Legislature(1995 - 1996)
01/17/1996 01:15 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE JUDICIARY STANDING COMMITTEE January 17, 1996 1:15 p.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Representative Brian Porter, Chairman Representative Joe Green, Vice Chairman Representative Con Bunde Representative Bettye Davis Representative Al Vezey Representative David Finkelstein MEMBERS ABSENT Representative Cynthia Toohey COMMITTEE CALENDAR Confirmation hearing to reinstate Joseph Donahue and Edith Vorderstrasse to the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics. HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION 2 "Proposing amendments to the Constitution of the State of Alaska relating to redistricting and to the length of a regular session, and establishing a unicameral legislature; and providing for an effective date for each amendment." - PASSED OUT OF COMMITTEE *HOUSE BILL 379 "An Act authorizing establishment of alternative dispute resolution centers to foster the resolution of disputes between juvenile offenders and their victims." - HEARD AND HELD (* First public hearing) PREVIOUS ACTION BILL: HJR 2 SHORT TITLE: UNICAMERAL LEGISLATURE/SESSION LIMIT SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVE(S) GREEN,Navarre JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 01/06/95 16 (H) PREFILE RELEASED 01/16/95 16 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S) 01/16/95 16 (H) STA, JUD, FIN 04/27/95 (H) STA AT 08:00 AM CAPITOL 102 04/27/95 (H) MINUTE(STA) 04/27/95 (H) MINUTE(STA) 04/28/95 1611 (H) STA RPT 1DP 4NR 04/28/95 1612 (H) DP: GREEN 04/28/95 1612 (H) NR: JAMES, ROBINSON, OGAN, WILLIS 04/28/95 1612 (H) 3 FNS (2-GOV, LAA) 04/28/95 1612 (H) ZERO FISCAL NOTE (LAW) 10/16/95 (H) JUD AT 09:00 AM JUNEAU LIO 01/17/96 (H) JUD AT 01:00 PM CAPITOL 120 BILL: HB 379 SHORT TITLE: VICTIM/JUVENILE OFFENDER MEDIATION SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVE(S) PORTER,Green,Kelly JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 12/29/95 2365 (H) PREFILE RELEASED 01/08/96 2365 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S) 01/08/96 2365 (H) JUDICIARY, FINANCE 01/17/96 (H) JUD AT 01:00 PM CAPITOL 120 WITNESS REGISTER DR. ROBERT SITTIG, Professor of Political Science University of Nebraska Lincoln, Nebraska 68588-0328 Telephone: (402) 472-2344 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on HJR 2 PATRICK O'DONNELL Clerk of the Legislature Nebraska State Legislature, Room 2018 Lincoln, Nebraska 68509 Telephone: (402) 471-2271 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on HJR 2 MIKE NIEMEYER, Executive Director Victim/Offender Reconciliation in California 777 South Main Street, Suite 200 Orange, California 99628 Telephone: Not provided POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on HB 379 SUSAN DIPIETRO, Staff Attorney Juvenile Law, Alaska Judicial Council 1029 West 3rd Avenue, Suite 201 Anchorage, Alaska 99501 Telephone: (907) 279-2526 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of HB 379 GARY R. SCHWARTZ, Juvenile Intake Probation Officer Anchorage Corrections 2600 Providence Drive Anchorage, Alaska 99508 Telephone: (907) 562-2285 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of HB 379 NIKISHKA STEWART, Project Coordinator Community Dispute Resolution Center 505 West Northern Lights, Suite 210 Anchorage, Alaska 99501 Telephone: Not provided POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of HB 379 KATHY TIBBLES, Social Services Program Officer Division of Family & Youth Services Department of Health and Social Services 350 Main Street, Room 404 Juneau, Alaska 99801 Telephone: (907) 645-32191 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of HB 379 ARTHUR SNOWDEN II, Administrative Director Alaska Court System 303 "K" Street Anchorage, Alaska 99501-2084 Telephone: (907) 264-0547 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of HB 379 ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 96-1, SIDE A Number 000 CHAIRMAN BRIAN PORTER called the House Judiciary committee meeting to order at 1:15 P.M. Members present at the call to order were Representatives Joseph Green, Con Bunde, Bettye Davis and David Finkelstein. Members absent were Representatives Cynthia Toohey and Al Vezey. Number 099 CHAIRMAN PORTER opened the meeting by pointing out there were three things of importance to address. First, was the consideration of two reappointments to the Legislative Ethics Committee of Mr. Joseph Donahue and Ms. Edith Vorderstrasse. Chairman Porter pointed out that the Judiciary Committee members had a chance to review these individual's resumes and having received no indications of concern, he asked that the Judiciary Committee consider the recommendation of reinstating Mr. Donahue on the Ethics Committee. Number 173 REPRESENTATIVE JOE GREEN made a motion to approve the reappointment of Joseph Donahue to serve on the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics. Number 216 CHAIRMAN PORTER said the intent of the motion is to send forward a recommendation from the committee that the members believe he should be considered by the entire body for reappointment to the Ethics Committee. He asked if there is an objection to the motion. Hearing none, the name would be advanced forward. Number 235 REPRESENTATIVE DAVID FINKELSTEIN made a motion to forward the name of Edith Vorderstrasse to the body. Number 252 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked if there was an objection to the motion. There being none, Ms. Vorderstrasse's was forwarded. HJR 2 - UNICAMERAL LEGISLATURE/SESSION LIMIT Number 368 CHAIRMAN PORTER announced the next order of business would be HJR 2, Proposing amendments to the Constitution of the State of Alaska relating to redistricting and to the length of a regular session, and establishing a unicameral legislature; and providing for an effective date for each amendment. He added that the bill had been discussed during the interim. Number 448 REPRESENTATIVE CON BUNDE made a motion to adopt the proposed committee substitute (CS) for HJR 2. Hearing no objection, it was so ordered. Number 485 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN, sponsor of the resolution, opened his remarks by stating that the CS was a result of an interim hearing which suggests some small suggestive changes. He proposed outlining a few points he felt were important for discussion. Unicameral government is not a new concept. This system consists of only one house, therefore a bill does not have to move through an additional house. This eliminates the bill's movement through less committee hearings as well. This could also affect the period of time the legislature meets. Nebraska adopted the unicameral system during the depression as a cost-cutting measure. Because of it's success, the State of Nebraska has kept this system in place ever since. Most states mimic the federal government system in the spirit of equal representation. REPRESENTATIVE GREEEN added that the State of Alaska, in 1976, proposed the unicameral system as an amendment to the constitution, but the legislature turned it down even though it was the will of the people. He pointed out that it's a misconception to think that this system eliminates jobs for legislators. He quoted Dr. Robert Sittig as background, "The legislature itself is the proscribed starting place for constitutional amendments, however, legislators are disinclined to approve proposals which would alter substantially the body in which they serve." Number 825 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked for clarification concerning this reduction misconception. It was his understanding that there would be none. Number 841 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN responded that Representative Bunde was absolutely right. HJR 2 calls for the existing sixty legislators and the state would be divided into sixty different units. Within these units each representative or senator would be responsible to their electorate directly. Number 850 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked how many constituents would be comprised in a district. Number 896 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN answered 9,000 generally as a number. He pointed out that this was far less than some of the larger states and greater compared to places like Wyoming. A poll taken within the State of Nebraska reflected that it's citizens are very to wildly supportive of the unicameral system. The Nebraska members of the legislature feel it's a more efficient, less contentious, and a more responsive tool to the constituency. Number 1073 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked if there had been an informal polling of the Alaska legislature undertaken. Number 1099 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN responded that he hoped as the bill moved through committee the concept would gain support. He envisioned that this concept would pass the house, but he didn't know if the senate would go along with it. Representative Green added that a unicameral system is a cost saving measure. Number 1148 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked about the impacts this system would have on staff, the local economy effects, et cetera. Number 1161 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN answered yes, there would be various impacts. The length of the legislative session would probably be shortened, but the number of legislators would not change and they'd still need staff. Whether they would retain the same amount of staff or a compromise amount, Representative Green supposed that there would be some cost savings in this area. If the legislative session was shortened, Representative Green said staff might be increased since legislation would be moving through one house at a greater speed. A lot of frivolous legislation would fall by the way-side. Number 1228 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked if this change would mean some members of the legislature would not be seated on a committee. Number 1250 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN stressed that because so many of the legislators are on so many committees now, they could cut back their membership and do a better job of serving on one or two committees, rather than four or five committees at one time. He felt as though there was enough committee work to go around. Number 1326 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN outlined his suggested amendment to the HJR 2 legislation. He felt as though the unicameral system was a great idea. If the proposed legislation was to be introduced through a constitutional amendment, he felt as though they should try to solve as many of the problems that currently exist with the formation of the legislature as possible. He proceeded to outline what he saw as a problem with deciding legislator's salaries. Because legislators are required to set their own salaries, they suffer severe criticism anytime an increase is suggested. This has become a major political football. He generally outlined how these legislative salaries have fluctuated over the years. REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN said a committee now exists, which sets salary policy and recommends proper compensation for legislators. They assess the legislative work load and look at comparable salaries in order to make recommendations, but the legislature doesn't usually act on these suggestions because of the perceived conflict. Representative Finkelstein suggested the formulation of a constitutional amendment which allows for a citizen's committee much like the one that exists now. When recommendations are made they would go into effect automatically, unless the legislature overrides them. This system would eliminate the issue of what and how the assembly members get paid. Although this amendment is not integral to a unicameral legislature, Representative Finkelstein feels as though it's an issue that will haunt future legislators who are forced into the position of approving their own salaries. With that, Representative Finkelstein asked to move the amendment. Number 1541 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN objected for the purposes of discussion. Assuming that there isn't any legal problem with this amendment, Representative Green submitted that at line seven, of paragraph b, "it may prevent," he suggested changing the tenor of the sentence to say, "a proposed change is considered disapproved unless acted on by a resolution concurred in by at least a majority of the senate members within 45 days after it is presented." Number 1614 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN clarified that in the event a proposal wasn't accepted, then the status quo would stay in effect. Representative Green said yes. Representative Finkelstein reiterated that the concept of this amendment was that the legislature would turn over the decision of compensation to an impartial committee. If the legislature took no action and salaries were automatically generated, the committee's proposal to stand goes to the heart of this proposal. Number 1721 CHAIRMAN PORTER then welcomed Dr. Robert Sittig and Patrick O'Donnell from the State of Nebraska, who were both standing by on teleconference, to testify about the unicameral concept. Number 1744 DR. ROBERT SITTIG, Professor of Political Science, University of Nebraska, spoke first with a factual outline of how the Nebraska Legislature is configured. There are 49 seats, four year staggered terms, all members are called senators, and are paid 12,000 dollars per session. The session lengths run 60 days one year, 90 the other. The state recently adopted a two year budget cycle. The members are non-partisan which means the members are nominated and elected without an identification on the ballot. The Lieutenant Governor presides over the Legislature. To accommodate outsiders, there are mandatory public hearings on all bills by the committees. Time constraints to enact a bill are enforced. There are very few related officer positions. The opportunity for the media to attend closed door proceedings of the standing committees during mark up proceedings exists. Number 1820 DR. SITTIG then gave an overview of the advantages to the unicameral system. The Nebraska legislature is a small body, which adds to public accessibility. This also adds to the legislature's accountability. The members appreciate this format because it's unstructured and simple. This maximizes the impact that each of the members has in the legislative process. In addition, the committees are more accommodating which aids to moving legislation through the system. The negatives to this system is that it's becoming more centralized and more complicated. This decreases public input. The non-partisan factor of the Nebraska Legislature has caused more consternation than anything else. It leads to less candidate competition in the nominating and electing process. This also contributes to less public awareness and involvement than there would be if the system was partisan. The chief executive officers seem less engaged and distant from the policy making process. It's almost impossible for non-urban legislators to spend a career in the legislature. The average amount of service by a legislator is between only five or six years. Participation has been flat over the decade. Generally, service in the legislature is not attractive. Number 1943 DR. SITTIG then outlined a program Nebraska has initiated which allows for a rotation of leaders after serving longer than one year. This helps with stability. Even though Nebraska has a non- partisan system, the governor appoints members to committees who are actually partisan. Because there are a lot of vacancies on committees, the governor appoints in many instances, four or five individuals of choice. Even though the system is non-partisan, Republicans and Democrats will square off on the floor in house debates or in campaigns. Nebraska legislators are not rewarded for their diligent service and that puts a damper on the process. Number 2026 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN pointed out that the negatives Dr. Sittig outlined were more related to Nebraska's non-partisanship structure. If a bi-partisanship was maintained, would that make a difference? Number 2048 DR. SITTIG thought that it would add to more recruitment of candidates. He thought the public would identify more strongly with party affiliation. Number 2087 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked if Nebraska's legislature has term limits and Dr. Sittig responded no, but that this question was in litigation now. Representative Green then asked how non- partisanship affects the structuring of legislative committees. Number 2127 DR. SITTIG responded that anyone can run for any leadership position, including committees. A person can nominate themselves. The votes are conducted secretly. If anyone runs for a committee they usually have some experience regarding that committee's subject matter jurisdiction. Number 2172 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked if the position of Lieutenant Governor in Nebraska was non-partisan and if so, was there a presiding officer with a defacto influence over the legislature as well? Number 2184 DR. SITTIG responded that the Lieutenant Governor is non-partisan and doesn't always preside over the house. Sometimes they will, but the Speaker of the House or others will do so as well. Number 2225 PATRICK O'DONNELL, Clerk of the Legislature, Nebraska State Legislature, testified to a few points Dr. Sittig made. He felt as though the members of the legislature would resist change to a partisan system. The Nebraska Legislature does not caucus per se and there are no partisan caucuses. The legislature's leadership is voted on by secret ballot on the opening day of session. Presently there are 26 non-partisan Republicans and 22 non-partisan Democrats. The speaker is a Democrat and half of the committee chairs are Democrat. The Lieutenant Governor's work is tolerated, but they have very little influence. Often times, if there's a controversial bill before the house, the Lieutenant Governor is encouraged not to attend. In regards to how legislation moves through the unicameral house, there are four readings of each bill. The fourth reading is designed as a checks and balance. It allows the bill to be debated on two separate occasions. The process is fairly decentralized. The speaker is somewhat limited in their authority. They have the ability to set the daily agenda, but any member has the ability to offer amendments and there's no limitation on the length of debate. Number 2461 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked Mr. O'Donnell what types of problems Alaska could anticipate in their change to a unicameral system. Number 2473 MR. O'DONNELL couldn't say specifically since he hadn't seen the Alaskan proposal. He thought there would be some reservations if the plan called for a reduction of legislators. Mr. O'DONNELL added that if a special session of the Nebraska legislature was convened they're required to meet a minimum of seven legislative days. Other than mechanical, the change-over to a unicameral system may not affect how legislation is enacted. TAPE 96-1, SIDE B Number 077 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked if caucuses did grow out the non- partisan system regardless of like-minded people establishing agendas. Number 101 MR. O'DONNELL responded by saying that it does happen informally and not as often as someone would think. The ebbs and flows of coalitions change rather quickly. Usually when caucuses do form they're issue related rather than agenda specific. Number 144 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked if there were any state statutes or legislative rules which limit the ability of caucuses having confidential conversations. Number 148 MR. O'DONNELL said no, but Nebraska does have an open meetings law. People gathering in caucuses don't take action per se and these are not considered meetings of the legislature in any meaning of the term. Dr. Sittig pointed out that Nebraska has regional caucuses to accommodate and facilitate assignment of committees. Committees are formed along geographical lines. Number 207 CHAIRMAN PORTER then asked if the "mark-up" process as mentioned earlier, wasn't the process of putting the final touches on a bill out of the full session before it's presented for the full body's consideration. Would this be the same as an Alaska caucus situation? Number 216 MR. O'DONNELL responded by saying bills are referred out to their standing committees based on subject matter jurisdiction. The committee then conducts their public hearing and has the ability to modify proposals in any way deemed appropriate. This is the process of mark-up. Often times when a bill reaches the floor the first thing considered are the amendments proposed by the committee. Bills can also be amended on the floor. Number 252 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked who assigns the sequence of committee referrals and whether there is a sequence a bill goes through before it gets to the house, rather than it being worked through two committees at one time such as in Alaska. Number 272 MR. O'DONNELL responded. Nebraska has a management committee consisting of regional representatives, the speaker of the house, and a chairman and vice-chairman who are elected on the floor by secret ballot. It is a nine member committee and they're responsible for assigning the different pieces of legislation to the appropriate committee. Number 315 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN referred to the problem of Nebraska's high rate of turnover and asked how this has affected the legislature's activities. Number 341 MR. O'DONNELL answered yes, this does affect the legislature. There are situations where they're forced to reinvent the wheel, especially in their rules discussions revolving around process orientation. The floor is affected as well. Members who have not been exposed to particular issues have to be re-educated. It takes time to get people up to speed. Dr. Sittig agreed. Turn over is very rapid in the lower ranks. Number 415 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked if this turn over might not improve if a bi-partisan system was installed. Number 427 MR. O'DONNELL said he did not honestly know. Dr. Sittig didn't think it would make that much of a difference, although he felt the political party vehicle does provide a bit more opportunity for advancement. Number 466 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN then continued his discussion regarding the proposed amendment to HJR 2. He reiterated what he said about the legislature's requirement to approve their own compensation, which is an untenable situation. He pointed out that to require the legislature to act on a salary committee's recommendation would not the change the status quo. Number 550 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said he understood what Representative Finkelstein was trying to achieve, but he also recalled a situation in Congress where a pay raise was to take effect unless the Congress voted it down. They were taken to task by the public. Representative Bunde was concerned that the Alaska Legislature might be damned if they did and damned if they didn't. The concept of a commission making a salary recommendation and the legislature being required to endorses it, was a compromise he could live with. Number 608 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN voiced his concern about this commission being appointed by the governor. He used a hypothetical situation where there's a governor of one party and a legislature of another. If the governor suggested a percentage decrease and the legislature didn't go along with that, the legislature would look bad. Number 661 CHAIRMAN PORTER spoke to the amendment and said that he agreed with Representative Finkelstein's suggestion the legislature should not vote on their salary increases, because that would put the issue right back at square one. Regardless of this, Chairman Porter said he couldn't support the amendment because it would cloud the issue of establishing a unicameral legislature. Number 708 REPRESENTATIVE BETTYE DAVIS appreciated what Chairman Porter said, but felt that if this issue wasn't addressed now, it would be too hard to form a commission such as this one at a later time. She said this commission concept works well in Anchorage. A commission such as the one suggested sets the salaries for the Anchorage assembly and if the assembly doesn't take any related action, the suggested salaries automatically go into effect. The public never comes down on the commission for the amount of salary suggested. Number 753 CHAIRMAN PORTER, moving onto a different subject, agreed that establishing a non-partisan system in Alaska would be ideal. It would be easier to be a legislator in this type of environment. The Alaskan legislature would not necessarily become a non-partisan system as a result of enacting unicameral legislation. This would become a constitutional issue. Number 820 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN felt as though it would be very unlikely that the governor would penalize the legislature in the way suggested by Representative Green. This type of situation rarely happens if ever because the legislature appropriates monies to the governmental administration. Once this type of feud is undertaken, it would only get worse. Number 937 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said he is generally supportive of the amendment, but is hesitant to designate a single person who in turn appoints all the commission's members. He added that he would be interested in seeing an amendment which addresses this salary appropriations concern further through the legislative committee process. Number 950 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked for an amendment roll call. Voting for the amendment were Representatives Davis and Finkelstein. Voting against the amendment were Representatives Bunde, Green and Porter. Representatives Toohey and Vezey were not present. Chairman Porter declared that the amendment had failed. Number 990 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked the committee to then consider HJR 2. Number 996 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS asked a question of the sponsor, Joe Green regarding HJR 2. It was her understanding while listening to the testimony from Nebraska that the reasons why the unicameral system was so successful had more to do with the fact that their form of government was non-partisan. Number 1045 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN added that this was not what he heard. The disadvantages of the unicameral legislature outlined had more to do with the system being non-partisan. Representative Green then re- defined what these already discussed disadvantages were. Number 1006 CHAIRMAN PORTER understood from the non-partisan discussion that the legislators appreciate this system as it is established. Both witnesses thought the system would be better served with more public involvement and more tenure for the legislators under a partisan partnership. Number 1137 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS added that the witnesses said if the system was partisan this might allow legislators to move to higher offices. Her impression of the Alaska legislature is that their members don't move up respectively in it's bi-partisan system either. Number 1166 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE stated that he couldn't imagine this unicameral system proposal could be implemented under a non- partisan banner. He stated that change is hard for people. He also asked the sponsor if he envisioned that the Lieutenant Governor would preside over the Alaska legislature within this unicameral framework. Chairman Porter first recognized the presence of Representative Vezey. Number 1240 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN thought that a presiding Lieutenant Governor would not be part of the proposed legislation. He felt this would ensure the separation of power. Number 1281 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE thought the advantages of establishing a unicameral system was the overall efficiency, including the establishment of smaller constituencies to serve. He then made a motion to move HJR 2 from the Judiciary Committee with individual recommendations. Number 1328 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked if there were any objections. Hearing none, HJR 2 was moved out of committee. HB 379 - VICTIM/JUVENILE OFFENDER MEDIATION Number 1348 CHAIRMAN PORTER then gave a short synopsis of a proposed CS to HB 379. Chairman Porter stated that CSHB 379 is legislation which he firmly believes in. The Municipality of Anchorage, as a model for this legislature, on a city level is trying to deal with minor offenses of juveniles through early intervention. This should help ward off these juveniles from becoming increasingly involved in additional crimes. Number 1463 MIKE NIEMEYER, Executive Director, Victim/Offender Reconciliation, Orange County, California, said his program is sponsored through St. Vincent De Paul and that they also receive public money from a surcharge on civil court filing fees. Last year 1,200 cases were processed using the victim offender mediation approach. This program actually began in 1974 in Canada and in Elkhart Indiana in 1979. The values of this program has been around for a while and are well established. The Orange County Program is seven and 1/2 years old and is based on the old concept that it is important for the perpetrator to meet their victim. This provides for more victim input rather than the standard criminal justice process which tends to be a offender oriented system. The Orange County program has three areas of mission purposes: The victims should have a chance to confront their perpetrators, the legislation provides for the victim being compensated by their perpetrators, and it provides an opportunity for the victim to be involved with their perpetrator's future. This last element enhances the victim's sense of restitution. Mr. Niemeyer added that this reconciliation concept has been endorsed by the American Bar Association and a resolution was adopted in August of 1994 supporting the program. The Orange County program finds that when a victim is given an opportunity to meet with their offender, over 70 percent of the victims are willing to participate and will meet with the offending party. The agreements which come out of this program are very durable. Over 95 percent of their restitution agreements have been completely fulfilled. Number 1804 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS asked what percentage of the money to support this program comes from the public? Number 1822 MR. NIEMEYER answered that funded money is matched through volunteer contributions and the additional public money comes from community development and local money revenues. California has a (indisc.) program tax which provides for a eight dollar surcharge on their civil court filing fees. Some of this money goes to the Orange County program. Number 1889 SUSAN DIPIETRO, Staff Attorney, Juvenile Law, Alaska Judicial Council, testified to CSHB 379. She also noted that she is Vice President of the Board of Directors for CERC (Community (indisc.) Resolution Center) and is also a volunteer mediator for the Juvenile Victim Offender Mediation program. Much of what Ms. DiPietro does to evaluate programs is to see that they help to improve the administration of justice. From her three perspectives as staff attorney, board member and volunteer, she is very much in favor of this legislation. It would strengthen the work of the victim offender mediation program already in place. Ms. DiPietro mentioned in addition the benefits of this mediation concept to it's volunteers. The feeling that they can make a difference or have an impact is very important. This project has a ripple effect. It touches all levels of society. Number 2062 GARY SCHWARTZ, Juvenile Intake Probation Officer, Anchorage Corrections, testified to the statistics of how many cases are being processed through the corrections department per year, not all of which are worked through the victim offender mediation program. Mr. Schwartz's contact with this program in Anchorage within the last year and 1/2 has been extremely positive. Several of the cases he dealt with have had outstanding results. He used an example of cases he deals with fairly regularly. Two 12 year old youths threw rocks and broke someone's windshield and were charged with reckless endangerment. These youths did not fully understand the complications of their actions. It gave the victim a chance to voice their opinion and it gave the juveniles a learning experience, not to mention the restitution which will be instituted. Number 2200 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked Mr. Schwartz what kinds of serious offense cases go through this mediation process? Number 2214 MR. SCHWARTZ replied that petty theft burglary was probably the most serious crime. For example, a thirteen year old went through an unopened door and took an older citizen's money from a jar under her bed. The offender was forced to give the victim an explanation of his actions. There were very good results in this case. Number 2273 NIKISHKA STEWART, Project Coordinator, Community Dispute Resolution Center, attempted to tie together some of the information already presented. This mediation type of program maximizes the use of limited resources and is also a community level response to crime. It is a pro-active program. She also stressed the importance of restitution as a concept. Ms. Stewart noted the flexibility of the contracts instituted. No two contracts have been alike and this adds to the victim's satisfaction. This uniqueness enhances the victim's input. From February of 1994 to date the center has seen over 6,000 dollars of restitution paid back to victims and over 100 hours of work service by the perpetrators served. Out of 66 referred cases 48 reached a contract. Number 2474 KATHY TIBBLES, Social Services Program Officer, Division of Family and Youth Services, Department of Health and Social Services, testified that the division is in support of CSHB 397. TAPE 96-2, SIDE A Number 000 MS. TIBBLES said one concern the Division of Youth and Family Services had was in regard to language about the centers being established by municipalities or non-profits and organized exclusively for resolution. This might exclude people they might otherwise work with. The department was also confused with the statements about obtaining referrals from public and private bodies and the discussion about educating the community and encouraging the use of the services. It appeared that the centers and referrals were tied pretty closely to the jurisdictional statute 47.10 and Juveniles Alleged to have Committed Delinquent Acts. They weren't sure where the private referrals would come from, although this is not problematic for the department. Number 110 CHAIRMAN PORTER offered that it wasn't their intent to exclude someone. On those occasions if the court felt it were appropriate under the District Court jurisdiction to refer a misdemeanor offense they would have the power to do so, as well as the Commissioner. Number 188 MS. TIBBLES pointed out their remaining concern dealt with what was previously section (f) now (e) of CSHB 397, seemed to limit the information allowed released under the confidentiality clause. Under the circumstances where a referral might be made by the department through an informal disposition they might not receive any information back. They wouldn't know whether or not the offender satisfactorily completed the dispute resolution process in order to close their case. If the department felt the nature of the offense required petitioning the court, it appears they would not have access to that information or would not be able to take further action if the offender did in fact derail the process. Number 270 CHAIRMAN PORTER said that this language would be resolved before moving the bill out of the Judiciary Committee. Number 300 ART SNOWDEN, Administrative Director, Alaska Court System, came to the committee in full support of the concept of this legislation. Mr. Snowden pointed out that this legislation dealt with a prosecutorial referral program, a process by which a problem is taken care of before it comes to court (in the Department of Health and Social Services normally.) This legislation relieves a huge problem that the courts presently deal with. He noted that from 1992 to 1995 in Anchorage, children case filings have increased by 36 percent; Fairbanks, 34 percent; Juneau, 22 percent; Kenai, 36 percent; Palmer, 28 percent. Children cases are increasing at an unprecedented rate, over 30 percent on average, while funding has not increased. Any program which ensures restitution is a positive version, while at the same time Mr. Snowden confirmed that the juvenile offenders understand the severity and gravity of their acts is something Snowden applauds. The committee has the full support of the court system on this legislation. Number 448 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked why this legislation is necessary to accomplish the problem of juvenile offenses. He interprets this legislation as offering mediation services for a property claim. This is not the type of crime where the state would automatically take charge of the prosecution. What is to prevent any party to agree to mediation? Number 516 MR. SNOWDEN offered that Representative Vezey was correct. At this time any prosecuting agency can defer prosecution, however, this legislation codifies these mediation centers and the concepts of their inception to hear juvenile offenses. He believes this will gain them publicity in light of present prosecution. The courts have locked arms over the youth court prospects in Anchorage, as citing an example. While this is a deferral program, publicity has brought a lot of credibility to the process. Mr. Snowden's personal view of the juvenile court system is that it doesn't work. If the juvenile is not made accountable for their actions, there will be widespread problems in the existing prosecutorial system. This legislation will institutionalize this mediation program and sets forth standards to be followed. To involve all levels of society in this juvenile crime problem, including private mediators, the executive branch, and the courts is a positive step. Some of these juvenile crimes may be deemed too insignificant with the crush of business in the standard court system as it stands now. Number 672 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY reiterated his first point about mediation and asked if this legislation is about publicity. Number 684 MR. SNOWDEN answered that yes it was a publicity issue so that kids will know about it, victims will know about it, Health and Social Services might use it more, etcetera. Again he reiterated that publicity was a plus and he saw no cost associated with this legislation. He noted the rising juvenile crime statistics again. Number 722 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY referred to the section of the legislation which addressed disclosure. He cautioned against codifying the process of mediation which might make this process less flexible to encompass other crimes. He also noted the concept of mediation disclosure and understood that participants in mediation are required to agree to the process. Number 810 Mr. Snowden pointed out that you can require someone to participate in mediation, but you can't force them to agree with the results. Even though it does not presently exist, subject specific legislation could be passed that states, before a law suit is filed, the participants must first attend mediation. People cannot be forced into binding mediation. It has to be voluntary. Number 853 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY stated that there are distinct differences between mediation and arbitration. He noted that arbitration is binding on the parties once a decision is made. Number 883 CHAIRMAN PORTER clarified for the purposes of this legislation that the mediation outlined was voluntary. Either party can drop out of the procedures at any time and both parties are required to agree to the resulting contract of the settlement reached. If either party does not agree to the mediation results, the case is then referred to the regular court system. Number 952 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY again pointed out that his main concern was that codifying this mediation process in legislation now could mean limiting the options available to a claimant. Number 976 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS asked to speak to the question of codifying this mediation process. She added that the reason is to allow municipalities and non-profits the opportunity to establish the mediation centers whenever they have the need to do so. Number 1004 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said once again that he was concerned the were legislation was closing doors, which don't need to be closed. Number 1023 MR. SNOWDEN understood that this legislation strengthens a tool, which already exists. To write into law, a system that already exists, does not preclude a person from pursing other forms of resolution to a crime. Number 1106 CHAIRMAN PORTER spoke to Representative Vezey's concerns regarding codification. Chairman Porter felt that if the present system can be enhanced and expanded in use with formal recognition through legislation, he supports that. If this legislation can be utilized by more judges and persons in the Division of Youth and Family Services because of this formal recognition, he is also supportive. It is appropriate to set down minimal guidelines and standards in the bill, which are provided for. One of the only reasons he has heard for not utilizing this type of service is concern on the part of parents and their respective council that there are no guarantees of confidentiality. Number 1222 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked if there would be more interest in this issue if the juvenile code was rewritten to allow for a bigger hammer to fall on those who choose not to use the mediation process. Number 1235 CHAIRMAN PORTER answered most definitely. He especially foresees the juvenile hearings becoming more public on the felony levels. This kind of a juvenile mediation program is conducive to preventing further crimes by juveniles. This legislation is not an indictment of the system in place, but an indictment of the ability to fund the standard system. To wrap up the discussion related to CSHB 379, Chairman Porter exclaimed that this legislation has five zero fiscal notes. Number 1325 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE moved that CSHB 379(JUD) be adopted. Number 1362 CHAIRMAN PORTER pointed out that changes suggested by Ms. Tibbles to the CS version will need to be completed before the committee is able to move the bill out of their purview. Number 1402 CHAIRMAN PORTER adjourned the meeting at 3:10 p.m.