Legislature(2001 - 2002)
02/27/2002 01:45 PM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL NO. 321 An Act relating to the purpose for crime victims' compensation; prohibiting the payment of compensation to a person responsible for the maintenance of the victim if that person knew or should have known of the crime and did not assist the victim or report the crime to the police; and limiting the factors that may be considered in making a crime victims' compensation award in cases of sexual assault, sexual abuse of a minor, or a crime involving domestic violence. REPRESENTATIVE GRETCHEN GUESS stated that when the State established the Victims' Compensation Board over 20 years ago, it ensured the victim's role in a crime would be considered. The unintended consequence of that language was child abuse and sexual assault victims could be denied funding if the board found them to have contributed to the circumstances of the crime. A victim of sexual assault could be denied because they were drinking the night of their sexual assault. Representative Guess continued, implying that a victim of sexual assault somehow deserved or played a role in being victimized, is in opposition to what most communities believe and that a victim of child abuse or sexual assault has not done anything to bring the crime on him or herself. Toward fixing the unintended consequence, the language of the bill accomplishes the following: · Ensures compensation is not denied based on consideration of provocation, the use of alcohol or drugs, or the prior social history of the victim; · Retains the current language for compensation criteria for all other crimes. Representative Guess commented that the victim's compensation board is funded 60% by State government and 40% by federal government. The funds from the State come from garnishing felon's permanent fund dividend checks. Given the nature of the funding mechanism, the fiscal note from the Department of Public Safety is zero. Vice-Chair Bunde asked if the language had been added to address an incapacitated state of consciousness. Representative Guess advised that the board had not yet decided about using that reasoning. Representative Whitaker asked if in the past, had the board considered the condition of the victim when determining compensation. Representative Guess advised that there was an honest disagreement between the community and the board regarding that question. There were some cases where the community felt that the board did do that given the confidential nature of the community process. She acknowledged that she did not know the specifics. Representative Lancaster questioned if there was a situation currently happening. Representative Guess explained that the Victims' Compensation Board has admitted that is now common practice. Representative Davies interjected that some people in the community do not share that view with the board. The legislation is an attempt to clarify that this is the policy. Representative Hudson thought that the bill could be a companion piece to another bill that was before the Committee. He pointed out that HB 321 deals only with the victim. Representative Guess agreed. Representative Whitaker inquired if the board had taken a position on the legislation. Representative Guess noted that there had been testimony before the House Judiciary Committee by a member of the board in support of the bill. She added that the Victims' Compensation Board does fall into the preview of the Department of Public Safety. She noted that the person from the board was speaking for the Department and the Administration. Representative Whitaker requested to hear any. Representative Guess did not know of an opposing point of view. Vice-Chair Bunde asked if there would need to be a criminal trial in order to qualify for compensation. Representative Guess replied that there needs to be multiple criteria including cooperating with police, reporting in a certain number of days, etc. It would not necessarily have to be a criminal trial. Consent remains in the bill so that it can be considered in whether or not someone is a victim of sexual abuse of a minor. Vice-Chair Bunde did not want to see assault being excused, however, he also did not want to take any action that would reduce one's personal responsibility for their own behavior. KAREN BITZER, [TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERNCE], EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, STANDING TOGETHER AGAINST RAPE (STAR), ANCHORAGE, testified in support of the proposed legislation. She noted that STAR works to improve services for victims and to allow them to have access to tools for recovery. One of the goals of victim's compensation is to help make whole the victims for the loss as a result of the crime. Ms. Bitzer noted that the bill would put the responsibility of the crime on the offender. It allows for the victims to access services and intervention for available funds. Representative Foster MOVED to report CS SS HB 321 (JUD) out of Committee with individual recommendations and with the accompanying fiscal note. There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered. CS SS HB 321 (JUD) was reported out of Committee with a "do pass" recommendation and with a zero fiscal note #2 by the Department of Public Safety.