Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205

03/02/2005 08:30 AM JUDICIARY

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSSB 104(JUD) Out of Committee
Heard & Held
             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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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.                                                                                                     

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