Legislature(2001 - 2002)

02/11/2002 01:04 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 321 - CRIME VICTIMS' COMPENSATION                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Number 0096                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR ROKEBERG announced  that the first order  of business would                                                               
be SPONSOR  SUBSTITUTE FOR HOUSE  BILL NO. 321, "An  Act relating                                                               
to the purpose for crime  victims' compensation; and limiting the                                                               
factors  that  may  be  considered in  making  a  crime  victims'                                                               
compensation award in cases of  sexual assault or sexual abuse of                                                               
a minor."                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 0105                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   GRETCHEN   GUESS,  Alaska   State   Legislature,                                                               
sponsor, explained  that the Victims' Compensation  Board and the                                                               
statutory language that governs it  were established in 1971, and                                                               
she  posited that  this entity  and its  governing language  were                                                               
created at a time when sexual  assault and sexual abuse of minors                                                               
was not  discussed in depth.   She  offered her belief  that SSHB
321 would  bring the statute in  line with what "we  believe as a                                                               
community."    She added  that  SSHB  321  would not  change  the                                                               
criteria  for  any other  victims,  only  for victims  of  sexual                                                               
assault and sexual abuse of a minor.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GUESS explained  that SSHB  321 deletes  from the                                                               
purpose statement in  AS 18.67.010 what she  calls the antiquated                                                               
language  of "innocent  persons";  instead, it  refers simply  to                                                               
"persons".   It also  adds language specifying  that in  cases of                                                               
sexual assault  or sexual abuse  of a  minor, the board  [may not                                                               
deny an order based on  considerations of provocation, the use of                                                               
alcohol or  drugs by the victim,  or the prior social  history of                                                               
the victim].   She  noted that  SSHB 321 has  the support  of the                                                               
administration,  "the network,"  Standing  Together Against  Rape                                                               
(STAR), the Alaska Native Justice  Center, [and the Alaska Native                                                               
Women's Sexual Assault Committee].                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN  asked why "innocent"  is being  deleted from                                                               
the description of who will be compensated.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GUESS  posited that  it is redundant  language; in                                                               
Section  2, she  pointed  out, there  is  language directing  the                                                               
board, "when ... dealing with  any other crimes," to consider all                                                               
circumstances determined  to be relevant,  including provocation,                                                               
consent, or  any other  behavior of the  victim that  directly or                                                               
indirectly contributed.  Therefore, she  opined, there is no real                                                               
reason to  have "innocent" in  the purpose statement;  "I believe                                                               
it  is   old  language,  and   I  also  believe  it   provides  a                                                               
subjectivity in  cases of sexual  assault, where the  board could                                                               
say the  victim wasn't innocent  because, for example,  they used                                                               
alcohol  or  drugs."     She  added  that   she  thinks  removing                                                               
"innocent" makes the statute clearer.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Number 0348                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
DEL  SMITH,  Deputy  Commissioner, Office  of  the  Commissioner,                                                               
Department  of  Public  Safety  (DPS),  offered  support  of  the                                                               
language in SSHB 321; "I don't  think anybody's any less a victim                                                               
based upon what  they might have consumed in the  way of alcohol,                                                               
and I believe that that is  no license for anybody to do anything                                                               
[harmful  to another  person]."   He said  that according  to his                                                               
understanding,  the  Violent  Crimes Compensation  Board  (VCCB),                                                               
which   is   located  within   the   DPS,   already  makes   it's                                                               
determinations using the guidelines  proposed in SSHB 321, which,                                                               
he  added, is  the reason  for  a zero  fiscal note.   He  noted,                                                               
however,  that although  the current  VCCB  operates under  these                                                               
proposed guidelines,  there is the  potential that  future boards                                                               
may  approach the  claims differently  and  not compensate  those                                                               
victims.  He  urged the committee to support  the language change                                                               
proposed  by  SSHB  321,  which,   he  reiterated,  is  simply  a                                                               
reflection of the VCCB's current practice.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR ROKEBERG mentioned that he  has some concerns regarding the                                                               
issues  of negligence  and culpability.   He  mentioned the  term                                                               
"comparative negligence,"  and asked whether excluding  the prior                                                               
social  history of  the victim,  for example,  "wouldn't that  be                                                               
like excluding the prior criminal record of a criminal?"                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR.  SMITH  acknowledged  that  "if   you  picked  a  fight  with                                                               
somebody, Mr.  Chairman, and then  were injured in  that [fight],                                                               
that is  the kind of  thing that I  would say would  mitigate the                                                               
compensation that  you might  have."   "But if  you chose  to get                                                               
intoxicated,  and  passed  out  on  the  street,"  he  countered,                                                               
pointing out that it is now a  crime to have sex with someone who                                                               
is passed out, "I am not sure that  you chose to be a victim."  A                                                               
person  might  make some  bad  choices  regarding alcohol  and/or                                                               
drugs, he  noted, and while  that behavior should  be discouraged                                                               
to the extent possible, when that  person becomes the victim of a                                                               
crime  because he/she  appeared  vulnerable, then  "that makes  a                                                               
difference to me, as a law enforcement officer."                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN  noted that minors  do not have  the maturity                                                               
to make certain  choices, and so with regard to  crimes against a                                                               
minor, not  as much  culpability could  be attributed  to someone                                                               
who is not an adult.  He asked whether the sponsor agreed.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 0644                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GUESS said that in  general terms, she agrees, but                                                               
added that when  it comes to cases of sexual  assault, she has to                                                               
disagree; "provocation, the use of  alcohol or drugs, past social                                                               
history, I don't believe fall  under culpability when it comes to                                                               
rape," whether of a minor or an  adult, which is what SSHB 321 is                                                               
addressing.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  ROKEBERG asked  whether she  had taken  into consideration                                                               
the varying degrees of sexual-abuse-of-a-minor crimes.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GUESS said she had not.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR ROKEBERG  asked whether there  is a degree of  sexual abuse                                                               
of a minor that might just involve contact.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  BERKOWITZ  said  he  did  not  recall  the  exact                                                               
distinction, but  surmised that what  SSHB 321 does is  make sure                                                               
that  victims  of crimes  receive  compensation.   Therefore,  he                                                               
opined, the type of crime  wouldn't really be material to whether                                                               
someone is entitled to that compensation.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR ROKEBERG remarked, "If it's  the Satch Carlson contact, I'm                                                               
not sure  why it would  even [be]  before the board  unless there                                                               
was mental health problems."                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GUESS interjected  to  say that  as  SSHB 321  is                                                               
currently written,  it is excluding  three things but  leaving in                                                               
everything  else;  it's leaving  in  consent  and other  relevant                                                               
matters, and is just stating  that provocation, use of alcohol or                                                               
drugs,   or  the   victim's  prior   social  history   cannot  be                                                               
considered.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  BERKOWITZ suggested  that [this  issue] "goes  to                                                               
the 'No  means no,' regardless of  anything else.  He  noted that                                                               
in  the  "evidentiary code,"  we  have  what's called  the  'rape                                                               
shield  law,'" offering  that it  basically  says that  character                                                               
evidence  cannot be  used  to  prove conduct.    To further  this                                                               
point, he  paraphrased from the Commentary  section, Alaska Rules                                                             
of Court, which read:                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     There is a current trend,  especially in rape cases, to                                                                    
     exclude all or much  character evidence that relates to                                                                    
     the  victim.   ...   Total  exclusion  may protect  the                                                                    
     victim  against  the  introduction of  deeply  personal                                                                    
     facts  in cases  where  introduction of  such facts  is                                                                    
     intended to  embarrass the victim rather  than help the                                                                    
     defendant, but  it does so  at the expense  of allowing                                                                    
     such  evidence  to  come  in for  the  benefit  of  the                                                                    
     accused when it would substantially improve his case."                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  BERKOWITZ offered  the  interpretation that  this                                                               
says, "we're not going into  the victim's character, because that                                                               
doesn't matter  to the  crime; that's  irrelevant."   He surmised                                                               
that  this  kind of  thinking,  which,  he opined,  is  generally                                                               
accepted in the  criminal code, is carried forward  by "this sort                                                               
of legislation" when dealing in the  area of victims' rights.  He                                                               
added that this is a  well-established line of thinking and would                                                               
not raise "even a legal eyebrow."                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Number 0900                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GUESS, in  response  to questions,  said that  in                                                               
most  of  the   cases  she  has  looked  at,   the  victims  were                                                               
compensated for health reasons.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. SMITH  added that a person  could file a claim  with the VCCB                                                               
for  medical   treatment,  for   counseling,  and   possibly  for                                                               
compensation  due  to  loss  of  work,  and  the  claim  is  then                                                               
evaluated with regard to what is compensable and what is not.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL asked to  what degree provocation "counts"                                                               
with regard to other criminal proceedings.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GUESS,  after  offering the  interpretation  that                                                               
Representative  Coghill is  perhaps  referring to  the fine  line                                                               
between provocation  and consent,  noted that  this fine  line is                                                               
one of  the reasons why  consent was  left out of  the exclusions                                                               
proposed  by  SSHB  321.     She  indicated  her  agreement  with                                                               
Representative  Berkowitz that  the victim  of sexual  assault or                                                               
sexual abuse  of a  minor does not,  by definition,  provoke that                                                               
type of crime.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL asked  whether trying  to prove  guilt or                                                               
innocence in a court of law  is linked with getting funds through                                                               
the VCCB.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ  explained that when the  VCCB processes                                                               
a  victim's claim,  it is  an entirely  separate proceeding.   He                                                               
said that in a courtroom,  the general rule in admitting evidence                                                               
is that  the judge  will weigh whether  the prejudicial  value of                                                               
the  evidence  is greater  than  the  probative value;  in  other                                                               
words, whether something is more  likely to inflame the jury than                                                               
it  is to  enlighten the  jury.   For  the most  part, he  added,                                                               
evidence  related to  the victim's  character is  inadmissible in                                                               
sexual assault  cases because it  is deemed,  almost universally,                                                               
irrelevant.   He suggested that any  hypothetical situation where                                                               
this is  not so  would be  so extreme that  he could  not imagine                                                               
[drafting] a law just for that extreme example.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Number 1150                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
KAREN BITZER, Executive Director,  Standing Together Against Rape                                                               
(STAR), testified via teleconference in  support of SSHB 321, and                                                               
said that  she is  speaking on  behalf of  the victims  and loved                                                               
ones that STAR  serves everyday.  She noted that  last year, STAR                                                               
advocates responded to 279 new  adult cases of sexual assault and                                                               
almost 300 new cases of sexual  assault of minors.  She explained                                                               
that  STAR is  an advocacy  agency  working to  help victims  and                                                               
ensuring that they have access to  tools for recovery.  She noted                                                               
that STAR's  messages are constant  and consistent:   "We believe                                                               
you; it was not your fault."   One of the goals of victim's crime                                                               
compensation, she  said, is  to help make  the victims  whole for                                                               
their loss as a  result of crime.  While victims  may not be made                                                               
completely  whole because  of the  physical and  emotional damage                                                               
they sustain, she  explained that advocacy agencies  such as STAR                                                               
can reinforce  their ability  to regain  control of  their lives.                                                               
"As one  victim so aptly put  it, 'It's not enough  to survive; I                                                               
want to thrive,'" she relayed.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MS.  BITZER said,  "I can  appreciate the  struggle that  we have                                                               
with contributing concepts regarding all  victims of crime, and I                                                               
know it's  one way that  we protect  ourselves."  She  noted that                                                               
sexual assault  truly challenges one's sense  of personal safety.                                                               
She said:                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     Do you  ever compare your  behavior to that  of someone                                                                    
     else  and say,  "Well, I  don't do  that so  this won't                                                                    
     happen  to  me";  "I  don't  eat  at  McDonalds  so  my                                                                    
     arteries won't clog"; or "I  always wear my seatbelt so                                                                    
     I  won't   be  that  injured  in   an  auto  accident"?                                                                    
     Unfortunately we  can't say that about  sexual assault.                                                                    
     You can do  all the "right things" - not  go out alone,                                                                    
     not drink  - and still  be a victim of  sexual assault.                                                                    
     Are they any  more or less a victim  than, say, someone                                                                    
     who was out walking alone in the dark?                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS.  BITZER  said  that  [the  language in  SSHB  321]  puts  the                                                               
responsibility for the crime where  it belongs:  on the offender.                                                               
She noted that  it provides victims access to services  - such as                                                               
therapeutic  services, intervention  services, and  services that                                                               
meet  other  needs  -  when  no other  resources  for  funds  are                                                               
available.   She explained that  over the years, STAR  has helped                                                               
victims  secure dental  work and  glasses replacements  when they                                                               
were not  able to access  "victims'-of-crime compensation."   She                                                               
said that  STAR believes  that SSHB 321  will bring  the statutes                                                               
into  line  with  current  practice  as well  as  into  the  21st                                                               
century's view of  the victim.  In conclusion,  she applauded the                                                               
sponsors "for helping to make  government work for its citizens,"                                                               
and applauded the  committee for reviewing SSHB 321  early in the                                                               
session.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS.  BITZER,  in  response  to   questions,  said  that  victims'                                                               
advocates at  STAR do assist  clients with filling  out paperwork                                                               
requesting victims'  crime compensation,  and that  the advocates                                                               
have  written  letters on  behalf  of  clients.   She  said  that                                                               
usually,  compensation covers  the cost  of counseling,  for both                                                               
victims and  their families, and  therapeutic intervention.   She                                                               
also recounted  that STAR has  assisted victims  of sexual-abuse-                                                               
of-a-minor crimes in applying to  the VCCB for compensation.  She                                                               
added that oftentimes, it is  the teenagers that have the hardest                                                               
time receiving  compensation from  the VCCB;  they may  have been                                                               
drinking  and  so may  be  more  likely  to  be turned  down  for                                                               
benefits.  She explained that  they, too, need intervention - not                                                               
just the small children who are  victims - so, in order for those                                                               
teenagers to access those services,  it is important for the VCCB                                                               
to reach out to them as well.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Number 1446                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN  expressed the  concern that the  language in                                                               
SSHB 321 is  ambiguous.  He indicated that he  was not sure which                                                               
crimes were being discussed.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GUESS  explained that the language  being added in                                                               
Section  2 refers  to  crimes  of sexual  assault  and crimes  of                                                               
sexual  abuse  of  a  minor.    In  response  to  questions,  she                                                               
reiterated her  comments that the  word "innocent"  is redundant,                                                               
that it  hurts in cases of  sexual assault and sexual  abuse of a                                                               
minor, and  that it should no  longer be included in  the purpose                                                               
statement of  AS 18.67.  To  elaborate, she pointed out  that the                                                               
language change  to AS  18.67.080(c), as  proposed by  Section 2,                                                               
still allows the board to  consider all circumstances - including                                                               
provocation, consent,  or any other  behavior of the  victim that                                                               
directly  or indirectly  contributes -  for claims  based on  all                                                               
other  crimes; the  language being  added  only addresses  claims                                                               
based  on the  crime of  sexual assault  or the  crime of  sexual                                                               
abuse of  a minor.   She  suggested that  the change  proposed by                                                               
SSHB  321  still  allows  the  board  to  consider  the  supposed                                                               
innocence of  a person who, for  example, starts a bar  brawl and                                                               
gets his/her teeth kicked in.   In response to further questions,                                                               
she  opined  that claims  for  compensation  are subject  to  all                                                               
subsections  of AS  18.67.080 -  (a) through  (d) -  so a  person                                                               
could not get paid under AS.67.080(a) alone, for example.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  ROKEBERG  noted  that  AS  18.67.080(c)  does  say:    "In                                                               
determining whether to make an order under this section ...."                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GUESS  posited that  it is  the inclusion  of that                                                               
language  in AS  18.67.080(c)  that  makes the  use  of the  word                                                               
"innocent" in AS 18.67.010 redundant.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  OGAN  asked  how  many  claims  based  on  sexual                                                               
assault have been denied by the VCCB.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GUESS   said  that  because   of  confidentiality                                                               
restrictions, reports  from the  VCCB do not  include information                                                               
pertaining  to why  claims  are  denied, so  it  is difficult  to                                                               
provide statistical data.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  BERKOWITZ asked  whether there  is any  anecdotal                                                               
evidence.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GUESS  confirmed that there is  anecdotal evidence                                                               
"from the community"  showing that there are some  cases that are                                                               
questionable and which  could be clarified by the  removal of the                                                               
word "innocent" from the purpose  language.  She mentioned a case                                                               
in  which  a 14-year-old  was  gang  raped  but the  VCCB  denied                                                               
compensation because there  was alcohol involved.   She said that                                                               
she did not know whether  the appeals process altered the outcome                                                               
of  that  [claim],  but suggested  that  removing  "innocent"  as                                                               
proposed by SSHB 321 would clarify the statute on this issue.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR ROKEBERG closed the public hearing on SSHB 321.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Number 1699                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR ROKEBERG  made a motion  to adopt Amendment 1,  to reinsert                                                               
"innocent"  on page  1, line  7; Amendment  1 has  the effect  of                                                               
keeping  that language  in  the purpose  statement  of AS  18.67,                                                               
which governs the VCCB.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Number 1715                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ objected.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR ROKEBERG, to  clarify, pointed out that the  purpose of the                                                               
VCCB  is to  only award  funds to  people who  are innocent.   He                                                               
noted that  SSHB 321 "carves  out ... an exception",  and posited                                                               
that the addition of the language  in Section 2 is sufficient for                                                               
that purpose.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES  agreed.  She,  too, noted that  the purpose                                                               
statement pertains  to the  entirety of AS  18.67 rather  than to                                                               
just  the provision  that would  be altered  by Section  2.   She                                                               
opined that leaving the word  "innocent" in the purpose statement                                                               
would  not  affect  the  changes  proposed by  Section  2  to  AS                                                               
18.67.080(c).                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR ROKEBERG called an at-ease from 1:34 p.m. to 1:35 p.m.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  BERKOWITZ,   in  defense  of  his   objection  to                                                               
Amendment 1, said:                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
     A lot of times you hear  on the news that someone "pled                                                                    
     innocent" to a charge.   Nobody pleads innocent; that's                                                                    
     never  what happens  in a  criminal case.   People  are                                                                    
     judged "not  guilty."  And  when you try  and introduce                                                                    
     the  concept  of  innocence, ...  I  think  it  implies                                                                    
     complete purity.   What we're  doing in  subsection (c)                                                                    
     is saying  ... that  the totality of  circumstances are                                                                    
     what are  to be  evaluated, because  assessing complete                                                                    
     innocence  is  --  you've  got   to  disprove  all  the                                                                    
     negatives.    I  think  it's  clear  without  the  term                                                                    
     "innocent"  in there;  it's an  adjective that  doesn't                                                                    
     add much to the statute.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  OGAN  asked  if  Representative  Berkowitz  would                                                               
prefer to replace "innocent" with "not guilty".                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ said  no; "I just think  you withdraw it                                                               
and you  pay compensation to  persons injured."  He  offered that                                                               
there is a tension between  "innocent persons" and looking at the                                                               
totality of  circumstances.  He  opined that by getting  into the                                                               
issue of  what innocence is, it  introduces a whole other  set of                                                               
issues that the  VCCB must then evaluate, which,  he surmised, is                                                               
potentially problematic.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 1896                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL, although  acknowledging that  that is  a                                                               
good  point,  noted that  the  VCCB  is  being  asked to  make  a                                                               
determination based  on provocation, consent, and  other behavior                                                               
-  to  perform  kind of  a  triage.    He  opined that  the  term                                                               
"innocent" merely acts as a guiding factor.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JAMES  remarked  that  when  reading  the  entire                                                               
paragraph, it  makes sense to  retain "innocent".   She suggested                                                               
that it clarifies  that payments won't be made to  the people who                                                               
are guilty of the crimes that the claims are based on.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  ROKEBERG  said  he  is offering  Amendment  1  because  he                                                               
believes that "the  degree of contributory negligence  ... can be                                                               
measured by the board as to the  amount of the award."  He opined                                                               
that  this is  reflected  currently in  AS  18.67.080(c), and  he                                                               
surmised that SSHB 321 proposes  to exclude that consideration in                                                               
cases of sexual assault and sexual abuse of a minor.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  MEYER   asked  for   the  sponsor's   opinion  of                                                               
Amendment 1.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GUESS  said that she did  not think it is  a "deal                                                               
breaker"; it  just shows  that after 30  years, maybe  the entire                                                               
statute needs to  be reviewed at some point.   She noted that the                                                               
Department of  Law has a  different opinion than  the Legislative                                                               
Legal  and Research  Services Division.   She  surmised that  her                                                               
goal could still be accomplished even if Amendment 1 is adopted.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ said he  is maintaining his objection to                                                               
Amendment 1.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Number 2058                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
A  roll call  vote was  taken.   Representatives Coghill,  James,                                                               
Ogan, and Rokeberg voted for  Amendment 1.  Representatives Meyer                                                               
and  Berkowitz voted  against  it.   Therefore,  Amendment 1  was                                                               
adopted by a vote of 4-2.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN said  he would be more  comfortable with SSHB
321  if  it only  pertained  to  sexual abuse  of  a  minor.   He                                                               
expressed concern  that if it  becomes mandatory for the  VCCB to                                                               
award compensation  to victims  of sexual  abuse, there  might be                                                               
people who  will take advantage of  the system if, due  to mental                                                               
illness  or   chronic  substance   abuse,  they   repeatedly  put                                                               
themselves in situations where they are sexually assaulted.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  BERKOWITZ asked  whether  Representative Ogan  is                                                               
suggesting  that   some  women   deliberately  go  out   and  get                                                               
themselves drunk and then raped in order to get compensation?                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN said no.  He  said that what he is suggesting                                                               
is that  there are probably  some people who, because  of serious                                                               
social problems,  are far  more subject to  sexual assault  - not                                                               
that they  purposely seek to be  raped - but then,  when they are                                                               
raped,  they discover  a  system that  they  can repeatedly  take                                                               
advantage of.   He said he  would like to know  whether there are                                                               
people  who "have  shown  up" time  and time  again  and, if  so,                                                               
whether they are being denied.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   JAMES    said   that   she    could   understand                                                               
Representative Ogan's point but opined  that there are few people                                                               
who would abuse  the system in that fashion.   She suggested that                                                               
the  benefits of  the change  proposed by  SSHB 321  outweigh the                                                               
potential for abuse.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL  remarked that the  VCCB has a  tough job,                                                               
"resources being what  they are," and then having  to decide whom                                                               
to  help and  whom  to deny.    He asked  whether  the fact  that                                                               
someone  receives compensation  could affect  either the  ongoing                                                               
court proceeding  or any forthcoming  appeal.  He also  noted his                                                               
concern that the  VCCB is having its  discretion curtailed, given                                                               
that SSHB 321  would prohibit a denial based on  the items listed                                                               
in Section 2.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN said he, too,  has concerns about taking away                                                               
the VCCB's  discretion regarding cases of  sexual assault, noting                                                               
that he  did not  have any  problem doing so  in cases  of sexual                                                               
abuse of a minor.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MEYER said  he supports SSHB 321  and posited that                                                               
the concerns  expressed at  this meeting  would be  considered by                                                               
the VCCB.   He opined  that if anyone  does attempt to  abuse the                                                               
system in the  manner suggested by Representative  Ogan, the VCCB                                                               
will simply deny those claims.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Number 2377                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ  moved to  report SSHB 321,  as amended,                                                               
out  of   committee  with  individual  recommendations   and  the                                                               
accompanying zero fiscal note.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  OGAN  objected for  purpose  of  discussion.   He                                                               
opined that passage  of SSHB 321 would mandate  payment of claims                                                               
based on  sexual assault,  regardless of  how often  the claimant                                                               
seeks  compensation.    Representative   Ogan  then  removed  his                                                               
objection.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 2416                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR ROKEBERG asked whether there  were any further objection to                                                               
reporting SSHB  321, as amended,  out of committee.   There being                                                               
no  objection,  CSSSHB  321(JUD)  was  reported  from  the  House                                                               
Judiciary Standing Committee.                                                                                                   

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