Legislature(2017 - 2018)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)
04/11/2018 01:30 PM JUDICIARY
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SB 195-PF DIVIDEND FUND TRANSFERS;CRIMES;VICTIMS 3:59:00 PM CHAIR COGHILL reconvened the meeting and announced the consideration of SB 195. 3:59:50 PM BUDDY WHITT, Staff, Senator Shelley Hughes, Alaska State Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, stated that SB 195 is designed to assist crime victims. It is a companion bill to HB 216, sponsored by Representative Chuck Kopp. He introduced the legislation speaking to the following sponsor statement: The Alaska State Constitution recognizes the rights of crime victims through Article I, Section 24. Restitution is one of those rights. Unfortunately, the outstanding balance of court-ordered restitution payments to victims has remained very high and victims find themselves waiting for several years to receive payments. The current balance of outstanding court- ordered restitution is over $80 million. There is a mechanism in place to assist victims of crime through the criminal fund established by the Legislature in 1988 (HB245), but over time, most of the funds have been used to pay for inmate healthcare costs and the amount to assist victims has fallen off sharply. SB 195 seeks to restore a balance, clear ambiguities, and prioritize restoring victims to a pre-offense condition. In 1988, HB 245 made certain criminal offenders ineligible to receive a Permanent Fund Dividend and stated intent language that the money that would have gone to the offenders would go to support victims of crimes by funding the Violent Crimes Compensation Board. Since establishment of the criminal fund, there have been statutory changes to eligible recipients and victims of crimes are no longer a priority. Senate Bill 195 [and companion HB 216] establishes an account titled the Restorative Justice Account. It prioritizes the use of the funds for compensation through the Violent Crimes Compensation Board and enables the Office of Victims' Rights to qualify for appropriations from this fund and authorizes them to pay court-ordered restitution to victims of crimes when a victim has exhausted all other avenues available. This bill does not eliminate an offender's liability to pay restitution, fines, and other fees imposed to them through the criminal justice system. Senate Bill 195 also adds a mechanism for Alaskan's to donate to the crime victims compensation fund through the Pick.Click.Give. Program. Additionally, Senate Bill 195 extends the opt-out period of victims from 30 to 90 days from receiving help from the State of Alaska to collect restitution and adds language authorizing use of the funds for substance abuse and mental health services for offenders. Senate Bill 195 will reestablish victim restitution as our highest priority. MR. WHITT said a current report from the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (CDVSA) indicates that 59 percent of adult women in Alaska have experienced domestic violence or sexual violence in their lifetime. Alaska ranks number one in the country in this regard and compensation claims increase every year. The 2017 Violent Crimes Compensation Board (VCCB) report shows that a majority of victims compensated through VCCB funds are women and children. Most of the children that are compensated through the fund are victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse. He explained that compensation is intended to meet the immediate needs associated with the individual's victimhood, whereas restitution occurs after a conviction and is established by the court. A recent report shows there is $129 million in outstanding restitution payments. Before 2010, appropriations from the criminal fund were split evenly between victims of crime and other eligible entities. Since then, the majority of funds appropriated from the criminal fund have gone to the Department of Corrections to pay for medical services of inmates. Less than 15 percent goes to the compensation of victims. Both the sponsor of SB 195 and the sponsor of the companion bill, HB 216, want to ensure that victims and victims' compensation are protected moving forward. 4:06:48 PM CHAIR COGHILL asked Mr. Giorgana if he had anything to add. 4:07:15 PM ERIC CORDERO GIORGANA, Staff, Representative Chuck Kopp, Alaska State Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, stated that HB 216, the companion to SB 195, recently passed the House Finance Committee and will hopefully reach the floor very soon. These bills return to the legislative intent that created the criminal fund in 1988. It was meant to compensate crime victims through the Violent Crimes Compensation Board. Currently, about 99 percent of the fund is used to pay for inmate health care. He noted that a few years ago former Senator Fred Dyson introduced a similar bill that passed the Senate unanimously. CHAIR COGHILL said he wanted the full committee to be present when the fiscal note is discussed. 4:08:50 PM CHAIR COGHILL held SB 195 in committee for future consideration.