Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/01/1995 09:05 AM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                         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                 
 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                 
 SB 83 - See Health, Education & Social Services minutes dated                 
 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                 
 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              
 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                
 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                     
 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                    
 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               
 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             
 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                  
 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            
 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.                                                        

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