Legislature(1999 - 2000)
04/19/2000 02:00 PM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 4(FIN) "An Act relating to victims' rights; relating to establishing an office of victims' rights; relating to compensation of victims of violent crimes; relating to eligibility for a permanent fund dividend for persons convicted of and incarcerated for certain offenses; relating to notice of appropriations concerning victims' rights; and amending Rule 16, Alaska Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 9, Alaska Delinquency Rules, and Rule 501, Alaska Rules of Evidence; and providing for an effective date." Co-Chair Therriault provided members with a proposed committee substitute, work draft 1-LS0029\S, dated 4/19/00 (copy on file). BILL STOLZ. STAFF, SENATOR HALFORD spoke in support of the legislation on behalf of the sponsor. He noted that the primary purpose of the legislation was to fill the mandate of the victim's right constitutional amendment that was enacted in 1994. The legislation would create an Office of Victim's Rights, which would have an advocate with powers to help facilitate the constitutional rights of victims. The legislation creates a funding mechanism by increasing the pool of incarcerated persons that would be ineligible for permanent fund dividends. The Office was placed in the legislative branch in order to avoid conflicts with other agencies. Victims for Justice support the legislation. MIKE TIBBLES, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE THERRIAULT provided information on the proposed committee substitute. He noted that there were two changes in the proposed committee substitute. The first change addresses the concern of increasing the size of government. The victims' advocate shall appoint a person to serve as acting victims' advocate in the absence of the victims' advocate. The victims' advocate shall also appoint assistants and clerical personnel necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter. Subject to AS 36.30.020 and subject to the approval of the Alaska Legislative Council, the victims' advocate shall, to the maximum extent practicable, conduct the duties and work of the office by entering into personal services and other contracts the victims' advocate finds necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter. Co-Chair Therriault observed that there are portions of the work that could not be contracted out with a private non- profit organization. He clarified that it is not the intent that the entire portion be contracted. Representative Phillips observed that she had not seen the issue before the Legislative Council. Mr. Tibbles explained that contracting is under the competitive process set up by for the Legislative Council. The Legislative Council would be requested to review the contracts. Representative Phillips tried to clarify that the Legislative Council would not be taking the job of victims' rights under its umbrella and that the Council would only be responsible for letting out the contract. Mr. Tibbles noted that the effective date was changed to July 1, 2002. This would allow receipts to be collected before the Office is created. Vice Chair Bunde MOVED to ADOPT work draft 1-LS0029\S, dated 4/19/00. There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered. Co-Chair Therriault noted that updated fiscal notes were needed. Representative Phillips noted that the authority was originally under the Department of Corrections. She questioned why it was transferred to the Legislative Council. Mr. Stolz did not know why the authority was transferred but guessed that the intent was to avoid conflicts. Representative Grussendorf observed that the Department of Corrections is required to notify the victim every time certain things happen and questioned if the authority is being removed too far. He asked where the office would be located. Co-Chair Therriault noted that the entity would be located within the legislative branch. Mr. Stolz pointed out that section 10 of the public notice section was amended to conform to section 9. Representative J. Davies observed that "traditionally", ombudsmen are located in the legislative branch since they are checking up on the administrative branch. (TAPE CHANGE, HFC 00 - 128, SIDE 1) Representative Phillips observed that the Legislative Council had not discussed the transfer of authority. She requested that the proposed committee substitute be held. Mr. Stolz pointed out that similar legislation (SB 219, 1998) and the original bill did provide for the ombudsman authority to be under the legislative branch. The Legislative Affairs Agency has previously submitted fiscal notes. ROBERT BUTTCANE, DIVISION OF JUVINELLE JUSTICE, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES provided information regarding the legislation. He expressed appreciation for the participation of victims. He observed that victims help to hold juvenile offenders accountable for their actions and have helped reduce recidivism. He noted that portions of SB 4 would add victims' services. He expressed concern that the legislation would create an "entity to watch the doers of service, provide services to victims." He suggested that agencies that work directly with victims be given additional resources to do more of what they are mandated to do under the Constitution. He acknowledged that the legislation is part of the movement toward restorative justice. In response to a question by Representative Grussendorf, Mr. Buttcane noted that in the juvenile system, victims are notified of proceedings of delinquency hearings. Victims are provided an opportunity to give statements to the court for juvenile delinquency dispositions. Victims advocacy groups help arrange victim/offender mediation in the informal process. Victims are notified when juveniles are being released from youth facilities. Victims are also given access to the criminal justice system: notification and opportunities to be present at sentencing. Representative Grussendorf questioned what would be the role of the paralegals and ombudsman mandated by the legislation. Mr. Buttcane observed that victims sometimes hesitate to participate in the system and felt that an advocate would give victims support and help them to take a more active role in the juvenile and criminal justice processes. He felt that one of the drawbacks would be that the ombudsman would highlight deficiencies in the Department of Health and Social Services' ability to do all that they are asked to do through negligence or inadequate resources. There is a civil penalty that could result in punitive action against an individual or agency. The Department of Health and Social Services felt that the civil penalty would be problematic. He stressed the need for more resources and front line services and questioned the need for an ombudsman. ANNE CARPENETI, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF LAW noted that she had not had time to look at the committee substitute. She echoed the comments made by Mr. Buttcane. She stated that there are some concerns that resources would be spent on an ombudsman level of services rather than on direct services to victims that are already given by other agencies. She observed that legislation sponsored by Representative Dyson would provide a provision for negotiated pleads between defendants and victims. She stressed that if this legislation were enacted into law an ombudsman would be kept busy negotiating pleas on behalf of victims. She noted concern with the potential level of increased work considering the level of funding accompanying the legislation. Representative Phillips noted that the responsibilities of the Legislative Council go beyond negotiating the contract. She observed that the legislation states that: (a) Subject to restrictions and limitations imposed by the executive director of the Legislative Affairs Agency, the administrative facilities and services of the Legislative Affairs Agency, including computer, data processing, and teleconference facilities, may be made available to the victims' advocate to be used in the management of the office of victims' rights and to carry out the purposes of this chapter. (b) The salary and benefits of the victims' advocate and the permanent staff of the victims' advocate shall be paid through the same procedures used for payment of the salaries and benefits of other permanent legislative employees. (c) The victims' advocate shall submit a budget for each fiscal year to the Alaska Legislative Council, and the Council shall annually submit an estimated budget to the governor for information purposes in the preparation of the executive budget. After reviewing and approving, with or without modifications, the budget submitted by the victims' advocate, the Council shall submit the approved budget to the finance committees of the legislature. Representative Phillips concluded that an agency is being created. SB 4 was heard and HELD in Committee for further consideration.