Legislature(2015 - 2016)CAPITOL 106
03/24/2016 08:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS
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HB 324-VIOLENT CRIMES COMP BOARD MEMBERSHIP 8:09:57 AM CHAIR LYNN announced that the first order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 324, "An Act relating to the Violent Crimes Compensation Board." 8:10:13 AM COURTNEY ENRIGHT, Staff, Representative Gabrielle LeDoux, Alaska State Legislature, presented HB 324 on behalf of Representative LeDoux, prime sponsor. She stated that the proposed legislation would amend the membership of the Violent Crimes Compensation Board (VCCB) to expand the possibilities for board appointees and to aid in recruitment. She explained that VCCB asked for this change because of the difficulty in recruiting and retaining physicians for the board. In response to Chair Lynn, she further explained that physicians often have limited time, and a nurse practitioner has suitable medical knowledge for the needs of the board. 8:11:24 AM REPRESENTATIVE KELLER moved to adopt Amendment 1, labeled 29- LS1479\A.1, Bruce, 3/22/16, which read as follows: Page 1, line 7, following "physician": Insert ", a physician assistant." REPRESENTATIVE STUTES objected for purpose of discussion. 8:12:24 AM REPRESENTATIVE SPOHNHOLZ opined that the amendment to add physician assistant to HB 324 would serve to recognize the broad scope of paraprofessionals [in Alaska] and widen the range and number of potential applicants that are available for VCCB. She added that both nurse practitioners and physician assistants practice independently and provide a high level of care. MS. ENRIGHT confirmed for Chair Lynn that the proposed legislation with the amendment would add nurse practitioners and physician assistants to the range of medical professionals eligible for appointment by the governor to the seat that now must be filled by a physician. 8:14:12 AM The committee took an at-ease from 8:14 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. 8:14:37 AM REPRESENTATIVE STUTES withdrew her objection to Amendment 1. REPRESENTATIVE KELLER withdrew Amendment 1. 8:15:04 AM REPRESENTATIVE SPOHNHOLZ moved to adopt Amendment 2, labeled 29- LS1479\A.1, Bruce, 3/22/16, which read as follows: Page 1, line 7, following "physician": Insert ", a physician assistant." REPRESENTATIVE STUTES objected for discussion, then removed her objection. [Without further objection, Amendment 2 was treated as adopted.] 8:15:38 AM REPRESENTATIVE KELLER asked if there were times when the board was unable to function because of the absence of the physician board member or if there were times it was functioning without medical expertise. MS. ENRIGHT replied that the absence of the medical professional at board meetings created a challenge for the board to achieve a quorum, since VCCB is only a three-member board. She added that the board's discussion of crimes requires a certain depth of medical expertise, and not having that expertise creates issues. 8:16:37 AM KATE HUDSON, Executive Director, Violent Crimes Compensation Board (VCCB), Department of Administration (DOA), cited two separate year-long periods in VCCB's recent history where it has been difficult for the board to function. She went on to say that for a one-year period there was a physician on the board who was an absentee board member - unable to attend meetings and not responding to emails. She related another one-year period in which the board was not able to find a physician to serve on the board. She expressed the difficulties of coming to agreements on claims when there are only two board members, since there are often disagreements and a majority vote is needed. 8:18:01 AM CHAIR LYNN asked if VCCB members are paid or receive travel reimbursement. MS. HUDSON said that they are volunteers and therefore neither paid nor receive stipends. She conceded that they receive travel reimbursement if away from their home town, but that does not often occur. 8:18:29 AM REPRESENTATIVE VAZQUEZ referred to a letter from Gerad Godfrey, Chair, VCCB, in the committee packet, and relayed that in the letter, Mr. Godfrey explains the importance of a medical professional serving on the board. Representative Vazquez asked Ms. Hudson to elaborate. MS. HUDSON responded that VCCB often looks at cases where someone has been physically injured as the result of a crime. She went on to say that the board assesses the appropriateness of reimbursements for medical treatment, physical therapy, and prescriptions and, in her opinion, it is imperative that someone on the board have the medical knowledge to make these determinations. 8:19:40 AM REPRESENTATIVE KELLER asked Ms. Hudson to describe the duty of VCCB. MS. HUDSON stated that VCCB reviews claims - the nature of a crime and the nature of an injury - and decides eligibility under the statutes and reasonable expenses. She added that after those two decisions are made, the board signs an order form and payment is made. 8:20:51 AM REPRESENTATIVE VAZQUEZ asked how many cases were processed in the past year. MS. HUDSON responded that through fiscal year 2016 (FY 16) there were over 960 claims processed - that is, new applications received - but not all were awarded. She added that there are usually between 800 and 900 claims per year, and last year had a record number. REPRESENTATIVE VAZQUEZ asked if VCCB gets direct referrals from the district attorney's office. MS. HUDSON responded in the affirmative and added that referrals also come from law enforcement, hospitals, victim advocates, and other sources. REPRESENTATIVE VAZQUEZ asked Ms. Hudson for the most common type of claim that VCCB processes in terms of cost and injury. MS. HUDSON expressed that the question was a difficult one to answer. She offered that typically many of the claims fall under two categories. She described the first as assaults of young men with facial injuries and orbital fractures resulting in about $10,000 in medical costs. The second category, she said, is child abuse cases in which payment is for mental health counseling costing anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000. 8:23:22 AM REPRESENTATIVE VAZQUEZ asked how VCCB is funded. MS. HUDSON responded that there are two sources of funding: one, an appropriation from the permanent fund dividend, which consists of a small portion of the dividends that are not paid to incarcerated felons; and two, an annual federal grant under the Victims of Crime Act. REPRESENTATIVE VAZQUEZ asked Ms. Hudson what the total funding was for VCCB for FY 15. MS. HUDSON responded that in FY 15, the total funding for VCCB was $2.5 million - $2.1 million for victim payments and $400,000 for operating costs. REPRESENTATIVE VAZQUEZ asked what the staffing level was for VCCB. MS. HUDSON replied that VCCB has three staff, including herself, and they are located in Juneau. 8:24:46 AM REPRESENTATIVE KELLER moved to report HB 324, as amended, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSHB 324(STA) was reported from the House State Affairs Standing Committee.