Legislature(2003 - 2004)
03/06/2003 08:01 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 committee. 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 $10,000. 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 reads: (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.