Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 106


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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
<Pending Referral>
Moved CSHB 231(CRA) Out of Committee
Scheduled But Not Heard
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
HB 231-HUMAN SERVICES GRANT ELIGIBILITY                                                                                     
CHAIR  WILSON announced  that  the first  order  of business  was                                                               
HOUSE  BILL  NO. 231,  "An  Act  relating  to the  definition  of                                                               
'municipality' for purposes of  human services community matching                                                               
grants."   [Before  the committee  was  the committee  substitute                                                               
(CS) for HB 231(CRA), Version 24-LS0791\G.]                                                                                     
CHAIR WILSON turned the gavel over to Vice Chair Seaton.                                                                        
3:12:45 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR WILSON  introduced HB 231,  as sponsor.  She  described the                                                               
proposed  legislation   as  "a  human  services   matching  grant                                                               
program."     Currently,  the   only  communities   that  receive                                                               
[matching grants]  are Anchorage, Fairbanks, and  - most recently                                                               
-  the  Matanuska-Susitna  (Mat-Su) Valley.    Those  communities                                                               
qualify  because  they  meet  a   population  requirement.    The                                                               
original bill version would expand  the definition of a qualified                                                               
municipality to  include a  consortium of  municipalities located                                                               
in  the same  geographic  area, with  a  population that  exceeds                                                               
50,000; however, an  amendment was adopted in  the last committee                                                               
of referral to change that number to 35,000.                                                                                    
CHAIR  WILSON  said  in  order  to  qualify  for  the  grants,  a                                                               
municipality must:   provide  30 percent  of the  funding, comply                                                               
with  the grant  application process,  and establish  a citizens'                                                               
advisory group to help establish  the priorities in the area "and                                                               
to  see who  gets the  grants."   The proposed  legislation would                                                               
allow Southeast  Alaska to qualify  for the grants "if  they were                                                               
under the umbrella  of someone else."  She  added, "We're looking                                                               
at  Southeast Conference  to be  our  umbrella."   She said  that                                                               
organization  presently works  closely  with  the communities  of                                                               
Southeast Alaska.   She listed [organizations  that are currently                                                               
providing services  in Southeast Alaska]:   Center for Community,                                                               
United  Way,  Alaska Health  Fair,  Inc.,  Southeast Alaska  Food                                                               
Bank,  Catholic Community  Services, [Aiding  Women in  Abuse and                                                               
Rape  Emergencies  (AWARE  Inc.)],  Alaska  Legal  Services,  and                                                               
Southeast Senior Services.                                                                                                      
CHAIR WILSON stated,  "I really think this is  a fairness issue."                                                               
She noted  that there was  a shift  in the legislature  this year                                                               
when it set a precedent by  opening up the availability of grants                                                               
for  utilities that  were private  and previously  could not  get                                                               
3:16:50 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  WILSON,  in response  to  a  question from  Representative                                                               
Gardner, said  she is not aware  of anyone who is  opposed to the                                                               
VICE  CHAIR SEATON  asked Chair  Wilson if  her intention  was to                                                               
have the latest bill version adopted by the committee.                                                                          
3:17:47 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR WILSON  said she would  rather work with the  original bill                                                               
than  with   the  committee  substitute  [currently   before  the                                                               
committee, produced  by the House Community  and Regional Affairs                                                               
Standing  Committee].   She  expressed  that  there may  be  some                                                               
reluctance  by the  communities already  receiving the  grants to                                                               
allow  other  communities  to  participate  at  a  lower  minimum                                                               
requirement; they  would rather see communities  pull together in                                                               
order to "get more bang for the  buck."  She said she would leave                                                               
it  up to  the committee  to decide;  however, she  predicted the                                                               
chances of the bill succeeding would  be better if it were in its                                                               
original form.  In response to  a question from Chair Seaton, she                                                               
confirmed that the only difference  between the original bill and                                                               
the  version  from  the  House  Community  and  Regional  Affairs                                                               
Standing Committee is the population requirement.                                                                               
3:19:01 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA  revealed that,  as a  member of  the House                                                               
Community  and  Regional  Affairs  Standing  Committee,  she  had                                                               
participated   in  the   discussion   regarding  the   population                                                               
requirement of  HB 231.   She  said a  committee member  from the                                                               
northern  part of  Alaska had  stated  concern that  it would  be                                                               
difficult enough for communities in  that region to band together                                                               
to meet the requirement of 35,000, let alone 50,000.                                                                            
CHAIR WILSON responded,  "That's left up in the air  in the bill,                                                               
so that  if communities want  to pull  together to do  this, they                                                               
can."  She said geographic area is  not defined in the bill.  She                                                               
indicated  that  the  intent  of  the  bill  is  to  provide  the                                                               
opportunity for communities to succeed  in getting grants if they                                                               
choose to do so.                                                                                                                
CHAIR WILSON [indisc.]                                                                                                          
VICE CHAIR  SEATON, in response  to Chair Wilson,  suggested that                                                               
the  intent of  the committee  now was  [to continue  to use  the                                                               
House Community  and Regional  Affairs Standing  Committee's bill                                                               
version already before the committee].                                                                                          
3:22:06 PM                                                                                                                    
ROSEMARY   HAGEVIG,  Member,   Board   of  Directors,   Southeast                                                               
Conference,  testified on  behalf of  Southeast Conference.   She                                                               
told the committee  that she is also the executive  director of a                                                               
regional  social  services  organization that  could  potentially                                                               
benefit  from the  bill.   She stated  that many  regional social                                                               
services  providers in  Southeast  Alaska support  HB  231.   She                                                               
reported  that the  last U.S.  Census data  shows that  the total                                                               
population in  Southeast Alaska is  just over  70,000; therefore,                                                               
the  region  would  qualify.     She  said  the  social  services                                                               
infrastructure in the region is  having an increasingly difficult                                                               
time  coming  up  with  specific grant  amounts  in  the  various                                                               
budgets.   The proposed legislation would  provide an opportunity                                                               
to infuse  an additional level  of resources into  the community.                                                               
She stated, "Certainly, from my  own personal experience and what                                                               
I know  to be  in place already,  we more than  would be  able to                                                               
meet the required 30 percent match."                                                                                            
MS. HAGEVIG said there was  some discussion in the last committee                                                               
of  referral  regarding the  fiscal  note.    She said,  "In  our                                                               
conversations with  the department, they  shed some light  on why                                                               
that truly  would be a  zero fiscal  note, even thought  they did                                                               
provide  some  scenarios  about eventual  costs."    She  offered                                                               
further  details.   She stated,  "The other  thing that  we would                                                               
like to make  very clear is that we are  not interested in seeing                                                               
anything happen  that would  not hold  harmless our  neighbors to                                                               
the north.   Certainly what is going on  in Anchorage, Fairbanks,                                                               
and now  in MatSu is of  critical importance; we just  would like                                                               
to share  in the  opportunity to  be able  to participate  in the                                                               
same kind of a program."                                                                                                        
MS.  HAGEVIG concluded  by  noting  that there  are  a number  of                                                               
organizations under  the United Way umbrella  in Southeast Alaska                                                               
that  provide region-wide  services,  and  between the  Southeast                                                               
Conference Board  and the United  Way Board, there would  have no                                                               
difficulty  at  all in  putting  together  the required  kind  of                                                               
fiscal oversight that would be necessary.                                                                                       
3:25:54 PM                                                                                                                    
JANET  CLARKE, Assistant  Commissioner,  Central Office,  Finance                                                               
and Management Services, Department  of Health & Social Services,                                                               
explained the fiscal  note prepared by the department.   She said                                                               
the  zero  fiscal  was  prepared  for Version  G.    She  stated,                                                               
"Because  the   program  is  based   on  prorata   proportion  of                                                               
population, it does  not in and of itself require  an increase of                                                               
appropriations."    For  example,  she illustrated  that  if  the                                                               
appropriation is  $1 million, no  matter what number  of grantees                                                               
or  municipalities   qualify,  the  amount  would   be  prorated.                                                               
Second, Ms. Clarke noted that if  the bill were to pass, it would                                                               
not affect  the municipalities who  have already applied  for the                                                               
program  by October  1, 2004  and would  have profound  impact on                                                               
fiscal year  (FY) 07.   She explained, "The  legislation requires                                                               
that  municipalities  apply before  October  1  of the  preceding                                                               
fiscal year, so  for FY 06, the grantees who  would qualify would                                                               
be Anchorage, Fairbanks, and MatSu."                                                                                            
MS.   CLARKE  reviewed   the  two   scenarios  provided   by  the                                                               
department, which  are both  based upon  "the change  to 35,000."                                                               
The first  scenario assumes that regional  consortiums would form                                                               
for  all  regions  of  the  state and  that  there  would  be  no                                                               
additional   money   for   the  program   appropriated   by   the                                                               
legislature.  She added, "If  that were to occur, then Anchorage,                                                               
MatSu, and  Fairbanks would see  significant reductions  in their                                                               
shares  of the  appropriated funds,  and other  communities would                                                               
see a  corresponding increase."   The  second scenario,  which is                                                               
illustrated  on  page  4  of  the  fiscal  note,  uses  the  same                                                               
assumptions in  the first  scenario, but there  would also  be an                                                               
assumption  that  the  legislature would  appropriate  additional                                                               
funds to hold  all communities harmless and  still provide grants                                                               
"for all  the other communities."   The hold-harmless  portion of                                                               
the second scenario would cost an additional $613,483.                                                                          
VICE CHAIR SEATON asked, "Why  is it that only these certain-size                                                               
population  areas  are  given  those  grants  and  they  are  not                                                               
extended to other  areas that may have the same  kind of programs                                                               
and be able to come up with a local match?"                                                                                     
3:29:46 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. CLARKE  responded by  offering a synopsis  of the  history of                                                               
the program.  She said the  program was put into statute in 1992.                                                               
Prior to that, there were  block grants provided to Anchorage and                                                               
Fairbanks, which began in the  early 80s when money was abundant.                                                               
She said, "The idea at the  time was that Fairbanks and Anchorage                                                               
were  disproportionately affected  by  social services  programs,                                                               
because  they were  such large  hub communities;  people came  to                                                               
those communities for  services, and the view was  that the state                                                               
ought to  offset some of  those costs that the  local communities                                                               
were absorbing."   At the  same time there  was a lot  more money                                                               
available for designated grants  for other communities throughout                                                               
the  state.   Ms.  Clarke said  that that  money  does not  exist                                                               
anymore  in her  department,  and she  offered her  understanding                                                               
that  it doesn't  exist  in  any other  department  either.   The                                                               
statute  was written  in  1992 so  that  Anchorage and  Fairbanks                                                               
would  qualify.   Now, because  of its  population increase,  the                                                               
Matanuska  Susitna Borough  qualifies for  the grants,  which has                                                               
changed the dynamics of the funding for the program.                                                                            
MS. CLARKE,  in response  to a question  from Vice  Chair Seaton,                                                               
said she thinks there were  some other designated grants to other                                                               
local communities  that are no  longer designated in  the budget.                                                               
She  stated  that there  was  more  opportunity for  other  local                                                               
municipalities to get social services funding.                                                                                  
CHAIR WILSON interpreted Ms. Clarke  to have said that "everybody                                                               
was getting  some kind  of extra  help -  as funds  - in  all the                                                               
areas, but slowly,  as the money tightened  up, they discontinued                                                               
the  help  in the  smaller  areas,  but Anchorage  and  Fairbanks                                                               
continued with theirs."                                                                                                         
MS.  CLARKE  responded that  that's  correct.   She  offered  her                                                               
understanding  that,  at one  point,  the  social services  block                                                               
grants were  up to $4  million and  have been "ratcheted  back to                                                               
the level they are now."   She added, "Certainly the block grants                                                               
themselves have been reduced, as well."                                                                                         
3:33:30 PM                                                                                                                    
HEATHER  WHEELER,  Deputy  Director, Municipality  of  Anchorage,                                                               
Department  of   Health  and  Human  Services   (DHHS),  had  her                                                               
testimony  read by  Molly Cullom,  Grant Administrator,  DHHS, as                                                               
     The Anchorage  Department of Health and  Human Services                                                                    
     supports HB 231 and the  effort to expand human service                                                                    
     matching   grant  programs   to  benefit   more  Alaska                                                                    
     communities.   However, with  that expansion,  we would                                                                    
     hope  the legislature  would ensure  sufficient funding                                                                    
     to  hold current  recipients  harmless.   Passing  this                                                                    
     legislation  with sufficient  funding  will allow  more                                                                    
     communities  to   provide  the  essential   safety  net                                                                    
     services to  prevent or  alleviate serious  physical or                                                                    
     mental hardship  in this  state, while  not diminishing                                                                    
     services  in current  recipient  communities.   Through                                                                    
     grants to local nonprofit  agencies, the human services                                                                    
     matching  grant supports  the basic  services that  are                                                                    
     critical  to  our  state's  most  vulnerable  citizens:                                                                    
     children, abuse  victims, those in temporary  crisis or                                                                    
     homelessness, and senior citizens.                                                                                         
     ...  Human service  grant funding  was originally  made                                                                    
     available to larger Alaska communities  in the 1980s in                                                                    
     an effort to offset  the disproportionate demand coming                                                                    
     from  people  all over  the  state.   The  municipality                                                                    
     continues  to  serve  the state  as  a  hub  community,                                                                    
     drawing and  attracting people for services  around the                                                                    
     state to  Anchorage.  Because Anchorage  serves so many                                                                    
     people from outside its borders,  it is in this state's                                                                    
     best  overall  interest  for  the  legislature  not  to                                                                    
     decrease funding  for Anchorage  in order to  make room                                                                    
     for more communities.                                                                                                      
     Currently,  65  percent  of Anchorage's  human  service                                                                    
     matching  grant  funding  goes  for  food  and  shelter                                                                    
     programs.   These services  are associated  with people                                                                    
     on  the   move,  people  in   crisis,  and   people  in                                                                    
     transition  to   and  from  rural  communities.     The                                                                    
     municipality   of  Anchorage   believes   in  being   a                                                                    
     responsible  citizen of  the State  of  Alaska and,  as                                                                    
     such,  has  never  closed  its  doors  to  people  from                                                                    
     outside  of Anchorage  who seek  services.   Because of                                                                    
     this,  if more  communities become  eligible for  human                                                                    
     service  dollars, we  ask  that  sufficient funding  be                                                                    
     provided to sustain current services.                                                                                      
VICE CHAIR SEATON  said the committee would  probably be "looking                                                               
at that  support"; however, that would  happen a year, or  so, in                                                               
the  future,  "because  we're  not   talking  about  our  current                                                               
3:37:12 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR WILSON stated her intentions for  the bill were not to make                                                               
things worse  for any  other area  in the state.   She  asked Ms.                                                               
Clarke if  she would submit  an increased budget to  the governor                                                               
if, for example, she were to  get two new applications by October                                                               
MS. CLARKE responded, "We would  certainly prepare the request to                                                               
the governor so  that he would be aware of  what the implications                                                               
would  be  if  that  was  not  funded."    She  added  that  that                                                               
information would be made available to the legislature, as well.                                                                
VICE  CHAIR SEATON  conveyed to  Ms. Wheeler  through Ms.  Cullom                                                               
that if  all the  grants are going  through the  main communities                                                               
and are not  provided to the outlying communities,  that tends to                                                               
bring the  people who need services  to the hub communities.   He                                                               
said  he  thinks the  purpose  of  the  bill  is "to  allow  some                                                               
distribution so that we can  keep people in the communities where                                                               
they reside."                                                                                                                   
VICE CHAIR SEATON closed public testimony.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  GARDNER  moved to  report  CSHB  231(CRA) out  of                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations and  the accompanying                                                               
fiscal  notes.   There  being  no  objection, CSHB  231(CRA)  was                                                               
reported  from the  House Health,  Education and  Social Services                                                               
Standing Committee.                                                                                                             

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