Legislature(2001 - 2002)

04/02/2001 02:00 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                     ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                   
       SENATE HEALTH, EDUCATION & SOCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE                                                                   
                           April 2, 2001                                                                                        
                             2:00 p.m.                                                                                          
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Lyda Green, Chair                                                                                                       
Senator Loren Leman, Vice Chair                                                                                                 
Senator Gary Wilken                                                                                                             
Senator Jerry Ward                                                                                                              
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Senator Bettye Davis                                                                                                            
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
SENATE BILL NO. 155                                                                                                             
"An  Act  relating   to  the  Alaska  Commission  on  Postsecondary                                                             
Education  and the  Alaska  Student  Loan Corporation;  relating  to                                                            
student financial aid programs  and the financing of those programs;                                                            
establishing  the  Alaska  Advantage  Loan Program  and  the  Alaska                                                            
Supplemental   Education  Loan  Program;   increasing  the   bonding                                                            
authorization of the Alaska  Student Loan Corporation; providing for                                                            
liens resulting from a  default under AS 14.43 or AS 14.44; relating                                                            
to the  duties of the recorder  regarding  those liens; relating  to                                                            
defaults  under  the  Western  Regional  Higher  Education  Compact;                                                            
relating  to the prohibition  on discrimination  regarding  programs                                                            
under  AS  14.43;  relating  to  fees  for  the  review  of  certain                                                            
postsecondary  institutions;   making  conforming  amendments;   and                                                            
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
     HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                             
SENATE BILL NO. 91                                                                                                              
"An Act relating  to information and services available  to pregnant                                                            
women and  other persons;  and ensuring informed  consent before  an                                                            
abortion may  be performed, except  in cases of medical emergency."                                                             
     MOVED CSSB 91(HES) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                        
SPONSOR SUBSTITUTE FOR SENATE BILL NO. 149                                                                                      
"An Act relating  to employment incentives  for teachers  and health                                                            
care providers,  to reemployment  of retired  teachers, to  loans to                                                            
and loan  forgiveness  for teachers  and health  care providers,  to                                                            
awards  to teachers,  to  eligibility  for major  medical  insurance                                                            
coverage for beneficiaries  of the teachers' retirement  system, and                                                            
to teacher certificates; and providing for an effective date."                                                                  
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
SB 155 - No previous Senate action.                                                                                             
SB 91 - See HESS minutes dated 3/14/01 and 3/16/01.                                                                             
SB 149 - No previous Senate action.                                                                                             
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
Diane Barrans                                                                                                                   
Postsecondary Education Commission                                                                                              
Department of Education & Early Development                                                                                     
3030 Vintage Dr.                                                                                                                
Juneau, AK  99801                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Explained the provisions of SB 155.                                                                      
Rick Weems                                                                                                                      
University of Alaska Anchorage                                                                                                  
3211 Providence Dr.                                                                                                             
Anchorage, AK  99508                                                                                                            
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supports SB 155.                                                                                         
Sandy Altland                                                                                                                   
Staff to Senator Ward                                                                                                           
Alaska State Capitol                                                                                                            
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:  Explained the changes made to CSSB 91(HES).                                                              
Dr. Tina DeLapp                                                                                                                 
University of Alaska Anchorage                                                                                                  
13101 Elmore Rd.                                                                                                                
Anchorage, AK  99516                                                                                                            
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supports SB 149.                                                                                         
Debbie Ossiander                                                                                                                
Anchorage School Board                                                                                                          
PO Box 196650                                                                                                                   
Anchorage, AK  99519                                                                                                            
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supports SB 149.                                                                                         
Steve Cathers                                                                                                                   
Valdez, AK                                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supports SB 149.                                                                                         
Melissa Hill, Director                                                                                                          
Alaska Teacher Placement                                                                                                        
University of Alaska Fairbanks                                                                                                  
Fairbanks,  AK                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supports SB 149.                                                                                         
Larraine Derr                                                                                                                   
Alaska State Hospital & Nursing Home Association                                                                                
426 Main St.                                                                                                                    
Juneau, AK  99801                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supports SB 149.                                                                                         
Bruce Johnson                                                                                                                   
Deputy Commissioner                                                                                                             
Department of Education &                                                                                                       
 Early Development                                                                                                              
801 W 10  St.                                                                                                                   
Juneau, AK  99801-1894                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:   Supports SB 149 but informed  the committee of                                                          
similar actions taken by the state board of education.                                                                          
Karen Pearson                                                                                                                   
Department of Health &                                                                                                          
  Social Services                                                                                                               
PO Box 110601                                                                                                                   
Juneau, AK  99801-0601                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supports SB 149.                                                                                         
Sharon Barton, Director                                                                                                         
Division of Personnel                                                                                                           
Department of Administration                                                                                                    
PO Box 110200                                                                                                                   
Juneau, AK  99811-0200                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:   Supports SB 149 but informed  the committee of                                                          
other professions that are facing a severe shortage.                                                                            
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
TAPE 01-29, SIDE A                                                                                                            
Number 001                                                                                                                      
CHAIRWOMAN LYDA  GREEN called the Senate Health, Education  & Social                                                          
Services  Committee  meeting to  order at  2:00 p.m.   Present  were                                                            
Senators  Wilken, Ward and  Green.  The first  order of business  to                                                            
come before the committee was SB 155.                                                                                           
          SB 155-STUDENT LOANS/COMN. ON POSTSECONDARY ED.                                                                   
MS.  DIANE   BARRANS,   Director   of  the  Alaska   Commission   on                                                            
Postsecondary  Education (ACPE), gave  the following explanation  of                                                            
SB 155.   Recognizing  that  the financial  status of  ACPE and  its                                                            
financing   partner,  the   student  loan   corporation,  had   been                                                            
stabilized  18 months  ago, ACPE  management was  challenged by  the                                                            
board  to identify  ways to  expand its  services  and increase  the                                                            
public benefit  of those  services for Alaskans.   Working  with the                                                            
Commission's  team  of managers,  the ACPE  focused  on a  strategic                                                            
recommendation  made by  the agency's  external audit  firm of  KPMG                                                            
Peat Marwick and  developed the Alaska Advantage Program.   Over the                                                            
last 10 months,  it has analyzed customers' needs  and expectations.                                                            
That has  included extensive  communication  with administrators  at                                                            
the four institutions who  collectively administer financial aid for                                                            
approximately  40 percent of ACPE's  borrowing customers.   With its                                                            
outreach  effort,  ACPE  has  better identified   the needs  of  its                                                            
customers and  the ACPE is better informed to serve  these customers                                                            
now than ever before.                                                                                                           
To  that  end,  SB 155  has  been  introduced  by  the  Governor  to                                                            
establish the  Alaska Advantage Program.    The program will  return                                                            
meaningful  benefits  and  dividends   to its  stakeholder   groups:                                                            
students;   parents;  higher  education   institutions  in   Alaska;                                                            
legislators;  employers;  and  bond  holders.   SB  155 sets  out  a                                                            
statutory framework for  the ACPE and the corporation to develop and                                                            
implement  the  premiere  educational  loan program  in  the  United                                                            
States by and for Alaskans.   The statutory changes made by the bill                                                            
will result  in lower  cost educational  loans in  Alaska and  other                                                            
improvements  to  borrowers'  loan terms.    The ACPE's  success  in                                                            
marketing  such a  program will  be one  means of  helping  Alaskans                                                            
fight the high cost of  postsecondary education and hopefully change                                                            
their perception that education  is unaffordable.  SB 155 will allow                                                            
the ACPE  to facilitate these  changes without  putting at  risk the                                                            
financial  strength  of  the  corporation.    This  initiative  will                                                            
improve and expand services  to Alaskans and assist the institutions                                                            
in Alaska in attracting and retaining new students.                                                                             
For  borrowers, the  Alaska  Advantage  Program will  guarantee  the                                                            
lowest possible borrowing  rates.  It will improve aid packaging and                                                            
delivery  by  creating  a one-stop  shopping  format.    It  ensures                                                            
simultaneous  grant and loan application.   It approves and  expands                                                            
the borrowers  deferment and  repayment options  and it provides  an                                                            
opportunity for debt consolidation  in Alaska with an Alaska lender.                                                            
For  institutional  partners,  through  ASL-net,   the Commission's                                                             
internet  portal,  Alaska  Advantage   provides  a  recruitment  and                                                            
retention tool  through beneficial  interest terms.  It streamlines                                                             
and  improves  financial aid  delivery,  easing  the administrative                                                             
burden.  It eliminates  unnecessary program differences  to simplify                                                            
administration of these  programs for staff and it will enhance loan                                                            
product  comparisons  by  students  and  their families.    It  also                                                            
provides  specific financial  awards for borrowers  remaining  in or                                                            
returning  to Alaska  and it  enhances default  management  support.                                                            
For the corporation,  the Alaska Advantage  Program will  reduce the                                                            
risk  through  the federal  guarantee,  hopefully  resulting  in  an                                                            
improved bond  rating to AAA and further bond cost  reductions.  The                                                            
federal  interest  subsidies  will improve  cash  flow  and it  will                                                            
eliminate  98 percent  of  the loss  on the  federally underwritten                                                             
loans due to  borrowers' default,  death, disability or bankruptcy.                                                             
In time, ACPE  expects these changes to allow for  additional Alaska                                                            
Advantage  benefits  such as  upfront  interest reductions,  a  rate                                                            
reduction  for  borrowers   who  remain  in  or  return  to  Alaska,                                                            
repayment rewards,  bank payment rewards,  and other incentives  for                                                            
good borrower  behavior.  The results  achieved by the ACPE  and the                                                            
corporation in recent years  have meant a significant improvement in                                                            
both the program  finances and servicing.   These results  could not                                                            
have been achieved without  broad support of the Administration, the                                                            
Legislature, participating institutions and Alaska students.                                                                    
SB  155  will enable  the  ACPE  to  convert  these  successes  into                                                            
positive  momentum  and  raise  its  services  to  the  next  level.                                                            
Continued  and  substantial  improvement  is only  possible  through                                                            
proposed integration of  the programmatic and financial strengths of                                                            
federal  and state  student  services.    The timeline  reflects  an                                                            
extremely aggressive  schedule as  ACPE will seek to implement  this                                                            
servicing model for the 2002-2003 year.                                                                                         
MS. BARRANS  asked  for expedited  consideration  and passage  of SB
155, which  will permit the ACPE to  immediately direct 100  percent                                                            
of   its  resources   to   the   planning,   marketing   and   other                                                            
implementation  activities.  Success is feasible if  we begin in May                                                            
of this  year,  but the  process cannot  begin until  the  statutory                                                            
structure is in place.                                                                                                          
SENATOR  WILKEN  asked  Ms. Barrans  if  she  could review  for  the                                                            
committee the  projected income that  ACPE expects to make  with the                                                            
passage  of  SB 155.    He also  asked  Ms. Barrans  to  inform  the                                                            
committee  of the amount  of delinquent  loans that  have been  paid                                                            
through permanent fund dividend collections.                                                                                    
Number 689                                                                                                                      
MS. BARRANS directed  the committee's attention to  the fiscal note,                                                            
which shows a positive  change in revenues. By 2003, ACPE expects to                                                            
have  a $4.7  million  increase  in  net income,  with  that  amount                                                            
continuing  as the program evolves.   The fiscal note was  estimated                                                            
with all  things remaining  as they are.   However, ACPE intends  to                                                            
take  the  net  gain  and  roll  it  back  into  the  loan  products                                                            
themselves.  ACPE would like to offer below-market rate loans.                                                                  
CHAIRWOMAN  GREEN asked if the savings  from the projected  increase                                                            
would apply  to borrowers in the future  or whether they  would have                                                            
any retroactive impact.                                                                                                         
MS. BARRANS said  the savings shown on the fiscal  note are specific                                                            
to  the  federally  underwritten  law.    She  noted  regarding  the                                                            
permanent  fund dividend  collections for  bad debt, ACPE  recovered                                                            
$13 million this year and $12 million last year.                                                                                
Number 846                                                                                                                      
SENATOR LEMAN pointed out  that the fiscal note contains funding for                                                            
four new employees.  He  asked her to address, to the Senate Finance                                                            
Committee, whether  four new employees are necessary  and or whether                                                            
contracting out some of that work would be a better approach.                                                                   
CHAIRWOMAN  GREEN  announced  that  she  will hold  the  bill  until                                                            
Wednesday to  provide committee members  the opportunity  to get any                                                            
other questions answered.                                                                                                       
MS. BARRANS  informed  the committee  that the fiscal  note will  be                                                            
revised because  the numbers  used are consistent  with the  current                                                            
default rate;  that default  rate is expected  to decrease  with the                                                            
new program model.                                                                                                              
CHAIRWOMAN  GREEN took  a brief  at-ease and  then continued  taking                                                            
public testimony on SB 155.                                                                                                     
MR.  RICK  WEEMS,  University  of  Alaska  Anchorage  (UAA)  finance                                                            
officer, stated  support for SB 155 and said that  UAA's partnership                                                            
with ACPE is providing great services for students.                                                                             
There  being  no further  testimony  or  questions  on SB  155,  the                                                            
committee took up SB 91.                                                                                                        
           SB  91-ABORTION: INFORMED CONSENT;INFORMATION                                                                    
SENATOR  WARD  moved  to  adopt  a  proposed  committee   substitute                                                            
(Version  C) to  SB 91 as  the working  document  of the  committee.                                                            
There being no objection, the motion carried.                                                                                   
MS. SANDY ALTLAND,  legislative aide to Senator Ward,  sponsor of SB
91, explained  the changes to the committee substitute.   On page 3,                                                            
line  9,  a new  section  (c)  was inserted  to  specify  where  the                                                            
informational  pamphlet  should be  distributed, that  it should  be                                                            
free, and that  the Department of Health and Social  Services should                                                            
advertise the availability of the pamphlet.                                                                                     
SENATOR  WARD  stated that  under  current  law,  information  about                                                            
planned parenthood  must be distributed  in certain locations.   The                                                            
new section in CSSB 91(HES)  will place this pamphlet next to those.                                                            
SENATOR LEMAN  informed the  committee that  he plans to propose  an                                                            
amendment to this bill in the Senate Finance Committee.                                                                         
There  being no  testimony  or questions,  SENATOR  WARD moved  CSSB
91(HES)  from  committee with  individual  recommendations.    There                                                            
being no objection, the motion carried.                                                                                         
         SB 149 - TEACHER/HEALTH CARE PROVIDER INCENTIVES                                                                   
CHAIRWOMAN  GREEN asked  Senator Leman,  the sponsor  of SB 149,  to                                                            
present the bill.                                                                                                               
SENATOR LEMAN  said he introduced SB 149 because of  the shortage of                                                            
teachers and  health care providers,  most noticeably of  nurses, in                                                            
Alaska.   To address this  problem, he believes  the state  needs to                                                            
provide incentives to reverse  this trend.  The University of Alaska                                                            
(UA) is doing  a capable job of filling  some of the shortages,  but                                                            
it is unable to  fill them all so Alaska must attract  professionals                                                            
from outside of the state.                                                                                                      
SB 149 attracts  newly trained people, it promotes  retention of the                                                            
existing  workforce, and  it will  therefore  attract retirees  back                                                            
into the workforce.   It provides  financial incentives to  motivate                                                            
entry-level  teachers and health  care providers  to the state.   It                                                            
has a partial  loan assumption element  that provides up  to $10,000                                                            
in state-paid  loan  payment support.   In addition,  it contains  a                                                            
loan  forgiveness  provision  for  teachers  in  rural  areas.    He                                                            
believes  that  provision  should  be expanded  to  include  certain                                                            
teachers in urban areas.                                                                                                        
SENATOR  LEMAN  explained  that  the  bill  also  targets   employed                                                            
professionals by increasing  medical benefits for those teachers who                                                            
work 25  years instead  of 20.   For  the additional  five years  of                                                            
work, their coverage would  increase to 100 percent upon retirement.                                                            
Another  provision  of the  bill  recognizes  out-of-state  teaching                                                            
certificates and  provides for a teaching excellence  award program.                                                            
 That program  provides  a $1500 award  to up to  20 percent  of the                                                            
teachers in Alaska school  districts.  The districts would determine                                                            
the methods  to decide who the awards  will go to.  He expects  that                                                            
program to motivate  teachers to improve our education  system.  The                                                            
bill contains a fiscal  note, which he expects the committee to work                                                            
on to fit within the budget gap.                                                                                                
SENATOR LEMAN pointed out  that under SB 149, retired teachers would                                                            
be able to come back into  the system and work.  They could continue                                                            
to receive benefits but,  if they chose not to, they could work at a                                                            
higher salary.   He offered to go  into more detail on that  section                                                            
if necessary.                                                                                                                   
Number 1501                                                                                                                     
SENATOR GREEN asked if  the Department of Law has issued an attorney                                                            
general's opinion on the  question of whether it is discriminator to                                                            
grant forgiveness  on  student loans  for a certain  segment  of the                                                            
SENATOR LEMAN  stated that SB 149 has discrimination  built into it.                                                            
He  believes   the  question  is   whether  the  discrimination   is                                                            
appropriate  and, in his opinion,  it is.  He said he would  welcome                                                            
testimony  from the Department  of Education  and Early Development                                                             
and the assistant  attorney general  who represents that  department                                                            
on that question.                                                                                                               
SENATOR  WARD commented  that special  housing loans  were given  to                                                            
police officers  in the Mountainview  area  of Anchorage.   He asked                                                            
Senator Leman  whether he considered  offering a further  subsidized                                                            
housing loan program through  the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation                                                            
to provide incentive to teachers to move to certain areas.                                                                      
SENATOR LEMAN thought that  is a good idea and said he sees the bill                                                            
as a  work in progress.   He recognizes  that the  bill has  a large                                                            
fiscal note and that it will have to be constrained.                                                                            
SENATOR WARD asked  the committee to consider a housing  subsidy and                                                            
thought the police program was subsidized with federal money.                                                                   
SENATOR WILKEN asked when the ACPE will provide a fiscal note.                                                                  
CHAIRWOMAN GREEN said she would request one.                                                                                    
SENATOR  WILKEN  asked  whether  the  Department  of  Community  and                                                            
Economic  Development is  the appropriate  agency to administer  the                                                            
loan program  [page 9, line 14].                                                                                                
SENATOR  LEMAN said  that provision  refers to the  grants that  are                                                            
given directly to whoever made the loan.                                                                                        
CHAIRWOMAN  GREEN asked participants  to keep their testimony  brief                                                            
to allow everyone time to testify.                                                                                              
Number 1713                                                                                                                     
DR. TINA DELAPP,  UAA School of Nursing, said she  is pleased to see                                                            
the addition  of health care providers  to the bill as the  greatest                                                            
shortage  of workers  in Alaska  is in  the category  of  registered                                                            
nurses.  Alaska  has a severe shortage  of registered nurses,  and a                                                            
substantial  number  of the  existing  nurses  in the  workforce  is                                                            
expected  to retire within  15 years.  The  same shortage exists  in                                                            
the other 49 states.   In the past, Alaska has been  able to rely on                                                            
recruitment  from other jurisdictions;  it can no longer  do that so                                                            
it  is crucial  to  retain  the nurses  who  have been  educated  in                                                            
Alaska.   Given the heavy  indebtedness that  most nursing  students                                                            
have accumulated  at the time of graduation, forgiving  a portion of                                                            
that indebtedness  will give many a powerful incentive  to remain in                                                            
the state.  Nursing is  a physically, emotionally and intellectually                                                            
demanding  profession   and  those  demands  increase  in  times  of                                                            
shortage.   The burnout  rate  is high.   It is not  uncommon  for a                                                            
recent  graduate to be  overcome by  the demands  and elect  to seek                                                            
employment  in a less demanding field.   Extending the rate  of loan                                                            
repayment over  a five year period  may be useful in keeping  nurses                                                            
actively employed  in the field until they have had  sufficient time                                                            
to gain  experience and  comfort.   The shortage  in Alaska  is most                                                            
severe  in rural areas  therefore  she applauds  the provision  that                                                            
adds an  incentive for individuals  who elect  to practice  in rural                                                            
areas, however  she does not believe  that was intended to  be based                                                            
on a cumulative  GPA.   Improving the quality  of preventive,  acute                                                            
and long term health care  services will ultimately reduce costs and                                                            
provide economic advantages  to communities that seek to attract and                                                            
retain workers  to fill jobs both in and outside of  the health care                                                            
arena.  She believes SB  149 will attract and increase the retention                                                            
of nurses  in Alaska, and  especially in rural  areas of the  state.                                                            
She suggested  providing more continuing education  opportunities in                                                            
rural Alaska.                                                                                                                   
Number 1879                                                                                                                     
MS.  DEBBIE OSSIANDER,  a  member  of the  Anchorage  School  Board,                                                            
expressed  enthusiastic support  for SB  149.  This  bill will  go a                                                            
long  way toward  some of  the challenges  that  public schools  are                                                            
facing.   Sections 3  and 4 are  particularly  important.  The  five                                                            
year  timeframe   on  reciprocity   of   teacher  certification   is                                                            
particularly  helpful.   Additionally,   the employment  of  retired                                                            
teachers  is a provision  that  the Anchorage  School District,  and                                                            
others,  has  pushed  for  several  years.    The  Anchorage  School                                                            
District would  like to see that provision apply to  hiring teachers                                                            
in  areas of  shortage.    The Anchorage  School  District  is  also                                                            
appreciative of being able  to determine areas of shortage; that bit                                                            
of local flexibility will go along way towards benefiting it.                                                                   
MS.  OSSIANDER  said  she  is confused  about  Sections  8  and  10,                                                            
regarding  the loan  forgiveness provisions.   Section  10 would  be                                                            
particularly helpful  for urban Alaskan school districts.   She also                                                            
appreciates  the  teacher award  program.   Overall,  the  Anchorage                                                            
School Board supports SB 149.                                                                                                   
Number 2005                                                                                                                     
MR. STEVE  CATHERS  from Valdez  testified  on his own  behalf.   He                                                            
finds SB 149 to  be a bold and creative bill that  provides a number                                                            
of  strategies  to  attract  teachers  to  the  state.    This  bill                                                            
addresses  all  teachers:  new  teachers  through  loan forgiveness                                                             
provisions;  retired teachers by not  interrupting their  retirement                                                            
benefits;  and it provides  for teacher  certification reciprocity.                                                             
He  expressed   concern  about  whether   a  teacher  who,   through                                                            
reciprocity, has received  a five year certificate can reapply for a                                                            
provisional  certificate when the  five years is up.  Regarding  the                                                            
teacher  award  program,  the  State  of  Arizona  has  proven  that                                                            
objective criteria  for awarding incentives can be  implemented. The                                                            
superintendents have discussed  and strongly support the possibility                                                            
of eliminating the Tier  II designation from the teachers retirement                                                            
system.   SB 149 will certainly  be of use  to school districts  but                                                            
timing is critical as the job fair will occur soon.                                                                             
MS.  MELISSA HILL,  Alaska  Teacher  Placement  director,  expressed                                                            
support  for SB 149, especially  for the  certification reciprocity                                                             
provision.  The  certification process in Alaska is  very expensive.                                                            
She asked that the Institutional  Recommendation Form be reviewed by                                                            
the teacher  certification office.   She also expressed support  for                                                            
reemployment  of  retired  members  and  for  the  loan forgiveness                                                             
provision.   Other states have offered  signing bonuses that  do not                                                            
necessarily  lead  to  higher  retention  rates.    She recommended                                                             
allowing school districts  in urban areas to use these incentives to                                                            
hire staff in high demand positions.                                                                                            
Number 2308                                                                                                                     
MS.  LARRAINE  DERR, representing   the Alaska  State  Hospital  and                                                            
Nursing Home Association,  said she is speaking specifically  to the                                                            
shortage  of nurses  although there  is a  shortage  in many of  the                                                            
health  care  provider  areas.   Of  33 categories  of  health  care                                                            
providers  that  the  Department  of  Labor  keeps  track  of,  5400                                                            
vacancies  are  projected   to  occur  within  the  next  10  years,                                                            
according to a 1998 study.   Since 1998, 580 vacancies per year have                                                            
been  occurring.    By  2008,  Alaska   will  need  more  than  1300                                                            
registered  nurses  (RNs) and  150 more  licensed  practical  nurses                                                            
(LPNs).   Currently the UA  enrolls 60 students  per year in  its RN                                                            
program and  30 in the LPN program.   About 15 percent of  LPNs plan                                                            
to leave that  field in the next five  years.  That extrapolates  to                                                            
an additional  550 vacancies or more  than 100 per year.   The UA is                                                            
adding new programs  but additional students must  be attracted into                                                            
these areas.   The legislature  can help  by supporting UA's  budget                                                            
and by supporting  SB 149.  This is  not an Alaska issue  alone; the                                                            
American  Hospital Association  has named  workforce development  as                                                            
its number  one priority in 2001.  The problem is nationwide.   This                                                            
legislation will help to attract students to Alaska.                                                                            
TAPE 01-29, Side B                                                                                                              
MS. DIANE BARRANS,  Executive Director  of the Alaska Commission  on                                                            
Postsecondary   Education,  said  she  looked  at  the  forgiveness                                                             
provision on state student  loans and the provision that establishes                                                            
a  program   within  the  Department   of  Community  and   Economic                                                            
Development.   The bill contains windows  of opportunity  for people                                                            
who have borrowed  student loans from July 1, 2001  through June 30,                                                            
2004.  However,  this bill does not  provide tools that can  be used                                                            
to recruit  this  year.   The loan  forgiveness  provision does  not                                                            
apply  to any  existing  loans;  it will  begin  to apply  to  loans                                                            
borrowed this  next year.  The sunset  provision will provide  for a                                                            
periodic review to see  whether the loan forgiveness provision would                                                            
SENATOR LEMAN  asked if that window of opportunity  could be changed                                                            
by making the date earlier.                                                                                                     
MS. BARRANS  said it could.  She also  pointed out the ACPE  has not                                                            
provided a fiscal  note yet because there is some  uncertainty about                                                            
the health  care provider definition  and who the benefits  would be                                                            
extended  to.    The  definition  is  very  broad;  14  health  care                                                            
professions are  licensed by the state and could fit  the definition                                                            
of the bill.  She stated  without further guidance from the sponsor,                                                            
the ACPE will  craft a fiscal note  for the broadest interpretation                                                             
of that definition.                                                                                                             
CHAIRWOMAN  GREEN asked  Senator Leman  to discuss  that  definition                                                            
with Ms. Barrans.                                                                                                               
Number 2244                                                                                                                     
DR.  BRUCE  JOHNSON,  Deputy  Commissioner   of  the  Department  of                                                            
Education, commended  Senators Leman and Davis for  their efforts in                                                            
trying to address  the teacher shortage  issue.  He noted  the state                                                            
board of education passed,  this last Friday, a provisional two-year                                                            
certificate, which  is similar to what is outlined  in the bill.  He                                                            
asked  the committee  to  review the  provisional  certification  to                                                            
determine whether that will be sufficient.                                                                                      
SENATOR LEMAN  asked if the state board has the statutory  authority                                                            
to make that change.                                                                                                            
DR. JOHNSON said the board does believe it has that authority.                                                                  
MS.  KAREN  PEARSON, Director  of  Public  Health,  DHSS,  commended                                                            
Senator  Leman  for  including  health  care providers  in  SB  149,                                                            
especially mental health  care providers.  She assured the committee                                                            
that certain  areas in  Alaska are experiencing  shortages  in every                                                            
type  of  health  care  provider.    She  pointed   out  the  Denali                                                            
Commission  has provided  funding  to improve  health facilities  in                                                            
rural Alaska.   SB 149 will  help provide  the staff needed  to make                                                            
sure  those  facilities  are  utilized  and  that  services  can  be                                                            
CHAIRWOMAN   GREEN  asked  Ms.  Pearson   to  describe  the   Denali                                                            
Commission's program.                                                                                                           
MS. PEARSON  said that  funding will  be coming  through the  Denali                                                            
Commission to  address the need for primary care health  facilities,                                                            
especially  in rural Alaska.   The funding  will be for both  larger                                                            
clinics  that will  serve populations  of  over 750,  and for  small                                                            
clinics.  There  is separate funding for the two types  so they will                                                            
not be competing against  each other.  There has been extensive work                                                            
done on  looking at where  the needs are,  where the sustainability                                                             
exists, and  to come up  with technical  assistance for communities                                                             
with high  needs but little  capacity to  do their own development.                                                             
She reiterated  Ms. Barran's concern  that the prospective  dates in                                                            
SB 149  will delay,  for  about two  years, any  ability to  recruit                                                            
based on loan forgiveness.                                                                                                      
Number 2082                                                                                                                     
SENATOR LEMAN  said he agrees  the dates should  be changed  so that                                                            
the bill  has a more immediate  impact.   He expressed concern  that                                                            
the fiscal  impact of SB 149 has to  be constrained so he  asked Ms.                                                            
Pearson to work  with him to determine where the incentives  need to                                                            
be provided among the health care professions.                                                                                  
MS. PEARSON agreed to do so.                                                                                                    
MS.  SHARON   BARTON,  Director  of   the  Division  of   Personnel,                                                            
Department  of  Administration,  informed  the  committee  that  the                                                            
division is concerned about  recruitment and retention programs on a                                                            
statewide level.   The division appreciates the bill's  focus on two                                                            
critical areas  but the shortage problem  is occurring across  state                                                            
government  and many  mission-critical  jobs  in all  agencies  need                                                            
similar incentives.   She provided  the committee with a  chart that                                                            
shows that all  state departments are sharing in this  problem.  The                                                            
average age  of a new hire in state  government is 38 years  old and                                                            
the average  age of state employees  is 44.  The state has  invested                                                            
in 12 years of  education for its youth.  Anything  that can be done                                                            
to encourage those college  students to return to these jobs will be                                                            
in the state's best interest.   State government will be losing most                                                            
of its most qualified  people in the next five to  seven years so it                                                            
needs incentives to keep them in the workforce longer.                                                                          
Regarding the "double dipping"  issue, MS. BARTON said the provision                                                            
in this  bill does  not add  cost to  the retirement  program.   The                                                            
division has  no compunction, on the  other hand, of hiring  "double                                                            
dippers."   Furthermore, other  employers do  not mind hiring  state                                                            
government  retirees so the state  government is cutting  itself off                                                            
from keeping  some of  its best  qualified people  in its  workforce                                                            
without  providing  an incentive  to  remain.   The  problem is  not                                                            
always  rural in these  other job  classes.  The  division has  been                                                            
surveying   applicants  for   state  government   jobs  since   last                                                            
September.  Out  of 1800 responders to the survey,  only 130 were in                                                            
the  22 to  24 year  old age  group.   She  urged the  committee  to                                                            
consider the  rest of the workforce  as it considers the  provisions                                                            
in SB 149.                                                                                                                      
CHAIRWOMAN   GREEN  asked  what  other   specific  professions   are                                                            
experiencing a shortage.                                                                                                        
MS.  BARTON  said engineers,  accountants  and  other  higher  level                                                            
administrative positions,  biologists and other natural resource and                                                            
scientific job classes, among others.                                                                                           
SENATOR LEMAN  pointed out that he  wanted the provisions  of SB 149                                                            
to also apply  to engineers but he  did not want the bill  to be too                                                            
self  serving.     He  asked  if  Ms.  Barton  has   a  similar  age                                                            
distribution chart from  five or ten years ago so that the committee                                                            
can get a better picture of the state government workforce.                                                                     
MS. BARTON  said the division  will be working  on that data  and it                                                            
will take more of a manual  effort to get those figures but she will                                                            
provide the committee with a copy.                                                                                              
SENATOR LEMAN  thought a measurable change will be  evident over the                                                            
last ten years.                                                                                                                 
CHAIRWOMAN GREEN suspected the problem is nationwide.                                                                           
SENATOR WARD asked Senator  Leman to contact the AHFC to explore the                                                            
possibility of offering low-interest housing loans as an incentive.                                                             
There  being no  further  business  to come  before  the  committee,                                                            
CHAIRWOMAN  GREEN announced the committee  will hear an overview  on                                                            
Medicaid  on Wednesday and  that she has  requested DHSS to  provide                                                            
the committee  with information on the costs of the  recommendations                                                            
made by  the Long  Term Care  Task Force.   She  then adjourned  the                                                            
meeting at 3:15 p.m.                                                                                                            

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