Legislature(1997 - 1998)

05/01/1997 01:55 PM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                     HOUSE FINANCE COMMITTEE                                   
                           May 1, 1997                                         
                            1:55 P.M.                                          
  TAPE HFC 97-119, Side 1, #000 - #394.                                        
  CALL TO ORDER                                                                
  Co-Chair  Therriault  called  the  House  Finance  Committee                 
  meeting to order at 1:55                                                     
  Co-Chair Therriault           Representative Kohring                         
  Representative Davies         Representative Martin                          
  Representative Davis          Representative Moses                           
  Representative Foster                                                        
  Representative Grussendorf                                                   
  Representative Kelly                                                         
  Co-Chair  Hanley and Representative  Mulder were absent from                 
  the meeting.                                                                 
  ALSO PRESENT                                                                 
  Paula Haley,  Executive Director,  Human Rights  Commission,                 
  Department of Administration.                                                
  HB 155    "An   Act   relating   to  hearings   before   and                 
            authorizing  fees  for  the  State Commission  for                 
            Human  Rights;  and  providing  for  an  effective                 
            HB  155   was  HELD   in  Committee   for  further                 
  HOUSE BILL NO. 155                                                           
       "An  Act relating  to hearings  before  and authorizing                 
       fees for  the State  Commission for  Human Rights;  and                 
       providing for an effective date."                                       
  RIGHTS testified via  the teleconference network  in support                 
  of HB 155.  She observed that the legislation is in response                 
  to an increased demand for the Commission's services, in the                 
  wake of diminishing  resources.   She noted that  complaints                 
  with the Commission  have tripled  over the  last 15  years.                 
  During the same time, the Commission  has lost 35 percent of                 
  their staff.   As a result, despite  increased efficiencies,                 
  their case  inventory has  reached an  all time  high.   She                 
  acknowledged that seeking additional resources alone is  not                 
  enough.   The  Commission has  revised internal  procedures,                 
  amended  regulations,  and  proposed legislation  to  reduce                 
  costs.  She noted that HB 155 would  allow the Commission to                 
  charge fees for educational services.  The legislation would                 
  also  allow  the   Commission  to   hold  hearings  at   the                 
  Commission's office  and to  record, instead  of transcribe,                 
  hearings.  Any  savings would  be used to  pay overtime  for                 
  investigative staff and,  as funding  is available, to  hire                 
  temporary  staff.    The  Commission  hopes  the  additional                 
  funding will help alleviate the backlog of cases.  There are                 
  approximately 340 unassigned cases.                                          
  Co-Chair  Therriault  noted  that   the  Senate  adopted  an                 
  amendment pertaining to the fee.  He observed that there was                 
  some  concern that  the Commission  would charge  a  fee for                 
  access.  He  stressed that it  is clear that the  Commission                 
  would  only  charge   a  fee   in  exchange  for   providing                 
  educational services  to private  organizations and  groups.                 
  He noted that the intent is that the Commission recoup their                 
  costs for providing training and seminars.                                   
  Ms. Haley  observed that providing prevention  and education                 
  services  takes a considerable  amount of time.   She stated                 
  that  she  performs most  of  the  training.    Training  is                 
  provided  to the  legislature  and  private  business,  upon                 
  request,  when Ms. Haley  is available.   She  stressed that                 
  people  have  offered  to  pay  for  these  services.    The                 
  Commission has been unable to accept  fees due to a lack  of                 
  legislative   authorization.     She  maintained   that  the                 
  Commission should be  able to be  charge in order to  offset                 
  the diversion of  limited resources  from enforcement.   She                 
  estimated  that the Commission  may recoup $2  - $5 thousand                 
  dollars a year through fees.                                                 
  In response to a question by Co-Chair  Therriault, Ms. Haley                 
  noted that both the House and Senate expressed concern  that                 
  the  original legislation  contained a broad  fee provision.                 
  Both  bodies  created  committee substitutes  that  inserted                 
  "educational".    She  suggested   that  the  Senate   floor                 
  amendment  may have been  adopted without  the understanding                 
  that "educational" had been inserted.                                        
  Representative  Davies  observed  that  legislative  counsel                 
  indicated that there may be a problem with the title of CSHB
  155  (STA).   He  noted that  the  use of  "authorizing" may                 
  suggest that  the Legislature  is confirming specific  fees.                 
  Legislative  counsel  recommended   that  "authorizing"   be                 
  deleted.  He  suggested that "fees  for" be deleted and  "to                 
  establish certain fees" be added in the title.                               
  In response to a question by Co-Chair  Therriault, Ms. Haley                 
  noted that fees would have to be established in  regulation.                 
  She  anticipated  that  fees would  be  on  a  sliding scale                 
  depending on the  service.   She noted that  the fees  would                 
  reflect  the  market value.   She  observed that  she cannot                 
  respond to all of the requests for training.                                 
  Representative  Grussendorf  noted  that the  title  is  not                 
  included in statute.  Representative Davis observed that the                 
  Senate title is okay.                                                        
  Representative Davies  MOVED to delete "fees for" on page 1,                 
  line 1 and  delete "to  establish certain fees"  on page  1,                 
  line 2.  There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered.                        
  HB 155 was HELD in Committee for further consideration.                      
  The meeting adjourned at 2:10 p.m.                                           

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