Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/23/1996 03:43 PM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE April 23, 1996 3:43 p.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Senator Bert Sharp, Chairman Senator Randy Phillips, Vice-Chairman Senator Loren Leman MEMBERS ABSENT Senator Jim Duncan Senator Dave Donley COMMITTEE CALENDAR CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 384(HES) am "An Act relating to payment requirements for retention in the Pioneers' Home; and providing for an effective date." CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 364(JUD) am "An Act amending, in the Election Code, the definition of the offense of unlawful interference with voting in the first degree, a class C felony, and adding, for all `knowing' violations of election offenses set out in the Election Code, a cross-reference to the definition of the word `knowing' in the Criminal Code." PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION HB 384 - No previous Senate committee action. HB 364 - No previous Senate committee action. WITNESS REGISTER Representative Norman Rokeberg State Capitol, Juneau, AK 99801-1182¶(907)465-4968 POSITION STATEMENT: prime sponsor of HB 384 Patti Swenson, Aide Representative Con Bunde State Capitol, Juneau, AK 99801-1182¶(907)465-4843 POSITION STATEMENT: prime sponsor of HB 364 Harold J. Curran, Acting Chief of Staff Office of the Mayor North Slope Borough P.O. Box 69, Barrow, AK 99723¶(907)852-2611 POSITION STATEMENT: submitted written testimony on HB 364 Diane Shriner Division of Elections P.O. Box 110017, Juneau, AK 99811-0017¶(907)465-4611 POSITION STATEMENT: supports HB 364 ACTION NARRATIVE HB 384 PIONEERS' HOME - INABILITY TO PAY TAPE 96-31, SIDE A Number 001 CHAIRMAN SHARP called the Senate State Affairs Committee to order at 3:43 p.m. and brought up HB 384 as the first order of business before the committee. He called the prime sponsor to testify. REPRESENTATIVE NORMAN ROKEBERG, prime sponsor of HB 384, stated the bill would make statutory what has been standard policy since the beginning of the Pioneers' Homes in Alaska: that residents who cannot pay are not evicted. Representative Rokeberg read the sponsor statement for HB 384. He drew committee members' attention to the new rate schedule contained in their bill packets. That rate schedule will take effect for residents of pioneers' homes on July 1, 1996. It will increase the cost pioneers' home residents pay over a seven year period, after which, rates paid would be equal to the cost of care. Rates will increase 50% in FY 97. If residents do not have enough money to pay the fees, they need the protection that HB 384 will provide. The Ombudsman issued a memo to the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate this year which asked the legislature to put into statute or regulation every department policy that has not been set in statute or regulation. This issue is one of a number of unwritten policies of the State of Alaska. HB 384 would not result in any additional cost to the State of Alaska. The department supports the bill. Right now, the Governor's budget calls for $2,500,000.00 in increased revenues this year from the pioneers' home fee schedule increases, while it is estimated that only $1,500,000.00 will not be provided from people who cannot pay. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG stated two primary issues were brought up in the House relating to HB 384. One was the spending down phenomenon, or what would happen if a person going into a pioneers' home attempted to avoid payments by dispersal of their assets. Currently there are regulations and statutes requiring that the department look back for two years at a new resident's total asset picture to ensure there was no giving away or selling at less than market value of assets. The department is looking at extending that picture to three years. So that concern is addressed. The second issue came up in the House State Affairs Committee. That issue was perhaps holding harmless existing residents, but giving no protection to future residents. Representative Rokeberg stated there is a legal opinion in members' bill packets stating a provision like that would be unconstitutional. Other people have asked how we could do that with the longevity bonus in that case, but Representative Rokeberg thinks that's probably unconstitutional also. He asked for support of HB 384. Number 155 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asked how much money the pioneers' homes get in fees from residents. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG replied he doesn't have that figure. CHAIRMAN SHARP offered that it is about $4,500,000.00 to $5,000,000.00. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS stated the homes are not paying for themselves through residents. We are also spending another $73,000,000.00 on the longevity bonus program. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG thinks that an empty-nest couple in this state probably has benefits in excess of $11,000.00 per year. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS stated that oil revenues are declining, and we want to reduce the budget. So there is a dilemma that we are spending this money. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG agreed with Senator Phillips that we need to look at all of these programs, and that we need to make reductions. But the Governor, in raising the fee schedule, answers that question. Certainly, the long-range financial projections are such that the residents will be making a greater contribution to the cost of those homes. But we all recognize that many of these people do not have the financial capabilities to do that. One alternative that's been discussed is to make the pioneers' homes eligible for medicaid payments in the state. We could easily do that, however, there is the phenomenon of medi-grants. Representative Rokeberg predicts that within one year the State of Alaska will be faced with a block grant for medicaid money. Therefore, we would simply be taking that money out of one pocket and putting it in another. That really wouldn't help the state financially. He thinks it would end up hurting the state, because we would be putting more of our assets into senior services and the pioneer homes than we would for other eligible medicaid requirements. Raising the fees is a good long-range proposition. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG stated that in law is the term "promissory estoppel" is applicable to this situation. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asked if fees at pioneers' homes include food. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG responded the fees include room and board. Over 80% of residents are in assisted living or other levels of care. Number 255 SENATOR LEMAN disagreed that the changes made to the longevity bonus program were unconstitutional; that was not the advice received from the Department of Law. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG replied he meant to say that may be unconstitutional. CHAIRMAN SHARP stated he has heard concern voiced by people in the Fairbanks Pioneers' Home over the fee increases also. HB 384 would resolve a lot of doubt that residents and their families have. He asked if there were any other comments on the bill. Hearing none, he asked the pleasure of the committee. Number 300 SENATOR LEMAN made a motion to discharge HB 384 from the Senate State Affairs Committee with individual recommendations. Number 310 CHAIRMAN SHARP, hearing no objection, stated HB 384 was discharged from the Senate State Affairs Committee. HB 364 ELECTION CRIMES; INTERFERENCE W/VOTING CHAIRMAN SHARP brought up HB 364 as the next order of business before the Senate State Affairs Committee. He called a representative of the prime sponsor to testify. Number 315 PATTI SWENSON, Aide to Representative Con Bunde, prime sponsor of HB 364, stated the impetus for the bill was the Dansereau v. Ulmer lawsuit, which deals in part with the unlawful interference with voting in the first degree. The purpose of HB 364 is to align state law with federal law. This would clarify that people cannot be paid to vote in Alaska. Ms. Swenson urged support of HB 364. HAROLD J. CURRAN, North Slope Borough, Office of the Mayor, submitted written testimony: CSHB 364 (JUD) am is significantly better than the original bill, which would, among other things, make any person who drove a neighbor to the polls a felon. Before the legislature tries to make the North Slope Borough's efforts to give its residents equal access to the voting booth illegal, please consider the following: 1. The State of Alaska is obligated under the Voting Rights Act to pre-clear changes to its election laws; 2. Giving a voter transportation to or from the polls is significantly easier in urban Alaska due to government subsidized roads and telephone systems; 3. The only way to give rural Alaskans assistance in getting to the polls, the overwhelming majority of whom subsist for extended periods of time at great distance from their limited road and phone systems, is to reimburse them for the cost of transportation to and from the polls; 4. The failure to give rural residents equal access to the polls is anti-democratic and is likely a denial of equal protection under the Alaska State Constitution; 5. Since the majority of rural residents are native, denial of equal access to the polls is a violation of the Voting Rights Act; 6. The proposed language set out below will cure these problems: AS 15.56.030 (G) a voter's costs for transportation to or from the polls. There is not need to scope the above language for rural Alaska because the minimal cost for urban voters to get to the polls will regulate the use of this exception to AS 15.56.030(a)(2). Thank you for your time and consideration. Number 335 SENATOR LEMAN asked if, on page 2, line 14, "on" shouldn't be "of". MS. SWENSON stated her copy of the bill says "of". SENATOR LEMAN and other committee members state their copy says "on". MS. SWENSON replied that must be a typo. SENATOR LEMAN asked that be noted and corrected to "of". He asked Ms. Swenson if she's seen the memo from Harold Curran (see above). MS. SWENSON stated she has not seen the memo. She thinks perhaps Ms. Shriner from the Division of Elections could address that question. Number 360 DIANE SHRINER, Division of Elections, stated the bill would implement criminal penalties. However, the things the bill does not include are covered in Section 2, paragraph (2). SENATOR LEMAN thinks Section 2, paragraph (2) is a good response to Mr. Curran's memo. Senator Leman thinks the memo is incorrect. MS. SHRINER thinks it is incorrect also. She stated that when HB 364 was being drafted, the Division of Elections asked that some of these things be spelled out as specifically as possible, so the division appreciates the inclusion of those examples. The Division of Elections supports HB 364. CHAIRMAN SHARP asked the pleasure of the committee regarding HB 364. Number 380 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS made a motion to discharge HB 364 from the Senate State Affairs Committee with individual recommendations. SENATOR LEMAN objected for the purpose of reminding members of the typo that needs to be corrected. He also thinks the bill should have a retroactive date to 1994. MS. SWENSON stated the sponsor would support that. SENATOR LEMAN removed his objection. Number 390 CHAIRMAN SHARP, hearing no objection, stated HB 364 was discharged from the Senate State Affairs Committee. CHAIRMAN SHARP adjourned the Senate State Affairs Committee meeting at 4:12 p.m.