Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 106


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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved Out of Committee
Moved CSHB 53(HES) Out of Committee
Moved CSHB 111(HES) Out of Committee
Moved CSHB 220(HES) Out of Committee
Scheduled But Not Heard
Bills 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                                                               
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                                                               
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.                                                                                                    

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