Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/30/1995 02:10 PM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 202 - JUVENILE DELINQUENCY PROCEEDINGS Number 1690 LAURIE OTTO, Deputy Attorney General, Criminal Division, Department of Law, said the Governor is very thankful to the HESS Committee for hearing this bill. She said HB 202 was introduced by the Governor as a way of getting parents more involved in cases where their children have been charged with acts of delinquency. After having been a prosecutor for several years, the first time Ms. Otto appeared in a juvenile delinquency case was in 1982. She was shocked that the parents of the child were not there, and indeed they were not required to be there. The case involved a 13-year- old child. MS. OTTO said this has been a problem in statutes for some time. If the state cannot even get the parents to a court hearing, the ability to affect the child's behavior goes down dramatically. Number 1739 MS. OTTO explained the main part of the bill is in Section 2. Section 1 is a technical provision to which she will later refer. Section 2 of the bill begins on page 3, line 3. The first thing the bill does is require parents to be present at all juvenile delinquency hearings unless there is a good cause they can show to the court why they cannot be there. During the planning of this bill, the Governor had asked the Department of Law (DOL) to speak to police, educators and people who work with delinquent children to see where they felt the biggest gaps in the system were. MS. OTTO said this area, without exception, was one of the biggest holes identified. Those groups felt there was a need to require parents to participate in the process. The second item identified is what is contained in Section (B)(1). This addresses children who become delinquent because their parents do not have good parenting skills. They do not pay attention to what their kids are doing, and they do not supervise them. MS. OTTO continued that the courts have become very frustrated over the years because they cannot require, under the current laws, parents to participate in treatment along with children. Therefore, that is the second point the bill covers. Likewise, it would allow the court to order parents to monitor their children's behavior and to assist the court in getting the children to comply with the conditions of probation set by the court. Number 1808 MS. OTTO noted if the parents are required to participate by the court, the bill says the parents must first use their own insurance and/or resources if they can afford to pay. If they cannot afford to pay, their permanent fund dividends (PFDs) can be used to pay for the cost of treatment. MS. OTTO said Section 1 of the bill provides a streamlined mechanism for the department to be able to go in and get the PFDs to pay for the cost of treatment for the children and their parents. Number 1832 CO-CHAIR BUNDE asked if this would presuppose or require the parent apply for their PFD, and he suggested the bill does not allow for that money to simply be transferred from the earnings reserve. MS. OTTO said that is her understanding. CO-CHAIR TOOHEY counted seven fiscal notes, all equalling zero. She asked if there would be no cost to this bill. The state is assuming most of these parents have the finances to go to treatment. That treatment is very expensive. Treatment can include psychology and psychiatry. Co-Chair Toohey cannot imagine there are seven fiscal notes included with the bill and no cost. Number 1880 MS. OTTO understands that, for the most part, either the parents can pay or they have insurance to cover the cost. Right now the treatment of children is paid for by the department. These are children who are convicted or adjudicated delinquent for crimes. That is already something the state is currently paying for. Many parents have insurance or resources. Of the parents that do not, those parents are MedicAid eligible and MedicAid would pay for that treatment. MS. OTTO said there is a very small percentage of people that do not have the resources and do not have MedicAid. The state is going after the PFDs of that small group of people. In addition, the bill does not limit PFD confiscation to a single year. The state can continue to retrieve the parent's PFDs. When the department looked at the number of children and parents who would fall into this category, it was found to be a very small number -- less than 50. Number 1935 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE asked what kind of protection is offered to the parent of a hard-core juvenile delinquent with severe emotional problems. Representative Brice was speaking of a child who currently is not in a youth facility, yet there is not much a parent can do to stop that child from wreaking havoc on the community. MS. OTTO said that provision is the next part of the bill, concerning restitution. She has an amendment to offer which addresses that issue. This committee previously worked out such an amendment to a bill that Co-Chair Bunde had introduced. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS responded to Co-Chair Toohey's question about the fiscal note. He said the bill should probably have a negative fiscal note because all the provisions of the bill have already taken place without any compensation to the state. Number 1993 MS. OTTO spoke on the next section of the bill, which begins on page 5, line 8. This requires the minor's parent, as well as the minor to be responsible for restitution. The DOL views this as an extension of a bill which has already passed the House. That bill would allow parents to be assessed fines in civil cases. However, it was the feeling of the DOL that an adjudication is more appropriately addressed in the context of a criminal case, particularly if the state is then requiring the parents to participate in the hearing rather than requiring the victim to get a lawyer and file a separate civil action. That is very costly to the victim and is somewhat adding insult to injury. MS. OTTO said this does raise the issue that Representative Brice just brought up. In addition, she knew the HESS Committee has spent much time, both this year and in previous years, debating where to draw the lines between out of control kids and parents who were not trying. MS. OTTO therefore, presented an amendment that exactly tracks the language of Co-Chair Bunde's bill on a similar subject. The DOL agrees that if a child has run away and the parent has reported the child as a runaway, it is appropriate the parent should not be held responsible for paying restitution for the acts of their child for that period of time. Number 2067 CO-CHAIR BUNDE made a correction. The bill to which Ms. Otto keeps referring was given to another legislator and has now passed the House. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON moved Amendment 1. REPRESENTATIVE BRICE said the amendment only deals with runaways. He asked about children who have not run away, but they are out of control. A parent may come home at 5:00 p.m., and his/her child is gone from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. During that time, the child has created havoc. MS. OTTO said that is a line that must be drawn. It is the Governor's and the DOL's feeling that parents need to be responsible for the acts of their children. The state cannot solve everyone's problem and be responsible for everybody. REPRESENTATIVE BRICE agreed. However, he said he had just met with people up in Fairbanks with children who have severe emotional problems such as pyromania and severe sexual disturbances. The parents feel there is nothing the law has to offer. The parents feel they can do nothing to keep their children from going out and raising havoc. Number 2163 MS. OTTO answered by presenting an example of a child out of control. That child damages the property of a next door neighbor. She asked, who should bear the loss, the parent or the neighbor? HB 202 says the parent should bear the loss, not the neighbor. REPRESENTATIVE BRICE said that is not the argument he is presenting. He asked what is going to be done to help the child, and keep the child from creating the loss. He then removed his objection, and the Amendment 1 passed. CO-CHAIR BUNDE announced now before the HESS Committee was CS HB 202, or HB 202 as amended. Number 2200 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON noted that Alaska requires parents to go to court with their children if their child has committed a traffic violation. She has no problem with the intent of this bill. She thinks quite often parents are frustrated. If the child and the parent can be in the same room together, it gives the state a better idea of how to assist that family. Representative Robinson is a firm believer that a child cannot be helped without the parent's recognition that they all must work on the problem together. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON was amazed that parents must be with their children for traffic tickets, yet in this type of situation parental attendance is not required. This is obviously a lot more important than a speeding ticket. CO-CHAIR BUNDE noted that parental attendance may remind them of responsibilities. Number 2248 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS said Representative Brice's concern is a typical issue seen in most legislation. Many amendments on the last bill were similar. They dealt with somebody who is going to get caught somewhere. If there is a psychotic child and the parents have no means or capacity to get that child into an institution, which is probably where they should be, these children can cause a lot of problems. They can easily cause $100,000 worth of damage. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS agrees with Ms. Otto's opinion on who should pay for damages. If responsibility must be borne, it should be borne by the parents. At times, however, that cannot be addressed because there are 200 to 300 other instances that need special considerations. However, Representative Davis can easily see where this can really be a problem. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS said what is going to happen is that with HB 202, maybe some parents will be more willing to institutionalize some of those children. This will cost a lot of money. If the cost cannot be afforded, he feared parents might try more drastic measures, such as home imprisonment. TAPE 95-33, SIDE B Number 000 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS felt this bill was the right thing to do, but he recognized it is difficult to cover all situations. CO-CHAIR BUNDE stipulated that the state must be supportive of the greatest number of people possible, and the process is not perfect. CO-CHAIR TOOHEY believed that somewhere in the law books are provisions for parents who cannot control their children. She is not sure whether that includes out of control children. She feels there is something that can be done, including turning them over to a juvenile detention center. CO-CHAIR BUNDE said while working on the bill he gave away, he discovered there is a mechanism for people to emancipate themselves from their child. If the child is out of control, the parents can essentially divorce their child in order to simplify the process. Some parents need protection from malicious children. That happens rarely, but it does happen. CO-CHAIR BUNDE closed public testimony on the bill and asked for the wish of the committee. Number 116 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON moved HB 202 as amended with individual recommendations and with accompanying fiscal notes. There were no objections and the bill passed.