Legislature(2007 - 2008)BELTZ 211

03/06/2007 01:30 PM LABOR & COMMERCE

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
Moved CSSB 84(L&C) Out of Committee
Moved CSSB 68(L&C) Out of Committee
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
          SENATE LABOR AND COMMERCE STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                        
                         March 6, 2007                                                                                          
                           1:31 p.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT§                                                                                                              
Senator Johnny Ellis, Chair                                                                                                     
Senator Gary Stevens, Vice Chair                                                                                                
Senator Bettye Davis                                                                                                            
Senator Lyman Hoffman                                                                                                           
Senator Con Bunde                                                                                                               
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
SENATE BILL NO. 84                                                                                                              
"An Act  relating to the  burning capability of  cigarettes being                                                               
sold  or offered  for sale,  or possessed  for sale;  relating to                                                               
compliance  certifications by  tobacco  product manufacturers,  a                                                               
directory  of  tobacco  product manufacturers,  the  affixing  of                                                               
stamps  to  cigarette packages,  and  cigarette  tax stamps;  and                                                               
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
     MOVED CSSB 84(L&C) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                        
SENATE BILL NO. 93                                                                                                              
"An  Act  relating  to   licensed  professional  counselors;  and                                                               
relating  to  the  unlicensed  use  of  the  title  'professional                                                               
     HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                             
SENATE BILL NO. 68                                                                                                              
"An  Act  requiring motor  vehicle  insurers  to provide  to  the                                                               
commissioner  of   administration  a  database   listing  vehicle                                                               
insurance policy information that  will allow the commissioner to                                                               
verify  whether  mandatory  motor   vehicle  insurance  has  been                                                               
obtained, limiting  access to the database,  establishing methods                                                               
for proving that  mandatory motor vehicle insurance  is in place,                                                               
allowing the additional penalties  of suspending registration and                                                               
vehicle impoundment and forfeiture  for failure to have mandatory                                                               
motor   vehicle  insurance,   and   authorizing  hearings   after                                                               
suspension of  registration for failure  to have  mandatory motor                                                               
vehicle insurance."                                                                                                             
     MOVED CSSB 68(L&C) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                        
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
BILL: SB  84                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: TESTING & PACKAGING OF CIGARETTES                                                                                  
SPONSOR(s): SENATOR(s) OLSON                                                                                                    
02/14/07       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/14/07       (S)       L&C, JUD, FIN                                                                                          
02/27/07       (S)       L&C AT 1:30 PM BELTZ 211                                                                               
02/27/07       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
02/27/07       (S)       MINUTE(L&C)                                                                                            
03/06/07       (S)       L&C AT 1:30 PM BELTZ 211                                                                               
BILL: SB  93                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: PROFESSIONAL COUNSELORS                                                                                            
SPONSOR(s): SENATOR(s) DAVIS                                                                                                    
02/22/07       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/22/07       (S)       L&C                                                                                                    
03/06/07       (S)       L&C AT 1:30 PM BELTZ 211                                                                               
BILL: SB  68                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: MOTOR VEHICLE INSURANCE                                                                                            
SPONSOR(s): SENATOR(s) FRENCH                                                                                                   
01/26/07       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
01/26/07       (S)       L&C, TRA, FIN                                                                                          
02/08/07       (S)       L&C AT 1:30 PM BELTZ 211                                                                               
02/08/07       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
02/08/07       (S)       MINUTE(L&C)                                                                                            
02/27/07       (S)       L&C AT 1:30 PM BELTZ 211                                                                               
02/27/07       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
02/27/07       (S)       MINUTE(L&C)                                                                                            
03/06/07       (S)       L&C AT 1:30 PM BELTZ 211                                                                               
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
DANA OWEN                                                                                                                       
Staff to Senator Ellis                                                                                                          
Alaska State Capitol                                                                                                            
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on CSSB 84(L&C).                                                                                
JOANNA BALES, Manager                                                                                                           
Tobacco Tax Program                                                                                                             
Department of Revenue (DOR)                                                                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on CSSB 84(L&C).                                                                                
TOM OBERMEYER                                                                                                                   
Staff to Senator Davis                                                                                                          
Alaska State Capitol                                                                                                            
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 93 for the sponsor.                                                                       
KERRY TURNBOW, Co-chair                                                                                                         
Board of Licensed Professional Counselors                                                                                       
Anchorage AK                                                                                                                    
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 93.                                                                                          
ANNE HENRY (Retired)                                                                                                            
Board of Licensed Professional Counselors                                                                                       
Anchorage AK                                                                                                                    
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 93.                                                                                          
SHAWNEE OLSON, Member                                                                                                           
Board of Professional Counselors                                                                                                
Homer AK                                                                                                                        
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 93.                                                                                          
PAMELA WATTS, Administrator                                                                                                     
Juneau Alliance for Mental Health Inc.                                                                                          
Juneau AK                                                                                                                       
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 93.                                                                                          
DUANE BANNOCK, Director                                                                                                         
Division of Motor Vehicles                                                                                                      
Department of Administration (DOA)                                                                                              
Juneau AK                                                                                                                       
POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 68.                                                                                       
KAREY HENNINGS, Manager                                                                                                         
Driver Licensing, Division of Motor Vehicles                                                                                    
Department of Administration (DOA)                                                                                              
Juneau AK                                                                                                                       
POSITION STATEMENT:  Commented on SB 68.                                                                                      
JEFFERY TROUTT, Deputy Director                                                                                                 
Division of Insurance                                                                                                           
Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development                                                                        
Juneau, AK                                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 68.                                                                                       
CAPTAIN BILL MILLER                                                                                                             
Anchorage Police Department                                                                                                     
Anchorage AK                                                                                                                    
POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 68.                                                                                       
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
CHAIR JOHNNY ELLIS called the  Senate Labor and Commerce Standing                                                             
Committee meeting to order at 1:31:37  PM. Present at the call to                                                             
order were Senators Stevens, Bunde and Ellis.                                                                                   
            SB  84-TESTING & PACKAGING OF CIGARETTES                                                                        
CHAIR  ELLIS   announced  SB  84,   version  M,  to  be   up  for                                                               
DANA OWEN,  staff to Senator  Ellis, said  SB 84, version  K, has                                                               
one change  from version M. At  the request of the  Department of                                                               
Revenue, sections 2  - 5 that had been dropped  from the original                                                               
bill were reinserted. This would  keep the department from having                                                               
to maintain two  different lists of cigarettes  that are eligible                                                               
to  be sold  in the  state and  to reduce  confusion amongst  the                                                               
retailers of cigarettes.                                                                                                        
1:33:54 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BUNDE said  he was  concerned about  the importation  of                                                               
smokeless tobacco and  circumventing some of existing  law and he                                                               
asked if the title was broad enough.                                                                                            
JOANNA  BALES,  Manager,  Tobacco   Tax  Program,  Department  of                                                               
Revenue (DOR), said she didn't have a  copy of the CS in front of                                                               
her and didn't know if the title had been changed.                                                                              
CHAIR ELLIS  commented that  the title had  been tightened  up in                                                               
the previous version - M.                                                                                                       
MR. OWEN explained  that version K reinstates  the original title                                                               
language  by  inserting  on  line 2  starting  at  "relating  to"                                                               
through "tax stamps;" on line 4.                                                                                                
1:36:07 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  ELLIS said  he  would hold  the bill  until  later in  the                                                               
meeting  and asked  that  Ms. Bales  be sent  a  copy so  Senator                                                               
Bunde's question could be addressed.                                                                                            
1:36:48 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATORS DAVIS and HOFFMAN joined the committee.                                                                                
                 SB  93-PROFESSIONAL COUNSELORS                                                                             
CHAIR ELLIS announced SB 93 to be up for consideration.                                                                         
TOM OBERMEYER,  staff to  Senator Davis, sponsor  of SB  93, said                                                               
that  it  is  "An  act  relating  to  the  licensed  professional                                                               
counselors  and  to unlicensed  use  of  the title  'professional                                                               
counselor.'"  It  amends  two sections  of  the  Alaska  statutes                                                               
concerning  professional   licenses  and  insurance   as  regards                                                               
licensed   professional  counselors   (LPC).  Section   1  better                                                               
protects the  public from  unlicensed individuals  misusing these                                                               
titles  and   misrepresenting  themselves  as  having   the  same                                                               
qualifications  of  licensed  professional  counselors  who  must                                                               
complete formal  educational requirements with a  Master's degree                                                               
or higher, pass  a licensed qualifying exam  and complete lengthy                                                               
supervised practice for not less than two years.                                                                                
Section 2  amends AS 21.36.090(d), the  insurance provisions that                                                               
prohibit discrimination against  licensed service providers under                                                               
a group insurance  policy if that service is within  the scope of                                                               
the   provider's  occupational   license   by  adding   'licensed                                                               
professional counselors'  to the long  list of providers  in this                                                               
category. It  also increases access  to needed services  for some                                                               
who   formerly  were   excluded  because   licensed  professional                                                               
counselors   were   not   included   with   other   health   care                                                               
professionals in the non-discrimination clause of this statute.                                                                 
MR. OBERMEYER said that licensed  professional counselors make up                                                               
one-third  of all  mental health  professionals in  the State  of                                                               
Alaska and represent about the  same proportion of all counselors                                                               
working  in  state-funded  mental   health  and  substance  abuse                                                               
treatment facilities.                                                                                                           
The  last  legislature  approved  a  statutory  change  to  allow                                                               
licensed  professional counselors  to practice  psychotherapy and                                                               
make Title  47 civil commitment  evaluations. SB 93  helps insure                                                               
third-party billing  parity for licensed  professional counselors                                                               
while also  allowing them to  be included with other  health care                                                               
professionals in this area. Again,  it better protects and serves                                                               
the public and has a zero fiscal note.                                                                                          
1:40:05 PM                                                                                                                    
KERRY   TURNBOW,  Co-chair,   Board   of  Licensed   Professional                                                               
Counselors, said  he is a  practicing clinician in  Fairbanks and                                                               
supported  the sponsor  statement. Adding  "licensed professional                                                               
counselor" helps  protect the  public from  misrepresentation and                                                               
potentially adding to the number  of poor or unethical practices.                                                               
It will  also allow LPCs  to do third-party billing  to insurance                                                               
companies. It was probably an omission in the first place.                                                                      
1:41:55 PM                                                                                                                    
ANNE HENRY, retired member of  the Board of Licensed Professional                                                               
Counselors,   explained  that   LPCs   had   always  been   doing                                                               
psychotherapy,  but some  insurance  companies  were refusing  to                                                               
reimburse for  it because that  service was restricted to  use by                                                               
psychologists. She  pointed out that  no one else  was practicing                                                               
when their  statute was passed  years ago and  that psychotherapy                                                               
is now a  generic term that everyone across the  country uses for                                                               
the kind of work they do.                                                                                                       
1:43:30 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS asked what other  mental health professionals are                                                               
currently covered by insurance.                                                                                                 
MS. HENRY replied that several  major companies in Alaska already                                                               
cover and  reimburse for  LPCs -  Aetna, Premera  Blue Cross/Blue                                                               
Shield, Signa,  Tri-Care -  and the  federal government  has just                                                               
recently approved  all reimbursement for  LPCs. Only a  few small                                                               
companies don't reimburse for their services.                                                                                   
SENATOR STEVENS asked who is normally covered.                                                                                  
MS. HENRY  replied that providers covered  for reimbursement are:                                                               
psychiatrists,  medical  doctors, physician  assistant,  dentist,                                                               
osteopath,  optometrist,  chiropractor,   nurse  midwife....  The                                                               
mental    health    professionals   would    be    psychologists,                                                               
psychological   associates,    clinical   social    workers   and                                                               
professional counselors.                                                                                                        
SENATOR  STEVENS  said this  kind  of  closes  a loop  hole  that                                                               
insurance companies have avoided payment for.                                                                                   
MS. HENRY responded that was correct.                                                                                           
SHAWNEE OLSON,  Board of  Professional Counselors,  supported the                                                               
previous testimony and SB 93. She  said she runs a small practice                                                               
in  Homer and  that when  people see  "professional" they  expect                                                               
licensure and reimbursement.                                                                                                    
1:47:45 PM                                                                                                                    
PAMELA WATTS,  Administrator, Juneau  Alliance for  Mental Health                                                               
Inc.,  supported  previous  testimony.  One of  the  benefits  of                                                               
passing this  bill is  it would help  employers of  mental health                                                               
professionals with  recruitment and retention,  because insurance                                                               
will  pay for  the  services.  The fact  that  the Department  of                                                               
Veterans  Affairs  recently  started  to  recognize  professional                                                               
counselors  for  reimbursement  is  also   a  huge  step  in  the                                                               
recognition of the value of professional counselors.                                                                            
1:49:29 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS asked  if people pretending to  be counselors has                                                               
been a problem in the past.                                                                                                     
MS. WATTS replied people call  themselves all kinds of counselors                                                               
- credit  counselor and car  sales counselor for instance.  It is                                                               
difficult  for  some  people  to   know  who  they  are  actually                                                               
receiving services  from. They  may assume a  person is  a mental                                                               
health professional when, in fact, they aren't.                                                                                 
CHAIR ELLIS thanked  her for testifying and said  the director of                                                               
the Division of Occupational Licensing  would want to testify and                                                               
held SB 93 for a future hearing.                                                                                                
            SB  84-TESTING & PACKAGING OF CIGARETTES                                                                        
CHAIR ELLIS announced SB 84 to  be back before the committee. The                                                               
proposed CS had  been faxed to Ms.  Bales and asked if  she had a                                                               
chance to consider Senator Bunde's question about the title.                                                                    
MS. BALES confirmed  that she had received it  and suggested that                                                               
the title is broad enough for changes  to Articles 5 and 6 of the                                                               
cigarette and tobacco products excise  tax statutes. Article 5 is                                                               
the  cigarette  directory and  Article  6  is the  cigarette  tax                                                               
stamp. However,  she suggested  confirming that  with Legislative                                                               
SENATOR  BUNDE  said  the  question  had  been  answered  to  his                                                               
1:53:21 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS moved to adopt CSSB  84, version K. There were no                                                               
objections and it was so ordered.                                                                                               
1:54:03 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  STEVENS moved  to  pass CSSB  84(L&C),  version K,  from                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations  and attached  fiscal                                                               
notes. There were no objections and it was so ordered.                                                                          
                 SB  68-MOTOR VEHICLE INSURANCE                                                                             
CHAIR ELLIS announced SB 68 to  be up for consideration. He asked                                                               
the  sponsor  to walk  the  committee  through the  new  proposed                                                               
committee substitute (CS).                                                                                                      
1:57:56 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR FRENCH,  sponsor of SB 68,  said a new CS  was identified                                                               
as version  L. He said  it narrows  Section 5 by  specifying that                                                               
the  department  shall  adopt  an  online  system  for  verifying                                                               
mandatory  insurance.  The  previous version  had  language  that                                                               
allowed  for any  type of  electronic verification.  Research and                                                               
discussion with knowledgeable folks  found that the online method                                                               
is the most widely supported. Proof  of insurance is still in the                                                               
bill when registering and reregistering  a vehicle as well as the                                                               
provision allowing municipalities to  impound vehicles that don't                                                               
have insurance. He stated:                                                                                                      
     The  bill   is  written   to  provide   an  event-based                                                                    
     verification system  for insurance  and that  means the                                                                    
     state shall  verify that  you have  mandatory insurance                                                                    
     during  points  of contact.  A  point  of contact,  for                                                                    
     example, is  when you  go to see  DMV to  register your                                                                    
     car or when a peace officer runs your plate.                                                                               
He  said the  packet includes  a  report from  an industry  group                                                               
known  as  the  Insurance  Industry Committee  on  Motor  Vehicle                                                               
Administration  (IICMVA).  It   concludes  that  this  nationwide                                                               
regulatory  body  supports  an  event-based  online  verification                                                               
system. These systems and methods  have garnered industry support                                                               
because  they are  compatible  with  industry computer  programs.                                                               
Also  included  in  the  packet is  information  on  VeriSol,  an                                                               
existing company that  provides this service. The  DMV brought it                                                               
to his  attention as a method  being adopted by other  states. It                                                               
was  designed by  insurance industry  folks in  a way  that makes                                                               
data  integration  simple  and efficient.  VeriSol  is  currently                                                               
being  implemented by  Wyoming, Texas,  Florida and  Oklahoma. It                                                               
sounds as though  the amount of work involved with  starting up a                                                               
VeriSol system involved hours and not a massive overhaul.                                                                       
1:59:04 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HOFFMAN  asked how  soon an uninsured  person has  to get                                                               
the insurance if  they are identified as not  having insurance by                                                               
a police officer.                                                                                                               
SENATOR FRENCH replied  the way the bill is  currently written, a                                                               
police officer  can impound a car  if one has no  insurance. It's                                                               
up to the police  officer to let the person go  home on a promise                                                               
of getting insurance  or impounding the car to force  the issue -                                                               
depending on the circumstances.                                                                                                 
1:59:53 PM                                                                                                                    
DUANE BANNOCK,  Director, Division of Motor  Vehicles, Department                                                               
of Administration  (DOA), deferred  to Karey Hennings  to comment                                                               
on the proposed CS.                                                                                                             
KAREY  HENNINGS, Manager,  Driver  Licensing,  Division of  Motor                                                               
Vehicles,  Department of  Administration (DOA),  said the  CS "is                                                               
right in line with what the division would like to see."                                                                        
SENATOR BUNDE  noted the new fiscal  note of $290,000 a  year and                                                               
asked if that was the projected cost of implementing the bill.                                                                  
MR. BANNOCK  explained that he  used a  formula that a  couple of                                                               
other  states have  used for  determining the  cost of  an online                                                               
verification program - using the number of vehicles in Alaska.                                                                  
2:02:02 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BUNDE asked  how it would work in reality  if a policeman                                                               
could stop someone  and finds he doesn't have  insurance and it's                                                               
his responsibility  to decide whether  to impound the  vehicle or                                                               
CAPTAIN BILL MILLER, Anchorage  Police Department, responded that                                                               
it is  easier for  him to  give directions  in absolutes,  but an                                                               
officer has the good judgment to make such a call in the field.                                                                 
2:04:45 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HOFFMAN asked if there  are impoundment areas in Kotzebue                                                               
and Nome.                                                                                                                       
CAPTAIN MILLER replied  that he didn't know and  he hadn't talked                                                               
to police officers from that area on this issue.                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH  pointed out that  in this far-flung state  it's a                                                               
good idea  to begin to  move in the direction  of computerization                                                               
and this is a step in  that direction. This measure would make it                                                               
easier for  officers to have a  way to verify whether  folks have                                                               
insurance on their cars.                                                                                                        
SENATOR BUNDE asked  if insurance companies have to  do more work                                                               
because of the uninsured drivers  and therefore this would impact                                                               
insurance rates for the good drivers.                                                                                           
JEFFERY   TROUTT,  Deputy   Director,   Division  of   Insurance,                                                               
Department of  Commerce, Community  & Economic  Development, said                                                               
he didn't  know, but promised  to get  him information on  it. He                                                               
said the  true expert on this  is Sarah McNair Grove  and she was                                                               
at a conference.                                                                                                                
2:07:51 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR   STEVENS   asked   how   dependable   online   insurance                                                               
verification is.                                                                                                                
MR. TROUTT replied  it is being used in other  states, but it has                                                               
some problems. "I'm sure it's one  of those things - it's only as                                                               
good as  the data that they  have...for keeping a real  time data                                                               
base. The technology continues to get better."                                                                                  
CHAIR ELLIS asked him to get that information.                                                                                  
SENATOR STEVENS  moved to adopt  CS for  SB 68, version  L. There                                                               
were no objections and it was so ordered.                                                                                       
2:10:15 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR ELLIS asked the sponsor to pitch his bill again.                                                                          
SENATOR  FRENCH  went  to  the  bad  data  issue  and  said  it's                                                               
important to  keep on  the proof of  insurance card  provision on                                                               
the books in case of a  computer malfunction. The issue is if the                                                               
department is ready at this point  to move forward to a whole new                                                               
SENATOR STEVENS said he felt it  makes sense to keep the cards as                                                               
a transition measure.                                                                                                           
SENATOR FRENCH concurred.                                                                                                       
CHAIR ELLIS asked if the committee wanted to act today.                                                                         
SENATOR  DAVIS  moved  to  pass CSSB  68(L&C),  version  L,  from                                                               
committee with individual recommendations.                                                                                      
SENATOR BUNDE objected. He thought  it would be expensive for the                                                               
state to  implement and  it could raise  insurance rates  for the                                                               
apparent  gain.  He thought  if  this  bill  were law,  it  would                                                               
encourage companies to insure on a monthly basis.                                                                               
2:18:36 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  STEVENS  said by  law  he  has  to  carry the  proof  of                                                               
insurance card  in his car  and asked what  if he is  stopped and                                                               
the computer  indicates he  is insured, but  he has  forgotten to                                                               
put the card in his car.                                                                                                        
SENATOR FRENCH  replied that the  bill is written so  that either                                                               
form of proof is sufficient.                                                                                                    
SENATOR BUNDE  said he thought  the police officer  would believe                                                               
the computer over a card.                                                                                                       
2:20:22 PM                                                                                                                    
A roll call vote was  taken. Senators Hoffman, Davis, Stevens and                                                               
Ellis  voted  yea; Senator  Bunde  voted  nay; and  CSSB  68(L&C)                                                               
passed from committee.                                                                                                          
There being  no further  business to  come before  the committee,                                                               
Chair Ellis adjourned the meeting at 2:20:54 PM.                                                                              

Document Name Date/Time Subjects