Legislature(2007 - 2008)CAPITOL 120
03/03/2008 01:00 PM JUDICIARY
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HB 414 - CRIME VICTIM COMPENSATION FUND 1:11:55 PM CHAIR RAMRAS announced that the first order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 414, "An Act relating to the crime victim compensation fund." 1:12:06 PM JANE W. PIERSON, Staff to Representative Jay Ramras, Alaska State Legislature, presented HB 414 on behalf of Representative Ramras, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, sponsor. She explained that the Violent Crimes Compensation Board (VCCB) was established under AS 18.67 in 1972 to help mitigate the financial hardships victims suffer as a direct result of violent crime. The board may compensate medical expenses, counseling costs, lost income, lost support, funeral expenses, and/or other reasonable costs sustained by Alaskan victims of violent crimes. The VCCB awards approximately 85 percent of its budget directly to victims and/or their service providers. Based on the past four years, the average amount the board awards annually is $1,345,338. MS. PIERSON stated that HB 414 would create a non general fund (GF) program definition for the VCCB under AS 37.05.146(c). Revenues could be placed directly into this fund and be matched at $.60 on every dollar from federal grants. Therefore, the VCCB could obtain additional funding without any additional cost to the state. Funding sources for the VCCB include inmate salaries, restitution payments, permanent fund dividends (PFDs), and payments made by VCCB claimants under repayment agreements. However, those funds are currently deposited directly into the state's GF and any fund balance not expended is returned to the GF. Again, this bill would allow the VCCB to retain unexpended funds and obtain matching federal funds at the rate of $.60 per state dollar. CHAIR RAMRAS that he is sympathetic with the intent of HB 414 since he has been a victim of property crime himself. REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM referred to the VCCB annual report, and said that she reads that report and supports the work the VCCB accomplishes. She relayed her support of HB 414, which, she surmised, would allow the VCCB the ability to roll unexpended funds forward. 1:17:25 PM GERAD G. GODFREY, Chair, Violent Crimes Compensation Board (VCCB), Department of Administration (DOA), concurred with Ms. Pierson's summation. He noted that when a claimant comes to the VCCB he/she must sign a subrogation agreement. The VCCB realizes that some claimants will receive a settlement award, for example, for an accident involving a driver who was driving under the influence (DUI). Although eventually the claim will be settled, it may take considerable time, and, meanwhile, the victim's bills continue to accrue, oftentimes when the person cannot work. Mr. Godfrey highlighted that the VCCB awards are for tangible losses based on a formula, with a maximum of $40,000. The claimant or his/her attorney will reimburse the VCCB for the settlement once awarded. He characterized the VCCB award as a de facto loan, so when the settlements are received, the funds are directed to the general fund (GF) rather than to the VCCB. He too noted that the VCCB receives funding from garnished PFDs. Additionally, the VCCB received funding of approximately $400,000 during Governor Murkowski's administration. He explained that if the VCCB can recoup settlement awards from subrogation agreements and court ordered restitution or judgments, then the VCCB may become self- sustaining. He referred to a graph in members' packets that illustrates the projected funding of the VCCB, and opined that if HB 414 passes, the VCCB could eventually operate on interest alone. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG asked whether the money coming from inmates' PFDs is deposited into the GF and then appropriated to the VCCB. MR. GODFREY answered that the legislature makes the appropriation but he is not sure of the appropriation process. However, he noted, the largest percentage of the PFD is appropriated to the Department of Corrections (DOC), which he surmised is appropriate since the DOC houses the inmates. MS. PIERSON advised that garnished PFDs are first deposited into the GF and are then allocated to the VCCB. CHAIR RAMRAS, after first determining that no one else wished to testify, closed public testimony on HB 414. 1:25:26 PM REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM moved to report HB 414 out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, HB 414 was reported from the House Judiciary Standing Committee.