Legislature(2017 - 2018)HOUSE FINANCE 519
04/06/2017 01:30 PM FINANCE
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HOUSE BILL NO. 127 "An Act relating to a permanent fund dividend for an individual whose conviction has been vacated, reversed, or dismissed; and relating to the calculation of the value of the permanent fund dividend by including payment to individuals eligible for a permanent fund dividend because of a conviction that has been vacated, reversed, or dismissed." 2:26:33 PM Representative Wilson referred to page 1, line 10 and read the following: …individual's conviction is vacated or reversed, and (1) the charges on which the conviction was based are later dismissed; or (2) the individual is retried and found not guilty. Representative Wilson wondered whether the language meant that if a conviction had been merely vacated a person was not eligible under the bill. REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT KAWASAKI, SPONSOR, relayed that the bill was not necessarily introduced to address the Fairbanks Four. He voiced that the bill was intended to address anyone who was wrongfully convicted and incarcerated and was denied the ability to receive a Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD). He deferred any questions regarding the Fairbanks Four to the Department of Law. He noted that he had a copy of the agreement between Attorney General Craig Richards and the individuals known as the Fairbanks Four. Representative Wilson believed that the Fairbanks Four would not be eligible under the bill. She cited previous testimony from the individual members of the Fairbanks Four who testified in favor of the bill. 2:29:25 PM HILARY MARTIN, LEGISLATIVE LEGAL, JUNEAU (via teleconference), did not know the answer to the question. Representative Wilson repeated the question. KACI SCHROEDER, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, CRIMINAL DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF LAW, replied that the Fairbanks Four would fall under the bill because the convictions were vacated, and the charges were dismissed. Representative Wilson asked for verification that all the charges against the Four were dismissed. Ms. Schroeder replied in the affirmative. Representative Thompson asked about the difference between overturned, dismissed, and vacated. Ms. Schroeder answered that all the judgements were vacated in the case of the Fairbanks Four. She added that vacated and reversed meant to annul. The words were used interchangeably. 2:32:31 PM Representative Guttenberg pointed to page 1, line 10 after the word "reversed" in the bill and asked if the comma was considered an Oxford comma that separated the clauses. Ms. Schroeder replied in the affirmative. Representative Pruitt asked how many people were eligible under the provisions in the bill. Ms. Schroeder did not have the data. She believed the bill sponsor had the exact numbers. Representative Pruitt spoke of a previous situation when the governor had the ability to pardon people. He wondered whether previously pardoned people had the ability to claim their dividend. Ms. Schroeder responded that the bill did not include pardons. She deferred the question to the Department of Revenue. Representative Kawasaki relayed the difficulty to obtain data regarding the issue and that DOL did not track the information, however, he discovered that the Court System produced some data for a similar bill in the 29th legislature. He reported that the number showed that 19 to 23 individuals between the years 2011 and 2015 were eligible. Representative Pruitt believed that the bill was retroactive to 1982 at the start of the PFD distribution. He wondered if the sponsor had any idea how many individuals would be eligible since 1982. He also asked whether the bill provided for interest accrual. Representative Kawasaki answered that the bill did not contain a provision applying interest to the retroactive payments. He added that DOR would determine the value of the PFD for each year the individual applied for and DOL would decide eligibility. The bill provided for an application period of 120 days after the bill was signed into law. Representative Pruitt asked whether the appropriations would come out of the Earnings Reserve Account (ERA) of the Permanent Fund. Representative Kawasaki answered that the money would be paid from a specific "Reserve for Prior Year Dividend Liabilities." He explained that DOR established the reserve account for circumstances when prior year dividends were owed, which was why the fiscal note was zero. 2:38:30 PM Representative Pruitt commented that prisoners PFDs were applied to health care costs or victim's compensation and the funds were already spent. He asked whether any future "conflicts" might arise from the issue that the funds were already spent and used money from the reserve account for compensation. Representative Kawasaki thought it was a policy call. He believed that a person who went to jail and was wrongfully convicted was a victim. He contended that the legislation was for the wrongfully convicted. Representative Pruitt wanted to understand any ancillary fiscal effects of the bill. He agreed that if a person was wrongfully convicted their life was disrupted. He wanted to ensure that the reserve fund would be the absolute source of the reimbursement funding. Representative Kawasaki reiterated that the issue was a policy call. He believed that when a person was placed in jail and wrongfully convicted the state owed the victims something. He pointed out that the individual was denied the benefit of applying for the PFD. Representative Pruitt requested that DOR answer the question. He merely wanted to understand the fiscal ramifications from the bill. 2:41:45 PM JERRY BURNETT, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, TREASURY DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, responded that in 1982 the incarcerated population in Alaska could apply for a PFD until sometime in the 1990s so the retroactivity did not go back that far. He confirmed that the money would be paid for out of the Reserve for Prior Year Dividends, which was calculated each year on a statistical basis. He thought the number of people the legislation would affect was "not significant relative to the amount of money reserved each year." He delineated that the reserve funding was used to pay for situations such as upheld appeals from the Office of Administrative Hearings, Commissioner's Office, or by the Courts. He reiterated that the bill would cover an "insignificant" number of people relative to the total number of appeals. Vice-Chair Gara did not see a provision for notifying someone who was released from wrongful incarceration included in the bill. He thought 120 days was a short period of time for people who were trying to piece their lives together after release. He felt that a year was fairer. Representative Kawasaki replied that the previous committee engaged in discussion over the time period but did not want to offer an amendment to lengthen the amount of time. He announced that he would honor the will of the committee. Vice-Chair Gara commented that he wanted the sponsor to decide whether to offer the amendment. Co-Chair Foster asked members to submit their amendments by 5:00 pm, Monday, 10, 2017. HB 127 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further consideration.