Legislature(2001 - 2002)

02/27/2002 01:45 PM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                

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