Legislature(1997 - 1998)
05/05/1998 08:40 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL NO. 375 "An Act relating to children in need of aid matters and proceedings; relating to murder of children, criminally negligent homicide, kidnapping, criminal nonsupport, the crime of indecent exposure, and the crime of endangering the welfare of a child; relating to registration of certain sex offenders; relating to sentencing for certain crimes involving child victims; relating to the state medical examiner and reviews of child fatalities; relating to teacher certification and convictions of crimes involving child victims; relating to access, confidentiality, and release of certain information concerning the care of children, child abuse and neglect, and child fatalities; authorizing the Department of Health and Social Services to enter into an interstate compact concerning adoption and medical assistance for certain children with special needs; authorizing the establishment of a multidisciplinary child protection team to review reports of child abuse or neglect; relating to immunity from liability for certain state actions concerning matters involving child protection and fatality reviews and children in need of aid; relating to persons required to report suspected child abuse or neglect; relating to foster care placement and to payment for children in foster and other care and the waiver of certain foster care requirements; relating to the access to certain criminal justice information and licensure of certain child care facilities; amending Rule 218, Alaska Rules of Appellate Procedure; amending Rules 1, 3, 15, 18, and 19, Alaska Child in Need of Aid Rules; and providing for an effective date." Representative Kelly explained that Amendment #5 would replace the most substantive changes as recommended in the previous proposed amendments. [Copy on File]. BRUCE CAMPBELL, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE PETE KELLY, explained that the new version of Amendment #5 would create "clean- up" language. He pointed out that Page 2 of the old version of Amendment #5 would be deleted and would be replaced with Amendment #11. [Copy on File]. Representative Martin inquired if this would create a twelve-month waiting period for a hearing. SUSAN G. WIBKER, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF LAW, acknowledged that the wait would be long, although, within the context of the bill, the State would be going before the Court, requesting that the State terminate services to return the child to the home. Representative Kelly MOVED to adopt the new version of Amendment #5. Representative J. Davies MOVED to amend Amendment #5 with Amendment #12. [Copy on File]. Representative Kelly OBJECTED. Representative J. Davies explained that Amendment #12 would reverse a couple of deletions made in Amendment #5, which remove the references to domestic violence. He noted that the purpose of HB 375 is to address child safety and those circumstances in which the child is placed at risk. A reference contained in Amendment #12 speaks to the issue of how domestic violence affects the safety of a child. Representative Kelly replied that the bill addresses the child's best interest with a judge delegated with the authority to consider the child's best needs. He commented that the portions deleted are addressed. He believed that the inclusion of Amendment #12 would be an expansion of the domestic violence laws, which would be better addressed in a separate bill. REPRESENTATIVE FRED DYSON indicated support for language recommended by Representative Kelly. Representative J. Davies asked if the consideration of domestic violence would limit the considerations of other concerns. Representative Dyson responded that it is presumed that a judge would have the "tools" needed to evaluate the harm a child is suffering as a factor to determine the child's best interest. Discussion followed among Committee members regarding the child's placement with relationship to witnessing domestic violence within the home. Representative Kelly remarked that language addressing that concern was contained in Title 25. Ms. Wibker advised that the Department of Law would not be involved in Title 25 cases which address two parties getting a divorce. Representative J. Davies asked where the safe place for the child be. JAYNE ANDREEN, COUNCIL ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT, JUNEAU, agreed that there was language contained in Title 25 which addresses child custody and contested custody between two parents. She recommended that an underlying premise, which needs to be addressed, is the fact that domestic violence is harmful for children. The impact of even being exposed to domestic violence has on children is serious. At this time, estblished in Court, a rebuttal presumption is used to address contested child custody cases. When there has been a history of domestic violence between the parents, the established presumption is that it would not be in the best interest of the child to be placed in the custody of the batterer. At this time, it is up to the non-offending parent to prove to the Court why the child should not be placed with the batterer. She emphasized that the rebuttal presumption shifts the focus of where the burden of proof stands from the victim on to the batterer. A roll call vote was taken on the motion to adopt Amendment IN FAVOR: Grussendorf, Moses, J. Davies OPPOSED: G. Davis, Kelly, Kohring, Martin, Mulder Representatives Foster, Therriault and Hanley were not present for the vote. The MOTION FAILED (3-5). There being NO FURTHER OBJECTION to the new version of Amendment #5, it was adopted unamended. Representative Kelly MOVED to adopt the new Amendment #10. [Copy on File]. Representative Mulder OBJECTED for the purpose of discussion. LISA TORKELSON, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE FRED DYSON, explained that the language of the amendment would allow the foster parent the ability to access the child's records. Ms. Wibker noted that the Department of Law supports that language. Ms. Torkelson noted that the Department of Health and Social Services had provided the proposed language. Representative Mulder WITHDREW his OBJECTION. There being NO FURTHER OBJECTION, the new Amendment #10 was adopted. Representative Kelly MOVED to adopt Amendment #11. Representative J. Davies OBJECTED. Representative Kelly noted that the proposed section presented the greatest struggle for the entire working group. New federal law indicates that some form of emotional damage must be addressed. Each state can determine how they want to address the rule. He noted that group had agreed upon the language "mental injury". He continued, the definition was narrowed down, defining the term and resulting in Amendment Representative J. Davies commented that there is a typo in the amendment placement. Mr. Campbell agreed, pointing out that it should indicate Page 26, Lines 6 & 7 and Page 57, Line 20. Representative Kelly stated that the proposed amendment would define what "mental injury" is, bringing the bill a long way from the emotional abuse concern. Representative J. Davies asked the significance of placing "witness" at the end of the amendment. LISA NELSON, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF LAW, ANCHORAGE, replied that it would be a "witness" in the preceeding and that witness could either review the child's records or testify based on a hypothetical situation. Representative J. Davies asked if it would be detrimental to drop the word. Ms. Nelson explained that language came from an already existing child welfare act. Ms. Wibker explained that a qualified expert witness is a "term of art". There is a specific statute which deals with testimony provided by an expert; it does not require that the expert witness be at the scene of a crime. Representative J. Davies WITHDREW the OBJECTION to the language of Amendment #11. There being NO FURTHER OBJECTION, it was adopted. Representative J. Davies WITHDREW Amendment #13, #14, and were WITHDRAWN. Representative Kelly MOVED to report CS HB 375 (FIN) out of Committee with individual recommendations and with the accompanying fiscal notes. There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered. CS HB 375 (FIN) was reported out of Committee with "no recommendation" and with fiscal notes by the Alaska Court System, the Department of Health and Social Services dated 4/7/98, the Department of Corrections dated 4/7/98, and the Office of Management and Budget dated 2/2/98. (Tape Change HFC 98- 152, Side 2).