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                                                               
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                                                               
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.                                                                                             

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