Legislature(2003 - 2004)

02/17/2004 08:05 AM House STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 394-COMMISSION ON AGING                                                                                                    
CHAIR WEYHRAUCH  announced that the  first order of  business was                                                               
HOUSE BILL  NO. 394, "An  Act extending the Alaska  Commission on                                                               
CHAIR WEYHRAUCH noted that before  the committee is a fiscal note                                                               
dated 2/12/04, and he requested the department review it.                                                                       
Number 0165                                                                                                                     
LAURA BAKER,  Budget Chief, Division of  Administrative Services,                                                               
Department of  Health and Social Services  (DHSS), explained that                                                               
the earlier fiscal  note the committee had  received reflected an                                                               
imbalance  between   the  expenditures  and  the   fund  sources.                                                               
However,  the  fiscal  note  dated  2/12/04  should  reflect  the                                                               
operating expenditures and funding in  the total of $351.7, which                                                               
is reflective of what is in  the governor's fiscal year (FY) 2005                                                               
budget proposal.   Ms.  Baker clarified that  the fiscal  note is                                                               
not an  additional cost, rather  it reflects the  cost associated                                                               
with the commission if it's extended.                                                                                           
CHAIR WEYHRAUCH informed the committee  that the committee packet                                                               
includes pages 1-4 of the commission's plan.                                                                                    
Number 0337                                                                                                                     
STEVEN P.  ASHMAN, Director, Central  Office, Division  of Senior                                                               
and  Disability   Services,  Department  of  Health   and  Social                                                               
Services, recalled  that at the  committee's prior  hearing there                                                               
was discussion  regarding the 2/3/04  fiscal note  analysis which                                                               
specified:   "If the ACoA  [Alaska Commission on  Aging] expires,                                                               
the Department  of Health  and Social  Services (DHSS)  stands to                                                               
lose $13 million in federal  dollars for senior services."  Under                                                               
the  Older  American Act  the  State  of  Alaska is  required  to                                                               
establish an  advisory council and  ACoA meets  that requirement.                                                               
He explained that  ACoA is required to develop  and administer an                                                               
area plan,  conduct public hearings,  represent the  interests of                                                               
the older persons, and review  and comment on community policies,                                                               
programs,  and actions  that impact  Alaskans.   Without such  an                                                               
advisory commission  as ACoA, the  state would be in  jeopardy of                                                               
losing those funds.                                                                                                             
Number 0486                                                                                                                     
BARNARSI  LAL,   Chair,  Alaska   Commission  on   Aging  (ACoA),                                                               
Department of  Health and Social  Services, recalled that  at the                                                               
last hearing  clarification was requested regarding  the need for                                                               
a commission in  order to receive federal dollars.   Mr. Lal also                                                               
recalled that there  was concern with the fiscal  note because it                                                               
looked as if the ACoA was  making a profit, which isn't the case.                                                               
If one reviews  the budget and compares it to  the year 2004, one                                                               
will discover  that there is  a reduction  of about $56,000.   In                                                               
response to Chair  Weyhrauch, Mr. Lal said that  other members of                                                               
ACoA should  be arriving  as there is  a three-day  meeting being                                                               
held [in  Juneau] in  order to  do the  hiring for  the executive                                                               
director of ACoA.                                                                                                               
CHAIR WEYHRAUCH thanked Mr. Lal for his service on ACoA.                                                                        
MR. LAL  assured the  committee that all  the members  serving on                                                               
ACoA are very dedicated seniors  who represent a wide spectrum of                                                               
society.  Mr. Lal highlighted that  the members must keep in mind                                                               
that the  senior population  is going  to double  by 2010  and by                                                               
2025 the senior population will be  about 25 percent higher.  Mr.                                                               
Lal  said that  it  makes  sense that  seniors  be provided  with                                                               
services that would  allow them to live with  dignity, grace, and                                                               
in settings that are close to their homes.                                                                                      
Number 0729                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  LYNN also  thanked  Mr. Lal  for  his service  on                                                               
ACoA.   Representative  Lynn asked  if any  legislation involving                                                               
seniors has ever come before ACoA for advice.                                                                                   
MR.  LAL  noted  that  most   recently  ACoA  has  supported  the                                                               
governor's senior  care program.  In  the past ACoA has  be asked                                                               
to provide  support for various pieces  of legislation, including                                                               
the advisory  vote for the  pioneers' homes and  veterans' homes.                                                               
In  further response  to Representative  Lynn,  Mr. Lal  recalled                                                               
that  ACoA  has  been  approached  before  legislation  has  been                                                               
introduced with regard to whether  it should be introduced or the                                                               
content of such legislation.  He  recalled that one such piece of                                                               
legislation dealt with the quality of life of senior citizens.                                                                  
Number 0921                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  related his understanding  that members                                                               
of ACoA aren't confirmed by the legislature.                                                                                    
MR.  LAL  agreed.   In  response  to  Representative  Gruenberg's                                                               
question  regarding term  limits for  ACoA, Mr.  Lal opined  that                                                               
seven  or  eight years  of  service  is reasonable  and  provides                                                               
others the  opportunity to serve.   Mr.  Lal said that  he didn't                                                               
have any problems with the term  limits for ACoA [as specified in                                                               
AS 47.45.200(c)].                                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE    GRUENBERG   pointed    out   that    under   AS                                                               
47.45[.240](a)(2) one  of the duties  of ACoA  is to:   "(2) make                                                               
recommendations  directly to  the  governor  and the  legislature                                                               
with respect to legislation,  regulations, and appropriations for                                                               
programs or  services that benefit  older Alaskans".   Therefore,                                                               
he asked if there is anything Mr. Lal would like to recommend.                                                                  
MR. LAL noted that ACoA  is supporting the governor's senior care                                                               
Number 1059                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLM  directed  attention   to  the  Division  of                                                               
Legislative Audit's audit of the  Department of Health and Social                                                               
Services Alaska  Commission on Aging Sunset  Review dated October                                                               
1, 2003.  On page 16 of the  audit, it specifies that in a number                                                               
of cases the backup [to  the financial reports] haven't been sent                                                               
to   the   [Division   of   Legislative   Audit].      Therefore,                                                               
Representative   Holm  charged   Mr.  Lal   with  reviewing   the                                                               
aforementioned in  order that  the appropriate  supporting backup                                                               
is sent so that the federal funding is at the [correct level].                                                                  
MR. LAL pointed  out that until last year ACoA  was in the grant-                                                               
making  role.   However,  the  Department  of Administration  was                                                               
providing support  to ACoA for  generating those type  reports as                                                               
well  as  timely  submission  of   those  reports.    He  assured                                                               
Representative  Holm  that he  would  convey  the charge  to  Mr.                                                               
Ashman and the deputy commissioner.                                                                                             
Number 1175                                                                                                                     
SAM TRIVETTE,  Retired Public Employees  of Alaska,  testified in                                                               
support of  the continuation  of ACoA,  which is  very important.                                                               
He noted that he attends ACoA  meetings on a fairly regular basis                                                               
and receives  the ACoA  newsletter.   The commissioners  are very                                                               
dedicated,  he said.   Mr.  Trivette said,  personally, he  would                                                               
like for  ACoA to have  a stronger voice.   In response  to Chair                                                               
Weyhrauch,  Mr. Trivette  said that  ACoA  [meetings] are  fairly                                                               
easy to follow, although there  has been some confusion regarding                                                               
who is doing what since the changeover.                                                                                         
CHAIR WEYHRAUCH  asked if  there is a  form available  to provide                                                               
input with  regard to  how to  better facilitate  the information                                                               
coming out of ACoA to better benefit seniors and aging Alaskans.                                                                
MR. TRIVETTE  answered that  he hadn't  given that  much thought.                                                               
However,  he suggested  that trying  to get  the newsletter  more                                                               
widely distributed might be of benefit.   He explained that he is                                                               
notified via  e-mail that the  newsletter is available,  which is                                                               
probably  a  good process  for  those  seniors connected  to  the                                                               
[Internet].    However, less  than  half  of the  Retired  Public                                                               
Employees of  Alaska are connected  to the Internet.   In further                                                               
response to Chair Weyhrauch, Mr.  Trivette said that [the Retired                                                               
Public Employees  of Alaska]  newsletter sometimes  references an                                                               
article [from ACoA's newsletter].                                                                                               
Number 1340                                                                                                                     
RUTH SANDVIK said that she is coming  from the point of view of a                                                               
customer of  ACoA.  Ms.  Sandvik commended  the work of  ACoA and                                                               
urged everyone  to watch and  listen to this program  because the                                                               
need for  this type of  program will never  end.  As  was pointed                                                               
out,  the  population  of  elders   [in  Alaska]  is  increasing.                                                               
Therefore, she encouraged the committee to continue ACoA.                                                                       
Number 1436                                                                                                                     
CHRISTINE  EARHARDT,  Administrative   Health  Assistant,  Tanana                                                               
Tribal Council, testified in support  of extending ACoA, which is                                                               
the  exclusive funding  agency for  the Tanana  elders residence.                                                               
The  Tanana  elders' residence  has  been  operated for  over  20                                                               
Number 1552                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  moved to  report HB  394 out  of committee                                                               
with  individual  recommendations  and  the  accompanying  fiscal                                                               
notes.  There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                            

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