Legislature(2001 - 2002)

02/08/2001 03:30 PM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                     ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                   
                  SENATE STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE                                                                              
                         February 8, 2001                                                                                       
                             3:35 p.m.                                                                                          
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Gene Therriault, Chair                                                                                                  
Senator Randy Phillips, Vice Chair                                                                                              
Senator Bettye Davis                                                                                                            
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Senator Rick Halford                                                                                                            
Senator Drue Pearce                                                                                                             
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
SENATE BILL NO. 39                                                                                                              
"An  Act relating  to an  assistant  adjutant general  for  national                                                            
missile  defense  in  the  Department  of  Military   and  Veterans'                                                            
     MOVED SB 39 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                               
SENATE BILL NO. 54                                                                                                              
"An  Act establishing  the  Alaska Veterans  Advisory  Council;  and                                                            
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
     MOVED SB 54 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                               
SENATE BILL NO. 55                                                                                                              
"An  Act changing  the  name of  the Alaska  Pioneers'  Home to  the                                                            
Alaska  Pioneers' and  Veterans' Home  and of  the Alaska  Pioneers'                                                            
Homes  Advisory Board  to the Alaska  Pioneers'  and Veterans'  Home                                                            
Advisory  Board; relating  to  services for  veterans  in the  home;                                                            
relating  to  the   advisory  board  for  the  home;   making  other                                                            
amendments to  the statutes relating to the home;  making conforming                                                            
amendments to other statutes;  and providing for an effective date."                                                            
     HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                             
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
SB 39 - No  previous action recorded                                                                                            
SB 54 - No  previous action recorded                                                                                            
SB 55 - No  previous action recorded                                                                                            
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
Major General Phillip Oates                                                                                                     
P.O. Box 5800                                                                                                                   
Ft. Richardson, AK 99505-0800                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT: Explained benefits of SB 39  & testified in                                                               
favor or SB 54 & SB 55                                                                                                          
Mr. Laddie Shaw                                                                                                                 
Special Assistant, Office of Veterans Affairs                                                                                   
P.O. Box 5800                                                                                                                   
Fort Richardson, AK 99505-800                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SB 54                                                                                            
Carol Carroll                                                                                                                   
Director of Administrative Services, Office of Veterans Affairs                                                                 
400 Willoughby Ste 500                                                                                                          
Juneau, AK  99811                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Addressed the fiscal note on SB 54.                                                                       
Lt. Colonel Pat Carothers, Retired                                                                                              
P.O. Box 32926                                                                                                                  
Juneau, AK  99801                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on SB 54.                                                                                       
Commissioner Jim Duncan                                                                                                         
Department of Administration                                                                                                    
P.O. Box 110200                                                                                                                 
Juneau, AK 99811-200                                                                                                            
POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 54 and testified on SB 55.                                                                
Mr. Merrill Hakala                                                                                                              
140 Front Street                                                                                                                
Fairbanks, AK 99707                                                                                                             
POSITION STATEMENT: Opposed to SB 55.                                                                                         
Mr. Gerald  Bohms                                                                                                               
Box 80155                                                                                                                       
Fairbanks, AK 99708                                                                                                             
POSITION STATEMENT: Opposed to SB 55.                                                                                         
Mr. Gary Berry                                                                                                                  
American Legion                                                                                                                 
9070 N Douglas Hwy                                                                                                              
Juneau, AK  99801                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SB 55.                                                                                           
Ms. Alfreda  Dore                                                                                                               
Juneau, AK  99801                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Asked question about SB 55.                                                                               
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
TAPE 01-4, SIDE A                                                                                                             
Number 001                                                                                                                      
CHAIRMAN GENE  THERRIAULT called the Senate State  Affairs Committee                                                          
meeting to order at 3:35  p.m. Senators Phillips, Davis and Chairman                                                            
Therriault  were present. There were  three items on the  agenda, SB                                                            
39, SB 54 and SB 55. The first order of business was SB 39.                                                                     
         SB  39-ASST. ADJUTANT GENERAL FOR MISSILE DEFENSE                                                                  
MAJOR GENERAL PHILLIP OATES,  Adjutant General for Alaska, Commander                                                            
of  the  National  Guard, and  Commissioner  of  the  Department  of                                                            
Military  and  Veterans  Affairs   thanked  the  committee  for  the                                                            
opportunity to testify.  He said that if this request passes, Alaska                                                            
will be  the first  state in the  nation to  establish an  assistant                                                            
adjutant general for national missile defense.                                                                                  
He said that  the number of general  officers for the Department  of                                                            
Defense  is controlled  by  law,  but that  the  assistant  adjutant                                                            
generals  in  the  National  Guard  are  not.  Those  positions  are                                                            
established  through  state   statute  and  are  authorized  by  the                                                            
Department of Defense through  the National Guard Bureau. In Alaska,                                                            
there is  an Assistant Adjutant  General for  Army and an  Assistant                                                            
Adjutant General for Air.  The requirement to have the authorization                                                            
as state  statute  is due to  the fact  that the  National Guard  is                                                            
first  a  state  organization  and  then  a  federal  organization.                                                             
Therefore,  in order  to have  the position,  it must  be placed  in                                                            
state statute first.                                                                                                            
MAJOR GENERAL  OATES went on to say that this position  is necessary                                                            
because  "We want  to be prepared  here  in Alaska  and send a  very                                                            
clear signal to President  Bush's Administration and to the national                                                            
decision  makers  that  Alaska  is  ready  and  committed  for  this                                                            
mission."  The  position  is  fully funded  federally  in  both  the                                                            
traditional  National Guard  role and its  potential larger  federal                                                            
The  position was  originally  established  as a  traditional  guard                                                            
position with  requirements for duty  of one weekend per  month, two                                                            
weeks per year  and a mobilization  day for members with  employment                                                            
elsewhere. In  addition, this position will lead into  a role in the                                                            
full  fielding  of  the  national  missile  defense  activities  and                                                            
ultimately  as the  commander  or director  of the  site  activation                                                            
command for national missile  defense in Alaska. This position would                                                            
also be fully federally  funded and would operate under a memorandum                                                            
of understanding  between  National  Missile Defense  Joint  Program                                                            
Office (NMDJPO) and the State of Alaska.                                                                                        
Number 341                                                                                                                      
This  position  would  provide  an  Alaska  National  Guardsman  who                                                            
understands Alaskan issues  and who would work for both the Adjutant                                                            
General of the State of  Alaska in a traditional National Guard role                                                            
and for  the National Missile  Defense Joint  Program Office  in the                                                            
role  of  Commander  of  the  Site  Activation  Command  in  Alaska.                                                            
Therefore,  the  state  would be  directly  involved  with  military                                                            
decisions  by  the Department  of  Defense  in the  development  and                                                            
deployment of a national missile defense system in Alaska.                                                                      
As stated  before, this  position is  the first of  its type  in the                                                            
nation so its  importance can't be understated. The  site activation                                                            
command will be  an organization that is made up of  30 to 50 senior                                                            
civilians and full colonel level military officers.                                                                             
MAJOR  GENERAL  OATES  said,  "We  envision  into  the  future  that                                                            
national  missile defense  is  just one  piece of  this, because  to                                                            
actually have  a viable national missile defense system  you have to                                                            
partner with other mission  sets that we're assuming in the National                                                            
Guard. Those being the  manning of Clear Air Force Station (AFS) for                                                            
space surveillance  and the security  gun installation, the  manning                                                            
of the  regional  air operations  center  at Alaska  North  American                                                            
Aerospace   Defense   Command   (NORAD)   region   headquarters   at                                                            
Number 440                                                                                                                      
This position  also  provides opportunities  to  partner with  other                                                            
states. There  will be partnering done with the U.S.  Space Command,                                                            
U.S. Army  Space  Command, National  Missile  Defense Brigade  Level                                                            
Headquarters and the National  Guard of Colorado. There will also be                                                            
partnering  in New Mexico  where training  is done  for air  defense                                                            
artillery, in  Alabama where the national missile  defense effort is                                                            
led by Boeing, and in Florida  where there is advanced work in range                                                            
safety and air defense artillery training.                                                                                      
The  Department  of Military  and  Veterans  Affairs  believes  that                                                            
establishing  this  joint position  will  lead the  Alaska  National                                                            
Guard into the  future and will fully meet Alaskan  interests in the                                                            
fielding  and operation  of  the national  missile  defense  system.                                                            
There will be a very strong  presence in the interior of Alaska with                                                            
the national  missile defense  activities  fielded at Fort  Greeley,                                                            
Clear AFS, and possibly in Fairbanks.                                                                                           
MAJOR  GENERAL OATES  thanked  the committee  and said  he would  be                                                            
happy to answer any questions.                                                                                                  
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  asked if this had to be done  in statute or was                                                            
the option  available to  address the issue  through administrative                                                             
powers. Another  concern is about federal funds. Are  they available                                                            
for three years for sure?                                                                                                       
MAJOR  GENERAL  OATES  said  that  it was  mandatory  that  this  be                                                            
addressed  through state  statute or  the position  will not  exist.                                                            
State statute  now allows for an adjutant  general for army  and air                                                            
but not  the guard. He wanted  to make it  clear that this  position                                                            
would require  the same approval process  as any general  officer in                                                            
the Alaska National Guard.  The Governor makes the selection and the                                                            
Legislature provides confirmation.                                                                                              
Funding for the  position in its traditional role  would be the same                                                            
as for any  National Guard positions  and isn't subject to  any time                                                            
limit. Funding  for the  expanded position  should be available  for                                                            
the five to seven  years projected for the site activation  command.                                                            
When  the  funding  expires,  the  position   could  revert  to  its                                                            
traditional role.                                                                                                               
The fiscal  note accompanying  the bill lists  federal receipts  for                                                            
the  salary of  a  brigadier  general, allowances  and  any  Alaskan                                                            
benefits  paid for  an Alaskan  employee.  There  is precedence  for                                                            
salaries paid this way.                                                                                                         
Number 712                                                                                                                      
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT   asked  if  it  is  because  the  position  is                                                            
specifically  for  an  adjutant  general  that  it needs  to  be  in                                                            
MAJOR  GENERAL  OATES said  that  is correct,  any  general  officer                                                            
position  manned  by  the  Alaska  National  Guard  bureau  must  be                                                            
established  in state statute.  At present,  there is authority  for                                                            
just two  positions. They  are the assistant  adjutants general  for                                                            
army and for air.                                                                                                               
CHAIRMAN   THERRIAULT  asked   if  existing   statute  allowed   for                                                            
subordinate officers.                                                                                                           
MAJOR GENERAL  OATES said there is  no requirement in state  statute                                                            
for any position  below that of a  general officer. At the  national                                                            
level, law limits  the number of general officers.  Correspondingly,                                                            
the  Governor  and  Legislature  establish  the  number  of  general                                                            
officers the state will have.                                                                                                   
Number 900                                                                                                                      
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  said his main concern was whether  it needed to                                                            
be  established  in  state  statute  and  whether  the  funding  was                                                            
assured. He doesn't  want the state to have to pay  for the position                                                            
if federal funding disappears.                                                                                                  
MAJOR  GENERAL OATES  said that  if the federal  funding  disappears                                                            
then the position  would also disappear since it can't  be funded by                                                            
the state.                                                                                                                      
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  asked for questions and if there  was anyone in                                                            
Juneau  or  on teleconference   wanting  to testify.  There  was  no                                                            
response.  He said there  was no CS  and asked for  the will  of the                                                            
SENATOR PHILLIPS  made a motion  to move SB  39 and the fiscal  note                                                            
from committee with individual recommendations.                                                                                 
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT asked for objections. There were none.                                                                      
The next order of business was SB 54.                                                                                           
Number 1034                                                                                                                     
              SB  54-ALASKA VETERANS ADVISORY COUNCIL                                                                       
CHAIRMAN   THERRIAULT  asked   Mr.  Laddie   Shaw  to  testify   via                                                            
MR. LADDIE  SHAW,  from the Office  of Veterans  Affairs,  testified                                                            
that the Alaska  Veterans Advisory  Council represents about  63,000                                                            
veterans   in   the  state.   The   council   was   established   by                                                            
administrative  order in 1996 but it has no permanence  unless it is                                                            
placed in state statute.                                                                                                        
MAJOR GENERAL OATES said  that the purpose of the council is to look                                                            
at policy issues  and how the state can better serve  veteran needs.                                                            
Alaska has the  second highest number of veterans  per capita of any                                                            
state in  the nation so  putting this into  statute not only  brings                                                            
permanence   but  also  recognizes   the  importance  of   veterans'                                                            
contributions  without replacing Veteran Service Officers,  Veterans                                                            
of Foreign  Wars, Disabled  American Veterans,  the American  Legion                                                            
and the Veterans  Administration. SB 54 will help  the state develop                                                            
the policy needed to recognize  its veterans. The council would give                                                            
recommendations  to  the Governor  and would  be a  body that  would                                                            
transcend individual administrations.                                                                                           
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  said that the  chair of the council  would also                                                            
serve on the Alaska  Pioneers' Home Advisory Board  thus providing a                                                            
link to the next bill to be heard, SB 39.                                                                                       
MAJOR GENERAL OATES said that was correct.                                                                                      
SENATOR PHILLIPS asked where the meetings would be held.                                                                        
MAJOR GENERAL  OATES said that the  group would meet twice  annually                                                            
and as Senator  Phillips had mentioned  in a previous conversation,                                                             
it is important to change  the meeting location each time. Locations                                                            
aren't required  or restricted but  the amount of money required  to                                                            
send the council  members to different locations would  vary greatly                                                            
depending on the location.                                                                                                      
CHAIRMAN PHILLIPS  asked if the fiscal note needed  to be changed to                                                            
reflect two meetings per year.                                                                                                  
MAJOR GENERAL  OATES said it was his  understanding that  the fiscal                                                            
note isn't part  of the bill itself so the change  wasn't necessary.                                                            
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT told  Senator Phillips  that they would  change                                                            
the fiscal note  so that it isn't so site specific  before moving it                                                            
from committee if he preferred.                                                                                                 
MS. CAROL CARROLL,  who wrote the  fiscal note for SB 54,  said that                                                            
she  would  be happy  to  change  the  fiscal note  to  reflect  two                                                            
meetings per year with a rotating location.                                                                                     
LT. COLONEL  (RETIRED) PAT  CAROTHERS said  that under the  statute,                                                            
the council would meet  up to four times per year. In the five years                                                            
that the council  has been in existence, they have  found that face-                                                            
to-face meetings are more  productive than any other type. They have                                                            
been  meeting in  Anchorage  in the  fall  because the  majority  of                                                            
membership  is there. They  then meet in Juneau  in late January  to                                                            
coincide with  the legislature. In May there is a  third meeting and                                                            
that is a telephonic meeting.                                                                                                   
Number 1465                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT  asked  if  the council  has  had  its  actions                                                            
hampered due to its non-permanent status.                                                                                       
LT.  COLONEL (RETIRED)  CAROTHERS  said they'd  like  this put  into                                                            
statute  because a previous  administration  abolished the  Veterans                                                            
Advisory   Council   and   it  could   happen   again   in   another                                                            
administration. When this  happens, the voice for veterans suffers a                                                            
loss of continuity of effort.                                                                                                   
SENATOR PHILLIPS  said that meetings  in rural Alaska are  important                                                            
as well. Face  to face meetings shouldn't be held  in just Anchorage                                                            
and Juneau.                                                                                                                     
MAJOR  GENERAL  OATES said  he  believes  it  is valuable  for  this                                                            
organization to have a  presence throughout the state and the fiscal                                                            
note will be changed to reflect that sentiment.                                                                                 
SENATOR DAVIS  asked if rural  members were  represented in  the 20-                                                            
member council.                                                                                                                 
LT. COLONEL (RETIRED)  CAROTHERS said that there were  rural members                                                            
from Kodiak, Kotzebue and Bethel.                                                                                               
MAJOR GENERAL  OATES said that was  a good point, there needs  to be                                                            
adequate representation throughout the state.                                                                                   
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT said  that there's nothing in the wording of the                                                            
bill that specifically  speaks to the Pioneer/Veterans Home Advisory                                                            
COMMISSIONER  DUNCAN said that SB  55 places a member of  the Alaska                                                            
Veterans  Advisory Council  on  the Pioneer/Veterans  Home  Advisory                                                            
MAJOR GENERAL OATES wanted  it understood that SB 54 should stand on                                                            
its own and not be dependant on action on SB 55.                                                                                
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT asked  for any  other testimony.  He  announced                                                            
that there was no CS and asked for amendments. There were none.                                                                 
SENATOR DAVIS made a motion that SB 54 and the rewritten fiscal                                                                 
note be moved from committee with individual recommendations.                                                                   
There were no objections.                                                                                                       
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT confirmed that Carol Carroll would rewrite                                                                  
the fiscal  note and that SB 54 would  move from committee  with the                                                            
rewritten note.                                                                                                                 
The last order of business was SB 55.                                                                                           
          SB  55-PIONEERS' AND VETERANS' HOME/ADVISORY BD                                                                   
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  asked Major General  Oates if he would  like to                                                            
testify on SB 55.                                                                                                               
MAJOR  GENERAL OATES  said  he was  in support  of SB  55 and  would                                                            
testify after Commissioner Duncan.                                                                                              
Number 1787                                                                                                                     
JIM DUNCAN,  Commissioner  of Administration,  said  that SB 55  was                                                            
introduced by the Governor  and would require a number of changes to                                                            
the  current  Pioneer  Home  system. It  would  rename  the  present                                                            
Pioneer Home system  to Pioneer and Veterans' Home  system; it would                                                            
provide, in statute,  a preference for veterans admission;  it would                                                            
change the  name of the Pioneer Home  Advisory Board to the  Pioneer                                                            
and Veterans'  Home Advisory  Board; it would  require at least  two                                                            
members of  the board to be veterans;  and finally it would  require                                                            
that one  of those board  members be the  chairman of the  Veterans'                                                            
Advisory Council.                                                                                                               
COMMISSIONER   DUNCAN   then  gave   some   background  information                                                             
explaining  why  the Governor  has  introduced  the bill.  In  1992,                                                            
legislation was  passed to establish a veterans' home  in Alaska. It                                                            
was to  be operated by  the Department of  Administration but  would                                                            
meet  federal  requirements  so  that  the  residents  payments  and                                                            
federal  funding would  cover the  costs of operation.  In 1998  the                                                            
legislature  amended   the  1992  statute  to  allow   the  proposed                                                            
veterans' home to provide  nursing care. The idea behind this was to                                                            
increase federal  funding so that  the state didn't have  to make up                                                            
operational  shortfalls.  However,  this  wasn't  successful.  State                                                            
funding  would  still  be  required  because   federal  funding  and                                                            
veterans payments wouldn't  cover the nursing costs in Alaska. Thus,                                                            
there is still the unrealized  intent and definite need to serve the                                                            
Number 1914                                                                                                                     
Governor Knowles  recently appointed a cabinet level  team comprised                                                            
of  the Commissioner  of  Administration,  Major General  Oates  and                                                            
Commissioner  of Health and  Social Services  to explore options  to                                                            
fulfill  the  commitment  made to  veterans  in  the 1992  and  1998                                                            
legislation. One  of the options explored was to determine  the cost                                                            
of a stand-alone veteran's  home. The capital construction costs for                                                            
an 80-bed facility  would be about $24 million with  federal funding                                                            
providing  about 65  percent. This  would require  state funding  of                                                            
about  $8.5 million  for construction  and then  an additional  $7.2                                                            
million  annually  for operational  costs.  The  federal  government                                                            
would  contribute  about  $4  million,  residents  would  pay  about                                                            
$900,000 and the  state would have to contribute the  balance, which                                                            
is about $2.4 million per year.                                                                                                 
Number 2000                                                                                                                     
Looking  at  other  options,  the team  determined  that  using  the                                                            
current  Pioneer   Home  infrastructure   would  be  more   fiscally                                                            
responsible.  There are  six Pioneer  Homes located  throughout  the                                                            
state  and   they  are   not  being  fully   utilized.  Using   this                                                            
infrastructure  would  make  it easier  to  provide long  term  care                                                            
needs, closer to the veterans'  homes and communities, than if there                                                            
was just one veterans' hospital in the state.                                                                                   
COMMISSIONER  DUNCAN  emphasized  the quality  of the  Pioneer  Home                                                            
System  and pointed  out  that it  is  a system  that  is not  fully                                                            
utilized. There  are 600 beds in the  six homes and there  are about                                                            
90 vacant beds  at any given time.  SB 55 designates 125  beds or 21                                                            
percent of the  total beds for veterans. It would  say veterans have                                                            
a preference  in statute,  while  the 125-bed  designation would  be                                                            
instituted through regulation.                                                                                                  
In the system  now, there are about  78 veterans. Of the  167 people                                                            
on the  active waiting  list, 44  are veterans.  If funds were  made                                                            
available  to  fill the  empty  beds,  those  44 veterans  would  be                                                            
accommodated as  well as close to 50 pioneers who  are on the active                                                            
waiting list.                                                                                                                   
SB 55 would provide  needed funding for 24 hour nursing  care, which                                                            
is the level of care that  is needed for those beds. The fiscal note                                                            
accompanying  the bill indicates $2.6  million in general  funds and                                                            
about the  same in  pioneer home  receipts which  would provide  the                                                            
funding to hire necessary staff to fill the 90 vacant beds.                                                                     
COMMISSIONER  DUNCAN explained  that the  fiscal note intentionally                                                             
does not include  federal receipts. Care has been  taken so that the                                                            
Pioneer Home  system is  not changed to  require federal  regulation                                                            
such as would  happen if it were under  the Veterans Administration                                                             
system.   Otherwise,  many   Pioneer  Home   requirements  such   as                                                            
residency, age and building codes would have to be changed.                                                                     
Number 2225                                                                                                                     
While  federal dollars  aren't being  solicited,  they are  actively                                                            
exploring  options  with the  federal  government to  discover  what                                                            
might  be available  in  terms  of federal  assistance  and  federal                                                            
COMMISSIONER DUNCAN said  that they had worked closely with affected                                                            
interest groups  and that there were a number of supporting  letters                                                            
in the committee packets  one of which was from Senator Ted Steven's                                                            
office. He  went on to point out a  paper giving the background  and                                                            
history  of the proposal  as well  as a number  of frequently  asked                                                            
COMMISSIONER  DUNCAN concluded  his  testimony and  said that  Major                                                            
General Oates had some comments on SB 55.                                                                                       
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  asked for questions  first. There were  none so                                                            
he  asked  Major  General  Oates to  address  his  comments  to  the                                                            
Number 2300                                                                                                                     
MAJOR GENERAL OATES thanked  Chairman Therriault for the opportunity                                                            
to testify. He went on  to say that it was important to consider why                                                            
Alaska does  not have a veterans home  since Alaska ranks  second of                                                            
the  50 states  in terms  of  its number  of veteran  residents.  In                                                            
addition, Alaska is the  only state in the Union that does not have,                                                            
or is not in the process of building, a state veterans' home.                                                                   
He assured members that  the lack of a veterans' home was not due to                                                            
apathy, but  rather due to uncertainty  of where such a home  should                                                            
be located and how you  afford such a facility when you already have                                                            
a costly pioneer  home system. Because of the size  on the state, it                                                            
would also  be very  difficult to  meet veterans'  needs state  wide                                                            
with  just one  facility.  Veterans would  be displaced  from  their                                                            
communities when they needed care.                                                                                              
Side B                                                                                                                          
Number 2320                                                                                                                     
Looking for  creative solutions, they  came up with the idea  to use                                                            
existing  resources. There  are Pioneer Homes  in Ketchikan,  Sitka,                                                            
Juneau,  Palmer, Anchorage  and  Fairbanks  with empty  beds due  to                                                            
under staffing.  If these facilities  were utilized, there  would be                                                            
no  new  construction  costs,  the  problems   associated  with  one                                                            
regional center  would be ameliorated  and there would be  more beds                                                            
for less operating  costs than if  a single 80-bed home were  built.                                                            
Senator  Stevens has  expressed a  willingness to  help but says  he                                                            
can't move  ahead until the state  takes the first step.  He will do                                                            
all he can  to help make this a model  of federal/state cooperation                                                             
on veteran's issues.                                                                                                            
Senator Frank Murkowski  is bringing Secretary of Veterans' Affairs,                                                            
Anthony Principi,  to Alaska and one  of the important items  on his                                                            
agenda  is to visit  the Anchorage  Pioneer's Home  and discuss  the                                                            
merits of  this proposal.  The Veterans'  Administration is  looking                                                            
for creative  proposals to  meet the needs  of its veterans  because                                                            
the  current veterans'  home  system  is expensive,  not  regionally                                                            
located and isn't meeting  the care needs of veterans. This proposal                                                            
is a first step in meeting those needs.                                                                                         
Number 2237                                                                                                                     
MAJOR GENERAL  OATES said that veterans  need to be shown  that they                                                            
are important.  Providing for  their care needs  is one way  to show                                                            
the measure of their importance.  He went on to say that many of the                                                            
veteran  organizations  statewide have  indicated  support for  this                                                            
proposal.  There is  also support  from  many of  the state  pioneer                                                            
organizations.  He reiterated  the need  to take  the first step  to                                                            
provide for veterans living  in Alaska and said that the state could                                                            
have a nationally recognized model program.                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT  asked for  questions.  He said  that  although                                                            
there were  letters  of support there  were some  seniors that  have                                                            
questions  and it is the  duty of the committee  to ensure  that the                                                            
move is  advantageous. Some  of the letters  of support indicated  a                                                            
very limited understanding of the details.                                                                                      
COMMISSIONER   DUNCAN  said  that   the  proposal  wasn't   easy  to                                                            
understand  but that  the  Department of  Administration  is in  the                                                            
process of  organizing statewide visits  to provide information  and                                                            
answer questions.  He emphasized that  this proposal should  benefit                                                            
both pioneers and veterans in the state.                                                                                        
Number 2103                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  asked for a breakdown  on the vacancy  rates in                                                            
each of the homes and number of veterans in each of the homes.                                                                  
COMMISSIONER  DUNCAN said that a portion  of the information  was in                                                            
the packet but that he  would provide the number of veterans in each                                                            
home and the  information about which  home each of the 44  veterans                                                            
on the active waiting list had requested.                                                                                       
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT  wanted  information  on how  many individuals                                                             
might have to move to a  different location due to lack of bed space                                                            
in the community of first request.                                                                                              
COMMISSIONER  DUNCAN  said  that  the  vacancies  are  primarily  in                                                            
Palmer, Anchorage and Sitka.                                                                                                    
MAJOR GENERAL  OATES added  that the plan  stipulates that if  a bed                                                            
isn't available  in the community  of your choice you may  enter the                                                            
home in another community  then move to the community of your choice                                                            
when a bed becomes available.                                                                                                   
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT called for teleconference testimony.                                                                        
MR. MERRILL HAKALA  testified via teleconference saying  that he was                                                            
a  veteran   and  was   opposed  to  the   pioneer  homes   becoming                                                            
pioneer/veteran  homes but was in  favor of a stand-alone  veteran's                                                            
home.  If the  proposal were  adopted,  there would  be a  "complete                                                            
change in  what the  pioneer homes  were meant to  be." He said  all                                                            
veterans  are welcome  as long  as they  meet the  current  entrance                                                            
requirements and it should  stay this way. He went on to say that if                                                            
the state would  recognize Alzheimer's disease and  related dementia                                                            
as a mental disease  there would be Medicaid coverage  and therefore                                                            
costs to the state and individual residents would be reduced.                                                                   
MR. GERALD  BOHMS testified  via teleconference  saying that  he too                                                            
was a veteran and not in  favor of changing the current Pioneer Home                                                            
System.  He didn't  think  it  was fair  for  veterans  to be  given                                                            
preference.  He pointed  out that  the state could  fund the  vacant                                                            
beds now and they wouldn't be empty.                                                                                            
MR.  GARY   BERRY  testified  in   person  and  said  that   he  was                                                            
representing  the  American Legion,  Veterans  of Foreign  Wars  and                                                            
Disabled American  Veterans. These Alaska service  organizations are                                                            
in favor of designating  125 beds in the Pioneer Homes for veterans.                                                            
They  feel that  all Alaskan  veterans  deserve long  term care  for                                                            
physical and  mental disabilities.  It is time to show appreciation                                                             
to these men and women.                                                                                                         
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT called  upon Lt. Colonel (Retired) Pat Caruthers                                                            
to testify.                                                                                                                     
LT. COLONEL  PAT  CARUTHERS   said that  he supports  this  proposal                                                            
because it benefits both  veterans and pioneers. If this proposal is                                                            
passed, critical  care nursing will be funded and  it is the lack of                                                            
funding  for  this   highest  nursing  tier  that   is  causing  the                                                            
Number 1474                                                                                                                     
MR. JOHN  DAPCEVICH said  he was  a member of  the American  Legion,                                                            
Veteran  of Foreign  Wars,  Disabled  American Veteran,  Pioneer  of                                                            
Alaska  and has  served  the last  four  governors on  the  Pioneers                                                            
Advisory  Board. The Pioneer  Advisory Board  has unanimously  given                                                            
its support to SB 55. He  said that veterans are just as eligible in                                                            
the  current   pioneer  homes  as   non-veterans  and  their   entry                                                            
requirements will  be the same as non-veterans. This  proposal isn't                                                            
going to displace pioneers who are not veterans.                                                                                
SENATOR  PHILLIPS asked  for  the make  up of the  Pioneer  Advisory                                                            
MR. DAPCEVICH  said that the Governor  appoints a member  from every                                                            
community having  a home; there is one at large appointment  and the                                                            
chairperson of the Older Alaska Commission serves on the board.                                                                 
Number 267                                                                                                                      
MR. JIM  KOHN, Director  of Alaska Longevity  Program that  includes                                                            
the Pioneers'  Homes, wanted to comment on two points  made earlier.                                                            
First  was preference.  It should  be understood  that Pioneer  Home                                                            
beds are currently  filled with about  17 percent veterans  and over                                                            
30 percent  of those on  the waiting list  are veterans. Looking  at                                                            
the statistical  makeup of  the waiting list,  it is apparent  that,                                                            
over time,  there will be  more than 21 percent  of the beds  filled                                                            
with veterans whether they  are given a preference or not. After the                                                            
125 beds are filled,  it is unlikely that a veteran  would ever need                                                            
to be given preference.                                                                                                         
The second  issue he wanted  to address was  about Medicaid  funding                                                            
for the  home. He said  that the homes would  be changed  completely                                                            
with Medicaid  funding because residency and age requirements  would                                                            
have to be  abolished. They would  no longer be Pioneer Homes.  This                                                            
needs  to be  understood  if  you're  looking  at other  sources  of                                                            
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  asked, "If you're  the next person on  the list                                                            
and you  weren't a veteran  and a veteran  space was open would  you                                                            
get that spot?"                                                                                                                 
MR. KOHN said  that it was more complicated than that.  He explained                                                            
that  people  generally  apply to  the  waiting  list in  their  own                                                            
communities. If  an opening was to occur in Anchorage,  for example,                                                            
and  veterans  were occupying  124 beds,  the veteran priority  list                                                            
would  be  given  preference.  If  there were  no  veterans  on  the                                                            
Anchorage waiting list  then the next person would be given the bed.                                                            
Then, the next  bed opening in any community would  be given veteran                                                            
priority. If  the number of veterans  filling the beds rose  to more                                                            
than 125,  there would be  no veterans preference  given until  that                                                            
number fell below 125.                                                                                                          
ALFREDA DORE asked the  chair if she could address a question to Mr.                                                            
Kohn. She came forward  and asked if widows and widowers of eligible                                                            
veterans would be given  preference in the Pioneer Homes as they are                                                            
in Veteran Homes in the Lower 48.                                                                                               
MR. KOHN said  that the Pioneers'  Homes have always made  an effort                                                            
to keep spouses  together when one needs to enter  the home and they                                                            
would  continue to  do  so. However,  this issue  would  have to  be                                                            
looked  at carefully  to decide  whether  or not  spouses and  other                                                            
family members of qualified  veterans were given preference. He said                                                            
to keep in mind that in  Veterans' Homes, family members of veterans                                                            
may not occupy  more than 25 percent  of available beds.  He went on                                                            
to  say that  this should  be  resolved  through regulation  as  the                                                            
process moves forword.                                                                                                          
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT   asked  if  a  regulation  packet   was  being                                                            
developed for this legislation.                                                                                                 
MR. KOHN said  none had been started officially but  that an outline                                                            
was being prepared.                                                                                                             
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT asked  for a copy of what had been developed. He                                                            
then asked for any other questions.                                                                                             
Number 665                                                                                                                      
SENATOR DAVIS  asked them to address  the question as to  whether or                                                            
not it  is a regulation  to give  spouses and  other family  members                                                            
MR. KOHN  said that  they want to  make sure  that the Pioneer  Home                                                            
System not come under federal  regulation. They have made this clear                                                            
to both  the Alaska Delegation  and Secretary  of Veterans'  Affairs                                                            
Principi  who has  expressed  interest  in innovative  programs  for                                                            
veteran  homes. He  said that  perhaps the  Veterans Administration                                                             
would  be able  to waiver  funds designated  for  a Pioneer/Veteran                                                             
Number 549                                                                                                                      
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  said that when  looking at the fiscal  note for                                                            
SB 55 it  shows it to be  general fund and  program receipts  so all                                                            
the  vacant beds  could  be opened  with  these funding  sources  to                                                            
anyone on the waiting list.                                                                                                     
MR. KOHN  said that  is correct.  The vacant beds  are general  care                                                            
beds and  the people  on the waiting  list need  high level  care so                                                            
providing additional  funding for  high level care would  fill those                                                            
beds.  However,   if  that  were  done  there  would   be  a  missed                                                            
opportunity  to  work  with  the  Veterans  Administration  to  find                                                            
innovative  ways to care for veterans  in assisted living  programs.                                                            
Number 381                                                                                                                      
SENATOR PHILLIPS asked  if the opportunity became available recently                                                            
and whether there is urgency to act.                                                                                            
MR. KOHN  said he  does believe  that time  is of  the essence.  The                                                            
Governor has  given a mandate to find  a program that will  work and                                                            
this  is what  the three  commissioners  have  devised and  it is  a                                                            
program   that   has  ignited   the   interest   of   the   Veterans                                                            
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT asked  if there was anyone  else who wanted  to                                                            
testify either  in person or via teleconference.  There was  no one.                                                            
He said  that if  there is  a bill requiring  more  work or if  work                                                            
needs to  be done on the  wording of an  amendment the bill  will be                                                            
brought up again as bills  previously heard. However, because of the                                                            
level of interest  in this bill he will give generous  notice before                                                            
this bill is heard again.                                                                                                       
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT adjourned the meeting at 5:15.                                                                              

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