Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205
03/02/2005 08:30 AM JUDICIARY
Download Mp3. <- Right click and save file as
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 84-CHILD PROTECTION CONFIDENTIALITY 9:31:50 AM CHAIR SEEKINS announced SB 84 to be up for consideration. SENATOR HUGGINS moved to adopt Version \F as the working document. Hearing no objections, the motion carried. CHAIR SEEKINS asked Gail Voigtlander to brief the committee on the immunity section of SB 84. MS. GAIL VOIGTLANDER, supervising attorney, Anchorage Attorney General's Office, introduced the changes to the bill. She understood the committee was concerned about immunity in the original Section 14. She admitted it is difficult to draft immunity language. The substitute language in the committee substitute is designed to ensure defendants move to summary judgment. The people at risk are court system employees. 9:38:26 AM SENATOR THERRIAULT asked where the other immunity section was. MS. VOIGTLANDER replied AS 47.35.810. SENATOR THERRIAULT noted the new language in Section 14 sets the bar very high. 9:40:50 AM SENATOR FRENCH shared Senator Therriault's concern. He voiced disappointment that the amendment didn't exclude gross negligence. However, the jury will have to review whether gross negligence occurred. CHAIR SEEKINS advised he is open to amending the bill. SENATOR THERRIAULT referred to AS 09.50.250 and AS 09.50.253, both of which address immunity clauses. He suggested the committee look at other immunity clauses, which are already in the statutes. CHAIR SEEKINS asked if other areas in the statutes cover state employees. SENATOR THERRIAULT answered AS 09.50.253 specifically refers to state employees. 9:44:22 AM CHAIR SEEKINS said the umbrella includes municipal and state employees. SENATOR THERRIAULT commented AS 47.35.810 says a person operating under agreement with the department is immune from civil liability. 9:45:07 AM SENATOR FRENCH offered to have the Legislative Research Department do a summary of the immunity clauses in the Alaska statutes to make sure the standards all mesh. CHAIR SEEKINS said he understands the importance of indemnifying employees who need to work within the scope of their employment and the legitimate best interest of the child. 9:47:27 AM SENATOR THERRIAULT said malice is intentional. CHAIR SEEKINS suggested asking the drafter to make sure Section 14 sets the same standard as that for other state employee immunities, and also includes municipal employees. 9:48:33 AM MR. SCOTT CALDER testified the purpose of SB 84 is sided toward the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). The image problem that DHSS has is self-imposed. State liability is a good discussion to have. Negative instances occur within DHSS. He voiced concern that DHSS is able to run the show. He said he does not trust DHSS to divulge the truth and the public is not able to correct any false information that may be exposed. 9:54:02 AM MR. CALDER said parents should be able to obtain and evaluate any information that DHSS has. Many parents have been shut out of the process. The committee must carefully consider any matter where a child is held by the state. 9:57:12 AM SENATOR THERRIAULT reviewed SB 84 for drafting purposes and pointed out that Section 11 needs clarification as to who is covered with immunity. Ms. DIANNE OLSON, senior attorney, Anchorage Attorney General's office, explained Section 11 was read together with another regulation. SENATOR THERRIAULT said he wanted to make sure it was standard. CHAIR SEEKINS perceived it allows sharing of confidential information to people with a legitimate interest. MS. OLSON said there are no regulations pertaining to who has a legitimate interest. SENATOR GUESS asked Ms. Olson why Section 3, lines 18-26, doesn't include other parties. MS. OLSON answered under AS 47.10 the person to be protected is the child. The minor is the subject of the chapter. The concerns that Senator Guess referenced could be brought up in court. 10:01:50 AM SENATOR GUESS asked Ms. Olson if the courts have leeway. MS. OLSON replied yes. SENATOR GUESS asked why the guardian ad litem was removed on Page 5, line 24. MS. OLSON answered guardian ad litem are included through the court rules process. SENATOR FRENCH said Section 4 has a new subsection that allows more open hearings in child in need of aide (CINA) cases unless another section applies, closing the hearing. Section 6 suggests sealing records after 30 days. He questioned sealing the records of an open court proceeding. 10:04:16 AM MS. OLSON said Section 6 pertains to the actual court records of the child. There is a difference between the recording of a hearing and the documents of a court case. SENATOR FRENCH said he does not understand why an open court proceeding should later be closed. MS. OLSON explained if the court started opening records, people would be able to view all the documents within the file. Some of those documents are sensitive. 10:07:23 AM SENATOR FRENCH advised he would consider working on an amendment. MS. MARCIE KENNAI, Department of Health and Social Services, said the department looked at opening the court records, but the intent is to ensure that family and child confidentiality is maintained. DHSS has to submit items to the court such as a mental health assessment, a person's HIV status and/or participation in substance abuse treatment. The entire court document would not necessarily come out in a hearing. SENATOR GUESS asked Ms. Kennai whether DHSS discussed consideration of a sunset. 10:10:36 AM MS. KENNAI replied no. The department looked at other states' laws; 18 have open hearings. There is public interest only in very high profile cases. CHAIR SEEKINS saw there were no other questions. He advised the committee they would further review SB 84 in the next meeting. The intent is to have the same level of immunity standardized. SENATOR THERRIAULT suggested authorizing the drafter to converse with the Department of Law.