Legislature(2001 - 2002)

04/18/2002 03:40 PM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                    
                 SENATE STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE                                                                               
                         April 18, 2002                                                                                         
                            3:40 p.m.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Senator Gene Therriault, Chair                                                                                                  
Senator Rick Halford                                                                                                            
Senator Ben Stevens                                                                                                             
Senator Bettye Davis                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Senator Randy Phillips, Vice Chair                                                                                              
                                                                                                                              
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
HOUSE BILL NO. 162                                                                                                              
"An Act  relating to absences from  the state under  the longevity                                                              
bonus program."                                                                                                                 
     MOVED SCS HB 162(STA) 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."                                                                                                                
     MOVED CSSB 55(STA) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATE BILL NO. 53                                                                                                              
"An Act  extending the  termination date of  the Board  of Barbers                                                              
and Hairdressers."                                                                                                              
     MOVED SB 53 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
HB 53 - No previous action to record.                                                                                           
SB 55 - See State Affairs minutes dated 2/8/01, 5/5/01.                                                                         
HB 162 - See HESS minutes dated 4/20/01 and 1/28/02 and                                                                         
         State Affairs minutes dated 4/2/02.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Representative John Davies                                                                                                      
Alaska State Capitol, Room 415                                                                                                  
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Sponsor of HB 53                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Milton Wiltse, Director                                                                                                         
Alaska Geological & Geophysical Surveys                                                                                         
794 University Ave, Suite 200                                                                                                   
Fairbanks, AK 99707-3645                                                                                                        
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on  HB 53                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Rod Combellick                                                                                                                  
Engineering Geology Chief                                                                                                       
794 University Ave, Suite 200                                                                                                   
Fairbanks, AK 99707-3645                                                                                                        
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on  HB 53                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Jim Duncan, Commissioner                                                                                                        
Department of Administration                                                                                                    
PO Box 110200                                                                                                                   
Juneau, AK  99811-0200                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on  SB 55                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Merrill J. Hakala                                                                                                               
140 Front Street                                                                                                                
Fairbanks, AK 99701                                                                                                             
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on  SB 55                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Harry Jenkins                                                                                                                   
      th                                                                                                                        
210 10 Ave                                                                                                                      
Fairbanks, AK 99701                                                                                                             
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on  SB 55                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Don Hoover                                                                                                                      
1029 Kodiak                                                                                                                     
Fairbanks, AK 99709                                                                                                             
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on  SB 55                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Major General Phil Oates                                                                                                        
Adjutant General/Commissioner                                                                                                   
Department of Military &                                                                                                        
  Veterans Affairs                                                                                                              
PO Box 5800                                                                                                                     
Ft Richardson, AK  99505-0800                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on  SB 55                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Laddie Shaw                                                                                                                     
Special Assistant                                                                                                               
Office of Veteran Affairs                                                                                                       
Department of Military &                                                                                                        
  Veterans Affairs                                                                                                              
PO Box 5800                                                                                                                     
Ft Richardson, AK  99505-0800                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on SB 55                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Gary Berry                                                                                                                      
American Legion representative                                                                                                  
Juneau, AK 99801                                                                                                                
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on SB 55                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Clayton E. Love                                                                                                                 
Disabled American Veterans representative                                                                                       
Juneau, AK 99801                                                                                                                
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on SB 55                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Representative Gretchen Guess                                                                                                   
Alaska State Capitol, Room 112                                                                                                  
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Sponsor HB 162                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
James Kohn, Director                                                                                                            
Division of Alaska Longevity Programs                                                                                           
Department of Administration                                                                                                    
PO Box 110200                                                                                                                   
Juneau, AK  99811-0200                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on HB 162                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
TAPE 02-23, SIDE A                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN  GENE   THERRIAULT  called   the  Senate  State   Affairs                                                            
Committee  meeting to  order at  3:40 p.m.  Present were  Senators                                                              
Davis, Stevens  and Chairman  Therriault. Senator Halford  arrived                                                              
shortly thereafter.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
            HB  53-SEISMIC HAZARDS SAFETY COMMISSION                                                                        
                                                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  JOHN DAVIES,  sponsor,  explained  the bill  would                                                              
create  an Alaska  Seismic Safety  Commission.  This is  necessary                                                              
because  although there  are current ongoing  efforts to  mitigate                                                              
hazards and  risks of  earthquakes, the  efforts are spread  among                                                              
agencies.  This high  level commission  would  look across  agency                                                              
boundaries.  It  is  important  to   have  an  ongoing  effort  to                                                              
continuously improve the state's preparedness.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Building codes  and earthquake insurance  are the kinds  of issues                                                              
that  need more  attention  and require  a  long-term view.  Large                                                              
magnitude  earthquakes are  a rare  event, but  an extreme  hazard                                                              
nonetheless. This  type of commission  is needed to  remind people                                                              
that we  need to be  worried about them.  It's easy to  forget how                                                              
devastating  an earthquake  can be because  the catastrophic  ones                                                              
are infrequent.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  noted a number of other states  have a safety                                                              
council or a  consortium. He asked whether the  proposed structure                                                              
and the level of the structure was  the same as a consortium or an                                                              
advisory panel in other states.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES  replied it  varies between states.  What he                                                              
refers to  as a  commission is  a panel  of people that  represent                                                              
specific areas  of expertise. He  would like to see  a coordinated                                                              
effort  to use the  expertise in  the various  state agencies  and                                                              
bring it  together at the  governor's level  so it is  possible to                                                              
look across the agency boundaries.  Other states have a variety of                                                              
models for how to proceed.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MILTON  WILTSE,  Director  of  Alaska   Geological  &  Geophysical                                                              
Surveys,  testified via  teleconference.  They  have followed  the                                                              
legislation  for  a  number  of years  and  are  very  supportive.                                                              
Similar bodies in other states were  begun as a consequence of the                                                              
1964  earthquake  in  Alaska.  Over  the  years,  there  has  been                                                              
progress  in  building  codes  and  mitigating  various  types  of                                                              
structures to  decrease the magnitude  of emergency  response that                                                              
would be  necessary after an event.  They believe a  commission or                                                              
panel  that will  have  the view  of trying  to  balance the  many                                                              
issues that have to be addressed  for mitigation of these types of                                                              
events is  a very  good step. It  is a complex  issue and  takes a                                                              
balanced  panel  to bring  the  various issues  and  organizations                                                              
forward.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
To this point, much of the mitigation  work that has been done has                                                              
been  focused in  Anchorage, but  there  are other  municipalities                                                              
with different  types of  events that might  occur from  a seismic                                                              
event. This  legislation is  very encouraging  to get a  reviewing                                                              
body in place.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
ROD  COMBELLICK,   Engineering  Geology  Chief  with   the  Alaska                                                              
Geological  & Geophysical Surveys,  testified via  teleconference.                                                              
He  has looked  at this  problem and  how other  states deal  with                                                              
their earthquake hazards during his  20 years with the department.                                                              
The 1964 Alaskan  earthquake is what caused other  states, notably                                                              
California, to begin their efforts  to coordinate their earthquake                                                              
hazard mitigation.  As a result of  those efforts they  have saved                                                              
many  lives  and  millions  to billions  of  dollars  in  property                                                              
damage.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
He just  returned from the  State Emergency Management  Conference                                                              
in  Anchorage  and representatives  from  Washington,  Oregon  and                                                              
California were  present. About a  year ago there was  a magnitude                                                              
6.7 earthquake near  Seattle and although it was  the same size as                                                              
the Northridge  earthquake in California  in 1994, the  damage was                                                              
surprisingly minimal.  Some is attributed to luck in  terms of the                                                              
depth of the earthquake and the time  of day it occurred, but much                                                              
is attributed to  the efforts Washington State has  taken over the                                                              
past ten years. Their seismic safety  committee, which is the same                                                              
level as  the one proposed here,  recommended many of  the changes                                                              
that kept that quake from being devastating.  They have instituted                                                              
seismic  retrofitting  of  their   highways  and  bridge  systems,                                                              
instituted  more  stringent  building codes  and  coordinated  the                                                              
efforts of state and local governments.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Alaska  has gone  almost  40 years  without  any major  structural                                                              
damage from an earthquake, but this  doesn't mean there won't be a                                                              
big  event that  strikes  a populated  area  and  exceeds all  the                                                              
disasters we've  had so far. This  is something that  shouldn't be                                                              
ignored.  A  little   over  a  year  ago  the   Federal  Emergency                                                              
Management Agency  (FEMA) put out a report that  projected state's                                                              
annual losses  from earthquakes.  Alaska ranked number  eight with                                                              
annual losses  in the  neighborhood of $42  million or  $70.00 per                                                              
person.  In  terms  of  the  annualized  cost  of  earthquakes  in                                                              
relation to the  value of its infrastructure,  Alaska ranks number                                                              
two and has the distinction of being  the only state that does not                                                              
have  a state  level seismic  safety commission.  This bill  would                                                              
establish that ability.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
There was no further testimony.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT noted the e-mail  from Dr. John L. Aho. Copies                                                              
were in members' packets.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
He said there  was no prepared CS and no amendments  were offered.                                                              
There were two fiscal notes.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  HALFORD  asked whether  there  was  a sunset  review.  He                                                              
thought the referenced section was the sunset schedule.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  said it's not a sunset that  would have to be                                                              
reviewed by the auditors; it would just have to be reauthorized.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR STEVENS  asked Representative  Davies about page  2, lines                                                              
29  and 30  that said,  "(a) The  commission  shall (1)  recommend                                                              
goals and priorities  for seismic hazard mitigation  to the public                                                              
and   private   sectors;".   He   asked   what   some   of   those                                                              
recommendations might entail.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  DAVIES   said  primarily  they  would   relate  to                                                              
building  codes  and practices.  Private  sector  associations  of                                                              
engineers  generally develop  building codes.  It's important  for                                                              
the state seismologist  to review those recommendations  from time                                                              
to time because  they are primarily made in other  states and they                                                              
aren't always appropriate for Alaska.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
A secondary  concern  has to  do with  earthquake insurance.  Many                                                              
people are priced out of this market  because earthquake insurance                                                              
in Alaska is  set by the experience  in Anchorage. It is  his hope                                                              
that one of  the goals of the  group would be to  rationalize this                                                              
type of insurance for Alaska so the  price would become affordable                                                              
in places where the risk is low.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR STEVENS referred to the dedicated  seats on the commission                                                              
and noted  there was  a seat  for industry  and insurance  but the                                                              
seat  for a  structural or  architectural  engineer was  optional.                                                              
[Page  2,  lines  11-21]  If the  commission  was  going  to  make                                                              
building  recommendations  for mitigation,  it  seemed logical  to                                                              
include more scientists.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  DAVIES replied  many of  the representatives  from                                                              
the  different  agencies  could  be  scientists.  He  singled  out                                                              
insurance because it  is a large and critical piece  when there is                                                              
a catastrophic  event.  It's also  critical in  terms of  reducing                                                              
hazard. If  insurance were to be  rationalized over the  long term                                                              
so that  people that move  into an area  with a higher  risk would                                                              
pay  more, people  would look  for low  risk areas  and avoid  the                                                              
higher risk  areas and  thus reduce losses.  Insurance can  play a                                                              
central role in  hazard mitigation, but it must  be done carefully                                                              
and over the long term.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT   acknowledged   that  Senator  Halford   was                                                              
correct;   section  44.19.635   is   the   section  dealing   with                                                              
termination of state boards and commissions.  If it's not extended                                                              
by the  cutoff date, it  goes into a sunset  year. It would  be in                                                              
the category of  boards and commissions that are  audited to get a                                                              
recommendation of whether they should be extended or not.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
He asked for the will of the committee.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  DAVIS made  a motion to  move CSHB  53(STA) and  attached                                                              
fiscal  notes  from  committee  with  individual  recommendations.                                                              
There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
         SB  55-PIONEERS' AND VETERANS' HOME/ADVISORY BD                                                                    
                                                                                                                              
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT asked Commissioner  Duncan to take the witness                                                              
stand. He  called attention to the  letters from the  Secretary of                                                              
Veterans  Affairs,   Anthony  J.  Principi.  The   packets  had  a                                                              
memorandum that  didn't go as far  as he would have liked,  but it                                                              
does talk about agreeing to work  to find solutions to issues that                                                              
existing  policies  may  create   for  veterans  who  qualify  for                                                              
assistance  but do  not  fit within  the  state administration  in                                                              
eligibility  standards.   They  would  try  to   work  within  the                                                              
parameter of state statutes with  regard to eligibility for living                                                              
in the  homes and, if  necessary, they  would develop a  waiver or                                                              
federal legislation  to modify the federal program  so funds could                                                              
flow to individual  veterans living at a home and  not directly to                                                              
the home.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
He explained  his proposed CS was  drafted so that the  name would                                                              
not change  at this point because  they aren't sure  the mechanism                                                              
will work. The  department wanted it put in regulation  that 20 or                                                              
21 percent of  the available beds would be allocated  to veterans.                                                              
On  page 2,  lines 17-20  it  is made  clear  that the  cap is  21                                                              
percent in all the  homes together and no more than  30 percent of                                                              
the beds in one home may be filled by veterans.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Section 1 comes from the department's  original bill. Sections 3-7                                                              
are  to clean  up  the original  statutes  and  codify changes  in                                                              
federal regulations  and codes by bringing current  statutes up to                                                              
date.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
JIM  DUNCAN, Commissioner  of  the Department  of  Administration,                                                              
said that since  the last hearing on this bill, they  have been in                                                              
contact with Secretary Principi to  get a better definition of how                                                              
the demonstration  program might  work. There  is a memorandum  of                                                              
agreement between Marsha Goodwin,  Secretary Principi's designated                                                              
contact  person,  Jim  Kohn,  director  of  the  Alaska  Longevity                                                              
Program and John Tabor from the Governor's  Office. The memorandum                                                              
specifies  the parameters  of the program,  but their  discussions                                                              
are  ongoing. It  may  require a  waiver or  a  change in  federal                                                              
statute and  regulation; the goal is  to address the needs  of the                                                              
veterans  while  preserving the  ownership  and  authority of  the                                                              
state to operate and manage the program.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
The following are his comments on the committee substitute (CS):                                                                
                                                                                                                                
    · Putting the preference in statute is acceptable to the                                                                    
      department.  They never  intended to  exceed the  collective                                                              
      total of 21  percent of the available beds  for veterans and                                                              
      the 30  percent limit in any  one home causes  no difficulty                                                              
      either.                                                                                                                   
    · There is still interest in the name change, which was a                                                                   
      part of the original bill. He understood the reason for                                                                   
      deleting it in the CS, but there is interest in pursuing                                                                  
      the change as the legislation moves forward.                                                                              
    · The CS deleted the requirement that one of the two members                                                                
      of the newly created board would be the chairman of the                                                                   
      Alaska Veterans Advisory Committee (AVAC). Because there                                                                  
      are other options available for AVAC to be represented on                                                                 
      the board that's also workable.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Commissioner Duncan  said there was no mention of  a study to look                                                              
at the unmet  needs of veterans in the original  bill because last                                                              
year that  was submitted as a  separate item in the  Department of                                                              
Military  and  Veterans  Affairs   budget.  They  decided  it  was                                                              
preferable to package  it with SB 55 so he submitted  an amendment                                                              
that would  authorize a  survey of the  housing and care  needs of                                                              
veterans in  the state that  are not  met by the Alaska  Pioneers'                                                              
and Veterans' Home. The department  would report their findings to                                                              
the Governor  and the Legislature no  later than the first  day of                                                              
the  second  regular  session of  the  Twenty-Third  Alaska  State                                                              
Legislature.  They   projected  the  cost  of  the   study  to  be                                                              
$250,000.00.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT noted the cost  of the study was approximately                                                              
one  half the  cost of  a similar  study  funded by  the State  of                                                              
Washington. He  asked whether  the results of  the study  would be                                                              
the basis for  the state going forward to establish  a stand alone                                                              
veteran's home  or dedicated veteran's  wings that could  be added                                                              
to the homes.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
COMMISSIONER DUNCAN  wasn't sure what the result would  be, but it                                                              
would provide an answer as to whether  they needed to do something                                                              
further  to meet  the  needs of  the  veterans.  The Governor  did                                                              
submit a  certificate of participation  request for $4  million in                                                              
the deferred maintenance  package, which would be  the state match                                                              
to any federal dollars.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT looked for the original fiscal note.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
COMMISSIONER  DUNCAN referred him  to the  revised fiscal  note on                                                              
the original bill dated 1/15/02.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT said in developing  the pilot program there is                                                              
a request  to open  the additional  beds, but  there are  about 90                                                              
veterans who may qualify for the  developing program who currently                                                              
reside in the homes.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
COMMISSIONER  DUNCAN agreed  there are  95 veterans  in the  homes                                                              
now.                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  said the  program could  be developed  in the                                                              
hope  that  the  federal  (VA)  funds  become  available  for  the                                                              
veterans  who  currently  reside  in  the  homes  or  the  Finance                                                              
Committee might  also decide to  authorize the additional  general                                                              
fund money to open up some of the additional beds.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
COMMISSIONER  DUNCAN said  the current revenue  picture would  not                                                              
change  if  the   demonstration  program  came   together  and  an                                                              
agreement was  made with the  VA so that  the 95 veterans  who are                                                              
presently  in the  Alaska Pioneer  Homes  could receive  veteran's                                                              
benefits. That  is because  the money would  flow directly  to the                                                              
veterans and they would use it to  help pay their cost of care. It                                                              
would  take a  general  fund appropriation  to  match the  federal                                                              
funds for more beds to be opened.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT  said, "This  committee  is  not tasked  with                                                              
balancing the checkbook, but there  is some benefit to the program                                                              
even  if we  don't have  additional  money because  some of  those                                                              
veterans  who are  currently in  the  homes are  paying for  their                                                              
services out of pocket and they could  be getting the VA benefit."                                                              
                                                                                                                                
COMMISSIONER DUNCAN agreed.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT called for teleconferenced testimony.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MERILL  HAKELA,  a Korean  War  Veteran  from Fairbanks,  said  he                                                              
opposed  the  renaming  of  the   Alaska  Pioneer  Homes  and  has                                                              
testified  against this  several  times previously.  He  suggested                                                              
converting the Bassett Army Hospital  into a stand-alone veteran's                                                              
home.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT informed him  that the proposed CS dropped the                                                              
name  change while  they worked  with  the VA  on a  demonstration                                                              
project. They don't  want to change the name until  they know that                                                              
the program would  work to everyone's satisfaction.  At a minimum,                                                              
they  want to  get VA  benefits for  those pioneers  who are  also                                                              
veterans  and are currently  living  in the Pioneer  Home,  but if                                                              
they can't  work things  out with  the VA then  there would  be no                                                              
change to the way the homes are operated.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. HAKELA  reiterated  his opposition to  the federal  government                                                              
having any part in the Alaska Pioneer Homes.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
HARRY JENKINS from  Fairbanks appreciated that the  CS dropped the                                                              
name change,  but was still  opposed to  the bill. He  agreed with                                                              
Mr. Hakela  that the  Bassett Army  Hospital could  be used  for a                                                              
stand-alone veteran's home.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT  explained  the provisions  of  the  proposed                                                              
amendment to conduct  a study on unmet veterans needs.  He said he                                                              
looked into converting  the Bassett Army Hospital  and learned the                                                              
new  wing  is  usable,  but  there  are  problems  with  the  main                                                              
structure.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
DON HOOVER asked if he understood  correctly that there would be a                                                              
$250,000 study.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT  explained there  would  be  a study  if  the                                                              
proposed  amendment   was  successful.  The  larger   fiscal  note                                                              
reflects the  cost if  additional beds  were opened. Roughly  half                                                              
the  cost of  opening  the additional  beds  would  come from  the                                                              
general fund. The Finance Committee  must decide whether they will                                                              
develop  a  program  that benefits  veterans  that  are  currently                                                              
residing in  the homes  or open up  additional beds for  veterans.                                                              
There would  be a cost to the  state treasury if that  action were                                                              
taken.  The  total  general  fund   cost  to  open  up  about  100                                                              
additional beds would be almost $3 million.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SIDE B                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MAJOR  GENERAL  OATES, Adjutant  General  with the  Department  of                                                              
Military &  Veterans Affairs thanked  Chairman Therriault  and the                                                              
committee for their  support. He knew that everyone  who testified                                                              
had  the best  interests  of veterans  and  pioneers  in mind.  He                                                              
outlined the  difficulties associated with renovating  the Bassett                                                              
Army Hospital.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
LADDIE SHAW, Special Assistant in the Office of Veteran Affairs                                                                 
Department  of Military &  Veterans Affairs,  said he agreed  with                                                              
General Oates' words of wisdom.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
GARY BERRY, American  Legion representative, testified  in support                                                              
of SB 55.  He would also like  to see an independent  and unbiased                                                              
study.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CLAYTON LOVE,  Disabled American Veterans representative,  said he                                                              
agreed with Mr. Berry. He emphasized  the importance of conducting                                                              
the study. "If it  does turn out that we can  have our stand-alone                                                              
veterans  home,  it would  probably  eliminate  a lot  of  feuding                                                              
between the pioneers and the veterans, which we don't want."                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  noted the CS  and the amendment.  He informed                                                              
members that it's  not unusual to have an appropriation  like this                                                              
that would be attached to a substantive  piece of legislation, but                                                              
it would generally be funded as a  separate line item in a capital                                                              
budget or appropriation  bill. If it  goes on as part of  a fiscal                                                              
note, the end of the session approached  and the fiscal notes must                                                              
be paid for  in the operating budget  or one of the  budget bills.                                                              
Finance Committees  are generally given  a budget into  which they                                                              
must  fit the  fiscal  notes.  Attaching  the amendment  does  not                                                              
guarantee funding for the study.  The Finance Committee could also                                                              
decide that  it would  be more  appropriate as  a part of  another                                                              
appropriation package.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
He said he was  willing to sponsor the amendment  on behalf of the                                                              
committee.  They could  either attach the  amendment or  recommend                                                              
the Finance  Committee consider it  as a potential  capital budget                                                              
request item.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR DAVIS asked what the department's preference was.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  thought the  department would  like it  to be                                                              
attached.  He  asked  Commissioner  Duncan  for  the  department's                                                              
reaction if the Finance Committee zeroed out the fiscal note.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
COMMISSIONER  DUNCAN  said  their  preference  is  to  attach  the                                                              
amendment and  the fiscal  note is necessary  for the study  to go                                                              
forward. They decided to do it this  way because they wanted it to                                                              
be  a  program in  its  entirety.  If  the  bill passed  with  the                                                              
amendment language and there was  no appropriation it would create                                                              
difficulty for  the department because  they don't have  the money                                                              
to do the study.  He suggested adding the language  that the study                                                              
was subject to  the appropriation. He thought it  was important to                                                              
have specific  language as  to the intent  of the $250,000.00  and                                                              
that is why they wanted it in this bill.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  said they would make a conceptual  change and                                                              
work with the drafters.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
He made a motion  to adopt conceptual amendment #1  to the CS with                                                              
"subject to appropriation" language.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  STEVENS asked  the Department  of  Military and  Veterans                                                              
Affairs to speak to proposed amendment #1.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MAJOR  GENERAL   OATES  said  he  and  Commissioner   Duncan  have                                                              
discussed that  and they would  expect that the  administration of                                                              
the  home  would  be  through  the  Department  of  Administration                                                              
because  they already  have an  existing process  to manage  those                                                              
homes. Whether it's  part of an Alaskan Pioneer's  Home or part of                                                              
a stand-alone veteran's home they  would still take that approach.                                                              
They  have also  spoken about  cooperating  in the  survey and  he                                                              
feels they would have a full role in accomplishing that survey.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR STEVENS  said if  the Pioneer's  Home is administrated  by                                                              
the Department of Administration  now then it sounds as though the                                                              
Legislature  would  be  giving  them  money  to  study  their  own                                                              
organization.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
COMMISSIONER  DUNCAN said  the Pioneer  Home  system is  currently                                                              
administered by  the Department of  Administration and  in statute                                                              
they  are charged  with administering  a veteran's  home if  there                                                              
were to  be one. The purpose  of the study  is to study  the unmet                                                              
needs of  veterans to make sure  they have proper care  and access                                                              
to facilities.  This would help  them determine whether  they need                                                              
to  go to  a  stand-alone  veteran's  home or  add  a wing  to  an                                                              
existing facility to meet the needs  of veterans who, for example,                                                              
aren't 65 years old.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MAJOR  GENERAL  OATES  added  that  the survey  would  be  a  full                                                              
partnership  with   the  Department  of  Administration   and  the                                                              
Department  of  Military  and Veterans  Affairs.  Their  veteran's                                                              
service  officers  and  the  Veterans  Administration  would  also                                                              
participate.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR STEVENS asked  if they would put the survey  out to bid so                                                              
there would  be some sort of  independence to address  Mr. Berry's                                                              
concern or would they be doing the survey in-house.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
COMMISSIONER  DUNCAN said  it is  their  intent to  work with  the                                                              
Department of  Military and Veterans  Affairs to put  together the                                                              
necessary criteria for what they  want studied and then go out for                                                              
an RFP (request for proposal).                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR STEVENS asked  whether they would have  members that would                                                              
evaluate the RFP.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
COMMISSIONER DUNCAN  envisioned a steering committee  comprised of                                                              
representatives  from   the  Department  of   Administration,  the                                                              
Department  of Military  and Veterans  Affairs  and perhaps  other                                                              
interested  organizations   to  put  together  the   RFP  and  the                                                              
criteria.  Clearly,  they  would  get an  independent  company  to                                                              
conduct the study.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MAJOR GENERAL OATES  added, "To the extent possible  we would also                                                              
use the veterans  organizations to assist in that  data collection                                                              
and be  part of it, but  that could be  part of the package  as we                                                              
put it out to competitive bid."                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR STEVENS went on record to  say he hoped they have veterans                                                              
involved with the  development of the RFP because  they know their                                                              
needs better than anyone.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MAJOR GENERAL OATES said it was their full intention to do that.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
COMMISSIONER DUNCAN  added they have  done a number of  RFPs, they                                                              
always put together a steering team  with a broad cross section of                                                              
individuals, and they would surely involve veterans this time.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT said there was  a motion to adopt amendment #1                                                              
that had  been changed conceptually.  He noted it was  likely that                                                              
this would cause a change in title,  but that was no problem since                                                              
this was the house of origination for the bill.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
There being no objection, amendment #1 was adopted.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
He noted  two fiscal notes.  There were no additional  amendments.                                                              
He asked for the will of the committee.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  DAVIS made  a motion to  move CSSB  55(STA) and  attached                                                              
fiscal notes from committee with individual recommendations.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
4:45 p.m.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
          HB 162-ABSENCES UNDER LONGEVITY BONUS PROGRAM                                                                     
                                                                                                                              
SENATOR  THERRIAULT  recapped  the changes  discussed  during  the                                                              
previous hearing on the bill. In  Section 1 changing 30 days to 60                                                              
days  would allow  recipients  to be  gone  from the  state for  a                                                              
longer period  of time and still  receive their check.  That would                                                              
cost the system about $280,000.00.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
He asked for an explanation of the savings.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRETCHEN  GUESS, bill  sponsor,  said the  savings                                                              
comes from moving the unpaid leave from 90 days to five years.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT explained that  these individuals would retain                                                              
their eligibility,  but while they  were gone from the  state they                                                              
would not  receive a check. Once  they returned to the  state they                                                              
could start  receiving  the check  again. He asked  how much  that                                                              
would save.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   GUESS   replied  that   would   save  the   state                                                              
$435,000.00.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  said he  wanted all  the savings,  but didn't                                                              
want  the  expense.   He  spoke  to  Representative   Guess  about                                                              
splitting the difference and going  from 30 days to 45 days, which                                                              
would cut the expense in half.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GUESS said Senator  Halford expressed concern about                                                              
the  five year  term  and she  wasn't sure  whether  he wanted  to                                                              
change that or not.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  HALFORD said  the way  the  fiscal note  reads, the  bill                                                              
saves $147,000.00  but the analysis  says that the  normal decline                                                              
in payments  is the savings  and the  bill costs the  state money.                                                              
Section 1 looks like it costs an additional $288,000.00.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GUESS agreed.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  said that  is because  people are  allowed to                                                              
travel out of state  for a longer period of time  and retain their                                                              
check.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  HALFORD  said  he  understood  that.  He  questioned  how                                                              
Section 2 is supposed to save $435,000.00.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GUESS  said  it's  based on  the  assumption  that                                                              
people will stay  out of state longer and not return  to the state                                                              
just  to  keep  their  eligibility.   The  decrease  is  how  they                                                              
estimated FY03  into the  future and keeping  the same  10 percent                                                              
savings  formula but knowing  that the  payments were  decreasing.                                                              
There  is  a  decrease  in the  savings  because  of  the  payment                                                              
decrease. The  savings is  a static formula  but the  payment goes                                                              
down 6.7 percent.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR STEVENS  asked whether there  was any relationship  to the                                                              
fact that the program is diminishing each year.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HALFORD said that's the cause.  He wanted to make sure the                                                              
savings was  an actual savings without  regard to the  amount it's                                                              
already going down.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GUESS  said  that   is  what  the  department  has                                                              
testified to up to this point.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HALFORD then asked how the five year return worked.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GUESS  replied now it's 90 days. If  someone is off                                                              
the  role for  90 days,  then they  are  removed completely.  This                                                              
would  change that  timeframe to  five years.  The department  set                                                              
this term so they could clean up their records.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Individuals may  also apply for a  one year sabbatical  once every                                                              
five years.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR   HALFORD  said   he  was  concerned   about  the   fiscal                                                              
implication of  people that  have been gone  up to five  years and                                                              
wondered if they could come back and reenroll.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
JAMES  KOHN,  Director   of  the  Division  of   Alaska  Longevity                                                              
Programs, said  no one has been  added to the bonus  program since                                                              
December  31, 1996  making  this  a fixed  group  of people.  Some                                                              
seniors want  to go  out of the  state for a  period of  time that                                                              
exceeds 90  days in  a row or  180 days in  a year. However,  they                                                              
feel they need a cutoff date after  which they can be dropped from                                                              
the program.  At a minimum,  the term should  be one year,  but he                                                              
would prefer some time over two years.  There are individuals that                                                              
go out  on mission work  and are gone  for several years  but they                                                              
will return  because Alaska is their  home. He would like  to make                                                              
it possible  for people to leave  the state as they wish  and that                                                              
would save the  state money because they wouldn't  be paying those                                                              
individuals the bonus.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HALFORD  said he is concerned  about the people  that have                                                              
made  the decision  to  leave in  the last  four  years and  seven                                                              
months. Could they return and come  back into the program and what                                                              
would the economic impact be?                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. KOHN  said if someone  has been removed  from a  program under                                                              
present law,  a change in  the law would not  allow him or  her to                                                              
reapply to return to the program.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HALFORD  asked whether that  was clear. He wanted  to make                                                              
sure this is the case.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. KOHN  thought there  was language  that said  "from this  date                                                              
forward."  If  that language  isn't  present,  then it  should  be                                                              
inserted. It's a good idea to make that clear.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HALFORD said he doesn't have  as much difficulty going out                                                              
three  years  if it's  prospective.  He  didn't  want to  open  an                                                              
unintended window.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT asked how people  could come back if under the                                                              
current program they're out if they've been gone 90 days.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR.  KOHN replied  there  are exemptive  reasons  for being  gone.                                                              
Medical  reasons   and  caring  for  a  family   member  are  such                                                              
exemptions.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  noted Ms. Walker's situation  as testified to                                                              
during the previous hearing.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HALFORD made  a motion to adopt conceptual  amendment 1 to                                                              
change  the five year  term to  three years  and request  language                                                              
that makes it clear that it is prospective not retrospective.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
There being no objection, amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  made a motion  to adopt amendment  2 changing                                                              
"60 [30] days" to "45 [30] days" on page 1, line 6.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HALFORD  asked the  age of  the youngest people  receiving                                                              
the bonus.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. KOHN said they had to be 65 in  1996 so they would be 73 to 74                                                              
years old and they  would be in the $100.00 per  month bracket. To                                                              
be receiving  $250.00  per month  you would  have to  be 76  to 77                                                              
years old.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  said part of  his dilemma about  dealing with                                                              
the program in general is the people  that are receiving the bonus                                                              
that are newcomers  to the state while people who  lived in Alaska                                                              
since the  1940s didn't  qualify because they  missed the  cut off                                                              
date.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GUESS said she would like to keep the 60 days but                                                                
she appreciates the committee process.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR DAVIS objected to proposed amendment 2.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT asked for a roll call vote on amendment 2.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
The motion failed, three to one with Senators Davis, Stevens,                                                                   
Halford voting no and Chairman Therriault voting yes.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR DAVIS made a motion to move SCS HB 162(STA) and attached                                                                
fiscal note from committee with individual recommendations.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ADJOURNMENT                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
There being no further business before the committee, the Senate                                                                
State Affairs Committee meeting was adjourned at 5:00 p.m.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                

Document Name Date/Time Subjects