Legislature(2023 - 2024)ADAMS 519

03/21/2023 01:30 PM House FINANCE

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01:33:31 PM Start
01:35:15 PM Public Testimony: Sitka, Petersburg, Dillingham, Glennallen, Valdez, Wrangell, Homer, Ketchikan, Kodiak, Seward, Tok
03:26:57 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony <2 Minute Limit> --
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony <2 Minute Limit> --
- Public Testimony 1:30 - 3:30 PM
- Sitka, Petersburg, Dillingham,
Glennallen, Valdez, Wrangell, Homer, Ketchikan,
Kodiak, Seward, Tok
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+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
HOUSE BILL NO. 39                                                                                                             
     "An  Act making  appropriations for  the operating  and                                                                    
     loan  program  expenses  of state  government  and  for                                                                    
     certain   programs;    capitalizing   funds;   amending                                                                    
     appropriations;    making   reappropriations;    making                                                                    
     supplemental   appropriations;  making   appropriations                                                                    
     under art.  IX, sec.  17(c), Constitution of  the State                                                                    
     of  Alaska,  from  the  constitutional  budget  reserve                                                                    
     fund; and providing for an effective date."                                                                                
HOUSE BILL NO. 41                                                                                                             
     "An  Act making  appropriations for  the operating  and                                                                    
     capital    expenses   of    the   state's    integrated                                                                    
     comprehensive mental health  program; and providing for                                                                    
     an effective date."                                                                                                        
^PUBLIC    TESTIMONY:    Sitka,   Petersburg,    Dillingham,                                                                  
Glennallen,  Valdez,  Wrangell,  Homer,  Ketchikan,  Kodiak,                                                                  
Seward, Tok                                                                                                                   
1:35:15 PM                                                                                                                    
1:35:30 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Johnson explained  that the  committee would  hear                                                                    
public  testimony   on  the  operating  and   mental  health                                                                    
budgets. She reviewed public  testimony protocol and call-in                                                                    
1:38:30 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Johnson opened public testimony.                                                                                       
1:38:52 PM                                                                                                                    
KARI SAGEL,  EARLY CHILDHOOD COALITION/CHILDCARE  NOW, SITKA                                                                    
(via  teleconference),  testified  in support  of  increased                                                                    
funding   for  early   childhood   budget  items   including                                                                    
childcare   services  for   children  and   early  childhood                                                                    
education.  She  shared  from personal  experience  a  story                                                                    
about   a   qualified   candidate  for   a   position   [job                                                                    
undisclosed]  that  was  declined  due  to  lack  of  proper                                                                    
childcare.  The position  remained open.  She advocated  for                                                                    
reliable and affordable childcare.  She noted that Sitka was                                                                    
in  a  crisis   because  parents  were  not   able  to  find                                                                    
childcare. Parents placed  themselves on childcare waitlists                                                                    
prior  to their  children's  births. The  lack of  childcare                                                                    
impacted the  city through lack of  personnel, which reduced                                                                    
its  service   hours  or  cut  a   service  completely.  She                                                                    
mentioned  that schools  reported  an  increase in  children                                                                    
with  learning difficulties  and  she  favored increases  in                                                                    
early childhood education.                                                                                                      
1:41:02 PM                                                                                                                    
ROWENA  PALOMAR, ADVOCATES  FOR VICTIMS  OF VIOLENCE  (AVV),                                                                    
VALDEZ  (via teleconference),  testified in  support of  the                                                                    
Council  on Domestic  Violence and  Sexual Assault  (CDVSA).                                                                    
She noted that  the amount currently in the budget  was a $3                                                                    
million General Fund (GF)  one-time appropriation along with                                                                    
$3.5 million  in federal funds  for CDVSA. Without  the one-                                                                    
time increments, services for  victims would be $6.5 million                                                                    
less  than  the  previous  year. The  cost  of  operating  a                                                                    
shelter  became more  expensive with  inflation. She  shared                                                                    
that  the  shelters   utilities were  currently  $4,497  per                                                                    
month increased from $2,998. The  cost of food had increased                                                                    
over $1,000  in the prior  year to  $3,500. In FY  2021, AVV                                                                    
provided  595 shelter  nights  and since  the  start of  the                                                                    
current  fiscal  year,  the  shelter  already  provided  602                                                                    
nights.  She  emphasized  that  stable  funding  would  help                                                                    
provide AVVs critical services.                                                                                                 
1:43:38 PM                                                                                                                    
KATHY    MORGAN,   TOK    COMMUNITY   LIBRARY,    TOK   (via                                                                    
teleconference),  testified against  the  $402,700 that  was                                                                    
proposed to be cut from  the state library Public Assistance                                                                    
Grant.  The  grant  funded  much  of  TOKs   library  annual                                                                    
operating  costs.  She  detailed that  volunteers  kept  the                                                                    
library open for  31 hours over 7 days each  week. The grant                                                                    
program  was the  single largest  source of  income for  the                                                                    
library, which would be reduced  from $7,000 to $2,300 in FY                                                                    
2024. One of  the grant requirements was  spending $3,500 on                                                                    
collection  development  like  new  books  and  movies.  She                                                                    
emphasized  that   the  library  was   completely  volunteer                                                                    
operated. She  listed items  the funding  provided including                                                                    
filtered  internet, the  electronic catalog,  and utilities.                                                                    
Tok was not  part of an organized borough,  therefore it did                                                                    
not  provide funding  from tax  revenue. She  disclosed that                                                                    
the  library  had  a  small   amount  of  savings  that  was                                                                    
unsustainable for the long-term.  She also urged support for                                                                    
the $635,000 increment for  the Statewide Library Electronic                                                                    
Doorway (SLED) data bases.                                                                                                      
1:46:00 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Cronk thanked Ms. Morgan for her testimony.                                                                      
1:47:08 PM                                                                                                                    
SCOTT    ARNDT,     REPRESENTING    SELF,     KODIAK    (via                                                                    
teleconference), shared that  he was a member  of the Kodiak                                                                    
Island  Borough  Assembly  but was  testifying  on  his  own                                                                    
behalf. He  listed some of  the concerns of the  assembly in                                                                    
Kodiak:  Community  Assistance re-capitalization,  continued                                                                    
school bond debt reimbursement,  education spending, and the                                                                    
Alaska Marine  Highway System  (AMHS). He  supported raising                                                                    
the Base  Student Allocation (BSA).  He also spoke  in favor                                                                    
of funding the Alaska Marine  Highway System (AMHS) that was                                                                    
vital to the Kodiak area.                                                                                                       
1:48:29 PM                                                                                                                    
PAT   CASE,   INDEPENDENT    LIVING   CENTER,   HOMER   (via                                                                    
teleconference),  testified in  support  of the  Independent                                                                    
Living  Center  (ILC) and  restoration  of  funding for  the                                                                    
Division   of  Senior   and   Disabilities  Services   (SDS)                                                                    
Community based  grant program.  He relayed  that he  was 90                                                                    
percent blind  and a  client of ILC,  which was  an advocacy                                                                    
group that  helped keep  individuals independent  and living                                                                    
in  their own  homes. The  center administered  many of  the                                                                    
grants  that  helped  the  community.  Without  the  center,                                                                    
disabled  people  of  Homer  would  not  have  the  kind  of                                                                    
independence  that  allowed  them  to  be  active  community                                                                    
1:50:16 PM                                                                                                                    
1:51:39 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Johnson reminded testifiers  that they were able to                                                                    
send testimony via email.                                                                                                       
1:52:44 PM                                                                                                                    
MARILYN  CASTEEL, EXECUTIVE  DIRECTOR,  SAFE  AND FEAR  FREE                                                                    
ENVIRONMENT   (SAFE),   DILLINGHAM   (via   teleconference),                                                                    
testified  in  support  of  the CDVSA  budget  and  for  its                                                                    
services  for  victims.  She  thanked  the  members  of  the                                                                    
committee for  supporting the CDVSA.  She spoke to  the $6.5                                                                    
million increment  in one-time  increments for  the council.                                                                    
She reported that SAFEs  food  budget had to be increased by                                                                    
an  additional $20,000.  The shelter  received at  least two                                                                    
phone calls  per week from  clients asking for money  to buy                                                                    
food. The issue  was one of a few challenges  faced by those                                                                    
in rural Alaska and help was needed.                                                                                            
1:55:06 PM                                                                                                                    
JEFF GOOD,  CITY AND BOROUGH OF  WRANGELL, MANAGER, WRANGELL                                                                    
(via teleconference),  offered his  support for  funding the                                                                    
AMHS  and  relayed  that  it was  a  critical  lifeline  for                                                                    
residents in  Southeast Alaska. He also  supported increased                                                                    
funding for schools in the  state. He requested that funding                                                                    
be  increased  to  at  least  the  level  of  inflation.  He                                                                    
addressed his final item of  the 301(h) waiver issued by the                                                                    
Department of Environmental  Conservation (DEC), which added                                                                    
new requirements and  placed a huge financial  strain on the                                                                    
community. He requested financial support other than loans.                                                                     
1:56:48 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Josephson recalled  Commissioner Jason Brune,                                                                    
(Commissioner,  Department  of  Environmental  Conservation)                                                                    
speaking  to  the  301(h)  waiver  and  asked  for  a  brief                                                                    
description of the waivers and  the reason for the increased                                                                    
Mr.  Good  responded  that Environmental  Protection  Agency                                                                    
offered a 401 permit  for wastewater systems. The department                                                                    
(DEC) issued an 301(h)  waiver for non-standard systems. The                                                                    
Wrangell waiver  was based off  its mixing zone.  The mixing                                                                    
zone  requirement  was changed  over  the  last year,  which                                                                    
impacted  8 Alaskan  communities. He  delineated that  a new                                                                    
facility   would  need   to  be   built   in  Wrangell   for                                                                    
disinfection costing an estimated $3 to $5 million.                                                                             
Representative Ortiz thanked Mr. Good for his testimony.                                                                        
1:58:45 PM                                                                                                                    
SARAH KELLER, SELF,  FAIRBANKS (via teleconference), relayed                                                                    
that one  of the  things she was  most passionate  about was                                                                    
public   broadcasting.  She   favored  funding   for  public                                                                    
broadcasting  be  restored to  the  FY  2018 level  of  $2.7                                                                    
million.  She relayed  that public  broadcasting across  the                                                                    
state was critical to public  safety as it relayed emergency                                                                    
information  to  the  public.  She  referenced  the  Typhoon                                                                    
Merbok   event  and   recounted  that   public  broadcasting                                                                    
continued in Nome throughout  the storm. Public Broadcasting                                                                    
also provided public health  notifications. She listed other                                                                    
things  that were  broadcasted over  public  radio such  as,                                                                    
school board  meetings and municipal meetings.  She believed                                                                    
that there  were many important and  fundamental benefits of                                                                    
public broadcasting for the entire state.                                                                                       
2:01:25 PM                                                                                                                    
PENNY LAMPLE, KODIAK WOMEN'S  RESOURCE CRISIS CENTER, KODIAK                                                                    
(via teleconference), thanked the  committee for its work on                                                                    
the  budget. She  noted that  the center  in Kodiak  was the                                                                    
only safe  place for Kodiak  and its 6  surrounding villages                                                                    
for   those  experiencing   domestic  violence   and  sexual                                                                    
assault.  She emphasized  to the  need for  full funding  in                                                                    
order to work with the  trauma and mental health issues that                                                                    
accompanied  its clients.  She  spoke of  inflation and  the                                                                    
fact   that   prices  and   utility   costs   had  gone   up                                                                    
significantly and how it impacted the center.                                                                                   
2:03:20 PM                                                                                                                    
CYNNA  GRUBATAYAO,  KETCHIKAN   GATEWAY  BOROUGH,  ASSISTANT                                                                    
MANGER, KETCHIKAN (via  teleconference), addressed two areas                                                                    
of  the budget.  She noted  that  AMHS has  been crucial  to                                                                    
Ketchikan  and favored  consistent and  stable funding.  She                                                                    
shared  that Ketchikan  was greatly  impacted by  the marine                                                                    
highways  instability.  She supported funding to  resume and                                                                    
maintain  the  Prince  Rupert runs.  She  turned  to  school                                                                    
funding  and reported  that  the  Ketchikan Gateway  Borough                                                                    
school  district   was  one  of  many   districts  that  was                                                                    
struggling under the  weight of inflation. The FY  22 and FY                                                                    
23 period  had been especially difficult.  She advocated for                                                                    
consistent  reliable funding  versus  one-time funding.  She                                                                    
clarified that an education  funding package included school                                                                    
bond debt reimbursement and major maintenance.                                                                                  
2:04:56 PM                                                                                                                    
ROBBI MIXON,  DIRECTOR OF ALASKA FOOD  POLICY COUNCIL, HOMER                                                                    
(via  teleconference), shared  that  she  also directed  the                                                                    
Alaska Farmers  Market  Association and was a  member of the                                                                    
Alaska  Food  Coalition. She  testified  in  support of  the                                                                    
appropriations  for technology  upgrades, additional  staff,                                                                    
and Information  Technology (IT) workers for  the Department                                                                    
of  Health   (DOH)  regarding  the   Supplemental  Nutrition                                                                    
Assistance  Program  (SNAP)  backlog. She  related  that  in                                                                    
Homer and  Anchor Point, there  had been a huge  increase in                                                                    
the demand for food bank  assistance. Recipients of SNAP had                                                                    
been waiting  for over six  months to get  SNAP applications                                                                    
approved, which  significantly impacted the food  banks. She                                                                    
encouraged the  Department of Health and  the legislature to                                                                    
consider long-term efforts to  improve the SNAP program such                                                                    
as,  broad-based   categorical  eligibility   that  provided                                                                    
easier  food access  and big  cost savings  and efficiencies                                                                    
for  the   state.  She  thanked  the   governor  for  recent                                                                    
financial assistance to mitigate the backlog.                                                                                   
2:07:15 PM                                                                                                                    
NATALIE WOJCIK, SITKANS AGAINST  FAMILY VIOLENCE, SITKA (via                                                                    
teleconference),  testified  in  favor  of  the  budget  for                                                                    
CDVSA.  She   expressed  her  support   for  the   one  time                                                                    
increments  of $3  million GF  and $3.5  million in  federal                                                                    
appropriations.  She  highlighted  that all  the  costs  for                                                                    
shelter services  had increased.  She hoped  that additional                                                                    
funds would be  found. She relayed that the  shelter was the                                                                    
only  emergency  shelter  in Sitka.  The  numbers  had  been                                                                    
climbing at the shelter since  the COVID-19 pandemic and the                                                                    
living  room  and conference  room  was  currently used  for                                                                    
overflow. She  informed the committee of  the housing crisis                                                                    
in  Sitka  and the  average  1.5  years  wait time  to  find                                                                    
permanent housing.  She expressed the importance  of primary                                                                    
prevention  networks. In  2008,  SAFE  and her  organization                                                                    
embarked  on prevention  programs and  worked on  creating a                                                                    
community  where   domestic  violence  was   eliminated  and                                                                    
remarked  that funding  was needed  for  prevention work  to                                                                    
decrease the need for shelter funding.                                                                                          
2:09:37 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Galvin  asked  for  clarification  that  the                                                                    
conference rooms were being used  for sleeping quarters. Ms.                                                                    
Wojcik responded  in the affirmative.  Representative Galvin                                                                    
asked if children were also  staying in the conference rooms                                                                    
and living  there for up  to a year  and a half.  Ms. Wojcik                                                                    
affirmed that children  lived in the shelter,  but they were                                                                    
prioritized for family rooms and  single women were sleeping                                                                    
in the conference room.                                                                                                         
2:10:39 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Johnson  reiterated  the  communities  from  which                                                                    
testimony was currently being received.                                                                                         
2:11:59 PM                                                                                                                    
ANN  MILLARD, SELF,  EAGLE  (via teleconference),  clarified                                                                    
that  she is  from the  community  of Eagle  located on  the                                                                    
Yukon  River. She  relayed  that she  was  a "snowbird"  and                                                                    
lived in Fairbanks  in the winter. She  testified in support                                                                    
of  funding public  broadcasting. She  stressed that  it was                                                                    
critical to the Eagle community.  She explained that she and                                                                    
her  husband  did  not  have   cell  phone  service  in  the                                                                    
community and  the internet source was  unreliable. The only                                                                    
source  of   public  information  and  safety   and  weather                                                                    
information was  the radio. She shared  that she financially                                                                    
supported public  broadcasting and asked the  legislature to                                                                    
do its part to help.  She reiterated the critical nature for                                                                    
the community to have public broadcasting.                                                                                      
2:14:25 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Cronk thanked Ms. Millard.                                                                                       
2:14:55 PM                                                                                                                    
JOHN   ZACHARIAS,  CLIENT,   SOUTHEAST  ALASKA   INDEPENDENT                                                                    
LIVING, KETCHIKAN  (via teleconference), shared that  he was                                                                    
bipolar  and  that there  were  few  services available  for                                                                    
disabled  people in  the state  and they  were difficult  to                                                                    
find. He  was grateful  to have discovered  the organization                                                                    
Southeast Alaska  Independent Living (SAIL) that  helped him                                                                    
immensely with  many resources.  He was  able to  finish his                                                                    
college degree and  find work and become  a  vital Ketchikan                                                                    
citizen.  He  urged the  committee to  continue to  fund the                                                                    
Senior and  Disabilities Services  (SDS) grant  that enabled                                                                    
SAIL to help people like him.                                                                                                   
2:16:30 PM                                                                                                                    
PATRICK   REINHART,   DIRECTOR,    GOVERNOR'S   COUNCIL   ON                                                                    
DISABILITY  AND  SPECIAL  ED,  HOMER  (via  teleconference),                                                                    
testified in  support of  disabilities services.  He relayed                                                                    
that  the  council   asked  for  the  state   to  develop  a                                                                    
 Centralized Accommodation  Fund  of $100,000  for employees                                                                    
with  disabilities and  noted that  large governments  often                                                                    
provided the  fund to dispel  the myth that  disabled people                                                                    
were  costly  to hire.  The  second  item  he spoke  to  was                                                                    
related to  the Intellectual and  Developmental Disabilities                                                                    
(IDD) waitlist  eradication plan  (5-year) requested  by the                                                                    
legislature in the prior year.  He explained that Senior and                                                                    
Disability Services  devised the  plan and he  advocated for                                                                    
two of  the plans  items. The  first was for $647,800  GF in                                                                    
disability services to develop  a better consumer assessment                                                                    
tool  that could  also be  useful  for future  self-directed                                                                    
waivers   called   the   interRAI  assessment   tools.   The                                                                    
eradication  plan also  called for  $16 million  of Medicaid                                                                    
waiver  funding,  of  which $5.4  million  was  GF  matching                                                                    
2:18:53 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Josephson recalled that  he was familiar with                                                                    
the  interRAI assessment  tools.  He asked  Mr. Reinhart  to                                                                    
explain  the  program.  Mr.   Reinhart  responded  that  the                                                                    
$647,800 was needed to replace  the old 1980s  ICAP consumer                                                                    
assessment tool  that defined which services  were needed by                                                                    
individuals with  disabilities. The new assessment  tool was                                                                    
more  specific   in  determining   the  exact   services  an                                                                    
individual needed.                                                                                                              
2:20:35 PM                                                                                                                    
ERICA KLUDT-PAINTER, SELF,  PETERSBERG (via teleconference),                                                                    
supported  an increase  in  public  education spending.  She                                                                    
relayed that  she was the  superintendent of  the Petersburg                                                                    
School District since 2001, and  the mother of two graduates                                                                    
of the Petersburg High School.  Her commitment to schools in                                                                    
the  state was  steadfast.  She voiced  her  support for  an                                                                    
operating  budget that  funded public  education with  a BSA                                                                    
increase  of $1,250  [per student].  She furthered  that the                                                                    
education budget in Alaska had  been unstable for years. The                                                                    
impact  of  inflation  had created  a  significant  loss  of                                                                    
purchasing   power.   The   instability  had   resulted   in                                                                    
inadequate  resources,  underfunded  programs,  and  limited                                                                    
opportunities  that lead  to  a decline  in  the quality  of                                                                    
education in  Alaska. She declared  that in order  to foster                                                                    
quality  education,  the  state   needed  to  make  a  major                                                                    
investment in education. Stable  and predictable funding was                                                                    
necessary  to  attract  and retain  high  quality  teachers.                                                                    
After  years  of   conservative  budgeting,  the  Petersburg                                                                    
School  District  was  facing   a  $1,000,000  deficit.  The                                                                    
current  operating  budget  was not  sufficient  to  support                                                                    
successful implementation of the Reads Act.                                                                                     
2:23:00 PM                                                                                                                    
TYLER  MCNEIL,  PROGRAM   DIRECTOR,  COMMUNITY  CONNECTIONS,                                                                    
KETCHIKAN (via teleconference), testified  in support of the                                                                    
increased  rate needed  to sustain  the  Home and  Community                                                                    
Based Service  Program. He stressed  that the  services were                                                                    
essential to  keep people with  disabilities in  their homes                                                                    
and community. Community Connections  helped people live and                                                                    
work independently  and be fully  integrated members  of the                                                                    
community. The  rates had  not increased  over the  prior 12                                                                    
years. He offered  that the increase in the  rates needed to                                                                    
be  adequate   to  continue  providing  the   important  and                                                                    
valuable services in the future.  There were several service                                                                    
agencies  that had  gone out  of business  in the  prior few                                                                    
years and  many were  operating with deficits  including his                                                                    
organization. He advocated for  the $647,800 GF necessary to                                                                    
address the IDD waitlist.                                                                                                       
2:24:52 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Ortiz thanked the testifier for his work.                                                                        
2:25:21 PM                                                                                                                    
2:26:31 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative   Josephson  asked   Mr.  McNeil   about  the                                                                    
$647,800  for  the  IDD  waitlist.   He  referred  to  prior                                                                    
testimony that  identified the same amount  for the interRAI                                                                    
assessment program. He reported  that the state had prepared                                                                    
a report on  how to eradicate the waitlist.  The funding had                                                                    
not  been appropriated  yet, but  the report  called for  $7                                                                    
million  in  the  upcoming  fiscal   year  for  the  initial                                                                    
implementation. He  asked about the discrepancy  between the                                                                    
$7  million necessary  and the  $647,800 figure.  Mr. McNeil                                                                    
understood that the $647,800 was  allotted to help begin the                                                                    
restructure  of   the  IDD  program,  which   would  include                                                                    
adopting   the  interRAI   assessment,  a   consultant,  and                                                                    
additional administrative support at  SDS to address the IDD                                                                    
waiver  waitlist. He  clarified  that he  advocated for  the                                                                    
initial implementation  of the eradication plan  and for the                                                                    
InterRAI assessment  tool be  implemented to  help eradicate                                                                    
the waitlist.                                                                                                                   
2:29:26 PM                                                                                                                    
JENNIFER  JACKSON,  SELF,  KETCHIKAN  (via  teleconference),                                                                    
testified in  support of home and  community based services.                                                                    
Mr.  McNeil  relayed  the  statements  of  Ms.  Jackson.  He                                                                    
relayed that  home and community  based services  had helped                                                                    
Ms. Jackson  return to her  hometown and  live independently                                                                    
as well as  receive other services. She shared  that she was                                                                    
Miss Wheelchair  Alaska in  2015 and  had published  her own                                                                    
book  titled   Little  Ravens  Tail   since  her  return  to                                                                    
independent living.                                                                                                             
2:31:19 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Ortiz thanked Ms.  Jackson for testifying. He                                                                    
asked Mr.  McNeil whether  it saved  the state  funding when                                                                    
Ms.  Jackson returned  to Ketchikan  to live  independently.                                                                    
Mr. McNeil answered  in the affirmative and  added that home                                                                    
and  community  based  services were  significantly  cheaper                                                                    
than  institutional level  of care.  The  supports that  met                                                                    
Jennifer's needs  were cheaper  than the  nursing facilities                                                                    
she  had  resided  in  and also  had  greatly  improved  her                                                                    
quality of life. Mr. McNeil  relayed that Ms. Jackson stated                                                                    
that she was in her 20s  when  she was put in a nursing home                                                                    
and  it was not very fun  and she was currently very happy.                                                                     
2:33:36 PM                                                                                                                    
ALAN SORUN, SELF, VALDEZ  (via teleconference), testified in                                                                    
favor  of  funding  for  public radio.  He  listed  all  the                                                                    
communities the  public radio station  in Valdez  served. He                                                                    
thanked the committee for its service.                                                                                          
2:34:20 PM                                                                                                                    
CANDACE   WARUCH,   SELF,  MCGRATH   (via   teleconference),                                                                    
testified  in  support  of public  broadcasting  corporation                                                                    
funding.  She  related that  she  worked  for the  Kuskokwim                                                                    
public broadcasting  corporation KSKL radio in  McGrath. She                                                                    
shared that  KSKL served 7  villages with repeaters  and had                                                                    
been  broadcasting since  1981. The  station was  constantly                                                                    
providing emergency updates,  pandemic information, weather,                                                                    
voting  information   in  multiple   languages,  subsistence                                                                    
regulations and closings, etc. The  system also hired locals                                                                    
and had student training. The  community relied on the radio                                                                    
for everything.  She informed the  committee that  she lived                                                                    
in a  roadless community in  a vast wilderness  and stressed                                                                    
the importance of public radio.                                                                                                 
2:36:28 PM                                                                                                                    
JOHN ANDERSON, SELF,  VALDEZ (via teleconference), testified                                                                    
in  support of  public  radio. He  relayed  that the  Valdez                                                                    
public radio station  was important to the  people of Valdez                                                                    
and had  excellent programming. He indicated  that KCHU, the                                                                    
radio station,  also handled all  types of  emergency alerts                                                                    
for Valdez  and all the  communities it served. He  would be                                                                    
relieved to  know that the  emergency alerts  would continue                                                                    
to be broadcasted.  He noted that the radio  station had its                                                                    
own  generators so  emergency alerts  would  continue in  an                                                                    
emergency  situation.  He  requested increased  funding  for                                                                    
public radio.                                                                                                                   
2:38:06 PM                                                                                                                    
SONJA   MARX,   LIBRARIAN,    DILLINGHAM   PUBLIC   LIBRARY,                                                                    
DILLINGHAM  (via teleconference),  testified  in support  of                                                                    
public  library  funding  and specifically  for  the  Public                                                                    
Library Assistance  Grants. She appreciated the  support the                                                                    
grant provided  the library. She  would like to  receive the                                                                    
funding in the  amounts that had been provided  in the prior                                                                    
years,  which was  $7,000. She  related that  the money  was                                                                    
used for  internet and library  materials. She  also favored                                                                    
continued funding for the SLED library system.                                                                                  
2:39:52 PM                                                                                                                    
HERMAN MORGAN,  SELF, ANIAK (via  teleconference), testified                                                                    
against funding for public radio  stations. He believed that                                                                    
he was  being censored  for speaking against  certain things                                                                    
he  believed was  being taught  in public  schools. He  felt                                                                    
that public radio was partisan. He  spoke in favor of a full                                                                    
Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD).                                                                                                  
2:42:26 PM                                                                                                                    
MICHELLE    CHASE,   VALDEZ    FOOD   BANK,    VALDEZ   (via                                                                    
teleconference), testified  in support  of funding  SNAP and                                                                    
providing  immediate financial  help  for  the program.  She                                                                    
thought  that there  was nothing  more critical  than people                                                                    
receiving food and emergency assistance  when it was needed.                                                                    
She  indicated  that the  state  systems  were outdated  and                                                                    
needed  increased  staffing  and new  equipment  to  provide                                                                    
people in the state with access to the program.                                                                                 
2:43:37 PM                                                                                                                    
SUSAN  KRAFT-ANDERSON,  SELF, VALDEZ  (via  teleconference),                                                                    
testified  in support  of public  radio  funding. She  noted                                                                    
that  KCHU was  the  radio  station in  Valdez,  and it  was                                                                    
important not  only to Valdez  but other  remote communities                                                                    
where  other  radio  stations do  not  reach.  Public  radio                                                                    
provided disaster  information and she believed  that public                                                                    
radio  stations should  be allowed  to remain  in operation.                                                                    
She supported the funding of public radio.                                                                                      
2:44:38 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Johnson called a brief at-ease.                                                                                        
2:45:00 PM                                                                                                                    
2:45:52 PM                                                                                                                    
2:46:00 PM                                                                                                                    
2:46:22 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Johnson  invited  an in-person  testifier  to  the                                                                    
witness table.                                                                                                                  
2:46:41 PM                                                                                                                    
DUSTIN LARNA, RESIDENTIAL YOUTH  CARE, KETCHIKAN, IN PERSON,                                                                    
explained   that  Residential   Youth  Care   (RYC)  was   a                                                                    
children's  behavioral   health  agency.  He   testified  in                                                                    
support  for  funding  for behavioral  health  services  and                                                                    
noted that there had been  an ongoing reduction in grants in                                                                    
prior years.  The grant  funding would  fill in  the funding                                                                    
gaps where  money fell short  in the 1115 waiver.  He voiced                                                                    
support  for fully  funding education,  including increasing                                                                    
the  BSA. He  indicated  that one  of  the important  things                                                                    
learned during  the pandemic was how  important schools were                                                                    
for  youth and  families  in communities.  He believed  that                                                                    
inadequate  funding for  education  increased  the need  for                                                                    
services like  behavioral health.  He advocated  for funding                                                                    
for the  Office of  Children's Services  (OCS) to  help them                                                                    
improve it services.                                                                                                            
2:48:48 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Josephson asked if  Mr. Larna knew the amount                                                                    
of year  after year reductions in  behavioral health grants.                                                                    
Mr.  Larna   was  uncertain  but  offered   to  provide  the                                                                    
2:49:34 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Stapp  informed  Mr.  Larna  that  the  1115                                                                    
waiver renewal  was in process  during the current  week and                                                                    
there was a public comment period for amending the waiver.                                                                      
2:50:14 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Johnson  reminded the committee of  the communities                                                                    
from  which   the  committee  was  hearing   testimony.  She                                                                    
reiterated the method of submitting written testimony.                                                                          
2:51:39 PM                                                                                                                    
3:07:35 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Johnson  noted  that  there  would  be  five  more                                                                    
3:08:27 PM                                                                                                                    
JAMES DEVENS,  SELF, VALDEZ (via  teleconference), testified                                                                    
in  support  of  public  media funding.  He  explained  that                                                                    
public  media was  often the  only source  of news  in rural                                                                    
areas and was integral  for communities  emergency planning.                                                                    
Public media was  the sole provider for  emergency alerts to                                                                    
many communities  in costal and remote  Alaska. He commented                                                                    
that  lack  of  funding   diminished  the  emergency  notice                                                                    
services.  Prior to  the current  administration his  public                                                                    
radio  station had  nine employees  and due  to the  vetoes,                                                                    
there  were only  two employees.  He  communicated that  his                                                                    
community  radio station  served  more than  a dozen  remote                                                                    
communities,  national parks,  remote  sections of  highway,                                                                    
native  villages,  and  across 40,000  miles  of  waterways,                                                                    
bays, and ports.  In many areas, the  radio station provided                                                                    
the only access  to news, weather, and  emergency alerts. He                                                                    
recounted that in 1964, his  community lost a huge number of                                                                    
people as  a result  of the  Good Friday  earthquake because                                                                    
they  lacked  adequate  warnings of  an  impending  Tsunami.                                                                    
Currently, each of the communities  were served by emergency                                                                    
alerts that  broadcasted automatically. Alaska was  the only                                                                    
state  that  was  not currently  funding  public  media.  He                                                                    
believed that the funding was a matter of public safety.                                                                        
3:11:15 PM                                                                                                                    
ELAINE  LOOMIS  OLSEN,  SELF, KODIAK  (via  teleconference),                                                                    
testified  in  support of  her  daughter  who suffered  from                                                                    
mental illness since  a traumatic brain injury  in 2012. The                                                                    
testifier was a care  coordinator for vulnerable adults with                                                                    
intellectual  disabilities  and   cognitive  disorders.  She                                                                    
fully supported all behavioral  health funding. However, she                                                                    
was  particularly hopeful  that the  Division of  Behavioral                                                                    
Healths  Crisis Now  Continuum of Care grants  at the amount                                                                    
recommended  by the  Alaska  Mental  Health Trust  Authority                                                                    
(AMHTA) would  be funded. She  relayed an incident  when her                                                                    
daughter was homeless in Anchorage,  and she felt unsafe and                                                                    
afraid of  staying at the  shelter. She was missing  for two                                                                    
weeks and had  frostbite on her feet when  the mobile crisis                                                                    
team found  her. The mobile community  crisis teams provided                                                                    
a safety net for at-risk Alaskans.                                                                                              
3:13:48 PM                                                                                                                    
BILL   BURR,   SUPERINTENDENT,  WRANGELL   PUBLIC   SCHOOLS,                                                                    
WRANGELL  (via  teleconference),  testified  in  support  of                                                                    
educational   opportunities   for  students   in   Wrangell.                                                                    
Wrangell  had  experienced  many negative  economic  impacts                                                                    
such as: the  loss of the timber  industry, changing fishing                                                                    
seasons, and substantial reductions  in AMHS, which affected                                                                    
school funding. When the pandemic  happened, it was expected                                                                    
that  Wrangell  would have  308  students,  but the  student                                                                    
enrollment  actually decreased  to  170  students. The  hold                                                                    
harmless would run  out in the next year.  He reexamined all                                                                    
aspects of  the districts   budget and cut  class offerings,                                                                    
eliminated  staff, and  increased class  size. The  district                                                                    
had  asked  the borough  for  its  maximum contribution.  He                                                                    
urged  the committee  to  support a  BSA  increase. He  also                                                                    
asked for sustainable funding for the AMHS.                                                                                     
3:16:40 PM                                                                                                                    
SCOTT  MACMANUS, ALASKA  GATEWAY SCHOOL  DISTRICT, TOK  (via                                                                    
teleconference),  testified  in  support of  protecting  the                                                                    
schools in  the state  by increasing  the BSA  and inflation                                                                    
proofing school  funding. He elaborated  that since  FY 2017                                                                    
the districts  audited  maintenance costs had gone  up by 50                                                                    
percent and was being  deferred. He listed other significant                                                                    
increases  experienced   by  the  districts   that  included                                                                    
soaring  health  care costs.  The  district  ran heavily  on                                                                    
competitive grants  which was not  a long term  solution but                                                                    
was  currently the  only solution.  The  foundation and  BSA                                                                    
funding  totaled  approximately  $9,000,000  but  the  total                                                                    
budget was  $18,000,000. The  other half  of the  budget was                                                                    
being accomplished with grants.  He had recently traveled to                                                                    
the   Capitol  and   heard  about    administrative  bloat.                                                                     
However, his administrative costs  were roughly 4 percent of                                                                    
the  entire  budget.  He  also   was  informed  of  how  the                                                                    
legislature wanted  districts to  be  more  accountable.  In                                                                    
response, he made  a list of the things his  district did to                                                                    
show  accountability  and  the  list was   pages  long.   He                                                                    
mentioned   that  he   was  recently   audited  for   Public                                                                    
Employees'  Retirement  System   (PERS)  and  TRS  Teachers                                                                     
Retirement  System, the  food service  program, the  regular                                                                    
financial audit, the maintenance  program, and Every Student                                                                    
Succeeds Act  (ESSA) audit. He  remarked that very  time the                                                                    
legislature     wanted    to     increase    accountability,                                                                    
administrative costs were immediately increased.                                                                                
3:18:59 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative   Cronk   thanked   Mr.  Macmanus   for   his                                                                    
3:19:39 PM                                                                                                                    
CYNDY MIKA,  SUPERINTENDENT, KODIAK SCHOOL  DISTRICT, KODIAK                                                                    
(via teleconference),  testified in support of  an operating                                                                    
budget that  fully funded public education.  She shared that                                                                    
she was also  a parent of a Kodiak High  School student. She                                                                    
indicated that  the states  education  had been  flat funded                                                                    
since 2016 and coupled with  a 40-year high in inflation had                                                                    
led to historic  costs. The situation led  to the districts                                                                     
$4,4000,000 budget  deficit. She stressed that  there was no                                                                    
more fat  left to trim.  Currently, the district  was forced                                                                    
to look  at how to  reduce staffing, which led  to increased                                                                    
class  size   and  decreased  learning   opportunities.  She                                                                    
commented  that  the  district could  not  comply  with  the                                                                    
requirements of  the Reads  Act due  to the  current budget.                                                                    
She agreed that students in  the third grade needed to reach                                                                    
full reading, but  there needed to be full  funding in order                                                                    
to  accomplish that.  Additionally, she  advocated for  full                                                                    
AMHS funding. Lack of ferry  service impacted the districts                                                                     
budget.  She thanked  the committee  for the  opportunity to                                                                    
speak and for the legislature's efforts.                                                                                        
3:22:04 PM                                                                                                                    
MICHAEL ROBBINS,  SUPERINTENDENT, KETCHIKAN  GATEWAY BOROUGH                                                                    
SCHOOL DISTRICT,  KETCHIKAN (via  teleconference), testified                                                                    
in support  of stable and predictable  school funding, which                                                                    
he believed was necessary  to provide high quality education                                                                    
and educators.  He pointed  out that the  BSA had  only been                                                                    
increased by  $30 since  2016 and  along with  inflation had                                                                    
significantly decreased districts   purchasing power. In his                                                                    
school  district, the  impact  of  insufficient funding  had                                                                    
been apparent. He reported that  over 38 positions were cut,                                                                    
including  20  teaching  positions. The  future  of  Alaskan                                                                    
educators  and  families  were being  lost.  Recruiting  and                                                                    
retaining  teachers was  becoming more  and more  difficult.                                                                    
Reliable  funding was  key  to  improving student  outcomes,                                                                    
stabilizing  schools, and  providing  quality education.  He                                                                    
urged  the committee  to  increase the  BSA  and to  include                                                                    
inflation proofing.                                                                                                             
3:23:35 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Ortiz thanked Mr. Robbins for his testimony.                                                                     
3:23:47 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Johnson  reviewed  the   agenda  for  the  evening                                                                    
HB  39  was   HEARD  and  HELD  in   committee  for  further                                                                    
HB  41  was   HEARD  and  HELD  in   committee  for  further                                                                    
3:25:15 PM                                                                                                                    

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