Legislature(2003 - 2004)

02/25/2004 01:35 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
SENATE HEALTH, EDUCATION AND SOCIAL SERVICES STANDING COMMITTEE                                                               
                       February 25, 2004                                                                                        
                           1:35 p.m.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
TAPE (S) 04-8&9                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                              
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Senator Fred Dyson, Chair                                                                                                       
Senator Lyda Green, Vice Chair                                                                                                  
Senator Gary Wilken                                                                                                             
Senator Gretchen Guess                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Senator Bettye Davis                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 19                                                                                             
Relating  to the  support of  fisheries education,  training, and                                                               
research  and  encouraging   collaborative  efforts  between  the                                                               
state,   the  University   of  Alaska,   and  other   educational                                                               
institutions to provide fisheries education programs.                                                                           
     MOVED SCR 19 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
SENATE BILL NO. 274                                                                                                             
"An  Act relating  to the  housing  assistance loan  fund in  the                                                               
Alaska   Housing  Finance   Corporation;  creating   the  housing                                                               
assistance loan program; repealing  loans for teacher housing and                                                               
providing for  loans for multi-family housing;  making conforming                                                               
amendments; and providing for an effective date."                                                                               
     MOVED SB 274 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
SENATE BILL NO. 239                                                                                                             
"An  Act relating  to the  required number  of days  in a  school                                                               
year."                                                                                                                          
     MOVED CSSB 239(HES) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATE BILL NO. 301                                                                                                             
"An Act  relating to  the Alaska Pioneers'  Home, and  the Alaska                                                               
Veterans'  Home; relating  to eligibility  for  admission to  the                                                               
Alaska  Pioneers' Home  and Alaska  Veterans'  Home; relating  to                                                               
state  Veterans' Home  facilities; making  conforming amendments;                                                               
and providing for an effective date."                                                                                           
     HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
BILL: SCR 19                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: SUPPORTING FISHERIES EDUCATION                                                                                     
SPONSOR(s): SENATOR(s) STEVENS G BY REQUEST OF SALMON INDUSTRY                                                                  
TASK FORCE                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
01/23/04       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
01/23/04       (S)       HES                                                                                                    
02/25/04       (S)       HES AT 1:30 PM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
BILL: SB 274                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: HOUSING PROGRAMS                                                                                                   
SPONSOR(s): RULES BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
01/23/04       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
01/23/04       (S)       HES, FIN                                                                                               
02/20/04       (S)       HES AT 1:30 PM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
02/20/04       (S)       -- Meeting Canceled --                                                                                 
02/25/04       (S)       HES AT 1:30 PM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
BILL: SB 239                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: LENGTH OF SCHOOL TERM                                                                                              
SPONSOR(s): SENATOR(s) DYSON                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
01/12/04       (S)       PREFILE RELEASED 1/2/04                                                                                
01/12/04       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
01/12/04       (S)       HES                                                                                                    
02/04/04       (S)       HES AT 1:30 PM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
02/04/04       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
02/04/04       (S)       MINUTE(HES)                                                                                            
02/20/04       (S)       HES AT 1:30 PM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
02/20/04       (S)       -- Meeting Canceled --                                                                                 
02/23/04       (S)       HES AT 2:30 PM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
02/23/04       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
02/23/04       (S)       MINUTE(HES)                                                                                            
02/25/04       (S)       HES AT 1:30 PM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
BILL: SB 301                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: PIONEERS' HOMES/VETERANS' HOMES                                                                                    
SPONSOR(s): RULES BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
02/06/04       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/06/04       (S)       HES, FIN                                                                                               
02/20/04       (S)       HES AT 1:30 PM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
02/20/04       (S)       -- Meeting Canceled --                                                                                 
02/25/04       (S)       HES AT 1:30 PM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Cheryl Sutton                                                                                                                   
Staff to Senator Ben Stevens                                                                                                    
Alaska State Capitol                                                                                                            
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:  Introduced SCR 19 for Senator Gary Stevens,                                                              
sponsor                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Bryan Butcher                                                                                                                   
Legislative Liaison                                                                                                             
Alaska Housing Finance Corporation                                                                                              
4300 Boniface                                                                                                                   
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Introduced SB 274                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Joe Dubler                                                                                                                      
Director of Finance                                                                                                             
Alaska Housing Finance Corporation                                                                                              
4300 Boniface                                                                                                                   
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Answered questions on SB 274                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Denny DeWitt                                                                                                                    
Special Staff Assistant to Governor Murkowski                                                                                   
Alaska State Capitol                                                                                                            
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:  Introduced SB 301                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Gerald J. Dorsher                                                                                                               
Veterans of Foreign Wars - Lifetime Member                                                                                      
P.O. Box 240003                                                                                                                 
Douglas, AK 99824-0003                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of SB 301                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
John E Wilkins Jr.                                                                                                              
Disabled American Veterans                                                                                                      
8531 Steep Place                                                                                                                
Juneau, AK 99801                                                                                                                
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of SB 301                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Merrill J. Hakala                                                                                                               
Fairbanks, AK                                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified via teleconference in opposition                                                               
to SB 301                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Mike Race                                                                                                                       
Pioneers of Alaska                                                                                                              
1669 Evergreen                                                                                                                  
Juneau, AK 99801                                                                                                                
POSITION STATEMENT:  Commented on SB 301                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Chip Wagoner                                                                                                                    
Pioneers of Alaska                                                                                                              
3254 Pioneer Avenue                                                                                                             
Juneau, AK 99801                                                                                                                
POSITION STATEMENT:  Made suggestions on SB 301                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Marie Darlin                                                                                                                    
AARP                                                                                                                            
Juneau, AK 99801                                                                                                                
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on SB 301                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Bill Church                                                                                                                     
Wasilla, AK 99687                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Opposed SB 301                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
George h. Husermann                                                                                                             
Anchorage, AK 99513                                                                                                             
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supported SB 301                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Ed Knoebel                                                                                                                      
P.O. Box 84                                                                                                                     
Glennallen, AK 99588                                                                                                            
POSITION STATEMENT:  Provisional support of SB 301                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Don Dinkel                                                                                                                      
HC 31 Box 5193                                                                                                                  
Mat-Su, AK                                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Expressed concerns about SB 301                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
W.T. Maner                                                                                                                      
Soldotna, AK                                                                                                                    
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supported SB 301                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Leon Bertram                                                                                                                    
Anchorage, AK 99513                                                                                                             
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 301                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
HARRY JENKINS                                                                                                                   
Fairbanks, Alaska 99707                                                                                                         
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on SB 301                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Arleen McCarver                                                                                                                 
Palmer, AK 99645                                                                                                                
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on SB 301                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Charlie Huggins                                                                                                                 
Anchorage, AK 99513                                                                                                             
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supported SB 301                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Jim Van Horn                                                                                                                    
Ketchikan, AK 99901                                                                                                             
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supported SB 301                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Robert Mielke                                                                                                                   
Palmer, AK 99645                                                                                                                
POSITION STATEMENT:  Opposed SB 301                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Art Robinson                                                                                                                    
Palmer, AK 99901                                                                                                                
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supported SB 301                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Dixie Goldsmith                                                                                                                 
Wasilla, AK 99687                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on SB 301                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Colleen Cottle                                                                                                                  
Wasilla, AK 99654                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on SB 301                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
TAPE 04-8, SIDE A                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR FRED DYSON  called the Senate Health,  Education and Social                                                             
Services  Standing  Committee  meeting  to  order  at  1:35  p.m.                                                               
Present  were  Senators Guess,  Green,  Wilken  and Chair  Dyson.                                                               
Senator  Davis was  on extended  leave due  to the  death of  her                                                               
husband.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
             SCR 19-SUPPORTING FISHERIES EDUCATION                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON announced the first order of business to be SCR 19.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHERYL  SUTTON,  staff  to  Senator Ben  Stevens  and  the  joint                                                               
legislative Salmon  Industry Task  Force, explained  that Senator                                                               
Gary Stevens  sponsored the resolution  in concert with  the task                                                               
force.  It  emphasizes  the importance  of  fisheries  education,                                                               
training and  research. As a  long-term solution  to revitalizing                                                               
the fishing industry,  it recommends that educators  in the state                                                               
collaborate to provide fisheries education programs                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
There were no questions.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON asked for the will of the committee.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  GARY WILKEN  motioned to  report SCR  19 from  committee                                                               
with  individual recommendations.  There being  no objection,  it                                                               
was so ordered.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
                    SB 274-HOUSING PROGRAMS                                                                                 
                                                                                                                              
CHAIR FRED DYSON announced SB 274 to be up for consideration.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
BRYAN  BUTCHER,  legislative  liaison   for  the  Alaska  Housing                                                               
Finance  Corporation, introduced  himself and  Joe Dubler,  chief                                                               
financial officer.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MR. BUTCHER explained  that SB 274 would make two  changes to the                                                               
rural  loan  program.  The  first  change  is  to  shift  from  a                                                               
revolving  loan   fund  to  a  conventional   loan  program.  The                                                               
revolving loan fund  represents about one third of  the equity of                                                               
the corporation and the corporation  isn't able to leverage those                                                               
funds.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON asked if leverage means borrow against those funds.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
JOE  DUBLER,   director  of   finance,  Alaska   Housing  Finance                                                               
Corporation,  elaborated   that  this  change  would   allow  the                                                               
corporation  to  sell  bonds  to leverage  the  $550  million  in                                                               
mortgage loans that are currently  in the revolving loan program.                                                               
As previously  stated, the revolving  fund represents  about one-                                                               
third of  the corporation's net  income and the  corporation pays                                                               
the State  an annual  dividend that exceeds  its net  income. The                                                               
amount that's in the revolving loan  fund may not be accessed for                                                               
dividend  payments and  they can  foresee that  as liquid  assets                                                               
decline, continuing to pay the dividend could become a problem.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  DYSON  advised  that  the   Health  Education  and  Social                                                               
Services Committee should  be concerned as to whether  or not the                                                               
bill would impact the ability  of the organization to continue to                                                               
be of  service to Alaskans.  The Finance Committee  would address                                                               
the financial implications.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.  DUBLER replied  that the  impact to  rural housing  would be                                                               
that if the  bill doesn't pass the program would  shut down until                                                               
the revolving  fund is  able to  repay about  $65 million  to the                                                               
corporation's general  account. "On  a month  to month  basis, we                                                               
make about  $10 million in  loans, but  we only receive  about $6                                                               
million in  collections," he said.  The consequence is  that when                                                               
funds  become unavailable  the program  would have  to shut  down                                                               
each month until the collection cycle the following month.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON  asked him to explain  the kind of housing  this bill                                                               
addresses.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. DUBLER  replied this is  housing in both rural  Alaska, which                                                               
includes places such as Shaktoolik  and less rural locations that                                                               
are defined  as rural because  they are  a given number  of miles                                                               
from a road system. The  latter includes communities on the Kenai                                                               
Peninsula and some in Southeast Alaska.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  DYSON asked  if  the  bill applies  just  to teachers  and                                                               
something about multifamily housing.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. DUBLER said  that's the second aspect of the  bill and has to                                                               
do with  the rural multi family  loan program. A bill  passed two                                                               
years ago  changing the  rural multi family  loan program  to the                                                               
rural teacher housing  loan program. In rural Alaska  if you were                                                               
to purchase a multiple unit  dwelling through this program, every                                                               
unit  would have  to be  occupied  by a  certified teacher.  It's                                                               
sufficiently difficult to meet that  requirement that the program                                                               
hasn't awarded  even one loan  since the law  passed. Previously,                                                               
two  to three  percent  of  the entire  rural  program was  multi                                                               
family. The proposed  change would make it  possible for anybody,                                                               
including  the owner,  from any  profession to  occupy the  multi                                                               
family units.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR WILKEN  noted that the  reason the program  was tightened                                                               
up  two years  ago  is that  in rural  Alaska  there were  people                                                               
building large multi family units  when the program really wasn't                                                               
intended for  that. Referring  to page  5, line  5 he  said there                                                               
didn't  appear to  be any  size  limitation so  the same  problem                                                               
could occur again.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MR. DUBLER said that SB 181 passed  two years ago and it placed a                                                               
$250,000  cap on  any  benefit  to the  program  and anything  in                                                               
excess  of that  amount would  be administered  under the  normal                                                               
multi family loan program. That wouldn't change with this bill.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  WILKEN restated  that up  to $25,000  is subsidized  and                                                               
normal lending practices would apply to anything above that.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. DUBLER said yes.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
There were no further questions or comments.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON asked for the will of the committee.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR LYDA GREEN motioned to  report SB 274 and attached fiscal                                                               
notes  from  committee  with  individual  recommendations.  There                                                               
being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
1:49 pm                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON called a brief at ease at 1:49 pm.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
                  SB 239-LENGTH OF SCHOOL TERM                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR FRED DYSON announced SB 239  was the next order of business                                                               
and  asked  whether  there  was  objection to  the  \  D  version                                                               
committee  substitute being  the working  document. There  was no                                                               
objection.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON stated  that the \D version was  before the committee                                                               
and asked for the will of the committee.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  GRETCHEN GUESS  motioned  to report  CSSB 239(HES)  from                                                               
committee  with   individual  recommendations.  There   being  no                                                               
objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
             SB 301-PIONEERS' HOMES/VETERANS' HOMES                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR FRED DYSON  announced the committee would  consider SB 301.                                                               
He advised that  there were two proposed amendments  to the bill.                                                               
He wanted  all testifiers to  understand the proposed  changes so                                                               
that  they  could  address  them.   At  the  end  of  the  public                                                               
testimony, the  amendments would  be voted up  or down.  He would                                                               
then hold the  bill in committee until the next  meeting at which                                                               
time  a   committee  substitute  (CS)  would   be  available  for                                                               
consideration.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
DENNY  DeWITT, special  staff  assistant  to Governor  Murkowski,                                                               
introduced himself and  John Vowell, director of  the Division of                                                               
Pioneers'  Homes. He  noted  that creating  a  Veterans' Home  in                                                               
Alaska is a  long-standing issue. SB 301 would  allow a Pioneers'                                                               
Home  to be  converted to  a  Veteran's Home.  The VA  guidelines                                                               
provide 79  beds in Alaska and  with the proposal to  convert the                                                               
Palmer Pioneers' Home they would extend  that to the full 82 beds                                                               
that are currently in that  facility. Converting a Pioneers' Home                                                               
to a  Veteran's Home and  the access  to the other  benefits will                                                               
assist the long-term viability of the entire system, he said.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
He pointed to  an aerial photograph of the  Palmer Pioneers' Home                                                               
and explained that it is  a licensed assisted living complex that                                                               
offers  services from  residential level  to fairly  intense care                                                               
just short of a licensed skilled nursing facility.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON asked Mr. DeWitt if he had amendments to propose.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. DeWITT  said they agree  with several of the  amendments that                                                               
have been brought forward.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR LYDA  GREEN chimed in to  say she had the  amendments and                                                               
would introduce them.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON said  he would also like to hear  her comments on the                                                               
amendments.  He asked  whether the  amendments were  available at                                                               
the various LIOs.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
JASON  HOOLEY,  staff  to  Chair Dyson,  informed  him  that  the                                                               
amendments had been distributed.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  DYSON encouraged  everyone  to comment  on the  amendments                                                               
when  they  gave  testimony  and  restated  that  the  amendments                                                               
wouldn't be adopted until after all testimony had been given.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GRETCHEN  GUESS referred  to page 8,  Section 16  (b) and                                                               
expressed a concern  that just cash income  is discussed. Someone                                                               
might  have a  third  party  payer or  have  some  other type  of                                                               
payment for services received and that isn't addressed.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. DeWITT read  about conditions of payment from  page 10, lines                                                               
1-4 and told her he would get  back to her about the section that                                                               
covers  general  payments  prior  to qualifying  to  receive  the                                                               
assistance. With regard to that,  two things could happen. If you                                                               
were paying  toward your care,  you could receive the  money then                                                               
make payment  to the home or  you could have payment  go directly                                                               
to the home.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS thanked him and said  it just wasn't clear when she                                                               
read the section.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR. DeWITT questioned  whether her concern was that  the home not                                                               
be able to  collect from the individual, in total,  more than the                                                               
amount that is billed for monthly charges.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS said  that's correct. She then asked  about page 8,                                                               
line 3  (e) and questioned  whether there  was a reason  that the                                                               
activities in the section aren't  controlled to be something that                                                               
works  within  this facility  or  a  similar facility.  "In  this                                                               
section you  could put a  daycare in the  center, which may  be a                                                               
good thing and may be a bad  thing. It's open and did you include                                                               
it open for a reason?" she questioned.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR.  DeWITT  informed  her  there  is a  daycare  in  the  Juneau                                                               
Pioneers' Home,  but they  specifically kept  it generic  so that                                                               
they have opportunity  to take advantage of  various options. The                                                               
Sitka Pioneers' Home has a  dwindling population and waiting list                                                               
and  this  would  provide  the   opportunity  to  talk  to  other                                                               
healthcare providers in  the area that might be able  to make use                                                               
of floors that they are unable use.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  GUESS  asked, "You're  not  worried  that we  don't  put                                                               
consistent with the activities of the home in the statute?"                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. DeWITT said he would think about that.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON asked Senator Green to move her amendments.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GREEN moved Amendment 1:                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Page 6, line 28                                                                                                                 
     Delete: "may"                                                                                                              
     Insert: "shall"                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
In explanation she read:                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     This  will  maintain  the requirement  that  the  State                                                                    
     operate  the  Pioneers'  Home  rather  than  making  it                                                                    
     optional. If we were  ever to discontinue the Pioneers'                                                                    
     Home it  should be  as a  result of  legislative policy                                                                    
        discussion not simply some future administrative                                                                        
     decision.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS  objected to make  it procedurally correct  to hold                                                               
the amendments.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GREEN moved Amendment 2:                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Page6, line 31 following "social services."                                                                                     
     Insert: "The only home that may be converted to a Veterans'                                                                
     Home is the Pioneers' Home located in Palmer."                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
In explanation  she said that  has been the whole  discussion and                                                               
the current  language is vague  and led some to  question whether                                                               
this isn't  a change of all  Pioneers' Homes. "We want  people to                                                               
know this  was intended to  be a  combination Pioneers'/Veterans'                                                               
Home in Palmer," she said.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS  said she  would maintain  her objection  until the                                                               
end of the meeting.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GREEN moved Amendment 3:                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Page 8, line 4                                                                                                                  
     Delete: "or the sale"                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GREEN moved Amendment 4:                                                                                              
                                                                                                                              
Page 12, line 19 & 20                                                                                                           
     Delete: "with 181 days or more of"                                                                                         
     Insert: "from"                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON asked whether there was objection.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS objected until the end of the meeting.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON asked Mr. DeWitt to comment.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR.  DeWITT stated:  "The administration  is prepared  to support                                                               
all the amendments Senator Green offers."                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS  asked for verification  that amendment  4 wouldn't                                                               
impact federal funds.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR.  DeWITT  explained  that  this   language  came  from  Alaska                                                               
statute, but the federal program  doesn't require it. The federal                                                               
program  simply requires  the  person  to be  a  veteran and  the                                                               
common  definition for  that is  someone who  has been  honorably                                                               
discharged.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
2:04 pm                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                              
CHAIR DYSON announced he was opening public testimony.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
GERALD J. DORSHER,  lifetime member of Veterans  of Foreign Wars,                                                               
gave some  background on  the issue  and spoke  in support  of SB                                                               
301.                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON asked whether he had any comments on the amendments.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. DORSHER replied he didn't have any comments at this point.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
JOHN E  WILKINS JR., representing the  Disabled American Veterans                                                               
(DAV), testified  that the  organization is  backing the  bill as                                                               
presented. He would  have no comment on the  amendments until the                                                               
DAV had the opportunity to review them thoroughly.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MERRILL J. HAKALA testified via  teleconference from Fairbanks to                                                               
say he is 100 percent  opposed to converting the Palmer Pioneers'                                                               
Home to  a Veterans' Home.  He suggested adding a  veterans' wing                                                               
to the  Palmer Pioneers' Home  as well as  all others. He  had no                                                               
comment on the amendments.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MIKE RACE  testified as president  of the Pioneers of  Alaska. He                                                               
noted that  the issue  is divisive, but  no one  should interpret                                                               
that to  mean that pioneers  are against veterans or  vice versa.                                                               
"We are, in fact, the same group," he said.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
The  Pioneers   of  Alaska  are   charged  with   protecting  and                                                               
preserving  history   and  dropping  reference  to   the  various                                                               
locations of the homes would  be contrary to this responsibility.                                                               
He  pointed out  that in  the 1930s  the Territorial  Legislature                                                               
traveled  to the  Sitka  Pioneers'  Home to  make  sure that  the                                                               
people were being  cared for properly. In conclusion  he said, "I                                                               
just  want to  suggest  that you  keep that  spirit  - that  this                                                               
aspect  of  the  history  and  the protection  of  the  people  -                                                               
veterans and seniors in general are in your hands."                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CHIP WAGONER  introduced himself as  a lobbyist for  the Pioneers                                                               
of Alaska. He read the following into the record:                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     The Pioneers of  Alaska was established in  1907 and is                                                                    
     an organization of nearly 7,000  Alaskans, each of whom                                                                    
     has been a resident of the  state for 30 or more years.                                                                    
     The  organization  has  both  veteran  and  non-veteran                                                                    
     members.  The pioneers  have  been  longtime users  and                                                                    
     supporters of the Alaska Pioneers' Home system.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     Plans  are underway  to  convert  the Palmer  Pioneers'                                                                    
     Home to a Pioneers' and  Veterans' Home with 75 percent                                                                    
     of  the 82  beds  in the  facility  being reserved  for                                                                    
     veteran  pioneers.  The  above-referenced  bills  would                                                                    
     give the  Department of Health and  Social Services the                                                                    
     statutory authority  to operate Veterans'  Homes within                                                                    
     the   Pioneers'  Home   system  thereby   allowing  the                                                                    
     conversion to take place.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
     The  Pioneers  of  Alaska supports  enabling  pioneers,                                                                    
     both veteran  and non-veteran, to remain  in their home                                                                    
     communities through  a comprehensive array  of services                                                                    
     including  the   services  available  at   the  state's                                                                    
     Pioneers'  Homes.  We  would   prefer  that  the  state                                                                    
     continue  its efforts  to enable  the state  to receive                                                                    
     per   diem  reimbursement   from   the  U.S.   Veterans                                                                    
     Administration  for services  provided  to veterans  in                                                                    
     all   of  the   Pioneers'   Home  facilities.   Indeed,                                                                    
     according   to   the   Alaska  State   Veterans'   Home                                                                    
     Feasibility Study  prepared for the  Legislative Budget                                                                    
     and Audit Committee in July  2003 by the McDowell Group                                                                    
     "A large  majority of  Alaska veterans  - approximately                                                                    
     80 percent  - would  be reluctant  to leave  their home                                                                    
     communities to obtain long-term care."                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     While  we   believe  that  the   administration  should                                                                    
     continue  efforts  to  obtain  VA per  diem  to  enable                                                                    
     veterans  to   stay  in,  or  closer   to,  their  home                                                                    
     communities, we are not advocating  a delay of the bill                                                                    
     before you today until that battle is resolved.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     The  current  bill  does provide  benefits  and  needed                                                                    
     changes to  help the Pioneers' Home  system continue in                                                                    
     these tough  fiscal times. These  include a  65 percent                                                                    
     federal match rate for capital  projects at a Pioneers'                                                                    
     Home  that is  certified as  a veterans'  facility, the                                                                    
     ability  to  Medicaid  dollars   to  help  all  of  the                                                                    
     Pioneers' Home facilities.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. WAGONER pointed out that a number of the specific concerns                                                                  
they have with the bill were addressed in Senator Green's                                                                       
amendments.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  DYSON asked  whether he  agreed with  all four  amendments                                                               
that Senator Green proposed.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  WAGONER  clarified  that  he  couldn't  speak  to  the  last                                                               
amendment  that changes  the  definition of  a  veteran, but  the                                                               
pioneers do support the other three amendments.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
The pioneers understand  the need to bring  in additional revenue                                                               
but, he  said, "We are concerned  that the vacancies in  the beds                                                               
or in the space  is the result of true lack  of demand as opposed                                                               
to management decisions that created the vacancies."                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
He noted  that Section 25(a)  needed additional attention  but it                                                               
did not  need to be  eliminated as the  administration suggested.                                                               
They propose removing "for thirty years" from the provision.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON  asked whether  he had  draft amendment  language for                                                               
that change.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. WAGONER  said he  did not, but  he could do  so. He  made the                                                               
point that, "Probably the most  controversial part of this entire                                                               
bill,  of course,  is that  you're  taking a  Pioneers' Home  and                                                               
you're turning it  into a Veterans' Home and the  goal was to try                                                               
to  also enable  this home  to serve  those people  who are  non-                                                               
veterans...So  the  people in  the  Palmer  community and  Mat-Su                                                               
community  could  still have  a  place  to  go within  the  state                                                               
system."                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
2:20 pm                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
They understand that  the goal is to designate 75  percent of the                                                               
beds for  veterans and 25 percent  to people on the  active list.                                                               
If this is  the case, they suggest designating 25  percent of the                                                               
beds to  non-veterans so that  spouses could be  accommodated. He                                                               
said,  "We  are  open  to  suggestions  in  drafting  appropriate                                                               
language that  will enable our  state to  move forward on  the VA                                                               
certification of  this project,  but in  a manner  that addresses                                                               
this legitimate concern."                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Another point of concern related  to accommodating home residents                                                               
who need  to move to a  higher level of care  without moving them                                                               
to  another  facility.  Nothing in  the  statute  addressed  that                                                               
issue, he said.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
TAPE 04-8, SIDE B                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                              
SENATOR GREEN  asked if there  was anything currently  in statute                                                               
that addresses that issue.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. WAGONER replied he wasn't  aware of anything, but there might                                                               
be something in regulation.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  GREEN asked  if he'd  ever heard  of anyone  being moved                                                               
under those circumstances.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. WAGONER said he had not.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  GREEN pressed  him for  what would  lead him  to believe                                                               
that would happen.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MR.  WAGONER acknowledged  there  was no  concrete instance  that                                                               
would lead him to believe  that would happen, but when evaluating                                                               
the  legislation it  was a  concern that  arose so  he wanted  to                                                               
bring it to the committee's attention.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  DYSON announced  that he  would address  questions to  the                                                               
administration when Mr. Wagoner was finished with his testimony.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. WAGONER  advised that  the last point  of concern  related to                                                               
the  point  that  Senator Guess  raised  earlier.  Pioneers  must                                                               
provide income  to help pay  for the bed  if they have  income in                                                               
excess of  $100 per month. There's  also a provision in  the same                                                               
AS  47.55.020(b)  subsection  that  provides  that,  "a  resident                                                               
without any  funds, may be  provided with  $100 per month  by the                                                               
department." The reason for the  provisions is to provide dignity                                                               
to  those without  funds  of  their own.  They  suggest that  the                                                               
provisions be amended  to account for inflation  and they believe                                                               
$200 to be a more reasonable amount.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GREEN  asked what he  was referring to when  he mentioned                                                               
Medicaid in his testimony.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR.  WAGONER  explained,  "My  understanding  is  there  are  two                                                               
provisions in this bill that  would allow them to access Medicaid                                                               
dollars  that they  can  not  right now.  The  first  one is  the                                                               
provision where there is a  current prohibition of the department                                                               
seeking  public  assistance funds  because  it  was considered  a                                                               
public institution."                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GREEN asked whether that was Section 13.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR.  WAGONER replied  that was  part of  it and  the rest  was in                                                               
Section 12. Referencing  Section 16 he said: "There  is a related                                                               
section that can  require residents of the home to  have to apply                                                               
for public  assistance in order  to reach some of  these Medicaid                                                               
dollars...." Together  he understands  those to enable  the state                                                               
to obtain Medicaid  and other sources of revenue  that would help                                                               
pay for the homes.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON asked Mr. DeWitt if he had any comments.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. DeWITT elaborated on the issues that were raised that cause                                                                 
the administration concern:                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     First,  the   section  that   we  were   suggesting  to                                                                    
     eliminate that allows waivers  for individuals who were                                                                    
     here for  thirty years and  left the state:  The thirty                                                                    
     years does give  us a constitutional problem  as we all                                                                    
     know. And there is  the other technical change relative                                                                    
     to   whether  it   is  sited   in  the   Department  of                                                                    
     Administration  or [Department  of]  Health and  Social                                                                    
     Services. This becomes a  very difficult public policy.                                                                    
     The  one side  of  it  is that  side  presented by  Mr.                                                                    
     Wagoner, which  is just  to resolve  the constitutional                                                                    
     concern and then provide the  opportunity for those who                                                                    
     have been residents of Alaska for a number of years.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     The  other  side of  that  change,  however, creates  a                                                                    
     situation  where someone  can  come to  Alaska for  one                                                                    
     year,  go  outside  and  then has  every  right  to  be                                                                    
     reconsidered on  the list -  so long as they  had spent                                                                    
     that one year  here and put their name on  the list. So                                                                    
     initially it  seemed appealing,  I'm concerned  that it                                                                    
     opens  a gate  that we  really  don't want  open -  and                                                                    
     frankly we  don't have  a good answer.  It may  well be                                                                    
     that  the most  judicious thing  to do  is rather  than                                                                    
     doing unintended  good, is to  take the repeal  of that                                                                    
     section out  of the statute  and wait until  the courts                                                                    
     direct us specifically to do something with it.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     The second issue  that was raised by Mr.  Wagoner - the                                                                    
     pioneers  - that  troubles  us is  the  notion that  25                                                                    
     percent of the beds should  be reserved for someone who                                                                    
     is  not  a  veteran. The  Veterans  Administration  has                                                                    
     indicated  to  us that  that  would  probably cause  us                                                                    
     problems  in  terms  of  securing  veterans'  benefits.                                                                    
     Particularly  in   the  context  that  they   would  be                                                                    
     providing funds to  upgrade the home. They  would be in                                                                    
     a very  difficult position to provide  funds to upgrade                                                                    
     beds, which were precluded from use by veterans.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     ...So   while    I   understand   the    concern,   the                                                                    
     administration  would  have   great  problems  -  great                                                                    
     discomfort - with a policy  that were someone otherwise                                                                    
     eligible  for a  benefit,  the fact  that  they were  a                                                                    
     veteran would  deny that benefit  to them. In  terms of                                                                    
     addressing  that issue,  however, because  we would  be                                                                    
     filling  the  greater  portion  of  the  facility  with                                                                    
     veterans  and   we'll  be  using  the   same  list  for                                                                    
     Pioneers'  Home entrance  for those  20  beds as  we're                                                                    
     using now,  it is  incredibly likely that  those people                                                                    
     that would be  on the list to enter the  Palmer Home as                                                                    
     a pioneer  would not be  a veteran - that  the veterans                                                                    
     would  already  have  been   addressed  and  that  non-                                                                    
     veterans would up  the list. So I think  it is probably                                                                    
     implicit in the process that  that will happen, but any                                                                    
     way  you  draft  language  ends up  in  a  position  of                                                                    
     creating  a public  policy, which  we would  have great                                                                    
     trouble with.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
     The  third issue  was giving  folks, internally,  first                                                                    
     option. We have  practiced, since 1913, a  policy - and                                                                    
     we have  internal policies in our  policy and procedure                                                                    
     manual  -  that says  that  once  a person  enters  the                                                                    
     Pioneers' Home, they  can stay there until  they die or                                                                    
     until  they  get to  a  point  where  we don't  have  a                                                                    
     capacity to provide care for  them - and we can provide                                                                    
     care for  fairly intensive  needs, particularly  in the                                                                    
     area  of dementia.  We always  work  within the  system                                                                    
     first.  Folks  that  are in  the  Ketchikan  home,  for                                                                    
     example, who have  preference to be in  the Juneau home                                                                    
     have an opportunity  to move to the  Juneau home before                                                                    
     someone is  invited in off  the waiting list.  We would                                                                    
     imagine  - we  intend  that that  be  the same  process                                                                    
     within  the Veterans'  Home. ...  We  don't think  that                                                                    
     would be a particularly good thing to have in statute.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     In terms of  the increase in the  $100 allotment that's                                                                    
     provided for  those who are  indigent, I'd like  to put                                                                    
     that into just a little bit  of context for you. We are                                                                    
     currently providing a service  at the very lowest level                                                                    
     - $4,634  a month to  those individuals plus  the $100.                                                                    
     At  the   higher  comprehensive   care  level   we  are                                                                    
     providing $11,988  a month worth  of state  benefits to                                                                    
     that individual.  So the notion  that the value  to the                                                                    
     individual has  stayed static since  the 1980s  I think                                                                    
     is not particularly consistent and  I think you have to                                                                    
     look at it in the context of the full benefit that we                                                                      
     are providing.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS asked if it was  correct that changes can't be made                                                               
to reflect  the intent  of providing some  beds for  pioneers and                                                               
absolute numbers can't  be placed in the bill  because that would                                                               
jeopardize federal funds.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR.  DeWITT  said you  could  put  those  in  the bill,  but  the                                                               
Veterans Administration contract requires  that 75 percent of the                                                               
beds be designated  for veterans and the other 25  percent may be                                                               
designated  for  others.  "There  is legislation  and  there  are                                                               
regulations  discussing that  issue which  may change  those," he                                                               
said, but there are no  commitments. "The part that would concern                                                               
us is if  the statute, somehow, precluded veterans  from being in                                                               
those  beds.   At  that   point  in  time,   yes,  we   would  be                                                               
jeopardized."                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
2:35 pm                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                              
SENATOR  GUESS  needed  further  clarification  and  asked:  "The                                                               
intent  is 75  percent have  to  go to  veterans right  now -  25                                                               
percent does  not necessarily have to  go to veterans so  we have                                                               
some room so we can accommodate pioneers and veterans.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. DeWITT agreed.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS  asked if  it was  correct that  the administration                                                               
doesn't want  to put  that in  statute because  there might  be a                                                               
change at the federal level.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. DeWITT said  that's correct, "We will have  policies in place                                                               
that  will articulate  the federal  regulations.  If the  federal                                                               
regulations change to increase it  from, let's say, 75 percent to                                                               
80 percent, which I'm suggesting that  is not the way it might go                                                               
- we  I think would have  some discussion about whether  we might                                                               
continue our participation.  On the other hand, if it  were to go                                                               
from 75 percent  to 65 percent, that might be  something we would                                                               
want to take advantage of off into the future."                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS  then asked how  the federal  government determines                                                               
how many beds they would pay for.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                              
MR.  DeWITT   said  there   is  a   formula  that   the  Veterans                                                               
Administration  uses  based on  the  number  of veterans  in  the                                                               
state. It comes out  to 79 beds, he said, but  the VA is prepared                                                               
to give a waiver  from 79 to the 82 beds  currently at the Palmer                                                               
facility.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  GUESS remarked  that if  the number  of veterans  in the                                                               
state were to increase, then the  allocation would go up. In that                                                               
case,  by  the  2010  transition it's  quite  possible  that  all                                                               
residents of the Palmer home would  have to be veterans and there                                                               
would be no space for pioneers.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. DeWITT  said that's not how  it would work. According  to the                                                               
current calculations,  79 veterans home beds  would be available.                                                               
The 75/25 ratio  works off that number. As stated,  the VA waived                                                               
the number to 82, which means  that 62 beds must be for veterans.                                                               
"So,  if  we  filled  all  of those  with  veterans,  unless  the                                                               
population changed and the formula  changed, we'd still be at the                                                               
82 number," he said.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS  stressed, "That 82  will increase and so  then the                                                               
75 will increase."                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MR.  DeWITT said  yes. He  then said  he wanted  to make  it very                                                               
clear that: "It  is our intent to use the  Pioneers' Home list to                                                               
fill the 20 beds that would not be reserved for veterans."                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
There were no further questions for Mr. DeWitt.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MARIE DARLIN stated  that she didn't need to  testify because all                                                               
her concerns were addressed in the amendments.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
2:42 pm                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON said he sensed support  for the bill in the committee                                                               
so it was  likely that it would pass. He  advised bill supporters                                                               
that  he wanted  to hear  from  them, but  to keep  in mind  that                                                               
lengthy testimony would  slow progress. He continued  to say that                                                               
anyone  that  had  a  suggestion  or  specific  objection  should                                                               
certainly make  his or her  thoughts known  so the bill  could be                                                               
improved as much as possible.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
BILL CHUCH  testified via teleconference  to say he is  a veteran                                                               
and he can  see both sides of the issue.  Veterans deserve a safe                                                               
place to live  when they can't take care of  themselves, but that                                                               
is already  available to them in  the form of the  Pioneers' Home                                                               
system. He  referred to  the feasibility  study conducted  by the                                                               
McDowell  Group in  2003  for the  Legislative  Budget and  Audit                                                               
Committee to  point out why  the Palmer Pioneers'  Home shouldn't                                                               
be changed  to become  a Veterans' Home.  He suggested  the state                                                               
investigate purchase  of the hospital  in Palmer to convert  to a                                                               
Veterans' Home.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON asked that remarks be kept to two minutes.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
GEORGE H.  HUSERMANN testified via teleconference  from Anchorage                                                               
as  a   senior  services  officer  with   the  Disabled  American                                                               
Veterans. Veterans deserve a Veterans'  Home, he said, and Palmer                                                               
is the only viable way to go.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
ED  KNOEBEL testified  via teleconference  from  Glennallen as  a                                                               
veteran and a  senior. Converting the Palmer Pioneers'  Home to a                                                               
Veterans'  Home is  a starter,  but  he had  some questions.  His                                                               
questions related to  the 65-year age limit,  how Social Security                                                               
medical  benefit recipients  would  be affected,  and "whether  a                                                               
raid from the VA would make a difference."                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON said they would answer  the questions if they got the                                                               
chance.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
DON DINKEL testified via teleconference  from Mat-Su as a pioneer                                                               
and  a veteran  to express  concern about  converting the  Palmer                                                               
Pioneers' Home  to a Veterans'  Home because it  could ultimately                                                               
become just  a Veterans'  Home. He urged  the state  to negotiate                                                               
with the VA to allow veterans to go into all Pioneers' Home.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JIM OEHRING testified via teleconference  from Fairbanks. He made                                                               
the point  that most  men in the  Pioneers' Homes  were veterans,                                                               
but most  of the  women were  not and he  couldn't see  that this                                                               
change would actually benefit veterans.  He had several questions                                                               
about the cost and about the definition of veteran.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
W.T. MANER testified via teleconference  from Kenai as a veteran.                                                               
He preferred  adding a  veterans' wing to  each of  the Pioneers'                                                               
Homes, but  he wasn't sure that  would be feasible at  this time.                                                               
It's time  to get our  foot in the  door somewhere in  Alaska, he                                                               
said, "so I'm in agreement with this bill."                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
LEON  BERTRAM testified  via teleconference  from Anchorage  as a                                                               
services officer  with the American  Legion. The  organization is                                                               
pleased  that the  bill is  moving forward  and they  support the                                                               
amendments.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Page 9,  line 18 relates  to benefits  paid under 38  U.S.C. 1110                                                               
and  it  would  represent  a  lost  opportunity  for  collection.                                                               
Veteran benefits should be available  for collection by the state                                                               
Veterans' Home, he said.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
HARRY JENKINS testified via teleconference  from Fairbanks to say                                                               
that the  only thing  that bothers him  is that  legislators wait                                                               
too long before  asking for public opinion and they  do what they                                                               
want to do anyway.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
ARLEEN  McCARVER testified  via teleconference  from Mat-Su.  She                                                               
seconded  the suggestion  to use  the Valley  Hospital in  Palmer                                                               
instead. Veterans gave  their lives for us so  we should consider                                                               
them, she said.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
BOB HUFMAN  testified via teleconference from  Anchorage and said                                                               
he was satisfied with the amendments.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
RUBY CHURCH testified via teleconference  from Mat-Su to say that                                                               
criminals are treated better than  some old people. "I wish you'd                                                               
consider this and vote no," she concluded.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHARLIE HUGGINS  testified via  teleconference from  Anchorage to                                                               
say that some  of the things he heard during  the walk-through of                                                               
the Valley  Hospital made  him question  whether the  VA believes                                                               
that facility  could be converted.  He saluted Senator  Green for                                                               
her efforts  to defend the pioneers  and to make sure  there were                                                               
modifications to  accommodate both  veterans and pioneers  in the                                                               
conversion.  This is  the right  thing to  do and  the timing  is                                                               
right.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  GREEN  wanted   to  make  sure  everyone   in  the  room                                                               
understood  that he  was talking  about the  walk through  of the                                                               
Valley Hospital when he said  the VA found the facility unusable.                                                               
She asked him to repeat that portion of his testimony.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR.  HUGGINS  said  he  listened  to  a  Veterans  Administration                                                               
representative  who walked  through  the Valley  Hospital and  he                                                               
said that the old Valley  Hospital site was "not convertible, not                                                               
cost effective for a Veterans' Home in the valley."                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
JIM VAN HORN, state commander  for the American Legion, testified                                                               
via  teleconference from  Ketchikan. He  reported that  he toured                                                               
the   Palmer  facility   and  supported   converting   it  to   a                                                               
Pioneers'/Veterans'  Home.  He  noted  that   this  has  been  an                                                               
outstanding issue  for 20  years. Alaska  has 71,000  veterans in                                                               
the state, which is more per  capita than any other state, yet it                                                               
is the only  state that does not have a  Veterans' Home. He urged                                                               
the committee to pass the bill.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
ROBERT  MIELKE  testified via  teleconference  from  Mat-Su as  a                                                               
veteran with a medical discharge.  He emphatically stated that he                                                               
would not  like to  see the  VA take  over administration  of any                                                               
Pioneers'  Home.  He  suggested  that  a  separate  facility  for                                                               
veterans would be a better  alternative than taking the Pioneers'                                                               
Homes away from Alaskans.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
ART  ROBINSON testified  via teleconference  from Anchorage  as a                                                               
veteran that supported the conversion.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
DIXIE  GOLDSMITH testified  via teleconference  from Mat-Su.  Her                                                               
father is  a disabled veteran  and she  has worked at  the Palmer                                                               
Pioneers'  Home so  she  can see  both sides  of  the issue.  She                                                               
opined that veterans should be included in all Pioneers' Homes.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
TAPE 04-9, SIDE A                                                                                                             
3:05 pm                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                              
COLLEEN COTTLE  testified via teleconference  from Mat-Su  to say                                                               
she  is  a third  generation  Alaskan  and  three of  her  family                                                               
members have resided  at the Palmer Pioneers' Home.  She said, "I                                                               
think  turning   the  Palmer  Pioneers'  Home   into  strictly  a                                                               
Veterans'  Home  is not  a  good  thing.  It  is better  to  have                                                               
veterans in all the homes so  they will be close to their family.                                                               
And  I still  think  the  old Valley  Hospital  would  be a  good                                                               
Veterans' Home."                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
There was no further testimony.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON called an at-ease from 3:12 pm to 3:13 pm.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON recognized Senator Guess.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS  thanked the  Chair for being  clear in  his intent                                                               
but she  didn't understand why  that intent couldn't  be included                                                               
in the bill.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. DeWITT expressed confusion.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS clarified  that she was referring  to occupancy and                                                               
percentages.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. DeWITT replied, "I think  we could probably craft some intent                                                               
language and I'd be  happy to work with you on  that. ... I think                                                               
an  intent section,  non-codified, might  get us  there, but  I'd                                                               
have to work on that a little bit."                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS thought is would  smooth some rough edges. She then                                                               
referred to  language on page  6, line  30 and asked  whether the                                                               
bill excludes building wings on  current facilities or building a                                                               
separate  building. Her  reading is  that this  does not  exclude                                                               
that option  if it  were to become  financially feasible  at some                                                               
point in the future.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. DeWITT agreed  with that interpretation, but  warned that the                                                               
difficulty  isn't  with the  construction,  although  that is  an                                                               
economic  consideration;  rather  it's   a  managerial  issue.  A                                                               
separate wing  would have to  be operated  very much like  a mini                                                               
home  and  the  beds,  rooms  and  areas  would  be  specifically                                                               
designated  as veteran  or non-veteran.  The  areas would  remain                                                               
geographically  constant so  moving  residents from  one area  to                                                               
another wouldn't  be possible.  "We looked at  that issue  as did                                                               
the report  given to the LB&A  committee and the VA  looked at it                                                               
and everyone  has come to  the conclusion that it's  a managerial                                                               
issue and  an operational issue  that functions  extremely poorly                                                               
and that's been the reason that  we have not wanted to go there,"                                                               
he concluded.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS  said she appreciated the  clarification. If policy                                                               
changed at the  VA or if there  was an identified need  to have a                                                               
separate  veterans' facility  in the  state in  the future  would                                                               
this preclude that from happening, she questioned.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MR. DeWITT said  it would not; it's a matter  of appropriation at                                                               
some point in time.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS  asked about  disabled veterans  that are  under 65                                                               
and whether they would be excluded.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR.  DeWITT said  it's handled  differently in  different states,                                                               
but  the administration  choose age  65 because  "they intend  to                                                               
operate the Veterans'  Home and the Palmer Home, which  will be a                                                               
combination of  veterans' and traditional  pioneers on  the model                                                               
of  pioneers. The  services that  we offer  are geared  towards a                                                               
geriatric  population.  They simply  are  not  appropriate for  a                                                               
younger population. This is not  the whole answer that will solve                                                               
all  veterans' concerns.  It is  a significant  step forward  and                                                               
it's one that is, in fact,  doable in a reasonable timeframe. The                                                               
other issues we're going to have to continue to deal with. "                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS asked for clarification of the $26.95.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. DeWITT  noted that the $26.95  amounts to about $800  a month                                                               
and would be an offset  against the individual's charge for care.                                                               
He emphasized that the charge for  care does not reflect the cost                                                               
for care.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS asked for the average charge for care.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. DeWITT said  he could give the rates for  the five levels [of                                                               
care]. The coordinated  services rate is $2,135  per month, basic                                                               
assisted living is $3,865 per  month, enhanced assisted living is                                                               
$5,080  per month,  Alzheimer and  dementia related  disorders is                                                               
$5,270  per month  and comprehensive  care is  $6,450 per  month.                                                               
Those  are  the   current  charges,  but  they   are  working  on                                                               
restructuring them.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS added  that the difference would  come from various                                                               
means that are  laid out in the  bill, but if there  are no other                                                               
means then the state picks up the difference.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. DeWITT agreed.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS  noted that she saw  decrements in the GF,  but she                                                               
didn't  see that  reflected in  the  fiscal note,  which made  it                                                               
confusing as to how the payment plan would work.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. DeWITT  said he would  explain the extremes.  For coordinated                                                               
services, someone  is paying $2,135  out of their own  pocket. If                                                               
he or  she were a veteran  living in a Veteran's  Home, then that                                                               
payment would  be $800  less than $2,135.  At the  other extreme,                                                               
the individual  is fully  subsidized by the  state so  the $2,135                                                               
would come from  the general fund and the $800  would off set the                                                               
general funds.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GUESS asked  if the $800 is reflected in  the negative GF                                                               
in the fiscal note.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR. DeWITT  said, "It's our  belief that that's the  savings that                                                               
would  occur."  But it's  just  for  the  people that  are  being                                                               
assisted. The people  who pay their own way would  be paying that                                                               
much less out of their own pockets."                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  GUESS asked  him to  comment on  a general  discharge as                                                               
compared  to the  honorable discharge  and to  explain how  other                                                               
states deal with this issue.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. DeWITT called  it a semantic issue rather  than a substantive                                                               
issue,  which  he believes  is  okay.  He thought  the  language,                                                               
"other  than dishonorably  discharged" would  be acceptable,  but                                                               
they were ready to accommodate.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  GUESS suggested  asking  the veterans  in  the room  for                                                               
their views.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON announced the committee  would take up the bill again                                                               
on Monday.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GREEN  asked Mr.  DeWitt whether  he heard  anything from                                                               
the teleconferenced testimony  that he would like  to correct for                                                               
the record  at the next  meeting. She suggested  that corrections                                                               
might include, "comments  that people made that  someone else may                                                               
have heard  that they  actually believe  that we're  closing down                                                               
Pioneers' Homes  and there are  not going  to be any  pioneers in                                                               
there any more in the future."                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON  held SB 301  in committee and adjourned  the meeting                                                               
at 3:25 pm.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                

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