Legislature(1995 - 1996)

04/12/1995 09:10 AM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
         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.                                                                      

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