Legislature(2015 - 2016)CAPITOL 106

03/22/2016 03:00 PM HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
*+ HB 315 ELECTRONIC VISIT VERIFICATION: MEDICAID TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
*+ HB 334 CHILD CUSTODY;DOM. VIOLENCE;CHILD ABUSE TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
*+ HB 328 REGULATION OF SMOKING TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
         HB 334-CHILD CUSTODY;DOM. VIOLENCE;CHILD ABUSE                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
3:47:10 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
VICE  CHAIR VAZQUEZ  announced that  the next  order of  business                                                               
would be HOUSE  BILL NO. 334, "An Act relating  to visitation and                                                               
child custody."                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
3:47:42 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CATHY  MUNOZ, Alaska State  Legislature, explained                                                               
that she  had given  a lot  of thought to  AS 25.24.150,  and its                                                               
judgements for  custody.   She relayed that  she had  met several                                                               
individuals   who    had   experienced    significantly   damaged                                                               
relationships with their children due  to the application of this                                                               
law.  She paraphrased from the Sponsor Statement, which read:                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     HB 334  was introduced  to give judges  more discretion                                                                    
     in  determining  the  best interest  of  the  child  in                                                                    
     custody  cases.  Currently,  AS  25.24.150  includes  a                                                                    
     provision  that  if  a  parent   has  been  accused  of                                                                    
     domestic violence  that parent may not  be awarded sole                                                                    
     or  joint  physical  or legal  custody  of  the  child.                                                                    
     Although there is a rebuttable  presumption in place to                                                                    
     overcome  this  provision,  it  is  a  lengthy  process                                                                    
     involving  the  requirement  to  complete  a  one  year                                                                    
     batterer's intervention  program. Domestic  violence is                                                                    
     broadly  defined   to  include  an   ex-parte  domestic                                                                    
     violence order,  a violation  of an  order, misdemeanor                                                                    
     assault, or allegations  of abuse. In 2004,  HB 385 was                                                                    
     signed  into  law   which  established  the  rebuttable                                                                    
     presumption.  The intent  of  this  legislation was  to                                                                    
     ensure  those  with  a  criminal  history  of  domestic                                                                    
     violence were  held accountable  for their  actions and                                                                    
     that the children in question  were protected. At times                                                                    
     the provisions  of AS 25.24.150 are  used for custodial                                                                    
     advantage. In  these instances,  the discretion  of the                                                                    
     court is limited and the  best interest of the child is                                                                    
     affected.  The  U.S.  Department of  Health  and  Human                                                                    
     Services   states,  "Fatherless   children  are   at  a                                                                    
     dramatically greater  risk of drug and  alcohol abuse."                                                                    
     Additionally,  they state  "Fatherless children  living                                                                    
     in homes  without contact with their  biological father                                                                    
     are  twice as  likely to  drop out  of school."  HB 334                                                                    
     seeks to give flexibility  to judges, while maintaining                                                                    
     the  presumption  for   those  with  criminal  domestic                                                                    
     violence  convictions  while  ensuring that  the  well-                                                                    
     being of children remains our primary priority.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REP. MUNOZ read from the proposed bill, page 4, line 29:                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     The  willingness   and  ability   of  each   parent  to                                                                    
     facilitate  and   encourage  a  close   and  continuing                                                                    
     relationship  between the  other parent  and the  child                                                                    
     except   that  the   court   may   not  consider   this                                                                    
     willingness and  ability if one  parent shows  that the                                                                    
     other  parent  has  sexually assaulted  or  engaged  in                                                                    
     domestic violence...                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REP. MUNOZ  expressed her concern  with the "engaged  in domestic                                                               
violence" language.   She  declared that  there was  a rebuttable                                                               
presumption  in  which  the  parents   accused  or  convicted  of                                                               
domestic violence on  one or more occasions could  complete a one                                                               
year  batters' intervention  program, although  the parent  could                                                               
only see the child under  supervised conditions on a very limited                                                               
basis during  this year.   She reported  that Alaska had  some of                                                               
the toughest domestic violence laws in  the U.S.  She stated that                                                               
the changes proposed  in the bill would not weaken  the laws, and                                                               
the domestic violence orders or  the process for filing would not                                                               
change.   She shared that the  proposed changes to the  law would                                                               
require a  conviction of domestic  violence for  those provisions                                                               
of  AS  25.24.150 to  apply  in  custodial decisions,  and  would                                                               
result in more equity, due process,  and the best interest of the                                                               
child  to   be  the  first  priority   in  determining  custodial                                                               
arrangements.  She  shared an anecdote for the  problems with the                                                               
statute.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
3:54:43 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
[Vice Chair Vazquez returned the gavel to Chair Seaton]                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  MUNOZ,   in  response  to   Representative  Tarr,                                                               
explained  that  the current  law  could  be used  for  custodial                                                               
advantage, as  it was  as ex-parte filing  which did  not require                                                               
both parties to  be present.  She shared that  any contact during                                                               
this time could result in a  violation of the ex-parte order, and                                                               
be considered a domestic violence incident.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
3:56:35 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEATON opened public testimony.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
3:56:47 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
AL  LEVY,   Chair,  Board   of  Psychologist   and  Psychological                                                               
Associate Examiners, stated that  he was representing himself and                                                               
the interests  of his clients.   He declared that he  was opposed                                                               
to  HB  334.   He  shared  that he  was  a  therapist in  private                                                               
practice in Anchorage, he worked  with children and families many                                                               
of which  were families  going through divorce,  and that  he had                                                               
been addressing domestic  violence and its effects  for almost 30                                                               
years.   He  emphasized that  passage  of proposed  HB 334  would                                                               
"roll back  the clock  30 years in  terms of  protecting children                                                               
and victim parents  to a time when there was  little recourse for                                                               
victims  and children."   He  declared that  children and  victim                                                               
parents had  the right to  live free of  abuse and the  threat of                                                               
violence,  they deserved  safety.   He stated  that the  proposed                                                               
bill would  cost too much  money at a  time when the  state could                                                               
least afford it,  as it would dramatically increase  costs to the                                                               
State  of Alaska.    He explained  that raising  the  bar from  a                                                               
finding of domestic violence by  the preponderance of evidence to                                                               
the conviction of a crime  of domestic violence, which was beyond                                                               
a reasonable doubt, would lead  to increased demands on the state                                                               
attorney general,  as well as municipal  prosecutors to prosecute                                                               
every  case of  domestic violence.   He  stated that  there would                                                               
also  be   increased  demands  on  the   state  troopers,  police                                                               
departments, the  public defender's office, the  Office of Public                                                               
Advocacy, the courts, and the  Office of Children's Services.  He                                                               
emphasized that  the rebuttable  presumption worked,  it required                                                               
the judge to find the domestic  violence, and the current law did                                                               
a  good job  protecting vulnerable  children and  victim parents.                                                               
He acknowledged  that errors for  finding domestic  violence when                                                               
none had  occurred could  happen, although  these cases  were the                                                               
exception,  and not  the  rule.   He  declared  that due  process                                                               
rights were currently observed,  as parents facing accusations of                                                               
domestic  violence were  afforded the  opportunity to  face their                                                               
accuser,  hear  and  see  the evidence,  and  offer  evidence  in                                                               
return.   He stressed  that the proposed  bill was  not restoring                                                               
any lost  rights to  accused parents,  but was,  instead, denying                                                               
the right to  safety for vulnerable children  and victim parents.                                                               
He declared  that raising the  standard to a  criminal conviction                                                               
beyond  a reasonable  doubt was  unreasonable and  unrealistic to                                                               
the victims  of domestic  violence.  He  said that  education and                                                               
better  training for  judges,  custody investigators,  attorneys,                                                               
and social workers was needed,  as this would increase knowledge,                                                               
accuracy, and understanding about  domestic violence.  He relayed                                                               
that safety was the highest priority, not parents' rights.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
4:04:12 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  TARR mused  that  the challenge  was that  "human                                                               
relationships are so  complex."  She pointed to  the potential to                                                               
behave  in   damaging  ways  during   custody  battles   and  the                                                               
dissolving of  relationships.  She  asked if  there was a  way to                                                               
address these circumstances for who was telling the truth.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. LEVY offered his belief that  the primary need was for better                                                               
training in education,  as every dollar invested  would bring ten                                                               
times the  return in  dividends for  savings in  cost, heartache,                                                               
and damage  to people.   He suggested to  not cut the  budget for                                                               
the Alaska  Network on Domestic  Violence and Sexual  Assault and                                                               
instead,  to provide  the resources  necessary for  education and                                                               
training.   He suggested required  training on  domestic violence                                                               
to  police  officers,  social  workers,  judges,  and  other  key                                                               
players.   He  relayed that  10  percent of  divorce and  custody                                                               
cases take  up 90  percent of  the court  time.   He acknowledged                                                               
that these  cases typically involved  serious questions  of harm,                                                               
substance  abuse,  and  domestic  violence,  and  required  close                                                               
scrutiny  by trained  experts  who knew  what to  look  for.   He                                                               
suggested  that  more  resources  be provided  to  state  custody                                                               
investigators,  as currently  there was  an income  cut-off which                                                               
made  it  difficult  for  many people,  with  income  above  that                                                               
amount, to  afford a private  custody investigator.   He reminded                                                               
the committee that  every dollar spent on  prevention would "reap                                                               
huge benefits down the road."                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
4:08:15 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
DEBBIE  HOLBROOK,  Attorney,  relayed   that  she  had  practiced                                                               
domestic relations and family law, as  well as civil law over the                                                               
past 40 years.   She shared that she had been  a mediator for the                                                               
court system,  as well as a  guardian ad litem, and  that she was                                                               
aware  that all  the sociological  studies on  the adjustment  of                                                               
children after  divorce was  to make sure  that the  children had                                                               
frequent and open access to both  parents.  She reported that the                                                               
changes  in   the  custody  statute   since  2004   had  included                                                               
references  to   domestic  violence  which  did   not  require  a                                                               
conviction, so  consequently there were now  attempts to litigate                                                               
domestic  violence crime  in  the midst  of  civil divorce  cases                                                               
without affording the accused any  of the criminal safeguards and                                                               
protections afforded someone  if they were charged  with a crime.                                                               
She opined that this had led  to serious problems, and she stated                                                               
her support  of the proposed bill.   She offered her  belief that                                                               
"the pendulum has  swung too far on this  domestic violence issue                                                               
at least  with regards  to private  custody cases.   I  have seen                                                               
that allegations alone have become  a bludgeon to be used against                                                               
fathers in custody  cases."  She stated that  once the allegation                                                               
was made  there was no  longer a  presumption of innocence.   She                                                               
explained that the issuance of  an ex parte restraining order was                                                               
the start of  the difficulties for fathers, as  this could result                                                               
in no contact  or only supervised visits with the  children.  She                                                               
offered her belief  that young fathers were not  in the financial                                                               
position to  afford an  attorney and were  often quite  naïve and                                                               
unaware about  the custody statutes,  the repercussions,  and the                                                               
breadth of  the definition  for domestic  violence.   She relayed                                                               
that her experience indicated that  many women were encouraged to                                                               
use this as  a "weapon."  She said that  many judges were worried                                                               
about looking  soft on  domestic violence,  and often  cited that                                                               
their  hands were  tied by  the statute.   She  opined that  most                                                               
people  were not  aware  of  how very  broad  the definition  for                                                               
domestic  violence had  become,  and could  now include  texting,                                                               
yelling, and telephone conversations.   She declared that she was                                                               
not trying  to minimize domestic  violence, but  that requirement                                                               
of conviction  allowed the accused some  protections when accused                                                               
of  something this  serious.   She  opined  that the  legislature                                                               
needed to  be aware  when removing  obstacles, and  that children                                                               
needed access to both parents.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
4:16:02 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ANDY HARRINGTON  said that  he had  done a lot  of pro  bono work                                                               
over  the   years.    He   offered  six  points   supporting  his                                                               
understanding that  the approach of  the proposed bill was  not a                                                               
good  idea.   He  offered his  first point  that  the history  of                                                               
domestic  violence  proven by  a  preponderance  of the  evidence                                                               
before  a civil  court  was  an appropriate  basis  to apply  the                                                               
presumption that  was currently in  the statute.  He  stated that                                                               
the requirement for  a conviction proved before  another court by                                                               
a reasonable  doubt would  run the  risk of  erasing some  of the                                                               
progress that  had been made over  the last several years  on the                                                               
overwhelming  domestic  violence  problem.   He  noted  that  the                                                               
Alaska   Supreme  Court   had  already   given  the   statute  an                                                               
appropriately  narrowed interpretation  which  prevented it  from                                                               
being  abused  and misused  in  many  situations, and  that  this                                                               
should be  taken into  account.  He  suggested that  the proposed                                                               
bill could expand application of  the presumption, as the history                                                               
of domestic violence  meant two incidences, or  one incident that                                                               
caused serious physical injury.   He offered his belief that this                                                               
needed  to  be  thought  through quite  carefully,  as  it  could                                                               
broaden the application.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
4:17:46 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
[Chair Seaton passed the gavel to Vice Chair Vazquez]                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
4:18:06 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  HARRINGTON stated  that there  many reasons  why there  were                                                               
more incidents of domestic violence  than there were convictions,                                                               
including under  reporting, lack  of law enforcement,  and courts                                                               
that needed  to decrease  hours.  He  suggested that,  should the                                                               
legislature  couple this  change with  a significant  increase in                                                               
law enforcement,  prosecutors, public  defenders, and  courts, it                                                               
might  then make  some sense.   He  stated his  concern with  the                                                               
disparate  impact on  rural and  urban  areas, as  there was  "an                                                               
unfortunate reality  that criminal  law enforcement cannot  be as                                                               
responsive to Alaska's  rural areas as it is in  urban areas.  We                                                               
can't afford  to achieve that  equality."  He offered  his belief                                                               
that  this  was   another  reason  why  the   requirement  for  a                                                               
conviction before the presumption of  guilt was applied was not a                                                               
good  idea.   He asked  that the  legislators not  make up  their                                                               
minds based  on hearing one side  of an anecdote that  may or may                                                               
not be representative of what was happening on a larger scale.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
VICE  CHAIR VAZQUEZ  asked  for  him to  cite  the Supreme  Court                                                               
decision regarding this statute.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR.  HARRINGTON,  in response,  relayed  that,  in 270  P.3d  737                                                               
(2012),  the  court had  held  that  completion of  a  batterer's                                                               
intervention  program  was   not  the  only  way   to  rebut  the                                                               
presumption, and that  the Superior Court was  not prevented from                                                               
completing a best interest analysis.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WOOL  asked  about  earlier  testimony  that  the                                                               
definition of domestic violence  had expanded to include texting,                                                               
phone  calls, and  yelling, and  whether this  broader definition                                                               
had  now included  more people  "under the  umbrella of  domestic                                                               
violence."  He  asked if this could preclude  someone from having                                                               
any visitation with their child.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. HARRINGTON opined that these  and similar incidences could be                                                               
a  violation of  the domestic  violence statute  if committed  in                                                               
violation  of  an  existing  protective   order.    He  expressed                                                               
agreement that  it was  appropriate to be  held accountable.   He                                                               
shared  that,  if the  point  was  made  that the  definition  of                                                               
domestic  violence  was too  broad,  then  perhaps it  should  be                                                               
reviewed  to determine  if it  encompasses items  that it  should                                                               
not, and then adjust the definition.   He offered his belief that                                                               
the approach of  the proposed bill was not the  right solution to                                                               
that particular problem.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WOOL  suggested that  this may be  a case  by case                                                               
situation.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
4:23:13 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JOHN HOAG, Attorney, said that  he had sent in comments [included                                                               
in members'  packets].  He  reported that he had  volunteered and                                                               
handled about 90  domestic violence cases pro bono  over the past                                                               
9 years.   He  stated that  rarely had  he seen  a case  with one                                                               
incident  of domestic  violence, as  most cases  had patterns  of                                                               
domestic violence that usually occurred  over time.  He expressed                                                               
agreement  with  earlier testimony  that  it  was "the  most  un-                                                               
reported  crime probably  there is."   He  said that  requiring a                                                               
conviction  was  a  bad  idea,   and  he  testified  against  the                                                               
amendments.   He  clarified that  attorneys were  appointed if  a                                                               
person could not afford them in  a custody case if there had been                                                               
issues of domestic violence.   He offered his opinion that judges                                                               
were very reluctant  to order supervised visitation,  and that it                                                               
was usually arranged through family or  friends, and it was not a                                                               
cost  factor.   He reported  that  the Supreme  Court had  deemed                                                               
there must be  a pathway for unsupervised visitation.   He stated                                                               
that  the cases  where this  supervision remained  in place  were                                                               
most often  when the party  did not follow the  court directives.                                                               
He  urged the  committee not  to pass  this bill,  as it  was his                                                               
experience that  most women  did not  use this as  a weapon.   He                                                               
suggested that  the definition of  domestic violence  be expanded                                                               
to  cover  abusive  relationships  and  the  terrible  effect  on                                                               
children.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
4:27:01 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
KATHRYN  SODEN,  Senior  Staff Attorney,  Legal  Program,  Alaska                                                               
Network of Domestic Violence and  Sexual Assault (ANDVSA), stated                                                               
that she  was speaking  in opposition  to proposed  HB 334.   She                                                               
shared that she had worked with  ANDVSA for more than five years,                                                               
and had  represented men and  women who had  experienced domestic                                                               
violence in  family law  cases.  She  expressed her  concern that                                                               
there were  many reasons  for a lack  of criminal  conviction for                                                               
domestic violence,  although the  victims and the  children still                                                               
needed the protections of the law.   She said that the rebuttable                                                               
presumption law had protected children  in many cases where there                                                               
were not  any criminal  convictions.   She shared  two anecdotes,                                                               
the first  of which  included four to  five criminal  charges for                                                               
domestic  violence being  filed against  the abusive  mother, but                                                               
subsequently  being dismissed.    She relayed  that the  domestic                                                               
violence  rebuttable presumption  had then  been applied  and the                                                               
custody of  the children was awarded  to the father.   She stated                                                               
that  this made  the children  safer.   In the  second case,  the                                                               
mother had endured years of abuse  from the father, but had never                                                               
sought help  from the  police because she  did not  speak English                                                               
and was  isolated within  an ethnic  community.   Again, although                                                               
there were no  convictions against the father,  the court applied                                                               
the  rebuttable  presumption  law  and  awarded  custody  of  the                                                               
children to the mother.  She  stated that in both cases, when the                                                               
presumption was  applied, the abusive  parent still  had frequent                                                               
regular and open contact with  the children while that parent was                                                               
required to  get services to  address the problem.   She declared                                                               
that the rebuttable  presumption law was working as  it should to                                                               
keep Alaskan  kids safe.   She reiterated  her opposition  to the                                                               
proposed bill.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MS. SODEN, in response to  Representative Tarr, said that, in her                                                               
experience,  an   ex  parte  protective   order  alone   was  not                                                               
considered as an incident of  domestic violence, in order for the                                                               
court  to  apply  the  presumption   law.    She  said  that  the                                                               
presumption law  required a preponderance of  evidence, which was                                                               
not  the standard  for an  ex  parte that  domestic violence  had                                                               
occurred.  She relayed that the  system could make the finding of                                                               
domestic  violence upon  further litigation,  as then  both sides                                                               
would have  the opportunity to  be heard.   She said that  it was                                                               
not her experience that the courts  would cut off kids from their                                                               
parents for  a year, and  that the  courts were very  hesitant to                                                               
take away visitation  even in extremely abusive  situations.  She                                                               
declared that  it was  important to keep  the presumption  law in                                                               
its current  state as it  allowed the victim's parent  the safety                                                               
of  having sole  legal  and primary  physical  custody until  the                                                               
abuser gets treatment for the issues.   She stated that it was an                                                               
extremely rare circumstance for the  court to cut off all contact                                                               
with the children.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
4:33:18 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SARALYN TABACHNICK,  Executive Director,  AWARE, stated  that the                                                               
proposed bill  was going  in the  wrong direction  for supporting                                                               
victims  of  domestic  violence,   particularly  children.    She                                                               
pointed  out that  not  every victim  of  domestic violence  even                                                               
reported to law  enforcement.  She shared that  her experience at                                                               
AWARE was  for children who had  been ordered by courts  to spend                                                               
unsupervised  time with  an  abusive parent,  one  that had  been                                                               
hurtful to  their mother,  a parent  they were  afraid of,  and a                                                               
parent who  may be directly abusive  to the child, as  well.  She                                                               
stated that  much more  often at  AWARE it  was mothers  who were                                                               
trying to protect their children.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
The committee took a brief at-ease.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
4:35:55 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. TABACHNICK  continued her testimony,  stating that  often the                                                               
children were sent  to be with a parent who  terrified them.  She                                                               
reported that often  this was a regular repetitive  pattern.  She                                                               
pointed  out  that  unless  a child  could  articulate  what  was                                                               
terrifying for them,  there was not any protection  for them, and                                                               
that they  could not tell  until they  felt safe.   She continued                                                               
and stated that children will not  feel safe until they were free                                                               
from harm and fear.  She  relayed that children were being raised                                                               
learning  that their  needs and  feelings did  not matter,  their                                                               
boundaries  were not  respected or  important, and  they did  not                                                               
have rights  to boundaries.   She stressed  that this set  up the                                                               
most vulnerable  children to  be harmed.   She declared  that she                                                               
found proposed HB 334 "to be  one of the most disheartening bills                                                               
I've  ever  spoken  to in  my  nearly  30  years  at AWARE.    If                                                               
anything, we  need laws that  further protect children;  not laws                                                               
that make  it more difficult  to keep  them safe."   She reported                                                               
that research  had indicated that  children were most  helped and                                                               
healed after divorce when both  parents got along.  She addressed                                                               
the  fear induced  by  domestic violence,  and  pointed out  that                                                               
texting  and  telephone  calls  by a  person  who  has  committed                                                               
domestic violence were  another source of fear.   She stated that                                                               
"we  all deserve  to live  without fear  and without  concern for                                                               
fear particularly  in our intimate  partner relationships  and in                                                               
our parenting relationships."                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
4:38:26 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  TARR  relayed that  there  could  be hundreds  of                                                               
phone  calls and  texts harassing  an individual  and creating  a                                                               
feeling of being in real danger.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MS. TABACHNICK stated  that these were power  and control tactics                                                               
which  was  what domestic  violence  was  about, the  control  of                                                               
another person by keeping them in fear.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
4:39:30 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
KIRSTEN  SWANSON, Attorney,  paraphrased  from a  letter she  had                                                               
submitted to  the committee, which  read:  [included  in members'                                                               
packets.]                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     I am  writing this  letter in support  of HB  334. This                                                                    
     bill will  address some of the  unintended consequences                                                                    
     in  the domestic  violence statutes.  No one  should be                                                                    
     the  victim of  violence from  a domestic  partner, but                                                                    
     the  current   statutes  are   encouraging  unnecessary                                                                    
     litigation  and  hurting  children.  Domestic  violence                                                                    
     restraining orders are civil  cases, not criminal cases                                                                    
     so the burden  of proof is minimal. This  makes it much                                                                    
     easier for  someone to  now use the  court system  as a                                                                    
     weapon  against the  other  parent. Frequently,  people                                                                    
     will  file a  restraining  order before  they file  for                                                                    
     divorce or  custody of their children.  This allows the                                                                    
     person  who  makes the  allegation  to  kick the  other                                                                    
     parent  out of  the home,  restrict all  access to  the                                                                    
     children,  freeze  the  bank accounts  and  change  the                                                                    
     locks.  Once the  parties are  involved in  the custody                                                                    
     case  any  allegations  of  domestic  violence  have  a                                                                    
     tendency  to  severely  curtail access  of  the  parent                                                                    
     being  accused  of abuse  to  their  children. It  also                                                                    
     makes the  case more litigious  and hostile so  that it                                                                    
     is unlikely  that the parents  will be able  to mediate                                                                    
     their  differences  and  successfully  co-parent  their                                                                    
     children. The presumption in custody  cases is that the                                                                    
     non-abuser is  the better  parent. Therefore,  a person                                                                    
     who can  convince the  court that  they are  victims of                                                                    
     past  domestic violence  will get  full custody  of the                                                                    
     children. Unfortunately, the  presumption advantage has                                                                    
     encouraged people to exaggerate  and make up stories to                                                                    
     get  the  other  parent  labeled as  a  perpetrator  of                                                                    
     domestic  violence.  Even   if  the  domestic  violence                                                                    
     allegation is more  than ten years ago,  has nothing to                                                                    
     do  with the  children, does  not include  violence and                                                                    
     was never previously reported  to anyone the allegation                                                                    
     is  enough  to immediately  deny  access  of the  other                                                                    
     parent  to   the  children.  Children  are   then  left                                                                    
     confused  and hurt  as to  why a  parent they  love has                                                                    
     suddenly  and without  warning  disappeared from  their                                                                    
     life.  The increase  in  domestic violence  restraining                                                                    
     order  hearings and  domestic  violence allegations  in                                                                    
     custody cases  clogs the court system  with unnecessary                                                                    
     litigation.  It  costs  the judicial  system  resources                                                                    
     better used  in prosecuting criminal cases  of domestic                                                                    
     violence.   It  encourages   custody  hearings   to  be                                                                    
     contentious,  winner  take  all affairs  that  make  it                                                                    
     difficult for  parents to put aside  their differences,                                                                    
     put  the best  interests  of their  children first  and                                                                    
     learn  to   co-parent  their  children.  HB   334  will                                                                    
     actually  protect  victims  of  domestic  violence  and                                                                    
     children in  custody cases by removing  the impetus for                                                                    
     exaggerating  and  lying   about  prior  arguments  and                                                                    
     disagreements. When the court  system is inundated with                                                                    
     questionable  claims of  domestic  violence  it has  an                                                                    
     impact of  making domestic violence seem  less serious.                                                                    
     This  hurts people  who truly  are victims  in need  of                                                                    
     help  as  their   cases  end  up  delayed   due  to  an                                                                    
     overburdened court system.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
4:44:17 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
FRED  VALDEZ, Attorney,  stated that  he had  primarily practiced                                                               
family law  for the past 35  years, and had been  a prosecutor of                                                               
domestic violence  for 1.5 years.   He  said that he  was against                                                               
the proposed bill.  He reported  that the crime being charged was                                                               
often not  the first instance  of domestic violence, as  often it                                                               
was  not until  after many  incidences that  the victim  took the                                                               
initiative and called for help.   Hence, a standard of conviction                                                               
of a domestic violence crime was  not a good standard for change.                                                               
He suggested other  changes to guard against the  use of domestic                                                               
violence as a tool to gain  advantage in the battle over custody.                                                               
He  stated that  the  judges  had a  very  good  grasp for  these                                                               
situations.   He shared court  room presentations of  some texts,                                                               
stating  that  they  were  "too  vile  to  even  repeat  in  this                                                               
testimony.  They  threaten, they coerce, they call  names..."  He                                                               
expressed  agreement  that  these  texts  were  about  power  and                                                               
control,  emphasizing  that,  as   Alaska  had  a  huge  domestic                                                               
violence problem, the proposed bill was a step backwards.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
4:47:12 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JOSEPH COULTER-KHAN read from a prepared statement, which read:                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     My  name is  Joseph Coulter-Khan.  I am  fourteen years                                                                    
     old. I  am here  to tell you  why I think  HB 334  is a                                                                    
     step in  the wrong  direction. My  father has  not been                                                                    
     convicted of  domestic violence, but I  am legitimately                                                                    
     terrified  of him.  When I  lived with  him, I  saw him                                                                    
     yell constantly. I saw him  beat up my sister and shove                                                                    
     her down the  stairs. I saw him  constantly threaten my                                                                    
     mother,  my  sisters,  and me.  He  embarrasses  me  in                                                                    
     public with his yelling and  anger. I'm afraid of being                                                                    
     with  him. Every  time I  get a  phone call  my stomach                                                                    
     drops, I start to sweat, to  panic, pace, and go into a                                                                    
     whole  anxiety  attack.  I  start  hyperventilating.  I                                                                    
     don't  want to  live  with that  kind  of pressure  and                                                                    
     anxiety. It is a negative  energy and distracts me from                                                                    
     my schoolwork  and from doing  the things that  I love.                                                                    
     Because my  father has not  been convicted  of domestic                                                                    
     violence,  if HB  334 passes  I would  have to  go with                                                                    
     someone who has  abused me for 10-12  years. Why should                                                                    
     I be with him? Why should  he have the right to me when                                                                    
     he  is the  one  who abused  me?  If he  has  a say  in                                                                    
     everything I  do, he  may make  decisions that  are not                                                                    
     the  best for  me.  He told  me that  if  he gets  full                                                                    
     custody  he will  take me  to  Arizona and  not let  me                                                                    
     contact  my mother  at all.  He says  bad things  to me                                                                    
     about my  mother. Some mothers  are too afraid  to call                                                                    
     the police because they are  afraid of what the abusers                                                                    
     will do  to them when they  get out. So then  there are                                                                    
     abusers  who  get  custody  because  they  aren't  held                                                                    
     accountable  for   their  abuse.    My   childhood  was                                                                    
     stressful  and now  that I'm  away from  my father  I'm                                                                    
     feeling better. If I have  to spend more time with him,                                                                    
     it will waste the rest of  the childhood that I have. I                                                                    
     won't  have  a regular  childhood.  You  don't know  my                                                                    
     father. You don't know what  he's done. But there is no                                                                    
     conviction  of domestic  violence. HB  334 violates  my                                                                    
     rights as a minor to safety from my abusive father.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
4:50:54 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CATHY COULTER-KHAN  said that she  was also a victim  of domestic                                                               
violence, and  shared her educational background,  including that                                                               
she was a Fulbright  Scholar and a PhD.  She  stated that she had                                                               
spent more than 20 years in  an abusive marriage in which she was                                                               
physically and  emotionally abused.   She  shared an  incident of                                                               
violence in  which her  husband was  subsequently arrested.   She                                                               
stated that  she did not  leave simply  because she did  not have                                                               
the means to  leave and she could  not see an escape  route.  She                                                               
did  not know  where  she  would go  and  how  would she  support                                                               
herself and  her children.   As a  result, she  denied everything                                                               
and the charges were dropped, and  there was not a conviction for                                                               
domestic violence.  She pointed  out that the proposed bill would                                                               
not  have  allowed  that  instance of  domestic  violence  to  be                                                               
consequential in a current hearing,  as it had happened more than                                                               
five  years prior.   She  explained that  abusers would  isolate,                                                               
denigrate,  and  cut  their  victims   off  from  any  source  of                                                               
independence.   Life  was  a  series of  crises  and  day to  day                                                               
survival.   She relayed  instances of  abuse, shame,  and mockery                                                               
her  husband  had  heaped  on  her  children  until  one  of  her                                                               
daughters had  entered the crisis  center during her  junior year                                                               
in high  school.   She pointed  out that there  had never  been a                                                               
conviction of  domestic violence.   She reported that it  was not                                                               
until after  more than  20 years  of abuse that  she was  able to                                                               
leave, because she had a job  that would support her, and she had                                                               
family and friends  who supported her.  She stated  that this was                                                               
her fourth year  of divorce litigation, and that  her husband had                                                               
not paid  any child support  for almost  three years, even  as he                                                               
left her with marital debt and  froze their assets.  She declared                                                               
that  he was  using  the  legal system  to  perpetuate power  and                                                               
control, and  that custody of the  children was a means  to exert                                                               
control.   She  acknowledged  that her  evidence  was flimsy,  as                                                               
there  were not  any convictions,  and  it was  difficult to  put                                                               
together sufficient evidence to protect  her children.  She asked                                                               
how women  without an education,  a job,  or a family  to support                                                               
them  could get  a conviction.    She stated  that requiring  the                                                               
conviction was to support the  abusers, perpetuate the abuse, and                                                               
endanger  the  children.    She  stated  her  opposition  to  the                                                               
proposed bill.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
VICE CHAIR  VAZQUEZ noted the  committee was running out  of time                                                               
and "we're going to have to  cut off testimony on this particular                                                               
bill.  I apologize."                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
[HB 334 was held over.]                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB315 version A.PDF HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 sponsors statement.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Hearing Request Memo.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background_caring article-july-2011-evd-maximizes-service-effectiveness.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background_PCA Association-EVV White Paper.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background_Experience_Outcomes_Sndata.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background_Five Facts about Electronic Visit Verification.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background_Florida Medicaid_DVM report_2011.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background_Fraud Brochure_Santrax_050715.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background _Alaska - EVV Overview with Pricing and ROI samples_Sandata.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background_Sandata EVV Presentation - 2015 12 17.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background_Care Embrace.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background_AK article_State continues crackdown on Medicaid fraud.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background_State of Alaska Department of Law Press Release Good Faith.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background_State of Alaska Department of Law Press Release Fraud Charges Against 40 Individuals.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background_State of Alaska Department of Law second Good Faith press release.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background_TX_The Brownsville Herald article - State phases in new home health verification system.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background_The Dallas Morning News article.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background_United States Department of Labor Administrator's Interpretation No 2014-2.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background_United States Department of Labor Fact Sheet.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background_United States Department of Labor.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background_How Will CareWatch Impact Your Agency.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background_IL EVV One Page report_12.08.14.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background_InformationWeek HealthCare article.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background_Medicaid Fraud Strike Force_Florida_2011 Annual Report.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background_AK PCA overview 2016.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background_ AK Personel Care Services flow chart.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Background_Santrax Payer Management.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 Fiscal Note DHSS-SDSA_3.18.16.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 344 Testimony_Gerald Brown.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 344
HB 344 proposed amendment_Seaton N.6.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 344
HB 344 Proposed amendment Seaton N 5.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 344
HB 344 Proposed amendemnt- SEaton N 3.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 344
HB 334 Sectional.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 334
HB 334 Letter of Support - Swanson.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 334
HB 334 Letter of Support - Grant.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 334
HB 334 Sponsor Statement.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 334
HB 334 legislation_Ver H.PDF HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 334
HB 328 - Legislation Ver. A.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328 - Sectional Analysis.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328 - Sponsor Statement.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328 - Supporting Document-ACS CAN Alaska - Opinion Survey Results - Jan 29 2016.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328 - Supporting Document-AK 2012 Public Opinion.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328 - Supporting Document-AK 2015 Public Opinion.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328 - Supporting Document-AS 44 29 020 Lethal effects of SHS.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328 - Supporting Document-CDC Testimony on Secondhand Smoke and ENDS Aerosol Alaska February 2015.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328 - Supporting Document-E-Cigarettes 2015.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328 - Supporting Document-E-Cigarettes 2016.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328 - Supporting Document-Legal Opinions.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328 - Supporting Document-News Coverage.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328 - Supporting Document-Research Source Docs.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328 - Supporting Document-Smoke-Free Indoor Workplaces Supporters.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328 - Supporting Document-SoA Impacts.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB328 Fiscal Note DOA-FAC_03.18.16.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB328 Fiscal Note DOT NRHA_3.19.16.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB328 Fiscal Note DHSS-CDPHP-03.18.16.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB328 Fiscal Note DOT-IASO-3.19.16.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB328 Fiscal Note DOT-MVO_3.19.16.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB328 Fiscal Note DOT-SEF_3.19.16.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB328 Fiscal Note DOT-SRHA_3.19.16.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB328 Fiscal Note COT-CRHA_3.19.16.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB328 Fiscal Note DCCED-AMCO_03.18.16.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB328 Fiscal Note DEC-FSS_03.18.16.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB328 Suppport_email Jim Fassler.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB328 Proposed CS_Ver W.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328( ) - Summary of Changes (Ver A to W).pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328( ) - Sectional Analysis Version w.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB328 Proposed CS_Ver W.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB328 Support_Written testimony_ Jean Tsigonis & AAFP.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328 Support - Various emails of support.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB315 Supporting Documents-Letter Maxim Supports Standards for Electric Visit Verification.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB315 proposed CS_ver E.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 315
HB334 Opposition_Allison Mendel.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 334
HB334 written testimony_John Hoag.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 334
HB 334 Letter of Opposition - Levy.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 334
HB 334 Letter of Opposition - ANDVSA.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 334
HB 328 Support Letter 3-16 John parker.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328 Support emails from 3.22.2016.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB328 Support letter_ Paul Ho, MD letter to AK House Health and Human Services Committee in support of House Bill 328.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
SB 1_HB328 Support_ testimony Rogers June.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
SB 1
SB 1_HB328 Support_ testimony Rogers June.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
SB 1
HB328 Support letter_ Paul Ho, MD letter to AK House Health and Human Services Committee in support of House Bill 328.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328 Opposition_Various emails and documents.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328 opposition Allison amend for vape shops.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328 Support Letter 3-16 John parker.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328 Support emails from 3.22.2016.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328 Support emails_March 22 2016_22 emails.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
Hb 328 Support Testimony_ 3 persons_3.22.2016.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328 opposition _ 17 emails_3.22.2016.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328 Opposition & docs_Alison Halpin.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328
HB 328 Opposition & documents_Angela Carrol.pdf HHSS 3/22/2016 3:00:00 PM
HB 328