Legislature(2005 - 2006)SENATE FINANCE 532

05/02/2006 09:00 AM FINANCE

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved SCS CSHB 318(FIN) Out of Committee
Moved SCS CSHB 380(RES) Out of Committee
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
Scheduled But Not Heard
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
     SENATE CS FOR CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 380(RES)                                                                               
     "An  Act   relating  to  the   powers  and  duties   of  the                                                               
     commissioner   of   environmental   conservation   regarding                                                               
     animals,  animal products,  agricultural  products, and  the                                                               
     transportation of  animals and animal products;  relating to                                                               
     the  employment,   appointment,  and   duties  of   a  state                                                               
     veterinarian   by   the    commissioner   of   environmental                                                               
     conservation; relating to the  powers of the commissioner of                                                               
     natural resources regarding  agricultural products; relating                                                               
     to animal  rabies prevention and control;  and providing for                                                               
     an effective date."                                                                                                        
9:32:11 AM                                                                                                                    
This was  the first hearing for  this bill in the  Senate Finance                                                               
MICHAEL  PAWLOWSKI,  Staff  to Representative  Kevin  Meyer,  the                                                               
bill's sponsor, communicated that  many "working groups" met over                                                               
the Legislative interim to develop  this bill, which would revise                                                               
State   Statutes  pertaining   to  "the   powers  of   the  State                                                               
Veterinarian and our animals and animal product Statutes".                                                                      
Mr. Pawlowski  informed the  Committee that  the majority  of the                                                               
State's animal Statutes  were established prior to  1949 when the                                                               
majority of "animals were considered  livestock". Over time, "the                                                               
definition of  what an animal  or animal product is"  has changed                                                               
and State Statutes must evolve  to reflect current circumstances.                                                               
In addition,  such things as  Avian influenza and  other zoonotic                                                               
diseases must be considered.                                                                                                    
Mr.  Pawlowski proclaimed  that the  authorities provided  to the                                                               
Department  of Environmental  Conservation  by existing  Statutes                                                               
were deemed "inadequate  and the definitions were  unclear". As a                                                               
result, "the State was not in  a position to react accordingly in                                                               
the event of  a crisis". This bill "would repeal  and reenact the                                                               
majority of the  provisions of Title 3 as they  relate to animals                                                               
and animal products and the power of our State Veterinarian".                                                                   
Mr. Pawlowski contended  the changes made to the  bill during its                                                               
committee  hearing  process produced  a  good  product. The  bill                                                               
would  have no  fiscal impact.  This bill  "is one  piece of  the                                                               
puzzle" through which to address  the threat to humans from Avian                                                               
influenza   and  other   zoonotic   diseases,   which  could   be                                                               
transmitted by exposure to domestic animals.                                                                                    
9:33:50 AM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Green  asked for further  information about  issues that                                                               
were addressed during the bill's hearing process.                                                                               
9:34:05 AM                                                                                                                    
Mr. Pawlowski shared that the  State's agricultural community had                                                               
raised concerns. He  praised the efforts of  the Senate Resources                                                               
Committee, chaired by Senator Ralph  Seekins, in addressing those                                                               
concerns.  To  that  point, he  referenced  language  in  Section                                                               
1(b)(3)  and (4)  beginning  on  page 2  line  29 and  continuing                                                               
through  page 3,  line  2  of SCS  CS  HB  381(RES), Version  24-                                                               
LS1469\L.  This language  addressed the  procedure through  which                                                               
the  State  would  quarantine  or  destroy  an  animal.  Existing                                                               
"Statutes  are  completely  inadequate", as  they  would  provide                                                               
compensation  only for  dairy  cattle.  The compensation  levels,                                                               
ranging  from  $300 to  $500  per  animal  were also  limited  by                                                               
judicial district.  The value of  dairy cattle today  far exceeds                                                               
that value. Thus, the definition  of animal was expanded to align                                                               
with  the  federal  indemnity  payments   of  the  United  States                                                               
Department of Agriculture (USDA) program.                                                                                       
Mr. Pawlowski  stated that further consideration  was provided to                                                               
address  the  diversity  of  animals found  in  Alaska,  such  as                                                               
reindeer, which  might not  be included  for compensation  in the                                                               
federal indemnity  program. The compensation would  be subject to                                                               
appropriation. This  would "create  a vehicle" through  which the                                                               
Legislature  could,  in  an emergency,  provide  support  to  the                                                               
industry and a  community "to solve a problem  that really wasn't                                                               
of their making".                                                                                                               
Co-Chair Green  noted that  this would  address the  concern that                                                               
Committee members might have heard from constituents.                                                                           
In  response to  a  comment from  Co-Chair  Green, Mr.  Pawlowski                                                               
directed  attention to  another provision  in the  bill that  had                                                               
evoked concern:  the ability of  the DEC commissioner  to appoint                                                               
individuals  other than  the State's  Veterinarian to  enforce or                                                               
manage  provisions  in  Title  3. This  language  is  located  in                                                               
Section  1(b)(2),  page  2  lines  25-28.  The  Senate  Resources                                                               
committee substitute  addressed this concern by  incorporating on                                                               
lines  26 and  27 of  that subsection,  the requirement  that the                                                               
appointed individuals must  act under the direction  of the State                                                               
Mr. Pawlowski stated that were  there an Avian influenza outbreak                                                               
or  a foot  and  mouth outbreak  in a  reindeer  herd, the  State                                                               
Veterinarian must  possess the authority  to work  with municipal                                                               
officials  and local  veterinarians, and  act as  the responsible                                                               
party  in  overseeing  any  action  being  taken,  including  the                                                               
actions of an appointed individual.                                                                                             
9:36:51 AM                                                                                                                    
BOB   GERLACK,   State   Veterinarian,  Office   of   the   State                                                               
Veterinarian,  Division of  Environmental  Health, Department  of                                                               
Environmental Conservation, testified  via teleconference from an                                                               
offnet  site.  Current  State  Statutes  would  allow  the  State                                                               
Veterinarian  to   control  the  spread  of   contagious  disease                                                               
provided  it originated  with  livestock,  commercial poultry  or                                                               
animals of  fur farms. This  bill would expand this  authority to                                                               
help protect both domestic and  wildlife animal resources as well                                                               
as public health in the State.                                                                                                  
Mr. Gerlack stated  that this bill would  complement HB 95-PUBLIC                                                               
HEALTH  DISASTERS/EMERGENCIES,  which  was enacted  in  the  year                                                               
2005. That bill  allowed "public health officials  to control the                                                               
spread of contagious and potentially deadly diseases in people".                                                                
Mr. Gerlack  informed that  the regulations  in place  to control                                                               
infectious diseases  in animals  were reviewed  in the  past. The                                                               
determination was  that they created  "an artificial  system", as                                                               
they treated diseases in livestock,  wildlife, pets and people as                                                               
separate  issues.  "The  fact is  that  infectious  diseases  are                                                               
rarely restricted to an individual  group or species of animals."                                                               
They  could  not  be  "contained   by  artificial  or  geographic                                                               
boundary"  and "could  spread very  rapidly".  The emergence  and                                                               
rapid spread of  new diseases in this century  has presented "new                                                               
challenges for the  management and control of  animals and public                                                               
health  diseases". More  than "70  percent  of recent  infections                                                               
affecting people are zoonotic diseases",  which are diseases that                                                               
originate in animals but could  inflect people. Zoonotic diseases                                                               
could, on  a large scale,  negatively impact animal  health, food                                                               
supplies,  human health  and local  and national  economies. This                                                               
should be a concern to all people and industry.                                                                                 
Mr. Gerlack proclaimed that diseases  could spread into Alaska by                                                               
the  importation of  animals or  animal products  such as  dairy,                                                               
meats, animal feed, or domestic  or wild animal movement. Animals                                                               
could  easily transverse  the border  between Alaska  and Canada.                                                               
Migrating waterfowl  could introduce Avian influenza  or the West                                                               
Nile  virus  into  the  State. The  State  Veterinarian  must  be                                                               
provided the  authority and  tools to  protect people  and animal                                                               
resources  in the  State.  The current  authority  is limited  in                                                               
regards  to infectious  disease  control. In  addition, no  State                                                               
agency has  the authority to  manage all groups or  categories of                                                               
animals  including  domestic  livestock,  pets,  exotic  or  wild                                                               
animals. This  authority is urgently  needed in order  to control                                                               
threats to the State's animal resources or public health.                                                                       
9:40:58 AM                                                                                                                    
DR. LOUISA  CASTRODALE, Division of Public  Health, Department of                                                               
Health  and Social  Services, testified  via teleconference  from                                                               
Anchorage on  behalf of  Dr. Richard  Mandsager, Director  of the                                                               
Division.  The  Division,  which  works closely  with  the  State                                                               
Veterinarian's office on disease  investigations that affect both                                                               
animal and  human health, fully  supports this bill, as  it would                                                               
strengthen the collaborative effort.                                                                                            
9:41:40 AM                                                                                                                    
CHRISTIAN  RYAN,  Director,  Division  of  Environmental  Health,                                                               
Department  of  Environmental   Conservation,  was  available  to                                                               
respond to questions.                                                                                                           
Co-Chair  Green  asked   which  change  to  the   bill  was  most                                                               
significant in achieving support for it.                                                                                        
Ms. Ryan responded  that, during the bill's evolution,  "a lot of                                                               
changes  were  made   to  make  people  more   accepting  of  the                                                               
legislation". Broadening  the definition  of which  animals could                                                               
be quarantined  by the  State from livestock  to all  animals had                                                               
tremendous impact;  however, many  people were supportive  of the                                                               
bill due to  fear of the Avian flu and  other diseases that might                                                               
occur. The  addition of  the indemnity  clause through  which the                                                               
State  could reimburse  people for  animals that  might be  taken                                                               
also  satisfied  many  concerns.  The addition  of  the  language                                                               
specifying that no action could  be taken without the approval of                                                               
the  State  Veterinarian was  also  an  important element.  These                                                               
conditions appear to satisfy the concerns.                                                                                      
Co-Chair Green noted  the Alaska Department of Fish  and Game had                                                               
provided  a pamphlet  [copy on  file]  titled "A  Field Guide  To                                                               
Common Wildlife Diseases and Parasites in Alaska".                                                                              
9:43:13 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Bunde  moved to  report  the  bill from  Committee  with                                                               
individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal notes.                                                                       
There being  no objection, SCS  CS HB 380(RES) was  REPORTED from                                                               
Committee with  previous zero  fiscal note  #1 dated  February 6,                                                               
2006 from the Department of Environmental Conservation.                                                                         
AT EASE 9:44:14 AM / 9:46:12 AM                                                                                             

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