Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/03/2004 09:06 AM Senate FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
     HOUSE BILL NO. 451                                                                                                         
     "An Act  relating to therapeutic  courts; and providing  for an                                                            
     effective date."                                                                                                           
This  was the first  hearing  for this  bill in  the Senate  Finance                                                            
Co-Chair  Wilken stated  this  bill, sponsored  by  the House  Rules                                                            
Committee  at  the  request  of the  Governor,  "extends  the  pilot                                                            
program for therapeutic  courts established in Anchorage  and Bethel                                                            
for alcohol  and drug addicted  offenders out  to June 30,  2006. In                                                            
addition,  it  repeals the  sunset  clause  that will  terminate  an                                                            
Anchorage Superior Court Judge position."                                                                                       
DOUG   WOOLIVER,    Administrative    Attorney,   Office    of   the                                                            
Administrative  Director, Alaska Court  System, reiterated  Co-Chair                                                            
Wilken's  bill  summary.  Mr.  Wooliver  continued  to  testify  the                                                            
     Just  to give you a  very brief history  of this bill.  In 2001                                                            
     then  Speaker of the  House, Bryan Porter,  introduced  and the                                                            
     legislature  passed House  Bill 172.   And the purpose  of that                                                            
     bill  was to  create two pilot  therapeutic  court programs  to                                                            
     deal with felony DWI offenders.                                                                                            
     The  pilot  programs  were  modeled  in large  part  after  the                                                            
     pioneering work that  was done by Judge Wanamaker in Anchorage.                                                            
      Judge Wanamaker is  a District Court Judge and established the                                                            
     wellness  court  there  [in  Anchorage]  where  he  deals  with                                                            
     misdemeanor offenders  with significant alcohol abuse problems.                                                            
      Judge Wanamaker  has had great success with  that program, and                                                            
     Speaker Porter and  the court system wanted to know if we could                                                            
     replicate that success  with felony level offenders; thus House                                                            
     Bill 172.                                                                                                                  
     In  order to  determine the  effectiveness of  these two  pilot                                                            
     programs,  the bill required the judicial council  to conduct a                                                            
     study of  those programs to determine their effectiveness.  And                                                            
     this  study is important  not only for  your determinations  in                                                            
     the  future as  to whether  or not  to continue  and/or  expand                                                            
     these types  of programs, but it is important  for the court as                                                            
     well because  they are very resource-intensive  for  the court,                                                            
     and we want to make  sure that they work.  So the evaluation is                                                            
     critically  important.  Unfortunately  both  the Anchorage  and                                                            
     Bethel programs  terminate long before the evaluation  has been                                                            
     completed.  So  if you  get the  evaluation  from the  judicial                                                            
     council  and  decide that  these  programs are  worthwhile  and                                                            
     would  like to continue  them, both  programs would have  ended                                                            
     over a year  earlier.  Attorneys are reassigned  to other work;                                                            
     the treatment  programs are taking other participants.   So all                                                            
     this bill  does in that regard  is just extend the termination                                                             
     of those  two pilot programs  until after the planned  study is                                                            
     completed  and you  have had  the opportunity  to review  their                                                            
     effectiveness.   To our way of  thinking it doesn't  make a lot                                                            
     of  sense to  terminate  the programs  before you  have had  an                                                            
     opportunity to decide whether they should be terminated.                                                                   
     The  second very  important  thing that  this bill  does is  it                                                            
     deletes a sunset clause  that was put on a Superior Court Judge                                                            
     that  was added  by  House Bill  172.  If that  judge  sunsets,                                                            
     Anchorage  basically  looses  a Superior  Court  Judge if  that                                                            
     sunset clause  isn't deleted.  That will mean  not only the end                                                            
     of  the felony  therapeutic  court  program, but  because  that                                                            
     judge  still spends  most of her  time on  work not related  to                                                            
     therapeutic  court  it will have  a significant  impact on  the                                                            
     Superior  Court caseload  for all cases  that come through  the                                                            
     Anchorage Superior Court.                                                                                                  
     The  last time  a judge  was added  to the  Anchorage bench  of                                                            
     Superior  Court  Judge was  in 1984,  and since  that time  our                                                            
     felony  caseload  has  doubled,  our  children's  caseload  has                                                            
     doubled,  and  other caseloads  have  risen dramatically.    We                                                            
     simply can't  afford to return to a level of  judicial coverage                                                            
     that was established, literally, twenty years ago.                                                                         
     So  in  the  end  what  this  bill  does  is  extends  our  two                                                            
     therapeutic  courts  until  after  you and  the court  had  the                                                            
     opportunity  to  evaluate  them,  and it  keeps  a much-needed                                                             
     Superior Court Judge seat in Anchorage.                                                                                    
Senator B. Stevens  questioned fiscal note #6 for  $257,200 from the                                                            
Alaska Court System.  He asked whether the expenses  detailed in the                                                            
fiscal note were  already provided for in the FY 05  budget request.                                                            
Co-Chair  Wilken  referenced  a  memorandum  he  received  from  Mr.                                                            
Wooliver  dated May 2, 2004  [copy on file],  which stated  that the                                                            
costs associated with the  position are included in the FY 05 budget                                                            
Mr. Wooliver  acknowledged  the apparent  discrepancy. He  explained                                                            
that zero fiscal  notes typically  detail in the analysis  statement                                                            
whether  existing   funds  would   be  utilized  to  implement   the                                                            
legislation;  however,  the House  Finance Committee  directed  this                                                            
fiscal  note to  include the  existing  costs. This  bill would  not                                                            
require any new expenses.                                                                                                       
Senator B. Stevens  clarified that this legislation  would not incur                                                            
additional expense.                                                                                                             
Co-Chair Green  offered a motion to  report the bill from  Committee                                                            
with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal notes.                                                                  
Without  objection  HB 451  MOVED from  Committee  with zero  fiscal                                                            
notes:  #1  from the  Department  of  Administration,  #2  from  the                                                            
Department  of Corrections,  #3 from  the Department  of Health  and                                                            
Social Services, and #4  from the Department of Law, and fiscal note                                                            
#6 for $257,200 from the Alaska Court System.                                                                                   

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