Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/01/1995 09:05 AM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE HEALTH, EDUCATION AND SOCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE March 1, 1995 9:05 a.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Senator Lyda Green, Chairman Senator Loren Leman, Vice-Chairman Senator Mike Miller Senator Johnny Ellis Senator Judy Salo MEMBERS ABSENT All members present. COMMITTEE CALENDAR SHES - 3/1/95 SB 88 (PILOT PROGRAM FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS) was scheduled, but not heard this date. SENATE BILL NO. 83 "An Act relating to the appointment and removal of the commissioner of education; and providing for an effective date." SENATE BILL NO. 15 "An Act extending the termination date of the Citizens' Review Panel for Permanency Planning; and providing for an effective date." SPONSOR SUBSTITUTE FOR SENATE BILL NO. 27 "An Act relating to child visitation rights of grandparents and other persons who are not the parents of the child." SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 17 Supporting the Alaska Humanities Forum and the National Endowment for the Humanities; endorsing federal legislation reauthorizing and funding the National Endowment for the Humanities; requesting the United States Congress to fund the National Endowment for the Humanities at a fair and reasonable level; and urging the President of the United States to support legislation reauthorizing and funding at a fair and reasonable level the National Endowment for the Humanities. PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION SB 88 - See Health, Education & Social Services minutes dated 2/22/95. SB 83 - See Health, Education & Social Services minutes dated 2/20/95. SB 15 - No previous action to record. SB 27 - No previous action to record. SJR 17 - No previous action to record. WITNESS REGISTER Jan Levy, Assistant Attorney General Department of Law The Governor's Office P.O. Box 110300 Juneau, Alaska 99811-0300 POSITION STATEMENT: Discussed that SB 83 addresses the concerns of the Department of Law and the Governor's office. Senator Ellis State Capitol Juneau, Alaska 99801-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Prime sponsor of SB 15. Cecilia Kleinkauf Anchorage, Alaska POSITION STATEMENT: Urged that SB 15 be moved out of committee. Paulene Hafund, Volunteer Panelist Anchorage, Alaska POSITION STATEMENT: Urged the endorsement of SB 15. Sharon Barton, Director Division of Administration Citizen Foster Care Review Supervisor P.O. Box 110208 Juneau, Alaska 99811-0208 POSITION STATEMENT: Explained the presence of the fiscal note in SB 15. Senator Donley State Capitol Juneau, Alaska 99801-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Prime sponsor of SB 27. Senator Rieger State Capitol Juneau, Alaska 99801-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Prime sponsor of SJR 17. ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 95-9, SIDE A SHES - 3/1/95 SB 88 PILOT PROGRAM FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS Number 002 CHAIRMAN GREEN called the Senate Health, Education and Social Services (HESS) Committee to order at 9:05 a.m. and noted that SB 88 would be held until the next meeting. SHES - 3/1/95 SB 83 COMMR OF ED TO SERVE AT GOV'S PLEASURE CHAIRMAN GREEN introduced SB 83 as the next order of business before the committee. SENATOR MILLER moved to adopt CS SB 83(HES), Lauterbach K version 2/28/95, in lieu of the original bill in order to have a working draft. SENATOR ELLIS objected. SENATOR MILLER clarified that the motion was to adopt the Lauterbach K version 2/28/95 of SB 83 as the working committee substitute. JAN LEVY, Department of Law, stated that she would be testifying on behalf of the Department of Law and the Governor's office. She inquired as to which CS the committee was referring. CHAIRMAN GREEN said that it was the CS dated 2/28/95. JAN LEVY explained that the original legislation introduced by the Governor's office was in response to concerns regarding the Commissioner of Education. When the Administration changed, the Commissioner of Education did not submit his resignation at the request of the Governor which resulted in financial costs to the state. The original bill had the commissioner serve at the pleasure of the governor; the Governor's office has understood the committee's concerns with this issue. This CS addresses the Governor's concerns as well as the concerns of the Department of Law. She stated that the commissioner should be accountable to someone, whether it would be the Governor of the Board of Education. Ms. Levy noted the discussion of whether or not removing the cause provisions from the existing law would be good policy. She pointed out that the Board, by statute, is composed of individuals from all over the state. She commented that when a commissioner loses the confidence of four members of the board, the Governor's office believes that should be sufficient cause for the board to replace that individual. This CS addresses the concerns of the Department of Law, the Department of Education, and the Governor's office Number 100 SENATOR ELLIS removed his objection to the adoption of the CS. SENATOR LEMAN pointed out that the CS with regard to the Commissioner of Fish and Game retains some of the power within the Board through the method of removal; the method of removal is to submit a resolution to the governor requesting the removal of the commissioner. The final decision to remove or retain the commissioner would be made by the governor. He stated that the Department of Education was different in that the commissioner would serve at the pleasure of the board. He explained that with the Commissioner of Fish and Game, the board would have to initiate the action, but the governor would still have the ultimate authority. JAN LEVY said that Senator Leman was correct. She mentioned that the Department of Law holds the position of the Constitution which maintains that a principle head of a department serves at the pleasure of the governor. Therefore, an individual serving as a department head would serve at the pleasure of the governor. She interpreted that section as providing a mechanism in which the board could initiate action if they have concerns and the governor has not begun any action. She emphasized that the Department of Education is the only department which the legislature has chosen to be headed by a board. SENATOR MILLER moved that the CS SB 83(HES) be moved out of committee with individual recommendations. Without objection, it was so ordered. SHES - 3/1/95 SB 15 EXTEND FOSTER CARE REVIEW PANEL Number 160 CHAIRMAN GREEN introduced SB 15 as the next order of business before the committee. SENATOR ELLIS, prime sponsor, thanked the Chair for having the bill before the committee. He stated that children in the custody of the state deserve a high commitment. He recounted the history of the issue of permanency planning, independent citizen dominated foster care review. Independent citizen dominated foster care review is a group of citizens and service providers working with social workers to achieve the best for the child, placing the child in a permanent placement as early as possible. He pointed out that a child often endures abuse first, from an individual and then from the system; the legislature has the power to change the abuse of these children by the system. Senator Ellis explained that SB 15 proposes to extend the permanency planning effort in Alaska, although it would not be the full-blown effort envisioned with the original legislation. He noted that Representative Toohey has a similar bill. This legislation is a bipartisan effort. He directed the committee members to the state audit in their packets which justified the extension. CECILIA KLEINKAUF thanked the committee for the opportunity to testify. She noted her involvement in the effort to establish foster care review in Alaska. She explained that under the federal Adoption Assistance and Health Welfare Act of 1980, children's foster care is required to have a written case plan within a short time period after a child is placed. The case plan must be reviewed on a regularly scheduled basis, but states are given the ability to decide whether to do those reviews internally or through an external citizen review. Alaska chose to do internal reviews until 1990. When concerns began to arise, the original legislation Senator Ellis referred to was introduced. Number 236 Ms. Kleinkauf stated that the original legislation established an independent citizen foster care review board. Many other states have established similar independent foster care review boards due to the need to review the state agencies from an outside vantage. She noted that research, particularly in Nebraska, has illustrated that independent review is more successful in returning children home or to a permanency plan. Due to the high case loads and stress which social workers face, the federally mandated reviews may fall to the wayside in order to deal with other issues. Ms. Kleinkauf clarified that the independent review board's sole function is to review child welfare cases in order to ascertain if the state is providing reasonable effort to either prevent placement or to reunite children when possible. The independent review board also reviews the efforts for permanent plans for placement of the child. She stated that she always supported legislation in this area. The independent foster care review board is a more beneficial approach to permanency placement than an internal review approach. She urged the committee to pass SB 15 out of committee. She noted that independent review, in other states, has demonstrated increased permanency for children and decreased costs to the state. Number 280 PAULENE HAFUND, volunteer panelist for foster care review, appreciated the opportunity to testify. She informed the committee that there are approximately 20 volunteers who have contributed over 1,650 volunteer hours on this project in the last 15 months. These children are our future and should be supported in the best manner possible. She said that they were working with the Division of Family and Youth Services (DFYS). She explained that as a volunteer citizen, their input may be different than that from a social worker. From December of 1993 to January of 1995, the panel has reviewed the cases of 263 children of which 50 percent were pre-school age. Furthermore, 142 of those children have been reviewed more than once. She believed that this indicated that the panel is having an impact. She urged the committee to endorse SB 15. CHAIRMAN GREEN inquired as to the will of the committee. SENATOR ELLIS moved that SB 15 be moved out of committee with individual recommendations. SENATOR LEMAN objected. He noted the presence of a fiscal note and the back up attached. He asked if it would be necessary to have new staff for this panel or could it be integrated into the system. SHARON BARTON, Department of Administration, stated that she currently supervises the Citizens Foster Care Review program. The fiscal note was essential when the legislation was written because the funding had been zeroed out of the Governor's budget. She pointed out that the Governor's amended budget, sent across yesterday, restored the funding for the program. The fiscal note would now be zero. If the bill passes, the funding would be supported in the department's budget. She specified that this would merely maintain the current level of staffing of the program. SENATOR LEMAN asked how many children's cases were reviewed by the three person panel. SHARON BARTON reiterated that in the last 14 months, they have reviewed 260 cases. The two social workers do most of the organizational work for the panels such as preparing the packets, setting up the logistics, reviewing and summarizing the files. Number 337 SENATOR LEMAN asked if Ms. Barton felt that such a workload for three individuals was reasonable. SHARON BARTON expressed confidence in stating that the state is receiving great work for minimal resources. The social workers are Range 14 and work many hours of overtime. Ms. Barton pointed out that the panel does not have any clerical support, their furniture is surplus. Ms. Barton indicated that they have contemplated the possibility of organizing this staff in another configuration in order to cover more children statewide. There may be a manner in which this money could be spread to touch more children. SENATOR LEMAN removed his objection. CHAIRMAN GREEN noted that without other objection, SB 15 would be moved out of committee with individual recommendations. SHES - 3/1/95 SB 27 MISC. GRANDPARENT VISITATION RIGHTS Number 386 CHAIRMAN GREEN introduced SB 27 as the next order of business before the committee. SENATOR DONLEY, prime sponsor, noted that SB 27 has been around for at least four years. He explained that SB 27 would allow grandparents the right to have standing to petition the courts for visitation rights. Alaska is the only state where grandparents do not have such standing. He clarified that there is a statute which references grandparent visitation, but the court must take the action. The grandparents are not allowed to initiate such action. He said that there was a strong public policy reason for allowing this, family relations. He recounted the past of SB 27. In conclusion, he emphasized that SB 27 is clear regarding that visitation would only be allowed when in the best interest of the child. SENATOR SALO inquired as to how SB 27 compared to the legislation last year. She also asked if Senator Donley could address the problem in the past regarding the issue of dissolution. SENATOR DONLEY pointed out that SB 27 does not contain Section 4 which referenced that in last year's bill. SENATOR SALO asked why that section was eliminated. SENATOR DONLEY explained that Section 4 was eliminated due to controversy surrounding it. SENATOR SALO said that she recalled the controversy being related to the definition of dissolution. A dissolution is an agreement which does not involve review by a judge. She asked how that would happen under SB 27. SENATOR DONLEY stated that it would not happen because the issue is no longer covered in this legislation. SENATOR LEMAN moved that SB 27 be reported out of committee with individual recommendations. Without objection, it was so ordered. An at ease was called at 9:36 a.m. SHES - 3/1/95 SJR 17 NAT'L ENDOWMENT FOR THE HUMANITIES Number 435 CHAIRMAN GREEN called the committee back to order at 9:40 a.m. and introduced SJR 17 as the last order of business before the committee. SENATOR RIEGER, prime sponsor, stated that SJR 17 addressed the National Endowment for the Humanities which is under federal consideration for reauthorization. He noted that the National Endowment for the Humanities is a far-reaching organization in Alaska. He supported budget reductions at the federal level, but all aspects of federal spending should be reviewed. SJR 17 does not request a hold harmless for this endowment, but it would request a fair and equitable solution. He encouraged the committee to review the backup of SJR 17, a lot of benefits have been achieved with little money. CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if there were other questions. SENATOR LEMAN agreed that the National Endowment for the Humanities has achieved many beneficial programs. However, should the general public be forced to contribute to these programs through taxation? He reiterated that there are benefits gained, but he objected in principle to this non-core governmental function. Obtaining private donations or other funding mechanisms in order to end federal funding and control would seem more appropriate. SENATOR MILLER stated that he shared some of the concerns of Senator Leman. He asked at what point should the government be involved in the arts and when should private donations come into play. Government funding carries government control. He did not want censorship; do not require that everyone fund these programs some of which are felt to be objectional to some people, use your own funding. The vast majority of the programs in the Alaska Humanities are good programs, however, programs regarding political issues do not seem appropriate. Perhaps, the funding of political programs should be obtained elsewhere. In conclusion, this legislation seems to be a philosophical debate. Number 499 SENATOR RIEGER acknowledged that he had given that point some thought, but throughout history most great cultures have devoted a portion of their national resources to the arts and humanities. In a historical context, the amount of funding of this would be considered low in comparison to previous cultures. CHAIRMAN GREEN moved that SJR 17 be moved out of committee with individual recommendations. SENATOR LEMAN objected to the funding mechanism. Upon a roll call vote, Senators Green, Ellis, and Salo voted "Yeah" and Senators Leman and Miller voted "Nay." The motion passed and SJR 17 was passed out of committee with individual recommendations. There being no further business before the committee, the meeting adjourned at 9:49 a.m.