Legislature(2011 - 2012)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

02/06/2012 01:30 PM HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES

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Audio Topic
01:31:27 PM Start
01:31:38 PM SB134
02:14:29 PM Presentations: Citizen Review Panel & Office of Children
03:07:40 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Location Change --
Heard & Held
+ - Citizen Review Panel, Sylvan Robb, M.A. TELECONFERENCED
+ - Office of Children Services, Christy Lawton, TELECONFERENCED
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
                  SB 134-CHILD SUPPORT AWARDS                                                                               
1:31:38 PM                                                                                                                    
Chair Davis announced  that the first order of  business would be                                                               
SB 134, Child Support Awards.                                                                                                   
1:35:29 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR ALBERT  KOOKESH, sponsor of  SB 134, explained  that this                                                               
measure would  put the Child  Support Civil Rule  90.3 guidelines                                                               
into statute. Alaska  Supreme Court Civil Rule bills  can only be                                                               
changed every four years. One  of the advantages of putting Child                                                               
Support  Civil Rule  90.3  into statue  is that  it  can then  be                                                               
changed at  the whim  of the legislature.  He summarized  that SB                                                               
134 addresses the  amount of money a child  could receive through                                                               
custody cases.                                                                                                                  
DOROTHY SHOCKLEY, staff to Senator  Kookesh, reported that SB 134                                                               
changes  how child  support is  allocated  from a  percentage-of-                                                               
income system  for only  the non-custodial  parent, to  an income                                                               
shares model where both parents'  income is used to calculate the                                                               
amount of child support. The  bill came about due to frustrations                                                               
following the statewide review process  of Rule 90.3 in 2008. Ms.                                                               
Shockley related that she was  advised to put the guidelines into                                                               
statute  so that  people could  have a  voice in  custody support                                                               
hearings.  The  Alaska  Supreme  Court admitted  that  it  was  a                                                               
substantive law and could be replaced any time.                                                                                 
MS.  SHOCKELY added  that Senator  Kookesh's office  has received                                                               
many calls from  people who feel there are  problems with custody                                                               
procedures  and  guidelines.  It   was  suggested  that  the  new                                                               
guidelines use the income shares  model. She noted that 35 states                                                               
consider the income of both  parents in determining child support                                                               
payments. She  said the main goal  of the legislation is  to give                                                               
people  a voice  and  to be  fair,  as well  as  provide for  the                                                               
child's best interest.                                                                                                          
1:38:11 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DAVIS requested a sectional analysis.                                                                                     
MS. SHOCKLEY  described the  information in  the sections  of the                                                               
bill. She related that Section  25.28.010 provides guidelines for                                                               
calculations regarding  primary physical  custody cases.  It also                                                               
contains  an economic  table.  Section  25.28.020 provides  child                                                               
support  guidelines  for  shared,  divided,  and  hybrid  custody                                                               
awards. Section 25.28.030  provides for a margin of  error in the                                                               
economic table where exceptions to  support awards may be needed.                                                               
Section  25.28.040   addresses  health  care   expenses.  Section                                                               
25.28.050  provides confidentiality  annual income  documentation                                                               
requirements.  Section 25.28.060  provides  for travel  expenses.                                                               
Section 25.28.070 provides modification  to child support awards.                                                               
Section   25.28.080   addresses  third-party   custody.   Section                                                               
25.28.090   provides  for   dependent  tax   deductions.  Section                                                               
25.28.300 is the definitions section.                                                                                           
1:42:55 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. SHOCKLEY read from the following sponsor statement:                                                                         
     SB 134 puts the Child Support Civil Rule 90.3                                                                          
     guidelines into  statute. In  1987, the  Alaska Supreme                                                                  
     Court  enacted  Civil  Rule  90.3.  The  Supreme  Court                                                                  
     admitted   this  was   a  substantive   law  that   the                                                                  
     Legislature could replace at any  time. In the 25 years                                                                  
     since  then, the  legislature  has  not replaced  civil                                                                  
     rule 90.3  with an  actual law.  This bill  proposes to                                                                  
     correct that long-standing deficiency.                                                                                   
     One of the major problems with having the child                                                                          
     support guidelines  set by a  court rule is  the people                                                                  
     affected  by  current  guidelines   have  not  had  the                                                                  
     opportunity to speak to the  individuals with the power                                                                  
     to  make changes.  Instead every  four  years they  are                                                                  
     encouraged to write letters or  testify before a review                                                                  
     committee  made  up  of lawyers  and  judges  who  then                                                                  
     submit  their  recommendations  to  the  Supreme  Court                                                                  
     Justices who  make the final  decisions. With  the rule                                                                  
     in statute,  individuals will  have the  opportunity to                                                                  
     speak to lawmakers who have  the power to make changes.                                                                  
     Proposals to  amend can be  made in the  future through                                                                  
     the legislative process.                                                                                                 
     The bill proposes enactment of the current rule into                                                                     
     statute  with the  exception of  how the  child support                                                                  
     obligation is calculated.  Currently, the non-custodial                                                                  
     parent's support  obligation is based solely  on his or                                                                  
     her  income, without  regard to  what the  other parent                                                                  
     makes. With this  bill it will be changed  to an income                                                                  
     shares model  which calculates support as  the share of                                                                  
     each  parent's  income   estimated  allocation  to  the                                                                  
     child, if the original household were intact.                                                                            
     According to 2005 statistics (Legislative Research                                                                       
     Report, November 2010):                                                                                                  
     Twenty four (24) states establish their child support                                                                    
     guidelines statutorily through  their legislature while                                                                  
     16  states use  court rule  only, and  11 states  use a                                                                  
     combination of rule, commission and or agency.                                                                           
     Thirty five (35) states consider the income of both                                                                      
     parents in determining child support payments.                                                                           
     SB 134 changes the word 'court' to 'tribunal' in some                                                                    
     cases  back  to 'court'  and  adds  number (6)  to  the                                                                  
     definition  in   Sec.  25.28.300  (page  18)   to  read                                                                    
        'tribunal means the superior court or the child                                                                       
     support services agency created in AS 25.27.010.'                                                                          
1:45:38 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. SHOCKELY noted the removal of  a section which ordered one or                                                               
more  grandparent  to  pay  child   support.  Also  removed  were                                                               
sections  that  dealt  with  the   support  order  form  and  the                                                               
1:47:18 PM                                                                                                                    
STACY  STEINBERG, Chief  Assistant  Attorney  General, Office  of                                                               
Attorney General,  Department of  Law, addressed legal  issues in                                                               
SB 134.  She stated that  the Department of  Law does not  take a                                                               
position on the  bill. She explained that  Section 25.28.040, the                                                               
health   care  expenses   section,  requires   a  definition   of                                                               
"reasonable   cost",  which   is   necessary   to  meet   federal                                                               
regulations.  One  option  is  to  define  it  as  "the  cost  of                                                               
insurance does not exceed 5 percent  of the net monthly income of                                                               
the parent required to purchase insurance."                                                                                     
1:49:44 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  STEINBERG addressed  a federal  provision which  states that                                                               
child  support   cannot  be  retroactively  modified,   which  is                                                               
addressed  in  two sections  of  SB  134, Section  25.28.050  and                                                               
Section 25.28.070.  The first  instance refers  to when  a parent                                                               
can  request  information  about  the other  parent's  income.  A                                                               
sentence on  page 15, in lines  29 - 31,  "If a party has  made a                                                               
reasonable  demand for  documentation  under  this subsection,  a                                                               
tribunal  may modify  a child  support arrearage  retroactively,"                                                               
violates  a   federal  law  on  retroactivity.   She  recommended                                                               
deleting that sentence.                                                                                                         
MS.  STEINBERG  said  the second  instance  where  child  support                                                               
cannot be retroactively modified is on  page 16, lines 24 and 25.                                                               
There is a violation of federal  law in the sentence, "A tribunal                                                               
may not  modify a child  support arrearage  retroactively, except                                                               
as  authorized by  AS 25.27.1666(d)  and  AS 25.28.050(b)."  This                                                               
could be corrected by deleting "and AS 25.28.050(b)."                                                                           
MS.  STEINBERG  addressed  the advantages  of  having  a  delayed                                                               
effective date of  about a year. The new  legislation changes the                                                               
formula for  calculating child  support. Potentially,  this could                                                               
result in  a large  number of modifications.  She spoke  of court                                                               
modifications that would be necessary.  There are currently about                                                               
20,000 existing child support orders,  of which half are expected                                                               
to request  some sort  of modification. Of  those, half  would be                                                               
court modifications and would be an  increase of up to 5,000 from                                                               
700  a year.  Regulations would  also need  to be  changed, which                                                               
would  take  time.  She  suggested   a  one-year  delay  for  the                                                               
effective date.                                                                                                                 
1:55:37 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  STEINBERG addressed  a fourth  issue.  Federal law  requires                                                               
revisions to Child Support Guidelines  every four years to ensure                                                               
that  guidelines  meet  current  regulations,  reality,  and  the                                                               
economy.  The  revision process  is  currently  conducted by  the                                                               
Court System;  however, if SB  134 becomes law, the  Court System                                                               
would no longer be responsible  for that service. That is another                                                               
issue to consider before passage of SB 134.                                                                                     
1:57:33 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DAVIS asked if the sponsor agrees with the changes.                                                                       
CHAIR KOOKESH said he did agree  with the changes and pointed out                                                               
that amendments  addressing the changes  are forthcoming.  He had                                                               
no  problem  with  a  delayed effective  date.  He  stressed  the                                                               
importance of the income share  model, which is the ultimate goal                                                               
of the bill.                                                                                                                    
MS. SHOCKLEY  explained the fiscal notes.  Child Support Services                                                               
will need  an additional  24 temporary  staff for  a total  of $6                                                               
million, $4 million  of which would be from  federal receipts and                                                               
$2 million  in general  fund. The Department  of Law  fiscal note                                                               
shows an increase  in 19 temporary staff the first  year in order                                                               
to process modifications.                                                                                                       
2:00:36 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DAVIS  requested more information  about the effect  of the                                                               
bill on Court System positions.                                                                                                 
NANCY MEADE,  General Counsel, Alaska  Court System,  addressed a                                                               
potential  fiscal   note  from  the  Alaska   Court  System.  She                                                               
anticipated  a  need  for  temporary  employees  to  address  the                                                               
expected influx of parental requests  for modification of custody                                                               
orders.  She  said she  thought  changing  the current  four-year                                                               
review  responsibility  to the  legislature  would  not save  the                                                               
court money  because it  does not cost  money. The  Chief Justice                                                               
appoints  an   existing  sitting   judge  to  chair   the  review                                                               
committee,  which   is  comprised  of  six   or  seven  volunteer                                                               
2:04:41 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DAVIS  suggested that the amendments  could be incorporated                                                               
into a new  Senate Health and Social  Services Standing Committee                                                               
CS, which would give departments time to work on fiscal notes.                                                                  
2:05:58 PM                                                                                                                    
SCOTT CAULDER,  testifying on behalf  of himself, spoke  in favor                                                               
of the bill. He shared  a negative personal experience related to                                                               
child custody. He  referred to a letter from Beth  Adams which he                                                               
said  contains excellent  suggestions.  He thought  SB 134  would                                                               
correct  some of  the problems  with the  guidelines and  provide                                                               
greater justice  and fairness.  He suggested  a revision  on page                                                               
18, lines 18 and 26, to change "shall" to "may".                                                                                
2:08:42 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KOOKESH called  the bill simple, but  complicated. He was                                                               
amazed by the cost of the fiscal  notes. He said his intent is to                                                               
benefit  the  child  and  he  hoped the  fiscal  note  would  not                                                               
discourage  passage  of  this  legislation.   He  said  he  would                                                               
continue  to  work with  the  Attorney  General's Office  on  the                                                               
amendments. He said he had no  problem with a delayed fiscal note                                                               
by the Alaska Court System.                                                                                                     
2:10:48 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  DYSON asked  if there  were negative  impacts from  this                                                               
type of  legislation in  any other  states and  if there  was any                                                               
opposition in Alaska to this bill.                                                                                              
SENATOR KOOKESH replied that there  had been no opposition to the                                                               
bill. He said the growing trend  is the shared model, as depicted                                                               
in the bill.                                                                                                                    
SENATOR DYSON  asked if there  had been any challenging  suits in                                                               
other states.                                                                                                                   
SENATOR KOOKESH didn't think so.                                                                                                
CHAIR  DAVIS offered  to  provide that  information  at the  next                                                               
SB 134 was heard and held.                                                                                                      

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB134 Bill.pdf SHSS 2/6/2012 1:30:00 PM
SB 134
SB134 Memo from Leg Legal.pdf SHSS 2/6/2012 1:30:00 PM
SJUD 3/7/2012 1:30:00 PM
SB 134
SB134 11-076 Leg SB134 Research Report Child Support in other states.pdf SHSS 2/6/2012 1:30:00 PM
SJUD 3/7/2012 1:30:00 PM
SB 134
SB134 CSSD Comments.doc SHSS 2/6/2012 1:30:00 PM
SB 134