Legislature(2017 - 2018)BARNES 124
03/22/2017 03:15 PM LABOR & COMMERCE
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HB 144-EXTEND BOARD OF VETERINARY EXAMINERS 3:35:43 PM CHAIR KITO announced that the next order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 144, "An Act extending the termination date of the Board of Veterinary Examiners; and providing for an effective date." CHAIR KITO explained that HB 144 is one of three sunset bills this year, and opined there will be 11 sunset bills next year. 3:36:33 PM CHRYSTAL KOENENMAN, Staff, Representative Sam Kito, III, Alaska State Legislature, advised that HB 144 extends the Board of Veterinary Examiners until June 30, 2025. The Division of Legislative Audit concurred and recommends a full eight-year sunset and believes the board is operating in the best public interest of the state, and the health, safety, and well-being of all of the animals and livestock in the State of Alaska. Concern was expressed regarding the board and its actions for rural Alaska and the animals in rural Alaska. In 2010, private citizens brought these concerns to the board, and in 2012 and 2013, the board took appropriate regulatory action. She explained that it increased the scope of the "courtesy license" allowing courtesy licensees to apply to spay and neuter clinics in rural Alaska. The regulations allow veterinary technicians to travel to rural Alaska and work remotely with veterinarians stationed on the road-system in an effort to help ease the burden in rural Alaska, and follow the desires of pet owners and prevent pets from procreating. 3:38:32 PM REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH asked whether other states or jurisdictions operate without some sort of oversight of veterinarians. MS. KOENEMAN answered, "No." 3:39:22 PM KRIS CURTIS, Legislative Auditor, Division of Legislative Audit, Alaska State Legislature, advised that Legislative Audit did conduct a sunset review of the Board of Veterinary Examiners, dated March of 2016. She explained that the purpose of a sunset audit is to determine whether a board is serving the public's interest and whether it should be extended. The Division of Legislative Audit did find that this board is serving the public's interest by appropriately licensing and regulating veterinarians and veterinary technicians, she remarked. The division recommends an eight-year extension which is the maximum allowed in statutory, with the one recommendation found on page 7 of the audit. The division noted that the board's annual reports submitted during the audit period included the status of prior sunset audit findings of the dental examiners sunset findings, she offered. Therefore, she pointed out that the division recommended the board chair review the annual report before submission, and described this as a minimal housekeeping type of recommendation and it did not impact the sunset. She pointed to page 5 of the audit report and advised it is a listing of the licenses and the license counts, and as of February 2016, there were 670 total licenses representing a 57 percent increase since the last sunset audit of 2008. She turned to page 6 of the audit and said it is a schedule of revenues and expenditure, at the end of FY13 the board had a surplus of approximately $108,000 and the fees were decreased. At the end of February 2016, it was operating in a deficit and at that point, the management of the Division of Corporations, Business, and Professional Licensing did say it would reassess fees at the end of FY16. 3:41:32 PM CHAIR KITO noted that of the boards in committee, there are two running for a full eight-years, with 10-11 boards coming up next year. He asked Ms. Curtis how the Division of Legislative Audit will try to make sure the audits do not all hit in a single year, or whether there was a plan to be sure they would be spread out more equitably from year-to-year. MS. CURTIS responded that the Division of Legislative Audit will conduct the audits as it usually does, and it will look at the findings. In the event the division is waffling between five, six, or seven years, it will look at its workload to determine how it all falls out. She described that the Division of Legislative Audit's recommendation is simply a recommendation. She stated that sometimes the department may recommend a six- year extension, and someone will propose a three-years extension, or a controversial issue will pop up and the organization will only have a two-year extension. She explained that even though the Division of Legislative Audit may plan for a smooth workload over the years, sometimes that just does not happen. 3:42:56 PM DOCTOR RACHAEL BERNGARTT, Veterinarian, Alaska Board of Veterinary Examiners, advised she has been in Alaska since 2002, and served on the board over one-year. REPRESENTATIVE KNOPP noted an email petition from a number of unhappy constituents who were not happy with the Board of Veterinary Examiners. He acknowledged that he could barely read the email and only saw "a bunch of signatures," and asked whether she was aware of the issue. 3:44:05 PM MS. KOENEMAN responded that the pushback she referred to in her opening statement was with regard to those 318 signatures of the petition. The concern was about veterinarian care in rural Alaska and the spay and neuter clinics, and she advised that the board did take appropriate steps in 2012 and 2013 addressing those issues. CHAIR KITO opened public testimony on HB 144. 3:45:15 PM LEA McKENZIE said she was testifying on her own behalf, and advised that the people signing the 2010 petition believe there has not been any improvement in veterinary care in rural Alaska, and asked the committee to not extend the board for eight more years due to the pet care crisis in rural Alaska. Prior to 2010, a veterinarian offered relief to the people and animals in the area and, she advised, veterinarians are still willing to come to Alaska but not under the conditions that currently exist. She stated that "Alaska has a reputation for being unfriendly to, and even hostile, toward those vets that would like come and do their non-profit work in rural Alaska." This service would not impact the state's budget as it is footed by non-profits existing outside of Alaska. Until Alaska becomes a friendlier environment for these vets to help rural Alaska, the crisis affecting animals and people in these remote areas will continue. 3:48:26 PM DOCTOR JIM HAGEE, Member, Board of Veterinary Examiners, advised that he is a practicing veterinarian in Chugach, has been a resident of Alaska since 1998, has practiced veterinary medicine over 45-years, and has been a member of the Board of Veterinary Examiners for the last 5-years. He explained that the board does deal with rural Alaska, and for 6-years he traveled to the City of Dillingham practicing veterinary care every other month. Rural Alaska does need veterinary care, he acknowledged, yet on the other hand it must be remembered that veterinary medicine as an organized discipline is a for-profit entity. Non-profit groups have been instrumental in bringing low-cost spay and neuters to the villages; however, the continuity of care is not there. In order for veterinarians, who operate a for-profit business, to go to villages to provide continual care, a great economic burden is placed on the veterinarian. He described that going into the village has to be almost like a donation as a way of giving back. So far, he advised, there is no organization that will provide continued veterinary care, only sporadic spay and neuter care. 3:50:39 PM REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH thanked Dr. Hagee for his service, years of volunteering in the Dillingham area, and he appreciates Dr. Hagee's service on the board. REPRESENTATIVE STUTES commented that living in rural Alaska where there is one veterinarian clinic most of the time, she said she fails to see how this board's unfriendliness plays into this subject, and that she was confused by the testimony. CHAIR KITO advised that the committee may be able to independently look at what is going on with veterinary care in rural Alaska, and determine whether there are other things legislators may be able to help facilitate from "our role here." REPRESENTATIVE STUTES related that as the owner of three animals, that would be a beautiful thing. CHAIR KITO advised public testimony would remain open on HB 144. [HB 144 was held over.]