Legislature(2015 - 2016)HOUSE FINANCE 519
03/31/2016 08:30 AM House FINANCE
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|Confirmations: Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority|
* first hearing in first committee of referral
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SENATE BILL NO. 124 "An Act extending the termination date of the Alaska Commission on Aging; and providing for an effective date." Co-Chair Thompson relayed the next bill, SB 124. He did not intend to move the bill from committee in the current meeting. He read a list of available testifiers. 9:29:57 AM SENATOR STOLTZ, SPONSOR, explained that his district was part of the home of the fastest growing senior population in the State of Alaska. He had introduced the bill by request. It was a bill supported by numerous organizations of seniors, individual seniors, and a wide array of others. He wanted to reflect that it was not his bill but one that belonged to the senior community and a broader group of Alaskans. Senator Stoltz relayed that the extension of the sunset which would expire in July 2016 followed the recommendations of the Budget and Audit Committee. Ms. Curtis and her staff performed the audit and recommended an 8 year extension. There were other recommendations including the commission improving its public notices of subcommittees. He encouraged public participation. He doubted that the commission did anything intentionally to discourage public involvement. The other recommendation was a gentle admonition, because of scarce resources, to confine its' agenda to activities of senior Alaskans rather than wandering into other policy areas. The Senate State Affairs Committee and the Senate Finance Committee looked at the fiscal impact. The Senate Finance Committee had a lengthy discussion about the fiscal note, which he remarked was a significant aspect. There were recommendations made by the Senate Finance Committee for more significant cuts. The committee mediated at the reduction of one person in the current year and the potential reduction of 2 people in subsequent years. They arrived at those conclusions working with the administration. Senator Stoltz felt the bill was fairly straight forward and came down to whether the commission performed a significant role. He thought the Alaska Commission on Aging was the conduit for which federal funds were received. He thought the amount was approximately $11 billion. He and the audit division believed the commission performed an important function. The Senate Finance committee looked at the finances and remembered two words, "We're broke," that were relevant to any discussion on any state issue being dealt with. In spite of the state's fiscal situation he thought the commission had a worthy role. 9:35:11 AM Co-Chair Neuman mentioned the analysis on the fiscal note it discussed how the Older Americans Act provided $12,851 in funding for seniors in FY 16. He wondered if the commission decided how the money was spent. Senator Stoltz responded that the commission, working with the administration, was likely to decide how the money was to be spent. He deferred to Ms. Daniello to provide a detailed description. Some of the money was designated through various components of the budget. Co-Chair Neuman thought members were advocates of local control. The health commission controlled federal funds for programs that affected seniors. Senator Stoltz added that it was one of the strongest citizen boards in the state. He noted that Rachel Greenberg from his region was a great member. He also mention Edna Debreeze, another active member. He thought there was a deep well of knowledge and capability on the citizens' board that he was not as concerned about a diminution of admission the board was a solid citizen's board. Co-Chair Thompson thanked Senator Stoltz. He called Ms. Daniello to the table to answer questions. 9:38:07 AM DENISE DANIELLO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ALASKA COMMISSION ON AGING, introduced herself. Co-Chair Thompson was looking at the fiscal note eliminated by the other body. He wondered about the elimination of one full time position from the commission in FY 17 and two full time positions beginning removed from the budget in FY 18. He asked about the effect it would have on the board's ability to fulfill its statutory responsibility. Ms. Daniello commented that it would have a dramatic impact on the board's ability to do what it had been doing since the commission's inception in 1981. Based on her understanding of the Senate Finance Committee's fiscal note it was an elimination of one position in FY 2017 and an elimination of a second position in FY 18 for a total of two staff positions resulting in a 50 percent reduction of its staff. She remarked that the state had a growing senior population. Currently, there were more than 120,400 seniors, 75,000 of whom were 65 years and older. It was not just the growing senior population, but was also the growth of the number of people of the oldest old. She continued that each cohort of the senior population had different needs and resources. The commission worked to do research on prevailing trends and report data on a variety of indicators. The commission convened stakeholder groups and met with seniors around the state to ask for their input. The commission developed the Alaska State Plan for Senior Services, a 4 year comprehensive state plan, and was in charge of its implementation. Ms. Daniello also spoke of doing a significant amount of education, advocacy, and planning efforts. The commission provided guidance to other agencies of state government that were also targeting how to address the growing senior population within their planning efforts. She detailed the loss of the administrative assistant who took care of the day-to-day business transactions for the commission. The position also helped provide board meeting packets and many other administrative duties. She reviewed the duties of the Planner 2 position that would be lost; the person worked with the executive director to develop the state plan for senior services satisfying the requirement under the Older Americans Act to draw down the $11 million in funding. If the fiscal note was approved the commission would continue to do its best to satisfy its mandatory requirements. She mentioned having done much more over the past years. She noted hosting senior housing summits, the power of aging symposium and working with partners to develop other planning efforts. She reiterated that the loss of staff would affect the commission greatly. 9:41:54 AM Co-Chair Thompson asked if the commission would be able to fulfill its statutory requirements. Ms. Daniello answered that the commission had a year to prepare for the loss of the Planner 2 position. She relayed that the commission was very good at partnering. She assured the committee she would do her pest to fulfill the mandatory statutory requirements. Co-Chair Neuman asked what positions were currently filled, their duties, and their salaries. Ms. Daniello relayed that currently there was an administrative assistant position responsible for the day- to-day business activities of the commission. She worked with that person to develop financial projections. The administrative assistant was also responsible for procuring all travel, doing financial reports required for travel, procuring office supplies, answering phones, handling mail, and other miscellaneous duties. Ms. Daniello identified the second position at the commission, the Planner 1 position, funded by the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority using the trust's authorized receipts. She furthered that because the position was funded by the trust the person was responsible for focusing on the needs of senior trust beneficiaries including older people with behavioral health needs, depression, mental illness, and specifically Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. Additionally, there was a growing population of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who were aging as well as their caregivers. Ms. Daniello moved on to describe the duties of the third position in her office, the Planner 2 position. This position was very important to the commission conducting day-to-day research and assembling information to compile graphs and charts used in PowerPoint presentations, reports, and position papers. The position also provided assistance to the executive director in developing needs assessment activities and provided different types of needs analysis used to collect information from the public that informed advocacy and the state plan for senior services. The position also supported the executive director in coordinating the state planned advisory committee meetings and provided support in developing the plan including the goals, strategies, and performance measures. The position also helped with organizing efforts for the commission's newsletter and other responsibilities. Ms. Daniello reviewed her own duties as the Executive Director for the commission. She oversaw all of the work of the commission including planning, advocacy, and education. The position also prepared all of the PowerPoint presentations, position papers, and formal correspondence from the commission to legislators, the governor, public members, state agencies, and non-profit organizations. The Executive Director was responsible for making sure the state plan was developed according to the requirements of the U.S. Administration on Community Living and much more. She relayed that she took direction from the commission, particularly the commission chair. 9:46:34 AM Co-Chair Neuman asked about the salary schedules. Ms. Daniello deferred to Ms. Ziegenfuss to provide the salary information. JACQELLI ZIEGENFUSS, ADMINISTRATIVE OPERATIONS MANAGER II, SENIOR DISABILITIES SERVICES, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES, asked if she should provide the salaries or the total costs including benefits. Co-Chair Neuman asked for both. Ms. Ziegenfuss reviewed the salary schedule. The Executive Director was a range 23, at a salary of $112,000 per year, a benefits package of $56 thousand, for a total of $169,441. The Administrative Assistant 2 position was a range 14, at a salary of $58,296, a benefit package of $37,835, for a total of $96,130. The Planner 2 position was a range 19, at a salary of $68,801, a benefits package of $41,623, for a total of $110,424. The Planner 1 position was a range 17, at a salary of $73,809, a benefits package of $43,429, for a total of $117,238. Co-Chair Neuman asked that the information be provided in writing. He thought the salaries were high and he would like Ms. Curtis' input. Representative Gara asked Ms. Daniello to elaborate on the duties related to accessing $11 million in federal funding that currently rested with one of the positions slated for elimination. Ms. Daniello responded that the funds were granted through the Older Americans Act to provide services for seniors. Also, in Alaska Title 3 funds were available providing nutrition, transportation, and support services. It was one of the largest senior grant programs the state had for seniors. The program also include the National Family Caregiver Support Program. The amount of federal funding was over $5.8 million. Additionally, there was the Nutrition Services Incentive Program which provided funding used to purchase food for senior meals totaling $467,080. There was also Title 7 funding for elder protection for the Adult Protective Services and the Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman totaling $103,193. There was federal funding for Title 6 programs for tribal organizations in the amount of $4.4 million. The funding went directly to the tribes because of their direct relationship with the government and the services mirrored services provided through Title 3 funding. The federal funding she spoke of totaled over $11 million. 9:51:40 AM Representative Gara assumed that Department of Health and Social Services had access to the funds. Ms. Daniello answered that the money did not come through the commission but rather through DHSS. The commission did the work in partnership with the Division of Senior and Disabilities Services to satisfy certain requirements ensuring the State of Alaska received funding. She relayed that the DHSS was the sole state agency on aging in Alaska. The responsibilities were spelled out in the Older Americans Act. The administration of federal and state funding for senior programs went through the Division of Senior and Disabilities Services and they managed the funds rather than the commission. Representative Gara asked about the volume of traffic received through the commission's office. Ms. Daniello responded that the amount of calls the commission received was significant. She furthered that the office also directed people to the Aging and Disability Center for follow-up as well as talking with them. Often times the commission received calls from care givers who were very stressed out. Representative Wilson wondered if the commission was helping to bring federal funds to Alaska. She also wondered why a portion of the funding was not being reinvested into the commission. Ms. Daniello responded that there was a small amount of money that came to the commission, approximately $72 thousand. The rest of the funding for the commission came from the General Fund with the exception of the Mental Health Trust Authority Authorized Receipts (MHTAAR) fund for the Planner 1 position. Representative Wilson wanted to better understand the criterial for determining how much money went to the commission. She mentioned that she did not see $72 thousand on the fiscal note. 9:55:00 AM Vice-Chair Saddler mentioned hearing about the possibility of obtaining additional waivers. He wondered how the operations of the commission would change with the potential cuts being proposed. Ms. Daniello relayed that the commission had advocated to have waiver services available to people with cognitive impairments who might not meet the level of care requirements. The commission was pleased with and had been actively involved in the development and educational efforts having to do with Medicaid 1915(i). The commission would be staying involved with the state plan options. Representative Gattis drew attention to the commission only receiving a small portion of the $11 million in federal funding. She had heard Ms. Daniello discuss the commission working in tandem with the DHSS. She wondered why more money did not flow directly to the commission. Ms. Daniello explained that the Commission on Aging worked in partnership with the DHSS to satisfy the responsibilities of a state unit on aging. The responsibilities were described in the Older Americans Act in Section 3056ad. The Older Americans Act specified that the state unit on aging was responsible for having fiduciary responsibilities administering the federal and state funding for senior programs and services, developing a state plan for senior services, and serving as a visible advocate for elders. The commission also provided significant education. She spoke of a series of educational forums. She offered to send Co- Chair Thompson opinions from seniors on Medicaid reform. Co-Chair Thompson requested that she provide the information to his staff. 9:59:53 AM Representative Guttenberg asked if the planners on her staff were also grant writers. He wondered if they were writing grants that brought federal dollars to Alaska. Ms. Daniello explained that the state plan for senior services was the source of the draw down of federal money. By having that plan the state remained in compliance with the Older Americans Act. The 4 year state plan was approved by the DHSS, the governor, and the U.S. Administration on Community Living. There was an advisory council mostly comprised of public members of senior age. The commission wrote grant applications and employees worked as a team to gather and compile information. She cited an example where her staff submitted an application to the National Alzheimer's Association for funding to include the perceived cognitive impairment model in the behavioral risk factor surveillance survey to gather information about people with cognitive impairment. She mentioned the state never before having the opportunity to receive certain information from Alaskans directly. She relayed that the commission's plan for the following year was to work with a couple of funders to include a module that would look at the needs of family care givers. Representative Guttenberg asked whether the ability to maintain federal funding was in jeopardy with the loss of two positions being cut. Ms. Daniello was uncertain. She relayed that the commission would do its best to develop a 4 year state plan and to be an active and physical activist for elders. Co-Chair Thompson invited Ms. Curtis to the table. 10:03:33 AM KRIS CURTIS, LEGISLATIVE AUDITOR, ALASKA DIVISION OF LEGISLATIVE AUDIT, reported that the division did a sunset review of the Commission on aging. They looked at whether the commission should be extended and whether they were serving the public's interest. Overall, the audit concluded that the Alaska Commission on Aging (commission) was serving the public's interest by helping older Alaskans lead dignified, independent, and useful lives through advocacy, outreach, and education. Furthermore, the commission served as the advisory council to advise on matters on the development, administration, and operations related to the state plan. The commission met the federal requirement that each state establish an advisory council to advise the state on aging matters. The division recommend the maximum extension in statute of 8 years to June 30, 2024. Ms. Curtis relayed that there were two recommendations resulting from the audit. The first was for the executive director to implement and follow public notice requirements. There had been some meetings that were not public noticed as required. The second recommendation was to the chair person to review and approve the legislation watch list prior to distribution. The commission periodically held teleconferences to gather public input and discuss legislation affecting seniors. She explained that to facilitate the feedback the commission published watch lists of bills relevant to senior matters. When the auditors looked at the watch lists they found legislation that was not applicable to their duties. The auditors recommended that in order to efficiently use the commission's resources that they limit the watch lists to only bills affecting seniors. 10:05:19 AM Representative Wilson asked if a consideration of the number of staff was part of the audit process. Ms. Curtis was asked by the Senate Finance Committee her opinion about whether the commission's staff could do its job and meet responsibilities without jeopardizing federal funding with the loss of a position. She answered that the auditors did not explicitly enter into a sunset review looking at whether the level of positions was adequate or whether they were compensated appropriately. There were upwards of 200 boards and commissions. The Commission on Aging was given a higher level of scrutiny because it was up for sunset in the current year. She suggested that it could be time for a legislative audit of all boards and commissions. She reported that the Senate Finance Committee seemed to be interested in her suggestion. A similar audit was conducted in 1992. At the time there was a governor's council on boards and commissions that did a holistic review and suggested merging some boards and providing different compensation. She was aware there was interest and thought it might be a good time for such an audit. However, what she stated specifically related to the Commission on Aging was that the auditors did not believe that a loss of a position would impact its ability to produce a state plan, key to maintaining federal funding. Co-Chair Thompson clarified that in the fiscal note it indicated that in 2018 a second position would be lost. He wondered if that loss would have any affect. Ms. Curtis answered that undeniably when positions were cut services were cut as well. In talking with the staff that conducted the audit they believed there would be a reduction in services provided. It would come down to prioritization of services. She thought the state plan would be a top priority. She was unsure whether the quality of the plan would be compromised. She thought the level of work with less workforce would be much more difficult. It was hard to say if the level of work would lead to obtaining federal funding. The judgement would have to be made in 2 years. The auditors thought the commission could absorb a cut but would likely result in reduced services. Representative Wilson asked about the amount of federal funding the commission received versus the goals of the commission. She wondered if the auditors ever weighed in on whether the DHSS should provide more funding. Ms. Curtis replied that the auditors did not scrutinize the commission's funding mechanisms. She thought that obtaining additional federal funding would depend on its activities in the current year. The audit and background material laid out information about the federal program and the commission's role in coordination with the department. It was a joint process but the programs themselves were administered by the Division of Senior and Disabilities Services. They had the federal and state programs that served seniors. The commission was the planning entity. The appropriate funding would be left up to the department. 10:09:42 AM Representative Pruitt asked about the second recommendation from the auditors. He understood the concern was that the commission would not want the issue to become politicized. He asked if there had been follow-up in order to ensure the commission was staying within the scope of senior services when tracking legislation. Ms. Curtis answered that once the audit was released there was no mechanism for the auditors to go back in. There was no type of review or evidence to support any changes. Representative Pruitt asked if Ms. Curtis was satisfied with the responses from the commission. Ms. Curtis relayed that the commission as well as the department were receptive and responsive to the audit. She was satisfied with the audit. Representative Guttenberg referred to the letter from the commission in response to the audit recommendations. The commission concurred with the audit findings and was addressing them. He was aware the commission was responsible for developing a state plan, but wondered who was responsible for implementing it. Ms. Curtis responded that much of the plan was implemented by the department. However, the commission was responsible for outreach and education which was part of the plan. Representative Guttenberg asked if the commission staff oversaw the department to make sure it complied with the plan. Ms. Curtis responded that one of the functions of the commission was to receive feedback from the people served. She thought the commission was well aware of the degree to which services were provided. She thought it was a more indirect absorption of information rather that the commission overseeing as a hierarchical type of relationship within the department. Representative Guttenberg was trying to better understand the relationship between the commission and the department and whether it was scrutinized as part of the audit. Ms. Curtis reported conducting a survey of stakeholders to understand the degree to which the commission was successful. The survey responses and questions were in the back of the state plan. In general, the feedback on the commission was very positive. The plan was redone every 4 years. The degree to which the plan was successful would be reevaluated when developing the next goals. She thought the executive director of the Commission on Aging would be a better person to answer his question. In response to the question about the recommendations provided by the auditors, every time the auditors did a sunset review they familiarized themselves with the previous report recommendations. In the introduction paragraph to the findings and recommendations the auditors always addressed the prior sunset audit recommendations. In the sunsets audits there was a mechanism to come back in a certain amount of time. 10:15:25 AM Representative Guttenberg understood requesting feedback and getting feedback. As far as implementing the plan and its success, he wondered if she had looked at any feedback from the federal government on how the state's implementation. Ms. Curtis responded that the auditors did not contact the federal oversight agency to inquire about their satisfaction. Co-Chair Thompson OPENED public testimony. 10:16:44 AM MARIE DARLIN, AARP, JUNEAU, indicated that AARP frequently worked with the Commission on Aging. The organization represented the aging population and encouraged younger people to join also because they would become part of that population in the future. She was also a member of the commission for several years. She told of the commission's previous audit which she opined had good results. The recommendations that were made at the time were all addressed by the commission. She was also the chairman of the legislative committee for the Commission on Aging and affirmed that as advocates they watched legislation. The commission had a watch list containing all of the legislation introduced relating to the aging population in whatever way. There might have been a couple of pieces of legislation on the list that could not be tied to the topic of the aging. The commission had taken measures to rectify the list. The watch list was signed off by both the chairman of the commission and herself. She believed the concerns resulting from the audit had been addressed. In discussing a reduction in staff, she commented that once the 4 year plan was put together, then it was up to the commission to look at the implementation of the plan and be able to report and keep track of it. She reported that the commission consisted of 11 members. She emphasized that the commission made very sure that it represented the entire State of Alaska from the smaller communities to the urban communities. When it came to looking at legislation and other issues the commission made sure to have the input from different areas of the state about where it should place its energies and focus. The commission hopefully represented all of the issues and concerns from throughout the state. 10:22:02 AM Co-Chair Thompson CLOSED public testimony. Co-Chair Thompson indicated he would be setting SB 124 aside. SB 124 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further consideration. Vice-Chair Saddler commended the board for its good work and thanked the bill sponsor. Co-Chair Thompson indicated that the balance of the agenda would be rescheduled for another time.