Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 211
02/26/2009 09:00 AM Senate STATE AFFAIRS
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 49-BLOOD DONATION AWARENESS FUND 9:36:09 AM CHAIR MENARD announced the consideration of SB 49. 9:39:33 AM LESIL MCGUIRE, Senator, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor, said SB 49 will help Alaskans help those in need. Five years ago she passed HB 331 that created a new organ and tissue series of statutes. It created the Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness program. The idea came from Life Alaska, which had difficulties raising money and awareness about the gift of life. The organization found that when it could reach them, Alaskans were very generous. The system had been disjointed; people were offering to donate organs and tissue, but they didn't know they had to connect into a registry themselves. The bill created a system for Alaskans to sign up when getting a driver's license, and then they were put into a trackable state system right away. It is a state-of-the-art system and something to be proud of. The Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) manages it. 9:42:16 AM SENATOR MCGUIRE said some ask if that is an appropriate use of state money. She appreciates the hard work of the DMV. There is no place else to house that database. "Now we're asking to expand that to blood donation awareness." When receiving a driver's license, Alaskans are given the opportunity to voluntarily participate in organ and tissue donation. The intent is to add blood donors. It is voluntary, and a person can remove themselves from the list at any time. A person is given the chance to donate one dollar to the Anatomical Gift Awareness Fund. Last year it raised over $55,000 for the purpose of promoting anatomical gifting. The program facilitates public giving and provides a service that would otherwise be paid for out of government funds. SB 49 creates an identical program for blood donations. Annual blood donations are not enough to supply Alaska's needs. In 2008 more than 25,000 blood donations were made to the charitable Blood Bank of Alaska, but there is still not enough to keep pace with the needs. Alaska's blood supply runs on thin margins. In 2008, Alaska had to import 1,159 units of blood products from the Lower 48 to meet its inventory needs. 9:45:12 AM SENATOR MCGUIRE said SB 49 will not be a silver bullet but it will save Alaskan lives. It is truly a gift of life. SENATOR KOOKESH asked if the program qualifies for the PFD giving program. SENATOR MCGUIRE said that is an excellent idea. 9:46:33 AM SENATOR PASKVAN said he would support that. SENATOR MEYER said this is a good bill, but he is concerned about the mechanics. Page 2, line 15, says that money "may" be appropriated by the legislature to an organization. It doesn't say "shall". Will the money be appropriated to the right place? SENATOR MCGUIRE said funds cannot be dedicated, so "we are allowed to say maybe." She has concerns, and every year she watches over the organ and tissue fund to make sure the money goes to Life Alaska. The day will arrive that it won't happen. The fund is to promote information about being a blood donor, "and we hope that the legislature will continue to do that, but unfortunately because of our constitution our hands are tied in how we can direct the monies." 9:48:33 AM CHAIR MENARD said anyone who got a PFD could click and give to their favorite nonprofit. It can be an avenue for this too. SENATOR PASKVAN said that if the public is asked to donate to a specific cause, the state would hold the money in trust and make distributions as a trustee. This is not general fund money. That is the distinction that he makes as opposed to tax revenues. SENATOR MCGUIRE said that is an interesting point. The first year there was $65,000, "and it hadn't been appropriated." Her office successfully dislodged that money. Members of the public donated the money for a specific purpose. If a dedicated fund is created under a trust, it is very likely that a challenge would survive constitutional muster for the reasons Senator Paskvan just stated. "I chose to create it this way so that there wouldn't be any confusion or any challenge, but you bring up a really good point ... whether we want to have a section of the statute that allows the state to serve as trustee for certain funds such as this." It is a broader question. 9:51:29 AM SENATOR MEYER said unless someone is watching this money, it will be used in the general fund. There are other programs like the Children's Trust, "KID" license plates. People probably assume that when they buy those, that money is going to programs for kids. "I think we'd find it's probably not." This is the only way it can be done because funds can't be dedicated. SENATOR MCGUIRE said she invites him to use his legal mind to think about it. She would be open to inserting language in the bill that would more broadly establish a section of statute for funds held in public trust. She doesn't know the parameters. 9:52:41 AM SENATOR MCGUIRE said legislation passed last year to allow Alaskans to make a donation while filing for their PFD. She doesn't know if the blood bank is on there. MARGARET BAKER, Chief Operating Officer, Blood Bank of Alaska, Anchorage, said the organization is on the PFD donor list. In terms of the bill, she is aware of the struggle of having enough of every blood type for the needs of Alaska. The donor pool is always changing. The blood bank is constantly trying to replace donors who stop giving and to get repeat donations. The organization spends a lot of time and money trying to find dedicated donors so the bank has enough blood to send to hospitals throughout the state. The inventory has a target of a five-day blood supply. It is really important because of Alaska's location. Blood isn't always available from the Lower 48 and there may be transportation problems. The bank wants to be ready to distribute any blood type that is needed. 9:56:12 AM SENATOR PASKVAN asked if the PFD donation goes directly to the organization. He finds it troubling if someone thinks they are giving a dollar for blood and it goes to building a road because the legislature thinks it knows how to spend that dollar more than the citizen who made the donation. "I am 100 percent behind this, but I don't want the government to get their hands on it." 9:57:28 AM WHITNEY BREWSTER, Director, Division of Motor Vehicles, Anchorage, said she supports the spirit of SB 49 and commends Senator McGuire; however, she asked the committee to consider the bill's impact on DMV and its customers. When people walk up to the DMV counter, they are asked if they want to register to vote, then they are asked if they want to be an organ donor, and then they are asked if they would like to donate to the Anatomical Gift Awareness Fund. This will require an additional question. Transactions are taking longer and longer. With limited state resources, it is imperative that the DMV focus on its core services and move people quickly through its doors. She is concerned about requiring the DMV to ask an additional question to someone trying to get a driver's license. She is concerned that the DMV is asking for money on behalf of a charitable organization. And who is to say this cause is more important than another? It may open the door to have the DMV used to raise funds for other charities. People want to get in and out of the DMV as quickly as possible. 10:00:55 AM MS. BREWSTER said the Blood Bank of Alaska is on the PFD list for donations, and that is a great location. People apply for the PFD from the comfort of their home and can take the time to decide if they want to give. Commissioner Kreitzer asked the directors to concentrate on core services. She said she is committed to working on a solution with Senator McGuire. 10:01:54 AM CHAIR MENARD said the DMV has an updated list of addresses, and it is tempting to use it. SENATOR MEYER said Ms. Brewster brought up a good point that this is better as a PFD check-off because of having to draw the line for other charities. The DMV has done a marvelous job of improving customer relations, and "the last thing I want to do is slow you guys down." But he thinks the DMV is appropriate because a lot of blood gets used for traffic accidents. There is no costs for staff on the fiscal note. There is a cost of $5,000 to modify the computer system. MS. BREWSTER said the fiscal note is strictly for changing the DMV database. It is difficult to quantify how much additional time it will take to ask this new question. This bill merely establishes the fund for blood awareness; "it's not to provide any information on the person's license." It is for asking individuals if they want to give to the fund. 10:05:21 AM SENATOR MEYER said the DMV is the only agency that makes money for the state, and it is doing a good job. SENATOR MCGUIRE said she appreciates Ms. Brewster's hard work. The bill does not direct DMV in how to do this. Ms. Brewster has suggested having it on the website for people who renew online. "Would there be any value, when you do register as an organ and tissue donor to having any kind of a separate registry for blood?" She was wondering about other states and if there are any benefits to doing it that way. 10:06:48 AM MS. BAKER said there is a benefit in knowing who would be interested in becoming a blood donor. The bank would contact those people. It uses the media and public presentations. Any new inroad to contact an interested blood donor would be good. CHAIR MENARD asked if other states are doing the same thing. SENATOR MCGUIRE said other states have awareness funds and they are always successful. The check-off will be beneficial, but just last year alone Life Alaska generated $55,000 from this fund. She noted the link to car accidents and the need for organs, tissue, and blood, and when someone is asked to participate there comes an awareness with that. These donate-a- dollar programs have always been wildly successful. 10:09:08 AM COLLEEN BRIDGE, Administrator, Affiliations and Partnerships, Providence Hospital, Anchorage, said she is a registered nurse and has served on the blood bank board for ten years. Alaska has high quality health care in more communities now. It is great for all Alaskans and particularly for rural residents, but it has increased the demand for blood and blood components. The Blood Bank of Alaska has expanded its outreach significantly. It has donation centers in Fairbanks, Soldotna, Anchorage, and Wasilla, and it has a mobile donation unit. Repeat donations are essential for hospitals to carry out their missions. Providence believes SB 49 is a very good bill. Any way to raise awareness about blood donation is great. Just the act of reading the request or listening to the person at DMV highlights the fact that there is a non-profit blood center in Alaska that serves the entire population. Increasing awareness is as important as giving the dollar. 10:12:14 AM CHAIR MENARD noted the concern of a slippery slope of adding more charities. Alaska has the most nonprofits per capita in the country. The PFD check-off is new, so she would consider waiting a few years to see how that works. But she supports it 100 percent and will move it out of committee, but she is nervous that other worthy causes will make the same request. She noted the link with car accidents and needing blood. It is perplexing. SENATOR MCGUIRE said she understands and spoke of the opportunity to make people aware when they are renewing their commitment to driving. She had envisioned being handed a card that would let people know where a person can donate blood. She understands the slippery slope. 10:14:49 AM TIM BENINTENDI, Member, Blood Bank of Alaska Board and staff to Senator Olson, said he has been a regular donor since 1970 and has given about 26 gallons. He was asked to be on the board. When things go well, people don't hear about it. The bank is generally close to having the blood it needs, but natural disasters and holiday weekends increase the need. The bank has to buy blood from the Lower 48, and that goes against the grain of a nonprofit. It can cost hundreds of dollars for a unit of blood. This promotional vehicle would help assure getting enough blood. This bill presents a good opportunity. Others would like to have that opportunity, but organs and blood and traffic accidents are tied closely together. If a person needs a rare type of blood, it may not be available in time to help. 10:18:14 AM SENATOR MEYER moved to report SB 49 from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note(s). There being no objection, SB 49 moved from committee.