Legislature(2019 - 2020)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

03/19/2020 01:30 PM LABOR & COMMERCE

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Audio Topic
02:02:35 PM Start
02:03:32 PM Confirmation Hearing(s)
02:12:48 PM SB215
02:38:38 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Consideration of Governor's Appointees: TELECONFERENCED
Marijuana Control Board
- Christopher Jaime
- Bruce Schulte
- Casey Dschaak
Board of Certified Direct-Entry Midwives
- Bethel Belisle
*+ SB 215 AK ED SAVINGS PROGRAMS/ELIGIBILITY TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
           SB 215-AK ED SAVINGS PROGRAMS/ELIGIBILITY                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
2:12:48 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR   BISHOP  reconvened   the   meeting   and  announced   the                                                               
consideration of  SENATE BILL  NO. 215, "An  Act relating  to the                                                               
Alaska  savings program  for  eligible  individuals; relating  to                                                               
education savings  programs; relating  to the Education  Trust of                                                               
Alaska; relating  to the Alaska  advance college  tuition savings                                                               
fund;  relating  to  the Alaska  education  savings  program  for                                                               
children; and relating to the  Governor's Council on Disabilities                                                               
and Special Education."                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
He noted that this was the first hearing for the bill.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
2:12:59 PM                                                                                                                    
At ease                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
2:13:10 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR BISHOP reconvened the meeting.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
2:13:52 PM                                                                                                                    
EMMY  JACKSON,   Staff,  Senator  Cathy  Giessel,   Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, introduced herself.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CLARE  BALDWIN,  Intern,  Senator  Cathy  Giessel,  Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, Juneau, Alaska,  introduced SB 215 on  behalf of the                                                               
sponsor with a PowerPoint: SB 215: ABLE Update Bill.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
2:14:11 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. BALDWIN  turned to   slide  2, What is  an ABLE  Account. She                                                               
explained that  the acronym  stands for  achieving a  better life                                                               
experience. ABLE  Accounts provide  tax-free savings  account for                                                               
individuals with qualifying physical  and mental disabilities and                                                               
blindness. Up  to $2,000 can be  put into an ABLE  Account and be                                                               
used  to pay  for housing,  education, and  transportation. These                                                               
funds  do  not count  against  eligibility  for Medicaid,  FAFSA,                                                               
Social Security Income, or needs-based income.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
2:15:20 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. BALDWIN  explained that the ABLE  Act was passed in  2013 and                                                               
in July 2016 the Alaska ABLE  Act was signed into law largely due                                                               
to  the efforts  of Senator  Giessel and  Representative Saddler.                                                               
The  University of  Alaska Fairbanks  (UAF)  helped the  sponsors                                                               
better  understand 529  accounts  and the  Department of  Revenue                                                               
provided information on how to  set up these accounts. The Alaska                                                               
Mental Health  Trust Authority provided  funding for FY  2017 and                                                               
FY 2018. The bill provided  start-up funding for outreach to help                                                               
inform individuals about the 529  accounts. In 2013, the National                                                               
ABLE Alliance  helped the program become  self-sustaining through                                                               
account owner  fees and gave  account owners in 17  states access                                                               
to  the alliance's  staff  and lawyers  for  help with  financial                                                               
planning,  college  savings  programs,   and  health  and  social                                                               
services.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS. BALDWIN said that in  Alaska, the ABLE programming, research,                                                               
and  outreach   is  conducted  by   the  Governor's   Council  on                                                               
Disabilities and Special Education.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
2:17:23 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  BALDWIN reviewed  the updates  to the  ABLE Act  outlined on                                                               
slides 6-7. She advised that the  2017 ABLE to Work Act increased                                                               
the annual contribution levels  to encourage disabled individuals                                                               
to find employment. Contribution  levels currently are limited to                                                               
$15,000 annually,  and this bill  expands that amount  to $27,060                                                               
per year.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS.  BALDWIN said  the next  update was  the 2017  ABLE Financial                                                               
Planning Act  that allowed individuals who  incurred disabilities                                                               
after they  established 529  college savings  plan to  roll those                                                               
savings  into an  ABLE account.  She  relayed that  the ABLE  Age                                                               
Adjustment  Act is  pending legislation  that would  increase the                                                               
threshold  age  of  eligibility  from  26 to  46  to  allow  more                                                               
participation in ABLE accounts.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
2:18:53 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  BALDWIN  turned to  slide  10  that highlights  the  updates                                                               
proposed in  SB 215. It reassigns  department responsibility from                                                               
the  Department of    Revenue  to the  Department  of Health  and                                                               
Social Services.  It also expands  the age eligibility  limits to                                                               
match  the federal  guidelines. the  bill also  contains matching                                                               
federal  language so  Alaska law  will change  automatically with                                                               
federal changes.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
2:19:36 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS asked if age 46 is for eligibility but                                                                          
individuals can keep accounts after that.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS. BALDWIN answered yes.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
2:20:03 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. JACKSON provided a sectional analysis for SB 215:                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     Section  1 Establishes  AS  06.65.020(b). Requires  the                                                                    
     Department  of Health  and Social  Services to  consult                                                                    
     with  the   Governor's  Council  on   Disabilities  and                                                                    
     Special  Education when  overseeing the  Alaska Savings                                                                    
     Program.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     Section 2  Expands the  age of  eligibility from  26 to                                                                    
     match proposed federal law age of 46.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     Section 7  Removes the distinction of  higher education                                                                    
     when referring to an education savings account.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     Section  8  Removes  the distinction  of  postsecondary                                                                    
     education  when  referring   to  an  education  savings                                                                    
     account. Renames  the "Alaska Higher  Education Savings                                                                    
     Trust" to the "Education Trust of Alaska".                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     Section  10  Establishes  AS  14.40.802(f)(3).  Expands                                                                    
     options  for an  account participants  to change  their                                                                    
     beneficiary to any individual.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     Allows account  participants to transfer  funds between                                                                    
     accounts  if the  amount  transferred  does not  exceed                                                                    
     federal  limits  and  the contribution  is  for  a  new                                                                    
     beneficiary who is a family  member who is eligible for                                                                    
     their own account.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     Section 12 Allows a program  participant to designate a                                                                    
     successor  participant  to  their  account  and  allows                                                                    
     changes to take effect immediately.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
2:23:01 PM                                                                                                                    
At ease                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
2:23:20 PM                                                                                                                    
VICE CHAIR STEVENS said he was chairing remainder of the meeting                                                                
to allow Chair Bishop to attend another meeting.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
He asked if  the ABLE program has been successful  and the number                                                               
of accounts in Alaska.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MS. BALDWIN answered  that that currently, there  are 365 account                                                               
owners. The program is very successful with additions each year.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
VICE CHAIR STEVENS moved to invited testimony.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
2:24:39 PM                                                                                                                    
STUART  SPIELMAN,  Senior  Vice President,  Autism  Speaks  Inc.,                                                               
Washington,  DC, spoke  in  support  of SB  215.  He said  Autism                                                               
Speaks is  the largest autism  science and advocacy group  in the                                                               
country  and  it  has  been  a  longstanding  proponent  of  ABLE                                                               
accounts. These  accounts were  established in  2016 and  in 2019                                                               
the  number of  accounts had  grown to  56,332 with  total assets                                                               
under  management   of  $354.8  million.  These   very  important                                                               
accounts  establish  equity  for people  with  disabilities  that                                                               
didn't previously exist.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
He  relayed that  he is  the parent  of a  child with  autism and                                                               
before  ABLE accounts  were  established,  he discouraged  people                                                               
from making  financial contributions  to his  son out  of concern                                                               
that it could  jeopardize other needed benefits.  Because of ABLE                                                               
accounts, individuals with disabilities  are allowed save for the                                                               
future without  fear of losing essential  benefits like Medicaid.                                                               
Autism Speaks  and the disability  community in  general embraces                                                               
this program.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
VICE CHAIR STEVENS asked him to  talk about limits on the way the                                                               
funds can be used and whether the account can go to a successor.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR.  SPIELMAN replied  there  are provisions  in  law related  to                                                               
rollovers.  The money  can  be  used in  broad  ways  such as  to                                                               
purchase a  speech enhancement device  for an autistic  person or                                                               
it could be  used to provide support, such as  a job coach. These                                                               
accounts  are   available  to  people   with  autism   and  other                                                               
disabilities.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
VICE  CHAIR STEVENS  asked what  happens  to the  funds when  the                                                               
account holder passes away.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. SPIELMAN answered that the  statute allows rollovers to other                                                               
individuals  with disabilities  and there  is a  possibility that                                                               
the funds could go into the  deceased's estate. It depends on the                                                               
money that is available at the time of passing.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
VICE CHAIR  STEVENS said he was  pleased that the funds  could go                                                               
to another person with a disability.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. SPIELMAN agreed that could happen.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
2:29:41 PM                                                                                                                    
SANA  ELFIRD, Assistant  Commissioner, Department  of Health  and                                                               
Social Services  (DHSS), Juneau,  Alaska, said she  was available                                                               
to answer questions  related to the provision  that transfers the                                                               
ABLE  program to  the Department  of Health  and Social  Services                                                               
since  the   Governor's  Council  on  Disabilities   and  Special                                                               
Education already falls under the DHSS.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
VICE  CHAIR STEVENS  asked  if the  ABLE  program previously  was                                                               
under the Department of Education and Early Development (DEED).                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MS. ELFIRD answered  no; it has always been  under the Department                                                               
of  Revenue  (DOR) because  DOR  took  the  lead to  perform  the                                                               
analysis and  establish the  financial side  of how  the accounts                                                               
would be managed.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
VICE CHAIR  STEVENS asked if DHSS  was ready to accept  or assume                                                               
the responsibility.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MS. ELFIRD answered yes.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
2:32:14 PM                                                                                                                    
KRISTIN  VANDAGRIFF, Executive  Director,  Governor's Council  on                                                               
Disabilities  and Special  Education,  Anchorage, Alaska,  stated                                                               
that the council  commends the sponsor for introducing  SB 215 to                                                               
align  the state's  statutes that  govern  ABLE account  programs                                                               
with the  federal program authorizing  the funds.  These accounts                                                               
provide a  valuable tool for  Alaskans with  disabilities because                                                               
ABLE accounts  allow a  higher cost of  living and  greater self-                                                               
sufficiency  and  savings   for  qualifying  disability  expenses                                                               
without  jeopardizing  vital  public   benefits  such  as  Social                                                               
Security  and Medicaid.  Many of  the amendments  in SB  215 will                                                               
improve the  flexibility of the savings  plans including allowing                                                               
rolling the  529 college savings  accounts into an  ABLE account.                                                               
The council is  ready and willing to provide  the lead department                                                               
with  disability-related consultation  and support  for the  ABLE                                                               
account program  objective through advocacy and  advice, outreach                                                               
and  training,  promotion  and  marketing,  and  reports  to  the                                                               
legislature on data  and stakeholder input. It  is the Governor's                                                               
Council  on Disabilities  and  Special Education's  understanding                                                               
that  the DHSS's  finance and  management services  division will                                                               
oversee all  the financial management  and investment  aspects of                                                               
administering the  Alaska ABLE  program. The  council's executive                                                               
committee  submitted  a  letter   to  the  sponsor,  in  members'                                                               
packets, that provides additional details.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
VICE CHAIR  STEVENS asked if  she supports the transfer  from the                                                               
DOR to the DHSS.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MS. VANDAGRIFF replied the council views this as a positive.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
2:35:43 PM                                                                                                                    
PAMELA LEARY,  Director, Treasury Division, Alaska  Department of                                                               
Revenue (DOR),  Juneau, Alaska, stated that  she has participated                                                               
in the National Alliance of  States, now 17 strong, in developing                                                               
and  procuring a  vendor for  the  ABLE program.  It has  rapidly                                                               
grown  to 414  funded accounts  in  Alaska with  $2.4 million  in                                                               
those accounts  as of  March 14,  2020. She  spoke in  support of                                                               
transferring the ABLE  program from the Department  of Revenue to                                                               
the Department  of Health  and Social  Services (DHSS).  She said                                                               
that she has enjoyed being part  of the national alliance but the                                                               
program will  be better served  in the  DHSS since it  has direct                                                               
contact with  the Governor's Council on  Disabilities and Special                                                               
Education  and  the  constituents  who will  receive  the  direct                                                               
benefits of the ABLE program.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
2:37:08 PM                                                                                                                    
TAMMI  WEAVER,  Chief  Treasury  Officer,  University  of  Alaska                                                               
Fairbanks, Fairbanks,  Alaska, stated that the  university serves                                                               
as  the  trustee  for  the   Education  Trust  of  Alaska,  which                                                               
administers Alaska's  programs. The bill will  allow rollovers of                                                               
the current accounts to ABLE accounts.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
2:38:00 PM                                                                                                                    
VICE  CHAIR  STEVENS determined  no  one  wished to  comment  and                                                               
closed public testimony on SB 215.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
2:38:30 PM                                                                                                                    
VICE CHAIR STEVENS held SB 215 in committee.                                                                                    

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
L&C Marijuana Control Board Dschaak #1.pdf SL&C 3/19/2020 1:30:00 PM
Confirmations
L&C Marijuana Control Board Jaime #1.pdf SL&C 3/19/2020 1:30:00 PM
Confirmations
L&C Marijuana Control Board Schulte #1.pdf SL&C 3/19/2020 1:30:00 PM
Confirmations
L&C Direct entry Midwives Belisle #5.pdf SL&C 3/19/2020 1:30:00 PM
Confirmations
Schulte- Letters of Support- 3-18-20.pdf SL&C 3/19/2020 1:30:00 PM
Confirmations
Jaime- Letters of support 03-18-20.pdf SL&C 3/19/2020 1:30:00 PM
Confirmations
SB 215 Sponsor Statement 3.3.2020.pdf SL&C 3/19/2020 1:30:00 PM
SB 215
SB 215 Sectional Analysis v. S 3.3.2020.pdf SL&C 3/19/2020 1:30:00 PM
SB 215
SB 215 Draft Fiscal Note DHSS-ASS- 3-13-20.pdf SL&C 3/19/2020 1:30:00 PM
SB 215
SB 215 Presentation by Sponsor.pdf SL&C 3/19/2020 1:30:00 PM
SB 215
SB 215 10 Things You Should Know About ABLE 3.3.2020.pdf SL&C 3/19/2020 1:30:00 PM
SB 215
SB 215 IRS ABLE Accounts Info 3.3.2020.pdf SL&C 3/19/2020 1:30:00 PM
SB 215
SB 215 Alaska 529 New Brand 3.3.2020.pdf SL&C 3/19/2020 1:30:00 PM
SB 215