Legislature(1999 - 2000)
05/10/1999 01:45 PM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE FINANCE COMMITTEE May 10, 1999 1:45 P.M. TAPE HFC 99 - 122, Side 1. TAPE HFC 99 - 122, Side 2. CALL TO ORDER Co-Chair Therriault called the House Finance Committee meeting to order at 1:45 P.M. PRESENT Co-Chair Therriault Representative Foster Vice Chair Bunde Representative Grussendorf Representative G. Davis Representative Kohring Representative Austerman Representative Moses Representative J. Davies Representative Williams Representative Mulder was not present for the meeting. ALSO PRESENT Juli Lucky, Staff, Senator Rick Halford; Hans Neidig, Staff, Senator Dave Donley; Dwight Perkins, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Labor; Dean Guaneli, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, Department of Law; Barbara Brink, (Testified via Teleconference), Director, Alaska Public Defender Agency, Anchorage; Catherine Reardon, Director, Division of Occupational Licensing, Department of Commerce and Economic Development; Al Dwyer, Director, Division of Labor Standards and Safety, Department of Labor; Linda Wild, Alaska Dietetic Association, Juneau. SUMMARY SB 3 An Act relating to the crimes of murder, solicitation to commit murder in the first degree, manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide; relating to homicides of children; and relating to the crime of interference with custody of a child or incompetent person. HCS CS SB 3 (FIN) was reported out of Committee with a "do pass" recommendation and with two fiscal notes by the Department of Administration dated 1/25/99, a zero fiscal note by the Department of Law dated 1/25/99 and a new fiscal note by the Department of Corrections. SB 50 An Act relating to certain boiler and pressure vessel inspections and inspectors; and providing for an effective date. SB 50am was reported out of Committee with a "do pass" recommendation and with a fiscal note by the Department of Labor dated 2/19/99. SB 88 An Act relating to licensure of dietitians and nutritionists; and providing for an effective date. CS SB 88 (FIN) was reported out of Committee with "no recommendation" and with a fiscal note by Department of Commerce and Economic Development dated 4/7/99. SENATE BILL NO. 3 An Act relating to the crimes of murder, solicitation to commit murder in the first degree, manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide; relating to homicides of children; and relating to the crime of interference with custody of a child or incompetent person. JULI LUCKY, STAFF, SENATOR RICK HALFORD, explained the intent of SB 3 and the changes that it would incorporate into criminal statute. She pointed out that last year SB 3 came through as SB 218. The current version would: * Add a new form of first degree murder when the death of a child results from the commission or attempted commission of kidnapping or sexual offense; * Expands the list of offenses constituting felony murder to include sexual abuse of a minor in the first and second degrees; * Adds a new form of second degree murder when a person causes the death of a child with criminal negligence and has a previous felony conviction against a child; * Elevates criminally negligent homicide from a class C to a class B felony; * Establishes a twenty year mandatory minimum sentence for a person convicted of a murder of a child under the age of sixteen; * Increases the mandatory minimum sentence for manslaughter, when the victim is a child under the age of sixteen; * Establishes a new sentencing provision, which allows for a term of unsuspended imprisonment that exceeds the presumptive term for certain felony offenses if the victim is a child under the age of 16; * Expands the crime of custodial interference in the first degree to include the act of keeping a child or incompetent person outside of the State; * Clarifies language in the sex offender registry; and * Elevates solicitation of murder to an unclassified felony. Ms. Lucky emphasized that children deserve a responsible level of care when they are entrusted to an adult. SB 3 would accomplish both the goal of deterrence and at the same time would establish punishment more fitting for such crime. Ms. Lucky provided a sectional analysis of changes made in the House Judiciary Committee version: Section 1- States the purpose of Section 15. Section 2- Increases the penalty for the crime of solicitation of first degree murder from a class A felony to an unclassified felony. Section 3- Simplifies the language and expands the range of conduct constituting that particular form of first- degree murder. It would create a new form of first degree murder when the death of a child results from the commission or attempted commission of kidnapping or a sexual offense. Section 4- Expands the list of offenses constituting felony murder to include sexual abuse of a minor in the first and second degrees and makes causing the death of a child with criminal negligence a form of second degree murder if there is a previous conviction. Section 5- Increases the penalty for criminally negligent homicide from a class C to a class B felony. Section 6- Expands the definition of custodial interference to include keeping a child or incompetent person outside of the State. Section 7 & 8-Adds solicitation to commit murder in the first degree and conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree to the listing of unclassified offenses and unclassified felonies. Section 9- Establishes a mandatory 20 year minimum sentence for the murder of a child under 16 years of age, providing the assailant was a legal guardian, occupied a position of authority, or caused the death of the child by committing a crime against a person. Section 10-Increases the presumptive penalty for child manslaughter from 5 to 7 years. Section 11-Allows the courts to sentence a first felony offender convicted of criminally negligent homicide of a child under 16 years of age to a longer sentence than the presumptive sentence for a second or third felony offender convicted of the same crime. Sections 12, 13 & 14-Adds sections to the definition of aggravated sex offense in the definition sections of the sex offender registration statutes. Section 15-Clarifies that the definition for "conviction" in the Sex Offender Registry Statutes. Sections 16 & 17- Bifurcates applicability of the act. Section 18-Definition for conviction in the sex offender registry statutes applies to convictions that occurred before, on or after the effective date. Section 19-Immediate effective date. DEAN GUANELI, CHIEF ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, CRIMINAL DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF LAW, noted that the Department of Law supports the legislation. He advised that portions of the bill were part of HB 375 sponsored by the Governor last year. The provisions had been struck from the Governor's bill and were then placed in a separate Senate bill which did not pass. Mr. Guaneli advised that that there is a perception that some homicide crimes committed against children are not treated as seriously as homicide committed against adults. That is the primary basis for the bill. BARBARA BRINK, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), DIRECTOR, ALASKA PUBLIC DEFENDER AGENCY, ANCHORAGE, commented that the law already recognizes that the death of a child is a significant event. In statutes passed by the Legislature, there is a stipulation called an "aggravating factor" indicating vulnerable victims including children. Ms. Brink pointed out that Alaska has a clearly defined system of homicide statutes that determines what level of responsibility a person should be held accountable for, based on their mental condition at the time of the crime. She believed that the proposed legislation could be dangerous as it would create a special category for offenses based simply upon the status of the victim. Ms. Brink addressed specific provisions and concerns of the proposed bill. Section 5 would make criminal negligent homicide a class B felony, which currently, it is a class C felony, which means if a careless act were committed resulting in a death, the proposed legislation would change the amount of time that the person would be required to serve. If it were the intent to create additional degree of homicide, that would make sense. She observed that there are situations in which someone has acted negligently and that it would not be appropriate to charge them with a class B felony. That could result in a ten-year prison sentence. Additionally, Ms. Brink pointed out that Section 5 speaks to "any death", not just the death of a child. Ms. Brink continued, Section 15 would change the definition of conviction. The intention of the provision would be to enlarge that group which occupies the sex offender registration laws. She stated that change could have serious constitutional and protection problems. Mr. Guaneli spoke in response to the concerns voiced by Ms. Brink on Section 5. He noted that there is a "gap" in State law, indicating that it is not a fair characterization that would be "careless" killing. The legislation would increase the criminal negligent homicide class to a B felony to fill the middle category. He advised that the class C felony would be the same penalty for stealing a $500 dollar television. That gap needs to be addressed. Representative J. Davies asked if there were examples of criminally negligent homicides that should remain class C felonies. Mr. Guaneli replied that criminally negligent homicide is not a common occurrence. The "shaking of a baby" to death would be an instance. He reiterated that there are homicides which fall under unusual circumstances. In response to Representative J. Davies, Mr. Guaneli explained the difference between the penalties for class C versus class B charges. A class C felony would be 0 - 5 prison years and a class B felony could be 0 - 10 prison years. The average sentence that someone serves for a class C felony is roughly six months to one year; the average sentence served for a class B felony is 1 to 3 year for a first time offender. Mr. Guaneli advised that "other" provisions on Page 3 would establish sentencing for criminal negligence and reckless killings of young children where there existed a previous incidence, which would elevates it to a 2nd degree murder charge. Section 5 is a stand-alone provision and relates to all other criminally negligent homicides. Co-Chair Therriault MOVED to adopt Amendment #1. [Copy on File]. He commented that the amendment would provide clarification of language on Page 2, Line 27. There being NO OBJECTION, it was adopted. Representative Foster MOVED to report HCS CS SB 3 (FIN) out of Committee with individual recommendations and with the accompanying fiscal notes. HCS CS SB 3 (FIN) was reported out of Committee with a "do pass" recommendation and with fiscal notes by Department of Corrections, two by the Department of Administration dated 1/25/99 and a zero note by the Department of Law dated 1/25/99. SENATE BILL NO. 50 An Act relating to certain boiler and pressure vessel inspections and inspectors; and providing for an effective date. DWIGHT PERKINS, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, noted that the Department is currently severely backlogged in its inspections of boilers and pressure vessels. Of the 6,000 vessels that are overdue for inspection, over half are of this type. The proposed legislation would allow the Commissioner to identify certain state employees as approved inspectors for the purpose of performing routine annual inspections on this type of overdue vessel. Mr. Perkins suggested that this action would free up the National Board approved boiler inspectors to address those vessels that are of a larger, more complex nature, such as high capacity pressure vessels and large capacity commercial and industrial boilers. This strategy should assist the Department in addressing the backlog of boilers and pressure vessels that are overdue for inspection. The legislation will allow cross training and more efficient utilization of existing staff to benefit of the public. In response to Co-Chair Therriault's query, Mr. Perkins stated that the size of the projects would be six-plex or small commercial buildings. He reiterated that the high- pressure steam and boiler inspectors would be freed up. Representative J. Davies asked if the problem resulted from the positions not being authorized or cut from the operating budget. Mr. Perkins replied that the Department does not have the authorization for the positions while at the same time suffer from a severe backlog. The intent is to increase inspections biannually. Currently, they are serviced annually. AL DWYER, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF LABOR STANDARDS AND SAFETY, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, added that the backlog could be partially addressed within six months. Representative Foster voiced concern with the workload of plumbing inspectors in his area. Mr. Dwyer replied that the Department's plumbing inspectors are generally located in the major city hubs such as Anchorage and Fairbanks from which they fly into the smaller communities to perform inspections. The Department attempts to utilize employees fully while they are on the road. Representative Foster noted his concern with the boiler situation in Bush area schools. He recommended that schools receive priority inspections. Mr. Dwyer noted that the Department prioritizes all jobs in all communities. He acknowledged that there had been five boiler-related fires in Representative Foster's area, and that four had been related to arson. Mr. Dwyer addressed the fiscal note. He commented that the change would allow the Department to increase efficiency by better utilizing the skills of the existing inspector personnel. By having certain State employees perform limited boiler inspections on a part-time basis, the current rate of growth in inspection backlog should be stopped and a positive reduction of the existing backlog could be achieved. Inspections performed by inspectors are expected to generate additional receipts. Representative Foster MOVED to report SB 50am out of Committee with individual recommendations and with the accompanying fiscal note. There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered. SB 50am was reported out of Committee with a "do pass" recommendation and with a fiscal note by the Department of Labor dated 2/19/99. SENATE BILL NO. 88 An Act relating to licensure of dietitians and nutritionists; and providing for an effective date. HANS NEIDIG, STAFF, SENATOR DAVE DONLEY, stated that SB 88 would codify professional title licensure of dietitians and nutritionists, while helping to ensure the quality of such services and protecting consumers. SB 88 represents sound public policy because it protects Alaskans from the potential harm that could be caused by untrained individuals working in the field. This would be accomplished by having standards which differentiate between individuals who are qualified nutritionists and dietitians and those who are not. Mr. Neidig noted that SB 88 contains provisions which ensure that individuals practicing nutrition, obtain a bachelor's, masters or doctoral degrees from an accredited school to work in Alaska. Mr. Neidig advised that the licensing of dietitians and nutritionist enables the public to identify individuals who are qualified by education, experience and examination to provide nutrition care services. Recognition defines the dietetics and nutrition practice which includes the integration and application of the principles derived from the sciences of nutrition, biochemistry, food physiology, management and behavioral and social sciences to achieve and maintain the health of the citizens of Alaska. He pointed out that the bill would not establish a new board. The licensing program will be conducted by the Division of Occupational Licensing and will have no cost to the State. Representative Foster asked if the nutritionists that live in village areas would be responsible to fly to Anchorage every couple of years to update their certification. Mr. Neidig replied that there is no examination requirement. CATHERINE REARDON, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING, DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, corrected that there is an examine for only the initial license; there is no obligation to take it more than once. The applicant will be paying for the national test directly, not through State government and that the test would be offered only in Anchorage. (Tape Change HFC 99 - 122, Side 2). Representative Foster voiced concern for those individual nutritionists who have been working in the field, who do not have the accredited dietitian or nutritionist requirements. He asked if they would be "grandfathered" in. Ms. Reardon stated that would need to be a policy decision for the Legislature. A "practice" restriction could be placed in the legislation, or employers could have the option to change the titles of those employees. LINDA WILD, ALASKA DIETETIC ASSOCIATION, JUNEAU, testified that the Alaska Dietetic Association strongly supports the legislation. Currently, thirty-nine states have some form of licensing of dietitians and nutritionists. There are two main reasons for supporting the license dietitians and nutritionists. The proposed legislation recently reintroduced in Congress that would provide coverage in the outpatient portion of the federally funded Medicare program for medical nutrition therapy services, a 75 cent phrase for nutrition therapy, furnished by registered dietitians and qualified nutrition professionals. Currently, Medicare provides reimbursement for nutrition services only in portion A, or in the hospital portion of the program. Ms. Wild continued, the reason dietitians care about this is that the proposed legislation stipulates that reimbursable services be provided by dietitians or nutrition professionals who are licensed in the states in which they work. She stressed that dietitians and nutritionists must be part of the health care team, and they need to be licensed. The proposed change to Medicare is one of the big reasons there has been a push in recent years to license dietitians and nutritionists, in addition to the increasing emphasis on preventative health care. Good nutrition is a big part of that prevention. Ms. Wild continued, an additional reason for the requesting the licensure is professional recognition. Licensure will put nutrition professionals on an equal footing with other professionals. The bill before the Committee is known as "title licensure" or "title protection". This means that only those professionals meeting the educational and experience criteria will be licensed as dietitians and nutritionists. The bill would hold minimum qualifications for professionals in the field and would provide guidance to the public. Representative Grussendorf asked if there was work experience which could fulfill criteria needed to obtain the license. Ms. Wild replied that staff working in the school system is not required to be licensed, however, those with job titles of dietitian or nutritionist would need to have the license. She did not know of any people in the State of Alaska, who had those job titles that would qualify for licensing. Ms. Wild pointed out that there is another category called "diet tech", which does not require licensure. Co-Chair Therriault questioned what restrictions would the legislation implement. Ms. Wild explained that the bill would require any person calling themselves a dietitian or nutritionist be licensed. In response to concerns voiced by Representative Foster, Ms. Wild explained that the examination would allow a person to become a registered dietitian. It could be taken in Anchorage and would be a one time only test. Representative Kohring inquired if industry was requesting the proposed legislation. Ms. Wild replied that "shock" had been voiced with the $410 biannual fee request, but are confident that will be for the first cycle only. After that, there will be renewal charges, a more simple process. She advised that there is strong support for the legislation. Representative Foster MOVED to report CSSB 88 (FIN) out of Committee with individual recommendations and with the accompanying fiscal note. There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered. CS SB 88 (FIN) was reported out of Committee with "no recommendation" and with a fiscal note by Department of Commerce and Economic Development dated 4/7/99. ADJOURNMENT The meeting adjourned at 3:00 p.m. H.F.C. 10 5/10/99 p.m.