Legislature(2001 - 2002)

04/21/2001 11:22 AM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 173-SCREENING NEWBORNS FOR HEARING ABILITY                                                                                 
CHAIR DYSON announced  that the first order of  business would be                                                               
HOUSE  BILL  NO.   173,  "An  Act  relating   to  establishing  a                                                               
screening,  tracking, and  intervention  program  related to  the                                                               
hearing ability  of newborns and infants;  providing an exemption                                                               
to  licensure as  an audiologist  for certain  persons performing                                                               
hearing  screening  tests;  relating to  insurance  coverage  for                                                               
newborn  and  infant  hearing screening;  and  providing  for  an                                                               
effective date."                                                                                                                
Number 0230                                                                                                                     
RICHARD  BLOCK,   Christian  Science  Committee   Publication  of                                                               
Alaska, testified  via teleconference on HB  173.  He said  he is                                                               
speaking on behalf  of those people who, as a  matter of practice                                                               
and  religious   commitment,  rely  exclusively  on   prayer  for                                                               
healing.    To  those  people,  the notion  that  they  or  their                                                               
children would be subjected to  a physical exam is something that                                                               
they would find not consistent with  their faith.  He stated that                                                               
throughout the  history of Alaska,  the Alaska  State Legislature                                                               
has  recognized   this  legitimate   concern  and   has  provided                                                               
accommodations.    He  said   [the  Christian  Science  Committee                                                               
Publication of  Alaska] would  ask, if  it is  the intent  of the                                                               
legislature to  adopt this public  policy of  generally requiring                                                               
hearing   screening,  that   they   continue   the  practice   of                                                               
recognizing the  special concerns  of people  who rely  on prayer                                                               
for healing, and exempt them from this requirement.                                                                             
MR.  BLOCK  pointed  out  that   there  is  a  federal  law  that                                                               
encourages this, but which also  contains a provision by Congress                                                               
that  recognizes the  concerns of  those who  rely on  prayer for                                                               
healing.   He stated  that the  language he  proposes essentially                                                               
parallels that in the congressional Act.                                                                                        
CHAIR DYSON  asked Mr. Block  if his religion  rejects screening,                                                               
since nothing in the bill has to do with healing.                                                                               
MR. BLOCK responded that  [Christian Scientists] fundamentally do                                                               
object [to  the screening], because  they start from  the premise                                                               
of man's perfection  and have been successful  in asserting that.                                                               
They  do  not choose  to  start  their  new children's  lives  by                                                               
looking for things that are wrong.                                                                                              
CHAIR  DYSON  stated  that  he   understands  that  part  of  the                                                               
motivation [behind  HB 173] is  that detecting hearing  loss with                                                               
newborn  children  is quite  difficult  to  do.   He  added  that                                                               
children  whose hearing  loss is  not  corrected, either  through                                                               
intervention or prayer, will  have profound learning disabilities                                                               
and perhaps socialization ones.                                                                                                 
Number 0587                                                                                                                     
CHRISTINE  HESS, Staff  to  Representative  Reggie Joule,  Alaska                                                               
State  Legislature,  explained  that   page  5,  subsection  (f),                                                               
provides an  exemption from the  testing on the grounds  that the                                                               
procedures conflict  with the religious  tenets and  practices of                                                               
the parent.                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA stated:                                                                                                   
     This  sort of  brings to  mind for  me [that]  ... over                                                                    
     time we've begun  to be more sensitive  about the words                                                                    
     we use.   We say hearing "loss," and in  a way this may                                                                    
     be  a  hearing "difference."    And  what we're  really                                                                    
     talking  about is  how we  teach.   I'm sure  that [Mr.                                                                    
     Block's] membership  is not  opposed to  education, and                                                                    
     really this is education.                                                                                                  
Number 0717                                                                                                                     
[There was  a motion to  report HB 173  out of committee,  but it                                                               
was withdrawn in order to take up an amendment.                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE JOULE  made a motion  to adopt Amendment  1, which                                                               
read [original punctuation and capitalization provided]:                                                                        
     Page 5, subsection (g), lines 14-18                                                                                        
There being no objection, Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON moved to report  HB 173, as amended, out of                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations and  the accompanying                                                               
fiscal  notes.   There being  no objection,  CSHB 173(HES)  moved                                                               
from  the House  Health, Education  and Social  Services Standing                                                               

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