Legislature(1999 - 2000)

05/10/1999 01:38 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CSSB 4(FIN) - OFFICE OF VICTIMS' RIGHTS                                                                                         
CHAIRMAN KOTT announced the first order of business is CS FOR                                                                   
SENATE BILL NO. 4(FIN), "An Act relating to victims' rights;                                                                    
relating to establishing an office of victims' rights; relating to                                                              
compensation of victims of violent crimes; relating to eligibility                                                              
for a permanent fund dividend for persons convicted of and                                                                      
incarcerated for certain offenses; relating to notice of                                                                        
appropriations concerning victims' rights; and amending Rule 16,                                                                
Alaska Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 9, Alaska Delinquency                                                                  
Rules, and Rule 501, Alaska Rules of Evidence; and providing for an                                                             
effective date."                                                                                                                
Number 0068                                                                                                                     
BRETT HUBER, Legislative Assistant to Senator Rick Halford, Alaska                                                              
State Legislature, came before the committee to present the sponsor                                                             
statement.  He stated that CSSB 4(FIN) passed the Senate with                                                                   
unanimous bipartisan support and 13 co-sponsors.  He noted that                                                                 
similar legislation was before this committee last year in the form                                                             
of SB 219.  The thrust of the legislation is to provide a mechanism                                                             
for the practical application of the Victims' Rights Amendment to                                                               
the constitution ratified by popular vote on November 8, 1994.  The                                                             
bill establishes the office of victims' rights in the Department of                                                             
Public Safety and tasks the advocate with assisting crime victims                                                               
in obtaining rights that they are guaranteed under the constitution                                                             
and laws of the state in regards to contact with state justice                                                                  
agencies.  Crime victims are all too often left to deal with the                                                                
justice system that's heavily weighted to the benefit of the                                                                    
criminal and filled with legalize and technicalities.  The passage                                                              
of the bill would provide victims of crimes with an advocate who                                                                
understands and is experienced with criminal law and is familiar                                                                
with the justice process.  It would not preclude the responsibility                                                             
of the prosecutor's office to fulfill its statutory obligations.                                                                
It would not preclude the need for organizations, such as Victims                                                               
For Justice.  In fact, their effectiveness would be bolstered by                                                                
the office of victims' rights.                                                                                                  
Number 0229                                                                                                                     
MR. HUBER presented the following sectional analysis:                                                                           
     Section 1 provides the short title;                                                                                        
     Section 2 allows the victims' advocate to make statements                                                                  
     at the time of sentencing in-lieu-of the victim, if                                                                        
     Section 3 amends AS 12.61 by adding new sections, which                                                                    
     creates the office in the Department of Public Safety                                                                      
     [Mr. Huber noted that the original version of the bill                                                                     
     would have placed the office within the legislative                                                                        
     branch and would be modeled after the ombudsman office];                                                                   
          Sec. 12.61.200 (a) creates the office, provides for                                                                   
          the appointment of the advocate by the                                                                                
          commissioner, and allows employment for an                                                                            
          assistant advocate and clerical staff;                                                                                
          Sec. 12.61.200 (b) sets up the tasks of the office;                                                                   
          Sec. 12.61.200 (c) requires the cooperation of state                                                                  
          Sec. 12.61.200 (d) provides the office the authority to                                                               
          administer grants to nonprofit organizations;                                                                         
          Sec. 12.61.200 (e) establishes the qualifications for the                                                             
          Sec. 12.61.210 (a) requires the advocate to adopt                                                                     
          Sec. 12.61.210 (b) disallows the office to charge fees                                                                
          for its services;                                                                                                     
          Sec. 12.61.220 (a) establishes the advocate's                                                                         
          Sec. 12.61.220 (b) directs the advocate to exercise                                                                   
          reasonable care, to not interfere with ongoing cases, and                                                             
          to not make extra judicial statements;                                                                                
          Sec. 12.61.220 (c) restricts the advocate from advising                                                               
          a victim against cooperating with an investigation,                                                                   
          providing information, or testifying;                                                                                 
          Sec. 12.61.230 sets out the authority to advocate on                                                                  
          behalf of crime victims and to access records;                                                                        
          Sec. 12.61.240 lists how and when the advocate may                                                                    
          conduct investigations, provides subpoena power, requires                                                             
          consultations with the justice agencies prior to the                                                                  
          release of a report, lines out the advocate's duties upon                                                             
          completion of an investigation, and permits the advocate                                                              
          to report public opinions and recommendations;                                                                        
          Sec. 12.61.250 requires the advocate to publish an annual                                                             
          Sec. 12.61.260 limits the judicial challenge of the                                                                   
          advocate's actions;                                                                                                   
          Sec. 12.61.270 provides immunity for the advocate;                                                                    
          Sec. 12.61.280 provides evidentiary privilege against                                                                 
          being compelled to testify;                                                                                           
          Sec. 12.61.290 sets out a criminal penalty for                                                                        
          obstruction of the advocate's duties;                                                                                 
          Sec. 12.61.300 provides definitions ["justice agency" and                                                             
     Section 4 increases the compensation available for                                                                         
     victims of crime under AS 18.67 as decided by the Violent                                                                  
     Crimes Compensation Board;                                                                                                 
     Section 5 allows the board to increase the compensation                                                                    
     levels by regulation in order to account for inflation;                                                                    
     Section 6 brings the advocate under the partially exempt                                                                   
     Section 7 provides for Permanent Fund Dividend                                                                             
     ineligibility for a misdemeanant who is incarcerated for                                                                   
     all or part of a qualifying year and who has either one                                                                    
     prior felony or two prior misdemeanor convictions;                                                                         
     Section 8 provides that the proceeds of the dividend may                                                                   
     be used to fund the office;                                                                                                
     Sections 9 and 10 provide for a court rule change notice;                                                                  
     Section 11 allows the office space to be obtained,                                                                         
     equipped and staffed in the FY [fiscal year] 00 budget                                                                     
     for a July 2001 start;                                                                                                     
     Sections 12 and 13 are the effective date clauses.                                                                         
Number 0523                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN KOTT asked Mr. Huber to share with the committee the                                                                   
discussion from the Senate on those who have committed a                                                                        
misdemeanor with prior convictions and their loss of their                                                                      
permanent fund dividend.                                                                                                        
Number 0545                                                                                                                     
MR. HUBER replied the current law says that anybody who is                                                                      
incarcerated for all or part of a qualifying year and has two prior                                                             
convictions are ineligible for the dividend.  This bill changes the                                                             
two prior convictions to one prior felony or two prior                                                                          
Number 0598                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE CROFT asked Mr. Huber to explain the other changes                                                               
that the Senate Finance Standing Committee made.                                                                                
MR. HUBER replied the main change was the transfer of the office                                                                
from the legislature to the Department of Public Safety.  The                                                                   
committee also added the word "reasonable" [page 2, line 2] in                                                                  
response to testimony.  Language was also added to allow the                                                                    
legislature the right to grant money to non-profit victims' rights                                                              
organization from the same pool of dividend ineligible money.  The                                                              
committee also included the bifurcated effective date that allows                                                               
for the beginning of the supplies, staffing, and procurement of                                                                 
office space, but it doesn't allow for the operation of the office                                                              
until the FY 01 budget.  In addition, the committee adopted a                                                                   
letter-of-intent that speaks to entities currently allowed to                                                                   
receive funding from the ineligible dividend pool of money.                                                                     
Number 0722                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE CROFT stated the letter-of-intent attached to the                                                                
Department of Public Safety's fiscal note looks like $73,000 for                                                                
this year with a steady state of $450,000, which the department                                                                 
expects to receive from the ineligible dividend funding mechanism.                                                              
MR. HUBER pointed out that the fiscal note does not reflect the                                                                 
money coming into the department; it just speaks to the cost of the                                                             
office.  The $73,000 is the anticipated cost of getting the office                                                              
ready.  The $450,000 is the ongoing funding requirement for the                                                                 
office.  He referred to a spreadsheet illustrating the revenue                                                                  
stream from the ineligible dividend mechanism.  It shows $391,000                                                               
in the first fiscal year.  It also shows that amount increasing                                                                 
each year, which speaks to the ability to look back to the                                                                      
out-years for prior crimes.  The spreadsheet was calculated at last                                                             
year's dividend.                                                                                                                
Number 0840                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE CROFT stated it was brought to his attention that                                                                
the PFD [Permanent Fund Dividend] would be available for the Child                                                              
Support Enforcement Division [Department of Revenue] or to directly                                                             
compensate victims.                                                                                                             
MR. HUBER stated that was a policy call made at the time of the                                                                 
initial PFD ineligible pool of money.  The bill doesn't really                                                                  
speak to the use of that money as a policy call; it merely expands                                                              
the pool of funds.                                                                                                              
Number 0929                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES asked Mr. Huber what would happen if the                                                                   
office was set up and there wasn't enough money.  Would the                                                                     
legislature have to use general fund money?                                                                                     
MR. HUBER replied the bill creates a possible pool of funds that                                                                
are, of course, subject to the governor's recommended usage and the                                                             
appropriation of the legislature.  It would be an annual policy                                                                 
call as to the appropriation of the funds.  It was the sponsor's                                                                
intent to create a funding mechanism that more than pay for the                                                                 
program, especially as the growth of the pool increases in the                                                                  
Number 1025                                                                                                                     
DEL SMITH, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Public Safety, came                                                               
before the committee to testify.  The placement of the office in                                                                
the Department of Public Safety is of concern to him and the                                                                    
commissioner.  They are concerned about bringing in close to                                                                    
$500,000 - no matter the source - in the event there might not be                                                               
sufficient funding thereby impacting the department's ability to                                                                
fund its primary mission - state troopers, fire prevention, fish                                                                
and wildlife protection, and several other programs.  They are also                                                             
concerned about the administrative impact of the office.  It                                                                    
potentially pits departments against each other.  The bill was                                                                  
originally designed by the sponsor so that the office was in the                                                                
legislative branch similar to the Office of the Ombudsman with some                                                             
distance between it and the line-departments.  In addition, the                                                                 
department might be the actual agency a victim is complaining                                                                   
about, given that it deals with victims.                                                                                        
Number 1164                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES asked Mr. Smith what he thinks about the                                                                   
office being within the Department of Administration.                                                                           
MR. SMITH replied it's certainly an option.                                                                                     
Number 1230                                                                                                                     
ANNE D. CARPENETI, Assistant Attorney General, Legal Services                                                                   
Section-Juneau, Criminal Division, Department of Law, came before                                                               
the committee to testify.  The department has reservations about                                                                
the bill because it tries to deliver paralegal services that are                                                                
guaranteed by the Victims' Rights Amendment which have not                                                                      
increased since before that time.  The department deals with about                                                              
40,000 to 50,000 contacts with victims every year - notifying them                                                              
of hearings, schedule changes, and last minute hearings - which is                                                              
required in statute.  The department also tries to deliver services                                                             
that are guaranteed under the amendment even in circumstances that                                                              
are not specifically required by the prosecuting attorney.  The                                                                 
most common complaint from victims is a lack of notification of                                                                 
schedule changes, which she can understand.  But it cannot be done                                                              
for all cases given the number of paralegals involved.  Ms.                                                                     
Carpeneti further stated that putting the office in the Department                                                              
of Public Safety is even more problematical.  It delivers some of                                                               
the services, therefore, it would be investigating itself.  It                                                                  
would also be investigating the Department of Law which is a                                                                    
Number 1391                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN KOTT asked Ms. Carpeneti whether her concerns were aired                                                               
in the Senate.                                                                                                                  
MS. CARPENETI replied yes her concerns were aired in the Senate                                                                 
Judiciary and Senate Finance Standing Committees.                                                                               
Number 1407                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES asked Ms. Carpeneti whether the department's                                                               
chores would be simplified by simply notifying the advocate.                                                                    
MS. CARPENETI replied, according to her understanding, the advocate                                                             
would not be delivering services directly but helping victims who                                                               
feel that they have not been provided their constitutional rights                                                               
after the fact.                                                                                                                 
Number 1482                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked Ms. Carpeneti whether her concerns were                                                              
considered in the Senate; the bill passed the Senate                                                                            
MS. CARPENETI replied the committee substitute, that moved the                                                                  
office to the Department of Public Safety, was introduced in the                                                                
Senate Finance Standing Committee where she testified that it would                                                             
cause problems between departments.  No questions were asked.                                                                   
Number 1534                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked Ms. Carpeneti whether there is a way to                                                              
address victims' rights that wouldn't cause such a high fiscal                                                                  
MS. CARPENETI replied the Department of Law thinks it could provide                                                             
better services to victims if it had more paralegals to deliver                                                                 
them, which would have a more direct impact on how they feel about                                                              
the criminal justice system than somebody investigating a mistake                                                               
after the fact.                                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked Ms. Carpeneti whether the Department of                                                              
Law conducts an internal audit that reviews its procedures.                                                                     
MS. CARPENETI replied the complaints that the department gets are                                                               
from those victims who have not been notified of a hearing.                                                                     
Number 1662                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE CROFT asked Ms. Carpeneti whether the office could                                                               
assume some of the notification duties of the Department of Law,                                                                
given the duties of the office listed in the bill.                                                                              
MS. CARPENETI replied if those duties were made a lot clearer it                                                                
would possible.  House Bill 172 actually says that the office can                                                               
deliver services listed in AS 12.61.015.  She further noted that if                                                             
the office was in the Department of Law, it would have to be in a                                                               
separate office because it's charged with investigating.                                                                        
Number 1721                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA suggested a hotline for a listing of the                                                                
hearings.  That way a victim would be able to call to determine the                                                             
status of a hearing.                                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA referred to the language - "(c) The                                                                     
victims' advocate may not advise, counsel, or advocate on behalf                                                                
of a victim in a way that would, (1) prevent or discourage a victim                                                             
from cooperating with law enforcement authorities in a criminal                                                                 
investigation; (2) encourage a victim to withhold evidence from law                                                             
enforcement authorities in a criminal investigation" -  and asked                                                               
Ms. Carpeneti whether it should also include defense attorneys,                                                                 
especially in regards to withholding evidence.                                                                                  
MS. CARPENETI replied they probably should be specified since they                                                              
aren't included in law enforcement.                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA said conceivably an equal protection                                                                    
argument could be made because a victim could indicate in a trial                                                               
that he/she was advised not to talk to the defense attorney.                                                                    
Number 1880                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES asked Ms. Carpeneti whether she has any                                                                    
indication of the types of things that the paralegals are doing for                                                             
notifying victims in relation to other things.                                                                                  
MS. CARPENETI replied the paralegals spend most of their time on                                                                
victim services.  She also noted that the district attorneys also                                                               
assist victims.                                                                                                                 
Number 1929                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES asked Ms. Carpeneti whether she knows what                                                                 
kind of numbers the Department of Law is looking at for additional                                                              
MS. CARPENETI replied no.  But she would find out and provide the                                                               
committee with that information.                                                                                                
Number 1987                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked Ms. Carpeneti whether she has a feel of                                                              
what it would cost for more paralegals to help with notification                                                                
and to handhold the victims.                                                                                                    
MS. CARPENETI replied no.  She would get that information and bring                                                             
it back to the committee later.  She doesn't write the fiscal                                                                   
notes.  But she does know that paralegals are a lot less expensive                                                              
than lawyers.                                                                                                                   
Number 2049                                                                                                                     
KAREN CAMPBELL testified via teleconference from Anchorage.  She                                                                
stressed that this is not an issue of adding paralegals.  She is                                                                
the mother of Bonnie Craig, who was murdered on September 28, 1994.                                                             
She is here today because she doesn't want other victims to go                                                                  
through the same hell and pain that she went through and will                                                                   
continue to go through.  The pain of childbirth and kidney stones                                                               
do not even come close to the pain of one's child having been                                                                   
murder.  She noted that Bonnie was abducted on her way to UAA                                                                   
[University of Alaska, Anchorage].  She was brutally raped and                                                                  
murdered.  Her autopsy indicated that she was repeatedly hit over                                                               
the head again and again.  Her body was found floating in McHugh                                                                
Creek.  Her murderer is still free.  Ms. Campbell stated that                                                                   
Bonnie was an angel and described the activities she was involved                                                               
in before her death.  She said, "In Bonnie's honor I'm asking you                                                               
to work effectively and be responsible by enacting and passing SB
MS. CAMPBELL further stated that the idea of putting the office                                                                 
into the Department of Public Safety is wrong.  It won't work that                                                              
way.  The department can't be policing itself.  She suggested                                                                   
putting it back in the legislative branch.                                                                                      
MS. CAMPBELL further explained the pain of being a victim.  She                                                                 
cited a story of a mother whose child had been murdered who was not                                                             
informed of the hearing because the paralegal was off that                                                                      
particular day.  The judge went ahead and read the verdict without                                                              
her being present.  She said, "I can't describe to you the amount                                                               
of pain that would cause a mother of a murdered child.  To be so                                                                
disrespectful to read a verdict and not bother ... This is in                                                                   
comprehensive to me.  And who can she go to?  The judge should                                                                  
never have read the verdict without inquiring where the mother was.                                                             
And this goes on again and again, and it's not going to be a                                                                    
paralegal that can fix that situation.  We need to have an attorney                                                             
that will actually be able to put some teeth into the                                                                           
constitutional amendment giving victims rights."  She also resents                                                              
the idea that no money should come from the general fund when so                                                                
much of it goes to protecting rights of criminals.  The system                                                                  
needs to start looking at the rights of victims and affording them                                                              
the same amount of  rights that are afforded to criminals.                                                                      
Number 2296                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES expressed her sympathy to Ms. Campbell, and                                                                
noted that the bill seems to protect a victim after the fact when                                                               
it seems that it's important for a notice to be given in the first                                                              
MS. CAMPBELL stated, right now, when something goes wrong and a                                                                 
victim's rights are not afforded nothing is done.  Maybe the judge                                                              
and paralegal said that they were sorry, but sorry's don't cut it.                                                              
There needs to be some kind of peace so that those types of things                                                              
don't continue.                                                                                                                 
Number 2362                                                                                                                     
CHARLOTTE PHELPS, Advocate, Victims For Justice, testified via                                                                  
teleconference from Anchorage.  She is a victim also.  Her son was                                                              
murdered by a drunk driver about three years ago.  She asked the                                                                
committee members to pass the bill from the committee with a                                                                    
favorable vote today.  She suggested moving the office back to the                                                              
jurisdiction of the legislature rather than the Department of Law                                                               
or Department of Public Safety to ensure the greatest degree of                                                                 
impartiality.  If it was under either one of those department, it                                                               
would create a conflict of interest for the advocate and make it                                                                
more difficult for that advocate to investigate reports of                                                                      
violations.  Victims For Justice also does not feel that this is a                                                              
paralegal issue as Ms. Campbell has indicated.  In closing, she                                                                 
stated the comment earlier made by Representative Green in regards                                                              
to hand-holding is very offense to victims.  It implies that they                                                               
are children, when they are fighting very much to become survivors                                                              
and are demanding respect.  They demand the same respect and                                                                    
protection that the constitution gives criminals.  The office of                                                                
victims' rights would ensure that respect and right.                                                                            
Number 2449                                                                                                                     
MS. CAMPBELL noted that if a victim's rights have been violated any                                                             
lawyer will say, "Well, you can't sue the government for being                                                                  
TAPE 99-61, SIDE B                                                                                                              
Number 0001                                                                                                                     
LAUREE HUGONIN, Director, Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and                                                               
Sexual Assault, testified in Juneau.  In terms of helping victims                                                               
of domestic violence and sexual assault exercise their rights, she                                                              
noted that there is a legal advocacy project funded through the                                                                 
federal violence against women Act (S.T.O.P.), which trains                                                                     
designated legal advocates.  She cited there are 22 legal advocates                                                             
across the state.  They help victims access the civil justice                                                                   
system through protective orders, custody, and divorce proceedings.                                                             
They also help victims through the criminal justice system during                                                               
a trial.  There is also a funding mechanism with grants to                                                                      
encourage arrests.  The Department of Law receives some funding to                                                              
establish volunteer programs to assist paralegals in providing                                                                  
notices to victims.  That program is in its second year and the                                                                 
department has received funding for the next fiscal year to try and                                                             
solidify these programs.  Hopefully, they will help relieve the                                                                 
pressures on the paralegals.  She further mentioned that HB 67                                                                  
requires the court to inquire whether or not a victim has been                                                                  
notified in sexual assault cases.  She also mentioned the VINE                                                                  
[Victim Information and Notification Everyday] system in the                                                                    
Department of Corrections, a system whereby victims can call an                                                                 
automated phone line to ascertain the status of an inmate.  She                                                                 
further mentioned that the Alaska Court System, through S.T.O.P.                                                                
will be starting a pilot project this coming year for a person to                                                               
be onsite and available in the Anchorage court facility.  She                                                                   
further mentioned that the Alaska Judicial Council distributes                                                                  
brochures on victims' rights in English, Spanish and other                                                                      
languages supplementing the pamphlets that the Department of Law                                                                
Number 0188                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN stated that he has the utmost empathy for                                                                  
somebody who is a victim of a violent crime.  He asked Ms. Hugonin                                                              
what else can the state do, given there are agencies, brochures,                                                                
and groups that are available to talk to victims.                                                                               
Number 0229                                                                                                                     
MS. HUGONIN replied, personally, she thinks it's important to do as                                                             
much as possible in the beginning of the process to ensure that                                                                 
victims know their rights and to inform them of the availability of                                                             
assistance in exercising those rights.  It's also important to                                                                  
ensure that there are protocols in place both at the prosecutorial                                                              
level in the court system and advocacy groups to ensure that it                                                                 
happens.  There may need to be a mechanism at the end of the                                                                    
process, but that should be further down the list.  She noted that                                                              
SB 4 is very helpful in terms of restitution for victims, which is                                                              
necessary in some situations because, right now, there is a low                                                                 
upper limit of what victims can receive.                                                                                        
Number 0318                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES stated it seems that the most important thing                                                              
for a victim is to have the proper notification, otherwise that                                                                 
victim is being "damaged" again.  She is, therefore, struggling                                                                 
with the bill because it puts those efforts in the wrong place.                                                                 
MS. HUGONIN stated the best place for a notice is in the beginning                                                              
because it's the best time to arrange for help, so that they can be                                                             
involved in every step of the process.  She understands that                                                                    
sometimes the hearings are postponed or accelerated in a quick                                                                  
period of time and it's very difficult to reach all the necessary                                                               
parties, but HB 67 will make some allowances for that problem.                                                                  
Number 0443                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES stated a hearing won't go forward if the                                                                   
criminal has not been notified, so it seems that nothing should                                                                 
happen until the victim has been notified.  But this bill does not                                                              
do that.  She suggested looking at extending the process in HB 67                                                               
to other victims, not just to victims of sexual assault and                                                                     
domestic violence.                                                                                                              
Number 0509                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN KOTT referred to AS 12.61.250 and asked Mr. Huber who the                                                              
public is that the office would be submitting a report to.                                                                      
MR. HUBER replied the report submitted to the public would include                                                              
the governor, attorney general, legislature, a grand jury, the                                                                  
public, or any of those.  He imaged that it would be published like                                                             
any other agency's report and be made available to the executive                                                                
branch, legislature, and general public.                                                                                        
Number 0542                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN KOTT stated a change was made in statute whereby the                                                                   
annual reports of the various agencies and departments "shall be                                                                
made available" to the legislature.  The bill says, "shall submit."                                                             
MR. HUBER replied he does not know how that interacts with the                                                                  
recent change on making reports available versus providing actual                                                               
hard copies.                                                                                                                    
CHAIRMAN KOTT reiterated he is just wondering who the public is in                                                              
this case.                                                                                                                      
Number 0577                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN KOTT referred to page 4 of the bill and asked whether a                                                                
person can be less than 21 years of age and be licensed to practice                                                             
law in the state; and, if a person is less than 21 years of age,                                                                
does that person have significant experience in criminal law?  He's                                                             
not sure of the interaction between the qualifications for the                                                                  
MR. HUBER stated the criteria were based on what it would take to                                                               
be appointed to the bench.  It was also built around the office                                                                 
being in the legislature and similar to the Office of the                                                                       
Ombudsman.  He agrees that it would be hard to find a factual                                                                   
circumstance where somebody meets all of the rest of the criteria                                                               
and is not 21 years of age.                                                                                                     
Number 0641                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES confirmed as to whether a person cannot engage                                                             
in another occupation and get paid for it.                                                                                      
MR. HUBER replied that is correct.                                                                                              
Number 0653                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN KOTT asked Mr. Huber whether the sponsor had discussed the                                                             
issue of moving the office to the Department of Public Safety prior                                                             
to the change.                                                                                                                  
MR. HUBER replied no.  It came about through a committee substitute                                                             
in the Senate Finance Standing Committee.  The sponsor had not seen                                                             
the committee substitute until he arrived at the committee hearing.                                                             
Number 0703                                                                                                                     
MR. HUBER stated, as closing remarks, that the concept of victims'                                                              
rights are relatively new - the constitutional amendment just                                                                   
passed in 1994.  Those who work in this area and those who have                                                                 
been victims agree that the issues need to be flushed out and that                                                              
there needs to be an understanding of what these rights mean and                                                                
how they balance with the constitutional rights of the accused and                                                              
the rights and responsibilities of the state.  It's not just a                                                                  
matter of notice, according to the stories and information that the                                                             
sponsor has received.  It's dealing with people who are facing a                                                                
traumatic time and who are thrust into a system where the                                                                       
prosecutors seek justice for the state, and the defense attorneys                                                               
make sure that the rights of the accused are cared for at all steps                                                             
of the process.  The victims feel that there is nobody representing                                                             
them.  The issue of notice was only a portion of the constitutional                                                             
amendment on victims' rights.  There was also the ability to confer                                                             
with the prosecution, to confer with the investigation, and to be                                                               
treated with dignity and respect.  The idea of the office is to                                                                 
give victims a place to go that just has their interests in mind                                                                
and is looking out for them.                                                                                                    
MR. HUBER further stated the Department of Corrections' fiscal note                                                             
adds an administrative clerk to do the PFD ineligibility                                                                        
calculation, which has been asked for and denied through the budget                                                             
process three to four years in a row.  He's not sure whether that                                                               
position is specific to the changes in the bill, or more of a wish                                                              
of the department.  The Violent Crimes Compensation Board's fiscal                                                              
note is a reflection of the additional increase in caps and the                                                                 
ability to adjust for inflation.                                                                                                
MR. HUBER further stated that a lot of the bill is based on the                                                                 
Office of the Ombudsman, which looks at other ways to deliver                                                                   
services without additional money.  Maybe those who are delivering                                                              
services need to be more aware of the issues that are important to                                                              
the public.  It's the intent of the sponsor to flush those types of                                                             
things out to make the system in general more responsive to                                                                     
Number 0892                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked Mr. Huber what he envisions happening if                                                             
a victim is not notified.                                                                                                       
MR. HUBER replied he envisions the victim going to the advocate and                                                             
inquiring why something happened.  The advocate would then issue a                                                              
report indicating the findings of what happened.  The advocate                                                                  
would not be able to turn back the clock, but may be able to                                                                    
provide a better mechanism to deal with similar situations in the                                                               
future.  He further noted that a victim has the right to look at a                                                              
civil remediation.  But the office is not set up to look at that.                                                               
Number 0994                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES asked Mr. Huber whether the advocate would be                                                              
present in court with a victim.  If she was a victim sitting in a                                                               
courtroom observing the process, it would be nice to have someone                                                               
to ask whether or not her rights are being protected.  She further                                                              
stated that the $450,000 fiscal note seems like a pittance of what                                                              
it would take to really give victims the protection that they need.                                                             
MR. HUBER replied there is no guarantee that everybody would feel                                                               
- with or without this office - that their rights have been                                                                     
protected to the degree that they would like them to be.  The                                                                   
staffing level envisioned in the current fiscal note includes the                                                               
advocate, three assistants, two paralegals, and clerical staff.  An                                                             
office would be in Juneau, Anchorage, and Fairbanks where the bulk                                                              
of the court cases are dealt with.  Is that enough to do                                                                        
everything? he asked.  He doesn't think so, but if a level of                                                                   
awareness has been increased and those participating in the system                                                              
know that somebody is watching them and that reports and                                                                        
recommendations are coming forward to make the system work better,                                                              
the amount of effort by this office might diminish over time.                                                                   
Number 1234                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN KOTT closed the meeting to public testimony.                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said she is struggling with putting the office                                                             
in the Department of Public Safety in terms of that being a                                                                     
conflict of interest.  She doesn't necessarily want to put in the                                                               
legislature either.                                                                                                             
Number 1256                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE CROFT noted, the figure of 40,000 to 50,000 contacts                                                             
per year, equates to about 200 a day.  The legislature has a role                                                               
to play in this, but he doesn't want to be the one responsible for                                                              
missing one of those 200 phone calls a day.  In the House version                                                               
- HB 172 - the office is in the Department of Law only because that                                                             
is where a lot of the notices are generated.  The statute says,                                                                 
"the attorney general shall notify" and putting it anyplace else                                                                
might bring up the question of responsibility.                                                                                  
Number 1369                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES commented she is still visualizing that there                                                              
aren't enough paralegals in the Department of Law to notify                                                                     
victims, and that there ought to be a connection between them and                                                               
the advocate; however, they really do have different missions.                                                                  
Number 1473                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA stated, for all of the reasons that the                                                                 
Department of Law and Public Safety have testified about, she is                                                                
concerned about having the office in either one.  She thinks that                                                               
the Department of Administration might be the best place because                                                                
the Public Defender Agency and the Office of Public Advocacy are                                                                
both there and it isn't a law enforcement agency.  She thinks that                                                              
even the victims would feel better represented if it wasn't in one                                                              
of those two departments.                                                                                                       
Number 1504                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE CROFT noted that victims and victims' rights groups                                                              
that he has talked to indicated that they didn't want the office to                                                             
be under the Public Defender Agency or the Office of Public                                                                     
Advocacy.  But it might make sense to have it in the Department of                                                              
Administration working collaterally.                                                                                            
Number 1548                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN KOTT referred the bill to a subcommittee consisting of                                                                 
Representatives Green, Murkowski and Kerttula.  He charged the                                                                  
subcommittee with addressing the following concerns:                                                                            
     - The issue of the placement of the office;                                                                                
     - The issue of the qualifications of the advocate;                                                                         
     - The issue of the advocate being able to counsel; and                                                                     
     - The issue of the report being submitted to the public.                                                                   

Document Name Date/Time Subjects