Legislature(2021 - 2022)SENATE FINANCE 532

03/17/2022 09:00 AM Senate FINANCE

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ SB 132 CONTROLLED SUB. DATA: EXEMPT VETERINARIAN TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Invited & Public Testimony --
+ SB 202 RENEWABLE ENERGY GRANT FUND TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Invited & Public Testimony --
+= SB 81 VILLAGE PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICER GRANTS TELECONFERENCED
<Removed from Agenda>
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                 SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE                                                                                       
                      March 17, 2022                                                                                            
                         9:03 a.m.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
9:03:13 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CALL TO ORDER                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Bishop called the  Senate Finance Committee meeting                                                                    
to order at 9:03 a.m.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Senator Click Bishop, Co-Chair                                                                                                  
Senator Bert Stedman, Co-Chair                                                                                                  
Senator Lyman Hoffman                                                                                                           
Senator Donny Olson                                                                                                             
Senator Bill Wielechowski                                                                                                       
Senator David Wilson                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Senator Natasha von Imhof                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
ALSO PRESENT                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Roger  Holland,  Sponsor;   Nikki  Rose,  Staff  to                                                                    
Senator  Holland;  Dr.  Rachel Berngartt,  Chair,  Board  of                                                                    
Veterinary    Examiners;   Dr.    Tracy   Ward,    Associate                                                                    
Veterinarian, Southeast  Alaska Animal Medical  Center; Sara                                                                    
Chambers, Director,  Division of Corporations,  Business and                                                                    
Professional  Licensing, Department  of Commerce,  Community                                                                    
and Economic Development; Senator Josh Revak, Sponsor.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
PRESENT VIA TELECONFERENCE                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Dr. James  Delker, Alaska Veterinary  Association, Soldotna;                                                                    
Jerry Medina,  Inside Passage Electric  Cooperative, Juneau;                                                                    
Michael Rovito,  Deputy Director, Alaska  Power Association,                                                                    
Anchorage;  Jomo  Stewart,   President  and  CEO,  Fairbanks                                                                    
Economic Development Corporation,  Fairbanks; Curtis Thayer,                                                                    
Executive Director, Alaska Energy Authority, Anchorage.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SUMMARY                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SB 132    CONTROLLED SUB. DATA: EXEMPT VETERINARIAN                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
          SB 132 was HEARD and HELD in committee for                                                                            
          further consideration.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SB 202    RENEWABLE ENERGY GRANT FUND                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
          SB 202 was HEARD and HELD in committee for                                                                            
          further consideration.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATE BILL NO. 132                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     "An Act  exempting veterinarians from  the requirements                                                                    
    of the controlled substance prescription database."                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
9:04:19 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Bishop relayed  that the  intent of  the committee                                                                    
was  to hear  a  bill introduction  and sectional  analysis,                                                                    
take  public testimony,  and have  a committee  conversation                                                                    
about the bill.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
9:04:44 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR ROGER HOLLAND, SPONSOR, read from a Sponsor                                                                             
Statement (copy on file):                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     Alaska's  25th  legislature  created  the  Prescription                                                                    
     Drug   Monitoring   Program   (PDMP)   in   2008.   The                                                                    
     legislative  intent behind  the  PDMP was  to create  a                                                                    
     database of prescriptions  for controlled substances in                                                                    
     the   state.  The   PDMP  may   create  obstacles   for                                                                    
     individuals   seeking   opioids  to   obtain   multiple                                                                    
     prescriptions from  registered providers  and may  be a                                                                    
     useful tool  for human doctors in  combating the opioid                                                                    
     crisis.   Under   the  current   statutory   framework,                                                                    
     Alaska's veterinarians  are required to  participate in                                                                    
     the  PDMP,   despite  the   irreconcilable  differences                                                                    
     between  human and  veterinary medical  practice. PDMPs                                                                    
     have been implemented  in all 50 states,  but 34 states                                                                    
     have   recognized  the   unsuitability  of   veterinary                                                                    
     participation in  the PDMP and  exempted veterinarians.                                                                    
     SB 132 would add Alaska to that list.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     The majority  of states exempt veterinarians  from PDMP                                                                    
     because they  have recognized  that PDMPs  are designed                                                                    
     for  use in  human medicine;  and veterinary  exclusion                                                                    
     from  PDMPs  does  not increase  risk  to  the  public.                                                                    
     Alaska's  inclusion of  veterinarians in  the PDMP  has                                                                    
     produced  no identifiable  benefit;  yet  the PDMP  has                                                                    
     created  a   multitude  of  verifiable  harms   to  the                                                                    
     veterinary profession and the  Alaskans they serve. The                                                                    
     PDMP is  inappropriate and not  effective for  use with                                                                    
     animal  patients, as  animals do  not have  identifiers                                                                    
     such  as a  social security  number, and  veterinarians                                                                    
     must  view human  owners'  private  health data  before                                                                    
     treating an  animal. Veterinarians  are not  subject to                                                                    
     the  Health  Insurance Portability  and  Accountability                                                                    
     Act   of    1996   (HIPAA)   that    protects   patient                                                                    
     confidentiality does not apply  to veterinarians - they                                                                    
     are not bound by HIPAA.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
     Alaska  has the  highest veterinary  licensure cost  in                                                                    
     the  United  States.  Veterinary participation  in  the                                                                    
     PDMP contributes  to this unnecessary  financial burden                                                                    
     on a  profession already experiencing  extreme staffing                                                                    
     shortages,   decreasing   availability  of   veterinary                                                                    
     services  to Alaskans.  Moreso, a  recent survey  found                                                                    
     attempted veterinary doctor  shopping across the entire                                                                    
     United States is essentially non-existent.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     Veterinarians  are   tightly  regulated  by   the  Drug                                                                    
     Enforcement  Agency, the  Know Your  Customer Act,  and                                                                    
     the State licensing  board. SB 132 seeks  to correct an                                                                    
     expensive overreach  so that  Alaskans can  have access                                                                    
     to  treatment  for   their  pets  without  compromising                                                                    
     public safety.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
9:07:23 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
NIKKI ROSE, STAFF TO SENATOR HOLLAND, read from a Sectional                                                                     
Analysis (copy on file):                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     Sectional Analysis for version A                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     "An Act  exempting veterinarians from  the requirements                                                                    
    of the controlled substance prescription database."                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     Sec.  1 AS  17.30.200(o),  relating  to the  controlled                                                                    
     substance   prescription   database,  is   amended   by                                                                    
     deleting  the Board  of Veterinary  Examiners from  the                                                                    
     list of required notification by  the Board of Pharmacy                                                                    
     when a practitioner registers with the database.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     Sec. 2 Adds veterinarians  to the list of practitioners                                                                    
     not required  to comply  with the  controlled substance                                                                    
     prescription database under AS 17.30.200(t).                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     Sec.  3  Adds  a  definition of  "practitioner"  to  AS                                                                    
     17.30.200(u)                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     Sec.  4 Repeals  AS  08.98.050(a)(10), which  obligates                                                                    
     the board of veterinary  examiners to require licensees                                                                    
     to register with  the controlled substance prescription                                                                    
     database.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
9:09:08 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
DR. RACHEL BERNGARTT, CHAIR,  BOARD OF VETERINARY EXAMINERS,                                                                    
introduced herself  and relayed that  she had been  with the                                                                    
board  for  almost 20  years.  She  had  a wide  variety  of                                                                    
veterinary  experience,  including  dog  and  cat  medicine,                                                                    
marine mammal research, and shelter  medicine. She urged the                                                                    
committee to support the bill.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
9:09:41 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
DR.  TRACY WARD,  ASSOCIATE  VETERINARIAN, SOUTHEAST  ALASKA                                                                    
ANIMAL MEDICAL  CENTER, introduced herself and  relayed that                                                                    
she  was the  current president  of the  Alaska Veterinarian                                                                    
Medical Association (AVMA).                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Dr. Ward discussed  the presentation "Why It  makes Sense to                                                                    
Exempt Veterinarians  from the Prescription  Drug Monitoring                                                                    
Program" (copy on file).                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Dr. Ward addressed slide 2:                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     SB  132:  AN  ACT   EXEMPTING  VETERINARIANS  FROM  THE                                                                    
     REQUIREMENTS OF  THE CONTROLLED  SUBSTANCE PRESCRIPTION                                                                    
     DATABASE.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
     Supported By                                                                                                               
     Alaska State Veterinary Medical Association                                                                                
     Alaska Board of Veterinary Examiners                                                                                       
     Alaska Board of Pharmacy                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Dr.  Ward  spoke  to  slide  3,  "Background  of  Controlled                                                                    
Substance Prescription Database":                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     Referred to as PDMP                                                                                                        
      Veterinarians (with   a  Drug   Enforcement  Agency                                                                    
        permit) required to participate in the PDMP since                                                                       
        2017                                                                                                                    
      Participation involves both querying  and reporting                                                                    
        into the PDMP database (under certain circumstances)                                                                    
       for some categories of controlled substances.                                                                            
      The PDMP was intended to be a secure online database                                                                   
        to improve public health and  to allow practitioners                                                                    
        to look for duplicate  prescribing, possible misuse,                                                                    
        drug interactions, and potential concerns related to                                                                    
        the overuse of opioids.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Dr. Ward  thought it  was important  to recognize  that that                                                                    
the  PDMP did  not  prevent  diversion, where  practitioners                                                                    
such  as  doctors   or  veterinarians  purchased  controlled                                                                    
products  to sell  "out the  back door,"  because the  drugs                                                                    
were  not  prescribed  nor  entered  into  the  system.  She                                                                    
asserted  that the  PDMP was  to  primarily prevent  "doctor                                                                    
shopping."                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
9:12:03 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Dr.  Ward addressed  slide  4, "Our  Objective  Today is  to                                                                    
Discuss":                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     Ineffective  Tool  ?  Why  the  PDMP  doesn't  work  in                                                                    
     veterinary medicine                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     Privacy Issues ? Privacy and liability issues                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
     Low  Opioid Risk  ? Low  use of  opioids in  veterinary                                                                    
     medicine                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     Costly Oversight ? Large  PDMP investigative costs with                                                                    
     no shown benefit                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     Business  Burden Business  Burden ?  Onerous to  comply                                                                    
     Staff Shortages High Licensing Fees                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Dr.  Ward  expanded  that veterinarians  saw  human  private                                                                    
information when accessing the  PDMP, and veterinarians were                                                                    
not trained in pharmacology  for humans. Conversely, medical                                                                    
doctors  were not  trained in  the  use of  drug choices  or                                                                    
treatment  of  animals.  She summarized  that  veterinarians                                                                    
were  viewing  data   in  the  PDMP  that   they  could  not                                                                    
interpret. She  discussed the  privacy and  liability issues                                                                    
related  to veterinarians  not being  subject to  the Health                                                                    
Insurance  Portability and  Accountability Act  (HIPAA). She                                                                    
cited that  veterinarians accounted for  .3 to 1  percent of                                                                    
all opioid prescriptions generated  in the United States and                                                                    
in Alaska.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Dr. Ward relayed that veterinarians  did not use the opioids                                                                    
of primary concern  in the opioid crisis and  the drugs that                                                                    
were  primarily abused  such as  Oxycontin and  Vicodin. She                                                                    
described  that  fentanyl was  rarely  used  and only  in  a                                                                    
clinical   setting.   She  emphasized   that   veterinarians                                                                    
represented  a very  low  risk to  the  population with  the                                                                    
drugs  they  prescribed.  Over  two  thirds  of  states  had                                                                    
exempted veterinarians  from PDMPs. She summarized  that the                                                                    
result  of the  PDMP in  Alaska had  been costly  oversight,                                                                    
investigative,   and   business  burdens   to   veterinarian                                                                    
practitioners in the state.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
9:16:13 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Senator Wilson  thanked the testifiers.  He relayed  that he                                                                    
had heard the bill in  a previous committee where a question                                                                    
came up  about opioids  used during surgeries  in veterinary                                                                    
facilities.  He referenced  break-ins at  veterinary clinics                                                                    
and thought the PDMP would not prevent break-ins.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Dr. Ward asked if Senator Wilson's was related to the PDMP.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Wilson  asked  if  the PDMP  would  stop  a  person                                                                    
breaking into a veterinary facility.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Dr. Ward  answered in the  negative. She explained  that the                                                                    
PDMP was  only relevant to  drugs that were  prescribed. She                                                                    
detailed  that  veterinarians  were  required  by  the  Drug                                                                    
Enforcement Agency  (DEA) to have all  controlled substances                                                                    
under double  lock and  key. She  explained that  her clinic                                                                    
had  controlled substances  in a  gun safe  behind a  locked                                                                    
door, and  the possibility of  a person being able  to break                                                                    
in and obtain the drugs was  very low. She asserted that the                                                                    
PDMP had no bearing on the situation.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Bishop wanted  to follow  up  on Senator  Wilson's                                                                    
session.  He  wondered  if  there  were  many  break-ins  in                                                                    
veterinary clinics in the state. He had not heard of any.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Dr. Ward was not aware of  any such break-ins but was merely                                                                    
speaking  to the  possibility. She  thought  that since  the                                                                    
onset  of the  opioid  crisis, most  practices kept  minimal                                                                    
amounts of the drugs on site  for use during surgery and the                                                                    
post-operative periods. She noted  that most practices would                                                                    
prescribe the drugs to be dispensed from a pharmacy.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
9:19:02 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Dr. Berngartt  advanced to slide  5, "Why It Makes  Sense to                                                                    
Exempt":                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     Costly Oversight                                                                                                           
     The unwieldy PDMP leads to costly oversight with no                                                                        
     shown benefit.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     Costly and onerous requirements for monitoring                                                                             
     veterinarians have been placed on the board of                                                                             
     veterinary examiners (BOVE).                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     Alaska veterinarians have the highest licensing fee in                                                                     
     the country                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Dr. Berngartt stated that the  Board of Veterinary Examiners                                                                    
had  experienced  investigative   costs  rise  exponentially                                                                    
since 2017.  There had  been an  increase in  referrals from                                                                    
the   PDMP  program.   The  situations   involved  technical                                                                    
violations   in   a   system   that  was   not   usable   by                                                                    
veterinarians.  She  reminded of  the  lack  of a  numerical                                                                    
identifier  for animals  such as  a social  security number.                                                                    
She  emphasized there  were technical  violations but  there                                                                    
had  not  been  a  single incidence  of  veterinary  doctor-                                                                    
shopping or poor practice behavior.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Dr.  Berngartt continued  to address  slide 5.  She reminded                                                                    
that  the board  was self-supporting.  She noted  that there                                                                    
was   grant   funding   available    for   PDMP   cost   and                                                                    
administrations,  but the  grants covered  the PDMP  side of                                                                    
investigations   rather   than   the   board's   costs   for                                                                    
investigations. She  noted that veterinarians in  Alaska had                                                                    
the highest licensing fees in the country.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Dr.  Berngartt discussed  slide 6,  "Why It  Makes Sense  to                                                                    
Exempt":                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Business Burden                                                                                                                 
     The   PDMP   has   increased   business   burdens   for                                                                    
     Veterinarians.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     ? Charging  veterinarians for  the cost  of enforcement                                                                    
     of   an  unusable   PDMP   system   that  provides   no                                                                    
     identifiable benefit is  not responsible stewardship of                                                                    
     resources.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     o Widespread shortage of veterinary professionals in                                                                       
        Alaska                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
     o Time spent on the PDMP lessens productivity for                                                                          
        patient care                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
    o Higher business costs = higher fees for services                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Dr.  Berngartt  explained   that  veterinarians  could  only                                                                    
delegate  the  task of  reporting  to  the PDMP  to  another                                                                    
licensee, which was a veterinary  technician. She cited that                                                                    
there were  about 430 licensed  veterinarians and  about 270                                                                    
licensed  veterinary technicians  in  the  state, making  it                                                                    
difficult  to  delegate. She  discussed  the  time and  cost                                                                    
burden  of  using  the PDMP  and  mentioned  the  veterinary                                                                    
shortage in  the state. She cited  identifiable harm through                                                                    
increased  client cost  and  decreased  veterinary time  for                                                                    
care.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
9:24:02 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Senator Wilson  asked if it  was possible  for veterinarians                                                                    
to use human pharmacies to  get pet medication so the burden                                                                    
of PDMP use would be shifted.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Dr. Berngartt stated that it  was possible for veterinarians                                                                    
to  use outside  pharmacies to  dispense medication,  but as                                                                    
the  statutes  was  written  it required  use  of  the  PDMP                                                                    
through the act of prescribing the medication.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Bishop asked  about  quantifying the  veterinarian                                                                    
shortage.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Dr. Berngartt did not have  a certain number to describe the                                                                    
need for  veterinarians, but qualified  that a  fairly large                                                                    
percentage of licensed veterinarians  in Alaska did not live                                                                    
and practice  in the  state. She cited  that Juneau  used to                                                                    
have about  12 veterinarians,  while currently there  were 4                                                                    
practicing doctors in clinics and  Dr. Ward practiced at the                                                                    
Humane Society.  She noted that the  veterinary shortage was                                                                    
a nation-wide  program. She explained  that many  people had                                                                    
acquired pets during the pandemic.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Bishop thought there was  no analytical evidence of                                                                    
the shortage. He  was curious if the PDMP  was an impediment                                                                    
to  new veterinarians  coming into  the  state, and  whether                                                                    
there was  any evidence of  stronger numbers in  states that                                                                    
had repealed the requirement.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
9:27:41 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Dr.  Ward did  not think  there was  hard evidence  that the                                                                    
PDMP was an impediment. She  recounted that when she came to                                                                    
Alaska,  she  did  not  delve into  the  details  enough  to                                                                    
understand  the requirement  of participating  in the  PDMP.                                                                    
She  thought the  point Dr.  Berngartt was  making was  more                                                                    
about making the  most efficient use of  time for practicing                                                                    
veterinarians. She  knew there  were waiting lists  in every                                                                    
practice  in the  state  and considered  time  spent on  the                                                                    
database to be time that could be spent treating patients.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Dr.  Berngartt added  to Dr.  Ward's  remarks and  suggested                                                                    
that along with the concern  of veterinary retention, it was                                                                    
important   to  consider   recruitment  of   new  veterinary                                                                    
graduates. She  explained that  veterinary salaries  did not                                                                    
necessarily  start high  to offset  education and  licensing                                                                    
costs.  She  thought  Alaska's high  licensing  costs  could                                                                    
affect potential recruitment.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Dr.  Berngartt spoke  to slide  7,  "Why It  Makes Sense  to                                                                    
Exempt":                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     Oversight in Place                                                                                                         
     Veterinarians are monitored by the Drug Enforcement                                                                        
     Agency and must adhere to controlled substance                                                                             
     regulations.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     ? Veterinarians who prescribe or dispense controlled                                                                       
     substances are licensed through Drug Enforcement                                                                           
     Agency (DEA).                                                                                                              
     ? Significant level of accountability, record keeping,                                                                     
     and medication storage requirements for veterinarians.                                                                     
         Distributors  of   controlled  substances   monitor                                                                    
     utilization patterns of veterinarians.                                                                                     
        o Suspicious Order Monitoring System is in place                                                                        
          and data is gathered by distribution companies                                                                        
        o Required by DEA to monitor and report unusual                                                                         
          purchase patterns of a veterinarian                                                                                   
        o Required to flag purchases that fall outside of                                                                       
          norms for either previous purchase history or                                                                         
         norms for practices of similar size/type                                                                               
     ? DEA oversight is to control/prevent diversion from                                                                       
     licensed professionals to drug dealers and users.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Dr.  Berngartt discussed  required stringent  record keeping                                                                    
for veterinary drugs.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
9:31:27 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Dr. Berngartt showed slide 8, "Why Invest?":                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
     Valuable resources into a problem, that doesn't                                                                            
     benefit the problem?                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     It Makes Sense to Exempt Veterinarians from the PDMP                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Dr. Berngartt  thought the presentation  had shown  that the                                                                    
PDMP  was   an  ineffective  tool  for   veterinarians.  She                                                                    
mentioned   the  disadvantage   of   comingling  human   and                                                                    
veterinary data, privacy  issues, costly oversight, business                                                                    
burdens, and the low opioid risk posed by veterinarians.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Dr. Berngartt showed slide 9, "Urge YES VOTE on SB 132":                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     Supported By:                                                                                                              
     Alaska State Veterinary Medical Association                                                                                
     Board of Veterinary Examiners                                                                                              
     Board of Pharmacy                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Olson  asked  if  all   veterinarians  had  a  Drug                                                                    
Enforcement Agency (DEA) number.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Dr. Berngartt  answered "no." She qualified  that only those                                                                    
veterinarians who  had a  DEA number  that were  required to                                                                    
participate in the PDMP.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Olson  asked  how  often  veterinarians  prescribed                                                                    
Schedule 2 and Schedule 3 drugs.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Dr.  Berngartt thought  Senator Olson's  question was  broad                                                                    
and  was   dependent  upon  the  veterinary   practice.  She                                                                    
discussed different  veterinary practices ranging  from home                                                                    
health  visits to  emergency practice,  which  would have  a                                                                    
very different opioid practice.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Senator Olson  asked when  the last  time Dr.  Berngartt had                                                                    
prescribed a Schedule 2 or Schedule 3 drug.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Dr. Berngartt  relayed that she had  recently graduated from                                                                    
law school  and was  not in  full time  veterinary practice.                                                                    
She estimated  that she had  not prescribed the  drugs since                                                                    
2019.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Olson  asked  Dr.  Ward  when  the  last  time  she                                                                    
prescribed Schedule 2 or Schedule 3 drugs.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Dr.  Ward relayed  that she  had used  the drugs  within the                                                                    
clinic the week previously.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Olson  asked  if  the  practice  was  standard  for                                                                    
veterinarians throughout the state.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Dr. Ward  could not  speak to  a standard  because different                                                                    
types of practice  would use the drugs  less frequently. She                                                                    
cited that  the practice where  she worked did  not dispense                                                                    
any prescribed  substances, and the drugs  were sent through                                                                    
a  pharmacy. She  mentioned the  prescription  of two  drugs                                                                    
that were frequently prescribed.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
9:35:18 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Senator Olson  asked about the  high license fees  and asked                                                                    
if  the  cost   had  been  driven  up   by  the  self-funded                                                                    
investigations by the state board.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Dr. Berngartt  affirmed that it  was the  boards  impression                                                                    
that fees were driven  up by investigations. She highlighted                                                                    
that she  participated in national conferences,  and thought                                                                    
Alaska   had  veterinarians   that  practiced   high-quality                                                                    
medicine with  a low level  of complaints. She had  not seen                                                                    
an increase  of people alleging negligence  in practice, but                                                                    
she  had  seen  a  significant  increase  in  investigations                                                                    
related to PDMP  technical violations. Each time  one of the                                                                    
violations was sent over, an investigation was required.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Senator Olson asked if the board had its own investigator.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Dr. Berngartt relayed that the  board shared an investigator                                                                    
with other boards.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Senator Olson  referenced the  shortage of  veterinarians in                                                                    
the state.  He asked  if Alaska  had reciprocity  with other                                                                    
licensed veterinarians.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Dr.  Berngartt   relayed  that  the  University   of  Alaska                                                                    
Fairbanks had a veterinary  program. Students in the program                                                                    
attended at  UAF for  the first two  years, with  the latter                                                                    
two  years  at  Colorado  State University.  She  could  not                                                                    
quantify  how  many  program participants  returned  to  the                                                                    
state. She  speculated that Alaska did  not have reciprocity                                                                    
with other states.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Senator Olson  shared that his most  concerning question had                                                                    
to  do  with  disciplinary  actions  related  to  controlled                                                                    
substances. There  had been a  veterinarian in  his district                                                                    
which had taken the medicine from his practice.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Dr.  Berngartt  was  aware  of  the  scenario  described  by                                                                    
Senator  Olson. She  thought it  was  important to  remember                                                                    
that  the  PDMP  was  but   one  tool  in  the  toolbox  for                                                                    
addressing opioid addiction. She  contended that if a doctor                                                                    
was  impaired, they  would not  be entering  the information                                                                    
into  the PDMP.  She mentioned  other ways  of demonstrating                                                                    
that the  PDMP did not  catch bad actor doctors  or impaired                                                                    
doctors.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
9:40:01 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Dr.  Berngartt continued  her remarks.  She  thought it  was                                                                    
erroneous to  say that that veterinary  participation in the                                                                    
PDMP  would have  helped the  situation  in Senator  Olson's                                                                    
district, because  the drugs would  have never  been entered                                                                    
in the PDMP as they were not prescribed drugs.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
9:40:27 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Bishop  asked why all  vets were not  enrolled with                                                                    
the DEA.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Dr. Berngartt  spoke to differences in  veterinary practice,                                                                    
and used  the example of Dr.  Sarah Coburn, who was  a state                                                                    
veterinarian involved  in biosecurity  but not  in practice.                                                                    
She mentioned  a veterinarian pathologist in  the state that                                                                    
had  no need  for  a  DEA license.  The  different types  of                                                                    
practices accounted for whether a DEA license was required.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Wilson  stated  that  he had  a  question  for  the                                                                    
Division   of   Corporations,  Business   and   Professional                                                                    
Licensing,  Department of  Commerce, Community  and Economic                                                                    
Development.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Bishop thanked  the testifiers  for their  work on                                                                    
behalf of the states animals.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Senator   Wilson  wanted   a  clarification   regarding  the                                                                    
veterinarians  using the  PDMP and  catching bad  actors. He                                                                    
thought  the PDMP  sent out  report cards  and asked  if the                                                                    
information was  reviewed by law enforcement  or anyone that                                                                    
could identify an outlier.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
9:42:39 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SARA CHAMBERS, DIRECTOR,  DIVISION OF CORPORATIONS, BUSINESS                                                                    
AND   PROFESSIONAL   LICENSING,  DEPARTMENT   OF   COMMERCE,                                                                    
COMMUNITY  AND ECONOMIC  DEVELOPMENT, affirmed  that Senator                                                                    
Wilson  was  correct  in  that   there  were  a  variety  of                                                                    
reporting  metrics  utilized  by the  PDMP.  The  prescriber                                                                    
report card was  a tool to help a prescriber  to identify if                                                                    
they  were an  outlying  prescriber. She  detailed that  the                                                                    
division was working with the  software vendor to refine the                                                                    
process so there  could be greater oversight  by the boards.                                                                    
The  report card  was just  educational for  the prescriber,                                                                    
which she  thought went  back to  the legislative  intent of                                                                    
the law.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Senator Olson asked Ms. Chambers  if the passage of the bill                                                                    
would  have  an  effect  on the  Division  of  Corporations,                                                                    
Business  and Professional  Licensing  (CBPL)  and the  high                                                                    
license fees.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Ms.  Chambers  thought many  members  of  the committee  had                                                                    
heard  about  the  high license  fees  and  understood  CBPL                                                                    
performed a  complex analysis. She explained  that the board                                                                    
had seen  a dramatic uptick in  investigative costs directly                                                                    
related to the  PDMP, because there had  been some confusion                                                                    
amongst  veterinarians with  regard to  whether registration                                                                    
was required. There  had been a compliance  problem and CBPL                                                                    
was duty-bound to look into  the matter. She thought that if                                                                    
veterinarians were to continue in  the PDMP without the laws                                                                    
being  changed,  she  anticipated  continued  confusion  and                                                                    
frustration   for  veterinarians,   which   would  lead   to                                                                    
investigative costs.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Ms.  Chambers continued  her testimony.  She explained  that                                                                    
fees were high because of  the economy of scale. Per capita,                                                                    
Alaska  did things  more expensively.  She pointed  out that                                                                    
every license  fee was  the highest  in the  country because                                                                    
the   state   was  required   to   have   the  same   legal,                                                                    
investigative, and  administrative oversight as  every other                                                                    
state, not because  of the PDMP. She cited  that even though                                                                    
the  program had  received $10,000  in Unrestricted  General                                                                    
Funds  (UGF) the  previous year  and was  slated to  receive                                                                    
$50,000 in UGF  in the current year to offset  the fees, the                                                                    
license  fees would  likely  to continue  to  increase as  a                                                                    
result  of  the  investigations.   She  summarized  that  if                                                                    
veterinarians were taken out of  the PDMP, it was likely the                                                                    
fees would increase at a lower rate.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
9:46:22 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Senator Olson asked if the  department was supportive of the                                                                    
bill.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Ms. CHambers  relayed that the administration  had not taken                                                                    
a position  on the bill.  She continued that  the department                                                                    
had taken  a position  in all  things that  it was  bound to                                                                    
follow  the   law  as  dictated  by   the  legislature.  She                                                                    
qualified  that  the administration  saw  all  sides of  the                                                                    
arguments for and against the bill.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Senator Olson  commented that after  seeing the  PDMP coming                                                                    
to fruition  and deal with  its guidelines, he was  fully in                                                                    
support of the  bill because of the extra  burden imposed by                                                                    
the PDMP.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Wielechowski asked  if  there  had been  complaints                                                                    
about   opioid  abuse   or  drug   abuse  in   any  of   the                                                                    
investigations.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Ms.   Chambers  relayed   that  there   had  not   been  any                                                                    
substantiated  issues  with   veterinarians  that  had  been                                                                    
related to the  PDMP. There had been a lot  of complaints of                                                                    
non-compliance,   but   no    complaints   of   veterinarian                                                                    
wrongdoing as a result of the PDMP.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
9:48:05 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Bishop OPENED public testimony.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
9:48:20 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
DR.  JAMES DELKER,  ALASKA VETERINARY  ASSOCIATION, SOLDOTNA                                                                    
(via teleconference), spoke  in support of the  bill. He and                                                                    
his wife  had been  practicing veterinary medicine  for over                                                                    
25 years  and he  had owned a  private practice  in Soldotna                                                                    
for 19  years. He detailed that  he had served as  an unpaid                                                                    
volunteer on  the AVMA Board  since 2010, and the  board had                                                                    
no paid lobbyist.  He had been involved  with the veterinary                                                                    
PDMP issue  since it came to  the attention of the  board in                                                                    
2013. He  recounted trying to share  the identified problems                                                                    
with the PDMP staff and  Board of Pharmacy, but the problems                                                                    
had not been resolved.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Delker emphasized that there  had not been a single case                                                                    
of   doctor  shopping   or  diversion   to  a   veterinarian                                                                    
identified  by the  PDMP in  the  last five  years, yet  the                                                                    
board  had spent  $160,000 on  investigations  of around  56                                                                    
veterinarians. Essentially  all the investigations  had been                                                                    
related to PDMP non-compliance  rather than opioid diversion                                                                    
or  abuse. He  asserted  that  the cost  of  the program  to                                                                    
taxpayers and veterinarians was excessive and unwarranted.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Delker commented  on the  shortage of  veterinarians in                                                                    
the state. He had recently  hired a veterinarian after about                                                                    
two and a  half years spent trying to fill  the position. He                                                                    
mentioned other clinics  in the area that had  not been able                                                                    
to  fill  veterinarian  positions.  He  discussed  licensing                                                                    
costs and  identified that it  was becoming a  deterrent for                                                                    
recruiting new  doctors to Alaska.  He mentioned  a shortage                                                                    
of licensed  veterinary technicians.  He discussed  types of                                                                    
medications prescribed  by veterinarians, and cited  that in                                                                    
25  years of  practice  he had  never prescribed  Oxycontin,                                                                    
Vicodin,   or   Methadone.   He  and   other   veterinarians                                                                    
prescribed  medications with  low  abuse  potential such  as                                                                    
Phenobarbital. He  noted that 34  other states  had exempted                                                                    
veterinarians   for  PDMP   programs.  He   emphasized  that                                                                    
veterinarians were happy to support  efforts to decrease the                                                                    
opioid epidemic but asked that  efforts result in measurable                                                                    
benefits. He  thought with consideration  of the  facts, the                                                                    
legislature  would support  the bill,  as did  the Board  of                                                                    
Pharmacy.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
9:52:10 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Bishop CLOSED public testimony.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Senator Olson  asked Dr.  Delker what he  used for  an anti-                                                                    
pertussive when dealing with an animal.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Dr.  Delker  relayed   he  typically  used  over-the-counter                                                                    
medication  such as  Robitussen.  He continued  that if  the                                                                    
case   progressed,   he   would  occasionally   use   liquid                                                                    
Hydrocodone, although he  could not recall the  last time he                                                                    
had prescribed it.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Senator Olson  asked if Dr.  Delker used codeine  for animal                                                                    
patients.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Dr.  Delker  could not  recall  ever  using codeine  in  his                                                                    
practice of 25 years.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Bishop relayed  an amendment  deadline of  Monday,                                                                    
March 21 at noon.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
SB  132  was  HEARD  and   HELD  in  committee  for  further                                                                    
consideration.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
9:53:45 AM                                                                                                                    
AT EASE                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
9:54:45 AM                                                                                                                    
RECONVENED                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATE BILL NO. 202                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     "An Act relating to the renewable energy grant fund                                                                        
     and recommendation program; and providing for an                                                                           
     effective date."                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
9:54:50 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Bishop relayed that it  was the first hearing of SB
202.  It  was  the  committee's intention  to  hear  a  bill                                                                    
introduction and  a Sectional Analysis,  and to  take public                                                                    
testimony.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
9:55:09 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR JOSH  REVAK, SPONSOR, read from  a Sponsor Statement                                                                    
(copy on file):                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     SB  202  extends  the authorization  of  the  Renewable                                                                    
     Energy Grant Fund and  Recommendation Program setting a                                                                    
     new sunset date of June 30, 2033.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     The Renewable Energy Fund  (REF) program was originally                                                                    
     established in 2008 with the  passage of House Bill 152                                                                    
     and  later received  a ten-year  extension in  2012, in                                                                    
     both   cases  receiving   a  unanimous   vote  of   the                                                                    
     legislature. The  REF is managed  by the  Alaska Energy                                                                    
     Authority in coordination  with a nine-member Renewable                                                                    
     Energy Fund Advisory Committee.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Revak  explained  that  the  program  had  an  open                                                                    
application  process and  was currently  in  Round 14.  Each                                                                    
submission  was considered  by  its  economic and  technical                                                                    
feasibility.   The    Alaska   Energy    Authority's   (AEA)                                                                    
recommendations  were sent  to the  advisory committee,  and                                                                    
its final recommendations were then  sent to the legislature                                                                    
for approval.  He noted that  39 applications  were received                                                                    
in the  last round.  He continued to  read from  the Sponsor                                                                    
Statement:                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     Since  its inception,  the  Renewable  Energy Fund  has                                                                    
     distributed over  $275 million  dollars in  grant funds                                                                    
     for  qualifying  and competitively  selected  renewable                                                                    
     energy projects across the state.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Senator Revak  detailed that $34  million had  been directed                                                                    
at  projects on  the road  belt, and  $248 million  had been                                                                    
directed to projects  in rural Alaska. He  continued that SB
202  amended the  2008 session  law  as amended  in 2012  to                                                                    
extend the  sunset date to  June 30,  2033, and also  set an                                                                    
immediate  effective  date.  The  bill had  a  $1.4  million                                                                    
fiscal  note   for  maintenance   of  the   fund,  financial                                                                    
services,  and oversight  of existing  and  new grants.  The                                                                    
amount  reflected  what  was  budgeted  for  in  FY  23.  He                                                                    
continued to address the Sponsor Statement:                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     These  REF  grants  have   been  supplemented  by  both                                                                    
     federal and  local funding to  the tune of  hundreds of                                                                    
     millions  of  dollars.  These combined  funds  help  to                                                                    
     stabilize  and reduce  energy  costs  for consumers  by                                                                    
     supporting renewable energy projects  in both urban and                                                                    
     rural communities across Alaska.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Senator Revak  emphasized that as energy  prices climbed, he                                                                    
thought it  was important  for Alaska  to take  advantage of                                                                    
all of its available sources  of energy and heat, especially                                                                    
in the  state's most  vulnerable communities.  He summarized                                                                    
that the Renewable  Energy Grant Fund was  an important tool                                                                    
which  supported Alaskan  communities to  meet their  energy                                                                    
needs.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Revak explained  that there  was invited  testimony                                                                    
available to answer questions, and  there was a presentation                                                                    
that  had been  distributed to  members (copy  on file).  He                                                                    
noted that  because of  the REF Program,  there had  been 30                                                                    
million gallons of diesel saved since 2008.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Senator Wilson  shared that he  was generally  supportive of                                                                    
the  program  and its  process  for  selecting projects.  He                                                                    
included that  he was  currently a  member of  the Renewable                                                                    
Energy Advisory Committee along with Senator von Imhof.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
9:58:51 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Bishop OPENED public testimony.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
9:59:01 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JERRY  MEDINA, INSIDE  PASSAGE ELECTRIC  COOPERATIVE, JUNEAU                                                                    
(via teleconference),  testified in support of  the bill. He                                                                    
shared that  the Inside Passage Electric  Cooperative (IPEC)                                                                    
had  received two  construction  grants from  REF. In  2015,                                                                    
IPEC  completed a  hydroelectric  project  at Gartina  Falls                                                                    
outside of Hoonah. The REF  grant amount was $6,694,000, and                                                                    
the remainder  was financed with  a low-interest loan  of $3                                                                    
million. The project was completed  in August 2015. He cited                                                                    
the  following  figures  since   the  project  came  online:                                                                    
542,711 gallons  of diesel fuel saved,  $1,297,979 of diesel                                                                    
fuel costs replaced, and 7,910,266  kilowatt hours of hydro-                                                                    
generation.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Medina informed  that IPEC  had also  received a  grant                                                                    
from REF in  the amount $3,920,000, as well as  a $3 million                                                                    
USDA Rural  Utilities Service grant for  construction of the                                                                    
Gunnuk  Creek  hydro  project in  Kake.  Additionally,  IPEC                                                                    
secured  a  low-interest  loan of  $1,840,000  for  a  total                                                                    
project  cost of  $8,760,000. The  project was  completed in                                                                    
October  2020.  He cited  the  following  figures since  the                                                                    
project came  online: 70,833 gallons  of diesel  fuel saved,                                                                    
$165,350  of  diesel  fuel  costs  replaced,  and  1,003,122                                                                    
kilowatt hours  of hydro-generation. He detailed  that there                                                                    
had  been  several days  in  Kake  with 100  percent  hydro-                                                                    
generation, where diesel generators had been off.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Medina  continued his testimony. He  cited the following                                                                    
figures  resulting from  a combination  of  the projects  at                                                                    
Gartina Falls  and Gunnuk Creek:  613,544 gallons  of diesel                                                                    
fuel   saved,  resulting   in  $1,463,329   in  savings   to                                                                    
customers. He  summarized that REF had  been instrumental in                                                                    
completing  two successful  clean renewable  energy projects                                                                    
for IPEC  customers. He  shared that IPEC  had "skin  in the                                                                    
game" for both  projects. He emphasized that  the success of                                                                    
the projects would not have been possible without REF.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
10:01:37 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Stedman   thought  there  were  several   ways  of                                                                    
measuring the  REF Program, one  of which was  fuel savings.                                                                    
He wanted to  know if the meter rate for  the communities of                                                                    
Kake  and  Hoonah  had  gone  down or  up  since  the  hydro                                                                    
projects had been operational.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Medina  explained that  IPEC had the  same rate  for all                                                                    
four of  its service areas.  He discussed the  fuel savings,                                                                    
which was reflected in the  Cost of Power Adjustment (COPA),                                                                    
which was a fuel surcharge  that was currently just over .15                                                                    
cents per  kilowatt hour. He  explained that as  fuel prices                                                                    
fluctuated, the  COPA fluctuated  in the same  direction. He                                                                    
recalled  that  the  latest  invoice  from  the  fuel  barge                                                                    
reflected $4.22 per  gallon after recently being  at a price                                                                    
of just over  $3 per gallon. He hoped that  there would be a                                                                    
significantly  wet year  to generate  as much  hydropower as                                                                    
possible.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Stedman understood that the  meter rate in Kake had                                                                    
gone up after the hydro-project.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Mr.   Medina   thought   Co-Chair  Stedman   had   incorrect                                                                    
information.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Stedman  shared  that his  information  came  from                                                                    
community  leaders in  Kake, including  from  city hall.  He                                                                    
asked  Mr. Medina  to get  back to  the committee  with more                                                                    
detailed  information   regarding  historical   meter  rates                                                                    
charged  to citizens.  He shared  concerns regarding  losing                                                                    
sight  of the  goal of  lowered  rates as  the state  worked                                                                    
towards renewable  energy and  moving away  from the  use of                                                                    
diesel.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Medina  reiterated that  all  customers  paid the  same                                                                    
amount. He  thought all of IPEC's  customers benefitted from                                                                    
the hydro projects.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Bishop  asked Mr. Medina  to provide  the committee                                                                    
with the information requested by Co-Chair Stedman.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
10:04:42 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MICHAEL ROVITO,  DEPUTY DIRECTOR, ALASKA  POWER ASSOCIATION,                                                                    
ANCHORAGE  (via teleconference),  spoke  in  support of  the                                                                    
bill. He  explained that the Alaska  Power Association (APA)                                                                    
was a statewide trade  association for electric utilities in                                                                    
Alaska. He relayed that APA was  in full support of the bill                                                                    
and of extending  the REF. He strongly urged  passage of the                                                                    
bill and thanked the sponsor.  He asserted that many members                                                                    
had received  crucial funding from REF  since its inception.                                                                    
He continued  that the funds  had supported the  addition of                                                                    
renewable  energy  projects  that had  lowered  reliance  on                                                                    
diesel  fuel, stabilized  rates,  and  decreased the  carbon                                                                    
footprint of electric generation.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Rovito continued his testimony.  He cited 244 REF grants                                                                    
totaling $275  million, and over 95  operating projects that                                                                    
had been built using the funds  to save more than 30 million                                                                    
gallons of  diesel each  year. He asserted  that REF  was an                                                                    
extremely  valuable  program  that  had  proven  itself.  He                                                                    
referenced numerous projects  under consideration for future                                                                    
rounds of grant funding through REF.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
10:06:35 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
JOMO   STEWART,  PRESIDENT   AND  CEO,   FAIRBANKS  ECONOMIC                                                                    
DEVELOPMENT  CORPORATION,  FAIRBANKS  (via  teleconference),                                                                    
testified  in support  of  the bill.  He  asserted that  the                                                                    
Fairbanks Economic  Development Corporation (FEDC)  had long                                                                    
supported  the REF  Program and  any state  efforts to  help                                                                    
communities to  diversity their energy  base and  drive down                                                                    
costs. He  mentioned that much  of FEDC's work  pertained to                                                                    
energy  and the  attempt to  diversify energy.  He though  a                                                                    
nice  complement to  the REF  Program would  be to  identify                                                                    
funding to  help reactivate the  Home Energy  Rebate Program                                                                    
that  had  been  operated  by  the  Alaska  Housing  Finance                                                                    
Corporation (AHFC).                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Bishop  thanked Mr. Stewart  and affirmed  that the                                                                    
committee  was looking  into the  topic of  the Home  Energy                                                                    
Rebate Program as of two weeks previously.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
10:08:04 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Bishop CLOSED public testimony.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
10:08:06 AM                                                                                                                   
AT EASE                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
10:09:17 AM                                                                                                                   
RECONVENED                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Senator Wielechowski asked if Mr.  Thayer had a sense of how                                                                    
many successful REF  projects there were as  compared to the                                                                    
number of abandoned projects.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CURTIS THAYER, EXECUTIVE  DIRECTOR, ALASKA ENERGY AUTHORITY,                                                                    
ANCHORAGE  (via teleconference),  cited that  there were  99                                                                    
operational projects, with 38  in development and 240 total.                                                                    
There had been a little less  than 100 projects that had not                                                                    
gone forward, part of which was  due to the economics of the                                                                    
projects or  future funding for  the costs of  the projects.                                                                    
He added  that there were  a few projects  currently seeking                                                                    
additional   funding,   primarily    through   the   federal                                                                    
infrastructure   bill   or   other   means.   He   discussed                                                                    
feasibility work, which had to  be complete in order to move                                                                    
projects forward. He noted that  early in the program itself                                                                    
there was more funding  available, while currently there was                                                                    
the ongoing challenge of a $1 million funding cap.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Senator Wielechowski  inquired about  the 100  projects that                                                                    
had  not gone  forward and  asked what  percentage had  been                                                                    
abandoned versus projects still in development.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Thayer did not have  the information at hand. He offered                                                                    
to  send  the committee  a  complete  list of  projects  and                                                                    
project status.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Senator Wielechowski expressed his  continued support of the                                                                    
REF  Program and  thought it  had been  very successful.  He                                                                    
wanted  to get  a  sense of  if there  was  something to  be                                                                    
improved if the state had  invested in projects that had not                                                                    
gone forward.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Senator Wielechowski asked if the REF funds were sweepable.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Thayer stated  that there were usually no  funds left to                                                                    
sweep because  projects were already  encumbered by  the end                                                                    
of  the fiscal  year. He  noted that  the $4.75  million for                                                                    
Round  13   (completed  in  August)  had   been  encumbered.                                                                    
Currently  AEA was  on Round  14 and  had approximately  $15                                                                    
million  if the  legislature approved  the funding,  with 39                                                                    
applications for  a total  request of  $19.2 million  in REF                                                                    
funds.  He identified  that there  were  some projects  that                                                                    
would  be  disqualified  based  on  economics  or  technical                                                                    
viability. The funds had not  been swept in the past because                                                                    
from  the time  AEA  moved a  project  forward and  received                                                                    
legislative approval,  the funding  was encumbered  within a                                                                    
few months.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
10:12:44 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Senator Olson  asked if  the funds  were sweepable  if there                                                                    
were funds left in the account.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Thayer thought  the funds were sweepable.  He noted that                                                                    
Round 10, 11,  and 12 had no funding by  the legislature for                                                                    
the  program.  The  previous  year  REF  had  received  $4.7                                                                    
million, and currently there was  a request for $15 million.                                                                    
He reiterated  that there had been  no money in the  fund to                                                                    
sweep.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Hoffman thought  the REF  was a  great program.  He                                                                    
thought that  the largest benefit  was that  grantees funded                                                                    
for  hydro  or  wind  power  receive  stabilized  rates.  He                                                                    
thought people using diesel would  have seen rates double in                                                                    
the last few years. He  thought energy costs continued to be                                                                    
the  largest expenditure  for individuals  in rural  Alaska,                                                                    
whether  on heating,  electricity, or  fuel. He  was greatly                                                                    
supportive of  the program because it  stabilized individual                                                                    
rates and  the lives  of those  that benefited  were greatly                                                                    
improved.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Senator Revak thanked the committee for hearing the bill.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Bishop set the bill aside.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SB  202  was  HEARD  and   HELD  in  committee  for  further                                                                    
consideration.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Bishop discussed the agenda for the afternoon.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
ADJOURNMENT                                                                                                                   
10:15:13 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
The meeting was adjourned at 10:15 a.m.                                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 132 Sectional Analysis.pdf SFIN 3/17/2022 9:00:00 AM
SHSS 2/3/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 132
SB 132 Sponsor Statement.pdf SFIN 3/17/2022 9:00:00 AM
SHSS 2/3/2022 1:30:00 PM
SB 132
SB 132 Final Version-Finance Committee 3.15.22.pdf SFIN 3/17/2022 9:00:00 AM
SB 132
SB 132 - PHA Bd Letter of Support - 2.25.22.pdf SFIN 3/17/2022 9:00:00 AM
SB 132
SB 202 Sectional Analysis 2.26.22.pdf SFIN 3/17/2022 9:00:00 AM
SB 202
SB 202 Support Docs REF Projects By Region 4.14.2021.pdf SFIN 3/17/2022 9:00:00 AM
SB 202
SB 202 Sponsor Statement 2.26.22.pdf SFIN 3/17/2022 9:00:00 AM
SB 202
SB 202 Support Docs Renewable Energy Fund Fact Sheet 2.11.2022.pdf SFIN 3/17/2022 9:00:00 AM
SB 202
SB 202 Support Letter APA 2.25.22.pdf SFIN 3/17/2022 9:00:00 AM
SB 202
SB 132 Letter of Opposition Veterinarians Exempt PDMP.pdf SFIN 3/17/2022 9:00:00 AM
SB 132
SB 202 AEA REF_PROJECTS_BY_ENERGY_REGION_AND_RD14_SUMMARY.xlsx SFIN 3/17/2022 9:00:00 AM
SB 202