Legislature(2017 - 2018)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)
03/02/2017 01:30 PM LABOR & COMMERCE
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SB 51-EXTEND BOARD OF VETERINARY EXAMINERS 2:52:47 PM CHAIR COSTELLO announced the consideration of SB 51. She noted that this is the first hearing; the intention is to hear the bill, take members questions, take public testimony, and hold the bill for further consideration. 2:53:34 PM SHAREEN CROSBY, Staff, Senator Natasha von Imhof, Alaska State Legislature, introduced SB 51 on behalf of the sponsor speaking to the following sponsor statement: SB 51 extends the termination date of the Board of Veterinary Examiners (BVE). Currently, the board will sunset on June 30, 2017. SB 51 extends this date by eight years, to June 30, 2025. I encourage all of the members to review the Legislative Audit summary and the full audit report. Your will see that in the opinion of our auditors, the BE is serving the public's interest by effectively licensing and regulating veterinarians and veterinary technicians. The board monitors licensees and works to ensure only qualified individuals practice. Additionally it was found, the board develops and adopts regulations to improve the veterinarian and veterinary technician occupations in Alaska. The BVE serves an important role in protecting the health and safety of Alaska's many pets and farm animals. From lap dogs to sled dogs, ball pythons to sleigh-pulling work horses, our pets and animals in Alaska deserve qualified veterinarians and veterinary technicians for their care and well-being. The continuation of the board is very important. MS. CROSBY noted the individuals available to answer questions. SENATOR NATASHA VON IMHOF, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor of SB 51, said this is an excellent board that does good work. She deferred questions to her staff and the auditor. CHAIR COSTELLO clarified that testimony should be restricted to the bill itself. 2:56:37 PM KRIS CURTIS, Legislative Auditor, Division of Legislative Audit, Alaska State Legislature, stated that the division conducted a sunset audit of the Board of Veterinary Examiners and concluded that the board is serving the public interest by effectively licensing and regulating veterinarians and veterinary technicians and is appropriately regulating the industry. The audit recommends that the legislature extend the board's termination date eight years to June 30, 2025. She directed attention to Exhibit 2 on page 5 of the audit that reports that as of February 2016 this board had 670 licenses. She noted this is a 57 percent increase since the last sunset audit in 2008. Exhibit 3 on page 5 reports that at the end of FY2013 the board had a $108,829 surplus. Fees were decreased at that time so at the end of FY2015 the surplus was $22,735. Fees were not adjusted and at the end of February 2016 the board was running a [$25,828] deficit. At the time of the audit, the Division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing indicated plans to reassess fees at the end of FY2016. MS. CURTIS directed attention to the administrative housekeeping recommendation on page 7 for the board chair to review the annual report for accuracy and completeness before final submission to the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Develop. It was an oversight of DCBPL staff that every year for the last four years the board reported on the status of the Board of Dental Examiners rather than those of the Board of Veterinary Examiners. 2:59:14 PM SENATOR GARDNER asked if the board addressed the fee increase at the end of FY2016. MS. CURTIS said she didn't know and deferred the question to the division. SENATOR MEYER asked about the 69 open complaints, 18 of which resulted in investigations. MS. CURTIS said that is discussed on the bottom of page 3. She paraphrased the following: There were 69 complaints open or opened between July 1, 2012, and February 15, 2016. Eighteen investigations resulted from the complaints, of which 14 were closed during the period. The remaining four open investigations were open for less than eight months as of February 2016. She explained that this review is done to assess timely investigations and the conclusion was there was not a significant problem with timeliness. SENATOR GARDNER asked if the complaints that weren't investigated were not pursued because they were unfounded, out of jurisdiction, or some other reason. MS. CURTIS said the audit doesn't report the reason, but the myriad of codes for not going forward include those she mentioned. SENATOR GARDNER asked if those numbers are in the auditor's comfort range. MS. CURTIS said the risk-based approach to auditing indicated it didn't warrant expending resources. CHAIR COSTELLO asked what the threshold is for identifying an area as a risk worth investigating. MS. CURTIS explained that during the planning survey phase of an audit they review board meeting minutes and annual reports, they interview board members and department licensing staff, and they get statistics from the investigative section. If that process shows complaints aren't followed up or there are concerns with investigations in general, they will identify that as an area of risk and do detailed audit work on it. SENATOR GARDNER asked if unusually high expenses accounted for the rapidly declining surplus between FY2013 and FY2015, because licenses increased 57 percent in that timeframe. MS. CURTIS said the detail expenditures in Exhibit 3 were not identified as an area of concern. She acknowledged that increasing licenses typically reduces a deficit. CHAIR COSTELLO asked when the board was established and if an eight-year extension is a typical for this board. MS. CURTIS said this board received the maximum eight-year extension after the 2008 sunset audit. She noted that the recommendations from the prior audit are at the top of page 7. One recommendation was to review and decrease licensing fees, which is an indication there was a surplus. Another recommendation was to fill vacant seats in a timely manner. Those recommendations were addressed. 3:05:40 PM At ease 3:05:45 PM CHAIR COSTELLO reconvened the meeting and opened public testimony on SB 51. 3:06:46 PM RACHEL BERNGARTT, Member, Board of Veterinary Examiners, reported that in July 2016 the cost to renew all licenses for this board increased dramatically; for veterinarians a license jumped from $300 to $500. The board suggested numbers they thought would significantly address the deficit, but the state had a different idea. She predicted that the board would soon be well in the black. She pointed out that the audit found the board to be functional, necessary and unique. SENATOR MEYER asked the cost of a veterinary license and a veterinary technician license. MS. BERNGARTT said the veterinary license renewal is $500 and the veterinary technician license renewal is $100. Prior to 2016 the numbers were $300 and $50 respectively. SENATOR HUGHES asked if there is still a shortage of veterinarians in Alaska. MS. BERNGARTT replied the state is in much better shape now than a few years ago. She advised that the University of Alaska Fairbanks has a veterinarian program now; after two years the students transfer to a sister program at a university in the Lower 48. She added that the board is very cognizant of the shortage and strives to get veterinary services to rural communities. SENATOR HUGHES said that's encouraging to hear. 3:11:24 PM PAMELA SAMASH, representing herself, Nenana, Alaska, stated opposition to SB 51 because the current board has done little to help people in rural communities. Her community is going on the fourth year of having no veterinary care, which includes no spay or neutering and no rabies vaccines. This is a problem throughout Alaska and it stems from the fact that the current board has no rural representation. She proposed starting with an entirely new board where rural people have a voice. SENATOR GARDNER asked if she has suggestions about how the board can increase the number of veterinarians in rural Alaska. MS. SAMASH said it would help to have a couple of people from rural communities on the board. They would actually look at the licenses of traveling vets who apply and decide whether or not to approve the applications. That isn't happening right now; it's generally known that itinerate vets have difficulty getting a license in Alaska. SENATOR GARDNER asked if she is saying that traveling or out-of- state veterinarians don't get the necessary approval to practice in Alaska. MS. SAMASH said that's been her experience. CHAIR COSTELLO asked if her reference to traveling veterinarians means about veterinarians within Alaska who would travel to rural communities to provide services or veterinarians from outside the state who would do the same. MS. SAMASH said all the above although it's more difficult for veterinarians from outside the state to get a license. Veterinarians within the state generally charge full price despite the limited resources of many rural residents. Veterinarians from outside often come from organizations that help with supplies so the cost to the consumer is less. She highlighted the problem of expired rabies vaccines and the dearth of rabies clinics in rural Alaska. It's becoming a human health risk, she said. 3:18:54 PM MARGIE RILEY, representing herself, Nenana, Alaska, testified in opposition to SB 51. She reported on the lack of health care for animals throughout the Interior. She asked the committee to reconsider the composition of the board and recognize the importance of having veterinarians who will travel to rural communities. 3:20:38 PM ANGIE FITCH, representing herself, Fairbanks, Alaska, urged the committee to either vote no on SB 51 or amend it to add rural representation. 3:21:27 PM LEA MCKENZIE, representing herself, Sutton, Alaska, testified in opposition to SB 51. She described her experience with animal rescue and working in a clinic with a traveling veterinarian. Based on that experience she does not believe that the board is serving the public interest. She urged the committee not to extend the board until changes are made such that traveling veterinarians are approved to work in remote villages. 3:23:18 PM BRIAN BERUBE, representing himself, Rural, Alaska, advised that he has helped set up veterinary clinics in rural communities and he believes that the veterinary board has made progress in trying to solve the problems in rural communities associated with access to care. However, it's clear that a large portion of the state doesn't have adequate access to veterinary care. Having rural representation on the board would be beneficial for those areas and the entire state and improve the public perception. CHAIR COSTELLO held SB 51 in committee for further consideration with public testimony open.