Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/12/1995 09:10 AM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 115 UNIFORM INTERSTATE FAMILY SUPPORT ACT Number 002 CHAIRMAN GREEN called the Senate Health, Education and Social Services (HESS) Committee to order at 9:10 a.m. and introduced SB 115 as the first order of business before the committee. GLENDA STRAUBE, Director of the Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED), informed the committee that the Administration has identified as a priority, a welfare package which is cost effective, equitable, and ensures that the needs of children are met. Child support is a critical portion of welfare reform. SB 115 addresses interstate collections which are the most difficult cases in which to collect. She noted that interstate collections comprises 44 percent of the division's caseload. She said that most non-custodial parents know that crossing state lines is the best manner in which to avoid supporting their children. The federal government has recognized this and the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) has already been passed by approximately 21 states. Most other states will be passing UIFSA this session. SB 115 provides a tool to collect in those interstate cases as well as minimizing the confusion with multiple orders. Ms. Straube explained that SB 115 would end multiple state orders; the bill defines a continuing exclusive jurisdiction state. The bill also provides a long arm jurisdiction allowing the division to reach out-of-state obligors. SB 115 would allow administrative actions in paternity modifications and enforcement of child support orders. In response to Chairman Green, Ms. Straube explained that often the courts have to be involved in particular, when the support order comes from the court. She commented that some states must have everything go through the court. Any time there are modifications to an order which was originally established through the court, those modifications must also go through the court; the court has a tremendous backlog. Ms. Straube explained that CSED uses the same guidelines and rules as the court which is why SB 115 would allow administrative actions in paternity modifications and enforcement of child support orders. Usually when someone is out-of-state, the income withholding takes time and often many individuals have moved on to another job. SB 115 would allow direct income withholding. She noted that there is a portion of the bill which deals with federal forms, computer networks, and others which are all aspects of efficiency. The elimination of the multiple orders alone is reason enough to pass SB 115. Ms. Straube predicted that CSED would increase their collections by approximately $170,000. Number 119 SENATOR LEMAN asked if SB 115 was the same bill that was before the legislature last year and if so, what happened with that bill. GLENDA STRAUBE said that last year's bill did not pass. ART PETERSON, Attorney with Dylan and Finley, informed everyone that he was appearing in his capacity as a Uniform Law Commissioner for Alaska. In response to Senator Leman, SB 115 is the same bill as last year's with a few technical changes. That bill of last year was stuck in committee due to other matters that seemed of higher priority and the bill was never heard again. SENATOR LEMAN inquired as to the significance of the technical changes to the bill; would this create difficulties when applied nationally? ART PETERSON said that if everyone begins from the same base. For example, Alaska has certain drafting requirements which are non-substantive and would not create a significant deviation from the national version. Other states have similar requirements. The greatest degree of uniformity is always attempted in order to achieve the interstate benefit from these acts. SB 115 is practically identical to the national version. Mr. Peterson noted a slight difference in the definition of state which does not specifically refer to Indian tribes however, that issue could be dealt with in other ways. The Chair of the drafting committee of the Uniform Laws Conference indicated that the difference in definition is not a significant deviation that should hold up the act. GLENDA STRAUBE pointed out that the federal government has asked states to pass this act and the Congressional House of Representatives has passed out their welfare reform legislation, including child support. With that passage, UIFSA is being mandated. Number 184 ART PETERSON informed the committee that the drafting committee of the National Conference began work on this issue due to the Congressional action of 1975, 1984, and 1988. The National Conference addressed support guidelines, enforcement procedures, wage withholding, tax intercepts, and credit reporting which are all federally required. As the drafting committee worked on the project, the need for a comprehensive revision of the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA) became more apparent. Every state and jurisdiction has adopted URESA; now they would all be adopting UIFSA. The main beneficiaries of the adoption of UIFSA would be the children. Mr. Peterson noted that the system would be less confusing, more efficient, and most importantly there would less conflicting court orders. Multiple court orders has been a major problem under URESA. SB 115 assures that a court which obtains jurisdiction would keep that jurisdiction. The more efficient system should benefit the government agencies. With regards to Mr. Peterson's statement that the children would benefit, SENATOR LEMAN asked if the children would actually receive more money or would this be a timing issue? ART PETERSON explained that typically the amount owed by the debtor parent is substantially more than AFDC receipts. Therefore, the child would benefit and benefit earlier without the uncertainty of the current system. SENATOR LEMAN noted that the fiscal notes are prepared with regards to the bill's impact on the state. There is probably a cash flow that far exceeds the amount designated in the fiscal note that would be a benefit to children. GLENDA STRAUBE explained that the fiscal note shows the money that would come back to AFDC, but the fiscal note does not illustrate the money returned to the children. In response to Senator Leman, Ms. Straube said that half of CSED's cases are AFDC which would assume that the other half would be a similar amount. Number 253 MARILYN MAY, Assistant Attorney General for the State of Alaska representing CSED, informed the committee that she had assisted in the drafting of SB 115. She reiterated the importance of eliminating multiple orders with UIFSA. Under UIFSA, one state would have continuing exclusive jurisdiction. UIFSA also sets forth the rules determining which state has the continuing exclusive jurisdiction. Furthermore if an obligor moves to another state, the new state can only enforce the order while the original issuing state still has the continuing exclusive jurisdiction. She reiterated that this bill would eliminate much time and confusion expended in dealing with multiple orders. SB 115 would up date the current situation of the law regarding child support. SENATOR SALO inquired as to the degree that UIFSA would deal with custody determinations. MARILYN MAY informed Senator Salo that UIFSA deals strictly with child support and spousal support, UIFSA does not deal with custody determinations at all. SENATOR SALO asked how the state of jurisdiction portion of SB 115 would affect the Laura Bach case. MARILYN MAY was not familiar with the child support aspects of the Laura Bach case. That case had conflicting multiple court orders from multiple states; that type of situation in a child support setting would be eliminated under UIFSA. SENATOR SALO asked if knowing which state has jurisdiction during custody battles was an issue. GLENDA STRAUBE replied yes, there is similar confusion across state lines with custody battles as well as child support matters. SENATOR SALO inquired as to why that issue had not been dealt with nationally. ART PETERSON mentioned that the National Conference is currently working on a project to revise the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act which should be completed in 1996. In regards to Senator Leman's earlier question, GLENDA STRAUBE explained that the division would collect $340,000 total, of which half would go to the state. Ms. Straube assumed that if half of the cases were AFDC, then approximately $340,000 goes to the children because that amount would match the AFDC amount. SENATOR LEMAN pointed out that the amount was actually $680,000 per year, but this fist year is half the fiscal year. CHAIRMAN GREEN commented on the potential for the system to become more efficient. JOAN CONNORS, from the Ombudsman's Office, said that Stuart Hall is in Juneau with introductory comments. Number 348 STUART HALL, Ombudsman, informed the committee that the Office of the Ombudsman supported this legislation. He noted that he had addressed a letter to the committee on April 5th. The enactment of this legislation would assist many of those who have sought the help of the Ombudsman regarding CSED. From the fiscal year 1994 to date, the Ombudsman has assisted approximately 1,661 individuals with complaints against CSED with a significant portion of that being custodial parents who rely on CSED to collect child support from an out-of-state parent. Mr. Hall emphasized that the enactment of UIFSA would streamline case establishment which would result in quicker collections. He urged passage of SB 115. BEA HAGEN, Deputy Ombudsman, emphasized the importance of direct wage withholding in other states. Many of the complaints received in the Ombudsman's Office are regarding the lengthy time that CSED takes with wage withholding. Often this is not CSED's fault because the division cannot do this directly, the process can be lengthy. SB 115 would make direct wage withholding possible. ART SNOWDEN, Administrative Director of the Judicial Branch of Government, stated support for this legislation from the Judiciary. The multiple laws among states are complex and can lead to problems. Furthermore, the Judiciary also agrees that the only manner in which to change an order that has been imposed by a judicial officer is to return to court which increases the courts work load. The system in SB 115 would be fairest to all people. SENATOR LEMAN moved that SB 115 be moved out of committee with accompanying fiscal notes. Hearing no objections, it was so ordered.