Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/07/2004 08:09 AM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
         HB 350-CRIME VICTIMS' COMPENSATION FOR ARSON                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE  CARL  GATTO,  co-sponsor of  HB  350,  informed                                                                 
members that  HB 350  received unanimous  support in  the House                                                                 
committees  and  on  the  House floor.  HB  350  addresses  the                                                                 
question of  [providing violent crimes compensation  to victims                                                                 
of arson]  by adding  arson in  the first  degree to  the short                                                                 
list  of  violent  crimes. Mr.  Godfrey,  who  administers  the                                                                 
Violent Crimes  Compensation Board, believes that  the crime of                                                                 
arson was  inadvertently omitted from  that Act. Acts  of arson                                                                 
can  be violent  crimes,  and  burn injuries  are  at least  as                                                                 
severe as other injuries that result from acts of crime.                                                                        
SENATOR  OGAN  asked  Representative  Gatto if  he  saw  people                                                                 
harmed by arson when he was a firefighter.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO  told members,  "There  are  quite a  few                                                                 
arson  crimes that  we  really can't  even  identify as  arson.                                                                 
Generally speaking, at  some of these instances,  I usually ask                                                                 
the  owner if  they had  insurance. Generally,  if they  had no                                                                 
insurance and  their house  burned, I  was pretty  certain that                                                                 
this was  not an arson  crime but, in  too many cases,  it does                                                                 
look suspicious.  There was just no  way to identify it.  But I                                                                 
have  seen people  who have  been burned  fairly significantly.                                                                 
Personally  even firemen  get some  burns  to themselves.  I've                                                                 
toasted  my own  ears  and blistered  them.  I've seen  helmets                                                                 
melted.  There's been  lots of  significant  things happen  and                                                                 
I've certainly taken  care of deceased people at  some of these                                                                 
issues so  these are all  victims of violent crimes.  And their                                                                 
spouses  and their  children are  certainly  victims even  when                                                                 
they're not the deceased."                                                                                                      
SENATOR  OGAN said  he sees  arson as  a despicable,  cowardly,                                                                 
terrorist act.                                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  agreed and recounted  a case of  a person                                                                 
who awoke  at 2:00 a.m. to  the smell of smoke  because someone                                                                 
lit his  house on fire. The  arsonist intended to do  harm in a                                                                 
violent  manner.   He  then  informed   members  that   he  and                                                                 
Representative  Gruenberg  worked   together  in  a  bipartisan                                                                 
fashion on this legislation.                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE MAX  GRUENBERG thanked the Senators  for working                                                                 
cooperatively on this issue.                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEEKINS  noted the  state fire  marshal was  available to                                                                 
answer questions [but there were none].                                                                                         
There  being no  further  discussion, SENATOR  OGAN moved  CSHB                                                                 
350(STA) from committee with individual recommendations.                                                                        
CHAIR  SEEKINS announced  that  without  objection, the  motion                                                                 

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