Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/31/2003 03:05 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 18 - PARENTAL LIABILITY FOR CHILD'S DAMAGE                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Number 0697                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE announced that the  next order of business would be                                                               
HOUSE BILL NO.  18, "An Act relating to the  liability of parents                                                               
and legal guardians of minors who destroy property."                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Number 0740                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN  MEYER, Alaska  State Legislature,  spoke as                                                               
the sponsor  of HB 18,  which he noted  he was bringing  forth on                                                               
behalf of  the Anchorage School  District.  He explained  that HB
18 establishes the limit for  the recovery of property damaged by                                                               
a minor at  $20,000.  The original legislation  specified no cap,                                                               
but  that  was  changed  in  the  House  State  Affairs  Standing                                                               
Committee after  hearing testimony expressing concerns.   A woman                                                               
who adopts  high-risk children testified  that with  an unlimited                                                               
liability  she would  be reluctant  to adopt  high-risk children.                                                               
Insurance   companies  expressed   concern   that  an   unlimited                                                               
liability could  have an impact  on homeowner's  insurance, which                                                               
could  result  in  an  increase in  the  premium  for  homeowners                                                               
insurance.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MEYER  informed the committee that  the [Anchorage                                                               
School District]  has testified that  90 percent of  vandalism to                                                               
the school  district's property  is minor,  such as  graffiti and                                                               
breaking locks  and windows.   Therefore, the $20,000  cap should                                                               
cover 90 percent  or more of the incidents.   However, there have                                                               
been  some isolated  incidents in  which there  has been  serious                                                               
damage and, thus, the school  district doesn't want a cap because                                                               
the money that isn't recovered comes out of the classroom funds.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MEYER also informed  the committee that almost all                                                               
states have a cap varying from  $1,000 to $25,000, that only five                                                               
states didn't  have a  cap, and that  no difference  in vandalism                                                               
was seen in relation  to not having a cap.   In response to Chair                                                               
McGuire,  Representative Meyer  estimated  that  of those  states                                                               
with a  cap, Alaska would  be in the  group with the  higher cap.                                                               
He noted that  the cap hasn't been changed since  1995 and with a                                                               
$20,000 cap  he hoped there won't  be a need to  address this for                                                               
some time.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 1000                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MICHAEL  J.  LESSMEIER, Attorney  at  Law,  Lessmeier &  Winters;                                                               
Lobbyist  for   State  Farm  Insurance,  began   by  saying  that                                                               
Representative   Meyer   accurately  expressed   [State   Farm's]                                                               
concerns with not  having a cap.  Mr.  Lessmeier highlighted that                                                               
this is  an area of  law where  there is liability  without fault                                                               
and,  thus, it  doesn't  seem  to make  good  sense  to have  the                                                               
liability be  unlimited.  He  commented that [CSHB 18(STA)]  is a                                                               
fair balance  and thus [State  Farm Insurance] would  support the                                                               
legislation  as  amended [in  the  House  State Affairs  Standing                                                               
Committee].                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  opined that insurance companies  are willing                                                               
to write off a child's conduct  that relates to things outside of                                                               
schools without  a cap.  Therefore,  he inquired as to  why there                                                               
is  a cap  on an  insurance  company's liability  when a  child's                                                               
conduct damages a school.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR.  LESSMEIER said  that Representative  Gara  is talking  about                                                               
apples and oranges.   He explained that this  legislation makes a                                                               
parent  liable   without  regard   to  whether  the   parent  was                                                               
negligent.  He said that in every  other area of the law of which                                                               
he is  aware, for there  to be the aforementioned  liability, the                                                               
parents themselves  would have to  be negligent.  He  pointed out                                                               
that most  insurance policies don't cover  intentional actions or                                                               
knowing actions.   He informed  the committee that when  there is                                                               
legislation such as HB 18 and  there is a parent who can't afford                                                               
to pay  a judgment,  there is  an effort to  find a  deep pocket.                                                               
Although  these  claims  aren't  all  covered,  even  under  this                                                               
statute, there may  be a question regarding whether  the claim is                                                               
covered  and, thus,  the insurance  company may  pay some  of the                                                               
claims.   Mr. Lessmeier reiterated  that the statute  proposed in                                                               
CSHB 18(STA)  is different because  it imposes  liability without                                                               
fault and doesn't impact those  cases in which there is liability                                                               
with fault.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA relayed  his belief  that if  a child  did a                                                               
negligent  act,   the  parent  would  automatically   be  liable.                                                               
However, he understood Mr. Lessmeier  to mean that the parent has                                                               
to be negligent also.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR.  LESSMEIER answered  that he  didn't know  that there  is any                                                               
automatic liability  on behalf  of the  parent.   Furthermore, he                                                               
said he  didn't know of any  automatic liability on behalf  of an                                                               
insurer.  He  said he believes it depends  upon the circumstances                                                               
for which the insurer would be responsible.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Number 1233                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  asked whether, under Alaska  law, the parent                                                               
is  automatically liable  for the  child's  negligent conduct  or                                                               
whether, instead, the parent has to be negligent.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR. LESSMEIER  offered his understanding  that a  parent wouldn't                                                               
automatically be liable for the negligence  of a child.  He posed                                                               
a  situation in  which a  child who  drives is  in an  automobile                                                               
accident.    If  the  parent  submits  that  the  child  has  met                                                               
financial   responsibility,  then   the   parent  isn't   liable.                                                               
However, if the child hasn't  met financial liability, the parent                                                               
would be liable.   There are certain laws, such  as those dealing                                                               
with  driving,  where  there  is  liability;  that  liability  is                                                               
created through statute.   Furthermore, there are  cases in which                                                               
the  [insurance   company]  deals   with  "issues   of  negligent                                                               
entrustment  of vehicles"  for which  it's purely  a question  of                                                               
negligence  as  to  whether  the  parent  is  responsible.    Mr.                                                               
Lessmeier said that  he didn't think parents  are strictly liable                                                               
for the actions of their child.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA expressed  concern  that  numbers are  being                                                               
picked out of  the air.  The original  legislation specified that                                                               
parents would  be liable for  what their children do  to schools.                                                               
Under [CSHB 18(STA)],  the cap has been placed at  $20,000 due to                                                               
the  perception that  without  [the  cap], homeowner's  insurance                                                               
rates  will  be raised.    He  asked  if  there is  an  actuarial                                                               
analysis that supports the aforementioned notion.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR. LESSMEIER said  that the issue posed by CSHB  18(STA) is more                                                               
complicated  because it  has to  do with  the issue  of insurance                                                               
coverage, which  he urged the committee  to set aside.   It's bad                                                               
public policy, he said, to  pass legislation such as this because                                                               
it  may or  may not  be covered  by insurance.   The  [committee]                                                               
should review  this issue in terms  of whether it sinks  or swims                                                               
on its  own merits.   He  relayed his belief  that the  intent of                                                               
CSHB 18(STA)  is to create  financial responsibility  and perhaps                                                               
avoid  the damage  to begin  with.   With regard  to how  the cap                                                               
landed at  $20,000, Mr. Lessmeier  said that he didn't  know that                                                               
he had  input into that,  although he  viewed it as  a reasonable                                                               
balance.    Mr. Lessmeier  suggested  that  this should  be  done                                                               
because it's  right to do  so regardless of whether  it's covered                                                               
by  insurance.     He   noted  that   in  many   instances,  this                                                               
responsibility  isn't going  to be  covered by  insurance anyway;                                                               
coverage depends  upon how the  [homeowner's] policy  is drafted.                                                               
In  every  instance where  there  is  this kind  of  intentional,                                                               
knowing conduct, it is typically not covered by insurance.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. LESSMEIER  highlighted the importance of  realizing that when                                                               
one  discusses insurance,  it's not  just the  insurance company.                                                               
To  the extent  possible, most  insurers  in Alaska  try to  base                                                               
premiums on  frequency and severity  of loss.   Ultimately, those                                                               
premiums get  paid by individual  policyholders.   Therefore, Mr.                                                               
Lessmeier  encouraged the  committee to  set the  insurance issue                                                               
aside  and   determine  whether  having  parents   liable  in  an                                                               
unlimited way  for the actions  of their children is  good public                                                               
policy, even  when the  parents aren't at  fault.   Mr. Lessmeier                                                               
said that he  doesn't believe that to be a  good idea; rather, it                                                               
makes better sense to impose some balance on that liability.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Number 1586                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA agreed  that this  legislation shouldn't  be                                                               
crafted  based  on  whether  an insurance  company  can  be  held                                                               
liable.     However,   he  said   he  understood   the  sponsor's                                                               
explanation that  the school district wanted  unlimited liability                                                               
while some insurance  company representatives expressed concerns,                                                               
which   ultimately   created   the   $20,000   cap.      Although                                                               
Representative  Gara  agreed that  there  should  be a  liability                                                               
amount that's justified as a  matter of public policy rather than                                                               
based on  whether someone  has insurance,  he said  he understood                                                               
that the $20,000 cap was driven  by the concerns of the insurance                                                               
industry.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE recalled Representative  Meyer's testimony in which                                                               
he  relayed  that  a  woman who  [adopted]  high-risk  youth  had                                                               
expressed concern  that if she  had a homeowner's policy  and was                                                               
liable,  her  insurance  costs  might   go  up.    She  said  she                                                               
understood such  to be the  reason the $20,000 cap  was included.                                                               
She noted that she would be  proposing an amendment to reduce the                                                               
cap to $15,000.   She said she didn't know  how many people would                                                               
be able  to argue that  their homeowner's policy would  cover the                                                               
destruction  of  property by  a  minor  due to  the  "intentional                                                               
element."   Furthermore, she remarked,  many people don't  have a                                                               
homeowner's policy.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA asked if one  of the reasons CSHB 18(STA) was                                                               
reduced  from  unlimited  liability  to a  specified  amount  was                                                               
because some  folks in  the insurance  industry thought  doing so                                                               
would be necessary for actuarial reasons.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SAMUELS  interjected  to say  that  the  school's                                                               
insurance company will  pay and thus he couldn't  imagine why the                                                               
industry would take a position on  it.  He further commented that                                                               
he couldn't imagine having one  penalty for those who are insured                                                               
and one penalty for those who aren't insured.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA then  inquired as to why  the school district                                                               
is interested in this if it already has insurance.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  MEYER answered  that the  school district  has $1                                                               
million deductible,  and therefore  the district  has to  pay all                                                               
the damages  until the deductible is  reached.  He said  that the                                                               
main  testimony   was  in  the   House  State   Affairs  Standing                                                               
Committee, that  the committee itself  wanted a cap, and  that he                                                               
opted for  the $20,000  cap because of  testimony from  the woman                                                               
who adopts high-risk children.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Number 1691                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM  questioned whether there is  any interest in                                                               
solving the  issue of  the civil  liability of  the parents.   He                                                               
related  his understanding  that this  caps the  amount of  money                                                               
that can  be guaranteed  by state law.   He asked  if there  is a                                                               
tort liability beyond this.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.  LESSMEIER answered,  "This would  be the  limit to  the tort                                                               
liability  with  respect to  how  this  statute applies  for  the                                                               
parents."    Therefore, if  the  parents  aren't negligent,  then                                                               
[CSHB  18(STA)]  would limit  the  liability  of the  parents  to                                                               
$20,000 but it wouldn't limit the  liability of the minor, or the                                                               
parents, if the parents were somehow at fault.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM remarked that this is good legislation.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE OGG  asked if there  is a correlation  between the                                                               
higher cap and the insurance factor.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MEYER  answered that there  didn't seem to  be any                                                               
correlation.  For  example, the five states without  a cap didn't                                                               
illustrate any reduction in vandalism.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA remarked  that there  may  be a  need for  a                                                               
clause specifying that this  legislation shouldn't be interpreted                                                               
to interfere with existing causes of action.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM agreed.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA pointed out that  the courts are always faced                                                               
with the question of whether  a particular legal remedy was meant                                                               
to eliminate  all other  legal remedies in  the area.   Sometimes                                                               
the courts aren't sure what  was exactly intended.  Therefore, he                                                               
reiterated his suggestion to include  language to allow the other                                                               
two areas of law to continue.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  OGG said  he didn't  believe the  [such language]                                                               
was necessary  because CSHB 18(STA)  merely adjusts  the monetary                                                               
amount [of an existing cap].                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Number 1929                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  MEYER agreed.    He mentioned  that perhaps  some                                                               
review  should be  given  to the  inflation  clause, although  he                                                               
didn't  believe such  would be  necessary if  the $20,000  cap is                                                               
maintained.     Representative  Meyer  pointed  out   that  under                                                               
criminal law,  a juvenile  can be  held directly  responsible and                                                               
monies can be  levied against the juvenile  and his/her permanent                                                               
fund dividend.   He noted that  such doesn't apply to  civil law,                                                               
which is what this legislation addresses.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  McGUIRE asked  if Representative  Meyer  had reviewed  the                                                               
fact that  Alaska has  criminal statutes that  allow for  a youth                                                               
offender to  be tried  as an adult  at the age  of 16  in certain                                                               
egregious cases.   If so, she inquired as to  how he compared the                                                               
philosophical  argument to  this situation,  where the  parent is                                                               
held strictly  liable for  their child's  acts up  to the  age of                                                               
majority.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  MEYER responded  that  he  hadn't reviewed  that,                                                               
adding that  CSHB 18(STA)  addresses the  civil side  in existing                                                               
statute.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  McGUIRE  announced that  she  is  considering offering  an                                                               
amendment to lower the age to  16 in order to make [CSHB 18(STA)]                                                               
consistent  with other  statutes [regarding  emancipated minors].                                                               
She inquired as to the sponsor's opinion on such an amendment.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MEYER said that changing the age makes sense.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLM  pointed  out   that  an  emancipated  minor                                                               
wouldn't have causation.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE agreed.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  MEYER  reminded  the   committee  that  in  civil                                                               
matters, a minor can't be sued.   He said that although the chair                                                               
makes  a very  valid  point, the  school  district couldn't  take                                                               
action against a 17-year-old because he/she is underage.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS surmised,  then, that in a  case against a                                                               
17-year-old,  the  school district  wouldn't  be  able to  obtain                                                               
$10,000 - the current cap.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MEYER  answered that the school  district would go                                                               
after the parents until the child is age 18.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE  pointed out  that there is  a two-year  statute of                                                               
limitations.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Number 2106                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA returned  to  Representative Holm's  earlier                                                               
point.  Although Representative Gara  said that [CSHB 18(STA)] is                                                               
fine  with him,  he  wanted to  ensure  that Representative  Holm                                                               
understood  that the  current language  of the  legislation would                                                               
still  be interpreted  to  allow a  separate  action against  the                                                               
child.   With  regard to  the remaining  question of  whether the                                                               
$20,000 cap would  apply in the circumstance where  the parent is                                                               
negligent, he opined that it probably should.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE OGG turned  to the suggestion of  changing the age                                                               
to 16 and  pointed out that this [legislation]  wouldn't apply to                                                               
someone between 16 and 18 years of age.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE acknowledged that.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA inquired as  to the school district's opinion                                                               
of CSHB 18(STA).                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MEYER  said that  the school district  would still                                                               
prefer no cap.   He informed the committee that  Senator Dyson is                                                               
carrying this  same legislation and it  has no cap.   However, if                                                               
it  did come  to the  House, he  predicted that  the House  State                                                               
Affairs  Standing Committee  would place  a  cap on  it as  well.                                                               
Representative Meyer  said that  he was convinced  that a  cap is                                                               
necessary, although he  recognized that the amount of  the cap is                                                               
a policy call.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Number 2269                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE made a motion to  adopt Amendment 1, which reads as                                                               
follows:                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     Page 1, line 7                                                                                                             
     Delete "$20,000"                                                                                                           
     Replace with "$15,000"                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE  remarked that everyone  probably knows of  a child                                                               
who doesn't turn out  to be "a good egg" no  matter what is done.                                                               
Chair McGuire said  that she has concern for  those children with                                                               
head injuries  or behavioral problems.   She recognized  the need                                                               
to address  the school  district's concern,  but suggested  it be                                                               
done  in a  cautious manner.    She reiterated  that many  people                                                               
don't have a  homeowner's insurance policy to fall  back on, much                                                               
less  a policy  that  includes intentional  acts.   Although  she                                                               
agreed that children and parents  should be held responsible, she                                                               
expressed the  need to  take care with  regard to  the following:                                                               
The family  that has  done everything  it can  and the  child has                                                               
still turned  out poorly,  and the family  that has  no financial                                                               
recourse.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
TAPE 03-26, SIDE B                                                                                                            
Number 2380                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  McGUIRE   directed  attention  to  a   document  from  the                                                               
Legislative  Research  Agency  dated  February 16,  1995.    This                                                               
document  lists  the  states  with  caps  and  without  caps  for                                                               
parental  responsibility for  delinquent acts  of children.   The                                                               
list shows a graduated scale.   Of those states with caps, Alaska                                                               
[with the  proposed cap of  $20,000] would be the  second highest                                                               
in the nation.  Doubling the cap is simply too much, she said.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  MEYER pointed  out  that the  1995 document  uses                                                               
data  that is  current as  of  the end  of 1993.   Therefore,  he                                                               
surmised that these  cap amounts have increased.   With regard to                                                               
a  low-income   family  that  couldn't  come   up  with  $20,000,                                                               
Representative   Meyer   questioned  whether   these   low-income                                                               
families would  even have $15,000.   Therefore, one must  keep in                                                               
mind the  need for balance,  he said.   When the  school district                                                               
can't sue  for recoverable  damages, the money  comes out  of the                                                               
classroom.  The goal, he maintained,  is to keep as much money in                                                               
the educational  system - in the  classroom - and not  paying for                                                               
graffiti, broken  windows, et cetera.   Although  he acknowledged                                                               
that  the amount  of the  cap is  a policy  call, he  related his                                                               
belief  that $20,000  is appropriate.   He  also reiterated  that                                                               
this amount hasn't been touched since 1995.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE remarked  that she doesn't view a $20,000  cap as a                                                               
compromise.  She said that she  is trying to review the policy as                                                               
a  whole while  keeping in  mind the  balance between  the school                                                               
district and the  parent of a high-risk youth.   She asked if the                                                               
sponsor had any updated figures with  regard to the cap and where                                                               
Alaska stands nationwide were this $20,000 cap enacted.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
The committee took an at-ease from 4:02 p.m. to 4:03 p.m.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  MEYER  confirmed  that  of  the  western  states,                                                               
Alaska [would] be the second highest with the $20,000 cap.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 2240                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE  noted that  the committee  packet also  includes a                                                               
chart  entitled, "Table  1:   Limits  of  Parental Liability  for                                                               
Property Damage by Minors," which  also shows Alaska would become                                                               
the second highest of the states and provinces listed.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  OGG pointed  out that  in  2001, the  cap was  at                                                               
$10,000  for school  property and  $25,000 for  other properties.                                                               
He  said he  was inclined  to go  with Chair  McGuire's amendment                                                               
because the  $10,000 cap didn't  have much  of an impact  and, as                                                               
the  sponsor stated  earlier, having  an unlimited  cap wasn't  a                                                               
deterrent.   Furthermore,  Representative  Ogg expressed  concern                                                               
that this $20,000 could deplete the income of an average family.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MEYER  remarked that he didn't  believe the amount                                                               
would act as a deterrent.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLM relayed  that testimony  in the  House State                                                               
Affairs  Standing Committee  indicated  that  parents of  adopted                                                               
children from  foster care take  on a  tremendous responsibility.                                                               
Furthermore,  the  state has  taken  away  many of  the  parental                                                               
rights  with  regard  to  discipline and  other  things.    Since                                                               
parents   aren't   allowed   to   easily   demonstrate   control,                                                               
Representative Holm indicated that money  is about the only thing                                                               
left  as a  deterrent.   Although  he said  he  wasn't sure  [any                                                               
amount]  would  make an  impact,  he  thought  that as  a  policy                                                               
matter, [the intent] is to  effect a [financial] solution for the                                                               
problem.  Still, Representative  Holm expressed reservations with                                                               
regard to  taking away parental capabilities  to discipline while                                                               
at the same time making the parents financially responsible.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS  inquired as to  how often the  $10,000 is                                                               
collected.   Have there been  any problems with  driving families                                                               
to bankruptcy,  and "how often  do we  go after the  parents," he                                                               
asked.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MEYER said  he could obtain that  information.  He                                                               
reiterated that  the school district  approached him  saying that                                                               
$10,000 isn't enough.   This came about due to  some instances of                                                               
extensive  vandalism  in  Anchorage.   Those  instances  are  the                                                               
exception, he noted; most of the incidents are minor.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Number 1979                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA  said  that  he didn't  think  the  approach                                                               
presented in  CSHB 18(STA) is  going to work; the  premise behind                                                               
the bill  is that  parents should help  school districts  pay for                                                               
damage to schools,  adding that he believes  everyone would agree                                                               
with that  premise.  However,  he remarked, the  committee can't,                                                               
in good  conscious, impose  a $20,000  liability on  a low-income                                                               
family.    Furthermore,  he  said  he  questions  whether  higher                                                               
penalties would deter children.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA surmised  that the  intent is  twofold:   to                                                               
develop  a figure  that fairly  compensates  the school  district                                                               
without destroying  a family by  imposing that amount.   The only                                                               
way to accommodate both, he remarked,  would be to develop a fair                                                               
amount  that  would  serve the  school  district's  purposes  and                                                               
stipulate that  it wouldn't  be imposed when  it would  destroy a                                                               
family.   Therefore, he suggested  a $30,000 cap with  the caveat                                                               
that  a family  shall  not  be charged  an  amount  more than  25                                                               
percent of  its net federal  taxable income.   The aforementioned                                                               
would  protect the  families that  would be  hurt by  the current                                                               
legislation  and  allow the  school  districts  to recover  money                                                               
related  to   damages.     Without  the   aforementioned  caveat,                                                               
Representative  Gara  said  that  he is  uncomfortable  with  the                                                               
potential of destroying a family.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SAMUELS  disagreed.    He  indicated  that  [this                                                               
legislation  is  about]  personal responsibility.    Whether  the                                                               
parent is  a bad  parent is  the crux, he  said, rather  than the                                                               
[parent's]  income.   He  stressed  that  there is  a  difference                                                               
between  a parent  that did  his/her best  and the  [child] still                                                               
didn't turn  out [well], and  a bad parent.   "We'll wale  on the                                                               
bad  parent whether  they  have  money or  not,"  he  said.   The                                                               
[caveat suggested by Representative  Gara] isn't fair, he opined,                                                               
because everyone ends  up paying for some of the  people, and the                                                               
wealthy families end up paying for their children.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE OGG posited  that Representative Gara's suggestion                                                               
might  run up  against  the equal  protection  clause and,  thus,                                                               
there may be problems.   Therefore, he said he preferred sticking                                                               
with [the current language].                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  McGUIRE   announced  that   Amendment  1   [text  provided                                                               
previously] is before  the committee.  She pointed  out that even                                                               
with a cap of $15,000, Alaska  would still be the highest because                                                               
California's $10,000 cap specifically  addresses damage to school                                                               
property.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE asked if there  were any objections to Amendment 1.                                                               
There being no objection, Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Number 1730                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  moved that the committee  adopt Amendment 2,                                                               
which reads as follows:                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     p.2., after line 1, insert:                                                                                                
      *Section 2. AS 34.50.020 is amended by adding a new                                                                     
     subsection (d):                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     (d)  Liability  for  the   conduct  described  in  this                                                                  
     section shall not  attach to the legal  guardian of any                                                                  
     child  who  has  been  adopted  after  being  in  state                                                                  
     custody, including foster care.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  informed the committee that  he has received                                                               
comments for those who work  in the child protection and adoption                                                               
field.  Those comments have indicated  that if word gets out that                                                               
there is  liability for parents of  difficult-to-handle children,                                                               
then a  bad message will  be sent to  those very few  parents who                                                               
adopt children  out of foster  care.   He said he  didn't believe                                                               
those  parents who  take in  foster children  will be  subject to                                                               
this provision because  these people aren't the  legal guardian -                                                               
the state is the legal guardian.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA pointed  out  that children  are staying  in                                                               
foster  care far  too long,  although  the Division  of Family  &                                                               
Youth Services (DFYS)  is working very hard to  place children in                                                               
adoptive families.   The troublesome  children and  children with                                                               
the  greatest  problems  are  the  most  difficult  to  place  in                                                               
adoptive homes.   Therefore, Amendment 2 specifies  that a parent                                                               
of an adoptive  child formerly in state custody  isn't subject to                                                               
this  liability  provision.     Representative  Gara  noted  that                                                               
Amendment  2 is  a bit  overbroad because  it would  also protect                                                               
adoptive parents when the foster child isn't a problem child.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE objected for discussion  purposes.  She inquired as                                                               
to the  definition of state  custody and asked whether  it refers                                                               
to custody only in the State  of Alaska, anywhere in the U.S., or                                                               
other countries.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  said that  he had  wanted to  include foster                                                               
parents in order  to ensure that foster parents  wouldn't be held                                                               
liable for the  active and unruly child.  He  relayed that it was                                                               
explained to him that foster  parents are exempt from the statute                                                               
because foster children  are in state custody.   However, he said                                                               
he didn't  know that all  foster parents are parents  of children                                                               
in state custody.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE  returned to  the definition  of state  custody and                                                               
asked if it should be defined.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  remarked that it would  be a good idea.   He                                                               
relayed  that state  custody  might  have to  be  defined as  the                                                               
custody of any governmental state - any jurisdiction.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Number 1565                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MEYER  noted that he  is the parent of  an adopted                                                               
child.    He  questioned  whether  [Amendment  2]  would  exclude                                                               
children adopted  through private adoptions.   He said  he didn't                                                               
think it was  fair to exempt only those who  adopt from state-run                                                               
foster care programs.   If one adopts an infant  from a state-run                                                               
foster  care program,  then that  person has  modeled and  raised                                                               
that child  and should take  full responsibility for  the child's                                                               
actions.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE OGG  said that he was  persuaded by Representative                                                               
Meyer's comments.   Furthermore, Representative Ogg  said that he                                                               
didn't believe that  one type of parents should be  excluded.  He                                                               
relayed his  belief that people  should be encouraged to  be good                                                               
parents,  which  is the  aim  of  CSHB  18(JUD).   He  noted  his                                                               
opposition to Amendment 2.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM  questioned whether [the intent]  is to limit                                                               
vicarious  liability  or  to  initiate   a  system  whereby  more                                                               
children  are adopted.   If  the testimony  from the  House State                                                               
Affairs Standing  Committee is true, by  requiring such stringent                                                               
vicarious liability  on adoptive  parents, folks will  choose not                                                               
to  adopt.     He  acknowledged   that  Representative   Gara  is                                                               
attempting  to   have  the  best   of  both  worlds.     However,                                                               
Representative Holm said  he wasn't sure whether  CSHB 18(STA) is                                                               
the vehicle to accomplish that.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE relayed that one  of her constituents has six high-                                                               
risk youth  in her  home and  has chosen to  adopt two.   Despite                                                               
this  constituent's   best  efforts,   [this  parent   has  faced                                                               
difficulties  with  these children].    Chair  McGuire said  that                                                               
although  Representative Gara's  point is  important, she  didn't                                                               
know the answer.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS opined  that if the desire  is to overhaul                                                               
the entire system, that [would  require] a different vehicle.  He                                                               
asked  if there  is any  statistical data  with regard  to foster                                                               
children  and   property  damage  as  compared   to  the  general                                                               
population.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MEYER reiterated that the  main reason for the cap                                                               
is due  to the  testimony from an  individual with  adopted high-                                                               
risk  children who  was uncomfortable  with unlimited  liability.                                                               
Although this  person was  specifically asked  about a  cap other                                                               
than the  $10,000, he said he  assumed that this parent  would be                                                               
amenable to  a cap of $15,000  or $20,000, and would  continue to                                                               
adopt high-risk children.  He said  there is no data showing that                                                               
high-risk children are causing problems.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 1275                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA emphasized  that people  don't tend  to read                                                               
statutes; thus changing  a few words in the  criminal law doesn't                                                               
deter people  any more than before  the language is changed.   He                                                               
surmised  that once  this legislation  receives media  publicity,                                                               
the impression  will be  that the  legislature is  increasing the                                                               
liability  of  parents  of  children  who  do  damage  to  school                                                               
property.   And  although this  impression will  eventually reach                                                               
those  who  are thinking  of  adopting  high-risk children,  they                                                               
won't  have read  the  statutes.   Furthermore,  the foster  care                                                               
system  in Alaska  is  failing,  like in  many  other states,  he                                                               
noted, because social  workers are given far  too large caseloads                                                               
and, hence, the system fails.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA   explained  that  the  federal   and  state                                                               
government came together a number of  years ago and said that the                                                               
best thing is  to get children out of foster  care and place them                                                               
in adoptive  homes.   The most  attractive children  for adoption                                                               
were  shuttled  to  adoptive  homes  and now  there  are  a  high                                                               
proportion of  children in foster  care for which  it's difficult                                                               
to  find adoptive  parents.   Representative  Gara  said that  he                                                               
didn't want to  do anything that would prevent even  one of those                                                               
children from being adopted.   Therefore, he indicated that there                                                               
is a  need to craft this  legislation such that it  doesn't deter                                                               
anyone from  taking in these  [high-risk] children.   With regard                                                               
to  the  idea  that  parents  should  be  responsible  for  their                                                               
children,  Representative Gara  suggested  that  those taking  in                                                               
troubled children  are probably  fairly responsible.   Therefore,                                                               
he  didn't  worry  that  adoption of  Amendment  2  would  foster                                                               
irresponsibility among parents.  He  noted that he did agree that                                                               
state custody  does include  custody of  children from  any other                                                               
state or jurisdiction.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SAMUELS agreed  that most  people don't  read the                                                               
statutes.    With  regard  to  this  coming  out  in  the  press,                                                               
Representative Samuels  said that the  exemption won't be  in the                                                               
press either and the exemption won't be read either.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE withdrew her objection to Amendment 2.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS objected.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
A roll  call vote  was taken.   Representatives Gara  and McGuire                                                               
voted in  favor of Amendment  2.  Representatives Ogg,  Holm, and                                                               
Samuels voted  against it.   Therefore, Amendment  2 failed  by a                                                               
vote of 2-3.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Number 1056                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS moved to  report CSHB 18(STA), as amended,                                                               
out  of   committee  with  individual  recommendations   and  the                                                               
accompanying  fiscal  notes.   There  being  no  objection,  CSHB
18(JUD)   was  reported   from  the   House  Judiciary   Standing                                                               
Committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                

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