Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/06/2003 08:01 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 18-PARENTAL LIABILITY FOR CHILD'S DAMAGE                                                                                   
CHAIR WEYHRAUCH  announced that  the last  order of  business was                                                               
HOUSE BILL NO.  18, "An Act relating to the  liability of parents                                                               
and legal guardians of minors who destroy property."                                                                            
Number 1615                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  moved to  adopt the  proposed committee                                                               
substitute (CS),  Version 23-LS0110\D,  Luckhaupt, 2/28/03,  as a                                                               
work draft.   There being no objection, Version D  was before the                                                               
Number 1647                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MEYER, Alaska  State Legislature, sponsor of                                                               
HB 18,  explained that the purpose  of Version D is  to raise the                                                               
existing  $10,000 cap  to $20,000,  a substantial  increase.   He                                                               
referred to previous  testimony [at the February  20, 2003, House                                                               
State Affairs Standing Committee  meeting] that parents who adopt                                                               
high-risk children  would be less  likely to adopt if  there were                                                               
unlimited liability.  He added,  "Certainly, we want to encourage                                                               
adoptions as  much as  possible."   He said the  cap has  been in                                                               
place  since 1967  and was  last raised  in 1995  from $2,000  to                                                               
Number 1709                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  MEYER  told the  committee  that  since the  last                                                               
hearing  on HB  18, [his  office]  had heard  from the  insurance                                                               
companies regarding  their concern  with unlimited  liability and                                                               
parents'  being tempted  to use  their  homeowners' insurance  to                                                               
cover  the  cost  of  their children's  [vandalism].    He  said,                                                               
"Their concern is that, with  unlimited liability, ... they would                                                               
have to  raise the  homeowners' insurance  rates; however,  if we                                                               
kept the  cap on, they  did not see  a problem with  it impacting                                                               
homeowners' insurance rates."                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  MEYER said  [his  office] also  heard from  Carol                                                               
Comeau,  superintendent for  the Anchorage  School District,  who                                                               
indicated she'd  like to see  an unlimited cap because  she wants                                                               
to  be   able  to   recoup  all   expenses  for   each  incident.                                                               
Representative  Meyer noted  that  90 percent  of vandalism  that                                                               
occurs is minor,  such as breaking windows and  graffiti, and the                                                               
[proposed] $20,000 cap would cover  those expenses.  The [acts of                                                               
vandalism] over  $100,000 are  rare criminal acts,  he said.   He                                                               
offered  an  example  that  sometimes   four  children  could  be                                                               
involved in  vandalism, in which  case the school  district could                                                               
[possibly] get $20,000 from each [set of] parents.                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE MEYER  told the committee  only five  states don't                                                               
have a cap.   He said his research showed that  there is no proof                                                               
that not  having a cap is  a deterrent to vandalism.   Almost all                                                               
the other states have a cap; they  range from as low as $2,000 to                                                               
California's $25,000 cap.  A  $20,000 cap would make Alaska's one                                                               
of the  highest [in the  country].   He described coming  up with                                                               
the [proposed]  $20,000 cap as  a "balance  act."  The  intent is                                                               
for school districts  to be able to recover  a substantial amount                                                               
for  damages done.    He  concluded by  saying,  "We've been  ...                                                               
trying to  work with as many  groups as we can  that are involved                                                               
with this, and this is the balance that we've come up with."                                                                    
Number 1874                                                                                                                     
CHAIR WEYHRAUCH  said in  the interim  he'll be  considering some                                                               
mechanisms in a separate bill to deal with school vandalism.                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG noted  that  he has  been working  with                                                               
Representative  Meyer   on  this  issue.     He  referred   to  a                                                               
delinquency statute and AS 47.12.155;  he said he has prepared an                                                               
amendment  that he  will offer  in the  House Judiciary  Standing                                                               
Committee,  which  he and  Representative  Holm  are members  of.                                                               
That amendment  would add, at  the end, "When damages  are sought                                                               
in a civil action against a  parent, both parents, or guardian of                                                               
a minor, under this subsection,  the parent, parents, or guardian                                                               
shall disclose  the existence of  any insurance that  may provide                                                               
coverage for the action of the minor."                                                                                          
Number 2001                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  posited that  a civil action  should be                                                               
intended to  make the school  district "or whatever it  is" whole                                                               
again.  He  read part of subsection (c) of  [AS 47.12.155], which                                                               
          (c) If a court orders a minor's parent or                                                                             
     guardian to participate in treatment  under (b) of this                                                                    
     section,  the  court also  shall  order  the parent  or                                                                    
     guardian  to use  any  available  insurance or  another                                                                    
     resource  to cover  the treatment,  or to  pay for  the                                                                    
     treatment if other coverage is unavailable.                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG said  that  deals  with treatment,  but                                                               
requires  the  disclosure  of  insurance.   He  noted  that  that                                                               
statute doesn't  have a  cap on it.   He said  his intent  was to                                                               
work with the sponsor  to make that also a cap,  "like this."  He                                                               
indicated  a Colorado  statute contains  some good  language, and                                                               
mentioned some other  states' statutes that require  the court to                                                               
order parents  to undergo some  parental training to  ensure that                                                               
the children  are helped so  that "this kind of  behavior doesn't                                                               
repeat itself."  He concluded,  "And it shouldn't be necessary to                                                               
do that  in the  context of  a delinquency, but  I think  that it                                                               
might be  something that we would  consider in this, so  that the                                                               
school district is protected in the future."                                                                                    
Number 2069                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  BERKOWITZ moved  to report  CSHB 18,  Version 23-                                                               
LS0110\D,  Luckhaupt,  2/28/03,  from committee  with  individual                                                               
recommendations  and the  accompanying zero  fiscal note.   There                                                               
being  no objection,  CSHB 18(STA)  was reported  from the  House                                                               
State Affairs Standing Committee.                                                                                               

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