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AARP Alaska Legislative Update, March 2, 2015

Bills We’re Watching

  • HB5 Conservator of Protected Persons: Passed (H); awaiting hearing in (S) JUD.
  • HB8 Powers of Attorney: Awaiting hearing in (H) RULES.
  • SB1 Regulation of Smoking: Held in (S) HSS.
  • SB12 Paid Sick Leave: Awaiting hearing in (S) L&C.

Issues We’re Watching

  • Budget: cuts to Senior Benefit Program: Finance Committees (S and H)
  • Budget: cuts to Adult Day Programs: Finance Committees (S and H)
  • Medicaid expansion: House stripping issue from budget, to introduce stand-alone bill.

Bills in Detail

  • House Bill 5 Conservator of Protected PersonsSponsor(s) REPRESENTATIVES HAWKER, Hughes. The bill would expand the pool of persons eligible to be appointed by the court to serve as a “conservator” of an incapacitated person’s finances to include persons related by marriage or adoption (currently just blood relations are eligible). AARP supports this bill. Current status: After passing the House on 2/25, this bill has moved on to the Senate and has been referred to (S) Judiciary.
  • House Bill 8 Powers of AttorneySponsor(s) REPRESENTATIVES HUGHES, Gruenberg. This bill updates Alaska’s current Power of Attorney Law with new protections against exploitation and conforms the law more closely to those of other states allowing for easier portability. Power of Attorney is an important tool to protect assets of a person who becomes incapacitated by providing a means to name someone the person trusts to manage their financial affairs. AARP supports this bill. Current status: No change from last week. This bill passed out of committee and is now in House Rules.
  • Senate Bill 1 Regulation of SmokingSponsor(s) SENATORS MICCICHE, McGuire, Costello, Bishop, Stevens, Meyer, Olson, Ellis, Gardner, Hoffman. This bill expands statewide what is already common practice in many cities and villages around Alaska by making it illegal to smoke indoors at a place of employment or in public spaces. It does not prohibit smoking, but protects all persons from second hand smoke -- a proven health hazard. AARP supports this bill. Current status: On 2/27 Sen. Wielechowski joined as a co-sponsor. On 2/11 the Bill was heard in the Senate HSS Committee, where Chair Stedman set the bill aside and is holding it in committee.
  • Senate Bill 12 Paid Sick LeaveSponsor(s) SENATORS WIELECHOWSKI, Ellis. This bill requires businesses with more than 15 employees to provide a modest accrual of paid leave hours for illness of the employee or to assist members of their immediate family. In many cases, workers are forced to choose between their paycheck and their health. Providing paid sick leave actually saves businesses money by decreasing employee turn-over and increasing productivity. AARP supports this bill. Current status: No change from last week. This bill was referred to the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee.

Issues in Detail

  • Cuts to Senior Benefits Program Governor Bill Walker proposes reducing the cost of the Senior Benefit Program which supplements income of the lowest earning seniors in Alaska. The proposal would reduce by 20% the two top tiers of benefits, affecting approximately 11,000 low-income seniors. While AARP Alaska recognizes the importance of reducing state spending, we don’t support doing so on the backs of those least able to afford it. AARP is vigorously opposing this cut to the Senior Benefit Program. Current status: Being considered in both legislative Finance Committees.
  • Family caregiver support and educationHouse Finance committee has proposed a $500,000 cut to the state’s 13 adult day programs, which is almost a third of their state funding. This program not only provides daytime care and support for persons with dementia or other physical disabilities, it also provides respite for families caring for a family member and maintains the opportunity to maintain their full-time employment, keep their health insurance, and build retirement. AARP opposes cuts to this important program. Current status: Being considered in both legislative Finance Committees
  • Medicaid ExpansionIncluded in the Governor’s budget is the expanded access to MedicaidExpansion of Medicaid would be financed entirely by Federal funds the first year, gradually becoming a 10% state share by 2020. Medicaid would become available as healthcare coverage to all persons who earn 133% of the Federal Poverty Level or less. Expanded Medicaid would provide access to healthcare for an estimated 40,000 Alaskans who currently are without coverage. AARP supports this important change to Medicaid rules, which also has the potential to actually reduce overall state costs through reform and reorganization. Current status: House Finance stripped Medicaid expansion from the budget discussion, and asks for a stand-alone bill.

Whether its Social Security or Medicare at the national level, or healthcare and housing at the state level, we are working on behalf of our 86,000 members in Alaska. This advocacy update will help keep you informed.

We invite you to give us your feedback. We also welcome volunteers who want to get involved as advocates to help make a difference for Alaska’s 50+ population. Contact Ken Helander, Advocacy Director, AARP Alaska State Office at 907-762-3314; toll free at 866-227-7447 or . Please share this information with your family and friends!

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