Legislature(1999 - 2000)

02/15/2000 03:56 PM House HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
               HOUSE HEALTH, EDUCATION AND SOCIAL                                                                               
                   SERVICES STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                                  
                        February 15, 2000                                                                                       
                            3:56 p.m.                                                                                           
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                                 
Representative Fred Dyson, Chairman                                                                                             
Representative Joe Green                                                                                                        
Representative Tom Brice                                                                                                        
Representative Allen Kemplen                                                                                                    
Representative John Coghill                                                                                                     
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                  
Representative Jim Whitaker                                                                                                     
Representative Carl Morgan                                                                                                      
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                              
HOUSE BILL NO. 336                                                                                                              
"An Act increasing the eligible maximum  amount for quality school                                                              
grant  funding   for  school  districts;  and  providing   for  an                                                              
effective date."                                                                                                                
     - HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                           
HOUSE BILL NO. 224                                                                                                              
"An   Act  requiring   a   public  employee   labor   organization                                                              
representing employees of a school  district, regional educational                                                              
attendance area, or a state boarding  school to give notice before                                                              
     - MOVED CSHB 224(HES) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                     
HOUSE BILL NO. 260                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to coverage of children  and pregnant women under                                                              
the medical  assistance  program; and providing  for an  effective                                                              
     - HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                           
PREVIOUS ACTION                                                                                                                 
BILL: HB 336                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: QUALITY SCHOOL GRANT FUND INCREASE                                                                                 
Jrn-Date    Jrn-Page           Action                                                                                           
 2/04/00      2092     (H)  READ THE FIRST TIME-REFERRALS                                                                       
 2/04/00      2092     (H)  HES, FIN                                                                                            
 2/04/00      2092     (H)  ZERO FISCAL NOTE (DOE)                                                                              
 2/04/00      2092     (H)  GOVERNOR'S TRANSMITTAL LETTER                                                                       
 2/04/00      2092     (H)  REFERRED TO HES                                                                                     
 2/15/00               (H)  HES AT   3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                                                                        
BILL: HB 224                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: PERA:  NOTICE BEFORE STRIKE                                                                                        
Jrn-Date    Jrn-Page           Action                                                                                           
 5/05/99      1180     (H)  READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S)                                                                   
 5/05/99      1180     (H)  HES, L&C                                                                                            
 5/06/99      1214     (H)  COSPONSOR(S): OGAN                                                                                  
 5/07/99      1247     (H)  COSPONSOR(S): DYSON                                                                                 
 1/25/00               (H)  HES AT   3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                                                                        
 1/25/00               (H)  -- Meeting Canceled --                                                                              
 2/03/00               (H)  HES AT   4:00 PM CAPITOL 106                                                                        
 2/03/00               (H)  -- Meeting Canceled --                                                                              
 2/08/00               (H)  HES AT   3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                                                                        
 2/08/00               (H)  Heard & Held                                                                                        
 2/08/00               (H)  MINUTE(HES)                                                                                         
 2/15/00               (H)  HES AT   3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                                                                        
BILL: HB 260                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: MEDICAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM COVERAGE                                                                                
Jrn-Date    Jrn-Page           Action                                                                                           
 1/10/00      1887     (H)  PREFILE RELEASED 12/30/99                                                                           
 1/10/00      1887     (H)  READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                     
 1/10/00      1887     (H)  HES, FIN                                                                                            
 1/10/00      1887     (H)  REFERRED TO HES                                                                                     
 1/27/00               (H)  HES AT   3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                                                                        
 1/27/00               (H)  <Bill Postponed>                                                                                    
 2/08/00               (H)  HES AT   3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                                                                        
 2/08/00               (H)  Heard & Held                                                                                        
 2/08/00               (H)  MINUTE(HES)                                                                                         
 2/15/00               (H)  HES AT   3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                                                                        
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                                
RICHARD CROSS, Commissioner                                                                                                     
Department of Education & Early Development                                                                                     
801 West Tenth Street, Suite 200                                                                                                
Juneau, Alaska  99811                                                                                                           
POSITION STATEMENT:  Presented HB 336.                                                                                          
CARL ROSE, Executive Director                                                                                                   
Association of Alaska School Boards                                                                                             
316 West Eleventh Street                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska  99801                                                                                                           
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 336 and HB 224.                                                                 
JOHN CYR, President                                                                                                             
National Education Association-Alaska                                                                                           
114 Second Street                                                                                                               
Juneau, Alaska  99801                                                                                                           
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 336; testified on                                                               
HB 224.                                                                                                                         
RANDY LORENZ, Researcher                                                                                                        
   for Representative Vic Kohring                                                                                               
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Capitol Building, Room 421                                                                                                      
Juneau, Alaska  99801                                                                                                           
POSITION STATEMENT:  Presented HB 224.                                                                                          
LARRY WIGET, Executive Director                                                                                                 
Public Affairs                                                                                                                  
Anchorage School District                                                                                                       
4600 DeBarr Road                                                                                                                
Anchorage, Alaska  99519                                                                                                        
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 224.                                                                            
DARROLL HARGRAVES, Executive Director                                                                                           
Alaska Council of School Administrators                                                                                         
326 Fourth Street, Suite 404                                                                                                    
Juneau, Alaska  99801                                                                                                           
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 224.                                                                            
KAREN PERDUE, Commissioner                                                                                                      
Department of Health & Social Services                                                                                          
PO Box 100601                                                                                                                   
Juneau, Alaska  99811                                                                                                           
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in opposition to HB 260.                                                                         
NANCY WELLER, Medical Assistance Administrator                                                                                  
Division of Medical Assistance                                                                                                  
Department of Health & Social Services                                                                                          
PO Box 110660                                                                                                                   
Juneau, Alaska  99811                                                                                                           
POSITION STATEMENT:  Answered questions on HB 260.                                                                              
JANICE TOWER                                                                                                                    
Alaska Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics                                                                            
7645 Griffith Street                                                                                                            
Anchorage, Alaska  99516                                                                                                        
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in opposition to HB 260.                                                                         
LEILA WISE                                                                                                                      
PO Box 244034                                                                                                                   
Anchorage, Alaska  99524                                                                                                        
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on HB 260.                                                                                       
GEORGE HIERONYMOUS, Executive Director                                                                                          
Beans' Cafe and Kids' Kitchen                                                                                                   
PO Box 100316                                                                                                                   
Anchorage, Alaska  99510                                                                                                        
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in opposition to HB 260.                                                                         
MICHELLE SCHUMACHER                                                                                                             
PO Box 2282                                                                                                                     
Homer, Alaska  99603                                                                                                            
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in opposition to HB 260.                                                                         
LAUREN CARLTON                                                                                                                  
PO Box 198                                                                                                                      
Homer, Alaska  99603                                                                                                            
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified on HB 260.                                                                                       
RUTHE KNIGHT                                                                                                                    
PO Box 3218                                                                                                                     
Valdez, Alaska  99686                                                                                                           
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in opposition to HB 260.                                                                         
PATRICIA MACPIKE                                                                                                                
409 Monastery Street, Number 3                                                                                                  
Sitka, Alaska  99835                                                                                                            
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in opposition to HB 260.                                                                         
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                                
TAPE 00-14, SIDE A                                                                                                              
Number 0001                                                                                                                     
[The minutes for HB 297 and the Alaska Mental Health Board Review                                                               
of the U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health are found                                                                 
in the 3:10 p.m. minutes for the same date.]                                                                                    
CHAIRMAN  FRED DYSON reconvened  the House  Health, Education  and                                                              
Social Services Standing  Committee meeting at 3:56  p.m.  Members                                                              
present  were Representatives  Dyson,  Green,  Brice, Kemplen  and                                                              
HB 336 - QUALITY SCHOOL GRANT FUND INCREASE                                                                                   
CHAIRMAN  DYSON announced  the first  order of  business as  House                                                              
Bill No. 336,  "An Act increasing the eligible  maximum amount for                                                              
quality school  grant funding for school districts;  and providing                                                              
for an effective date."                                                                                                         
Number 0036                                                                                                                     
RICHARD  CROSS,  Commissioner,  Department  of Education  &  Early                                                              
Development (EED), came  forward to present HB 336.   He explained                                                              
that HB 336 changes  existing law to increase  the eligible amount                                                              
school districts  are to  receive for  quality school grants  from                                                              
$16  to  $52   per  student.    The  cost  of   this  increase  is                                                              
approximately $7.6  million.  The  fiscal note on this  bill shows                                                              
zero  dollars, and  the reason  for  that is  there is  $7,552,300                                                              
increase in cost.   This amount has been placed  in the Governor's                                                              
budget  as  a  part  of the  foundation  formula.    In  making  a                                                              
comparison to the Governor's budget,  the fiscal note is zero, but                                                              
the department  is not  trying to  hide the fact  there is  a real                                                              
cost  associated with  this bill  of  approximately $7.6  million.                                                              
The reason  for asking for  this increase  is to deal  with short-                                                              
term needs that school districts  are going to face as a result of                                                              
the  process  of  implementing  the  Quality  Schools  Initiative,                                                              
specifically the high school graduation qualifying exam.                                                                        
COMMISSIONER CROSS  noted it is anticipated that  school districts                                                              
are  going to  have  to implement  extra  tutoring, summer  school                                                              
programs  and different  kinds  of  remediation  for students  who                                                              
don't meet  the expected higher standards.   The idea  that school                                                              
districts  are going  to  be able  to  immediately  adapt to  this                                                              
without any  additional resources  is an unrealistic  expectation.                                                              
What was anticipated in the budget  for the foundation formula was                                                              
$19.9 million more than the EED is  now telling the committee that                                                              
is  needed next  year.   The reasons  for that  is some  declining                                                              
school  enrollment, some  of the  federal  money received,  PL-874                                                              
[Federal  Law  Title VIII,  Public  Law]  funds are  greater  than                                                              
anticipated and local communities  are going to have to share more                                                              
of the burden  for education because the assessed  valuations went                                                              
up.  When the assessed valuations  go up the required local effort                                                              
goes up and  therefore the state  share goes down.   The districts                                                              
are struggling  across the state  to deal with this  $19.9 million                                                              
COMMISSIONER CROSS  cited the levels of funding  from other states                                                              
on school  reform:  Washington -  $113 per student;  Connecticut -                                                              
$128  per student;  Louisiana  -  $256  per student;  Minnesota  -                                                              
$82.74 per student.   Much less is being asked for  in HB 336.  He                                                              
urged the committee to move this  bill along in the process so the                                                              
school districts  can receive  the needed funding  as a  result of                                                              
significant school reform.                                                                                                      
Number 0408                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE asked why the  money is put in this component                                                              
of the formula rather than the base student level.                                                                              
COMMISSIONER CROSS  answered that  this particular component  is a                                                              
grant program that  school districts apply for, and  it was chosen                                                              
to make sure  that it was  directed at the needs  school districts                                                              
are going to  have as a result  of the testing that will  be done.                                                              
The EED is not  asking that each district do the  same thing.  The                                                              
school districts  will be asked to  tell the department  what they                                                              
will do with the  money, and EED will approve it  assuming it is a                                                              
strategy that is directed at improving student performance.                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  BRICE  asked if  the  local school  districts  are                                                              
going to be told  what to do with the additional  money or will it                                                              
be left up to the local school districts to decide.                                                                             
COMMISSIONER CROSS  answered that the  districts will be  asked to                                                              
use  the  money  for  improving  student  performance,  which  may                                                              
include  summer school  programs, extended  day programs  or other                                                              
remediation programs.  The districts  are not being told what must                                                              
be  done with  the money,  but the  districts need  to direct  the                                                              
money towards  the same  kinds of purposes  that the  original $16                                                              
was directed toward.   It is a grant program; in  order to receive                                                              
the money, the grant  does have to be approved by  EED.  There are                                                              
strings attached.                                                                                                               
Number 0612                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GREEN asked:   If the student  number had  gone up                                                              
from last  year, would the commissioner  be asking for  more money                                                              
because  there were  more  students  to educate?    He said  there                                                              
aren't  as  many students  now,  so  the  funding is  going  down.                                                              
Representative  Green wondered  if now the  commissioner  wants to                                                              
use that money  to do something else;  he asked if that  is a kind                                                              
of "shell game."                                                                                                                
Number 0631                                                                                                                     
COMMISSIONER CROSS  answered that he  didn't believe it is.   Some                                                              
of  the reason  that  the $19.9  million is  available  is due  to                                                              
declining student  enrollment but also  to an increase  in federal                                                              
funds  and an  increase  in local  effort.   Districts  that  have                                                              
required local effort are going to  have to go to their assemblies                                                              
and ask for  more money to make  up the state's share  in order to                                                              
perform  the same  level of  service.   It  isn't all  tied up  in                                                              
student enrollment.   Some dramatic  and radical school  reform is                                                              
going  to cause  school  districts  to  have to  make  significant                                                              
changes  to meet  the  needs of  all the  students.   Under  these                                                              
circumstances, an increase in funding is needed.                                                                                
COMMISSIONER  CROSS explained  that  districts are  going to  find                                                              
that many  of their  students will  not meet  the high  standards.                                                              
The school  districts are going to  need to implement  some short-                                                              
term and  long-term strategies in  order for those students  to be                                                              
successful, particularly  because those  students haven't  had the                                                              
advantage   of  third   grade,  sixth   grade   or  eighth   grade                                                              
assessments.   The tenth graders who  will be taking this  test in                                                              
three weeks have not had the advantage of that forewarning.                                                                     
COMMISSIONER CROSS  stated that without  respect to  increasing or                                                              
decreasing enrollment, the EED would  be there asking for a fairly                                                              
modest amount  of money to address  an immediate need  so students                                                              
can be  successful.  The larger  factor in determining  whether or                                                              
not  the  Quality  Initiatives  and  the  high  school  graduation                                                              
qualifying exam is going to be determined  is not initially on how                                                              
the  students perform  but on  how  the adults  and policy  makers                                                              
behave in reaction to student performance.   School districts will                                                              
need to  recognize that  some immediate  short-term and  long-term                                                              
changes must  be made to  the way business  is done at  schools in                                                              
order for all of the students to  be successful.  The EED believes                                                              
that  $7.5  million  is a  very  modest  way  to give  the  school                                                              
districts the opportunity to make  the significant changes needed.                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  GREEN asked Commissioner  Cross why  these changes                                                              
haven't been implemented in the past.                                                                                           
Number 0886                                                                                                                     
COMMISSIONER CROSS  replied that he cannot do  anything about what                                                              
did or  didn't happen  in the  past, but  now it  is evident  that                                                              
significant changes  are going to have to be made.   A significant                                                              
number  of the sophomores  are not  going to  meet the  standards.                                                              
That is not a  reason for panic; that is a reason  to realize that                                                              
in those  students' junior  and senior years  of high  school they                                                              
are  going  to  have  to  be  involved   in  activities  that  are                                                              
significantly different than what  is being offered to juniors and                                                              
seniors right  now if  they are  to be  successful and meet  those                                                              
standards.  The EED is asking for  an opportunity to give students                                                              
the tools and  opportunities, whether it is extended  day program,                                                              
summer school  program  or other strategies  that districts  might                                                              
Number 0982                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GREEN  commented the  standards  have been  talked                                                              
about all  the time  he's been  here, over  23 years.   Now  he is                                                              
hearing something needs  to be done, and money is  the answer.  He                                                              
isn't sure that is necessarily the  case, and he is concerned what                                                              
is going to be done for these students other than money.                                                                        
COMMISSIONER  CROSS  answered  it  is  time  to  move  on  and  do                                                              
everything possible to make sure  the students meet the standards.                                                              
He thinks if that  can be done, it will be something  everyone has                                                              
hoped for.                                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  KEMPLEN  commented that  these  standards have  to                                                              
adapt  to what is  going on  in the  world, and  today's world  is                                                              
dramatically  different than  it was  23 years  ago.  People  must                                                              
recognize that  difference and  adjust the standards  accordingly.                                                              
By creating the qualifying exam and  benchmarks, a very systematic                                                              
effort is in place to ensure that  the students will meet the high                                                              
standards that are  needed to compete in a high-tech  world.  This                                                              
bill is looking  at recognizing how much students  need to know to                                                              
get a high school  diploma today.  It seems to  him people need to                                                              
be prepared for  that.  A number of parents are  going to be upset                                                              
when  their children  don't do  well on  the exam  and the  school                                                              
district  isn't going to  do anything  for them.   There  won't be                                                              
summer school or tutoring, and that  would be a gross injustice to                                                              
the children.  This money is prepared  for next year's budget.  He                                                              
wondered if  a tenth-grade student  fails the exam, how  long will                                                              
that student have for remedial work to be brought "up to speed."                                                                
Number 1204                                                                                                                     
COMMISSIONER CROSS  replied this  year's sophomores will  have two                                                              
more years  before graduation.  The  law states that  students can                                                              
take the test  after they normally would be scheduled  to graduate                                                              
for three  more years.   Hopefully the  district would be  able to                                                              
get them there in two years.                                                                                                    
Number 1227                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  KEMPLEN  asked  Commissioner   Cross  what  school                                                              
districts  will do  if the  state doesn't  provide any  additional                                                              
funding  to  accommodate  the  students   who  fail  to  meet  the                                                              
standards, for example special needs students.                                                                                  
COMMISSIONER  CROSS  said all  he  can tell  the  committee is  in                                                              
states  that   have  implemented  successful  reform   and  gotten                                                              
improved performance  have provided additional resources  in order                                                              
to have that change occur both on  the part of the student and the                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  KEMPLEN  concluded that  the  money  is needed  to                                                              
ensure success.                                                                                                                 
COMMISSIONER CROSS  replied he believes that  additional resources                                                              
are necessary to get effective change and be successful.                                                                        
Number 1326                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  BRICE asked  Commissioner  Cross if  the need  for                                                              
this money  is time limited:   that after  the first four  or five                                                              
years  of students  having problems,  the system  will shake  out,                                                              
reform will be made and there won't  be a need for this additional                                                              
COMMISSIONER  CROSS  said whether  or  not there  is  going to  be                                                              
additional  resources needed for  education in  the future,  it is                                                              
reasonable  to predict  that there  will be  additional needs  for                                                              
resources.   The department  isn't  saying that  this is the  only                                                              
type of  resource that  districts  need.  This  bill identifies  a                                                              
particular need  that in the short  term will be more  urgent than                                                              
in the  long term,  but it is  difficult to  say that three  years                                                              
from now the  school districts should be able to  absorb it within                                                              
their existing  budgets.  It  is going to  depend on what  kind of                                                              
programs are necessary.                                                                                                         
Number 1391                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  BRICE  commented  that  this  leads  back  to  his                                                              
original  point about  the need  not to  have it  in a grant  line                                                              
where school districts  have to apply and be answerable  back to a                                                              
centralized department  but rather  to put it  within the  base of                                                              
the  student level  and to  increase that  level, which  obviously                                                              
needs to be increased.                                                                                                          
COMMISSIONER CROSS  said he is not  here to argue  against general                                                              
increases.   He is here  to argue there  is a specific  identified                                                              
need.  He believes  the success of this year's  sophomores depends                                                              
on some resources  being available for programs  that are targeted                                                              
to help them, and that is what is being asked for in this bill.                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE  commented that  hindsight is 20-20.   During                                                              
the debates on SB  36 when the $16 was established,  he was led to                                                              
believe  that the  $16  was going  to cover  the  needs of  school                                                              
districts coming  through the exit  exam.  The  legislature passed                                                              
SB 36 a year  after the exit exam was passed, and  at that time he                                                              
thought the $16 was low.                                                                                                        
Number 1471                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL  asked if this  goes with a  regular annual                                                              
appropriation,  and then  this particular  bill would only  affect                                                              
that one appropriation.                                                                                                         
COMMISSIONER CROSS  answered no, this  would become a part  of the                                                              
public  school  foundation  formula and  would  become  calculated                                                              
every year for districts depending  on their adjusted ADM [average                                                              
daily membership].                                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL asked  what is  the intended  life of  the                                                              
quality schools grant.                                                                                                          
Number 1505                                                                                                                     
COMMISSIONER  CROSS answered  that the quality  schools grant,  as                                                              
contemplated  in  the  rewrite of  the  public  school  foundation                                                              
formula, was intended  to be an integral part of  the formula.  It                                                              
was  the intent  of  the legislature  to have  a  certain part  of                                                              
increase funding  for education targeted  for a specific  purpose.                                                              
An  additional $7.5  million  is being  asked  for in  HB 336  for                                                              
specific  purposes  that districts  identify,  as  opposed to  the                                                              
general operation of their school districts.                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL asked  if the  grant is  a better  vehicle                                                              
than going directly to the foundation formula.                                                                                  
COMMISSIONER CROSS answered that  the grant ensures that the money                                                              
is  targeted  to specific  programs  that  are identified  by  the                                                              
district  and approved  by  the EED.    It gives  the  legislature                                                              
assurance that  the types of changes  that need to occur  in order                                                              
to ensure  that students meet  high standards, there  are programs                                                              
in place,  and that the  money isn't  being diverted and  used for                                                              
some other purpose.                                                                                                             
Number 1585                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL  said he  doesn't  understand  why HB  336                                                              
doesn't have a "shelf life" on it.   He wondered why it isn't said                                                              
that this is needed for a certain  period of time, but after that,                                                              
the regular formula should be sufficient.                                                                                       
COMMISSIONER  CROSS said there  are two answers  to that.   First,                                                              
the money  was put in  the Governor's  budget for the  next fiscal                                                              
year.    The legislature  considers  foundation  funding  and  the                                                              
amount of money that is appropriated  for it on an annual basis so                                                              
all aspects of the foundation formula  are considered from year to                                                              
year.   Second, students are  going to need  more time on  task in                                                              
school  whether  it  is  through summer  school  or  extended  day                                                              
programs.   In most  countries, students spend  more time  on task                                                              
than in the United States.  Those  programs are going to cost, and                                                              
that cost is not going to go away.                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL  commented  that  doing  it  this  way  is                                                              
questionable  to him,  especially what  is already  being paid  at                                                              
what he considers a pretty sizeable  foundation formula.  He asked                                                              
Commissioner Cross to  explain the relationship of PL  874 to this                                                              
particular grant.                                                                                                               
Number 1684                                                                                                                     
COMMISSIONER CROSS  explained that the correct terminology  for PL                                                              
874 is Title  VIII Impact Aid.   Federal Title VIII Impact  Aid is                                                              
money that the districts receive  "in lieu of taxes."  It is money                                                              
for children  who live  on military  bases or  Indian lands  where                                                              
there is no property  tax paid.  The state takes  that amount into                                                              
account  when it  determines how  much state  aid is  going to  be                                                              
given to districts.  This year the  state will receive more impact                                                              
aid  than  was  anticipated.    It  doesn't  decrease  the  effort                                                              
required on  the part  of school districts,  but it does  decrease                                                              
the  resources  that  the  state provides  under  the  formula  to                                                              
districts.   The school  districts still have  the same job  to do                                                              
but more of the money received is federal and less state.                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE  KEMPLEN  referred to  a  comment  made about  more                                                              
countries requiring  longer periods of time for  their students to                                                              
be on task.   He assumes that  is required because of  the demands                                                              
of a high technological world and wondered if that is correct.                                                                  
Number 1763                                                                                                                     
COMMISSIONER  CROSS  answered that's  correct.    When he  started                                                              
kindergarten,  only half  of  the students  in  this country  were                                                              
graduating from high school.  Today  all the students need to meet                                                              
extremely high standards  in order to be successful.   It is going                                                              
to take more  time on task.   This bill will be an  opportunity to                                                              
identify  where  the  students  are starting  to  fall  behind  in                                                              
certain  area, and  what  skills  are not  being  acquired as  the                                                              
third, sixth and  eighth graders are tested.  The  tests will show                                                              
whether the skill is actually occurring  between those grades, and                                                              
if not, it  can be fixed.   For many students that will  mean more                                                              
time on math in  order to get those skills within  the time frame,                                                              
and that will take additional resources.                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  GREEN  noted that  teachers  know  whether or  not                                                              
their students  are measuring up or  not.  He wondered  why has it                                                              
waited until  the students are sophomores  to find out,  where did                                                              
the system  go astray and how is  this going to allow  students to                                                              
learn in two years what they needed to learn in ten.                                                                            
Number 1926                                                                                                                     
COMMISSIONER  CROSS answered  the simplest  answer is because  the                                                              
assessments in three  weeks are going to show  things that weren't                                                              
known before.   The standard fare  doesn't work for  all students.                                                              
The school  districts have  to figure  out what  to do with  those                                                              
students in order  to make them successful.  He is  asking for the                                                              
opportunity to let the schools keep moving in that direction.                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked what the $7.5 million is based on.                                                                   
COMMISSIONER  CROSS  replied  that   there  is  nothing  magic  or                                                              
scientific about  the $52  per student which  adds up to  the $7.5                                                              
million.    The department  is  trying  to  provide a  modest  but                                                              
significant enough  increase for schools  to be able  to implement                                                              
programs successfully.                                                                                                          
CHAIRMAN  DYSON advised  Commissioner Cross  to have  a sunset  or                                                              
one-time  or  two-year  limit  instead  of  putting  it  into  law                                                              
Number 2065                                                                                                                     
CARL  ROSE,  Executive  Director,  Association  of  Alaska  School                                                              
Boards,  came  forward  to  testify  in  favor  of  HB  336.    He                                                              
associated himself  with many of  the comments previously  stated.                                                              
He  pointed  out  there  is an  educational  dilemma.    With  the                                                              
standards and  quality initiatives,  there will be  accountability                                                              
which will require some things done  differently.  Simultaneously,                                                              
operating expenses  are struggled  with.   The Governor's  bill is                                                              
the accountability and quality part  of the solution.  There still                                                              
is  an   operational  problem  because   there  are   diverse  and                                                              
tremendous  needs.   Not all  have  been met  as a  result of  the                                                              
foundation formula.   The world is  changing at a great  rate, and                                                              
it is  a different  place than  what it  was.   If students  can't                                                              
read, write and compute, they'll  not be able to take advantage of                                                              
many technological changes today.                                                                                               
MR. ROSE commented  that the decisions made today  will impact the                                                              
children tomorrow.  Rather than to  just argue the point of how it                                                              
will  be paid  for,  what  bill should  move,  or what  should  be                                                              
addressed, he asked them to take  a broader look in terms of where                                                              
the state  is, what the  responsibilities are  going to be  to the                                                              
students, and how are the students  going to be helped to get them                                                              
get where  they need to  go.  He  referred to Commissioner  Cross'                                                              
strategy to  look at benchmarks  and ensure progress  and identify                                                              
areas of  weakness and the third,  sixth and eighth  grade levels.                                                              
The  school districts  are looking  for strategies  to help  those                                                              
students be at grade level in terms  of performance.  In the long-                                                              
term, students  coming through  those benchmarks  will not  have a                                                              
problem with  the exit exam  which seems  to be the  major problem                                                              
right now.                                                                                                                      
MR. ROSE  believes it is a  short-term problem.  The  students are                                                              
not going to  fare well this year,  but the good news  is that the                                                            
students  will  succeed   in  time  if  the  districts   meet  the                                                              
responsibilities  to get the  students the  things needed  to meet                                                              
the benchmarks.   Operational resources are needed as  well as the                                                              
ability to  deal with  the quality initiatives.   He  is concerned                                                              
about the issue  of responsibility to the students.   He urged the                                                              
legislature  to  do  the  right thing.    The  AASB  supports  the                                                              
Governor's bill as one of the tools that is needed.                                                                             
Number 2293                                                                                                                     
JOHN CYR, President, National Education  Association (NEA)-Alaska,                                                              
came forward to testify in favor  of HB 336.  The NEA believes the                                                              
Governor's  Quality  Schools Initiative  is  going  to cost  local                                                              
school districts  money; the  $16 is not  enough.  However,  he is                                                              
optimistic.   Scholastic Achievement  Test (SAT) scores  in Alaska                                                              
are  higher than  ever,  and more  than half  of  the students  in                                                              
Alaska are  scoring in  the top 50  percent on standardized  tests                                                              
which is  better than the national  average.  Schools are  doing a                                                              
good job, but of course schools could  be doing things better.  It                                                              
is true some  of the students will  not do well on  the qualifying                                                              
exam or  the benchmarks.   The question  though is  what is  to be                                                              
done with  those students.   He  also remembers  what was  done 25                                                              
years  ago with  those students;  there were  meaningful jobs  for                                                              
those students  to support  their families.   Those days  are gone                                                              
and that is the problem.                                                                                                        
TAPE 00-14, SIDE B                                                                                                              
Number 2260                                                                                                                     
MR. CYR noted that this money will  help.  It is needed as well as                                                              
other money.                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN  asked Mr. Cyr if this is a  temporary fix or                                                              
is  it something  to be  added to  the school  funding formula  in                                                              
order to bring the students up and keep them there.                                                                             
MR. CYR believes changes are going  to be made in the way business                                                              
is  done in  education,  and  that  will probably  take  long-term                                                              
resources.    Putting   money  into  K-12  education   is  a  good                                                              
investment.    The state  has  to be  clear  about  what it  wants                                                              
schools  to do,  and the people  in the  schools  need to be  held                                                              
responsible for that.   There will be some changes  looked at over                                                              
the next few years.                                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said he truly  believes that most legislators                                                              
would gladly  spend the money  if they knew  it would work.   Many                                                              
legislators are  concerned that if  this amount is paid  and there                                                              
still is trouble,  more money would  have to be paid later;  it is                                                              
going to take something more than money.                                                                                        
MR. CYR  said the schools  are a measure  of the society  and many                                                              
problems  come through  the  doors  which are  never  going to  be                                                              
cured.  The ills  are too great.  A large portion  of students are                                                              
not being served now as well as they  could be, and that will cost                                                              
more.  He doesn't know what the appropriate  level is, but some of                                                              
the  right  things  are  being  done   to  get  there  by  looking                                                              
critically at the system rather than just giving out the money.                                                                 
The committee took an at-ease from 4:49 p.m. to 4:54 p.m.                                                                       
CHAIRMAN DYSON  closed public  testimony on HB  336.  [HB  336 was                                                              
heard and held.]                                                                                                                
Number 2161                                                                                                                     
The committee took another at-ease from 4:54 p.m. to 4:59 p.m.                                                                  
HB 224 - PERA:  NOTICE BEFORE STRIKE                                                                                          
CHAIRMAN DYSON announced the next  order of business as House Bill                                                              
No. 224,  "An Act requiring  a public employee  labor organization                                                              
representing employees of a school  district, regional educational                                                              
attendance area, or a state boarding  school to give notice before                                                              
striking."   [HB 224  was sponsored  by Representative  Kohring by                                                              
Number 2111                                                                                                                     
RANDY LORENZ,  Researcher for  Representative Vic Kohring,  Alaska                                                              
State Legislature,  came forward  to present HB  224.   House Bill                                                              
224 amends the  Public Employment Relations Act  (PERA) to require                                                              
that school  districts receive a  three work days'  advance notice                                                              
before a  strike can  be called by  a union representing  district                                                              
employees.   Since 1990,  when PERA took  effect, there  have been                                                              
three labor strikes.  Prior notice  was provided on two cases.  In                                                              
January  1999,  the  Totem  Association   of  Educational  Support                                                              
Personnel called a  strike at 10:40 p.m. on Thursday.   The strike                                                              
began the following morning.  The  district had no time to provide                                                              
sufficient  notice to  parents to  enable them  to make  alternate                                                              
arrangements  for the care  of their  school-aged children.   This                                                              
action caused  significant and undue  disruptions to  the families                                                              
and placed the children at safety and health risk.                                                                              
MR. LORENZ shared what the Anchorage Daily News reported:                                                                     
     Anchorage parents  of public school children  woke up to                                                                   
     an  ambush  Friday  morning.    School  district  office                                                                   
     workers and  teacher aides voted  ... Thursday  night to                                                                   
     strike,  then ...  called the  strike for  Friday.   The                                                                   
     decision came  too late for  the evening news.  ... Many                                                                   
     parents didn't get the word  until Friday morning.  That                                                                   
     left  them  scrambling  for  child  care  and  seriously                                                                   
     disrupted work and transportation schedules.                                                                               
     Parents  who  have  paid attention  knew  a  strike  and                                                                   
     school  closing were  possible.  They  didn't expect  to                                                                   
     learn of  a strike at the  school doors or bus  stop, or                                                                   
     while  they  were  getting   their  children  ready  for                                                                   
     school.   While the union's  timing got the  community's                                                                   
     attention, it  in no way got community support.  ... The                                                                   
     union would have served its  own cause and the community                                                                   
     better by  giving Anchorage parents a  weekend's warning                                                                   
     in  time to  make child  care,  work and  transportation                                                                   
     arrangements.  Blindsiding thousands  of families Friday                                                                   
     morning served no one's interest.                                                                                          
MR.  LORENZ  noted  that  in  May   1999,  Representative  Kohring                                                              
received a  letter from the  Anchorage School District  requesting                                                              
this  legislation.     He  told   the  committee  that   the  AASB                                                              
[Association  of Alaska School  Boards] also supports  legislation                                                              
which would require  and/or their bargaining agencies  to give the                                                              
school  district  a 72-hour  advance  notice  when a  strike  will                                                              
occur.   The reason is unannounced  strikes will  undermine public                                                              
confidence  in  the public  education  system  and not  serve  the                                                              
community  well.     The  safety  of  school   children  would  be                                                              
compromised  in the  event that  school employees  walk off  their                                                              
jobs without adequate notice.                                                                                                   
MR.  LORENZ said  HB 224  will require  three  work days'  advance                                                              
notice  but  will not  grant  undue  advantage to  the  districts.                                                              
Employees  will retain  the full  use of the  strike weapon  while                                                              
protecting   families   and   their   school-age   children   from                                                              
unnecessary risk.   Opponents  of this bill  will argue  that this                                                              
will never happen again.  However,  the precedent has already been                                                              
set.  He encouraged the committee  to pass HB 224.  It is a matter                                                              
of child safety, not union rights.                                                                                              
Number 1971                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  KEMPLEN pointed out  that when  there is  a school                                                              
closure for  snow, parents  are only given  one day's notice.   He                                                              
asked Mr. Lorenz why the bill specified three days' notice.                                                                     
MR. LORENZ answered  that the Anchorage School  District requested                                                              
the  three-day  notice  in  order to  make  arrangements  for  the                                                              
children and to get the notification out.                                                                                       
Number 1918                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE  stated that he takes great  umbrage with the                                                              
statement  that this  is a bill  to address  child safety  issues;                                                              
it's  not.   The  Anchorage  School  District, school  boards  and                                                              
administrators that are negotiating  throughout the entire process                                                              
know there  is the potential for a  strike.  If they  fail to make                                                              
the appropriate arrangements, it  is their fault, not the fault of                                                              
the employees who go on strike.                                                                                                 
MR. LORENZ responded that as a result  of the word not getting out                                                              
to the parents,  children were left  at the bus stops with  no bus                                                              
service, or students were dropped  off at the school doors without                                                              
anybody there to  let them in or let them get  out of the weather.                                                              
Normally, if  the weather is bad  and schools are  closed, parents                                                              
know  it the  night  before because  they  can see  it,  or it  is                                                              
advertised on  the radio.  When  it came to this  strike, however,                                                              
the talks had  been going on for  a long time, and parents  had no                                                              
way  of knowing  when they  woke up  that morning  that there  was                                                              
actually going to be a strike.                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE  BRICE stated  that  it becomes  a  failure of  the                                                              
administration to  take the appropriate  action when it  was known                                                              
that a strike was a strong potentiality.   Once again, it is not a                                                              
question  of   child  safety;  it   is  a  question  of   lack  of                                                              
preparedness by  the school district that causes  the negotiations                                                              
to go so far.                                                                                                                   
Number 1832                                                                                                                     
LARRY WIGET, Executive Director,  Public Affairs, Anchorage School                                                              
District, came forward  to testify.  He stated  that the Anchorage                                                              
School District does  support a three-day work  day advance notice                                                              
before a strike  can be called.  As evidenced by  testimony by the                                                              
sponsor of the  bill, written testimony provided  to the committee                                                              
from the  Anchorage School District,  and articles  and editorials                                                              
that appeared in  the Anchorage Daily News, their  primary concern                                                            
for  this  legislation is  for  the  safety  of the  students,  by                                                              
allowing parents  to provide  a safe  environment for students  in                                                              
the unfortunate event of a strike.                                                                                              
MR. WIGET  said in terms  of the Totem  strike that  happened last                                                              
January, the  district notified  parents as  soon as the  district                                                              
became aware of it.  The parents  in Anchorage watched the 10 p.m.                                                              
news, but  no indication  was given  then that  a strike  would be                                                              
called.    At  approximately  10:40  that  evening,  the  district                                                              
received  a call; that  was after  the news  that the parents  and                                                              
community were watching  to find out the status of  the next day's                                                              
activities.    The  district  respects  the right  to  strike  and                                                              
believes that  this law  does not provide  an unfair  advantage in                                                              
labor  negotiations.    The  district  is not  seeking  an  unfair                                                              
advantage.   However, children should  not be placed in  an unsafe                                                              
situation,  and the parents  should have  the opportunity  to find                                                              
alternate  means  for  their  children;   many  parents  work  and                                                              
arrangements need to be made.                                                                                                   
Number 1723                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE  asked:  If  child safety is the  issue, then                                                              
why doesn't the  school district negotiate in good  faith with its                                                              
employees and make the appropriate preparations just in case?                                                                   
MR. WIGET  replied that  is making an  assumption that  the school                                                              
district doesn't.                                                                                                               
Number 1700                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KEMPLEN  asked Mr. Wiget why a  three-day notice is                                                              
MR. WIGET said in discussions with  the administration, that group                                                              
felt  three  days  would  provide fair  and  adequate  notice  for                                                              
parents to make alternative arrangements.                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE  BRICE asked  if those  discussions include  school                                                              
district employees  that are represented by  collective bargaining                                                              
MR. WIGET said the discussion was held by the administration.                                                                   
Number 1641                                                                                                                     
CARL  ROSE,  Executive  Director, Alaska  Association  for  School                                                              
Boards (AASB), came forward to testify  in support of HB 224.  The                                                              
AASB has  had a position on  this for over  five years.  He  was a                                                              
school board  member in  1974 when  the issue  then was  "meet and                                                              
confer" laws, and  there was no finality.  He  shared some history                                                              
about  the  "meet  and  confer"   laws  and  binding  arbitration.                                                              
Somewhere  in  between  those  two resulted  the  legal  right  to                                                              
strike.   The legal right  to strike  has been successful  in many                                                              
cases  in bringing  the  pressure  that was  required  to get  the                                                              
agreements finalized.                                                                                                           
MR.  ROSE noted  that  the job  action may  be  between labor  and                                                              
management dealing  with salary and  benefits.  He said,  "I don't                                                              
believe,  and I  don't think  anyone  here will  say, that  you're                                                              
striking the  community or  you're striking  students.   I believe                                                              
you're  striking the  school  district."   With  72  hours as  the                                                              
ultimatum,  the public  pressure  will be  brought to  bear in  72                                                              
hours  for  an agreement,  or  there  will  be consequences.    He                                                              
believes  it will  be  good for  communities,  and  it's good  for                                                              
children  because  parents  and  schools  can  prepare  for  their                                                              
safety.   The pressure is  on the people at  the table to  come up                                                              
with  an agreement,  or  consequences  will  be recognized.    His                                                              
counterproposal  is that school  districts should  be given  a 72-                                                              
hour notice  of implementation of  contract if they can't  meet in                                                              
agreement.  He is concerned about  the issue of public confidence.                                                              
Number 1458                                                                                                                     
JOHN CYR,  President, National  Education of Alaska  (NEA)-Alaska,                                                              
came forward to testify.  He shared  some history of negotiations.                                                              
He  referred  to the  question  about  the  health and  safety  of                                                              
children;  if it were  about the  health and  safety of  children,                                                              
school districts would  make those kinds of accommodations  a long                                                              
time before that  final hour.  If school districts  were concerned                                                              
about the health and safety of children,  they wouldn't be hearing                                                              
about "we'll give you 72 hours before we implement."  He stated:                                                                
      What we would be hearing is if there's a strike, then                                                                     
        we're real concerned, and we'll agree to keep the                                                                       
     schools closed  until the strike  is settled.  I  may be                                                                   
     paranoid, but  I've watched  too many strikes,  and I've                                                                   
     watched too many school districts  enter into situations                                                                   
     where  they try to  hire replacement  workers.  This  is                                                                   
     about  strike  breaking.   This  is  about  tilting  the                                                                   
     playing field.   I don't think  that's fair.  We  have a                                                                   
     system that works.  That's what  this is about.  This is                                                                   
     punitive.   It's about punishing  one group,  that quite                                                                   
     frankly,  they [NEA-Alaska]  don't  even represent,  but                                                                   
     they  [support staff]  are folks  who  work in  schools.                                                                   
     And  if  this happens  here,  it  will happen  in  other                                                                   
     I just don't  think we need to do this.   This is a bill                                                                   
     whose timing is  poor, that changes the way  the game is                                                                   
     played.   If we're going to  change the way the  game is                                                                   
     played,  then  I would  suggest  that  we look  at  some                                                                   
     amendments, [that] we look at  keeping schools closed if                                                                   
     there is a  strike, to keep students safe.   If we don't                                                                   
     want  to do that,  I would  suggest that  we move  those                                                                   
     folks   who   work   in  the   schools   in   the   same                                                                   
     classification as other public  employees whose services                                                                   
     are  too important  to have  them go out  on strike  and                                                                   
     give us  binding arbitration.   There  are some ways  to                                                                   
     handle  this if  there  is legitimate  concern.   But  I                                                                   
     don't think that is what this is about.                                                                                    
Number 1237                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  BRICE asked  Mr.  Cyr if  the replacement  workers                                                              
generally meet  the qualifications  of the  striking workers.   He                                                              
would expect  that bringing on  replacement workers would  cause a                                                              
greater child  safety issue  than the proposal  that has  been put                                                              
MR. CYR answered  that there is no way that a  school district can                                                              
hire replacement workers who are  as qualified as those people who                                                              
are in the classroom.   The school district is  hiring warm bodies                                                              
without  any  checks, or  they  are going  out  of  state to  find                                                              
qualified people.                                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked Mr. Cyr  when the schools would be shut                                                              
MR.  CYR said  if the  school district  wishes the  union to  give                                                              
notice, the union would have no objection  to giving notice if the                                                              
school districts  will agree  that they won't  use that  period of                                                              
time  to hire  replacement  workers.    The schools  would  remain                                                              
closed for the period of the strike to keep the students safe.                                                                  
Number 1118                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KEMPLEN  asked Mr. Cyr about giving  notice only 24                                                              
hours before the strike begins.                                                                                                 
MR. CYR  said the  union sees no  need to give  notice.   He would                                                              
prefer 24  hours to three  days.  He  doesn't know why  the school                                                              
district needs it at all if they  do a good job of informing their                                                              
constituents.  Recently, in Ketchikan,  the union just went out on                                                              
strike, and  the district  was told  on Friday  if there  wasn't a                                                              
contract settled  by Monday, the  members would be on  the street.                                                              
The district  agreed  to close the  schools and  then late  Sunday                                                              
evening announced  that the schools  would be open.   The district                                                              
put  the students  in the  same kind  of  position that  Anchorage                                                              
accuses the Totem union of doing.  Neither situation is right.                                                                  
Number 0986                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN DYSON  noted that he  has learned some  new perspectives.                                                              
He said:                                                                                                                        
     When you had  said before that this bill  would tilt the                                                                   
     game, all I could think of was  you were saying in order                                                                   
     for the  bargaining unit to  prevail, the public  has to                                                                   
     have  a   lot  of  discomfort   and  because   of  their                                                                   
     discomfort put  a lot of pressure on  the administration                                                                   
     to either  come to the table  or agree.  Now I'm  not so                                                                   
     sure  that  you're against  this  bill just  because  it                                                                   
     decreases the public discomfort.                                                                                           
MR. CYR answered:                                                                                                               
     Quite honestly,  anytime there is  a strike, there  is a                                                                   
     failure on both  sides.  Any union that leads  its folks                                                                   
     out into the  street has done a disservice  to the folks                                                                   
     it serves.   It happens.  Unfortunately,  because we are                                                                   
     public employees  and we work with kids and  in schools,                                                                   
     it  is markedly different  than shutting  down the  coal                                                                   
     mine, if  you will.  If there  was some other way  to do                                                                   
     it, it would certainly meet my needs.                                                                                      
Number 0896                                                                                                                     
DARROLL HARGRAVES,  Executive Director,  Alaska Council  of School                                                              
Administrators, came forward to testify  in support of HB 224.  He                                                              
also shared some  strike history.  The ACSA supports  this bill to                                                              
protect the  children and  to protect  the teachers from  negative                                                              
public relations if notice isn't given.                                                                                         
Number 0760                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL noted that  the parents  are not  really a                                                              
part of the long  process of negotiation.  He  asked Mr. Hargraves                                                              
if he viewed this as a way to involve parents in the process.                                                                   
MR. HARGRAVES  said that  could be a  fallout result, but  that is                                                              
not what he is  after.  If the school district  starts considering                                                              
a lockout or  implementing other types of actions,  then they also                                                              
need to make the announcement to the unions.                                                                                    
CHAIRMAN  DYSON asked  Mr.  Hargraves if  the  three days'  notice                                                              
would primarily be a time to increase  pressure to get back to the                                                              
table and solve the problems, or  would it be as Mr. Cyr suggests,                                                              
a time  for the  school district  to hire  replacement workers  in                                                              
order to break the strike and break the union.                                                                                
Number 0645                                                                                                                     
MR. HARGRAVES said  he believes districts could use  it both ways.                                                              
The pressure  that the  district can  bring against the  teachers'                                                              
union is not his concern.  He is advocating for advanced notice.                                                                
CHAIRMAN DYSON announced that the  committee would take an at-ease                                                              
to figure  out what  would be the  best course  of action  to take                                                              
that would  address everyone's  concerns.   The committee  took an                                                              
at-ease from 5:32 p.m. to 5:40 p.m.                                                                                             
Number 0539                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GREEN made a  motion to  adopt Amendment  1, which                                                              
changes page 2, line 28, from "three days" to "24 hours".                                                                       
CHAIRMAN  DYSON asked  whether  there was  any  objection.   There                                                              
being none, Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                                            
Number 0430                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GREEN made a  motion to move  HB 224,  as amended,                                                              
from  committee  with  individual   recommendations  and  attached                                                              
fiscal note.                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE objected.                                                                                                  
A roll  call vote  was taken.   Representatives Kemplen,  Coghill,                                                              
Green   and   Dyson  voted   in   favor   of  moving   the   bill.                                                              
Representative  Brice voted  against it.   Representatives  Morgan                                                              
and Whitaker  were absent.   Therefore,  CSHB 224(HES)  moved from                                                              
the House  Health, Education  and Social  Services Committee  by a                                                              
vote of 4-1.                                                                                                                    
HB 260 - MEDICAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM COVERAGE                                                                                  
Number 0280                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN DYSON announced the next  order of business as House Bill                                                              
No. 260,  "An Act relating  to coverage  of children  and pregnant                                                              
women under the  medical assistance program; and  providing for an                                                              
effective date."                                                                                                                
Number 0262                                                                                                                     
KAREN  PERDUE,   Commissioner,  Department  of  Health   &  Social                                                              
Services, came  forward to testify in  opposition to HB  260.  She                                                              
informed the committee  the Denali KidCare program  will reach its                                                              
first  birthday March  1.   The  legislature  enacted the  program                                                              
about two years  ago, and it has only operated for  one full year;                                                              
that is  a pretty short  time to talk  about changing it.   Denali                                                              
KidCare  offers  more children  in  working families  health  care                                                              
coverage, it  covers pregnant women,  and it is a  streamlined way                                                              
of  government doing  business in  signing  up children.   If  the                                                              
coverage went away  today, approximately 7,000 children  and about                                                              
800 pregnant  women would  lose their coverage.   The  program has                                                              
turned out to be cheaper than the  department thought.  It roughly                                                              
costs the  state around  $472 in general  funds a year,  about $40                                                              
per month.                                                                                                                      
COMMISSIONER PERDUE informed the  committee the federal government                                                              
is  paying 72  cents  on the  dollar for  this  service, and  this                                                              
program is  authorized for ten  years.  The  state is only  in the                                                              
second year of  the program, and the state part  of Denali KidCare                                                              
is  financed  through  savings in  changing  the  Medicaid  match.                                                              
Money was freed  up for use toward more health care  coverage.  If                                                              
HB 260 were to pass, Alaska would  be the only state in the nation                                                              
without  a child  health  insurance program.    She discovered  in                                                              
talking to private  insurers and business people, there  is a hole                                                              
in the market.                                                                                                                  
TAPE 00-15, SIDE A                                                                                                              
Number 0011                                                                                                                     
COMMISSIONER PERDUE explained the  national Child Health Insurance                                                              
Program was  launched to provide  health insurance access  for the                                                              
person  working in  small business  or part-time  who didn't  have                                                              
coverage.  Alaska  has a more extensive problem  because many more                                                              
people are either  self-employed or are in very  small businesses.                                                              
She has  not heard of  a private sector  solution that  would meet                                                              
this  need  for  insurance.    She  concluded  by  expressing  her                                                              
opposition to HB 260.                                                                                                           
CHAIRMAN DYSON  asked how reducing  the qualifying level  from 200                                                              
percent down to  133 percent makes Alaska a state  without a child                                                              
health insurance program.                                                                                                       
Number 0154                                                                                                                     
NANCY  WELLER,  Medical  Assistance   Administrator,  Division  of                                                              
Medical Assistance,  Department of Health & Social  Services, came                                                              
forward to explain.  Under federal  law, children up to the age of                                                              
six  are required  to be  covered at  133 percent  of the  federal                                                              
poverty level.   Children over the age of six up to  the age of 18                                                              
are being  phased in  one year  at a  time to  100 percent  of the                                                              
federal  poverty level  which  is the  mandatory  level for  those                                                              
children 6-18.   The 16 year old children are now  being phased in                                                              
this year  and in two years  mandatory coverage at 100  percent of                                                              
the  federal poverty  level  for children  up  to age  18 will  be                                                              
complete.   Therefore  the child  health  insurance program  would                                                              
only include  children ages  6-18 at the  133 percent  level under                                                              
the  proposed committee  substitute.   The new  fiscal note  shows                                                              
only  2,738 children  would retain  coverage on  the Child  Health                                                              
Insurance  Program  of  the  7,000  expansion  children  that  are                                                              
currently covered under Denali KidCare.                                                                                         
Number 0257                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN DYSON asked  if it was accurate to say if  this bill were                                                              
to pass in its  present amended form, there would  be an insurance                                                              
program in  Alaska that  continued at the  level that  the federal                                                              
government  had before,  so there  is  still a  program going  on,                                                              
there just isn't the supplementary  coverage provided by the state                                                              
in Denali KidCare.                                                                                                              
COMMISSIONER PERDUE replied that  she didn't know if that would be                                                              
accurate.  She said Alaska's state  health insurance program would                                                              
be the  puniest in the  nation, and all  the pregnant  women would                                                              
lose their coverage.                                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN  asked Commissioner Perdue if  that would put                                                              
many unborn babies at risk if they were no longer covered.                                                                      
Number 0374                                                                                                                     
COMMISSIONER  PERDUE replied absolutely.   At  any one  time about                                                              
1000 pregnancies were covered, and  many of the pregnant women now                                                              
covered  were  foregoing  prenatal   care  until  later  in  their                                                              
pregnancies.    She  believes  prenatal  care is  the  most  cost-                                                              
effective health care investment anyone can make.                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  GREEN  asked Commissioner  Perdue  if she  thought                                                              
some of  those pregnant  women might resort  to abortions  if they                                                              
were not covered.                                                                                                               
COMMISSIONER  PERDUE remarked  that  she can't  say what  people's                                                              
personal decisions would be, but  lack of coverage gives them less                                                              
options.     She  reminded  the   committee  that  the   year  the                                                              
legislature enacted  this law for  pregnancy coverage,  the public                                                              
funding  for  abortion was  eliminated.    That  was part  of  the                                                              
discussion  at the  time.   This  bill would  certainly  foreclose                                                              
every option.                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE KEMPLEN  mention that the Center  for Families made                                                              
a  presentation   in  the  Children's   Caucus  today,   and  they                                                              
emphasized it  is important to  implement prevention  services for                                                              
children  because  those  services  are  the  most  cost-effective                                                              
techniques available.    He wanted to confirm that  is what Denali                                                              
KidCare does.                                                                                                                   
Number 0550                                                                                                                     
COMMISSIONER PERDUE answered it does  that, and it also helps with                                                              
catastrophic events.   If people don't have insurance  or are only                                                              
covered for  catastrophic coverage, it  is often a choice  for the                                                              
family between  going for  the checkup and  getting the  last week                                                              
out  of the  paycheck.   More children  show up  at the  emergency                                                              
room,  which is  the most  expensive care,  because the  emergency                                                              
room takes a credit card; usually  people have to write a check at                                                              
the doctor's office.   She emphasized that it is  not that parents                                                              
are irresponsible;  it is that they don't necessarily  always have                                                              
the money when the illness arises.                                                                                              
COMMISSIONER  PERDUE noted the  other issue is  if people  were to                                                              
try to buy the preventive coverage,  the people whose children are                                                              
very sick  would be  attracted to  the pool  because those  people                                                              
really  need the  coverage.   The  premiums  go  up because  those                                                              
people  are  attracted  to  the   product.    That  has  been  the                                                              
difficulty  of  having  small  pools  of  people  in  the  private                                                              
insurance  settings.   Therefore  only the  catastrophic  coverage                                                              
gets offered.                                                                                                                   
CHAIRMAN DYSON said  it was reported to him that  a family of four                                                              
would qualify  at the  present 200 percent  level if  their income                                                              
was  under $41,000.    With permanent  fund  dividends (PFD,)  the                                                              
income  would  be up  to  $48,000-$49,000.   He  asked  if it  was                                                              
correct that the PFDs were not counted in the income to qualify.                                                                
Number 0674                                                                                                                     
MS. WELLER answered  that it would depend on when  people applied.                                                              
Coverage  is  based  on  the  monthly  income  unless  people  are                                                              
seasonally employed in which case the income is annualized.                                                                     
CHAIRMAN DYSON asked  if it is the Administration's  position that                                                              
a family  with a  $48,000 annualized  income is  the working  poor                                                              
that can't afford health insurance for their children.                                                                          
COMMISSIONER  PERDUE answered generally,  yes.  Those  individuals                                                              
are  not thought  to  be destitute,  but  the goal  is  to try  to                                                              
provide  access for  parents  to get  health  insurance for  their                                                              
children and/or pregnancy  and to act responsibly.   Sometimes the                                                              
choice is quitting a job and going  back on welfare.  In some ways                                                              
that is  the most  responsible thing  to do  if the children  need                                                              
health  coverage.    The problem  is  responsible  parents  cannot                                                              
access  the coverage,  and  the goal  is  to try  to  get as  many                                                              
children as possible covered.                                                                                                   
CHAIRMAN DYSON  asked Commissioner  Perdue if  it is her  position                                                              
that 200 percent is exactly the right number.                                                                                   
COMMISSIONER  PERDUE answered  it is  unfair to  count the  PFD as                                                              
extra income because it is not counted  for a lot of other things.                                                              
The decision  has been made  in this state  that the PFD  does not                                                              
disqualify people for things.  She  believes that 200 percent is a                                                              
good level.  It is a medium level  compared to other states.  Many                                                              
states are way above  200 percent in this program.   It is not out                                                              
of line for what is going on in the nation.                                                                                     
Number 0873                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL disagreed  that the  200 percent  level is                                                              
where people really become needy.                                                                                               
Number 0949                                                                                                                     
COMMISSIONER PERDUE  summarized by saying she does  understand the                                                              
philosophical  issue;  it  was  debated  two years  ago  when  the                                                              
legislature  passed this  bill.   She deeply  resents the  concept                                                              
that these parents are somehow not  responsible.  She believes the                                                              
parents  are  doing responsible  things.    She does  not  believe                                                              
someone could take  a PFD and turn it into health  insurance for a                                                              
child; it  would only buy a  couple of month's worth  of coverage.                                                              
The message should not be sent out  that these parents are somehow                                                              
not doing right by their children  by getting this health coverage                                                              
or that  pregnant women  are not  somehow doing  right by  getting                                                              
this coverage.                                                                                                                  
CHAIRMAN DYSON said  if he implied that, it certainly  was not his                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL stated that was not his intention.                                                                       
Number 1006                                                                                                                     
COMMISSIONER PERDUE emphasized that  this is not welfare.  This is                                                              
health coverage for children whose  families are working, and they                                                              
cannot access it easily in the private market.                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN  asked if the threshold is  one where someone                                                              
either is or is not covered, or is it a sliding scale.                                                                          
COMMISSIONER PERDUE answered that it is not a sliding scale.                                                                    
Number 1061                                                                                                                     
JANICE  TOWER,   Alaska  Chapter   of  the  American   Academy  of                                                              
Pediatrics,  testified  via teleconference  from  Anchorage.   She                                                              
dittoed Commissioner  Perdue's remarks about why  this bill should                                                              
not pass.  She testified  on behalf of  the Alaska Chapter  of the                                                              
American  Academy of  Pediatrics which  is an  organization of  63                                                              
pediatricians  and  pediatric  sub-specialists   from  across  the                                                              
state.  In 1998,  the legislature passed HB 369 by  26-8 and 14-5;                                                              
that  authorized  the Denali  KidCare  program.    Representatives                                                              
Green, Kemplen  and Brice each voted  in favor of this  bill.  The                                                              
legislature is  to be congratulated  for having passed one  of the                                                              
best bills ever devised for children and expectant moms.                                                                        
MS. TOWER stated that HB 260 is a  step backwards to the twentieth                                                              
century.  Since Denali KidCare was  launched last March, there has                                                              
been a  27.6 percent  increase in  the number  of children  in the                                                              
Fairbanks  North  Star  Borough  who  now  have  health  insurance                                                              
through this program.  Similarly,  the Kenai Peninsula Borough can                                                              
be proud that  there's been an increase of 55.3  percent in health                                                              
insurance enrollments through this  program.  She pointed this out                                                              
because  she  understands  that  at the  last  hearing  there  was                                                              
testimony from  Kenai opposing this  program.  It  is unfathomable                                                              
that something  so successful can  be looked upon  as undesirable.                                                              
She sincerely  hopes this  will be  the last  that is heard  about                                                              
rescinding  this   valuable  program  and  that   more  monumental                                                              
decisions that  benefit children  and families  will be  made this                                                              
Number 1182                                                                                                                     
LEILA WISE testified via teleconference  from Anchorage.  She said                                                              
it sounds  like Representative  Coghill and  other members  of the                                                              
committee  believe that  Denali KidCare  represents  some kind  of                                                              
socialized medical program;  she doesn't see it that  way.  One of                                                              
the ways  she looks  at it is  as a subsidy  to business  to allow                                                              
businesses,  whether big or  small, to  pay their employees  small                                                              
amounts of money and fail to provide  health insurance.  She urged                                                              
the committee to  look at the bill in other ways.   It is not just                                                              
the 28  cents on  the dollar  that the  state provides for  health                                                              
insurance for low income children and pregnant women.                                                                           
MS.  WISE stated  that  anytime pregnant  women  are covered  with                                                            
health care or  deafness in children can be avoided  because their                                                              
ear infections  were treated is important.   She is  interested in                                                              
preventing  incidences  of  fetal   alcohol  syndrome  or  cocaine                                                              
babies, and  she is also  interested in  mental health care.   The                                                              
dollar investment in preventing and  treating mental health issues                                                              
will prevent greater costs later.   The small amount of money paid                                                              
for this program now is well worth it.                                                                                          
Number 1341                                                                                                                     
GEORGE  HIERONYMOUS, Executive  Director,  Beans'  Cafe and  Kids'                                                              
Kitchen, testified  via teleconference from Anchorage.   The Kids'                                                              
Kitchen program  feeds underprivileged children in  Mountain View,                                                              
Fairview and  the Muldoon  area.  A number  of those  children are                                                              
now covered  with this  program that would  not have  had coverage                                                              
before because  their parents  made over the  100 or  133 percent.                                                              
By the time a single mother with  three children pays for clothes,                                                              
school  costs and everything  else,  she can't  afford to pay  for                                                              
insurance for her children.  Bean's  Cafe offers insurance for the                                                              
employees,  but if  one  of the  employees  want  to insure  their                                                              
children, it  costs $400  a month,  not the $40  a month  that the                                                              
state pays.   Not  many people making  $25,000-$35,000  can afford                                                              
another $400 a month.                                                                                                           
MR. HIERONYMOUS noted that preventive  care is very important.  He                                                              
sees what happens without the preventive  care every day at Bean's                                                              
Cafe.   He can't  serve corn on  the cob because  a number  of the                                                              
people did  not have dental  care when  they were young,  nor have                                                              
dental care now.   The children need to have  their dental, health                                                              
and mental problems taken care of early.  He opposed HB 260.                                                                    
Number 1423                                                                                                                     
MICHELLE SCHUMACHER testified via  teleconference from Homer.  She                                                              
told  the committee  that her  son was  born with  a tumor in  his                                                              
head.   Had he  not been covered  by Denali  KidCare, she  and her                                                              
husband might have  waited to have his head examined.   After many                                                              
tests,  it  was discovered  that  the  tumor was  rapidly  growing                                                              
further into his  brain.  She is happy to report  that her son had                                                              
surgery and now  has a clean bill of health.   She and her husband                                                              
are so  thankful for the Denali  KidCare program and  can't stress                                                              
that enough.   If it weren't for Denali KidCare,  her family would                                                              
presently  be seriously in  debt.   Now she  and her husband  have                                                              
health  insurance through  their  jobs.   She  once again  thanked                                                              
Denali  KidCare  for  the  health  of  her son.    She  urged  the                                                              
committee to help the children by not passing this bill.                                                                        
Number 1486                                                                                                                     
LAUREN CARLTON  testified via teleconference  from Homer.   She is                                                              
pregnant,  is  on Denali  KidCare  now  and  is grateful  for  the                                                              
program.    She  feels strongly  that  Representative  Coghill  is                                                              
missing the  whole point of this  program.  It's not just  for the                                                              
lower income  people.   This program  was to fill  a gap  that the                                                              
private sector  has not  filled even though  there has  been great                                                              
economic growth  in the  country.  Yet  the private sector  hasn't                                                              
found a way to make insurance available  to everyone that needs it                                                              
other than catastrophic insurance.                                                                                              
MS.  CARLTON   read  in  the   newspaper  on  February   7,  where                                                              
Representative   Coghill  states   that  he   doesn't  think   the                                                              
government should  be the  supplier.  She  would like to  know why                                                              
people  pay federal  income  tax,  sales tax  or  property tax  if                                                              
people don't  get something  out of  it that  would really  make a                                                              
difference.    The  Denali  KidCare   program  is  making  a  huge                                                              
difference to a lot  of people.  It is not a handout;  it is a way                                                              
for  people to  get insurance.   An  income of  $40,000 (prior  to                                                              
taxes taken out  and social security) for a single  parent who has                                                              
two or three children is not a lot  of money these days in Alaska.                                                              
She also  noted that  the federal  government has guaranteed  this                                                              
program for  ten years.  She  feels frustrated that all  this time                                                              
and energy  is being spent  on removing  something that is  a good                                                              
Number 1639                                                                                                                     
RUTHE KNIGHT  testified via teleconference  from Valdez.   She has                                                              
listened  to all  the previous  testimony, and  one thought  going                                                              
through  her head is  the possibility  that many  of the  children                                                              
that  will need  more  time on  task  in school  [as  a result  of                                                              
failing  the  benchmarks  or  high  school  graduation  qualifying                                                              
exam],  wouldn't need  more  time  on task  if  they had  adequate                                                              
prenatal care.                                                                                                                  
MS. KNIGHT has seen the Denali KidCare  program help many families                                                              
throughout the  state of Alaska.  It  is one of the few  pieces of                                                              
legislation that  has really helped  the people in Alaska.   There                                                              
are many resource  industry families that have never  been able to                                                              
have  health insurance  for  their children,  and  this last  year                                                              
those families  got that.   More  children are getting  preventive                                                              
care so  they don't have  to have the  treatments they  would have                                                              
had if the  prevention hadn't been there.   It is way  too soon to                                                              
do  anything with  the  original legislation  that  was passed  in                                                              
1998.  It needs to run for at least  ten years.  She believes cost                                                              
savings  will be  seen  in many  difference  places that  probably                                                              
haven't  even been  looked at.   She  urged the  committee not  to                                                              
touch the original legislation, and she opposed HB 260.                                                                         
Number 1752                                                                                                                     
PATRICIA  MACPIKE testified  via teleconference  from Sitka.   She                                                              
works  with  emotionally  disturbed  children  and  her  child  is                                                              
covered by Denali  KidCare.  It dismays her to  be considered part                                                              
of the working  poor because she works very hard  with emotionally                                                              
disturbed children.   Some of the  people in that field  cannot be                                                              
paid  enough.     She  challenged  the  committee   to  work  with                                                              
emotionally disturbed children one day.                                                                                         
MS.  MACPIKE pointed  out that  parents who  work seasonally  have                                                              
difficulty  finding  health insurance  for  their  children.   Her                                                              
husband  works seasonally  for  the Alaska  Department  of Fish  &                                                              
Game; his  position has  been downsized due  to funding cuts.   It                                                              
costs $586 a  month for continued coverage of  the state insurance                                                              
during  the off  season  for her  husband and  daughter.   If  the                                                              
deductibles  are  included, it  is  quite  costly and  almost  not                                                              
effective.   They just hope  no one in the  family gets ill.   She                                                              
wondered if the legislators are covered  by state health insurance                                                              
when they are not  in session.  She noted that  the cost of living                                                              
and the  cost of health  care are  continually increasing.   Along                                                              
side that comes  the cost of education.  She and  her husband both                                                              
have  degrees, and  it did  not come cheap.   They  only have  one                                                              
child by choice because between the  costs of education and health                                                              
care, they  can only afford one child.   She opposes HB  260.  [HB
260 was heard and held.]                                                                                                        
Number 1906                                                                                                                     
There being no further business before the committee, the House                                                                 
Health, Education and Social Services Committee meeting was                                                                     
adjourned at 6:24 p.m.                                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects