Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/30/2003 03:15 PM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE BILL NO. 124(efd fld)                                                                                                  
     An Act relating to grants for alcoholism and drug abuse                                                                    
Co-Chair  Harris  MOVED  to  ADOPT   SB  124(efd  fld),  #23-                                                                   
GS111\A.A as the working document before the Committee.                                                                         
Representative Croft pointed out  that the effective date had                                                                   
failed but noted that he did not  see an effective date.  Co-                                                                   
Chair  Williams interjected  that  is how  it  is before  the                                                                   
Committee.  It does not have an effective date.                                                                                 
Representative  Joule asked if  the A.A version  consisted of                                                                   
one  page only.   Co-Chair  Williams clarified  that it  did.                                                                   
Co-Chair Harris asked if there  had an effective date when it                                                                   
passed the  Senate.  Co-Chair  Williams reiterated  that this                                                                   
was the bill before the Committee.                                                                                              
JOEL GILBERTSON, COMMISSIONER,  DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & SOCIAL                                                                   
SERVICES, clarified  that when the bill was  introduced as SB
124, it  did have  an effective  date of July  1, 2003.   The                                                                   
cost savings  associated  with that version  are included  in                                                                   
the  Governor's budget.   It  was  passed out  of the  Senate                                                                   
without the effective date.                                                                                                     
Co-Chair  Harris interjected  that  when  the effective  date                                                                   
fails, then  that language should  be removed from  the title                                                                   
and body of the bill.                                                                                                           
Representative Joule  asked about the difference  between the                                                                   
House HES version and the Senate  version.  Co-Chair Williams                                                                   
explained that  the House HES  dropped it from 25%  the first                                                                   
year to 17.5% until July 1, 2004.   The Senate version is the                                                                   
Governor's  version minus  the  effective date.   That  would                                                                   
amount to a 25% savings as of July 1, 2003.                                                                                     
Representative  Joule clarified  that the  House HES  version                                                                   
would transition  the process  to 2004.   The Senate  version                                                                   
removes  it  all  on July  1,  2003.    Representative  Joule                                                                   
OBJECTED to adopting the Senate version of the bill.                                                                            
Representative Croft  noted that he also supported  the House                                                                   
HES version.  The House version  keeps the effective date and                                                                   
changes the percentage, which would be a better procedure.                                                                      
Co-Chair Williams  commented that if the Committee  could get                                                                   
the Senate version before them,  then they could entertain an                                                                   
amendment to reinstate the July  1, 2002 effective date, from                                                                   
the Governor's original bill.   Representative Joule asked if                                                                   
it could  be amended to  indicate that transition.   Co-Chair                                                                   
Williams replied he would not support the amendment.                                                                            
A roll  call vote was  taken on the  motion to work  from the                                                                   
Senate version.                                                                                                                 
IN FAVOR:      Foster, Hawker, Meyer, Stoltze, Whitaker,                                                                        
               Chenault, Harris, Williams                                                                                       
OPPOSED:       Joule, Moses, Croft                                                                                              
The MOTION PASSED (8-3).                                                                                                        
Commissioner  Gilbertson  commented  that  the  general  fund                                                                   
savings resulting  from the Governor's  bill would be  in the                                                                   
amount of  $1.6 million  dollars.   The bill increases  local                                                                   
investments and  involvement in the alcohol  treatment grants                                                                   
provided to the communities.   Local investment indicates the                                                                   
success of the  programs.  The current 10% match  is low.  He                                                                   
stressed that  this would  be a  sensible effort to  increase                                                                   
local effort and to keep grants  on the street.  He concluded                                                                   
that  at a  time  when State  government  does  not have  the                                                                   
necessary  resources  to continue  to  fully  fund all  these                                                                   
programs,  it  is important  that  the local  investment  and                                                                   
commitment come forward.                                                                                                        
Representative  Croft noted  that the  fiscal notes  indicate                                                                   
approximately $1.6  million dollars savings.   He inquired if                                                                   
it was  assumed that the communities  would step up  the same                                                                   
level of effort on alcohol services.                                                                                            
KAREN PEARSON, DIRECTOR, DIVISION  OF ALCOHOL AND DRUG ABUSE,                                                                   
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL  SERVICES, clarified that the                                                                   
hope is  that the communities  will generate that  additional                                                                   
revenue and that the services can remain the same.                                                                              
Representative Croft questioned  the total State effort spent                                                                   
on alcohol services statewide.                                                                                                  
Ms. Pearson  responded  that certain programs  would  be held                                                                   
harmless at the same rate.  There  is not an across the board                                                                   
difference.    Representative  Croft emphasized  that  it  is                                                                   
being assumed that the municipalities  would make up the $1.6                                                                   
million dollars.  Ms. Pearson replied that was correct.                                                                         
Representative  Joule pointed out  that the Legislature  this                                                                   
year is:                                                                                                                        
   ·    Proposing to cut revenue sharing to municipalities                                                                      
        by 25%;                                                                                                                 
   ·    Proposing to cut debt reimbursement; and                                                                                
  ·    Proposing more reliability on faith based programs.                                                                      
He stressed  that all  these reductions  are coming  from the                                                                   
same  pot.   He  warned about  the  stress  and burden  these                                                                   
actions would place upon the local communities.                                                                                 
Commissioner  Gilbertson advised  that the  way in which  the                                                                   
bill  is structured,  most  of  the smaller  communities  are                                                                   
exempt.   He emphasized  that it was  not indented  to "shirt                                                                   
the shift costs  to the local government" but  rather to keep                                                                   
the grants on the streets.                                                                                                      
Representative  Joule   noted  that  last  year,   the  State                                                                   
increased the  alcohol tax.   He asked  how much of  that was                                                                   
spent on  drug and  alcohol related  problems.   Commissioner                                                                   
Gilbertson replied  that the State  spent roughly  $7 million                                                                   
dollars  of  the  alcohol tax  package  toward  new  programs                                                                   
and/or the  infrastructure.  He  added that 50% of  the total                                                                   
alcohol money was invested in programs.                                                                                         
Representative Joule  recommended that the money  raised from                                                                   
that tax should be placed back  into programs related to that                                                                   
concern.    Commissioner  Gilbertson stated  that  the  total                                                                   
investment in  alcohol treatment  programs is higher  than it                                                                   
was  in  FY03  &  FY04.    The  Administration  is  investing                                                                   
additional  resources  from the  alcohol  tax.   He  reminded                                                                   
members that there is a general  fund short fall at this time                                                                   
and  that the  Department of  Health &  Social Services  took                                                                   
more than $50 million dollars in general fund reductions.                                                                       
Representative Hawker  referred to the fiscal  note, pointing                                                                   
out the exclusion of the grantees  that receive less than $30                                                                   
thousand dollars.   He asked the mechanism used  to determine                                                                   
that amount.                                                                                                                    
Karen Pearson  explained that  those tend  to be the  smaller                                                                   
program grant  to schools and  communities.  There  were five                                                                   
of  those grants.   The  community  based suicide  prevention                                                                   
grants were  all excluded from that,  as they have no  way to                                                                   
generate revenue.   The grants  tend to fall within  category                                                                   
types.   Within  the treatment  programs, the  ones that  are                                                                   
geared for  women and youth  are being held harmless  because                                                                   
of the vulnerability of those populations.                                                                                      
Representative Hawker understood  that some of the categories                                                                   
would  fall  under the  provision  listed  on  Page 7.    Ms.                                                                   
Pearson  replied that  was correct  and  that the  Department                                                                   
retains  the  ability  to  waive   anytime  the  needed  10%.                                                                   
Representative  Hawker noted that  the Department  intends to                                                                   
make use  of that provision  in certain cases.   Commissioner                                                                   
Gilbertson agreed that was correct.                                                                                             
Representative  Croft  observed  that  with  the  communities                                                                   
affected  by the  fiscal note,  the State  would be  spending                                                                   
about $1  million dollars.  To  reduce that 90% to  75% would                                                                   
be going from  $1 million dollars when a reduction  from that                                                                   
percentage  would  be leaving  a  change  from a  $1  million                                                                   
dollar  community  effort  to   $2.5  million  dollars.    He                                                                   
stressed  that   would  be  a   "huge  increase"   for  those                                                                   
communities.   Representative  Croft  inquired  if there  was                                                                   
information  available  that the  communities  would be  able                                                                   
accommodates that.                                                                                                              
Commissioner  Gilbertson  acknowledged that  the  legislation                                                                   
will impact communities.  He added  that there is a system of                                                                   
programs to  award grants.   There are more entities  looking                                                                   
for  grants  than  there  are  grants.   He  added  that  the                                                                   
programs  would  still be  offered.    He stressed  that  the                                                                   
general fund  savings would help  the Department  address the                                                                   
fiscal  concerns.    A  number   of  grants  were  completely                                                                   
eliminated.   The Department decided  that instead  of taking                                                                   
$1.6 million dollars  of grants off the table,  it changed it                                                                   
to  having  more local  investment.    There will  be  better                                                                   
programs,    better   applications    and   more    community                                                                   
involvement.  The  overall savings may be larger  in the long                                                                   
run.     Programs  will   be  more   sustainable  with   less                                                                   
volatility.  He  concluded that the Department had  to make a                                                                   
decision  on  how  to  achieve  the  necessary  general  fund                                                                   
savings while maximizing the number of services.                                                                                
Representative Croft  asked if the fiscal note  could be more                                                                   
accurate   if   it   assumed    something   less   than   the                                                                   
municipalities being left with the entire obligation.                                                                           
TAPE HFC 03 - 72, Side B                                                                                                      
Commissioner  Gilbertson clarified that  it was assumed  that                                                                   
some of the  grants would be awarded and that  the Department                                                                   
would continue to administer the  grants.  He added that many                                                                   
of the grants would continue to be "out on the street".                                                                         
Representative  Croft  understood those  funds  would be  the                                                                   
municipal  match  portion  of it.    Commissioner  Gilbertson                                                                   
replied that it could be an in-kind contribution.                                                                               
In   response  to   a   comment  by   Representative   Croft,                                                                   
Commissioner Gilbertson  reiterated that the  State's overall                                                                   
alcohol effort had increased.                                                                                                   
Representative Croft asked if  the line had been decreased in                                                                   
a substantial  way, what would  that level be.   Commissioner                                                                   
Gilbertson responded that in the  Governor's budget proposal,                                                                   
there  is  a $3.5  million  dollar  additional  general  fund                                                                   
investment  into  alcohol  treatment   programs  that  target                                                                   
primarily rural  juveniles who  currently do not  have access                                                                   
to   treatment.     Additionally,  other   funds  have   been                                                                   
designated for  the preservation of  families.  Money  in the                                                                   
Governor's budget is designated for those two populations.                                                                      
Representative  Croft  questioned   if  the  efforts  to  add                                                                   
increases  to  offset  decreases had  survived  the  majority                                                                   
process.  Commissioner  Gilbertson responded that  the budget                                                                   
was funded  from the Senate side  and the moved to  the House                                                                   
ANN   HOPPER,   (TESTIFIED   VIA   TELECONFERENCE),   PROGRAM                                                                   
DIRECTOR,  FAMILY  FOCUS  PROGRAM,  FAIRBANKS,  testified  in                                                                   
opposition  to the bill.   She  voiced serious concerns  with                                                                   
the increase  in match for these  programs.  These  areas are                                                                   
already "maxed  to the brim" in  terms of what they  are able                                                                   
to  afford and  the  quality of  service  that they  provide.                                                                   
The 80%  of the youth  served at  the community shelter  that                                                                   
are under  the age of 18  have alcohol related  incidences in                                                                   
their  lives.     Ms.  Hopper   stressed  that   reducing  or                                                                   
threatening  current services  will catch  up with the  State                                                                   
down the road.  She encouraged  that the State build upon the                                                                   
programs  that   are  currently   available.    Taking   away                                                                   
treatment  removes the  hope.   If the hope  is removed,  she                                                                   
asked  where  would  people  turn.     She  noted  that  some                                                                   
communities  have  no  other resources  and  maintained  that                                                                   
since alcoholism is  a disease, it should be  considered in a                                                                   
medical model  that addiction problems impact  other portions                                                                   
of  the budget.   Ms.  Hopper urged  reconsideration of  this                                                                   
issue, keeping it at the current 10% rate.                                                                                      
ANNETTE FRYBERGER, (TESTIFIED  VIA TELECONFERENCE), EXECUTIVE                                                                   
DIRECTOR,  FAIRBANKS  NATIVE  ASSOCIATION,  FAIRBANKS,  noted                                                                   
that the  Fairbanks Native  Association provides  a continuum                                                                   
of  care through  a  residential  treatment center  for  many                                                                   
alcohol related problems.  She  noted that some programs will                                                                   
not  be immediately  affected by  the increased  match.   She                                                                   
noted her  support for the House  Version of the  bill, which                                                                   
implemented  the increase  in  a gradual,  stepwise  fashion.                                                                   
She  noted  that programs  might  otherwise  not be  able  to                                                                   
achieve their  match.   She requested  time to implement  the                                                                   
SENATOR  TIM  KELLY,  SUBSTANCE  ABUSE  ASSOCIATION,  JUNEAU,                                                                   
observed that traditionally the  Senate has been against this                                                                   
type of funding for alcohol programs.   He requested that the                                                                   
Committee revisit  the decision  to adopt the  Senate version                                                                   
of the bill; he encouraged that  the House HESS version would                                                                   
implement  the  changes over  time.    He speculated  that  a                                                                   
decrement of $1.6  million would be destructive  to the State                                                                   
of Alaska.                                                                                                                      
Co-Chair Williams  MOVED Amendment #1, which would  add a new                                                                   
section:  "Section 2.  This Act takes effect July 1, 2003".                                                                     
Representative  Stoltze MOVED  a conforming title  amendment,                                                                   
which  adds the  language "provide  for  an effective  date".                                                                   
There  being  NO  OBJECTION, the  amendment  as  changed  was                                                                   
Representative  Foster  MOVED  HCS CS  SB  124 (FIN)  out  of                                                                   
Committee  with  individual  recommendations   and  with  the                                                                   
accompanying fiscal notes.                                                                                                      
Representative Joule OBJECTED.                                                                                                  
Representative  Joule stated that  the House HESS  version of                                                                   
the  proposed  legislation was  more  worthwhile  in that  it                                                                   
would allow organizations  to have adequate time  to make the                                                                   
needed adjustments.                                                                                                             
A roll call vote was taken on the motion.                                                                                       
IN FAVOR:      Hawker, Meyer, Moses, Stoltze, Chenault,                                                                         
               Foster, Williams, Harris                                                                                         
OPPOSED:       Joule, Whitaker, Croft                                                                                           
The MOTION PASSED (8-3).                                                                                                        
HCS  CS SB  124  (FIN) was  reported  out of  Committee  with                                                                   
"individual"  recommendations and with  fiscal notes  #1, #2,                                                                   
#3, & #4 by the Department of Health & Social Services.                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects