC and Medicaid even if employment earnings were less than the amount of the AFDC grant. This discouraged people that want to work from taking full time employment. Many families stay on AFDC because a job would not support them or provide medical benefits. It meant the state incurred increased cost to the program. Repealing the "100 hour rule" would enable people to accept employment that exceeded 100 hours per month that may partially support them and reduce the amount of aid received. He mentioned that a working group for President Clinton's plan may include such a recommendation. In answer to Senator Jacko, Mr. Goad said the reason for the joint resolution was because it was a federal regulation and not in state statute. In answer to Co-chair Frank, ELMER LINDSTROM explained that if a person had a job for less than 100 hours per month, it was counted as income and a reduction in their AFDC payment would occur. He said he did not know all the details but knew the "100 hour rule" was a dis-incentive for people to take low paying jobs. He said it was even more apparent to him since he had worked with the JOBS program. This only applied to the two parent family case load. Governor Hickel had already petitioned the federal government to include this in the national welfare reform effort. The resolution would be timely in that regard. He said it was supported by the Public Welfare Association, the National Organization of Welfare Directors, and also was in one of the welfare reform proposal in the state. Co-chair Frank continued to make comments and asked questions of Mr. Lindstrom. He said that a welfare reform waiver would be before the legislation this year and they could address those questions. In answer to Senator Sharp, Mr. Lindstrom said that if a person was eligible for AFDC, he or she would be eligible for Medicaid. Senator Rieger MOVED for passage of HJR 36 from committee with individual recommendations. No objection being heard, it was REPORTED OUT of committee with a "do pass" and zero fiscal note for the Department of Health & Social Services. Senators Sharp, Jacko, Kelly, Rieger, and Kerttula signed "do pass." Co-chairs Pearce and Frank signed "no recommendation." ADJOURNMENT The meeting was adjourned at approximately 10:30 a.m.