Legislature(1999 - 2000)

04/10/1999 10:06 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE                                                                                                        
April 10, 1999                                                                                                                  
10:06 AM                                                                                                                        
SFC-99 #85, Sides A and B                                                                                                       
CALL TO ORDER                                                                                                                   
Co-Chair John Torgerson convened the meeting at                                                                                 
approximately 10:06 A.M.                                                                                                        
In addition to Co-chair Torgerson, Senators Sean Parnell,                                                                       
Randy Phillips, Loren Leman, Gary Wilken, Al Adams and Lyda                                                                     
Green were present when the meeting was convened.                                                                               
Also Attending:  REPRESENTATIVE JEANNETTE JAMES;                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ELDON MULDER; REPRESENTATIVE BILL HUDSON;                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE CARL MORGAN; CATHERINE REARDON, Director,                                                                        
Division of Occupational Licensing, Department of Commerce                                                                      
and Economic Development; FRANK MIELKE, Chief, Right-of-                                                                        
Way, Department of Transportation and Public Facilities;                                                                        
JOHN WRAY, Alaska Dietetic Association; LINDA WILD,                                                                             
Nutritionist; DIANE BARRANS; Executive Director, Post                                                                           
Secondary Education Commission, Department of Education;                                                                        
JOHN BITNEY, Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, Department                                                                     
of Revenue; aides to committee members and other members of                                                                     
the Legislature.                                                                                                                
Attending via Teleconference:                                                                                                   
SUMMARY INFORMATION                                                                                                             
Co-chair Torgerson convened the meeting at approximately                                                                        
10:12 a.m.  He noted that Senator Donley was not present so                                                                     
the committee would first take up HB 12.                                                                                        
 HOUSE BILL NO. 12                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to an easement for the extension of                                                                            
the Alaska Railroad to the Alaska-Canada border."                                                                               
 SPONSOR SUBSTITUTE FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 12                                                                                       
"An Act relating to a utility corridor and railroad                                                                             
right-of-way between the Alaska Railroad and the                                                                                
Alaska-Canada border."                                                                                                          
 CS FOR SPONSOR SUBSTITUTE FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 12(FIN)                                                                           
"An Act relating to a utility corridor and railroad                                                                             
right-of-way between the Alaska Railroad and the                                                                                
Alaska-Canada border."                                                                                                          
CS FOR SPONSOR SUBSTITUTE FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 12(FIN)                                                                            
"An Act relating to a utility corridor and railroad                                                                             
right-of-way between the Alaska Railroad and the                                                                                
Alaska-Canada border."                                                                                                          
Representative JEANNETTE JAMES was invited to join the                                                                          
committee.  She explained HB 12 and explained her sponsor                                                                       
(Arrival of Senator Donley noted at approximately 10:14                                                                         
Representative James continued her statement before the                                                                         
committee.  She explained the outline of the corridor.  It                                                                      
was a very simple matter.  She said advantages to Alaska                                                                        
were obvious:  resource development, tourism, job                                                                               
opportunities for all areas of Alaska, with controlled                                                                          
access and without the expensive maintenance problems of                                                                        
other modes of transportation.                                                                                                  
In response to a question from Senator Leman she said there                                                                     
should be no fiscal note.                                                                                                       
FRANK MIELKE, Chief of Right-of-Way, Department of                                                                              
Transportation was invited to join the committee.  He                                                                           
explained why the route was chosen.  It was a matter of                                                                         
putting it on the Department of Natural Resources records.                                                                      
It will be noted that this procedure was not under the                                                                          
normal statutes.                                                                                                                
Co-chair Torgerson said the right-of-way was not to be less                                                                     
than five feet.  Was this correct?  Mr. Mielke said this                                                                        
right-of-way allotment was proper in this particular case.                                                                      
It was a typical practice to have an extra wide right-of-                                                                       
way and then taper it down.                                                                                                     
Senator Adams referred to some costs that may arise in the                                                                      
future.   Mr. Mielke said regardless of who actually does                                                                       
the work or spends the money the funding would come through                                                                     
the railroad.  Senator Adams asked if this was stated                                                                           
anywhere in the bill?  Mr. Mielke said "no".                                                                                    
Representative James explained to the committee that the                                                                        
bill notes "other interested parties".                                                                                          
Senator Parnell MOVED HB 12 and WITHOUT OBJECTION it was                                                                        
reported out with individual recommendations and                                                                                
accompanying fiscal notes; Department of Transportation and                                                                     
Public Facilities, zero and the Department of Natural                                                                           
Resources, zero.                                                                                                                
Co-chair Torgerson called SB 88.                                                                                                
 SENATE BILL NO. 88                                                                                                             
"An Act relating to licensure of dietitians and                                                                                 
nutritionists; and providing for an effective date."                                                                            
 CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 88(L&C)                                                                                                 
"An Act relating to licensure of dietitians and                                                                                 
nutritionists; and providing for an effective date."                                                                            
Senator Donley briefly explained the legislation.  He said                                                                      
there was a zero fiscal note and no impact on the State.                                                                        
At the request of the department he explained the two                                                                           
changes from version "M" and version "K".                                                                                       
JOHN WRAY, Bartlett Memorial Hospital was invited to join                                                                       
the committee.  He represented the American Dietitians                                                                          
Association.  Further, he thanked Senator Donley for                                                                            
introducing this bill.                                                                                                          
Senator Phillips voiced his concern regarding the bill.                                                                         
(Arrival of Senator P. Kelly at approximately 9:24 a.m.)                                                                        
Senator Parnell asked that Senator Phillips ask one                                                                             
question at a time.                                                                                                             
Senator Phillips continued voicing the concern of his                                                                           
constituents.  Consumers said they could go to the American                                                                     
Dietitian Association; and there were further concerns for                                                                      
the exemptions on page three.  Those included:  no money to                                                                     
police the bill, no enforcement, creating another                                                                               
bureaucracy; should be a grandfather clause; exemption on                                                                       
page three, line twenty.  Those were the main concerns.                                                                         
Mr. Wray asked if they were all a concern?  Senator Donley                                                                      
asked the concern for exemptions?                                                                                               
Mr. Ray responded.  He said he could answer most of the                                                                         
concerns.  The CS has gone through a lot of rewrite.  He                                                                        
wrote the original bill after a lot of research.  The                                                                           
American Dietetic Association was satisfied with this bill.                                                                     
A situation was created where they would have to pay $668                                                                       
every two years to be licensed.  They felt this was not                                                                         
going to work.  (Teleconference connection temporarily                                                                          
cut.)  After statutes are written from the A.G.'s office                                                                        
the licensing process will be renewals and therefore the                                                                        
costs will go down.  He said this was the "price of doing                                                                       
business".  Occupational licensing has said they can deal                                                                       
with this matter and it would not cause an increase of                                                                          
their staff.  There was confusion about the status of two                                                                       
classes of dietitians.  He clarified for Senator Phillips                                                                       
that there are things a nutritionist does that a dietitian                                                                      
does not.  Currently, there was no professional                                                                                 
organization equivalent for nutritionists.                                                                                      
(Teleconference reconnected.)                                                                                                   
Mr. Wray continued.  It was not the intent of this bill to                                                                      
put people out of work.  Therefore, it does not include a                                                                       
"grandfather clause".  Personally, he has been member of                                                                        
the American Dietetic Association for seventeen years.  He                                                                      
does not recall if there are by-laws that would cause                                                                           
concern that ADA could revoke anyone's license.  However,                                                                       
he could not answer this question directly.                                                                                     
Regarding the exemptions, the original bill had thirteen.                                                                       
The rationale for this is straightforward.  For example, he                                                                     
referred to military individuals being stationed somewhere                                                                      
for a two-year period.  Almost all licensure bills in the                                                                       
U.S. exempt military individuals.  He noted for the                                                                             
committee that probably everyone would not be happy with                                                                        
this bill.                                                                                                                      
Senator Phillips said he thought the original idea of this                                                                      
bill was for consumer protection.                                                                                               
Co-chair Torgerson asked if there was anything in the bill                                                                      
regarding military services and being exempt.                                                                                   
Mr. Wray said that Elmendorf Air Force base  has two                                                                            
dietitians on staff that are military.  He does not believe                                                                     
that if one got out of the military they would still have                                                                       
to apply for a license.  However, Mr. Wray said he would                                                                        
look into this and get the correct information back to the                                                                      
committee.  Co-chair Torgerson said he appreciated that                                                                         
because it would have to be fixed.                                                                                              
Senator Green questioned about dietitian licensure, page                                                                        
two of version "M".   Mr. Wray advised that there was no                                                                        
internship for nutritionists.                                                                                                   
Senator Green asked about qualifications.  Mr. Wray asked                                                                       
if this was with respect to nutritionists?   Senator Green                                                                      
said it was on page two, lines fifteen through seventeen.                                                                       
Mr. Wray explained the way the qualifications system                                                                            
worked.  There are five or six individuals around the state                                                                     
providing valuable services for the State of Alaska and                                                                         
they should be recognized.                                                                                                      
Senator Green said there should be a fiscal note on the                                                                         
anticipated costs for Medicare.  This was a concern for                                                                         
Co-chair Torgerson concurred.  He requested the department                                                                      
be available to answer these questions.                                                                                         
Mr. Wray said there was not a provision within Medicare for                                                                     
nutrition therapy to be reimbursed.  There was a well-                                                                          
established but limited criteria for Medicaid, however, to                                                                      
his knowledge nothing for Medicare.                                                                                             
Senator Green said if there is reimbursement being                                                                              
anticipated at some time they should be made aware of it                                                                        
and plan for it now.                                                                                                            
Senator Leman asked if 900 hours of work experience                                                                             
represented a year of work?  According to his calculations                                                                      
it was really about half a year. Mr. Wray stood corrected.                                                                      
LINDA WILD, Nutritionist was invited to join the committee.                                                                     
She identified herself as being a nutritionist licensed in                                                                      
Washington State.  She gave her money each year because                                                                         
licensed recognition was important and gave one                                                                                 
professional credentials.  People feel comfortable knowing                                                                      
that the particular individual has met certain criteria in                                                                      
their field.  She felt that dietitians and nutritionists                                                                        
should be put on the same field as other health care                                                                            
With regards to the two classes, both dietitians and                                                                            
nutritionists should be recognized.  They both must have                                                                        
the necessary work experience.                                                                                                  
In response to a query from Co-chair Torgerson she said she                                                                     
paid $200 bi-annually to Washington State.  She explained                                                                       
that she was on her way to becoming a registered dietitian.                                                                     
Senator Green commented briefly.  Ms. Wild said she was a                                                                       
certified nutritionist in the State of Washington.  Senator                                                                     
Green asked about her qualifications as related to Alaska.                                                                      
Ms. Wild said because she was qualified in Washington State                                                                     
she was able to "walk" into her position in Alaska.  She                                                                        
referred to "midwives" and explained the terms for                                                                              
certification or licensing were basically the same.                                                                             
CATHERINE REARDON, Director, Division of Occupational                                                                           
Licensing, Department of Commerce and Economic Development                                                                      
was invited to join the committee.  Co-chair Torgerson                                                                          
asked why this fiscal note was so expensive.  Ms. Reardon                                                                       
said the original cost was $28,000/year.  She referred to                                                                       
her explanation of the costs.  One thing she left out was                                                                       
investigative time.  She expected the costs to slow down as                                                                     
time passed.                                                                                                                    
Senator Phillips asked if anyone from the Department of                                                                         
Health and Social Services was available to answer any                                                                          
Ms. Reardon said she was not aware of anyone present.                                                                           
Senator Phillips had question for Medicare and Medicaid.                                                                        
He wanted to know the potential costs.                                                                                          
Co-chair Torgerson felt there needed to be work done on the                                                                     
"grandfather" clause and other possible amendments. Senator                                                                     
Donley said he would try to make changes more clear.                                                                            
(Tape #85 switched to Side B at log number 597.)                                                                                
Co-chair Torgerson HELD SB 88 in committee.  He then called                                                                     
HB 27.                                                                                                                          
 HOUSE BILL NO. 27                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to graduate student loans; and                                                                                 
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
 CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 27(HES)                                                                                                  
"An Act relating to financial aid received for medical                                                                          
education and financial aid received by students                                                                                
participating in the Western Interstate Commission on                                                                           
Higher Education Professional Student Exchange                                                                                  
Program; relating to the Western Regional Higher                                                                                
Education Compact; and providing for an effective                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE ELDON MULDER was invited to join the                                                                             
committee.  He thanked the committee for hearing HB 27 and                                                                      
explained that it was a simple bill.  It would allow Alaska                                                                     
students opportunities or access to special "slots" through                                                                     
use of the Alaska Student Loan program.  As he said, the                                                                        
bill would allow the holding of slots within WITCHIE for                                                                        
Alaska students.  It would be a full loan repayment plan.                                                                       
The biggest concern is one of access.  These are                                                                                
professional fields, which are very competitive to get                                                                          
into.  These included for example, dentistry, which were                                                                        
not available at the University of Alaska.  And it would be                                                                     
too expensive to establish these degree programs at the                                                                         
University.  The bill would allow for slots to be held for                                                                      
Alaskan students.  He referred to a letter written from a                                                                       
woman from Wasilla.  (read into the record)  He felt that                                                                       
the letter explained the situation completely for Alaskan                                                                       
students.  Further, passage of the bill would help to                                                                           
correct these difficulties.                                                                                                     
At this time Representative Mulder passed out an amendment                                                                      
which he said was a technical correction.                                                                                       
Co-chair Torgerson asked him to explain this.  (No number                                                                       
was issued for this amendment at this time.)                                                                                    
Amendment #1 was MOVED by Senator Wilken.  Representative                                                                       
Mulder asked that Diane Barrans to be invited to join the                                                                       
committee to explain the amendment.                                                                                             
DIANE BARRANS, Executive Director, Post Secondary Education                                                                     
Commissioner, Department of Education was invited to join                                                                       
the committee.                                                                                                                  
Co-chair Torgerson asked her to explain amendment #1,                                                                           
specifically section two.                                                                                                       
Senator Green asked about section 1 of the bill, the HES                                                                        
version.  "Are we just bringing WITCHIE back?"                                                                                  
Ms. Barrans explained "WAMI" and "WITCHIE".  Senator Green                                                                      
asked the sections of the bill to be identified where these                                                                     
slots would fit in.  Representative Mulder said they would                                                                      
come under section three.                                                                                                       
Ms. Barrans referred again to the amendment.  Senator Green                                                                     
asked if the WITCHIE program was being repealed?  Ms.                                                                           
Barrans indicated that was correct.                                                                                             
Senator Leman asked if there were slots in other states                                                                         
that were given to their residents.  He further asked if                                                                        
our students, through the WITCHIE compact, would have the                                                                       
same priority?                                                                                                                  
Ms. Barrans said at the time when we were participating and                                                                     
funding slots that was true.  But since the program was no                                                                      
longer funded to include these slots and that the State no                                                                      
longer participated in the programs that was no longer                                                                          
Senator Adams asked if in looking at the slots for Alaska                                                                       
students, was there any benefit to the State versus a                                                                           
student paying out-of-state tuition?  Ms. Barrans said                                                                          
generally not.  Support fee was more than the differential                                                                      
for non-resident tuition.  In some other cases it was less.                                                                     
It would all depend on the fee schedule for the degree                                                                          
program.  There could be some minor economical benefit,                                                                         
however, the major benefit was that the student would get                                                                       
Senator Donley said he did not understand how forgiveness                                                                       
bought more seats at a university?  "We have to buy seats                                                                       
for students applying to the program?"  Ms. Barrans asked                                                                       
the question be repeated.  Senator Donley asked if we were                                                                      
buying our way into the WITCHIE program?  Ms. Barrans                                                                           
indicated that was correct.  She explained that the                                                                             
exchange program required states to pay an additional cost                                                                      
in advance.  The schools have to know that the money will                                                                       
be available.                                                                                                                   
Ms. Barrans explained the bottom line of the fiscal                                                                             
analysis.  It was not an appropriated item, however.                                                                            
Senator Donley asked about the fee being paid.                                                                                  
Representative Mulder said the student would not only pay                                                                       
the loan but the slot fee.  Senator Donley said there was a                                                                     
special component already in the medical WITCHIE program.                                                                       
Ms. Barrans replied that the students would be incurring                                                                        
about $200,000 debt.  Senator Donley asked if the bill                                                                          
would take money from the existing users of the loans to                                                                        
sign at universities for slots for Alaskans?  Ms. Barrans                                                                       
said they would just reactivate their status in the                                                                             
Senator Donley referred to page two of the bill, WAMI.                                                                          
Where is the repayment program in the bill?  Ms. Barrans                                                                        
said it was in the amendment.  Senator Donley said he                                                                           
needed more clarification of the amendment.                                                                                     
Senator Green asked about changes to the student loan                                                                           
program dealt with about two to three years ago.  Is there                                                                      
a ceiling?  Ms. Barrans said a cap could not really be put                                                                      
in because they are renegotiated each year.  At present,                                                                        
the cap for an undergraduate is $60,000.                                                                                        
Senator Wilken asked the total amount of loans to be put                                                                        
out this year.  She responded about $69 million.  Senator                                                                       
Wilken said this year they recorded a profit.  Would this                                                                       
piece of legislation cause a negative impact on this                                                                            
profit?  She did not expect so.                                                                                                 
Senator Donley asked how much a non-WAMI student could                                                                          
borrow?  Ms. Barrans responded that the amount was                                                                              
$9,500/year.  Senator Donley said there used to be a line                                                                       
item in the budget to pay for WAMI.  Would this bill cover                                                                      
the line item effect of previous?  Would the department                                                                         
make decision as to what slots were purchased?                                                                                  
Senator Donley also asked about medical school?  He was                                                                         
concerned that an undergraduate would have maxed out their                                                                      
capacity to borrow.                                                                                                             
Senator Parnell asked about the $9,500/year borrowing                                                                           
capacity.  Ms. Barrans explained this.  Senator Parnell                                                                         
asked if there was a medical student loan program only?                                                                         
Ms. Barrans said there was no special loan program.                                                                             
WITHOUT OBJECTION amendment #1 was ADOPTED.                                                                                     
Co-chair Torgerson took a brief at ease at approximately                                                                        
11:31 a.m.                                                                                                                      
Senator Wilken MOVED SCS CSHB 27(FIN) and WITHOUT OBJECTION                                                                     
it was REPORTED OUT with individual recommendations and                                                                         
accompanying fiscal note from the Department of Education,                                                                      
indeterminate amount.                                                                                                           
Co-chair Torgerson called HB 10.                                                                                                
 HOUSE BILL NO. 10                                                                                                              
"An Act extending the termination date of the Board of                                                                          
Certified Direct-Entry Midwives; and providing for an                                                                           
effective date."                                                                                                                
Representative Bill Hudson was invited to join the                                                                              
committee.  He was willing to answer any questions of the                                                                       
Senator Parnell MOVED HB 10 and WITHOUT OBJECTION it was                                                                        
REPORTED OUT with individual recommendations and                                                                                
accompanying fiscal note from the Department of Commerce                                                                        
and Economic Development, zero.                                                                                                 
Co-chair Torgerson called HB 71.                                                                                                
 HOUSE BILL NO. 71                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to regional housing authorities."                                                                              
 CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 71(CRA)                                                                                                  
"An Act establishing Kawerak, Inc., as the regional                                                                             
housing authority for the area that includes the                                                                                
Seward Peninsula, Unalakleet, and St. Lawrence                                                                                  
JOHN WALSH, staff to Representative Foster was invited to                                                                       
join the committee. He explained the bill and briefly                                                                           
referred to the sponsor statement.                                                                                              
Senator Parnell referred to an e-mail from one of his                                                                           
constitutents.  There was concern the title might be                                                                            
Senator Parnell MOVED HB 71 and WITHOUT OBJECTION it was                                                                        
REPORTED OUT with individual recommendations and                                                                                
accompanying fiscal note number 1 from the Department of                                                                        
Commerce and Economic Development in the amount of zero.                                                                        
Co-chair Torgerson took a brief at ease at approximately                                                                        
11:45.  He reconvened the meeting again at approximately                                                                        
11:50 a.m.  He called HB 93.                                                                                                    
 HOUSE BILL NO. 93                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to the Alaska Housing Finance                                                                                  
Corporation's rural assistance loan program and to the                                                                          
definition of 'housing' for purposes of the                                                                                     
corporation's housing assistance loan program; and                                                                              
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
Representative CARL MORGAN was invited to join the                                                                              
committee.  Said he was going to address the bill in Yupik                                                                      
as it could not be translated into English.  He read his                                                                        
complete sponsor statement into the record.                                                                                     
(Tape change to #86, side A at approximately noon.                                                                              
Teleconference was being reconnected and there is no tape                                                                       
recording of the meeting for a short period of time.)                                                                           
JOHN BITNEY, AHFC, Department of Revenue was invited to                                                                         
join the committee.  He said they supported the bill as                                                                         
currently drafted.                                                                                                              
Senator Phillips asked the history of the bill.  Mr. Bitney                                                                     
said the rural program existed over at the Department of                                                                        
Community and Regional Affairs and was merged into Alaska                                                                       
Housing in 1992.  The aspects of the program are delineated                                                                     
by statute and tied to IRS regulations.  In this case, at                                                                       
the time the program was set up, the rates were too high                                                                        
and the term "refinance" was not known.  He explained                                                                           
conventional tax program.                                                                                                       
(Teleconference was reconnected.)                                                                                               
Co-chair Torgerson took a brief at ease at approximately                                                                        
12:05 p.m.  Teleconference individuals advised they were                                                                        
available to observe only.                                                                                                      
Co-chair Torgerson said he would HOLD this bill and work                                                                        
with the sponsor and AHFC.                                                                                                      
Co-chair Torgerson adjourned the committee at approximately                                                                     
12:10 p.m.                                                                                                                      
SFC-99 (12) 04/10/99                                                                                                            

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