Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/25/2003 01:10 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 8-TAMPERING WITH PUBLIC RECORDS CHAIR SEEKINS announced SB 8 to be up for consideration. MR. RICHARD BENAVIDAS, staff to Senator Davis, sponsor, said that tampering with records involving a child under the age of 18 in the care of the state can be very grave. Accurate record keeping is important in light of the case of a five-year-old Miami girl who disappeared while in the care of the State of Florida. SB 8 is designed as a disincentive for those who would falsify those kinds of records. SENATOR OGAN asked whom they are targeting with this bill. SENATOR DAVIS replied that the case in Florida raised the awareness of this issue, but tampering with records has always been around. She worked in the Department of Health and Social Services as a social worker and a nurse for 17 years and has seen times recordings were not being made because of heavy case loads. After a long time, you forget some things that need to go in the records. It's not always intentional when people tamper with records. In Alaska, there is no recourse and this bill makes it a felony to do that. SENATOR OGAN said he doesn't want to snare people who weren't culpable. SENATOR FRENCH said that AS 56.820 says you have to knowingly make a false entry or alter a public record. This bill adds, "who are in the care of the state" to children under 18 - foster children, etc. SENATOR DAVIS explained that she was targeting all children that fall under Title 47. CHAIR SEEKINS said he thought the first section means that there had to be an intent to benefit from the alteration or for a child under the age of 18, etc. SENATOR THERRIAULT arrived at 1:22 p.m. MR. BENAVIDAS responded why should someone get the same treatment for falsifying a child's record and possibly causing harm, as someone that put down that he graduated from a university when he didn't. SENATOR OGAN said he didn't know how a child could be harmed by tampering with records and wondered if there should be a felony charge if a kid doesn't get hurt. SENATOR DAVIS responded that a child does not have to be physically harmed in order to be hurt. If a caseworker says they have visited a home and that the child is fine and they actually never went to the home, things might not be going well. "A kid could very well come up dead.... We have from time to time [heard] where children have died in foster care or in other treatment homes...." She informed them that the Office of Children's Services is under scrutiny because they haven't been able to pass the federal audit. "I think sometimes other things need to happen other than just a reprimand or saying you can't do that." SENATOR OGAN agreed with her that some situations are very dangerous and that there is a high burnout rate for workers. However, if you're not a very good record keeper, and something bad happens to the kid and you're accused of something, "It's just additional pressure on that group of professionals... to all of a sudden be a felon." He asked if that might be a deterrent to getting and keeping good people, because they don't want to be liable for criminal activity if they make a mistake. SENATOR DAVIS replied that she didn't think it would be and filing of information is not the problem. "We're talking about falsifying records, not poor filing." SENATOR ELLIS arrived at 1:26 p.m. SENATOR ELLIS asked if a child at school is considered to be in the care and custody of the state. SENATOR DAVIS replied no, it doesn't have anything to do with keeping school records. SENATOR FRENCH asked if this could be applied to a foster parent who is not the person who is charged by law to gather information. SENATOR DAVIS replied that there are already laws on the books that would cover foster parents who were falsifying pay vouchers or whatever. SENATOR THERRIAULT said he feels there was a better ways to draft AS 8.15(a)(1) and (2). SENATOR DAVIS responded that she asked the drafter if there was some other way to do it, but he felt it was the best way. She offered to let the Department of Law look at it. SENATOR FRENCH asked if she heard any rumors to the effect that this is currently a problem here in the state. SENATOR DAVIS replied she has heard some horror stories and emphasized, "There are cases where this is needed." 1:39 - 1:40 p.m. - at ease CHAIR SEEKINS noted that both SB 8 and SB 55 amend the same section of statute and said that they would take up Senator Dyson's bill. He said they would hold SB 8.