Legislature(2009 - 2010)

04/07/2010 02:43 PM Senate JUD

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           HJR 48-CRIME VICTIMS FUND PRESERVATION ACT                                                                       
VICE-CHAIR WIELECHOWSKI announced the consideration of HJR 48                                                                   
3:12:53 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  BETH  KERTTULA,  sponsor  of HJR  48,  said  this                                                               
resolution was drafted after a  similar National Council of State                                                               
Legislatures (NCSL) resolution  passed unanimously last December.                                                               
She related that a friend  who works with victims recognized that                                                               
the National  Victims of  Crime fund was  growing, but  the money                                                               
wasn't  flowing through  to  the states.  HJR  48 recognizes  the                                                               
effort  in  Congress   to  see  that  the  money   is  used  more                                                               
productively while continuing to sustain the fund.                                                                              
SAMANTHA ENGILSHOE,  First Alaskans  Institute fellow  and intern                                                               
for Representative  Kerttula, thanked  the committee  for hearing                                                               
HJR 48. She reported the following:                                                                                             
     For more than 25 years  the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA)                                                                    
     fund  has  been a  protected  and  dedicated source  of                                                                    
     funding  for  crime  victim services.  Each  year  VOCA                                                                    
     dollars  are  distributed  to  states  to  support  two                                                                    
     important   types   of    programs   -   crime   victim                                                                    
     compensation programs  and victim  assistance programs.                                                                    
     The VOCA  fund is  financed by  a collection  of fines,                                                                    
     forfeitures,  and  other   penalties  paid  by  federal                                                                    
     criminal offenders - not by taxpayer revenue.                                                                              
     Because  the fund  is comprised  of offender  penalties                                                                    
     and  fines,   the  amount   deposited  into   the  fund                                                                    
     fluctuates  from  year  to   year.  In  2000,  Congress                                                                    
     started annual  obligations from  the fund,  saving the                                                                    
     amount  collected over  the cap  to  ensure the  fund's                                                                    
     stability. Currently, the VOCA  fund has an accumulated                                                                    
     balance  of nearly  3 billion  dollars. Under  the VOCA                                                                    
     statutory formula  for the annual distribution  of VOCA                                                                    
     funds, state-assisted grants are  dependent on the size                                                                    
     of the  cap and the  amount available for  those grants                                                                    
     is, in  effect, whatever  remains after  other programs                                                                    
     have been funded. Unless the  cap is high enough, state                                                                    
     VOCA assistance grants are  cut as other VOCA-dependent                                                                    
     costs increase under the cap  programs and earmarks are                                                                    
     Despite   unprecedented   deposits   into   the   fund,                                                                    
     inadequate caps  led to severe cutbacks  in VOCA victim                                                                    
     assistance  grants   from  2006   to  2008   causing  a                                                                    
     devastating   impact  on   programs  providing   direct                                                                    
     services to  crime victims. At  the same time  as those                                                                    
     state  victim   assistance  grants  were  cut   by  $87                                                                    
     million,  the fund  grew more  than $700  million. That                                                                    
     balance would have otherwise  been available for direct                                                                    
     services were  the cap minimum higher.  Under the Crime                                                                    
     Victims Fund  Preservation Act, the VOCA  statute would                                                                    
     establish minimum funding levels  for fiscal years 2010                                                                    
     through  2014 steadily  drawing down  a portion  of the                                                                    
     accumulated balance.  It is projected by  the Office of                                                                    
     Management  and Budget  that  even  with these  minimum                                                                    
     caps, the  fund will  have a balance  of at  least $1.3                                                                    
     billion  at  the  end  of   2014  insuring  the  fund's                                                                    
     sustainability  without  the  need  for  other  revenue                                                                    
     There  is strong  state support  for the  Crime Victims                                                                    
     Fund Preservation  Act including support by  the Alaska                                                                    
     Department of  Health and  Social Services,  the Alaska                                                                    
     Department of  Public Safety,  and both  state Attorney                                                                    
     General  Dan Sullivan  and Congressman  Don Young  have                                                                    
     signed letters of support  for the federal legislation.                                                                    
     Representatives  from  the   State  of  Alaska  Violent                                                                    
     Crimes Compensation  Board and the Council  on Domestic                                                                    
     Violence and Sexual Assault are  here to testify to the                                                                    
     importance of additional  resources for their statewide                                                                    
3:16:01 PM                                                                                                                    
LAUREE MORTON, Program Coordinator,  Council on Domestic Violence                                                               
and Sexual Assault,  Department of Public Safety  (DPS), said she                                                               
serves  as the  VOCA assistance  coordinator for  the state.  She                                                               
explained that  VOCA assistance funds  are distributed  to states                                                               
on a  formula basis -  $500,000 per  state and a  prorated amount                                                               
based  on  population.  Alaska   typically  receives  between  $1                                                               
million  and  $1.2  million annually.  During  the  2009  federal                                                               
fiscal year,  VOCA funds were  used to provide services  to 5,779                                                               
violent  crime victims  and in  the  2010 state  fiscal year,  18                                                               
community-based victim  service programs are using  VOCA funds to                                                               
fund staff  and provide  services for  victims of  violent crimes                                                               
primarily at AWAKE  in Anchorage, IAC in Fairbanks,  and AWARE in                                                               
Juneau. uses VOCA funds to support their legal advocate.                                                                        
3:18:57 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  MORTON provided  several examples  to  demonstrate how  VOCA                                                               
funds are  being used. She explained  that IAC in Fairbanks  is a                                                               
member of the sexual assault  response team that responded to 264                                                               
sexual  assaults   during  federal  FY09.  The   IAC  VOCA-funded                                                               
advocate was  able to go to  the hospital, meet with  the victim,                                                               
and be with  her or him during the sexual  assault nurse examiner                                                               
forensic exam. In  another example she related  how the children-                                                               
focused VOCA advocate  at AWAKE helped a mother who  was a victim                                                               
of  domestic violence  file a  Violent Crimes  Compensation Board                                                               
claim  to get  counseling for  her  child who  had witnessed  the                                                               
domestic  violence and  was traumatized  and withdrawn.  The VOCA                                                               
advocate  worked  with  the  counselor to  help  the  child  work                                                               
through the  trauma and  ultimately reengage  in school  and with                                                               
other children.                                                                                                                 
MS.   MORTON  summarized   that  a   graduated  cap   will  allow                                                               
sustainability of the  fund and enough growth  to stabilize funds                                                               
to states. This is important, she concluded.                                                                                    
3:20:34 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR WIELECHOWSKI closed public testimony and announced he                                                                     
would hold HJR 48 in committee.                                                                                                 
3:20:53 PM                                                                                                                    
There being no further business to come before the committee,                                                                   
Vice-Chair Wielechowski adjourned the meeting at 3:20 p.m.                                                                      

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