Legislature(1999 - 2000)

03/30/1999 08:08 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 4(JUD)                                                                                                   
"An Act relating to establishing an office of victims'                                                                          
rights; relating to compensation of victims of violent                                                                          
crimes; relating to eligibility for a permanent fund                                                                            
dividend for persons convicted of and incarcerated for                                                                          
certain offenses; and amending Rule 16, Alaska Rules                                                                            
of Criminal Procedure, Rule 9, Alaska Delinquency                                                                               
Rules, and Rule 501, Alaska Rules of Evidence."                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Senator RICK HALFORD and BRETT HUBER testified to the bill.                                                                     
Senator Rick Halford told the committee the bill had been                                                                       
before the Legislature the previous session and passed the                                                                      
Senate.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
The bill was to implement the constitutional amendment,                                                                         
which was overwhelmingly passed by the voters. It was to                                                                        
guarantee the rights of victims of crimes. There were a                                                                         
number of guarantees in the constitution that seemed to                                                                         
only protect the accused and the victims were often lost in                                                                     
the process, as they still were, according to Senator Rick                                                                      
Halford.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
He continued by saying this was an effort to insert an                                                                          
operating entity behind the Advocacy for Victims' Rights.                                                                       
It would have the ability, the experience and the                                                                               
opportunity to represent the victim's interest, in a very                                                                       
technical forum, at a time when they were at their weakest                                                                      
point in their lives as they were dealing with horrendous                                                                       
crimes and they needed help.  The system was designed with                                                                      
its own efficiency to deal with everything from plea-                                                                           
bargains to difference in charges and other technical                                                                           
changes.  The victims needed this help and this legislation                                                                     
would help.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
He noted the difference between this bill and the prior                                                                         
bill.  The only difference was an effort to ensure that the                                                                     
funding mechanism actually came from the element that                                                                           
caused the problem - those people who were convicted of the                                                                     
crime.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Brett Huber addressed the funding mechanism. He pointed out                                                                     
that it was detailed in Sections 9 and 10. The funding                                                                          
mechanism was a pool of people found ineligible for                                                                             
Permanent Fund Dividends because they had either been                                                                           
convicted or were incarcerated.  The change in this bill                                                                        
would create a broadening of the pool.  The pool last year                                                                      
was $3.9 million, which was a 24% growth rate over the                                                                          
previous year.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
The bill would apply to someone incarcerated for a                                                                              
misdemeanor sometime during the calendar year of the                                                                            
qualifying year that was previously convicted of a felony                                                                       
or two misdemeanors.  Current language in statutes said,                                                                        
"previously convicted of two crimes."                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Numbers provided by Department of Corrections gave an                                                                           
estimate of the 1998-qualifying year how many people would                                                                      
be added to the pool by calculating 1997 and 1996. There                                                                        
was a statutory exemption that set the date of how far back                                                                     
the provision could reach at January 1, 1997. He explained                                                                      
that the number supplied by the Department of Corrections                                                                       
used information about felony convictions in the year 1996                                                                      
as an example to show what could be expected in 1999 using                                                                      
the years 1997 and 1998 in the calculations. Actual                                                                             
application would not use the year 1996. However, the                                                                           
department expected the numbers to remain somewhat constant                                                                     
with a four-percent annual increase. Approximately $540,000                                                                     
new dollars would be added to the pool in FY99.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
He pointed out that as the legislation was in place, there                                                                      
would be a longer history to draw from in terms of numbers                                                                      
of crimes committed by individuals. For example, the year                                                                       
2000 would contain felony and misdemeanor convictions for                                                                       
three qualifying years and 2001 would contain four years                                                                        
worth of convictions.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
He summarized that the growth of the fund would accommodate                                                                     
the initial fiscal notes. Anticipated growth in the future                                                                      
would provide a surplus.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair John Torgerson asked about the fiscal note that                                                                        
showed the $540,000 figure.  Brett Huber replied that it                                                                        
wasn't contained in a fiscal note it was a fiscal analysis                                                                      
provided by the Department of Corrections.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair John Torgerson said he did have a fiscal note from                                                                     
the Permanent Fund Division that showed $255,000 that                                                                           
referred to numbers they got from the Department of                                                                             
Corrections. Brett Huber commented that the Department of                                                                       
Corrections had difficulty pulling accurate numbers due to                                                                      
their system set-up. They had reprogrammed their system and                                                                     
produced another set of numbers they were more comfortable                                                                      
with. The $255,000 only accounted for one calendar year,                                                                        
1998. However, if the bill went into effect in 1999, it                                                                         
would be possible to use 1997 and 1998 as qualifying years.                                                                     
He calculated the figures to total $440,000. He stressed                                                                        
that this was an assumption based on the past two years.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair John Torgerson wanted to know if it was the                                                                            
sponsor's intent that the money to authorize this program                                                                       
would not come from the other two authorized programs and                                                                       
that this program would generate enough funds by the change                                                                     
in definition of qualifying convictions.  Senator Rick                                                                          
Halford affirmed and said there would actually be excess                                                                        
funds.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Senator Sean Parnell pointed out that an already authorized                                                                     
program was the Crimes Victim's Compensation Commission. He                                                                     
understood the mission of the Office of Victim's Rights was                                                                     
to implement the Victim's Rights Amendment. Part of that                                                                        
Amendment was the right to restitution from the accused and                                                                     
the rest dealt with the structure of the criminal justice                                                                       
process. Since the Crime Victim's Compensation Commission                                                                       
already existed to provide money to the victims, he                                                                             
wondered if the bill eliminated the commission or merged it                                                                     
with this new office.  If not, why?                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Senator Rick Halford replied that this program would not                                                                        
give money to victims. It would provide representation to                                                                       
victims since they could not deal with the legal process in                                                                     
their weak emotional state. He explained the current                                                                            
system, which was technical and geared toward maximum                                                                           
output. The victim was lost in that system without some                                                                         
form of advocacy.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Senator Sean Parnell agreed, but was not addressing that                                                                        
part of the mission.  He was asking about Section 3.  Brett                                                                     
Huber explained that section was incorporated into the                                                                          
prior bill at the request of Senator Dave Donley. It                                                                            
increased the caps that the compensation board could pay.                                                                       
It did not deal with this program.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Senator Al Adams asked if this legislation duplicated                                                                           
services provided by the Department of Law. Senator Rick                                                                        
Halford doubted in did terms of advocacy.  While the                                                                            
Department of Law said they tried to consider victim's                                                                          
rights, victims claimed they were not adequate.  He did not                                                                     
believe the victims were getting their constitutionally                                                                         
guaranteed protections.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Senator Al Adams then had a question on Sections 9 and 10                                                                       
that set the provisions for withholding PFD's after                                                                             
conviction of two misdemeanors.  He wondered how would the                                                                      
program be paid for.  Senator Rick Halford explained how                                                                        
the PFD would be withheld from those with two misdemeanors                                                                      
or one felony conviction for the qualifying calendar year.                                                                      
He noted the state had a significant investment in the cost                                                                     
of the crime long before this point was reached.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Brett Huber clarified that the prisoner did not receive a                                                                       
dividend and have it confiscated. They were ineligible to                                                                       
receive it at all; the Permanent Fund Dividend Division and                                                                     
the Department of Corrections determined who would                                                                              
otherwise be eligible and the funds would place in the pool                                                                     
for legislative appropriation to the three programs.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Senator Al Adams then referred to Section 10, the pool and                                                                      
wanted to know if this program was a priority over the                                                                          
other programs.  Senator Rick Halford stated it was not a                                                                       
priority.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Senator Loren Leman referred to the example of the earliest                                                                     
reach-back date of 1997.  He was unable to locate that in                                                                       
the bill. Brett Huber said it was not in the bill but was a                                                                     
current law.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Senator Loren Leman asked about the fiscal note prepared by                                                                     
the Legislative Council. He had difficulty with the high                                                                        
program cost when the Legislature was trying to revise pay                                                                      
ranges for legislative positions.  Did the position need to                                                                     
be filled at a Range 26A? He noted other costs he felt were                                                                     
excessive and wondered if this was reasonable.  Senator                                                                         
Rick Halford responded that the qualifications for the                                                                          
position were comparable to that of a judge. He also noted                                                                      
that this was in the Legislative Branch and was subject to                                                                      
the appropriation process.  If this program tried to reduce                                                                     
costs, he felt it would comply with what was recommended.                                                                       
If the position could be filled at a lower cost, it would                                                                       
be considered. The fiscal note was up to this committee and                                                                     
was submitted as a recommendation.  It could be changed at                                                                      
any time in the process, h e stressed.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Senator Loren Leman asked who gave the recommendation.                                                                          
Brett Huber said it was comparable to attorney salary for                                                                       
staff in the Department of Law who had similar                                                                                  
responsibility.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Senator Sean Parnell turned the discussion back to the pool                                                                     
of dividends asking if it would be about $500,000.  Brett                                                                       
Huber affirmed and detailed.  Senator Sean Parnell asked                                                                        
how much the program would need to exist next year.  Brett                                                                      
Huber said there was a real chance there would be no impact                                                                     
in the FY00 budget. He detailed the process of collection                                                                       
of the funds for appointing the victims advocate. It was                                                                        
possible the bill could be adopted and the advocate no put                                                                      
into place this year. Other costs included start up costs                                                                       
for supplies and equipment and on-going costs of about                                                                          
$450,000. Senator Sean Parnell calculated that would leave                                                                      
about $90,000 in the pool. He asked if there were any                                                                           
numbers on the expanded Crime Victims Compensation                                                                              
Commission, and if that would use up the remaining funds.                                                                       
Brett Huber responded that the pool was growing all ready                                                                       
and he detailed the amounts in the fund.  He added that                                                                         
there were also federal funds accumulating.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Senator Gary Wilken referred to testimony that this would                                                                       
be revenue neutral.  He did not see that.  Brett Huber                                                                          
pointed out the document.  Senator Gary Wilken asked how                                                                        
did that figure was reached.  Brett Huber detailed the                                                                          
calculations of the amounts commenting that they tried to                                                                       
use the safest assumption.  Senator Gary Wilken asked where                                                                     
the 1997 figures came from.  Brett Huber read the                                                                               
information and explained.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Senator Loren Leman recalled a discussion to take the PFDs                                                                      
from those convicted of a misdemeanor during the time                                                                           
Senator Frank was in the Legislature.  He asked if the bill                                                                     
considered multiple convictions.  Brett Huber said it did                                                                       
and the bill would amend statute to include one felony and                                                                      
two misdemeanors.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair John Torgerson asked if there were any questions                                                                       
of the Department of Corrections. There were none.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
NANCI JONES, Director, Permanent Fund Dividend Division,                                                                        
Department of Revenue, testified via teleconference from                                                                        
Anchorage. She concurred with the testimony stated earlier.                                                                     
She clarified that this would be the first reporting year                                                                       
of those convicted of a misdemeanor crime. Therefore, their                                                                     
figures as the contribution to the fund were only                                                                               
estimates.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair John Torgerson noted the division's fiscal note                                                                        
differed from that of the Department of Corrections and he                                                                      
asked for comment.  Nanci Jones responded that the division                                                                     
looked back only to 1997. The Department of Corrections                                                                         
looked back two years to 1996 to get their estimate. She                                                                        
detailed how the figures would be calculated were the bill                                                                      
to pass.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair John Torgerson had another question stating that                                                                       
the money went to fund four programs, including this if it                                                                      
were adopted. He wanted to know if the program ran short of                                                                     
funds how would the division prorate where the money would                                                                      
go to cover the costs of the programs? Nanci Jones answered                                                                     
that Office of Management and Budget made those decisions                                                                       
and she detailed the process.  Co-Chair John Torgerson said                                                                     
if Office of Management and Budget was distributing the                                                                         
funds there should be a provision to prevent them from                                                                          
shorting the Legislative process.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Senator Rick Halford commented that he thought the                                                                              
statement claiming that the Office of Management and Budget                                                                     
appropriated the funds was interesting and clarified that                                                                       
the Legislature really had oversight.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Senator Gary Wilken asked what was the number of the fiscal                                                                     
note referred to with the $250,000. Co-Chair John Torgerson                                                                     
said it was number 8 and the figure was contained in an                                                                         
attachment to the fiscal note.  That was were his confusion                                                                     
came from, until Ms. Jones explained. Senator Gary Wilken                                                                       
wondered if the cover page of fiscal note # 8 should say                                                                        
something other than zero.  Co-Chair John Torgerson said                                                                        
the note directed to the attachment.  While the program                                                                         
would cost them zero, it did generate funds.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Senator Gary Wilken referred to page 11 line 23 and tried                                                                       
to get a sense of what that change meant. In order to                                                                           
forfeit a PFD, a person had to first be incarcerated at                                                                         
some point during the year and be incarcerated as a result                                                                      
of conviction of two misdemeanors. He wondered if a person                                                                      
could have a speeding ticket and then serve three days for                                                                      
drunk driving and qualify under the program. Brett Huber                                                                        
explained that a speeding ticket was a violation not a                                                                          
misdemeanor.  Senator Gary Wilken asked what were                                                                               
misdemeanors.  Brett Huber referred him to AS 11.81.900,                                                                        
which listed misdemeanors.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Senator Pete Kelly gave an example [inaudible].                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
There was further discussion to clarify the crimes                                                                              
pertinent to the provisions of the bill.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Senator Al Adams pointed out that there were two types of                                                                       
misdemeanors, A and B. He wondered if this bill                                                                                 
distinguished between the two.  He spoke of rural residents                                                                     
loosing their permanent fund dividend. Brett Huber                                                                              
understood the discussion but noted that all of this was in                                                                     
current law, this bill just added one felony to the list.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
The committee began hearing public testimony.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
KAREN CAMPBELL, whose eight-year-old daughter was raped and                                                                     
murdered, testified via teleconference from Anchorage. She                                                                      
testified that she had been victimized by the criminal                                                                          
justice system and told of her experience. She said she was                                                                     
not alone and told stories of others victimized by the                                                                          
system. She said one attorney in the Department of Law                                                                          
would be unable to perform the duties, mistakes would be                                                                        
justified within the department. She felt the position                                                                          
needed to be separate. She implored the committee to adopt                                                                      
SB 4.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
JANICE LIENHART, representing Victims for Justice,                                                                              
testified via teleconference from Anchorage. She stressed                                                                       
that there needed to representation for victims. This bill                                                                      
would provide assistance.  She spoke to the adopted                                                                             
constitutional amendment saying, "Laws without recourse                                                                         
were worthless."                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Senator Loren Leman appreciated her work over the years                                                                         
done on a limited budget.  He asked what her organization                                                                       
could have done with the half million dollars. Janice                                                                           
Lienhart responded that her organization helped the victims                                                                     
but had no power to enforce complaints when the victim's                                                                        
rights were violated.  She said a separate attorney was                                                                         
necessary.  Her office would help with that.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SARA SHORT, representing Families First and the sister of a                                                                     
murder victim, testified via teleconference from Anchorage.                                                                     
She fully supported the bill. She and her infant niece were                                                                     
victimized by the system and that there was no                                                                                  
accountability for the system.  She asked why agencies had                                                                      
more protection than the victims.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAROLETTE PHELPS, Victim's Advocate for Justice [?], and                                                                       
the victim of a violent crime, testified via teleconference                                                                     
from Anchorage. She testified in support of SB 4. She took                                                                      
exception to language on page 1 line 13, which said the                                                                         
court could limit the number of victims allowed to testify                                                                      
in sentencing hearings. She found that disturbing since it                                                                      
infringed on victim's rights. She said it could not be                                                                          
determined how many victims were affected by a particular                                                                       
crime. A crime affected each victim differently and input                                                                       
was needed from all the victims in establishing a sentence.                                                                     
She stated she thought this was a model bill other states                                                                       
could use.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Senator Dave Donley made a historical note telling the                                                                          
committee that provision was part of a compromise reached                                                                       
by the Legislature and the Cowper Administration.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Tape: SFC - 99 #71, Side B     8:55 AM                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Senator Dave Donley continued his statement.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Senator Randy Phillips asked if the current administration                                                                      
had been contacted for comment.  Senator Dave Donley had                                                                        
not, but noted there were policy arguments for both sides.                                                                      
There were concerns that if all the survivors of a murder                                                                       
victim came to testify, it could clog up the court process.                                                                     
This provision was to prevent that and have the victims                                                                         
chose a spokesperson.  Some judges had abused this and                                                                          
others had been very considerate of the victims. He felt                                                                        
the judges who abused victims could have the information                                                                        
made public. The language would be fine if the judicial                                                                         
system exercised some restraints.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Senator Randy Phillips asked Charlotte Phelps about her                                                                         
experience.  Charlotte Phelps said in her experience there                                                                      
were several victims.  The judge did not limit the number                                                                       
of speakers but set a total time limit so each person was                                                                       
unable to say everything they wanted. She knew of other                                                                         
situations where the judge ruled that only certain victims                                                                      
could speak.  She suggested adding "reasonable".                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Senator Randy Phillips said he would offer an amendment to                                                                      
reflect her suggestion.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair John Torgerson ordered the bill held in committee.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                

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