Legislature(2015 - 2016)HOUSE FINANCE 519

04/13/2015 01:30 PM FINANCE

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
*+ HB 190 MEDICAID REFORM/FRAUD/ER USE/STUDIES TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
+ HB 105 AIDEA: BONDS;PROGRAMS;LOANS;LNG PROJECT TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
+ HB 154 CIVIL LEGAL SERVICES FUND TELECONFERENCED
Moved HB 154 Out of Committee
+= HB 123 ESTABLISH MARIJUANA CONTROL BOARD TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSHB 123(JUD) Out of Committee
+ SB 26 BUDGET: CAPITAL TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
HOUSE BILL NO. 154                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     "An Act allowing appropriations to the civil legal                                                                         
     services fund from court filing fees."                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
2:29:38 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  BRYCE EDGMON,  SPONSOR,  explained that  the                                                                    
bill  created  a stable  funding  mechanism  for the  Alaska                                                                    
Legal Services Corporation (ALSC).   He stated that the bill                                                                    
allowed up  to 25  percent of  the filing  fees paid  to the                                                                    
Alaska  Court System  from the  previous fiscal  year to  be                                                                    
appropriated into  the existing  Civil Legal  Services Fund.                                                                    
The corporation provided legal services  to a growing number                                                                    
eligible applicants; the number  doubled from 41,000 to over                                                                    
100,000 within  30 years. The  funding sources for  ALSC was                                                                    
comprised of  state funds, local funds,  federal funds, from                                                                    
private donations,  and native organizations. He  noted that                                                                    
the bill established a stable source of state funding.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Pruitt  wondered  how much  money  would  be                                                                    
appropriated to the fund.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Representative Edgmon  replied that in the  past year, court                                                                    
filing fees amounted to $2.2  million and 25 percent equated                                                                    
to $563  thousand. He noted  that the current  year's budget                                                                    
for the corporation was cut to $450 thousand.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Wilson clarified  that  the legislation  did                                                                    
not appropriate  money it only authorized  the appropriation                                                                    
into the fund.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Edgmon   replied  in  the   affirmative.  He                                                                    
offered that HB 154 created the receipt authority.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Vice-Chair Saddler  asked how often  court filing  fees were                                                                    
adjusted or changed.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
NANCY MEADE,  GENERAL COUNSEL, ALASKA COURT  SYSTEM, replied                                                                    
that the court  system had not increased its  filing fees in                                                                    
the  past 10  to  12  years; the  court  system  was in  the                                                                    
process of  implementing much higher fees  effective July 1,                                                                    
2015.  She noted  that  last year's  filing  fees were  $2.2                                                                    
million  and  would  increase an  additional  $1.2  million,                                                                    
which totaled $3.4 million.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Thompson OPENED public testimony.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
DENISE  DANIELLO, EXECUTIVE  DIRECTOR, ALASKA  COMMISSION ON                                                                    
AGING, spoke in support of  the legislation. She shared that                                                                    
the corporation served 850 seniors in the past year.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
PATRICK  REINHART, GOVERNOR'S  COUNCIL  ON DISABILITIES  AND                                                                    
SPECIAL    EDUCATION,   ANCHORAGE    (via   teleconference),                                                                    
testified  in support  of the  legislation. He  believed the                                                                    
legislation would  positively impact low  income individuals                                                                    
with disabilities. He relayed  that approximately 40 percent                                                                    
of  the  corporation's  clients were  disabled  individuals.                                                                    
Typical services  were provided for illegal  eviction due to                                                                    
disability, assistance with civil  protective orders to stop                                                                    
abuse, denial  of federal  healthcare coverage  or benefits,                                                                    
and  family  caregivers  in securing  healthcare  and  other                                                                    
domestic services. He  remarked that some clients  had to be                                                                    
turned away due to lack of funds.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Vice-Chair  Saddler understood  that many  of the  council's                                                                    
clients used  Alaska Legal Services and  wondered whether it                                                                    
would be  helpful if the  legislature implemented  a similar                                                                    
funding source for the Alaska Disability Law Center.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Reinhart responded that  the agencies provided different                                                                    
types  of  legal  services  for  the  disabled.  The  Alaska                                                                    
Disability Law Center had a  different revenue source and he                                                                    
did not know the answer.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
NIKOLE  NELSON, EXECUTIVE  DIRECTOR, ALASKA  LEGAL SERVICES,                                                                    
ANCHORAGE  (via  teleconference),  spoke  in  favor  of  the                                                                    
legislation.  She shared  that the  agency was  a non-profit                                                                    
agency  that  provided free  legal  services  to low  income                                                                    
individuals for 45 years. The  critical civil legal services                                                                    
provided  helped to  stabilize families,  secure safety  and                                                                    
self-sufficiency and  provided access  to the  civil justice                                                                    
system. The agency assisted parents  who had been in abusive                                                                    
relationships,  families  with  domestic paperwork  such  as                                                                    
enrolling children  in school, and veterans  denied benefits                                                                    
for  disabilities.   She  expounded  that   the  corporation                                                                    
operated  with  staff  attorneys,  a  network  of  pro  bono                                                                    
attorney's,  and  its   self-help  and  community  education                                                                    
network. The  corporation served over 2,500  Alaskans in 162                                                                    
communities.  Last   year  ALSC  turned  away   hundreds  of                                                                    
families  due to  lack of  resources.  Eight-six percent  of                                                                    
ALSC   client's  cases   had   positive   results  and   the                                                                    
corporation  was   remarkably  cost  efficient.   Each  case                                                                    
averaged  $600  due  to  resolving cases  out  of  court  80                                                                    
percent of the time. She  furthered that ALSC attorneys were                                                                    
paid  well below  the market  rate.  Resources and  services                                                                    
were leveraged  in the  amount of  $500 million.  She voiced                                                                    
that ALSC helped  achieve justice for all  and urged support                                                                    
for the legislation.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Thompson CLOSED public testimony.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Edgmon  corrected  that  the  bill  did  not                                                                    
create  program receipt  authority; it  established language                                                                    
to  authorize  the appropriation  of  funds  from the  court                                                                    
filing fees from the previous year.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Representative Wilson  thought the testimony  was confusing.                                                                    
She believed that the legislature  could appropriate as much                                                                    
money into the fund as the legislature wanted.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Edgmon  replied  that  the  bill  created  a                                                                    
funding mechanism for 25 percent  of court filing fees to be                                                                    
appropriated  to the  corporation. The  legislature did  not                                                                    
guarantee the  money. It provided  the legislature  with the                                                                    
authority to appropriate the money into the fund.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Representative Wilson clarified that  the bill did not limit                                                                    
the  amount of  money that  could be  appropriated into  the                                                                    
fund above the 25 percent of court fees.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Representative Edgmon replied in the affirmative.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Wilson  clarified  that  the  bill  did  not                                                                    
appropriate any money.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Vice-Chair Saddler  asked whether  the sponsor was  aware of                                                                    
the court systems intent to increase its fees.                                                                                  
Representative Edgmon replied in the affirmative.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Thompson clarified  that  there  was no  guarantee                                                                    
that the court system would actually increase the fees.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Representative   Pruitt    declared   that    currently   AS                                                                    
09.17.020(j) required  that 50  percent of  awarded punitive                                                                    
damages were  deposited into  the general  fund for  use for                                                                    
the Civil Legal  Services Fund. He wondered  why the sponsor                                                                    
was creating another fund.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Representative Edgmon  replied that  the intent of  the bill                                                                    
was to  provide a more  solid, stable funding source  in the                                                                    
future given  the state's  current fiscal  difficulties than                                                                    
the  general fund  appropriation.  He expressed  uncertainty                                                                    
regarding the  level of future  funding for  the corporation                                                                    
from the general  fund. He noted that ALSC  received over $1                                                                    
million from  the state in  the 1980s  and had to  turn away                                                                    
hundreds of families due to the decline in state revenues.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
TIM  CLARK, STAFF,  REPRESENTATIVE BRYCE  EDGMON, elaborated                                                                    
that at  the time  the Alaska Legal  Services Fund  had been                                                                    
established  the capitalization  was designed  to come  from                                                                    
punitive damages.   In the  last three years, the  state had                                                                    
collected zero punitive funds and the fund was empty.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Pruitt   identified  that   the  legislation                                                                    
allowed for  appropriations from  both the  punitive damages                                                                    
fund and  the Civil  Legal Services  Fund. He  wondered when                                                                    
the last  deposit from punitive money  was appropriated into                                                                    
the fund.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Clark replied in the  affirmative to the first question.                                                                    
He  elaborated that  the  legislation  did not  "concretely"                                                                    
appropriate  money  into  the  fund  and  only  provided  an                                                                    
authorization to appropriate. He  felt that the existence of                                                                    
the funds  and appropriation authorization  acknowledged the                                                                    
importance  of  the  services the  corporation  provided  to                                                                    
Alaskans.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Vice-Chair Saddler wondered whether  there was more than one                                                                    
organization   that  provided   civil   legal  services   to                                                                    
Alaskans.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Clark was not aware  of any other providers. He deferred                                                                    
the question to Alaska Legal Services.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Ms.   Nelson   addressed   whether  there   had   been   any                                                                    
appropriations    from    the    punitive    damages    fund                                                                    
authorization.  She   answered  that  there  had   been  one                                                                    
appropriation of  $110,000 in  2011 from  the years  2007 to                                                                    
2011.   Secondly,  she   replied  that   there  were   other                                                                    
organizations that  provided free legal services  in Alaska;                                                                    
however,  Alaska  Legal  Services  was  the  only  statewide                                                                    
provider of  comprehensive free  legal services.  She shared                                                                    
that  other  legal  services providers  delivered  niche  or                                                                    
restricted legal services.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
2:55:35 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Vice-Chair  Saddler  asked   whether  other  legal  services                                                                    
providers received money from the legal services fund.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Ms.  Nelson   replied  that  to   her  knowledge   the  only                                                                    
appropriation was the $110,000 to ALSC.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Representative Gara  recalled that the constitution  did not                                                                    
allow dedicated  funds but pointed out  that the legislature                                                                    
was inclined  to "honor"  accounts of  this type  when money                                                                    
was available.  He though that  HB 154 "worked  better" than                                                                    
existing law because determining  25 percent of court filing                                                                    
fees was easily calculated. He  related that even though the                                                                    
state was entitled  to 50 percent of  punitive damages; when                                                                    
parties  settled cases  most of  the awarded  settlement was                                                                    
described as compensatory rather  than punitive damages. The                                                                    
current    mechanism    was    designed    to    incentivize                                                                    
underreporting of punitive damages.  He stated that the bill                                                                    
provided  a quantifiable  amount of  money for  deposit into                                                                    
the fund.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Wilson  MOVED  to   REPORT  HB  154  out  of                                                                    
committee   with   individual    recommendations   and   the                                                                    
accompanying fiscal note.                                                                                                       
HB 154 was REPORTED out of committee with a "do pass"                                                                           
recommendation and with one previously published zero                                                                           
fiscal note: FN1 (AJS).                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
2:58:30 PM                                                                                                                    
AT EASE                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
3:02:03 PM                                                                                                                    
RECONVENED                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 154 Additional Documentation--ALSC Restrictions Clarification.pdf HFIN 4/13/2015 1:30:00 PM
HB 154
HB 154 Support for Senate Companion Legislation--Alaska Childrens Trust.pdf HFIN 4/13/2015 1:30:00 PM
HB 154
HB 154 Additional Documentation--Civil Legal Services Fact Sheet.pdf HFIN 4/13/2015 1:30:00 PM
HB 154
HB 154 Support for Senate Companion Legislation--Alaska Coalition on Housing.pdf HFIN 4/13/2015 1:30:00 PM
HB 154
HB 154 Support for Senate Companion Legislation--Alaska Mental Health Board.pdf HFIN 4/13/2015 1:30:00 PM
HB 154
HB 154 Support for Senate Companion Legislation--ANDVSA.pdf HFIN 4/13/2015 1:30:00 PM
HB 154
HB 154 Support for Senate Companion Legislation--Facing Foster Care in Alaska.pdf HFIN 4/13/2015 1:30:00 PM
HB 154
HB 154 Support for Senate Companion Legislation--Governor's Council on Disabilities.pdf HFIN 4/13/2015 1:30:00 PM
HB 154
HB 154 Support for Senate Companion Legislation--VCI.jpg HFIN 4/13/2015 1:30:00 PM
HB 154
HB 154 Support Letter ACoA.pdf HFIN 4/13/2015 1:30:00 PM
HB 154
CS for proposed CS HB 105 H-Fin ver N Sectional Analysis AIDEA 4-13-15.pdf HFIN 4/13/2015 1:30:00 PM
HB 105
Explaination of changes HB 105 version E to version N.pdf HFIN 4/13/2015 1:30:00 PM
HB 105
Explaination of changes HB 105 version H to version E.pdf HFIN 4/13/2015 1:30:00 PM
HB 105
HB 105 CS WORKDRAFT FIN.pdf HFIN 4/13/2015 1:30:00 PM
HB 105
HB 105 HFIN AIDEA IEP.pdf HFIN 4/13/2015 1:30:00 PM
HB 105
Waterfall Creek-King Cove HB143.pdf HFIN 4/13/2015 1:30:00 PM
HB 143
HB 105 Juneau Hydropower.pdf HFIN 4/13/2015 1:30:00 PM
HB 105
HB 190 Sponsor Statement.pdf HFIN 4/13/2015 1:30:00 PM
HB 190
HB 190 Sectional.pdf HFIN 4/13/2015 1:30:00 PM
HB 190