Legislature(2015 - 2016)BARNES 124

04/08/2015 03:15 PM LABOR & COMMERCE

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04:16:46 PM Start
04:17:13 PM Confirmation Hearing(s)
04:21:22 PM HB178
04:31:58 PM HB66
04:59:06 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Delayed to 3:45 p.m. Today --
+ Confirmation Hearings: TELECONFERENCED
- Board of Massage Therapists
- Board of Examiners in Optometry
- Board of Certified Real Estate Appraisers
- Alaska Workers' Compensation Board
*+ HB 66 INS. FOR DEPENDENTS OF DECEASED TEACHERS TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
*+ HB 178 WORKERS' COMP MEDICAL FEES; DELAY TELECONFERENCED
Moved HB 178 Out of Committee
         HB 66-INS. FOR DEPENDENTS OF DECEASED TEACHERS                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
4:31:58 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR OLSON announced  that the final order of  business would be                                                               
HOUSE  BILL  NO.  66,  "An  Act  relating  to  providing  medical                                                               
insurance  coverage  under  the Teachers'  Retirement  System  of                                                               
Alaska  and the  Public Employees'  Retirement System  of Alaska;                                                               
and providing for an effective date."                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR OLSON stated that this was  the first hearing on this bill.                                                               
He  said the  state  would  conduct an  actuarial  study to  help                                                               
develop the fiscal note.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
4:32:32 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  CHARISSE   MILLETT,  Alaska   State  Legislature,                                                               
stated that this bill raised  an uncomfortable topic, but one the                                                               
legislature needed  to address.   She  said that  HB 66  seeks to                                                               
address a  side effect of a  state employee dying in  the line of                                                               
duty.  Currently, the state does  not provide any health care for                                                               
dependents  whose  parents  die  in  the line  of  duty.    These                                                               
families  are subsequently  faced not  only  with the  loss of  a                                                               
loved one,  but also the  termination of their  medical coverage.                                                               
The  state  asks  its  employees in  public  safety,  across  all                                                               
fields, to  provide for  health and  safety for  our communities,                                                               
she  said, so  it  is only  fair when  these  employees give  the                                                               
ultimate  sacrifice  that the  state  honors  them by  supporting                                                               
family members  who have been left  behind.  She said  that HB 66                                                               
would provide  spouses and children  of state employees  who have                                                               
been killed in  the line of duty with secure,  stable health care                                                               
coverage  in the  PERS [Public  Employees Retirement  System] and                                                               
TRS [Teachers'  Retirement System]  health plans insurance.   She                                                               
explained  that this  bill was  not a  defined benefit  bill, but                                                               
addresses line of duty death benefits.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
4:33:52 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  MILLETT paraphrased  from  the following  sponsor                                                               
statement, [original punctuation provided]:                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     The PERS/TRS retiree health  plans ensure coverage that                                                                    
     is common  to all departments and  positions and allows                                                                    
     families to  benefit from low deductibles  and pharmacy                                                                    
     costs.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     Families would  be subject  to all  policies associated                                                                    
     with the  plan, and would  be able to  elect additional                                                                    
     coverage available to plan members.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     This approach not only provides  a level of comfort for                                                                    
     families,  but also  provides  clarity  in the  state's                                                                    
     budget.   Currently, the  Department of  Public Safety,                                                                    
     through executive direction, covers  the cost of health                                                                    
     care premiums for the families of fallen employees.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT added that the  department has a line item                                                               
in  the operating  budget that  covers the  medical coverage  for                                                               
those families.   For families  coping with  the loss of  a loved                                                               
one,  their last  concern should  be losing  their state  medical                                                               
coverage. This  bill, HB 66,  will provide security  for families                                                               
and clarity for  the state when approaching a line  of duty death                                                               
of a state employee, she said.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   MILLETT  explained   that   this   bill  was   a                                                               
collaboration  between the  Department  of Administration  (DOA),                                                               
the Department of Law (DOL),  and the Department of Public Safety                                                               
(DPS),  and   representative  are   ready  to   answer  committee                                                               
questions.  She  explained that this bill  has taken considerable                                                               
time  to  develop.   Since  the  state  has  been doing  this  by                                                               
proclamation  and by  executive order,  it seemed  appropriate to                                                               
codify it  and add to the  state health coverage plan  so members                                                               
serving in  the line of duty  will know their families  will have                                                               
health coverage.  She stated  that the state has experienced line                                                               
of  duty deaths  in all  aspects  of the  state, including  those                                                               
killed in a helicopter crash,  in fish and game airplane crashes,                                                               
as well  as public safety  officers killed  in the line  of duty,                                                               
which is defined in statute.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
4:36:53 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
GRACE  ABBOTT,  Staff,  Representative Charisse  Millett,  Alaska                                                               
State   Legislature,   on   behalf    of   the   prime   sponsor,                                                               
Representative Charisse Millett, introduced herself.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
4:37:15 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HUGHES  moved  to adopt  the  proposed  committee                                                               
substitute (CS)  for HB 66,  labeled 29-LS0357\N,  Wayne, 3/25/15                                                               
as the  working document.   There being  no objection,  Version N                                                               
was before the committee.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
4:37:37 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  ABBOTT  explained  that  this  bill  has  sections  for  the                                                               
Teachers' Retirement  System (TRS)  health care benefits  and the                                                               
Public  Employees' Retirement  health care  benefits so  sections                                                               
may  appear identical,  but  apply to  the  specific health  care                                                               
system.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MS. ABBOTT referred to page 2,  lines 1-3, and line 13 of Version                                                               
N, which would clarify when  major medical benefits are available                                                               
to  dependent children  of deceased  teachers under  AS 14.25.168                                                               
(a).  These  changes eliminate a requirement for  the children to                                                               
be dependent on  the surviving spouse in order to  qualify.  This                                                               
also protects in the instance of  no surviving spouse with only a                                                               
surviving dependent.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS.  ABBOTT  directed  attention  to  page  2,  lines  14-19,  to                                                               
provisions  that clarify  under  AS  14.25.168(a)(3), that  major                                                               
medical benefits  are available to spouses,  independent children                                                               
of deceased  teachers who  are eligible for  any type  of pension                                                               
under AS 14.25.157,  not just the monthly survivor  pension.  She                                                               
related  her  understanding  that  this change  was  intended  to                                                               
prevent the benefit plan  administrator from interpreting certain                                                               
provisions  of  AS 14.25.157  to  require  a cessation  of  major                                                               
medical  benefits provided  under AS  14.25.168 (a)  on the  date                                                               
when, if the deceased teacher  had survived, the deceased teacher                                                               
would  have  qualified  for  normal  retirement,  accounting  for                                                               
different age  categories between the  spouse and the  member who                                                               
was killed in  the line of duty.  The  monthly survivor's pension                                                               
would  therefore terminate,  and, without  the changed  language,                                                               
the  survivor's eligibility  for  major  medical insurance  would                                                               
cease.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
4:39:54 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. ABBOTT directed attention to page  2, line 30 through page 3,                                                               
line  7[to proposed  Sec. 3  AS  14.25.470(a)], would  add a  new                                                               
section eliminating the requirement that  an active member of the                                                               
defined contribution plan in the  TRS has to retire directly from                                                               
that plan  in order to  qualify for  medical benefits.   This new                                                               
bill  section  further  clarifies  that a  member  of  a  defined                                                               
contribution  plan is  eligible to  retire from  the plan  if the                                                               
member has 30  years of service or reaches  normal retirement age                                                               
and has a minimum of 10 years of service.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS.  ABBOTT referred  to page  3,  lines 14-17,  to changes  that                                                               
clarify that  a deceased member's surviving  spouse and dependent                                                               
children  are  eligible  to  elect   medical  benefits  under  AS                                                               
14.25.480  if they  have received  any type  of benefit  under AS                                                               
14.25.487 instead of  when they would have been  determined to be                                                               
eligible for  a monthly  survivor's pension  under AS  14.25.48 -                                                               
instead of  when they have been  determined to be eligible  for a                                                               
monthly survivor's pension  under AS 14.25.487.   She related her                                                               
understanding  that  this  change  is  intended  to  prevent  the                                                               
benefits  administrator from  interpreting certain  provisions of                                                               
AS  14.25.487 on  the  date  when, if  the  deceased teacher  had                                                               
survived,  the   deceased  teacher   would  have   qualified  for                                                               
retirement,  and, without  the changed  language, the  survivor's                                                               
eligibility for major medical insurance would cease.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS. ABBOTT referred  to page 3, lines 23-24,  which requires that                                                               
an election by  a member of the defined contribution  plan in the                                                               
teachers'  retirement system  not to  participate in  the retiree                                                               
medical major medical insurance  plan may become irrevocable upon                                                               
application  for   retirement  and  benefits,  instead   of  upon                                                               
application  for   employment,  thus  accounting   for  surviving                                                               
spouses and dependents.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
4:41:33 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  ABBOTT directed  attention  to page  3,  lines 26-28,  which                                                               
would add a  new subsection (h) to AS  14.25.470, clarifying that                                                               
even if  monthly survivor pension benefits  under AS 14.25.487(b)                                                               
cease, medical  insurance under the defined  contribution plan of                                                               
the  teachers'  retirement  system,   for  a  deceased  teacher's                                                               
surviving  spouse  and dependent  children  will  continue to  be                                                               
paid.  She  referred to page 3  lines 30 through page  4, line 6,                                                               
which  would provide  cleanup language  for AS  14.25.480 (b)  to                                                               
clarify meaning.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
4:42:16 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. ABBOTT directed attention to  page 4, line 24 would eliminate                                                               
the  language,  "A  third  person   who  receives  major  medical                                                               
coverage  under AS  14.25.470(c) (3)  or (4)  is not  required to                                                               
make  premium payments  for that  coverage."   This sentence  was                                                               
made redundant  by the  bill's addition of  a new  subsection, AS                                                               
14.25.470 (h).                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MS.  ABBOTT  explained  that  at this  point  the  bill  provides                                                               
duplicate  language  for  changes  that reflect  changes  to  the                                                               
teachers'  retirement system  as  well as  the Public  Employees'                                                               
Retirement  System  (PERS).    Thus  the  next  changes  will  be                                                               
mirrored  in 1-8  until page  8, lines  25-28, which  changes the                                                               
bill's new  definition of "retiree"  in the  defined contribution                                                               
plan  of  the  Public  Employees'   Retirement  System  from  "an                                                               
eligible  person  who has  elected  to  receive medical  benefits                                                               
under AS  39.35.880," to "an  eligible member under  AS 39.35.870                                                               
(a)  who  has retired  from  the  plan,"  to improve  clarity  of                                                               
meaning.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS. ABBOTT  stated that the  last change  made was to  change the                                                               
retroactive effective date  of the bill from January  1, 2014, to                                                               
January  1, 2013  to  encompass more  families  who had  suffered                                                               
these terrible losses.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
4:43:51 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  OLSON  advised members  that  the  fiscal note  was  being                                                               
worked on along with an actuarial study.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
4:44:05 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE COLVER  thanked the  sponsor for working  on bill.                                                               
He expressed  his view that the  state has not been  living up to                                                               
its obligations to Alaskans who were  killed in the line of duty,                                                               
in particular, since  these families have not  only suffered loss                                                               
of loved ones, but are placed  into financial hardship due to the                                                               
death of a major breadwinner - a  father or a mother.  He offered                                                               
his belief  that it was morally  and ethically wrong for  this to                                                               
happen.   He  related his  understanding that  it costs  money to                                                               
care  for  survivors,  and  it   can  be  difficult  to  get  the                                                               
legislature to  act appropriately to  take care of  the surviving                                                               
spouses and family  members.  He acknowledged that  this bill was                                                               
a complicated  bill and that he  found it difficult to  catch all                                                               
of the  language during the sectional  analysis of the bill.   He                                                               
asked  for   further  clarification  on  the   current  statutory                                                               
language for  survivor and  death benefits  and whether  the bill                                                               
primarily provides  health benefits or also  survivor benefits to                                                               
help the survivors with the loss of their loved ones.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  MILLETT explained  that the  current health  care                                                               
coverage for survivors  would be the same as  other employees who                                                               
were separated from  their job, which would be 30  days of health                                                               
coverage insurance.  She clarified  that this bill was limited to                                                               
health  care coverage  for the  surviving spouse  and dependents.                                                               
It would  place survivors  in the retiree  health care  pool, and                                                               
not  in the  active  health care  plan.   Currently,  all of  the                                                               
public  employees  and  teachers  are  covered  under  unions  so                                                               
survivors  receive death  benefits, including  an optional  death                                                               
benefit for  a lump sum  payment.  However,  in terms of  line of                                                               
death  duty  benefits,  survivors  are subject  to  the  standard                                                               
separation  of duty  benefits for  30  days and  after that  they                                                               
could pay  the COBRA [Consolidated Omnibus  Budget Reconciliation                                                               
Act], which can be very expensive.   She referenced a letter from                                                               
former Governor  Parnell dated May  22, 2014, who learned  of the                                                               
gap  in survivor's  medical health  insurance and  requested that                                                               
the Department  of Public Safety  (DPS) cover  survivor's medical                                                               
health  insurance   in  the  operating   budget  for   those  law                                                               
enforcement  officers  who  died  in  the  line  of  duty.    She                                                               
characterized this  budget consideration as being  a year-to-year                                                               
appropriation.  In response to  Representative Colver, she agreed                                                               
that this bill was limited  to health insurance for the surviving                                                               
spouse and  dependents for public  safety officers who  have died                                                               
in the line of duty.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
4:48:32 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  COLVER expressed  an interest  in taking  care of                                                               
the families.  He asked whether  the state has any safety net for                                                               
monetary  compensation  when  a  parent or  parents  die  leaving                                                               
behind  young children.    He said  that  their financial  future                                                               
would  forever be  impacted  by  that event.    He further  asked                                                               
whether  the state  has  a big  insurance  pool that  anticipates                                                               
these kinds of  traumas.  He acknowledged that he  was speaking a                                                               
bit  off  topic since  he  understands  the  bill is  limited  to                                                               
medical health insurance; however,  he maintained his concern for                                                               
the overall  wellbeing of  the survivors.   He said  that without                                                               
the  state being  there to  provide support,  it may  further the                                                               
continuance  of the  event  that has  already  had a  devastating                                                               
effect on the families.  He  maintained his belief that the state                                                               
needs to be there to support the families.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  MILLETT  stated that  a  member  from the  Public                                                               
Safety  Employees' Association  (PSEA)  could  speak about  death                                                               
benefits, which are  benefits negotiated by union  contracts.  In                                                               
addition,  state  employees  have  an option  to  increase  death                                                               
benefit  coverage  for  a  monthly  cost,  as  well  as  workers'                                                               
compensation  coverage.    She  deferred  to  the  Department  of                                                               
Administration to answer specific questions.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
4:50:39 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JAKE  METCALFE,  Executive   Director,  Public  Safety  Employees                                                               
Association, Inc. (PSEA), thanked  Representative Millett and her                                                               
staff for  all of the  work that has been  done on this  bill, as                                                               
well as  the Parnell  and Walker  administrations.   He described                                                               
the  bill as  being  a team  effort.   He  stated  that the  PSEA                                                               
represents about  700-800 public safety employees  throughout the                                                               
state, including  the Alaska  State Troopers.   In May  2014, two                                                               
Alaska State Troopers, Sergeant  Scott Johnson and Gabriel "Gabe"                                                               
Rich were  tragically murdered  in Tanana  while responding  to a                                                               
call.  These  law enforcement officers had  spouses and surviving                                                               
children.    Within  days  of the  senseless  tragedy,  the  PSEA                                                               
learned that the survivor's medical  insurance would lapse unless                                                               
they opted for  COBRA.  He reported that PSEA  has a health trust                                                               
and provide two  types of insurance for its  members, including a                                                               
catastrophic plan and a family medical  plan.  He stated that the                                                               
aforementioned members were covered  under the family plan, which                                                               
costs $1,800 per month for the  premium, but under the COBRA plan                                                               
would require that much in  premium payments per month.  Although                                                               
he was not an expert on  COBRA, he related his understanding that                                                               
COBRA would be  limited to between 18-36 months,  after which the                                                               
survivors must come up with their  own health insurance plan.  He                                                               
characterized  this  as being  a  rather  serious issue  for  the                                                               
survivors  and dependents.    The  former Parnell  administration                                                               
became involved, which has led to this bill, he said.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
4:53:46 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. METCALFE offered  his belief that HB 66 was  important to the                                                               
survivors  of members  killed  in the  line of  duty.   The  PSEA                                                               
supports this  bill since it  will provide spouses  and survivors                                                               
of public employees killed in  the line of duty continued medical                                                               
insurance coverage until  the spouse or the  survivors "age out."                                                               
This bill would carry out the  state's duty to comfort and assist                                                               
families in  their time  of need  and help  to lessen  the tragic                                                               
loss and  burden of  families who are  thrown into  an unexpected                                                               
situation when  a family member  is killed  in the line  of duty.                                                               
He respectfully requested that the committee pass the bill.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
4:55:02 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON said he has  a death benefit bill before                                                               
the legislature.   He  related his  understanding that  if public                                                               
safety law enforcement officers  were vested, that their families                                                               
would  receive  a  pension; however,  this  bill  only  addressed                                                               
medical health care.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. METCALFE agreed  that HB 66 related to  health care coverage.                                                               
He explained that the PSEA  has a contractually agreed upon death                                                               
benefit  for  $100,000.     The  PSEA  was  in   the  process  of                                                               
negotiating  its  contract  to  increase  the  death  benefit  to                                                               
$200,000; however, even though the  contract was agreed to at the                                                               
time  the two  troopers were  killed, the  effective date  of the                                                               
contractual  change  was  July  1, 2014.    Thus  their  families                                                               
received the $100,000 death benefit,  he said, which he described                                                               
as being "an awful situation."                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
4:56:55 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JEFF  BRINK, Officer,  Juneau Police  Department, stated  that he                                                               
works for  the Juneau Police  Department (JPD) and would  like to                                                               
speak not  only as a  representative of his brothers  and sisters                                                               
at JPD,  but also for  statewide law enforcement.   He encouraged                                                               
members to  consider passing  HB 66.   He said  he feels  for the                                                               
families of  Sergeant Scott Johnson  and Gabriel "Gabe"  Rich and                                                               
would hate to see that happen  again.  He offered his belief that                                                               
the state can  do better.  He  asked members to pass  the bill on                                                               
to its next step.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
4:58:11 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR OLSON offered  his belief that committee  members share his                                                               
sentiments, as  well as  those of the  sponsor and  Mr. Metcalfe.                                                               
He  explained that  the  committee must  wait  for the  actuarial                                                               
study and fiscal  note prior to moving the bill.   He stated that                                                               
public testimony would be held open.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
[HB 66 was held over.]                                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB66 ver A.PDF HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
HB 66
HB66 Sponsor Statement.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
HB 66
HB66 Sectional Analysis.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
HB 66
HB66 Supporting Documents-Article ADN 5-02-14.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
HB 66
HB66 Supporting Documents-Article Juneau Empire 4-01-13.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
HB 66
HB66 Supporting Documents-Assorted Emails to Rep Millett.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
HB 66
HB66 Supporting Documents-Email Cheryl Berrong 03-09-15.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
HB 66
HB66 Supporting Documents-Email Windy Johnson 2-20-2015.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
HB 66
HB66 Supporting Documents-Letter Daniel Hoffman 3-03-2015.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
HB 66
HB66 Supporting Documents-Letter PSEA.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
HB 66
HB66 Supporting Documents-Written Testimony Brandy Johnson.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
HB 66
HB66 Draft Proposed Blank CS ver N.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
HB 66
HB66 Summary of Changes ver A to ver N.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
HB 66
HB178 ver H.PDF HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
HB 178
HB178 Sponsor Statement.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
HB 178
HB178 Supporting Documents-HB316 enacted in 2014.PDF HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
HB 178
HB 316
HB178 Supporting Documents-CSHB316(FIN) Sectional Analysis ver R.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
HB 178
HB 316
Cert Real Estate Appraisers - Piszczek #1.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
Governor's Appointee
Massage Therapists - Edwards-Smith #1.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
Governor's Appointee
Massage Therapists - Gibbs #1.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
Governor's Appointee
Massage Therapists - Gilmour #1.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
Governor's Appointee
Massage Therapists - Nelson #1.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
Governor's Appointee
Massage Therapists - Unser #1.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
Governor's Appointee
Optometry - Stralka #1.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
Governor's Appointee
Worker's Comp Brd - Williams #1.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
Governor's Appointee
HB66 Supporting Documents-Letter Nikki Toll 3-05-15.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
HB 66
HB66 Supporting Documents-Written Testimony Nikki Toll 4-08-15.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
HB 66
HB178 Fiscal Note-DOLWD-WC-04-02-15.pdf HL&C 4/8/2015 3:15:00 PM
HB 178