Legislature(2009 - 2010)SENATE FINANCE 532

03/19/2009 02:30 PM Senate FINANCE

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02:40:27 PM Start
02:41:02 PM SB75
03:09:37 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Department of Labor and Workforce
Alaska Court System
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                  SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE                                                                                      
                       March 19, 2009                                                                                           
                         2:40 p.m.                                                                                              
2:40:27 PM                                                                                                                    
CALL TO ORDER                                                                                                                 
Co-Chair Stedman called the Senate Finance Committee meeting                                                                    
to order at 2:40 p.m.                                                                                                           
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Lyman Hoffman, Co-Chair                                                                                                 
Senator Bert Stedman, Co-Chair                                                                                                  
Senator Charlie Huggins, Vice-Chair                                                                                             
Senator Donny Olson                                                                                                             
Senator Joe Thomas                                                                                                              
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Senator Johnny Ellis                                                                                                            
ALSO PRESENT                                                                                                                  
Guy Bell,  Assistant Commissioner  and Director,  Division of                                                                   
Administrative  Services, Department  of Labor and  Workforce                                                                   
Development;   Chris   Christensen,   Deputy   Administrative                                                                   
Director, Alaska Court System.                                                                                                  
PRESENT VIA TELECONFERENCE                                                                                                    
SB 75     "An Act making and amending appropriations,                                                                           
          including capital appropriations, supplemental                                                                        
          appropriations, and appropriations to capitalize                                                                      
          funds; and providing for an effective date."                                                                          
          SB 75 was HEARD and HELD in Committee for further                                                                     
SENATE BILL NO. 75                                                                                                            
     "An Act  making and  amending appropriations,  including                                                                   
     capital  appropriations,   supplemental  appropriations,                                                                   
     and appropriations  to capitalize  funds; and  providing                                                                   
     for an effective date."                                                                                                    
2:41:02 PM                                                                                                                    
DEPARTMENT OF LABOR and WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT (DLWD)                                                                          
GUY BELL,  ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER  AND DIRECTOR,  DIVISION OF                                                                   
ADMINISTRATIVE  SERVICES, DEPARTMENT  OF LABOR AND  WORKFORCE                                                                   
DEVELOPMENT,  introduced the  department's  first item,  $1.5                                                                   
million for  the Alaska  Vocational Technical Center  (AVTEC)                                                                   
Deferred Maintenance  and Major Maintenance and  Expansion of                                                                   
the  Industrial   Electrical  Program  Building.   The  first                                                                   
component covers  the cost of  some of the maintenance  staff                                                                   
at AVTEC funded with capital project  receipts. The component                                                                   
also covers  the day-to-day  maintenance  of the facility  as                                                                   
issues arise.  The second component is for  major maintenance                                                                   
and expansion of the electrical  program building to increase                                                                   
its capacity and deal with environmental  systems issues. The                                                                   
increase should allow program  enrollment to increase from 24                                                                   
to 30 students.                                                                                                                 
Mr. Bell  turned to the second  item, the AVTEC  Third Avenue                                                                   
Dormitory  Replacement.  The   dormitory  houses  around  120                                                                   
students.  The project  has been  deleted  in the  governor's                                                                   
amended budget due to the revenue shortfall.                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stedman  asked if the  item would be in  DLWD's FY11                                                                   
capital  budget.  Mr.  Bell  answered   that  the  department                                                                   
intended  to request  funds for  the project  at some  future                                                                   
date; the  item will be  in the FY11  budget if  possible. He                                                                   
explained that the facility is  old and needs to be replaced.                                                                   
Co-Chair  Stedman  asked  whether  the  structure  was  still                                                                   
usable. Mr. Bell responded that  students are still housed in                                                                   
the facility and  maintenance staff has been  working to keep                                                                   
it operational.                                                                                                                 
2:44:32 PM                                                                                                                    
Mr.  Bell  described  the  third item  for  the  Division  of                                                                   
Workers'  Compensation   to  upgrade  and   rewrite  computer                                                                   
systems. The program  is funded with workers'  safety account                                                                   
receipts,  which  are  set aside  from  workers  compensation                                                                   
taxes and reimbursements from  self-insured employers to fund                                                                   
worker  safety  activities.  The systems  include  filing  of                                                                   
proof  of  coverage from  employers,  the  claims  management                                                                   
database, the fraud management  database, and other databases                                                                   
maintained by the division to serve clients.                                                                                    
Mr.  Bell  explained  the  next  item  for  $275,000  to  the                                                                   
Division  of  Vocational  Rehabilitation   for  an  interface                                                                   
between the  case management and  accounting system  with the                                                                   
social  security   administration   database  and   with  the                                                                   
unemployment   insurance   program.   Connecting   with   the                                                                   
databases will  enable the department to better  track actual                                                                   
outcomes such as  what an individual earns after  exiting the                                                                   
program and  returning to work.  In addition,  the department                                                                   
will be  able to use  the interface to  track the  ability to                                                                   
recover social  security receipts. When individuals  complete                                                                   
the  department's  program and  return  to work,  the  Social                                                                   
Security Administration reimburses  the DLWD for a percentage                                                                   
of savings in reduced social security benefit payments.                                                                         
Mr. Bell referred to the next  item, $6 million for the AVTEC                                                                   
New Heavy  Equipment Shop and  Diesel Shop with  Pipe Welding                                                                   
Program Relocation.  The initial request for  the project was                                                                   
for $12  million. The governor's  amended budget  reduced the                                                                   
request to  $6 million.  The new request  plans to  split the                                                                   
project. The first  funds would be used to  partially replace                                                                   
the  building currently  occupied  by the  diesel  technology                                                                   
training program with an estimated  8,000 square foot modular                                                                   
facility.  In  FY11 there  will  be  another request  for  an                                                                   
additional $6 million to complete the project.                                                                                  
Co-Chair  Stedman noted  that the additional  $6 million  was                                                                   
not listed  in the FY11 column.   Mr. Bell  acknowledged that                                                                   
the item should  have been indicated. He added  that the FY10                                                                   
request would  pay for  a useable  building that would  stand                                                                   
next to  and extend the existing  building. The intent  is to                                                                   
continue  with  an  adjacent  building.  The  thirty-year-old                                                                   
building being  replaced has  structural problems  and should                                                                   
be vacated.                                                                                                                     
Co-Chair Stedman asked if the  vacated building would be used                                                                   
for storage  or other  purposes. Mr.  Bell answered  that the                                                                   
intent was to use the building for storage.                                                                                     
2:49:18 PM                                                                                                                    
Mr. Bell concluded  with the department's last  project, $1.3                                                                   
million  for  Alaska  Works  Partnership  Fairbanks  Pipeline                                                                   
Training Center  Equipment. The original request  was reduced                                                                   
by  $1  million. Equipment  purchased  will  include  welding                                                                   
stations,  health  and  safety   lab-related  equipment,  and                                                                   
instructional equipment for the facility.                                                                                       
Senator  Huggins asked  for more  information regarding  bush                                                                   
training.  Mr. Bell  answered  that the  department  provides                                                                   
grants  to  entities  that  provide  job  training  in  rural                                                                   
Alaska,  such as  Nome, Kotzebue,  Bethel,  King Salmon,  and                                                                   
Galena.  He wondered  if  the  training Senator  Huggins  had                                                                   
heard about was provided through the Denali Commission.                                                                         
Co-Chair  Stedman noted  challenges in  keeping track  of the                                                                   
money  put  into  training  and   workforce  development  and                                                                   
suggested an overview of legislative  activities in workforce                                                                   
development over the past years.                                                                                                
Mr. Bell  reported that  Representative Hawker had  requested                                                                   
an accounting  of the various gasline-related  appropriations                                                                   
from all  agencies and that  DWLD was putting  together their                                                                   
data.  He added  that  the Office  of  Management and  Budget                                                                   
(OMB) would compile the information.                                                                                            
2:52:53 PM                                                                                                                    
ALASKA COURT SYSTEM (COURTS)                                                                                                  
CHRIS  CHRISTENSEN,  DEPUTY ADMINISTRATIVE  DIRECTOR,  ALASKA                                                                   
COURT SYSTEM,  explained the  relationship between  the court                                                                   
system,  the legislature,  and  OMB  in connection  with  the                                                                   
capital  budget. He  directed  attention  to the  ten-project                                                                   
list  and  noted  that  only   the  first  item  was  in  the                                                                   
governor's budget.                                                                                                              
Mr. Christensen  informed the committee that  the first item,                                                                   
$2.5  million for  the Anchorage  Campus Project  Renovation,                                                                   
was the COURTS top priority. The  request would fund one part                                                                   
of  the multi-year  Boney  Courthouse renovation  project  in                                                                   
Anchorage.  He provided a  history of  funding for  the $21.8                                                                   
million  project.  Over  40  percent   of  the  court  system                                                                   
caseload is in Anchorage.                                                                                                       
Mr.   Christensen   described   problems   with   the   Boney                                                                   
Courthouse,   including  substantial   deferred   maintenance                                                                   
needs, seismic issues, problems  installing needed electronic                                                                   
equipment,  and a lack  of security  for handling  prisoners,                                                                   
the cause  of mistrials  and regular  escapes. Anchorage  has                                                                   
had a 75  percent increase in  felony cases in the  past five                                                                   
years, dramatically increasing  the need for criminal trials,                                                                   
new judges,  and therapeutic courts. Renovating  the building                                                                   
would be more cost effective than re-building it.                                                                               
Mr.  Christensen  noted  that the  federal  stimulus  package                                                                   
indicates that 18 percent of each  state's allocation must be                                                                   
used  for public  safety and  other  government services.  He                                                                   
added that  $9.9 million of  the courthouse project  could be                                                                   
ready within 30 days.                                                                                                           
2:58:50 PM                                                                                                                    
Mr. Christensen  turned to the  second priority  item, $1.344                                                                   
million  for  CourtView  Enhancements.  The  purpose  of  the                                                                   
project is  to enhance the  CourtView case management  system                                                                   
that has been developed over the  past five years. The system                                                                   
makes criminal  case data available to other  law enforcement                                                                   
agencies  in  a  more  complete,  accurate,  accessible,  and                                                                   
timely manner. The basic version  of CourtView is operational                                                                   
in 24 court locations throughout  the state. Southeast Alaska                                                                   
is the last  remaining location to be developed.  He provided                                                                   
examples of problems caused by  a lack of the case management                                                                   
Mr.  Christensen  added  that  the request  was  the  capital                                                                   
component to get the system operational.                                                                                        
Co-Chair Stedman  clarified that COURTS would  request $1.344                                                                   
for  FY10 and  follow with  a  request for  over $800,000  in                                                                   
FY11. He  asked if  the challenges would  be solved  with the                                                                   
two appropriations.  Mr. Christensen  opined that  the amount                                                                   
would solve the problems. Currently  data is available on the                                                                   
internet,  but  limited;  law  enforcement  needs  access  to                                                                   
information not available to the public.                                                                                        
3:02:34 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stedman  asked if  location would affect  retrieval.                                                                   
Mr. Christensen  explained that the system is  state-wide and                                                                   
the information  is electronic.  The system  is used  by both                                                                   
the city police and state troopers.                                                                                             
Mr. Christensen  described the  COURTS third priority  on the                                                                   
list, Court  Security Projects. The  request is made  of many                                                                   
discreet projects of all sizes;  any amount provided would be                                                                   
useful.  He pointed  out  that  courthouses are  filled  with                                                                   
people with  problems that make  them security  risks. Alaska                                                                   
does not  have armed officers  in courthouses  or courtrooms.                                                                   
Security  upgrades  will  provide for  safer  holding  cells,                                                                   
secure  transportation,  alarms,  replacements  for  worn-out                                                                   
metal detectors, and other security projects.                                                                                   
Mr. Christensen  detailed the fourth item,  $350,000 expended                                                                   
over  three  years  for  the   Mediation  Pilot  Project.  He                                                                   
explained  that child  custody, visitation,  and support  are                                                                   
huge  issues  in  the  courts,  making  up  approximately  20                                                                   
percent of superior  court caseload in Alaska.  People rarely                                                                   
like initial custody determinations  and return to the courts                                                                   
repeatedly  over a  long period  of time.  The request  would                                                                   
fund  a mediation  pilot project  in  Fairbanks, Palmer,  and                                                                   
Anchorage for cases  where custody has been  set, but someone                                                                   
is trying to  change it. Mediation has been  used effectively                                                                   
in similar cases around the country.  The money would be used                                                                   
for training personnel.                                                                                                         
3:07:22 PM                                                                                                                    
Mr. Christensen  emphasized that  there are no  federal funds                                                                   
available  for the  project. After  the program  has been  in                                                                   
place and  demonstrates  success, the  court system will  ask                                                                   
for general funds.  Surveys in other states  show that people                                                                   
who participate  in agreements  regarding custody  issues are                                                                   
more satisfied.                                                                                                                 
Co-Chair  Stedman  explained   that  the  legislature  cannot                                                                   
guarantee amounts above the governor's requests.                                                                                
SB  75   was  HEARD  and   HELD  in  Committee   for  further                                                                   
3:09:37 PM                                                                                                                    
The meeting was adjourned at 3:09 PM.                                                                                           

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