Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/31/2003 10:01 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                              MINUTES                                                                                         
                     SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE                                                                                 
                          March 31, 2003                                                                                      
                             10:01 AM                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
TAPES                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SFC-03 # 36, Side A                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                              
CALL TO ORDER                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Gary Wilken convened  the meeting  at approximately  10:01                                                            
AM.                                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
PRESENT                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Senator Gary Wilken, Co-Chair                                                                                                   
Senator Lyda Green, Co-Chair                                                                                                    
Senator Con Bunde, Vice Chair                                                                                                   
Senator Ben Stevens                                                                                                             
Senator Lyman Hoffman                                                                                                           
Senator Robin Taylor                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Also Attending:  REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MEYER; KAYE  KANNE, President,                                                          
Midwives   Association  of   Alaska;  LINDA   SYLVESTER,  Staff   to                                                            
Representative    Bruce   Weyhrauch;    JOANNE   GIBBONS,    Program                                                            
Administrator,  Division of Family  & Youth Services, Department  of                                                            
Health and Social  Services; TOM CHERIAN, Acting Director,  Division                                                            
of  Family  &  Youth  Services,  Department  of  Health  and  Social                                                            
Services                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Attending   via  Teleconference:   There   were  no  teleconference                                                           
participants.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
SUMMARY INFORMATION                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
HB 71-EXTEND BOARD OF MIDWIVES                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
The Committee  heard testimony from the sponsor and  the industry. A                                                            
committee  substitute   was  adopted  and  the  bill  reported  from                                                            
Committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
HB 12-HARASSMENT BY ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
The Committee  heard  from the sponsor  and reported  the bill  from                                                            
Committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SB 123-ELIMINATE REVIEW OF ADOPTION SUBSIDIES                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
The Committee  heard  testimony from  the Department  of Health  and                                                            
Social Services and reported the bill from Committee.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     HOUSE BILL NO. 71                                                                                                          
     "An Act extending the termination date of the Board of                                                                     
     Certified Direct-Entry Midwives."                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
This was  the second  hearing for  this bill in  the Senate  Finance                                                            
Committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Wilken stated  that this  bill would extend  the Board  of                                                            
Midwives until June 30, 2007.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Senator B. Stevens moved  to adopt committee substitute, Version 23-                                                            
LS0439\D as a working draft.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Wilken  objected to explain  that the committee  substitute                                                            
adds new language  to Section 2, subsection 08.65.060  that requires                                                            
an applicant to pass an  examination about Alaska laws that apply to                                                            
this profession.  He stated  that this language  was recommended  on                                                            
page 11  of the Division  of Legislative  Audit report dated  August                                                            
15, 2002 [copy on file].                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Wilken removed his objection.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
There  being no  further  objection,  the committee  substitute  was                                                            
ADOPTED as a working draft.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
KAYE  KANNE,  President,  Midwives  Association  of  Alaska,  voiced                                                            
support voiced  of the bill, and that she approved  of the State law                                                            
exam requirement.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Wilken  noted  that, while  other  pertinent  issues  were                                                            
discussed in  the previous hearing  on this bill, the determination                                                             
is that the Board would  address the issues at its upcoming November                                                            
meeting.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
LINDA SYLVESTER,  Staff  to Representative  Bruce Weyhrauch,  voiced                                                            
appreciation for the Committee's support of this "clean bill."                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Senator  B. Stevens  moved to report  the bill  from Committee  with                                                            
individual  recommendations and accompanying  previous fiscal  note.                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Wilken  interjected that, because the committee  substitute                                                            
changes the  title of this House of  Representatives bill,  a Senate                                                            
Concurrent Resolution would accompany the bill.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
There  being  no  objection,  SCS  HB 71  (FIN)  was  REPORTED  from                                                            
Committee  with  individual  recommendations  and  previous  $28,200                                                            
fiscal  note #1, dated  February 10,  2003, from  the Department  of                                                            
Community and Economic Development.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 12(JUD) am                                                                                           
     "An Act relating to the crime of harassment committed by use                                                               
     of electronic communication."                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
This  was the first  hearing  for this  bill in  the Senate  Finance                                                            
Committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Co-chair Wilken  explained that this  bill would "broaden  the crime                                                            
of harassment  to include anonymous  or obscene email or  email that                                                            
threatens bodily injury."                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MEYER,  the bill's sponsor, expressed that this                                                            
bill  would  expand   harassment  language  to  include   electronic                                                            
communications,   as, he  declared,   this  sort  of  harassment  is                                                            
becoming more common as  computers become more accessible to people.                                                            
He  disclosed  that this  bill  is  the result  of  law enforcement                                                             
personnel  being frustrated  by not being  able to prosecute  people                                                            
they could  identify as harassing  people in this manner.  He stated                                                            
that the Class  B misdemeanor penalty  for this type of crime  could                                                            
serve  to prevent  more  serious  crimes  from being  committed.  He                                                            
stated  that  electronic   communication  is  defined   in  a  House                                                            
Judiciary Committee Letter  of Intent that accompanies the bill, and                                                            
he  noted   that   the  bill   was  amended   during   a  House   of                                                            
Representatives  floor session to add the words "sexual  contact" to                                                            
page  1,  line 14.  He  voiced  that  the addition  of  these  words                                                            
strengthens the bill.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Wilken asked for  further information regarding the Class B                                                            
penalty.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Rep Meyer responded  that the penalty for "a Class  B Misdemeanor is                                                            
no more than 90 days in jail or a $2,000 fine."                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Green  moved to adopt the House Judiciary  Committee Letter                                                            
of Intent.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
There being no objection, the Letter of Intent was ADOPTED.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Green  moved  to  report  the  bill  from  Committee  with                                                            
individual  recommendations,  accompanying  fiscal  notes,  and  the                                                            
Letter of Intent.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
There  being  no objection,  CS  HB  12 (JUD)am  was  REPORTED  from                                                            
Committee with previous  zero fiscal note #1, dated February 5, 2003                                                            
from the  Department  of Law; previous  zero fiscal  note #2,  dated                                                            
February 5, 2003 from the  Department of Public Safety; and previous                                                            
indeterminate  fiscal  note  #3  dated  February  3, 2003  from  the                                                            
Department  of  Administration.  The  bill was  accompanied  by  the                                                            
Letter of Intent from the House Judiciary Committee.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     SENATE BILL NO. 123                                                                                                        
     "An Act  relating to adoptions  that include a subsidy  payment                                                            
     by the state; eliminating  annual review of the subsidy paid by                                                            
     the  state   after  adoption  of  a  hard-to-place   child  has                                                            
     occurred; and providing for an effective date."                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
This  was the first  hearing  for this  bill in  the Senate  Finance                                                            
Committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Wilken stated that  this bill would  eliminate the  annual                                                            
review required  in current  statute regarding  the monthly  subsidy                                                            
paid to  those individuals  who adopt or  become legal guardians  of                                                            
hard-to-place children in State custody.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
JOANNE GIBBONS,  Program Administrator,  Division of Family  & Youth                                                            
Services, Department  of Health and  Social Services confirmed  that                                                            
this legislation  "would  eliminate the requirement  for the  annual                                                            
evaluation process  for subsidized adoptions or guardianships."  She                                                            
explained that,  originally, the annual review was  intended to be a                                                            
cost containment  measure;  however, she revealed,  that no  savings                                                            
have  resulted  from   the  process.  She  explained   that  federal                                                            
guidelines  governing  the  guardianship  program specify  that  the                                                            
parents   must  inform   the  State   of  "any   changes  in   their                                                            
circumstances that might  affect their adoption assistance payment."                                                            
Additionally,  she noted,  the State  is not allowed  to reduce  the                                                            
subsidy  without the  consent  of the  family. She  announced  that,                                                            
rather than  reducing the subsidy  amount, the Department  has found                                                            
that the annual  review often results in an increase  of the subsidy                                                            
payments to  parents. Therefore, she  continued, the Department  has                                                            
determined that  the elimination of the annual review  would specify                                                            
that parents are responsible  for notifying the State of any changes                                                            
in their circumstances  and that the elimination of the review would                                                            
result in cost savings as indicated in the fiscal note.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Co-chair Wilken asked how  Medicaid eligibility would be affected by                                                            
the removal of the annual review.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Gibbons  responded that, while  Medicaid is required  to conduct                                                            
an annual review  of its recipients, it would be sufficient  for the                                                            
Department  to provide  the Division  of Medical  Assistance with  a                                                            
list  of the eligible  children  in the  program  who are  receiving                                                            
Medicaid.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Wilken clarified  that the families  would be responsible                                                             
for contacting  the State were a change  in circumstances  to occur.                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Ms.  Gibbons  stated   that,  should  this  bill  become   law,  the                                                            
Department would correspond  with all participating adoptive parents                                                            
and  guardians to  inform  them of  the  elimination  of the  annual                                                            
review and that,  were their circumstances to change,  they would be                                                            
required to notify the Department and request a subsidy review.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Senator Taylor asked whether  a family's subsidy could be reduced or                                                            
eliminated without notification.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Gibbons replied no.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Senator Hoffman  asked how the review process is addressed  in other                                                            
states.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Gibbons responded that,  "it varies from state to state" in that                                                            
some  do  "an  exhaustive"  review  while  others  do  nothing.  She                                                            
asserted that  the federal government  does not require nor  support                                                            
an annual review being conducted.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Senator Hoffman  asked whether the Department has  received any cost                                                            
containment benefits from the review.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Gibbons responded that the Department has not.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Wilken asked the  difference in  the federal verses  State                                                            
adoption subsidies,  and he asked  whether the guardianship  program                                                            
is subsidized.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Ms.  Gibbons  that  the  difference  between  a  federal  and  State                                                            
adoption  subsidy  "is that  the  children  whose needs  are  funded                                                            
through  a State adoption  subsidy  are not eligible  for Title  4E"                                                            
which is  a "federal  program that  funds services  for children  in                                                            
State custody." She clarified  that the backup material reflects the                                                            
amount  the State  pays  for  those children  who  do  not meet  the                                                            
federal  eligibility  requirements  for the  Title  4E program.  She                                                            
informed that  the federal government  does not reimburse  the State                                                            
for guardianships.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Wilken  understood that the  guardianship program  receives                                                            
State  general funds  and that  the adoption  program  is funded  by                                                            
Title 4E and general fund money.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Gibbons responded that is correct.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Wilken asked the definition of a hard-to-place child.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Gibbons responded that  a hard-to-place child is one for whom it                                                            
is difficult  to find a  permanent family  placement due to  special                                                            
needs such  as severe mental  illness or  a physical condition.  She                                                            
stated that federal criteria  also includes children who are part of                                                            
a sibling group  as single children  are easier to place.  She noted                                                            
that  the Department  could  supply the  Committee  with a  complete                                                            
list.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Wilken  asked the percent of children in  State custody who                                                            
are considered hard-to-place.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Gibbons responded that  approximately 90 percent of the children                                                            
in  the  Division   of  Family  and  Youth  Services'   custody  are                                                            
classified  as hard-to-place.  She stated  that the Department  does                                                            
not have  information on  the percent of  hard-to-place children  in                                                            
private adoption scenarios.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Co-chair Wilken  and other Committee members voiced  surprise at the                                                            
number of hard-to-place children in State custody.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Wilken asked  how  frequently the  subsidy  rate table  is                                                            
reviewed.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
TOM  CHERIAN,  Acting   Director,  Division  of  Family   and  Youth                                                            
Services, Department of  Health and Social Services replied that the                                                            
foster  care   subsidy  rate  table   is  reviewed  only   when  the                                                            
Legislature authorizes a change in the foster care base rate.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Green  offered a motion to  REPORT the bill from  Committee                                                            
with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal note.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
There  being  no objection,  SB  123  MOVED OUT  OF  COMMITTEE  with                                                            
previous negative  $270,000 fiscal note #1, dated  February 27, 2003                                                            
from the Department of Health and Social Services.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
ADJOURNMENT                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Gary Wilken adjourned the meeting at 10:22 AM                                                                          

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