Legislature(2009 - 2010)CAPITOL 106

03/24/2009 08:00 AM House STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved CSHB 73(STA) Out of Committee
Heard & Held
Heard & Held; Assigned to Subcommittee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
HB 123-EXTEND SUICIDE PREVENTION COUNCIL                                                                                      
[Contains discussion of SB 35]                                                                                                  
8:43:26 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LYNN  announced that the  next order of business  was HOUSE                                                               
BILL  NO. 123,  "An Act  extending  the termination  date of  the                                                               
Statewide  Suicide  Prevention  Council;  and  providing  for  an                                                               
effective date."                                                                                                                
8:43:41 AM                                                                                                                    
CRYSTAL KOENEMAN,  Staff, Representative Anna  Fairclough, Alaska                                                               
State Legislature,  presented HB 123 on  behalf of Representative                                                               
Fairclough, prime sponsor.   She said the proposed  bill asks for                                                               
an extension of  the sunset date from June 30,  2009, to June 30,                                                               
2013.  In  response to Chair Lynn, she  offered her understanding                                                               
that  the time  frame  prior to  the 2009  sunset  date was  four                                                               
8:44:49 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON asked  if a  Legislative Budget  and Audit                                                               
[sunset review] was conducted.                                                                                                  
MS. KOENEMAN said she does not know, but could find out.                                                                        
8:45:38 AM                                                                                                                    
PAT  DAVIDSON, Legislative  Auditor, Legislative  Audit Division,                                                               
Alaska  State  Legislature,  confirmed   that  the  division  did                                                               
conduct  a sunset  review on  the  [Statewide Suicide  Prevention                                                               
Council].  As a result of  the review, she reported, the division                                                               
recommends the four-year extension.   Statute allows for up to an                                                               
eight-year  extension.     She  said  the   [council]  is  having                                                               
difficulty appointing people.   She related that  after its prior                                                               
review,  the division  made a  recommendation  to the  governor's                                                               
office that "they be more  timely with their appointments."  This                                                               
year, Ms.  Davidson reported, the  division encountered  the same                                                               
problems,   and  is   concerned  that   the  qualifications   for                                                               
appointment to  the council are  too narrow.  Thus,  the division                                                               
recommends   that  the   legislature   consider  broadening   the                                                               
membership  requirements for  the  council.   She explained  that                                                               
when the restrictions about who  exactly should be on the council                                                               
get too  narrow, the pool of  people who are willing  to serve is                                                               
MS.  DAVIDSON said  the division  also recommends  that the  four                                                               
members of  the legislature who  are appointed to the  council be                                                               
nonvoting  members.   She explained  the  intent is  not to  take                                                               
their voice  away, but "they're  having difficulty  meeting their                                                               
quorum."   She  stated, "Basically,  we  look at  it and  they're                                                               
running about  51-53 percent attendance  at the meeting  for this                                                               
15-person board,  and it's  difficult to  get your  business done                                                               
when you are fighting that quorum issue."                                                                                       
MS.   DAVIDSON,  in   response   to  Chair   Lynn,  offered   her                                                               
understanding that the council meets a  couple times a year.  She                                                               
     The statutes  surrounding this [council] talk  about it                                                                    
     as  an advisory  council  to the  governor  and to  the                                                                    
     legislature, and it  provides a list of  areas that ...                                                                    
     they should  be aware of.   And  what we found  is that                                                                    
     the council's  actually active in some  of those areas.                                                                    
     Rather  than making  a recommendation  to the  governor                                                                    
     [and]  the  legislature  that something  be  done,  the                                                                    
     council's actually  doing some  of those  things, which                                                                    
     is ... why we recommended extension for the council.                                                                       
8:48:47 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. DAVIDSON, in  response to Chair Lynn, said she  does not know                                                               
where the board typically meets.                                                                                                
8:49:01 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  DAVIDSON,  in response  to  a  question from  Representative                                                               
Petersen,   confirmed  that   the   audit   found  that   overall                                                               
appointment  and attendance  at  meetings was  running around  54                                                               
percent.  As of September  30, [2008], there were three vacancies                                                               
in  the 15-member  council,  and the  vacancies  had existed  for                                                               
quite awhile.   She recommended ways in  which the qualifications                                                               
could  be  broadened.    For  example,  instead  of  requiring  a                                                               
secondary school  counselor, the requirement could  be simply for                                                               
a counselor,  or, if the  important feature is  secondary school,                                                               
then perhaps the  qualification could include a  teacher, as well                                                               
as  a counselor.    By broadening  the  membership, Ms.  Davidson                                                               
reiterated, the result would be a better pool of people.                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  PETERSEN proffered  another  option  would be  to                                                               
allow a retired student counselor.                                                                                              
CHAIR  LYNN asked  if anything  is  being done  to "broaden  that                                                               
MS. DAVIDSON  noted that  the requirements  are in  statute, thus                                                               
the legislature would have to make those changes.                                                                               
8:51:08 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  said he thinks  that along with  the issue                                                               
of the  sunset date,  the sponsor would  probably be  "looking at                                                               
that in conjunction with the committee."                                                                                        
8:51:56 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. KOENEMAN  relayed that the sponsor  had originally introduced                                                               
HB  123 as  a companion  bill  to SB  35, which  is sponsored  by                                                               
Senator Davis.   She said  those involved  in crafting SB  35 are                                                               
considering the  optimum composition  of the  council.   She said                                                               
the sponsor of HB 123 would  be willing to consider improving the                                                               
composition of  the council, but would  not want to risk  a delay                                                               
that would cause the expiration of the council.                                                                                 
8:53:10 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. KOENEMAN,  in response  to Representative  Gruenberg, offered                                                               
her understanding that  SB 35 is currently sitting  in the Senate                                                               
Finance Committee.                                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG asked  Ms.  Koeneman if  she thinks  it                                                               
would be  efficient to "put something  in so we can  start moving                                                               
something over here, with the expectation they'll meet up."                                                                     
MS. KOENEMAN responded that she  does not know whether that would                                                               
help, and she reiterated that  the sponsor's main concern is that                                                               
the council does not sunset.                                                                                                    
CHAIR LYNN  said he thinks  the committee should limit  the focus                                                               
of HB  123 on  the termination date,  and independently  check on                                                               
[SB 35] to "see what's happening."                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON   said  statute  requires  the   audit  of                                                               
agencies before  their sunset date,  so that the  legislature can                                                               
review the audits  to discover recommended improvements.   If the                                                               
improvements are not  made at that time, he said,  there will not                                                               
be a  chance to consider  them again  until just before  the next                                                               
sunset date.   Therefore, if there are provisions in  SB 35 which                                                               
incorporate  the Legislative  Budget  and Audit  recommendations,                                                               
the  House should  mirror those  provisions in  its own  bill, he                                                               
8:55:30 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LYNN  remarked that Representative  Seaton's point  is well                                                               
made.   He said he  is wondering  whether the committee  ought to                                                               
hold HB 123 until it finds out  [what the Senate is doing with SB
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON clarified his concern  is that if the House                                                               
were  to send  legislation over  to  the Senate  that is  totally                                                               
different  from  SB  35,  that  would  result  in  time-consuming                                                               
conflict.     He   suggested  that   incorporating  the   changes                                                               
recommended in the audit would speed up the process.                                                                            
8:56:34 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  KOENEMAN,  in  response  to   Chair  Lynn,  reiterated  that                                                               
although the  sponsor would be  willing to incorporate  the audit                                                               
recommendations, her greatest concern is  to see that the council                                                               
is not allowed  to sunset.  She  noted that April 16  is the last                                                               
day to  hear bills.  In  response to Chair Lynn,  she offered her                                                               
understanding  that   the  recommendations   of  the   audit  are                                                               
incorporated in SB 35.                                                                                                          
8:57:24 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. DAVIDSON  added her understanding that  the Statewide Suicide                                                               
Prevention   Council   met   in   February   and   passed   along                                                               
recommendations   to    Senator   Davis'   office,    and   those                                                               
recommendations were incorporated into [SB 35].                                                                                 
8:57:54 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON recommended  that the  committee create  a                                                               
committee substitute (CS)  that mirrors the wording  [SB 35], but                                                               
that it does so as quickly as possible.                                                                                         
8:58:39 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  said he  thinks  the  committee needs  to                                                               
obtain a  copy of  the Legislative  Budget and  Audit Committee's                                                               
sunset  review audit  and consider  the recommendations  directed                                                               
toward improving the council.                                                                                                   
8:59:28 AM                                                                                                                    
L.  DIANE  CASTO,  Manager,  Prevention  and  Early  Intervention                                                               
Section, Division  of Behavioral  Health, Department of  Health &                                                               
Social  Services,  offered  a  brief  history  of  the  Statewide                                                               
Suicide Prevention  Council.  She stated  that as of July  1, the                                                               
council has sat within the  Division of Behavioral Health.  Prior                                                               
to that, the council sat in  the Office of the Commissioner.  The                                                               
commissioner  made the  decision  to move  the  council into  the                                                               
Division  of  Behavioral  Health  to place  it  closer  to  where                                                               
suicide prevention  activities are happening at  the state level.                                                               
Ms.  Casto noted  that she  and  one other  person are  currently                                                               
staff to the council, in addition to their other activities.                                                                    
MS. CASTO said the department supports  HB 123.  It is well-known                                                               
that suicide  is a huge issue  for the state, and  the department                                                               
is working  diligently towards  a drop in  the suicide  rate, she                                                               
reported.   There are  a number  of grant  programs being  run in                                                               
communities; the $1.5 Garrett Lee  Smith Youth Suicide Prevention                                                               
Grant - a  federal grant - has just been  awarded the department.                                                               
Ms.  Casto stated,  "We feel  that  right now  things are  really                                                               
starting to  pull together, and the  council is a huge  asset for                                                               
Alaska,   and  it   provides  guidance   and  direction   to  the                                                               
9:01:31 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. CASTO  said following the  audit, the council held  a meeting                                                               
February 4-5,  during which it  held a discussion related  to the                                                               
audit and  the recommendations therein.   She indicated  that the                                                               
council came  up with ideas  for "tweaking the membership."   She                                                               
offered the  following example:   "an  employee from  a secondary                                                               
school system  such as but  limited to a  teacher, administrator,                                                               
counselor, nurse, or  other school personnel."   She said wording                                                               
very similar to that was incorporated  into SB 35.  An additional                                                               
recommended change was to add a public member to the council.                                                                   
MS. CASTO stated support of  the current committee substitute for                                                               
SB 35.   Furthermore,  she reported that  currently all  seats on                                                               
the  council are  filled at  this time.   She  stated, "It's  the                                                               
first  time in  a long  time that  we've had  a full  council, so                                                               
we're  very excited  about that."    Ms. Casto  relayed that  one                                                               
additional question that came up  after recommendations were made                                                               
for  the  committee  substitute  related  to  adding  the  public                                                               
member, which would  give the council an even  number of members.                                                               
She said  often an odd  number of people  is desired in  order to                                                               
break ties; however,  she told the committee that  the council is                                                               
not contentious and works well  together.  A second public member                                                               
could be added to address the  issue; however, Ms. Casto said the                                                               
council felt that within its  existing budget it could absorb the                                                               
cost  of one  additional member,  but  not two.   Another  option                                                               
would be  to follow Robert's Rules  of Order and ensure  that the                                                               
chair does not vote "unless there is a tie or to create a tie."                                                                 
9:04:55 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  LYNN asked  Ms. Casto  what her  opinion is  regarding the                                                               
idea to align HB 193 with SB 35.                                                                                                
9:05:11 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. CASTO replied, "We support that."                                                                                           
9:05:23 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  noted, "One of  the other issues  that was                                                               
brought  up  was  ...  having the  legislative  members  be  non-                                                               
voting."  He asked if the council considered that matter.                                                                       
MS. CASTO replied that the  council did consider that matter, and                                                               
it would  like to  continue to have  four legislative  members on                                                               
the council,  but in  more of  an advisory  role.   She explained                                                               
that  it  is difficult  for  legislators  to  come to  a  two-day                                                               
meeting;  their   attendance  has   been  "spotty,"   she  noted.                                                               
Regarding the  prior question regarding  how often and  where the                                                               
council  meets,   Ms.  Casto  relayed  that   the  council  meets                                                               
quarterly  -  once   in  Juneau  during  the   session,  once  in                                                               
Anchorage, and twice in outlying areas.                                                                                         
CHAIR  LYNN questioned  the potential  for  conflict of  interest                                                               
when a  legislative member  of the council  hears the  same issue                                                               
before the legislature.                                                                                                         
MS. CASTO said she is not sure  there would be a conflict, but it                                                               
would depend  upon the issue.   She said, "We feel  that being in                                                               
an  advisory  role   gives  us  that  advantage   of  having  ...                                                               
legislators  participate and  be  active in  the conversation  in                                                               
helping make decisions ...."                                                                                                    
9:07:40 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  CASTO,  in  response  to   a  question  from  Representative                                                               
Gruenberg, said  all council members knew  about today's hearing,                                                               
but she does not think any of them are here.                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  expressed his  hope that the  next time                                                               
the  issue is  revisited,  the  chair of  the  council could  [be                                                               
MS.  CASTO,  in  response  to   a  question  from  Representative                                                               
Gruenberg, said  the Statewide Suicide Prevention  Council is not                                                               
one that is required to get federal funds.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE   GRUENBERG  asked   if   the   council,  in   its                                                               
deliberations,   took  up   any  other   legislative  reform   or                                                               
amendments, or any other issues.                                                                                                
MS.  CASTO explained  that when  the council  was moved  into the                                                               
Division of Behavioral  Health, there was no  opportunity to hire                                                               
a  new coordinator,  because decisions  needed to  be made  about                                                               
funding.     When  the  position   was  in  the  Office   of  the                                                               
Commissioner,  one person  served multiple  jobs and  "did a  job                                                               
share with a number of  different councils."  Ms. Casto indicated                                                               
that the idea  is to ensure that the council  has the opportunity                                                               
to determine who its staff is.                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG asked, "Has that problem been cured?"                                                                  
MS. CASTO answered yes.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  said, "Okay,  so, there's  nothing else                                                               
other than the make-up of the council."                                                                                         
MS. CASTO confirmed that is correct.                                                                                            
9:10:42 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG said  having served  on a  similar body                                                               
many years ago,  he is interested to see how  this works and what                                                               
the  legislature  should be  doing.    He  said  he is  glad  the                                                               
[council] will  be addressing  this issue, and  he said  he would                                                               
welcome any further advice from the council itself.                                                                             
CHAIR LYNN  asked Ms.  Koeneman if she  would "assist  in putting                                                               
this together."   He stated  his intent not  only to not  let the                                                               
council expire,  but also to  do everything possible  "in getting                                                               
it in one package."                                                                                                             
9:11:44 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  requested that  copies of  the Legislative                                                               
Budget   &    Audit   sunset   review   and    the   department's                                                               
recommendations be distributed.                                                                                                 
9:12:01 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LYNN said he would hold public testimony open.                                                                            
[HB 123 was held over.]                                                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
01 3-12-09 Blank CS for HB 73 Version E.pdf HSTA 3/24/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 73
01 HB0123A.pdf HSTA 3/24/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 123
02 3-20-09 CS HB 73 Sponsor Statement Version E Fire.doc HSTA 3/24/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 73
03 Fiscal for Firefighter CSHB073-DOA-DMV-03-16-09.pdf HSTA 3/24/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 73
04 HB 73 Firefighter EMS Support Letter-emails.pdf HSTA 3/24/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 73
02 HB 123 Sponsor Statement.pdf HSTA 3/24/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 123
03 HB123-DHSS-BHA-03-23-09.pdf HSTA 3/24/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 123
04 HB123-DHSS-SSPC-03-23-09.pdf HSTA 3/24/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 123
05 HB 123 Statewide Suicide Prevention Council.pdf HSTA 3/24/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 123
01 HB0193A.pdf HSTA 3/24/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 193
02 HB 193 Bill Packet.pdf HSTA 3/24/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 193
03 HB93-LEG-ETH-03-23-09.pdf HSTA 3/24/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 93
05 Add'l support HB 73.pdf HSTA 3/24/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 73
06 Support Letter AARP HB 123.pdf HSTA 3/24/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 123
06 Add'l support HB 73.pdf HSTA 3/24/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 73
CS for HB 73 STA Version S.pdf HSTA 3/24/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 73