Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 106
03/31/2005 03:00 PM HEALTH, EDUCATION & SOCIAL SERVICES
Download Mp3. <- Right click and save file as
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 53-CHILDREN IN NEED OF AID/REVIEW PANELS CHAIR WILSON announced that the next order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 53, "An Act relating to child-in-need-of-aid proceedings; amending the construction of statutes pertaining to children in need of aid; relating to a duty and standard of care for services to children and families; amending court hearing procedures to allow public attendance at child-in-need-of-aid proceedings; establishing a right to a trial by jury in termination of parental rights proceedings; reestablishing and relating to state and local citizens' review panels for certain child custody matters; amending the duty to disclose information pertaining to a child in need of aid; establishing a distribution age for permanent fund dividends held in trust for a child committed to the custody of the Department of Health and Social Services; mandating reporting of the medication of children in state custody; prescribing the rights of grandparents related to child-in- need-of-aid cases and establishing a grandparent priority for adoption in certain child-in-need-of-aid cases; modifying adoption and placement procedures in certain child-in- need-of-aid cases; amending treatment service requirements for parents involved in child-in- need-of-aid proceedings; amending Rules 3 and 18, Alaska Child in Need of Aid Rules of Procedure; and providing for an effective date." 3:19:38 PM REPRESENTATIVE SEATON moved to adopt the proposed committee substitute (CS) for SSHB 53, labeled 24-LS0251\X, Mischel, 3/30/05, as the working document. There being no objection, Version X was before the committee. 3:20:07 PM RYNNIEVA MOSS, Staff to Representative John Coghill, Alaska State Legislature, explained the changes made to HB 53 in Version Y. She noted that the amendments recommended by the Department of Law [DOL] had been incorporated with a few exceptions. She explained that Section 1 was split into two sections, and these sections build a bridge between the guardian statutes, the adoption statutes, and the Child in Need of Aid (CINA) statutes as they pertain to an adult family member getting guardianship. She noted that Section 4 originally said that if an adult family member had cared for a child for two years he/she would get preference in an adoption, however this has been changed to 12 consecutive months. MS. MOSS turned to Section 5 and explained that it mirrors the language [HB 114] dealing with voluntary relinquishment of parental rights. She said, "On behalf of Representative Coghill, I would really like to express our gratitude to [the House State Affairs Standing Committee] and all the work they put into HB 114. That bill is folded into HB 53 in its entirety, with no changes." Section 10, at the request of DOL, tightens up the provisions for a jury trial, which she remarked would ensure that jury trials were available for termination of parental rights, and "another section of [AS 47.10] which makes the determination of incarceration is grounds enough for termination of parental rights." MS. MOSS turned to Section 15 and noted that that language "interested person" has been changed to "non-party adult family member" in order to make it clear that parties to the CINA case are eligible for public counsel, but non-party adults are not. Section 16 was changed such that the mandatory language for foster parents being mentors was altered to language that would merely encourage it. She explained that in the original HB 53 there was a separate subsection for parental consent for drugs to treat mental health disorders; the new Section 17 folds this in to the original major medical provision that already exists in statute. MS. MOSS pointed out that DOL recommended that those entities to which confidential information can be disclosed should include a review panel that might be created by a governor or the legislature, which was added to Section 26. She stated that Section 31 provides for a grievance system in statutory language; it allows for the regulatory process to actually design the nuts and bolts of the system. She surmised that this would allow for more public input, public hearings, and public comment. She turned to Section 36 and explained that it would cleanup awkward language dealing with foster homes, foster home licensing, and family homes who become foster homes; she opined that this would make sure that family members who became foster parents would still have a priority for placement. MS. MOSS said that Section 50 changes the age group for which a transition plan would be prepared; currently it's 16-21 years of age and, at the request of DOL, the bill would change it to cover people ages 16-23 years of age. She continued, "The two areas of contention that will be discussed in [the House Judiciary Standing Committee] ... [are] the jury trial and the construction language. ... I think we're one step closer to the possibility of having at least some jury trials." She remarked, "What we may discuss in [the House Judiciary Standing Committee] is when a judge terminates parental rights on a preponderance of evidence, the parents would have a right to a jury trial." 3:25:31 PM REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA stated that she saw a typographical error on one of the handouts she had from a previous meeting, and she asked if that had been remedied in Version X. MS. MOSS replied that both Legislative Legal and Research Services and DOL had gone over Version X, so she was sure that the typo had been fixed. CHAIR WILSON pointed out that the typo had indeed been fixed in Version X. 3:27:26 PM REPRESENTATIVE JOHN COGHILL, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor, commented that he is willing to pull the jury trial provision out of the bill, and stated that he is open to making changes as the bill progresses. He noted, "There are some things in the bill that I think already give us some comfort level, for example: we have opened up some of the court proceedings, I think, and given some guidelines to that. And we're allowing an oversight board ... that will be formulated under regulations." CHAIR WILSON stated that one of her concerns is that if everyone got a jury trial it would cost the state a lot of time and expense. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL said that it wasn't his expectation that every parental right termination would go to a jury trial. 3:29:51 PM MS. MOSS commented that one of the things that has been discussed over a number of years is the disparity between the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and CINA. She said, "ICWA is clear and convincing evidence to terminate parental rights; CINA is preponderance of the evidence. ... Discussing this trigger point would be one way to bring that level of proof on CINA equal with ICWA." 3:30:23 PM REPRESENTATIVE MCGUIRE said that one of the things that has happened as a result of ICWA and that high standard is that more and more Indian and Native Alaskan children are staying within their original family unit, including aunts, uncles, and grandparents. She said: That was the policy reason behind ICWA and that high standard of clear and convincing evidence, and in point of fact, it's worked. ... You want to get kids out of places where they're not safe, but wherever possible, ... try to keep them placed as close as possible to that family unit that they're connected to in some way. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL responded, "That is exactly the point, plus many of the things that we're doing in this bill are creating a more open process, a clearer line of authority, ... but also recognition that the family needs to be more thoroughly involved." 3:32:32 PM SCOTT TRAFFORD CALDER commented that he is a parent in Fairbanks and has been interested in these issues for the last 12 years, since his son was "essentially kidnapped and tortured by the Department of Health and Social Services." He continued: So obviously I'm very interested in this legislation and I think I've established my credibility as a careful reader. And I have to say that there were two other people here earlier who were so upset by the chair's decision not to hear public testimony today that they left, so I think there might be some people expecting 'nasty grams' for that. I have not previously testified on this bill, so I think that it's appropriate that I be given the opportunity to speak to the committee. And I regret that more public process and more discussion and more involvement with the people who are most interested in this has not taken place. At the same time, I certainly appreciate Representative Coghill and Rynnieva Moss for their diligence in this subject area over most of the years that I have been diligent in this subject area. And so I have a lot of respect and appreciation for them bringing this forward. MR. CALDER continued: So I'm for this bill. I have to say though that as a somewhat more than casual observer and a minor expert on this subject, I'm completely baffled by the 20 or so pages of amendments this time, plus the 10 or so pages of amendments the last time, and a new CS. But I appreciate that the process isn't always simple and easy, so I'm willing to go with that. And I think that it's very appropriate that the committee favorably consider this bill and pass it along with excellent recommendations. MR. CALDER continued: At every possible opportunity, I would encourage members of the legislature generally to regard this subject area as a matter of human rights for the people who have been harmed, or who may be harmed in the future, by improper actions by the administration of state government. This is the highest order of responsibility and authority, and potential danger for citizens that can be manifested by government: the interference with parent-child relationships. And so if there is ever any doubt in your mind or confusion about which way to go on any principle, I would ask you to err on the side of human rights and to not shield yourself, or ... negligently avoid the historical facts of this situation. I would encourage you to become more informed about these subjects. 3:36:22 PM REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON commented that oral testimony is no more compelling than a letter, email, or public opinion message. He then defended the chair by saying that she has provided ample time [for public testimony]. He noted that the House Health, Education and Social Services Standing Committee is the first committee of referral for HB 53. He highlighted that the public can track legislation and scheduled hearings through their local newspaper and the legislature's Bill Action and Status Inquiry System (BASIS) on the Internet. He encouraged people not to wait until the last minute to become involved. CHAIR WILSON closed public testimony. 3:37:36 PM REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON moved to report the proposed committee substitute for SSHB 53, labeled 24-LS0251\X, Mischel, 3/30/05, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSSSHB 53(HES) was reported from the House Health, Education and Social Services Standing Committee.