Legislature(1999 - 2000)
05/12/1999 01:52 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CSSB 4(FIN) - OFFICE OF VICTIMS' RIGHTS CHAIRMAN KOTT announced the next order of business is 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." KEVIN JARDELL, Legislative Assistant to Representative Joe Green, Alaska State Legislature, noted that the committee substitute (CS) was being drafted. The changes of the subcommittee can be discussed without the CS. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES commented that there are quite a few changes. Number 2287 BRETT HUBER, Legislative Assistant to Senator Rick Halford, Alaska State Legislature, informed the committee that it has before it the Senate Judiciary Committee version which is what the subcommittee version will look like. Mr. Huber commented that the subcommittee probably spent most of its time determining where to put the office. The forthcoming CS will place the office in the legislative branch. He reviewed specific areas resulting from the placement of the office back in the legislative branch which include the nomination of the victims' advocate. The victims' advocate would be nominated by a selection committee comprised of three members of the House and three members of the Senate appointed by their presiding officers, including one minority member from each body. A two-thirds vote of a joint session to confirm the victims' advocate would be required. The term of office for the victims' advocate would be five years with a maximum of three terms served. Each additional term would require the two-thirds reappointment vote. If the advocate had to leave the office during the term, the acting victims' advocate would have to fulfill the remainder of the term which would go through an appointment cycle. Mr. Huber pointed out that there is a removal provision which, with a two-thirds vote, could remove the victims' advocate for neglect of duty, misconduct, or disability to perform the duties. Compensation is specified in the forthcoming CS. There is a staffing delegation section as well as a section describing the office and facilities which are made available in the Legislative Affairs branch. There is also the budget process which would go through Legislative Council. All those would be additions that can be seen in the Senate Judiciary Committee version. REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI directed the committee to the removal clause and inquired as to what was meant by "disability." She understood an individual's "inability" to perform a job. MR. HUBER deferred to the drafter who was on his way to the hearing. He noted that it was taken from the ombudsman's statutes. CHAIRMAN KOTT returned to appointment and the ability for an acting advocate to complete the term of an advocate who has left office for whatever reason. MR. HUBER agreed. He explained that the victims' advocate must name an acting advocate. TAPE 99-68, SIDE B CHAIRMAN KOTT asked if the acting advocate would finish the remainder of the victims' advocate's term without legislative confirmation. MR. HUBER replied that is correct. In response to Representative James, he noted that the acting advocate would be an attorney. Number 0033 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES commented that the subcommittee felt that at least one attorney position is necessary, but this discussion is regarding having an alternative victims' advocate. She assumed that would be someone who would be working in the office which would mean two attorneys. MR. HUBER explained that the staffing levels envisioned in the fiscal note from the Department of Public Safety, which is identical to the previous fiscal note submitted by the Legislative Affairs Agency, would have a victims' advocate and two additional attorneys, one paralegal, and three secretaries. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES inquired as to the meaning of the subcommittee saying that at least one attorney was necessary for the victims' advocate to be effective. MR. HUBER noted that one of Chairman Kott's questions to the subcommittee was regarding whether the victims' advocate needed to be an attorney. He recommended that the question be directed to the subcommittee chair, Representative Murkowski. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN informed the committee that originally, there was the possibility of reducing the office to one location. Currently, three locations are envisioned. He indicated that the committee [subcommittee] felt that there is a critical mass to make this work. In response to Representative James, Representative Green stated that this is being funded from those losing their permanent fund dividend. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG interjected that the funding is taken from the Department of Corrections. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN clarified that the group that would be involved has been expanded. "That delta between what was and what is, that'll pay for it." REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG reiterated that the funding is taken from the Department of Corrections. He emphasized that he had some real problems with this advocate being in the legislature as well as the consumer price index (CPI) clause in the legislation. The CPI used is the Anchorage CPI which is only published annually. MR. HUBER stated that provision does not actually apply to the Office of Victims' Rights, but applies to the Violent Crimes Compensation Board per that board's request. That addition was made by Senator Donley in the Senate Finance Committee. He explained that the amount allowed to be awarded is increased and allowed the Violent Crimes Compensation Board, by regulation, to index those increases annually, if they choose, with the Anchorage CPI. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG said his argument is the same; it is the wrong index to use. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN noted another change in which the report is not merely submitted annually, but also is available to the public. Number 0245 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG inquired as to why the subcommittee decided to place this office within the legislature. He said that it seems to inflate the legislature's budget with no benefit to the legislature. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN pointed out that there were problems with placing this office in the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Law. This issue was probably more time consuming than any other. MR. HUBER informed the committee that he had talked with Ms. Carpeneti, Department of Law, and Mr. Smith, Department of Public Safety. Both Ms. Carpeneti and Mr. Smith indicated that it makes better sense to place this office in an entity that can review the functions of those agencies at an arm's length, as is the case with the ombudsman. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG commented, laughingly, that this extra money should be placed in the Ombudsman's Office. He pointed out that the Public Defender and the Office of Public Advocacy are in the Department of Administration in order to avoid conflict. This is an administrative function which has nothing to do with the legislature. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN interjected that the discussion drifted around the fact that this should be a technically trained person, an attorney, who can be at an arm's length. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES commented that it could have been put out to bid to some nonprofits. MR. HUBER acknowledged that was discussed in the House Judiciary Subcommittee as well as the Senate Finance Committee. The Victims for Justice group said that it would prefer a new office versus money because they believed there is more assistance with an office. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG commented, "Well, they know how to grow organizationally and bureaucracy." MR. HUBER noted that Representative Kerttula had suggested that language requested by the Department of Law stating, "(c) The victims' advocate may not advise, counsel, or advocate on behalf of a victim in a way that would, (1) prevent or discourage a victim from cooperating with law enforcement authorities in a criminal investigation; (2) encourage a victim to withhold evidence from law enforcement authorities in a criminal investigation;" should be changed. She suggested that "with law enforcement authorities" be deleted which provides broader discretion. MR. HUBER said that he believed the forthcoming CS will include language which reflects when the office was located in the Department of Public Safety. During that time, the Office of Victims' Rights was allowed to administer grants to nonprofit victims' agencies. Administering of grants is an executive branch function and therefore, that language in the forthcoming CS should be eliminated. This language is located under the "Staff and delegation" section of the Senate Judiciary CS. There is also corresponding language under the lists of allowable uses of the permanent fund ineligibility dollars which should also be addressed. The committee took an at-ease from 6:44 p.m. to 6:54 p.m. Number 0520 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN moved to adopt HCS SB 4, Version K dated 5/12/99, as the working document before the committee. There being no objection, it was so ordered. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG expressed the need to delete Section 4 in its entirety or change the language to refer to the U.S. City Averages CPI. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES preferred deletion of Section 4 in its entirety. MR. HUBER reiterated that the language refers to the Violent Crimes Compensation Board. Mr. Huber said that the sponsor would not object to removal of Section 4. Number 0618 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG moved to delete Section 4 in its entirety in the Version K CS. There being no objection, Amendment 1 was adopted. MR. HUBER directed the committee to page 6, lines 24-25 regarding the grant language where subsection (b) would need to be deleted as well as paragraph (5) page 13, lines 21-22. Those are the sections which allow the office of victims' rights to receive and administer grants. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said she so moved Amendment 2. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG objected and inquired as to why this is necessary. MR. HUBER explained that, generally, the administering of grants is an executive branch function. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG withdrew his objection to Amendment 2. There being no objection, Amendment 2 was adopted. Number 0740 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES moved to report HCS CSSB 4 as amended out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG objected. He announced that he could not support this legislation on the floor. He removed his objection. There being no objection, HCS CSSB 4(JUD) was reported out of committee. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES moved that the committee adjourn. There being no objection, it was so ordered.