Legislature(2015 - 2016)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

04/16/2016 09:00 AM JUDICIARY

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved CSHB 147(JUD) Out of Committee
Moved HB 308 AM Out of Committee
Moved SCS CSHB 317(JUD) Out of Committee
Moved SCS CSHB 126(JUD) Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled: TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
        HB 308-CHILD SAFETY SEAT INSTALLATION LIABILITY                                                                     
9:44:35 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  MCGUIRE announced  the  consideration of  HB  308 am.  She                                                               
noted this is  the second hearing and there is  a proposed Senate                                                               
committee substitute.                                                                                                           
9:44:49 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR COGHILL moved to adopt the  Senate CS for HB 308, labeled                                                               
29-LS1323\H, as the working document.                                                                                           
CHAIR MCGUIRE  found no  objection and stated  that version  H is                                                               
before the committee.  She stated her intention to  move the bill                                                               
and listed the individuals available to answer questions.                                                                       
9:45:33 AM                                                                                                                    
LINDSEY  WITT,  Staff,  Representative Charisse  Millett,  Alaska                                                               
State Legislature,  stated that the  part of  HB 308 she  is most                                                               
familiar  with  provides civil  immunity  to  volunteers who  are                                                               
trained car  seat technicians, instructors, and  individuals that                                                               
arrange child  car seat  checkup events. She  noted the  bill was                                                               
amended in  the other  body to  lower the booster  seat age  to 4                                                               
rather than 5.                                                                                                                  
9:47:07 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if there is opposition to the bill.                                                                  
MS. WITT answered absolutely none so far.                                                                                       
CHAIR MCGUIRE asked  Mr. Logan to explain the  amendment from her                                                               
9:47:22 AM                                                                                                                    
JESSEE  LOGAN,   Staff,  Senator  Lesil  McGuire,   Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, reviewed  the changes in  the Senate CS for  HB 308.                                                               
He described  the changes  as fairly simply;  a few  sections are                                                               
added,  a few  sections  are  renumbered, and  there  is a  title                                                               
change. He  spoke to  the following document  titled "SCS  for HB
308(JUD) Summary of Changes version A.A to version H:"                                                                          
     Title Change                                                                                                               
     Page 1, Line 1                                                                                                             
     Following "An Act relating to"                                                                                             
        Insert: "to compensation of attorneys in actions                                                                        
     against the state;                                                                                                         
     Page 1, Line 4-5                                                                                                           
     Following "motor vehicles;"                                                                                                
     Insert "and amending Rule 35, Alaska Bar Rules"                                                                            
     Section 1. AS 09.19.300                                                                                                  
     Page 1, Lines 7-11                                                                                                         
     New Section                                                                                                                
          Chapter 19 pertains only to prisoner and                                                                              
     correctional  facility  litigation against  the  state.                                                                    
     This  section inserts  language regarding  compensation                                                                    
     of attorneys  in actions against the  state. Under this                                                                    
     new section  a plaintiff's attorney may  not enter into                                                                    
     a  contract for  payment of  fees based  on contingency                                                                    
     fee in excess of 25% of damages awarded.                                                                                   
     Section 2 AS 09.65.094                                                                                                   
     Page 1, Line 12 thru Page 2, Line 31                                                                                       
          Renumbered from Section 1.                                                                                            
     Section 3 AS 28.05.095(b)                                                                                                
     Page 3, Lines 1-25                                                                                                         
          Renumbered from Section 2.                                                                                            
     Section 4                                                                                                                
     Page 3, Lines 26-31                                                                                                        
          Indirect Court Rule Amendment                                                                                         
          Section 1, regarding attorney contingency fees                                                                        
     has the  effect of changing  Rule 35, Alaska  Bar Rules                                                                    
     by  established a  rule governing  the  amount of  fees                                                                    
     that an attorney  may receive in an  action against the                                                                    
     state under AS 09.19                                                                                                       
     Section 5                                                                                                                
     Page 4, Lines 1-8                                                                                                          
          (a) Provisions in Section 1 of this act apply to                                                                      
               contracts for legal services entered into on                                                                     
               or after the effective date of this Act.                                                                         
     Section 6                                                                                                                
     Page 4, Lines 11-13                                                                                                        
          Conditional Effect                                                                                                    
          Section 1 of this act only takes effect if                                                                            
     Section 4  of this  Act receives a  two-thirds majority                                                                    
      vote in each house as required by art IV, sec 15, of                                                                      
     the Alaska State Constitution.                                                                                             
MR.  LOGAN explained  that the  Department  of Corrections  (DOC)                                                               
report of December 2015 was  condemning of some practices in some                                                               
facilities  and  the worry  was  that  predatory attorneys  would                                                               
paint a  target on the state.  Moreover, it is a  victim's rights                                                               
motion. It ensures that an  incarcerated person who is injured by                                                               
the state  can be made  whole through  a lawsuit, and  the lawyer                                                               
representing the individual cannot take  50 percent to 60 percent                                                               
of the  award. The remainder  of the technical changes  appear in                                                               
Sections 5  and 6; changing  an Alaska  Bar Rule requires  a two-                                                               
thirds majority vote.                                                                                                           
CHAIR MCGUIRE  added that  the amendment  embodied in  the Senate                                                               
committee  substitute is  to the  specific area  of statute  that                                                               
governs  lawsuits against  corrections. It  adds to  the existing                                                               
section that places  caps on damages. The caps were  put in place                                                               
initially in recognition that there  would be a lot of litigation                                                               
in this  area and that the  state shouldn't be overly  exposed to                                                               
Specifically, version H  caps attorney's fees at  25 percent. She                                                               
noted  that  attorneys  practicing  in this  area  currently  are                                                               
taking 50 percent  to 60 percent of an award.  She clarified that                                                               
this is  a very narrow  part of the  statute that already  was an                                                               
area deemed to be a state  interest. She opined that this doesn't                                                               
materially change  the original bill.  She asked Ms. Witt  if she                                                               
would  like to  hear  from  any of  the  four  people online  and                                                               
members if they were comfortable with the changes.                                                                              
9:52:14 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI objected.  He stated that HB 308  is a child                                                               
car  seat  bill  and  the amendment  adds  a  significant  change                                                               
relating to attorney's  fees. He said the  measure doesn't belong                                                               
in  the bill,  there's  been no  testimony on  it,  and it's  not                                                               
germane. Respectfully,  it's inappropriate and doesn't  belong in                                                               
the bill, he said. He restated his objection.                                                                                   
9:52:40 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR COGHILL asked if 25 percent is a standard cap.                                                                          
CHAIR  MCGUIRE replied  most states  do regulate  in the  area of                                                               
contingency fees and Alaska said  it has a compelling interest in                                                               
limiting liability in this area.  Therefore, a person is entitled                                                               
to less money in a wrongful death in a DOC facility.                                                                            
SENATOR COGHILL said he would support the change.                                                                               
CHAIR MCGUIRE  shared that  she participated  in "a  march toward                                                               
uncovering the wrongs in corrections"  and Senator Coghill warned                                                               
about exposing the  state to millions of dollars  of liability in                                                               
lawsuits. Her  choice was to  believe that wouldn't be  the case,                                                               
but it  turns out  that attorneys  are filing  in every  case and                                                               
it's plaguing  DOC. There is already  a limit on the  cap and the                                                               
intent of the  amendment is to make it clear  that attorneys that                                                               
take these cases will only receive 25 percent of the award.                                                                     
9:56:52 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI  said this  major policy  change added  to a                                                               
car  seat  bill makes  the  entire  bill very  controversial.  He                                                               
pointed out that  there would have been a lot  of interest if the                                                               
bill had  been noticed and people  were aware that this  is being                                                               
added. At  the very  least, the  bill ought to  be held  open for                                                               
public testimony,  but the better  option is to debate  the issue                                                               
in a separate bill.                                                                                                             
9:58:42 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MCGUIRE said  she would set HB 308 aside,  recess to a call                                                               
of chair,  and bring it  up again when  there is time  to satisfy                                                               
Senator Wielechowski's concerns.                                                                                                

Document Name Date/Time Subjects