Legislature(1995 - 1996)

04/29/1996 09:09 AM Senate HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                         April 29, 1996                                        
                           9:09 a.m.                                           
  MEMBERS PRESENT                                                              
 Senator Lyda Green, Chairman                                                  
 Senator Loren Leman, Vice-Chairman                                            
 Senator Johnny Ellis                                                          
 Senator Judy Salo                                                             
  MEMBERS ABSENT                                                               
 Senator Mike Miller                                                           
 COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                            
 HOUSE BILL NO. 529                                                            
 "An Act giving notice of and approving the entry into, and the                
 issuance of certificates of participation in, a lease-purchase                
 agreement for a centralized public health laboratory."                        
 HOUSE BILL NO. 506                                                            
 "An Act relating to establishment of a fire fighting and safety               
 training program by the University of Alaska."                                
  PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION                                             
 HB 529 - No Senate action to record.                                          
 HB 506 - No Senate action to record.                                          
  WITNESS REGISTER                                                             
 Karen Perdue, Commissioner                                                    
 Department of Health & Social Services                                        
 PO Box 110601                                                                 
 Juneau, Alaska 99811-0601                                                     
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Discussed the public health lab situation.               
 Dr. Greg Hayes, Chief                                                         
 Division of Public Health                                                     
 Department of Health & Social Services                                        
 PO Box 110613                                                                 
 Juneau, Alaska 99811-0613                                                     
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Answered questions.                                      
 Dr. John Middaugh, Chief                                                      
 Epidemiology Section                                                          
 Division of Public Health                                                     
 Department of Health & Social Services                                        
 PO Box 240249                                                                 
 Anchorage, Alaska 99524-0249                                                  
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Answered questions.                                      
 Representative Mike Navarre                                                   
 State Capitol                                                                 
 Juneau, Alaska 99801-1182                                                     
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Prime sponsor of HB 506.                                 
  ACTION NARRATIVE                                                             
 TAPE 96-36, SIDE A                                                            
          HB 529 APPROVE CENTRALIZED PUBLIC HEALTH LAB                        
 Number 002                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN GREEN called the Senate Health, Education and Social                 
 Services (HESS) Committee to order at 9:09 a.m. and introduced                
 HB 529  as the first order of business before the committee.                  
 COMMISSIONER KAREN PERDUE, Department of Health & Social Services,            
 emphasized that the public health laboratory is one of the most               
 essential pieces of a public health system.  Every state has a                
 public health laboratory, Alaska has three.  Alaska's public health           
 laboratories were established as regional labs in the 1930s and               
 1940s due to the technology and transportation of that time.                  
 Technology and transportation has improved which has lead the labs            
 in Alaska to serve a specialized function.  The Anchorage                     
 laboratory processes about 60 percent of all the samples in the               
 state, the Fairbanks lab processes about 30 percent, and the Juneau           
 lab processes about 10 percent of the samples.  The labs are in               
 leased facilities.                                                            
 Number 050                                                                    
 Commissioner Perdue said that the Anchorage and Juneau labs are not           
 safe, the labs do not meet health codes, and they are unsafe for              
 people to work in.  The buildings were not designed to support                
 laboratory functions.  These labs present some risks to the                   
 employees and the public.  She noted that the Fairbanks facility              
 was designed as a lab and is a safe facility, however, it has                 
 limitations for future growth.  Commissioner Perdue informed the              
 committee that a State Medical Examiner's System is being developed           
 and is currently located in the crime lab in Anchorage.  She                  
 expressed the desire to incorporate the state medical examiner into           
 the state laboratory function which could be accomplished with the            
 new building.                                                                 
 Commissioner Perdue discussed the history of public health in                 
 Alaska when pointing out that the core responsibility to protect              
 public health has not changed.  When there is a threat to public              
 health, it must be presented to the executive branch and the                  
 legislature.  Furthermore, Commissioner Perdue felt that as an                
 employer, if she felt that her employees were not working in a safe           
 environment then that must be presented as well.  She also believed           
 that she should point out any possible cost efficient measures that           
 could be taken.  HB 529 addresses all three of those issues.  There           
 have been 14 separate studies of the laboratory system since                  
 Commissioner Perdue has been involved with the department; each of            
 the studies have shown that something must be done.  There is no              
 longer the need to study this issue.                                          
 Number 091                                                                    
 With regards to the Fairbanks laboratory, it is not a feasible                
 option in the long-term.  The Anchorage situation must be                     
 addressed.  Commissioner Perdue explained that in the last 10                 
 years, each time this matter was discussed nothing was resolved               
 because the regional differences could not be worked out.                     
 Therefore, the most critical issues in Anchorage and Juneau have              
 not been addressed.  Under any plan by the department, the lab                
 would not be built until the year 2,000 when attrition plans would            
 be created.  Commissioner Perdue believed that no one would lose              
 their job in an untimely manner.  Through attrition, no one would             
 lose their job if they would transfer.                                        
 SENATOR LEMAN asked if any of the public health functions in other            
 states were contracted.  Would that be a possibility?                         
 Number 130                                                                    
 DR. GREG HAYES, Chief of Laboratories for DHSS, informed the                  
 committee that no core laboratory functions are contracted.                   
 However, every public health lab does contract some work.  For                
 example, the Environmental Lab contracts for work that they are not           
 capable of performing; it would not be cost effective for the lab             
 to perform that work.  There are core functions of tests, state               
 regulatory functions, which are not contracted in any state.                  
 SENATOR LEMAN inquired as to why these functions cannot be                    
 contracted.  DR. GREG HAYES explained that the state is responsible           
 for many regulatory activities which is difficult to contract and             
 have oversight.  There are many costs associated with oversight.              
 DR. JOHN MIDDAUGH, Chief of the Epidemiology Section of DHSS,                 
 identified one of the key functions of a state public health lab as           
 maintaining special expertise and capacity to protect the public.             
 The tests that are done may not occur frequently, but require much            
 expertise.  Dr. Middaugh used diphtheria and tuberculosis as an               
 example.  A certain number of tests must be run in order to                   
 maintain a high level of confidence in the result; those results              
 determine public health decisions.  Dr. Middaugh discussed some               
 examples of the need to run many tests in order to maintain a high            
 level of confidence.  Today's technology also helps track and                 
 fingerprint viruses.  In conclusion, Dr. Middaugh emphasized that             
 the functions of state medical laboratories are important as well             
 as their expertise and capacity to respond.                                   
 Number 272                                                                    
 SENATOR LEMAN said that he was impressed with the state laboratory            
 and Dr. Middaugh's work.  He asked if there were any other medical            
 laboratories in the state and if there was a sharing of specialist            
 in order to avoid duplication when the test may occur so                      
 infrequently.  DR. GREG HAYES acknowledged that testing is                    
 available in the private sector.  Often that technology would be              
 transferred to the private sector.  Dr. Hayes pointed out that the            
 state lab tries to maintain communicable disease testing and the              
 latest technology.                                                            
 DR. JOHN MIDDAUGH said that the state lab works closely with many             
 of the private labs around the state.  Some of the tests these labs           
 offer are not offered by the state medical lab.  The state lab                
 serves as a reference lab for all the private labs.  He pointed out           
 that the state lab can do serial groupings which the private labs             
 cannot.  It would be unethical for private hospitals to fingerprint           
 antibiotic resistance tests because that would not help the                   
 patient, but it is a core public health function to target better             
 intervention.  There are 650 infectious and controlled communicable           
 diseases known to man which are adopted in the state laboratory               
 regulations for surveillance.                                                 
 Number 328                                                                    
 COMMISSIONER PERDUE emphasized that the state medical lab looks for           
 trends.  If the public health system works, no one notices; but if            
 it does not work, it could effect our economy.  The public health             
 system needs to be ready for the future.                                      
 SENATOR LEMAN asked if the other facilities the state works with              
 such as Alaska Regional Providence support this centralized lab in            
 Anchorage.  DR. JOHN MIDDAUGH replied yes.  The State Medical                 
 Association passed a formal resolution in support of HB 529 and the           
 efforts to obtain the funds for the new lab.  In response to                  
 Senator Leman, COMMISSIONER PERDUE said that the preferred location           
 of the lab would be next to the crime lab.                                    
 SENATOR LEMAN said that he was satisfied with the networking being            
 done between the state and private medical labs.                              
 DR. JOHN MIDDAUGH reiterated that all states maintain a central               
 core public health laboratory.                                                
 CHAIRMAN GREEN assumed that the state lab was obliged to be                   
 connected with the nationwide disease control centers.  DR. GREG              
 HAYES informed the committee that data is transferred on a daily              
 SENATOR LEMAN asked if the Municipality of Anchorage had a public             
 health laboratory.  DR. JOHN MIDDAUGH replied no, the municipality            
 uses the states.                                                              
 SENATOR SALO commented that HB 529 is an excellent bill.  She                 
 inquired as to why it would take until the year 2,000 to begin.               
 COMMISSIONER PERDUE explained that this would begin from the very             
 beginning.  No design work has been done.  There is a fair amount             
 of complicated design work for this building.                                 
 CHAIRMAN GREEN announced that the department requested that HB 529            
 be held until Wednesday.                                                      
            HB 506 UNIVERSITY FIRE FIGHTING PROGRAM                           
 Number 377                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN GREEN introduced  HB 506  as the next order of business              
 before the committee.                                                         
 REPRESENTATIVE MIKE NAVARRE, Prime Sponsor, explained that HB 506             
 would allow the University of Alaska to establish the fire training           
 program in Kenai.  The fire training program is currently being run           
 as part of the MAPTS program.  Lines 9-12 of the bill illustrate              
 the thrust of the bill:  how much money is generated at the                   
 facility in order to be used to buy additional props.                         
 Approximately $3,000 to $5,000 worth of additional props are needed           
 in order to provide training that is not provided elsewhere in                
 Alaska.  For example, industrial training for the oil industry.               
 Currently, that type of training is received in Nevada and Texas.             
 Representative Navarre acknowledged the concern that this would be            
 the only fire training required in statute by the university.  This           
 bill does not preclude the university from doing the training                 
 elsewhere.  There is a fire training degree program at the                    
 Fairbanks campus.  Representative Navarre did not expect that to              
 change.  This bill does not intend to take over all the fire                  
 training for the state.  There would still be the need to do                  
 regional fire training in Anchorage and Fairbanks.  Representative            
 Navarre believed all the concern to be because Kenai is working on            
 receiving federal funds for the FAA for a $6 million aircraft                 
 training rescue program.  There is competition between Anchorage              
 and Kenai over who would receive that program which is not related            
 to this bill.  HB 506 would address the need for additional props             
 to train for the oil industry.                                                
 Number 424                                                                    
 SENATOR LEMAN did not believe that the title of the bill addressed            
 what the bill actually does.  Senator Leman said that the intent              
 was to establish the institute in Kenai.                                      
 REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE said that this was how it came back from the           
 drafter.  He intended to establish a separate entity in Kenai in              
 order to determine the amount of revenue generated and how much the           
 university uses for other programs.  The goal is to establish it so           
 as the fire training program keeps their receipts in order to                 
 purchase the additional props for additional training.                        
 SENATOR LEMAN asked Representative Navarre if he had seen the                 
 letter from Evans & Associates which opposes HB 506.                          
 REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE said that he had discussed this with some of           
 the local fire chiefs.  The concern is that Kenai is trying to take           
 all the fire training in the state which is not the case.  He                 
 informed the committee that he had explained it to the head of the            
 Fire Chiefs Association who are concerned that this will be the               
 only area in statute that requires the university to establish a              
 training center.  The Anchorage facility is not part of the                   
 university.  The Kenai campus is part of the University of Alaska-            
 Anchorage.  The university determines the scope, range, and size of           
 the Kenai program.                                                            
 SENATOR SALO asked if the focus of the Kenai facility is different            
 because of the industrial training.  REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE agreed.           
 CHAIRMAN GREEN inquired as to the path of the money received for              
 this fire training.  REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE stated that the                   
 legislature controls this funding.  Representative Navarre believed           
 that separate accounts for Kenai would be established.                        
 CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if any other parts of the university are run             
 like this.  REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE did not know.  The university              
 does not oppose HB 506.                                                       
 SENATOR LEMAN inquired as to the vote on the House floor.                     
 REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE said that the vote was 28-11.  The                     
 opposition rose from the letter and the fear that this would take             
 funds from other fire training.                                               
 SENATOR SALO moved that HB 506 be moved out of committee with                 
 individual recommendations.  Hearing no objections, it was so                 
 There being no further business before the committee, the meeting             
 was adjourned at 9:47 a.m.                                                    

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