Legislature(2021 - 2022)BUTROVICH 205
05/03/2022 01:30 PM Senate HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES
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SB 191-REPEAL COVID 19 DISASTER EMERGENCY 2:15:52 PM CHAIR WILSON reconvened the meeting and announced the consideration of SENATE BILL NO. 191 "An Act repealing emergency powers of the commissioner of health and social services and certain provisions related to the response to the novel coronavirus disease; and providing for an effective date." 2:16:11 PM SENATOR LORA REINBOLD, speaking as the sponsor of SB 191, introduced the legislation by reading the following sponsor statement: The purpose of SB 191 is to repeal the emergency powers of the commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services related to the response to the novel coronavirus. The responsibility lies with the Governor, nowhere in the state or United States Constitution does it allow for this transfer of power. Separation of Powers is vital to the fabric of our country and state, repealing the emergency powers of the commissioner restores the delicate balance. SENATOR REINBOLD directed attention to the sectional analysis for SB 191 and then discussed the reasons she feels SB 191 is so important. The sectional analysis read as follows: Section One: Sections 4,9,10,13-16, 20, and 21 (b)- (e), Ch. 2, SLA 2021, are repealed. Section Two: This Act takes effect immediately under AS 01.10.070 (c) SENATOR REINBOLD relayed her belief that it was extremely important for either the Department of Law or the administration to tell Alaskans what the difference is between an emergency and a disaster declaration. She highlighted that the emergency Governor Dunleavy declared in March 2020 that was supposed to last just 30 days was still in effect, and that power regarding this emergency had been ceded to Commissioner Crum. She called this a massive abuse of power. She referenced SB 144 that she introduced to embolden the Legislative Branch to address emergencies and mentioned the vaccination bill of rights put forward in SB 156 that was related to SB 191. 2:21:55 PM SENATOR REINBOLD stated that on December 20, 2021 she wrote a letter under the Freedom of Information Act asking the administration to provide answers to issues, and she would like those to be part of the record to explain why SB 191 is so important. She described the issues as follows: 1. Provide all clinical evidence of the isolated COVID-19 virus and know variants and where they had been identified and isolated. This is to justify the emergency. Question number 11, in particular, is a really good one. 2. Provide all clinical evidence that masks have been successful in preventing the spread of COVID-19, and which ones worked the best. 3. Provide all available clinical evidence that social distancing has been effective at stopping the spread of COVID-19. 4. Provide all clinical evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are in fact true traditional vaccines and that they provide immunity, not just mRNA therapy technology. 5. Provide all clinical evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing COVID-19 infection and which have been proven to be the most effective. 6. Provide all clinical evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are effective in preventing the spread and which vaccines have been proven to be the most effective, including the clinical data. 7. Provide all clinical evidence that COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be safe for human use, backed by clinical data. Please show the adverse events/deaths that have followed with the use of these vaccines and which have been least safe according to all available clinical evidence. 8. Provide a list of the ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccines, broken out be manufacturer. 9. Provide information regarding known adverse events regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. 10. Provide all evidence that pertains to COVID-19 vaccines in the US that each is fully FDA approved for broad use. 11. Provide all clinical evidence that an emergency exists to justify the emergency use of the products. 12. Provide the clinical information on the batches or lots of vaccine may carry the mRNA technology - either the RNA or the DNA, and any basic thing that could happen to that. 13. Provide all clinical documentation for the long-term effects, including the side effects of the mRNA vaccinations in COVID-19. SENATOR REINBOLD stated that the response to the forgoing questions could be described as non-answers. She found this unacceptable because Alaskans have the right to know the answers. In conclusion she noted the zero fiscal note and urged the governor to answer the questions and lift this unnecessary emergency order. SENATOR COSTELLO said she shares the concern that power that should reside with the governor has been ceded to an unelected official. She asked when Commissioner Crum's emergency powers would end if SB 191 did not pass. 2:31:06 PM SENATOR REINBOLD answered that the bill has an immediate effective date, but Commissioner Crum has the power to end the emergency right now. She has requested an end to the emergency declaration repeatedly but to no avail. She understands that one reason is related to the enhanced SNAP benefits and she views that as an abuse of power. Her belief is that more people would return to work if benefits such as these were not available. 2:32:45 PM SENATOR HUGHES referenced a bill that passed that says the commissioner's authority would expire either when the executive branch says the emergency is ending or when the Center for Disease Control (CDC) says the emergency is over. The federal emergency currently is under a 90-day extension that will end in mid-July. She acknowledged that the bill did designate narrow authority to the commissioner. The department could: provide public health services to mitigate the emergency, maintain federal benefits for SNAP and congregate sheltering, and procure and allocate medications related to the public health emergency. 2:35:14 PM SENATOR BEGICH asked, since this is in uncodified law, would the question be moot as of June 30 when the Department of Health and Social Services ceases to exist. He also asked the sponsor to post the letter to DR. Zink on BASIS so it would be available to the public. SENATOR BEGICH said his concern with SB 191 is that it goes beyond the commissioner's power. He specifically described Sections 9, and 10, ch. 2, SLA 2021 that would be repealed: • Section 9 relates to legislation from Senator Costello currently under consideration in the House relating to charitable online gaming. He said he'd be reluctant to take away the ability for that to continue. • Section 10 relating to school operating funds was removed from SB 111 to ensure a repeal date of June 30, 2025 because of the federal funding to the state for COVID and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The intention was for schools to have the ability to absorb that money. SENATOR BEGICH and asked the sponsor why Sections 9 and 10 were included in SB 191. Both are issues of public policy that have not been settled, which could cause great hardship for school districts and charitable businesses that are operating online. 2:39:23 PM SENATOR REINBOLD said she would like both her letter to Dr. Zink and the administration's response to be part of the public record. SENATOR BEGICH clarified that he requested the letter from Dr. Zink, the sponsor's letter, and the response from the administration to be posted on BASIS. SENATOR REINBOLD read the February 8, 2022 memorandum from Megan A. Wallace, Legal Services director: Attached is the draft bill you requested, relating to the repeal of ch. 2, SLA 2021 (HB 76). Please note that some sections were not repealed, because they have already been repealed. More specifically, under sec. 21, ch. 2, SLA 2021, secs. 1 3, 5, 7, 8, 11, and 17 were repealed on April 30, 2021, when the governor declared that the public health disaster emergency no longer existed. I also did not repeal sec. 6, because the final report was due under that section no later than January 31, 2022, which has already passed. Please note that considering your request to repeal the Act in its "entirety," I repealed sec. 12, which is a section preventing the governor from using the revised program legislative (RPL) process to increase an appropriation item for the fiscal years ending June 30, 2021, based on certain additional federal receipts. If you did not intend to repeal that restriction, please let me know. Finally, secs. 18 and 19 were not repealed, because they created new repeal dates for ch. 10, SLA 2020, which have already passed. 2:41:30 PM SENATOR BEGICH said he was asking specifically about Sections 9 and 10, which the memo did not mention. SENATOR REINBOLD provided the following response: If we have another piece of legislation in play right now, it would probably be wise to just go ahead and move forward and not keep the whole state under, in some people's opinion, oppression. If we just need to just deal with gaming, let's deal with gaming. But we don't need to keep everybody in this unnecessary, constant over two year state of emergency. Also we can do gaming. To me that doesn't make sense. 2:43:57 PM CHAIR WILSON opened public testimony on SB 191. 2:44:19 PM CINDY FULLER, representing self, Juneau, Alaska, said the COVID- 19 mitigations that are being done to people need to stop. There have been hundreds of kids that haven't been in class because they weren't masked. She asked the committee to pass SB 191 so people can get on with their lives and money could be spent on more important things. 2:46:02 PM RICH ANDERSON, representing self, Juneau, Alaska, described traveling throughout the US last year and finding the conditions close to normal, but not in Juneau. He opined that the pandemic will be over when people decide it's over. As an issue it's becoming less relevant. He said it's time for people to get on with their lives because the fallout could be worse than the pandemic. People have anxiety disorders that "weren't on the map" pre COVID. He urged the committee to help people move forward. He also voiced concern that power was given to nonelected people because the public didn't have a say and can't vote them from office. 2:49:46 PM ELIZE GAVITT, representing self, Juneau, Alaska, stated that she supports SB 191 because the mandates are ruining society and traumatizing children. People should trust their immune system. 2:50:20 PM LISA WARD, representing self, Juneau, Alaska, stated support for SB 191. She asked when in history an emergency lasted two years and emphasized that it was time to move forward. 2:51:06 PM CHAIR WILSON closed public testimony on SB 191. SENATOR COSTELLO referenced an earlier question about what would happen to the more than 800 charities that are permitted to conduct online gaming to support things like youth sports and other activities. She explained that the online portion would end June 30 unless SB 201 were to pass. SENATOR BEGICH clarified that Section 10 does not have anything to do with spending money for masks for students. It's about an issue that's been debated for years about whether to give school districts flexibility on their fund balances. That provision was removed from SB 111, and if SB 191 were to pass as currently drafted, it would not be possible to address that fund balance issue. That is the reason for his concern about SB 191. 2:52:47 PM SENATOR REINBOLD said she would be happy to work with Senator Begich and Senator Costello to resolve the issues related to school operating funds and online gaming. SENATOR HUGHES said she too was concerned that SB 191 included Section 10, ch. 2, SLA 2021. She continued to say that she appreciates the sponsor's efforts, but wonders if Mayor Bronson was relying on the federal COVID funding to develop a long term strategy to address shelter for the homeless. She asked the sponsor if she had been in conversations with Mayor Bronson. SENATOR REINBOLD answered that she had spoken to Mayor Bronson, but on a different topic. She said the disaster declaration has created a disaster that the state may never recover from, and the entire state should not have to be in a state of emergency to deal with the homeless issue, as important as it is. 2:56:43 PM CHAIR WILSON reviewed the questions the committee posed that require follow up. 2:57:40 PM At ease. 2:57:54 PM CHAIR WILSON reconvened the meeting and reviewed the committee schedule. CHAIR WILSON held SB 191 in committee.