Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 106

04/21/2005 08:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
<Bill Hearing Canceled>
<Bill Hearing Canceled>
<Bill Hearing Canceled>
Moved CSHJR 12(W&M) Out of Committee
Heard & Held
Moved CSHB 86(STA) Out of Committee
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
HB  86-OMBUDSMAN HOTLINE                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON announced that the  next order of business was HOUSE                                                               
BILL NO. 86, "An Act establishing  in the office of the ombudsman                                                               
a state executive branch employee  fraud, waste, and abuse report                                                               
hotline program."                                                                                                               
8:53:00 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER  moved to  adopt the  committee substitute                                                               
(CS)  for HB  86, Version  24-LS0237\Y, Craver,  4/20/05.   There                                                               
being no objection, Version Y was before the committee.                                                                         
8:53:28 AM                                                                                                                    
MIKE  PAWLOWSKI,  Staff  to Representative  Kevin  Meyer,  Alaska                                                               
State Legislature,  on behalf  of Representative  Meyer, sponsor,                                                               
reviewed the changes made  to HB 86 in Version Y.   He said those                                                               
changes were  in response to  discussions with the Office  of the                                                               
MR. PAWLOWSKI noted that the first  change shows in Section 2, on                                                               
page  2, lines  [9-11].   The language  has been  "softened to  a                                                               
degree" to allow the ombudsman  to attempt to identify the person                                                               
calling  the  hotline, while  protecting  the  anonymity "of  the                                                               
agency employee  reporting to  the hotline."   The  ombudsman, he                                                               
said,  felt strongly  that  "there  needed to  be  at least  some                                                               
leeway to get back to the person."   In the same section, on page                                                               
2, lines 12-15, new language was added, which read as follows:                                                                  
          (d) The ombudsman shall report to the Legislative                                                                     
     Budget and  Audit Committee every six  months regarding                                                                    
     the number  of calls,  and the  types of  fraud, waste,                                                                    
     and abuse  reported through the  hotline program.   The                                                                    
     ombudsman  may not  verify the  reports or  investigate                                                                    
     the information reported.                                                                                                  
8:55:52 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  ELKINS  asked,  "At   that  time  did  they  make                                                               
recommendations on their findings ...?"                                                                                         
8:56:04 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  PAWLOWSKI  answered, "At  this  point,  the discussion  that                                                               
we've  had is  that they  do  not make  recommendations on  their                                                               
[findings]."  He  directed attention to page 1,  lines 5-6, which                                                               
give  the   ombudsman  the  leeway   to  adopt,   by  regulation,                                                               
procedures for receiving  and processing.  That  gives the Office                                                               
of  the  Ombudsman  the  ability  to  decide  how  to  process  a                                                               
frivolous  complaint   or  "something   that  is   obviously  not                                                               
worthwhile to investigate."                                                                                                     
8:57:02 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG asked what the  reason is to require the                                                               
extra step of the report.                                                                                                       
8:57:43 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. PAWLOWSKI  replied, "We view it  as a very valuable  tool for                                                               
the  legislature  to know  what  the  allegations that  are  made                                                               
through this employee  hotline are."  In response  to a follow-up                                                               
question from  Representative Gruenberg, Mr.  Pawlowski indicated                                                               
that  the sponsor  is open  to suggestions  as to  how often  the                                                               
report should be required.                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG stated his  concern that people would be                                                               
spending their limited staff time  doing the reports "rather than                                                               
doing the cases."                                                                                                               
MR. PAWLOWSKI stated  his belief that the fiscal  note shows that                                                               
a person  would be added to  "handle the hotline and  handle this                                                               
burden."    In  response  to  a  suggestion  to  do  the  reports                                                               
annually, he said, "I think we'd be very amenable to that."                                                                     
8:58:32 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  PAWLOWSKI directed  attention  to the  third  change to  the                                                               
bill:   the  new language  of Section  3, on  page 3,  lines 1-5,                                                               
which read as follows:                                                                                                          
     *Sec.3. AS 39.25 is amended  by adding a new section to                                                                  
               Sec.     39.25.920.         Department     of                                                                  
     administration  to inform  employees of  hotline.   The                                                                  
     commissioner of  administration shall  inform executive                                                                    
     branch employees  of the public employee  fraud, waste,                                                                    
     and   abuse  hotline   program  established   under  AS                                                                    
8:58:59 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG   asked  for   the  reason   for  using                                                               
"executive  branch", and  he suggested  using "public  employees"                                                               
8:59:41 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. PAWLOWSKI  said, "I believe  that's a  very good catch."   He                                                               
moved on  to the fourth  change, which he  said is simply  one of                                                               
omission.  He said:                                                                                                             
     Before  we  set  up  an investigatory  feature  to  the                                                                    
     hotline,   where  the   ombudsman's  office   goes  and                                                                    
     investigates  these  instances  of  fraud,  waste,  and                                                                    
     abuse,  we'd  like  to  see   whether  the  program  is                                                                    
     received  or not.   And  so, what  we've done  is we've                                                                    
     removed the  investigation portion.  The  reason behind                                                                    
     that  being ...  that  there still  is  the ability  to                                                                    
     investigate through  [the Legislative Budget  and Audit                                                                    
     Committee's  (BUD's)] ability  to  direct  an audit  if                                                                    
     fraud, waste, or  abuse is glaring enough  that ... the                                                                    
     committee  can decide  to  pursue that.    At the  same                                                                    
     time, without  having the  knowledge that  this hotline                                                                    
     will be  effective or used,  we believe  it's premature                                                                    
       to start off establishing an entire investigatory                                                                        
9:00:45 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG stated, "This is  an issue that ... will                                                               
come  up  in  the  bill  also,  dealing  with  the  Human  Rights                                                               
Commission."   He said,  "I appreciate what  you're doing  here -                                                               
good change."                                                                                                                   
9:01:38 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER noted  that the purpose of the  bill is to                                                               
"establish procedures  for receiving and  processing", including,                                                               
on page 1, line 7, "conducting  investigations".  She said she is                                                               
confused between  that and the  language on page 2,  beginning on                                                               
line 14, which  read:  "The ombudsman may not  verify the reports                                                               
or  investigate  the  information   reported."    She  asked  for                                                               
9:02:02 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. PAWLOWSKI  explained, "The new  addition of the hotline  is a                                                               
distinction  between   the  ombudsman's  existing   language  [in                                                               
statute].  He reiterated that the  reason for the new language on                                                               
page 2, beginning  on line 14, is  "to see if it  works before we                                                               
build  up the  investigatory  part."   He  concluded, "So,  we're                                                               
clarifying that they can receive and  process, but we do not want                                                               
you to investigate here."                                                                                                       
9:02:42 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG said  he liked  the elimination  of the                                                               
investigation   section,   because   it  eliminated   the   micro                                                               
management of the agency.  He  added, "But I think they should be                                                               
able to investigate;  I just don't want it set  out how they have                                                               
to  do   it."    He   said  he   would  like  to   eliminate  the                                                               
aforementioned  sentence on  page 2,  beginning on  line 14.   He                                                               
said, "The agency can certainly do  it if it wants to, but that's                                                               
up to the agency."                                                                                                              
9:03:34 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN  concurred.   He said  he doesn't  think it's                                                               
necessary to "complicate the lives of  people trying to do a good                                                               
9:04:10 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON, after  ascertaining that there was not  one else to                                                               
testify, closed public testimony.                                                                                               
9:04:45 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG moved Amendment 1, as follows:                                                                         
     Page 2, lines [14-15]:                                                                                                     
      Delete "The ombudsman may not verify the reports or                                                                       
     investigate the information reported."                                                                                     
9:05:35 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. PAWLOWSKI, in response to  a question from Chair Seaton, said                                                               
Amendment 1 would be acceptable to the sponsor.                                                                                 
9:05:44 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON  indicated that he  doesn't think the intent  of the                                                               
language was  to be  restrictive, but that  could be  the result.                                                               
He asked if there was any  objection to Amendment 1.  There being                                                               
none, Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                                                  
9:06:19 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG   moved  Conceptual  Amendment   2,  as                                                               
     Page 3, line 3:                                                                                                            
     Delete "executive branch"                                                                                                  
     Insert "public"                                                                                                            
9:07:17 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. PAWLOWSKI  suggested the language  be made to conform  to the                                                               
other language in the bill.                                                                                                     
9:07:51 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEATON   stated  his  preference  to   have  a  conceptual                                                               
amendment  in  order to  show  "the  full  intent of  what  we're                                                               
9:08:09 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. PAWLOWSKI said that's fine.                                                                                                 
9:08:14 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON reiterated [Conceptual] Amendment 2.                                                                               
9:09:00 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON  asked if  there was  any objection  to [Conceptual]                                                               
Amendment 2.   They're being  none, [Conceptual] Amendment  2 was                                                               
9:09:16 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG moved Amendment 3, as follows:                                                                         
     Page 2, line 13:                                                                                                           
     Delete "every six months"                                                                                                  
     Insert "annually"                                                                                                          
9:10:44 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER objected for discussion purposes.                                                                        
9:10:52 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  ELKINS   said  he  thinks  the   whole  bill  was                                                               
strengthened when the  committee [adopted Amendment 1].   He said                                                               
he likes  the "every  six months", because  "the more  often they                                                               
report, the hotter the trail is."                                                                                               
9:11:11 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG withdrew Amendment 3.                                                                                  
9:11:43 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEATON noted  that the  six-month report  is going  to the                                                               
Legislative  Budget  and  Audit   Committee  (BUD),  not  to  the                                                               
legislature.   The  former meets  more  regularly throughout  the                                                               
year than does the latter.                                                                                                      
9:12:21 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON  reopened public testimony.   [Ombudsman Linda Lord-                                                               
Jenkins was  asked some  questions to  ascertain whether  she had                                                               
Version Y  before her,  but her testimony  begins later  in these                                                               
9:14:24 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN, regarding  the reports that will  be sent to                                                               
BUD,  stated  his  assumption  that the  reports  would  be  made                                                               
available to anyone  in the legislature who would  like to review                                                               
9:14:44 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  said he doesn't know  whether BUD would                                                               
consider those reports confidential  and, if so, whether language                                                               
should be added to allow access to members of the legislature.                                                                  
9:15:03 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN clarified  that he is not  talking about "the                                                               
particulars of each complaint," but  rather "the numbers of this,                                                               
the numbers of that, in broad categories."                                                                                      
9:15:17 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON told  Representative Lynn that the  details are held                                                               
confidential by  the ombudsman  and the  report would  detail the                                                               
number of  calls and  types of  fraud waste  and abuse  that have                                                               
been reported.                                                                                                                  
9:16:21 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  PAWLOWSKI, in  response  to a  question  from Chair  Seaton,                                                               
stated his understanding that it  would be the prerogative of the                                                               
chair of  BUD [whether or  not to  make the reports  available to                                                               
the legislature].   He emphasized  that it  is not the  intent of                                                               
the  sponsor that  the records  be  kept confidential,  primarily                                                               
because the  information could be helpful  to legislators working                                                               
through  "the typical  budget  process that  we  do work  through                                                               
every year."                                                                                                                    
9:17:00 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEATON  asked  if  [BUD] typically  reports  back  to  the                                                               
legislature at the beginning of  a new legislature regarding "the                                                               
activity they've taken in our behalf in the interim."                                                                           
9:17:30 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE ELKINS said he doesn't think so.                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said no.                                                                                               
9:17:35 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN  suggested language to allow  the legislature                                                               
to request the reports.                                                                                                         
9:18:03 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON stated  that he thinks the entire  function of [BUD]                                                               
is to  serve in the  legislature's stead,  and he thinks  all the                                                               
records of that committee are available to the legislature.                                                                     
9:18:31 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  ELKINS  said he  thinks  "any  one of  us"  could                                                               
request  the  blanket report  from  the  ombudsman, because  it's                                                               
probably a public document.                                                                                                     
9:18:54 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON  directed attention to  page 2, [subsection  (d), as                                                               
amended],  which  read:    "The ombudsman  shall  report  to  the                                                               
Legislative  Budget   and  Audit   Committee  every   six  months                                                               
regarding the  number of  calls, and the  types of  fraud, waste,                                                               
and abuse  reported through the  hotline program."  He  asked the                                                               
state  ombudsman if  that would  be a  document available  to the                                                               
9:19:17 AM                                                                                                                    
LINDA  LORD-JENKINS,   Ombudsman,  Office  of  the   Ombudsman  -                                                               
Anchorage, responded, "It  could be a report depending  on how we                                                               
redact specific information from it."                                                                                           
9:19:33 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON indicated that, as  the bill reads, there should not                                                               
be  any information  in  the report  that  would need  redacting,                                                               
because the  legislature would  not be  asking for  anything that                                                               
would be  confidential or would  identify [any  person contacting                                                               
the hotline].                                                                                                                   
9:19:55 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  JENKINS,  in  response  to a  question  from  Chair  Seaton,                                                               
confirmed that  she would make  the report available even  if she                                                               
had to make some redactions.                                                                                                    
9:20:57 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG noted that the  bill would be heard next                                                               
in the  House Judiciary  Standing Committee.   He asked  that Ms.                                                               
Lord-Jenkins  and  Mr.  Pawlowski   work  with  John  McKay,  the                                                               
attorney for the  Anchorage Daily News, to  "determine the answer                                                             
to that question and, if  necessary, come up with some language."                                                               
He  committed to  offer that  [language] in  the House  Judiciary                                                               
Standing Committee if it is a reasonable solution.                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN said that would satisfy him.                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARDNER suggested  that the  report be  routinely                                                               
sent by e-mail to all sitting legislators.                                                                                      
9:21:34 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  ELKINS said  [the report]  is a  public document,                                                               
but  he sees  negative  pitfalls in  "making this  too  big of  a                                                               
public field."   He said the  press can take something  minor and                                                               
blow it  out of proportion,  so he  advised against making  a big                                                               
deal that it is public.                                                                                                         
9:22:34 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   GRUENBERG   said  -   Representative   Gardner's                                                               
consideration aside - he wants to  ensure that there is an answer                                                               
to the question regarding public document law.                                                                                  
9:23:16 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. PAWLOWSKI  said he agrees with  Representative Gruenberg that                                                               
it  isn't explicit  in  law, and  he said  it  would concern  the                                                               
sponsor if  members of  [the legislature]  didn't have  access to                                                               
the reports.                                                                                                                    
9:24:14 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG explained  that Representative Gardner's                                                               
suggestion would  send the reports  directly to  the legislators,                                                               
not the entire public.                                                                                                          
9:24:33 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  ELKINS said  he  understands  that, but  quipped,                                                               
"And we  all know without  a shadow of  a doubt that  our e-mails                                                               
are very safe and very sacred."                                                                                                 
9:24:48 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON  said getting  reports from  numerous agencies  is a                                                               
standard  requirement.   He said  the only  reason he  thinks the                                                               
report would be  going to [BUD] instead of to  the legislature is                                                               
if "we're  going to be getting  reports on an interim  basis that                                                               
the legislature wouldn't be able to receive."                                                                                   
9:25:42 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  suggested [to  Representative  Gardner                                                               
that  she  could   offer  an  amendment  to]   change  the  words                                                               
"Legislative Budget and Audit Committee"  on page 2, lines 12-13,                                                               
to "Legislature".                                                                                                               
9:26:10 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER said,  "It seems to me that  if the report                                                               
formally goes to the Legislative  Budget and Audit Committee they                                                               
have a duty  to review it."   She said she just wants  to be able                                                               
to see the reports.                                                                                                             
9:26:33 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG indicated that  the language just states                                                               
that the  report is sent to  [BUD]; it doesn't mean  that anybody                                                               
will look  at it.   He said  if Representative Gardner  wants the                                                               
report to  be available to  the legislature, he would  support an                                                               
amendment to that intent.                                                                                                       
9:27:03 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER moved to adopt Amendment 4, as follows:                                                                  
     Page 2, lines 12-13:                                                                                                       
     Delete "Legislative Budget and Audit Committee"                                                                            
     Insert "legislature"                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER  said, "I  just think we  need to  know if                                                               
there's thousands of these or a couple dozen."                                                                                  
9:27:48 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  ELKINS  objected to  Amendment  4.   He  said  he                                                               
thinks if [BUD] is doing its job,  it would be certain to let the                                                               
legislature know if it sees any danger signs, for example.                                                                      
9:28:18 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON asked Representative Gardner  if she still wants the                                                               
report  to be  sent every  six months,  or if  she would  like to                                                               
change it to annually.                                                                                                          
9:28:45 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER said  it is fine to leave  the language at                                                               
"every six months" [on page 2, line 13].                                                                                        
9:28:54 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON restated Amendment 4.                                                                                              
9:29:25 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARDNER added,  "I  envisioned  something in  the                                                               
nature  simply of  an  e-mail, with  maybe  an attached  synopsis                                                               
9:29:33 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEATON asked  if Representative  Gardner wanted  to change                                                               
Amendment  4   to  read  "shall  report   electronically  to  the                                                               
9:29:49 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER said it doesn't matter.                                                                                  
9:29:55 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. PAWLOWSKI recommended  the requirement to send  the report to                                                               
the legislature  be additional language, rather  than replacement                                                               
language.   He explained  that given  the Legislative  Budget and                                                               
Audit  Committee's specific  purview  and  jurisdiction over  the                                                               
"legislative  audit  division,"  the   reports  could  have  very                                                               
significant meaning for that committee.                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER withdrew Amendment 4.                                                                                    
9:31:32 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARDNER   moved  [Conceptual]  Amendment   5,  as                                                               
     Page 2, line 13:                                                                                                           
     After "every six months"                                                                                                   
     Insert ", and to the legislature annually,"                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ELKINS  objected to [Conceptual] Amendment  5.  He                                                               
said he  thinks the  committee made some  good amendments  to the                                                               
bill already and now is starting to "gum it up."                                                                                
9:32:42 AM                                                                                                                    
A roll call vote was  taken.  Representatives Gardner, Gruenberg,                                                               
Lynn,  and  Seaton voted  in  favor  of Conceptual  Amendment  5.                                                               
Representative Elkins  voted against  it.   Therefore, Conceptual                                                               
Amendment 5 passed by a vote of 4-1.                                                                                            
9:34:38 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARDNER  moved to  report  CSHB  86, Version  24-                                                               
LS0237\Y,  Craver, 4/20/05,  as  amended, out  of committee  with                                                               
individual  recommendations and  the  accompanying fiscal  notes.                                                               
There being  no objection, CSHB  86(STA) was reported out  of the                                                               
House State Affairs Standing Committee.                                                                                       

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