Legislature(2005 - 2006)HOUSE FINANCE 519

02/28/2006 01:30 PM FINANCE

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved CSHB 380(FIN) Out of Committee
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
HOUSE BILL NO. 353                                                                                                            
     An Act relating to sentences for sexual offenses.                                                                          
CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 218(FIN)                                                                                               
     An Act relating  to sex offenders and  child kidnappers;                                                                   
     relating  to  reporting   of  sex  offenders  and  child                                                                   
     kidnappers; relating to periodic  polygraph examinations                                                                   
     for  sex  offenders  released on  probation  or  parole;                                                                   
     relating  to sexual abuse  of a  minor; relating  to the                                                                   
     definitions  of  'aggravated  sex  offense'  and  'child                                                                   
     kidnapping';  relating  to   penalties  for  failure  to                                                                   
     report child  abuse or  neglect; relating to  sentencing                                                                   
     for sex offenders and habitual  criminals; and providing                                                                   
     for an effective date.                                                                                                     
Co-Chair Meyer  explained that the  Senate bill would  be the                                                                   
vehicle  the House Finance  Committee  would consider,  as it                                                                   
was further  along in the  legislative process.   He reminded                                                                   
members that HB 353 and SB 218 were companion bills.                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE  MARK  NEUMAN,  CO-SPONSOR,  thanked  his  co-                                                                   
sponsors for helping  to make Alaska a better  place to live.                                                                   
He pointed out statistics indicating  that Alaska ranks as #1                                                                   
in rapes per  capita throughout the United State.   There are                                                                   
over 4300  registered sex offenders  in the State  of Alaska.                                                                   
He  stressed that  the price  and costs  associated with  the                                                                   
victimization  of the 521  statewide victims, averages  about                                                                   
$86.5 thousand dollars per victim.   That is over $45 million                                                                   
dollars per  year in victim  costs alone.   Only 16%  of rape                                                                   
victims report  their rapes.   Representative Neuman  pointed                                                                   
out that when  a perpetrator is put away for  longer periods,                                                                   
they are  often accused for  additional crimes.   The average                                                                   
sex offender  commits approximately  110 rapes and  318 other                                                                   
offenses before they  are caught.  He stressed  that there is                                                                   
an epidemic in Alaska and the brakes need to be put on.                                                                         
2:25:24 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR CON BUNDE, CO-SPONSOR,  testified in support of CS SB                                                                   
218 (FIN),  pointing out  it is  a bipartisan and  unicameral                                                                   
issue.    The  problem  is  huge   throughout  Alaska.    The                                                                   
statistics are  outrageous and  many victims are  hesitant to                                                                   
come forward.   The problem is  larger than is apparent.   He                                                                   
noted  that in certain  areas  of the State,  there are  over                                                                   
1,000 registered sex offenders.                                                                                                 
Senator Bunde  acknowledged all  the help received  from each                                                                   
of the  staff and  the departments affected.   He  added that                                                                   
the Department  of Law, the  Department of Public  Safety and                                                                   
Department of Corrections have  addressed the details & legal                                                                   
aspects.    The Legislature  handles  public  policy  issues;                                                                   
hence, the reason for the bill.                                                                                                 
Senator  Bunde elaborated  on the testimony  received  in the                                                                   
House Judiciary Committee regarding  the "sad but true" long-                                                                   
term effects  experienced  by the  victim and  the fact  of a                                                                   
high recidivism  rate and little change in  the perpetrator's                                                                   
behavior.  There  have been many programs attempting  to help                                                                   
change that  behavior and  none seem  to work.   In  order to                                                                   
protect  women  and  children  in our  society,  it  requires                                                                   
longer prison terms.  He doubted  that drugs and alcohol were                                                                   
the main factors contributing to the behavior.                                                                                  
Senator    Bunde   acknowledged    costs   associated    with                                                                   
incarceration.   He believed that  the costs associated  with                                                                   
the long-term  effects on  the women  and children  were much                                                                   
Senator  Bunde  rejected  the  notion  that  the  legislation                                                                   
resulted from  national "hysteria reaction"  around Jessica's                                                                   
law.   The bill provides  the opportunity  to address  a long                                                                   
and overdue  concern.   The bill  proposes longer  sentencing                                                                   
and  using  polygraph  testing  for those  on  probation  and                                                                   
parole.   It  has  been proven  that the  polygraph  testing,                                                                   
keeps the perpetrator relatively  under compliance.  He urged                                                                   
favorable consideration of the bill.                                                                                            
2:32:15 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR GRETCHEN  GUESS, CO-SPONSOR, testified  in support of                                                                   
the legislation.   She pointed out the number  of co-sponsors                                                                   
with diverse party and regional support.                                                                                        
Senator Guess addressed  the values of the legislation.   She                                                                   
indicated  that  sex  crimes  have  always  been  "under-dog"                                                                   
considerations  for the  Legislature.   Rape and  molestation                                                                   
have been spoken of as a family  or community matter.  It has                                                                   
only been recently  that people have become  aware that these                                                                   
crimes   are   intentional   acts  of   violence   that   are                                                                   
devastating.     The  Alaska   Statutes  carry  a   very  low                                                                   
punishment  and she asked  if those  punishments reflect  the                                                                   
values of  Alaskan communities.   CS  SB 218 (FIN)  addresses                                                                   
these concerns.  The bill before  the Committee contains many                                                                   
compromises made along the way.                                                                                                 
2:35:04 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Guess  reminded  members  that the  bill  speaks  to                                                                   
crimes of penetration,  molestation, and incest  in the third                                                                   
degree.     Those  crimes  are   very  serious.     The  bill                                                                   
distinguishes  sexual crimes against  children with  proof of                                                                   
the actual case and therefore,  the sentence could be reduced                                                                   
for  some molestation  crimes.    Senator Guess  warned  that                                                                   
crimes against of children are obscene.                                                                                         
The  range  of  activity  in   the  bill  was  expanded  when                                                                   
addressing molestation  and incest,  which warrant  the range                                                                   
between the  second and third  degrees and would  provide the                                                                   
flexibility within  the judicial  system on the  nuances that                                                                   
happen with the above-mentioned crimes.                                                                                         
2:38:26 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator Guess pointed  out that the Sam 3 -  the sexual abuse                                                                   
of  a minor  is not  contained in  the proposed  legislation.                                                                   
Those cases identify "date-rape"  and are not included in the                                                                   
sentencing  guidelines at  this  time.   She urged  favorable                                                                   
consideration of the bill.                                                                                                      
2:39:32 PM                                                                                                                    
Vice Chair  Stoltze thanked Senator  Guess for the  amount of                                                                   
work done on the legislation.                                                                                                   
Co-Chair  Meyer  pointed  out  that  the  original  bill  had                                                                   
"stiffer"  penalties  and asked  why  it had  been  modified.                                                                   
Senator Guess  explained that  her original bill  had focused                                                                   
on  the sexual  abuse  of a  minor,  not the  sexual  assault                                                                   
ranges.  All the penalties were  higher.  Compromise resulted                                                                   
when addressing  some of the "other  crimes" out there.   She                                                                   
noted that there always must be  "give and take" when working                                                                   
with the whole  legislative body and which,  addressing crime                                                                   
of penetration and attempted rape  of a child.  Senator Guess                                                                   
was  uncomfortable  with  the  changes  made  in  the  Senate                                                                   
Finance Committee,  reducing the sentence  from 3 years  to 1                                                                   
2:43:04 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator Bunde noted  that he had been one of  the legislators                                                                   
recommending  less severity  in the punishment.   He  claimed                                                                   
there is an  issue of proportionality regarding  treatment of                                                                   
a  convicted sex  crime  being treated  more  harshly than  a                                                                   
murder crime.   He agreed it  was an important  discussion to                                                                   
have.   Discussing sentencing  can accomplish several  things                                                                   
and  can place  people in  jail  sending a  clear message  of                                                                   
societal standards.                                                                                                             
2:45:14 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative   Neuman   noted    concerns   regarding   the                                                                   
proportionality of a Court challenge  and recommending one or                                                                   
two    years   higher    than    the   current    sentencing.                                                                   
Representative  Neuman  stressed  that these  are  "lifetime"                                                                   
crisis against  the victim.  He  pointed out that he  had not                                                                   
initially included polygraphs  because of the fiscal expense;                                                                   
however,  following discussion  with  Senator  Guess, he  now                                                                   
understands it would happen only  twice a year and would cost                                                                   
around  $200 dollars  each time.    The Court  can order  the                                                                   
perpetrator to pay for those costs.                                                                                             
2:46:54 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Kelly  questioned if  there  had been  public                                                                   
education  notices  for  women   and  children  around  these                                                                   
Senator  Bunde replied  he  was not  aware  of such  noticing                                                                   
happening in the State, however,  in a less direct way, there                                                                   
has been press coverage and interest.   The legislation would                                                                   
put out  a considerable amount  of information to  the public                                                                   
indicating  the new  standards.   Unless  a  person has  been                                                                   
involved in  the system  before, they might  not be  aware of                                                                   
that   information.      He   noted   that   some   offenders                                                                   
intentionally move  to states that  do not use  the polygraph                                                                   
2:50:41 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative   Neuman  noted   the   national  media   hype                                                                   
following the concern.  The average  person probably does not                                                                   
have to deal  with it.  Passage  of the bill would  provide a                                                                   
lot of  Alaskan's with information  on the vastness  of these                                                                   
2:51:24 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Guess noted  from comments  heard  in her  district,                                                                   
citizens assume  the sentencing  is already  that high.   She                                                                   
noted  especially  crimes  against  children  require  public                                                                   
education, as is the case with  sexual assault.  She observed                                                                   
that public awareness  is gradually increasing  as the crimes                                                                   
become  discussed within  the  communities &  churches.   She                                                                   
pointed  out  that  crimes  against  children  are  sometimes                                                                   
committed by family-members.                                                                                                    
Senator Bunde  observed the great  number of articles  in the                                                                   
newspapers  recounting   sexual  assault  cases,   especially                                                                   
involving children.                                                                                                             
2:54:49 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Kerttula  commended the sponsors  for shedding                                                                   
light on  issues helping  victims.   She asked  clarification                                                                   
regarding  the Letter of  Intent and  the sources behind  the                                                                   
shocking statistics.  She referenced  Page 3 and the horrific                                                                   
number  of offenses  happening  before  the perpetrator  gets                                                                   
caught and  asked if  that number could  be substantial.   In                                                                   
the same section, it indicates  that crimes go undetected for                                                                   
sometimes up to  sixteen years.  Representative  Kerttula was                                                                   
2:56:51 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator Bunde  emphasized the amount  of time that  went into                                                                   
preparing the report;  he acknowledged it was  startling.  He                                                                   
referred  to  the  footnote  referencing   the  sex  offender                                                                   
treatment   evaluation   report   as  the   base   for   that                                                                   
information.  He  noted that Ms. Parker of  the Department of                                                                   
Corrections could provide more information.                                                                                     
Representative  Kerttula  requested a  copy  of that  report.                                                                   
She voiced concern  that some of the proposed  sentences were                                                                   
higher than those for murder and  questioned that philosophy.                                                                   
2:58:08 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator Bunde  responded that it  was not the intent  to seek                                                                   
higher sentences  than for murder or manslaughter.   That was                                                                   
a  policy decision,  observing  that  many of  these  victims                                                                   
often  face a  "lifetime sentence".   He  advised that  large                                                                   
sentences could serve  as a deterrent, admitting  that if the                                                                   
sentence is higher than manslaughter,  it definitely, sends a                                                                   
strong message.                                                                                                                 
2:59:39 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator Guess  expressed that her analysis of  the sentencing                                                                   
procedures reflected  the nature of intention.   When someone                                                                   
dies, there are multiple ways  in which it may happen.  Death                                                                   
could  be unintentional,  whereas  there was  not  a case  of                                                                   
unintentional sexual assault.   She noted that since rape and                                                                   
molestation  were   intentional,  the  sentences   should  be                                                                   
higher, observing they do not  extend as far as manslaughter.                                                                   
She   noted  that   murder  crimes   were   not  taken   into                                                                   
consideration  when making  the decisions  for sentencing  of                                                                   
sexual assault crimes.                                                                                                          
3:03:10 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator Guess advised that in  most cases, there are multiple                                                                   
offenses,  which played  a part in  determining the  sentence                                                                   
for a single crime.                                                                                                             
Representative  Neuman observed that  there are many  aspects                                                                   
to the issue of  sentencing; the first being 15  to 25 years.                                                                   
He  reiterated that  the  victim must  deal  with the  crime,                                                                   
every day  of their  life.  He  referred to  Page 3  from the                                                                   
Letter of Intent,  noting that the average number  of victims                                                                   
of a sex  offender before caught  is 110 and that  they could                                                                   
go an average of 16 years before detected.                                                                                      
3:05:07 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Bunde  thanked  Representative  Kerttula  for                                                                   
mentioning the  Letter of Intent,  as it is an  integral part                                                                   
of the  bill.   He knew  that most  likely there  would  be a                                                                   
Court  challenge.   He mentioned  the amount  of research  in                                                                   
drafting  the letter,  so when  the  challenges happens,  the                                                                   
Legislature will have the information.                                                                                          
3:05:53 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Kerttula suggested  language be more specific.                                                                   
3:07:12 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Guess   referred  to   Ms.  Parker,  Department   of                                                                   
Corrections.  She  pointed out that a defense  attorney could                                                                   
bring  up  lesser  crimes  during   a  trial.    A  crime  of                                                                   
harassment would be handled differently  than the molestation                                                                   
and  penetration.   She  agreed  that there  has  not been  a                                                                   
problem at this  time with mandatory jail time  and suggested                                                                   
there is  subjectivity in the  current legislation.   She was                                                                   
not willing to trade leniency for child molesters.                                                                              
3:09:21 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Guess commented  on the differences  that cross  the                                                                   
ten-year  line, stressing  that rape should  incur a  serious                                                                   
3:10:11 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator Bunde  acknowledged that Representative  Kerttula had                                                                   
asked  important  questions and  pointed  out  that all  laws                                                                   
contain  some  ambiguity.   He  observed  that  prosecutorial                                                                   
discretion was a part of the current  system and noted that a                                                                   
judge and  jury play a  part, as well  as litigators,  in the                                                                   
actual sentences served by a perpetrator.                                                                                       
3:11:39 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Neuman  referred   again  to  the  Letter  of                                                                   
Intent, highlighting that perpetrators  of sexual crimes were                                                                   
often guilty of multiple incidents.                                                                                             
Representative  Kerttula  thanked the  panel  for their  work                                                                   
with a difficult topic.                                                                                                         
Representative  Kelly observed  that the perpetrators  cannot                                                                   
be  rehabilitated  and  expressed   support  for  the  longer                                                                   
3:13:32 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator Bunde  advised that there  was some small  success in                                                                   
rehabilitation of offenders, who  were the victims of incest.                                                                   
He  concurred that  there  has not  been  broad success  with                                                                   
3:14:57 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator Guess  referred to a  study tracing treatment  of sex                                                                   
offenders.  She noted that the  study revealed that there was                                                                   
not a statistical difference between  those treated and those                                                                   
untreated.   She noted one  of the key successful  provisions                                                                   
in  the sentencing  portion  of  the  bill is  the  automatic                                                                   
probation  and polygraphs.   She  thought that  could be  the                                                                   
best practice to  protect people and help those  convicted of                                                                   
crimes.  She observed a pattern  of behavior and if revealed,                                                                   
could  prevent   recurrence  with   use  of  the   polygraph.                                                                   
Required  polygraph  testing  can  serve as  a  deterrent  to                                                                   
3:17:03 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Neuman  reiterated that the  polygraph testing                                                                   
can decrease the rate of recurrence.                                                                                            
3:18:06 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Bunde stated  that  the current  polygraph  practice                                                                   
utilizes  trained  operators,  which  he  hoped  would  be  a                                                                   
regulated  and  standardized   policy.    Requiring  specific                                                                   
training could make the legislation too inflexible.                                                                             
3:19:02 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Meyer opened PUBLIC TESTIMONY.                                                                                         
SUEANN  WILLIAMS   TESTIFIED  FOR  ROBERT   LOESCHER,  SPIRIT                                                                   
VILLAGE INC.,  JUNEAU, read a  letter of support  from Robert                                                                   
Loescher, a board  member for Spirit Village, Inc.   (Copy on                                                                   
3:21:54 PM                                                                                                                    
Vice Chair Stoltze  asked about  the nature of Spirit Village                                                                   
and the services  they provide.  Ms. Williams  responded that                                                                   
they are  a non-profit  organization, providing  programs for                                                                   
prisoner's re-entry into the communities.                                                                                       
Vice  Chair  Stoltze  asked  if it  was  a  culturally  based                                                                   
program.  Ms. Williams replied  that a portion was culturally                                                                   
3:22:33 PM                                                                                                                    
NICOLE  SONGER,  (TESTIFIED  VIA  TELECONFERENCE),  EXECUTIVE                                                                   
DIRECTOR, CORDOVA FAMILY RESOURCE  CENTER, CORDOVA, testified                                                                   
in support of the legislation  and encouraged the Committee's                                                                   
3:23:45 PM                                                                                                                    
SUE    CHRISTENSEN,    (TESTIFIED     VIA    TELECONFERENCE),                                                                   
ADMINISTRATIVE  ASSISTANT, BERING  SEA  WOMEN'S GROUP,  NOME,                                                                   
spoke to  issues of  harassment and  child molestation.   She                                                                   
stressed the "defenselessness"  of a child and suggested that                                                                   
a  law  be   passed,  addressing  the  need   for  vulnerable                                                                   
children's protection  for those 10  years and younger.   She                                                                   
addressed  mental illness,  foster care,  addicts, rapes  and                                                                   
molestation of  children and the need to  front-load services                                                                   
for those  victims.   Ms. Christensen  emphasized that  these                                                                   
crimes "kill" and  alter a child's core and  deserves a death                                                                   
penalty.   She mentioned the  national law regarding  the age                                                                   
of  consent   and  requested   clarification  on   the  child                                                                   
kidnapping section.                                                                                                             
3:27:30 PM                                                                                                                    
QUINLAN  STEINER, (TESTIFIED  VIA TELECONFERENCE),  DIRECTOR,                                                                   
PUBLIC   DEFENDER  AGENCY,   DEPARTMENT  OF   ADMINISTRATION,                                                                   
ANCHORAGE, commented  that Section 2, as written,  creates an                                                                   
irreconcilable  conflict  with   the  rules  of  professional                                                                   
conduct that  would prevent the  Public Defender's  Agency to                                                                   
represent  individuals   guilty  of  a  previous   sex  crime                                                                   
conviction.   He  advised, he  was working  with Susan  Parks                                                                   
from the  Department of Law,  to develop language  that would                                                                   
maintain  the  substance of  that  section and  thought  that                                                                   
there  was language  that could  work for both  parties.   He                                                                   
offered to answer questions of the Committee.                                                                                   
3:29:11 PM                                                                                                                    
GINGER   BRYANT,   (TESTIFIED  VIA   TELECONFERENCE),   SOUTH                                                                   
PENINSULA HAVEN  HOUSE, HOMER, spoke  in strong favor  of the                                                                   
bill.    She stressed  how  heartbreaking  these  crimes  are                                                                   
against  children.   It is  a  crime of  silence and  without                                                                   
polygraphs,  the crimes will  continue.   She urged  that the                                                                   
perpetrators be placed behind bars.                                                                                             
3:30:39 PM                                                                                                                    
CHRISTINE  KERNAK,  (TESTIFIED  VIA  TELECONFERENCE),  TUNDRA                                                                   
WOMAN'S COALITION,  BETHEL, testified  in strong  support for                                                                   
the proposed legislation.                                                                                                       
3:31:52 PM                                                                                                                    
REX SHATTUCK,  STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE MARK  NEUMAN, indicated,                                                                   
he intended  to provide  personal testimony.   He stated  the                                                                   
legislation affects many people, known and unknown.                                                                             
Mr.  Shattuck provided  testimony  regarding  his own  sexual                                                                   
abuse.   He  emphasized  that  the  numbers provided  in  the                                                                   
backup are  "very" realistic.   He  noted that his  situation                                                                   
resulted in  a Class  B felony for  the perpetrator  and knew                                                                   
five other individuals  impacted by the same  person, who was                                                                   
in a place of authority, not a family member.                                                                                   
Until  recently, Representative  Neuman admitted  he had  not                                                                   
been aware  of the impact  of Mr. Shattuck's  personal abuse.                                                                   
He commented that  he felt obligated to testify.   Sentencing                                                                   
of  a  Class  B  felony can  result  in  two  to  five  years                                                                   
sentence.  If  the legislation were passed,  that perpetrator                                                                   
would potentially  be looking at five to fifteen  years.  Mr.                                                                   
Shattuck pointed  out that  he has dealt  with the  crime for                                                                   
35+ years.   When  comparing it  to a  murder, with  a murder                                                                   
situation,  there is  a sense  of finality;  however, with  a                                                                   
crime  of sexual  molestation of  a child,  the victim  deals                                                                   
with  the  devastation  for  a  lifetime.    The  legislation                                                                   
provides an important  message to those contemplating  such a                                                                   
crime and sends a strong societal  signal.  He urged that the                                                                   
bill be passed from Committee.                                                                                                  
3:36:28 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative Kerttula  apologized for any  hurtful comments                                                                   
she might have made, noting her  intent was that the State of                                                                   
Alaska draft a better and stronger law.                                                                                         
3:36:51 PM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Meyer closed PUBLIC TESTIMONY.                                                                                         
Co-Chair Meyer  indicated that the Department  of Corrections                                                                   
and Department  of Law  would provide  testimony at  the next                                                                   
Vice  Chair Stoltze  requested  that the  Public Defender  be                                                                   
invited for that meeting.                                                                                                       
3:38:03 PM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Foster  discussed  concern  with  the  fiscal                                                                   
costs, mentioning  subcommittee work to address  such issues.                                                                   
He worried  about  the impact  of those costs  to the  Alaska                                                                   
Court System  and wondered  about supplemental cost  requests                                                                   
that would be associated with the increased penalties.                                                                          
Co-Chair  Meyer  echoed  the same  concerns,  noting  further                                                                   
discussion on those matters at the next meeting.                                                                                
HB 353 and CS  SB 218 (FIN) were HEARD and  HELD in Committee                                                                   
for further consideration.                                                                                                      

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