Alaska Governor Bill walker signed several pieces of legislation into law:
HB 151, The Children Deserve a Loving Home Act, implements comprehensive national best practices for foster care, including strong training and workload standards for caseworkers in the Alaska Office of Children's Services. New caseworkers will be provided six weeks of training and be given lower, nationally recommended caseload levels so they can get the work done to get youth back with their original families or into a permanent loving home faster and with less trauma. HB 151 also requires the sharing of contact information so that siblings in separate foster care placements can maintain needed contact with the closest people in their lives. The bill also allows foster parents to make normal decisions for youth about sports, vacations, or other activities without clearing them through their caseworker, which creates extra work and unnecessary frustration.
Amongst this year's budget bills (HB 286, the Operating Budget; SB 142, the Capital Budget; and HB 285, the Mental Health Budget) the Governor also signed SB 26, the Permanent Fund Protection Act. SB 26 guarantees the longevity of the Permanent Fund and a robust dividend program by making sure draws from the fund are structured and sustainable. SB 26 reduces this year's deficit from $2.4 billion to $700 million. Moving forward each Alaskan will receive a $1,600 Permanent Fund dividend.
HB 331 closed out the remaining debt the State of Alaska incurred under the defunct cashable tax credit program. The new law allows the state to issue bonds to pay the final debts carried over from the former tax system. The policy change will save state government money in the long run; immediately provides small, independent oil and gas companies cash to invest; and makes good on the state's promise to incentivize industry investment in Alaska and exploration for new oil.
Walker also signed into law HB 176, which changes state law to ensure EMS providers can seek supplemental reimbursements from the Medicaid program that currently serves more than 200,000 Alaskans. EMS providers in Alaska are only reimbursed for about 30 percent of the cost of transporting Medicaid-eligible patients. In fiscal year 2017, the average claim submitted was $1,100. However, the average reimbursement from Medicaid was only $300 for each ground-based EMS transport, leaving an average of about $800 unreimbursed to EMS providers. This bill will help cover those unreimbursed costs. Last year, HB 176 would have brought in an additional $11 million in federal funding based on the number of Medicaid patients who used EMS services.
HB 136 updates statutes relating to warranty repair work and warranty repair policies to be more consumer friendly. Specifically, the bill establishes new warranty repair work guidelines for consumers who live...