Legislature(1999 - 2000)

04/07/1999 06:07 PM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE                                                                                                        
April 7, 1999                                                                                                                   
6:07 PM                                                                                                                         
SFC-99 # 81, Side A and Side B                                                                                                  
CALL TO ORDER                                                                                                                   
Co-Chair John Torgerson reconvened the meeting at                                                                               
approximately 6:07 PM.                                                                                                          
Senator John Torgerson, Senator Randy Phillips, Senator                                                                         
Dave Donley, Senator Loren Leman, Senator Gary Wilken,                                                                          
Senator Al Adams, Senator Pete Kelly and Senator Lyda                                                                           
Also Attending:                                                                                                                 
BRUCE RICHARDS, Program Coordinator, Office of the                                                                              
Commissioner, Department of Corrections; ROBERT BUTCANE,                                                                        
Juvenile Probation Officer, Department of Health and Social                                                                     
Services; DWIGHT PERKINS, Deputy Commissioner, Department                                                                       
of Labor; AL DWYER, Director, Division of Labor Standards                                                                       
and Safety, Department of Labor; WENDY REDMOND, Vice                                                                            
President, University Relations, University of Alaska.                                                                          
Attending via Teleconference: From Anchorage: BLAIR MCCUNE,                                                                     
Deputy Director, Public Defenders Agency, Department of                                                                         
SUMMARY INFORMATION                                                                                                             
SB   8-MINIMUM REQUIRED PLUMBING FACILITIES                                                                                     
The committee heard from the Department of Labor. Amendment                                                                     
SB   1-NO MANDATORY PAROLE RELEASE WITHOUT GED                                                                                  
The committee heard testimony from the sponsor, the                                                                             
Department of Corrections and the Public Defenders Agency.                                                                      
The bill was held in committee.                                                                                                 
SB  11-PRISON TIME CREDITS FOR MURDERERS                                                                                        
The committee heard testimony from the sponsor, the                                                                             
Department of Corrections and the Public Defenders Agency.                                                                      
The bill was reported out of committee.                                                                                         
SB 108-PROBATION AND PAROLE FEES                                                                                                
The committee heard testimony from the sponsor, the                                                                             
Department of Corrections, the Department of Health and                                                                         
Social Services and the Public Defenders Agency.  The bill                                                                      
was held in committee.                                                                                                          
CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 8(STA)                                                                                                   
"An Act relating to the minimum plumbing fixtures                                                                               
required for females and males in the state plumbing                                                                            
code; and providing for an effective date."                                                                                     
This was the second hearing for this bill.                                                                                      
Co-Chair John Torgerson asked if the department had put                                                                         
together the information requested at the last hearing.                                                                         
Senator Dave Donley said the handout he provided and the                                                                        
proposed amendment was at the request of the department.                                                                        
The handout conformed to the amendment.  He said Senator                                                                        
Gary Wilken's map showing the number of toilets that would                                                                      
be required was correct. However, the facility's capacity                                                                       
numbers had to be reduced by one-half to consider that half                                                                     
of the visitors would be women and half men. Therefore, all                                                                     
the number quoted at the previous meeting should be reduced                                                                     
by one-half. The largest facility in the State of Alaska                                                                        
was the Sullivan Arena and held approximately 6,250. That                                                                       
figure would be reduced by one-half to calculate the number                                                                     
of toilets required. The Sullivan Arena would need 41                                                                           
toilets total under these calculations.                                                                                         
He asked the Al Dwyer to explain the amendment.                                                                                 
AL DWYER, Director, Division of Labor Standards and Safety,                                                                     
Department of Labor recommended the amendment be adopted                                                                        
and explained that the current language contained the                                                                           
oversight of including the total capacity rather than one-                                                                      
half the total capacity.  The department wanted to maintain                                                                     
the criteria from the Uniform Building Code that required                                                                       
fewer facilities for men.                                                                                                       
Senator Dave Donley explained that the amendment would just                                                                     
adopt a uniform method for establishing the number of                                                                           
lavatories in relation to the number of toilets, water                                                                          
closets and urinals.                                                                                                            
Senator Dave Donley made a motion to adopt Amendment #3. He                                                                     
clarified for Co-Chair John Torgerson that this amendment                                                                       
would not affect that changes made by Amendment #2. Senator                                                                     
Lyda Green objected to the motion for question.                                                                                 
BREAK 6:13PM / 6:13 PM                                                                                                          
Senator Lyda Green asked if the formula would take the                                                                          
number of occupants and divide that by two to determine the                                                                     
amount of females who would use the facilities. Al Dwyer                                                                        
affirmed.  Senator Lyda Green asked if that was currently                                                                       
in state statute.  Al Dwyer again affirmed.                                                                                     
Co-Chair John Torgerson asked about facilities that were                                                                        
remodeled and did not have to be grandfathered in. Al Dwyer                                                                     
responded that remodels that did not add to the occupancy                                                                       
load would be exempt unless the plumbing system was                                                                             
completely changed.  Co-Chair John Torgerson asked were                                                                         
that was stipulated. Al Dwyer answered it was contained in                                                                      
the department's regulations.  Co-Chair John Torgerson                                                                          
referred to the issue of deferred maintenance projects and                                                                      
wanted assurance that this bill would not affect those. Al                                                                      
Dwyer gave that reassurance.                                                                                                    
Amendment #3 was adopted without objection.                                                                                     
Senator Dave Donley offered a motion to move CS SB 8 (FIN)                                                                      
from committee.  Senator Loren Leman objected to comment on                                                                     
the record research he had did to determine the cost for                                                                        
each toilet. The architect he spoke to estimated the cost                                                                       
to be approximately $10,000. He removed his objection.                                                                          
Without objection, the bill was reported out of committee.                                                                      
CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 1(JUD)                                                                                                   
"An Act conditioning the award of good time and                                                                                 
release on mandatory parole on the attainment of                                                                                
certain minimum educational standards for prisoners                                                                             
serving certain sentences."                                                                                                     
Senator Dave Donley spoke to this bill.  This issue came up                                                                     
during discussions studying the propensity for prisoners to                                                                     
reoffend once they were released.  Many studies showed that                                                                     
the number one factor in recidivism among felons was                                                                            
whether or not they could read and write. It was found that                                                                     
many states were beginning to adopt standards prisoners                                                                         
obtain their GED before release that required for good time                                                                     
credits that shortened sentences that.                                                                                          
He noted that Alaska was one of the few states that did not                                                                     
comply with the federal standards of serving 85% of                                                                             
SB 1 stated that in order for prisoners to have good time                                                                       
release, they had to obtain their GED.  He felt this would                                                                      
be an incentive and referenced TV privileges.                                                                                   
The bill was amended in Senate Judiciary to allow for those                                                                     
prisoners that did not have the capacity to obtain their                                                                        
GED.  He listed the exemptions, language barriers, age and                                                                      
social circumstances.                                                                                                           
The bill only applied when the GED program was available so                                                                     
an inmate that did not have that program available, they                                                                        
would not be discriminated against.                                                                                             
He spoke of examples from other states.  An example of how                                                                      
bad the problem was, Alabama tested inmates as they entered                                                                     
the system and found that the recitism rate mirrored the                                                                        
education rate.                                                                                                                 
If a prisoner was released and could not read or write it                                                                       
would be difficult to get a job and they would be tempted                                                                       
to return to crime.                                                                                                             
He spoke to the fiscal notes.  Co-Chair John Torgerson                                                                          
pointed out that there were new fiscal notes that were not                                                                      
zero.  Senator Dave Donley added that this would apply only                                                                     
to those serving more than two years.                                                                                           
Senator Al Adams felt the bill was a good concept but                                                                           
needed some changes.  He felt an incentive needed to be                                                                         
added. He said the amendment was not written correctly but                                                                      
he hoped Senator Dave Donley would help correct it.                                                                             
Co-Chair John Torgerson asked if this would leave the                                                                           
original good time release in place but only add an                                                                             
additional sixty days early release.  Senator Al Adams                                                                          
affirmed but added that this amendment was in its early                                                                         
stage and felt it would reduce the fiscal note.                                                                                 
Senator Al Adams answered it would and explained.                                                                               
Co-Chair John Torgerson page 1 lines 9-12 said that if the                                                                      
inmate already had a diploma and - would that amendment                                                                         
change that section.  His point was that if you already had                                                                     
your diploma when entering,                                                                                                     
ROXANNE STEWART, staff to Senator Al Adams, clarified that                                                                      
the intent was that if you already had your diploma, you                                                                        
would not get the additional 60 days off.                                                                                       
Senator Dave Donley spoke of the national standards and                                                                         
said that Alaska was behind.  This amendment would move                                                                         
away from truth in sentencing.  It did make progress toward                                                                     
motivating prisoners to get an education.                                                                                       
Senator Dave Donley asked about the provision for the  99-                                                                      
year mandatory sentencing.  Senator Al Adams said that                                                                          
portion was a drafting error and should not be included.                                                                        
Senator Dave Donley commented that it was a policy call.                                                                        
Senator Al Adams said the problem with the truth in                                                                             
sentencing issue was that it was difficult to measure                                                                           
between states.  Many states had shorter initial sentences.                                                                     
He referred to earlier testimony heard in committee                                                                             
relating to other bills.                                                                                                        
Co-Chair John Torgerson had a similar thought based on the                                                                      
fiscal notes, but also understood Senator Dave Donley's                                                                         
Senator Dave Donley offered another middle ground option to                                                                     
go halfway. Without the GED prisoners would be eligible for                                                                     
only half the 33.3%. He believed that many prisoners would                                                                      
be getting their GED's and would not affect the fiscal                                                                          
notes as greatly as predicted.                                                                                                  
Senator Lyda Green wanted to know if in the attachment to                                                                       
the PDA fiscal note they brought up a good point.  Who                                                                          
would do the testing to see who would be exempt from the                                                                        
provision?  She speculated it would become expensive if the                                                                     
department had to pay for the psychologist to analyze the                                                                       
prisoner's ability to get the GED.                                                                                              
Senator Dave Donley allowed that if a great number of                                                                           
prisoners challenged they were not capable.  The department                                                                     
would have to find a way to do that.  However, he felt the                                                                      
benefits of the education would outweigh the long run costs                                                                     
of reoffenders.                                                                                                                 
Senator Lyda Green commented that some may be able to make                                                                      
educational advancements but still be unable to earn their                                                                      
GED.  She suggested some allowances be made for those                                                                           
efforts.  Senator Dave Donley said other states set                                                                             
different standards and that could be done here as well.                                                                        
Senator Gary Wilken noted fiscal note #5 comments.                                                                              
Co-Chair John Torgerson asked for clarifications of Senator                                                                     
Dave Donley's suggestion of halving the requirements.                                                                           
Senator Dave Donley said he would need assistance from the                                                                      
drafters.  The intent was to allow those who did not get                                                                        
their GED, they would only obtain half of their reduction                                                                       
rather than not get any early release.                                                                                          
Senator Dave Donley aquested to Senator Al Adams's comments                                                                     
that different states had different measurements.                                                                               
BRUCE RICHARDS, Program Coordinator, Office of the                                                                              
Commissioner, Department of Corrections, testified. Senator                                                                     
Al Adams explained that they were trying to use the good                                                                        
time release, as an incentive to get prisoner's to obtain                                                                       
their GED.  He wanted to know if this would affect the                                                                          
department in the different *.                                                                                                  
Bruce explained his understanding of the two amendments.                                                                        
Senator Al Adams's would reduce the amount of the fiscal                                                                        
notes because it would not affect the good-time release for                                                                     
incarceration time.  Senator Dave Donley's would affect.                                                                        
Co-Chair John Torgerson asked if the department anticipated                                                                     
a negative fiscal note with the adoption of Senator Al                                                                          
Adams's amendment.  Bruce thought it might.  He noted that                                                                      
there could be costs because the burden of proof as to how                                                                      
had their diplomas would fall on the department.  He didn't                                                                     
think that would be very costly.                                                                                                
Co-Chair John Torgerson wanted to know if it would be                                                                           
possible to use Senator Al Adams's concept on a sliding                                                                         
scale.  60 days for a two-year sentence. 90 days for a 5-                                                                       
year sentence.  Bruce commented on the incentive for                                                                            
inmates receiving less compensation as the next prisoners                                                                       
did.  He also said it could be complicated for the                                                                              
department to implement.                                                                                                        
Co-Chair John Torgerson asked if it would be a big                                                                              
incentive difference for the inmates if *.  Bruce would                                                                         
have to research.  He still felt if would be a zero fiscal                                                                      
note for either scenario.                                                                                                       
Co-Chair John Torgerson said the goal was to get the                                                                            
prisoners to obtain their GEDs, which offered a better                                                                          
incentive. Bruce commented that if it were him personally                                                                       
that he would be motivated by the potential for early                                                                           
BLAIR MCCUNE, Deputy Director, Public Defenders Agency,                                                                         
Department of Administration, testified via teleconference                                                                      
from Anchorage. This had been a good discussion.  He felt                                                                       
there would be difficulties for his agency on enforcement.                                                                      
There would be a zero fiscal note.                                                                                              
He pointed out page 2 line 18-30 he felt it should be clear                                                                     
that the language of "incapable of obtaining a diploma"                                                                         
That needed to be clarified.  An inmate might be capable                                                                        
but not have time to bring himself through the diploma.                                                                         
There was a statute he noted in the analysis section of the                                                                     
fiscal note relating the treatment programs.  He felt these                                                                     
mechanisms could be one approach.                                                                                               
He commented that prisons were overcrowded and prisoners                                                                        
were often transferred once they entered into a program.                                                                        
He was in favor of testing for GED.                                                                                             
Co-Chair John Torgerson wanted to know if Alaskan prisoners                                                                     
house out of state had access to these programs.  Bruce                                                                         
affirmed they did.                                                                                                              
Co-Chair John Torgerson requested Senator Dave Donley to                                                                        
work on his amendment.  Senator Al Adams asked if they                                                                          
could work to draft one amendment to address.                                                                                   
Co-Chair John Torgerson ordered the bill held in committee.                                                                     
CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 11(JUD)                                                                                                  
"An Act relating to good time credits for prisoners                                                                             
serving sentences of imprisonment for certain                                                                                   
Senator Dave Donley restated that Alaska had liberal good-                                                                      
time provisions.  There was a growing concern among victims                                                                     
that those serving time for first and second degree could                                                                       
have inappropriate early release through the good time                                                                          
release.  There was a national movement that sentences be                                                                       
understandable.  It would be too expensive to institute an                                                                      
across the board change to the state's 33% good time                                                                            
release so he proposed applying this to those serving fist                                                                      
and second-degree murder sentences.                                                                                             
He realized that many serving sentences for those crimes                                                                        
had lengthy terms, but felt that through good time release                                                                      
programs, the sentences served were greatly reduced.                                                                            
He noted there would be a substantial fiscal impact in the                                                                      
future. However, he felt the national 85% standard was                                                                          
appropriate and should be applied to these crimes.  Moving                                                                      
closer to honesty in sentencing also appropriate.                                                                               
Early release of murderers sent a bad message to the                                                                            
He felt there was a logical distinction between those who                                                                       
committed murder and other crimes.                                                                                              
Tape: SFC - 99 #81, Side B    6:55 PM                                                                                           
Senator Al Adams commented that if every state had the same                                                                     
sentencing for crimes, this would be appropriate.  Because                                                                      
Alaska had higher sentences, they would be serving too much                                                                     
time.  He discussed the issue of high medical costs for                                                                         
housing older prisoners.                                                                                                        
Blair McClune commented that there could be * challenges to                                                                     
the original bill. He felt that was less of an issue with                                                                       
the CS.  He hoped the committee would consider the amount                                                                       
of time it would take a prisoner to reenter the community                                                                       
after a lengthy prison term.  He suggested housing them in                                                                      
a halfway house or similar facility.  He agreed that truth                                                                      
in sentencing was important.                                                                                                    
Bruce Richards commented that Senator Dave Donley covered                                                                       
the issues of the bill. He noted that the department                                                                            
submitted a zero fiscal note because the fiscal impact                                                                          
would be realized beyond the years listed on the notes.  He                                                                     
did a prediction of their current prisoners.  He estimated                                                                      
the first year impact would be $53X,000.  It was a policy                                                                       
call with a significant impact.                                                                                                 
The cost would continue to increase with geriatric costs.                                                                       
He testified that inmates tended to have a higher abuse of                                                                      
their own bodies and therefore geriatric problems began at                                                                      
the age of 50.                                                                                                                  
Senator Al Adams noted that Alaska sent many prisoners to                                                                       
Arizona, which recently implemented the 85% standard. He                                                                        
wondered if those prisoners were affected by that.  Bruce                                                                       
said they were not.                                                                                                             
Senator Dave Donley commented on the public support of the                                                                      
death penalty.  He felt that was in part due to the                                                                             
perception that murders served very short sentences.  This                                                                      
bill may be a cheaper alternative than the high cost of the                                                                     
death penalty.                                                                                                                  
Senator Al Adams had not seen the survey done by Senator                                                                        
Randy Phillips and questioned the social make-up of those                                                                       
Senator Dave Donley reiterated his stance on the importance                                                                     
of the bill despite the fiscal impact.                                                                                          
Senator Dave Donley made a motion to move from committee.                                                                       
Senator Al Adams objected. The bill was reported out by a                                                                       
vote of 9-1.  Senator Al Adams cast the nay vote.                                                                               
Break 7:06 PM / 7:16 PM                                                                                                         
SENATE BILL NO. 108                                                                                                             
"An Act relating to fees for probation and parole."                                                                             
BEN GRIN, staff to Senator Jerry Ward, would charge                                                                             
Co-Chair John Torgerson asked if he had a chance to review                                                                      
the fiscal notes.  Ben had not and admitted he was                                                                              
unfamiliar with the bill.                                                                                                       
Bruce Richards began by telling the history of the matter.                                                                      
A bill had been adopted and Senator Al Adams had then                                                                           
repealed the legislation.                                                                                                       
The process was very difficult for the department.                                                                              
The difference in this bill was that it dictated the                                                                            
department contract out the bill collection process.  They                                                                      
had been unable to find an agency willing to take on the                                                                        
process.  This group of people tended to be difficult to                                                                        
work with.  This year, the department was able to find a                                                                        
bank willing to do this.  He detailed the proposed                                                                              
collection process.                                                                                                             
He noted earlier testimony on the success of a similar                                                                          
program in Texas.  The reason for that success was that the                                                                     
judge set the priority above child support and restitution.                                                                     
The fiscal note provided was based on a ten- percent                                                                            
collection rate and would not provide a cash flow. The last                                                                     
time this law was in effect the program only brought in                                                                         
Co-Chair John Torgerson asked if the dollar figure was                                                                          
$1.50. Bruce Richards said it was and that was the national                                                                     
average.  Co-Chair John Torgerson noted the sponsor                                                                             
statement was from the prior year.                                                                                              
Co-Chair John Torgerson asked how many people this would                                                                        
apply to. Bruce Richards listed the numbers for adults.                                                                         
Department of Health and Social Services would have numbers                                                                     
for youth parolees.                                                                                                             
Bruce Richards added that it was unclear in the bill that                                                                       
it was possible to be on probation and parole at the same                                                                       
time.  He suggested an amendment to change that so the                                                                          
person did not have to pay twice since they had the same                                                                        
parole officer.                                                                                                                 
He referred to page 3 saying that if the PFD was over the                                                                       
amount due, the Department of Corrections would have to                                                                         
refund the difference.  He suggested changing that so the                                                                       
department did not have the burden of collecting and then                                                                       
returning a balance.  He suggested deleting the language.                                                                       
Co-Chair John Torgerson asked if once the assignment was                                                                        
made by the department, he assumed they could only collect                                                                      
after other attachments were made. Bruce Richards affirmed                                                                      
and said that was the reason the department did not                                                                             
anticipate they would collect much after all the other                                                                          
obligations were satisfied.                                                                                                     
Senator Al Adams observed that this would be a paperwork                                                                        
nightmare.  It created two groups of people, parolees and                                                                       
those of probation.  Was there any chance an inmate could                                                                       
be both. Bruce Richards said that was his earlier point.                                                                        
Senator Al Adams asked if the department felt this would                                                                        
create a greater burden in collection efforts than it would                                                                     
generate. Bruce Richards said it was and said that was the                                                                      
reason for the fiscal note.                                                                                                     
Blair McCune, spoke to the difficulties of collection.  The                                                                     
PDA would not have a fiscal note if the process was set up                                                                      
to not include probation hearings in the determination of                                                                       
collection efforts.                                                                                                             
He noted that many of his clients did not have much assets                                                                      
after they settled their other obligations.                                                                                     
He told the committee which statutes applied to the                                                                             
Page 2 line31 he understood it to mean this applied only to                                                                     
situations with close supervision.  He had concerns that                                                                        
the level of supervision was light for those who did well.                                                                      
He felt the fee would have to be commensurate with the cost                                                                     
of the supervision.                                                                                                             
He also had concerns with the parents of children in                                                                            
probation. In some situations the parent or a sibling of                                                                        
the child were the victim.                                                                                                      
He referred to language that said the parole board "shall"                                                                      
revoke parole and felt they should have some discretion.                                                                        
Senator Al Adams asked if the agency would handle both                                                                          
parolees and those on probation who were charged with not                                                                       
paying.  Would that increase the workload?  Blair said they                                                                     
represented before the parole board those faced with                                                                            
returning to jail. They would be impacted because they had                                                                      
the burden of showing how the non-payment was justified.                                                                        
ROBERT BUTCANE, Juvenile Probation Officer, Department of                                                                       
Health and Social Services, testified in opposition to the                                                                      
bill. He suggested deleting sections from the bill in order                                                                     
to exempt juvenile offenders from the provisions.                                                                               
The department would have to have to create a collection                                                                        
unit that would not serve the mission of the department.                                                                        
Department of Health and Social Services placed a high                                                                          
obligation on the parent to participate in the process.                                                                         
That included financial obligations.  Sometimes the other                                                                       
costs of these youths placed a burden on the family's                                                                           
finances.  He also spoke of instances where the victim is                                                                       
also a member of the family.                                                                                                    
Senator Al Adams noted most of the PFD collected went to                                                                        
the victims.  He asked that percentage.  Robert Butcane was                                                                     
unsure but said most restitution in was beyond the amount                                                                       
of the PFD so most went to the victim.                                                                                          
Co-Chair John Torgerson asked about the victim service                                                                          
grants listed on the fiscal note.  Robert Butcane answered                                                                      
that when the accounts showed receipts in excess of                                                                             
expenditures, the balance was intended to go to support                                                                         
victim services. This would be done by means of grants to                                                                       
community organizations to benefit those who experienced                                                                        
the impact of juvenile crime. This presumed the provided                                                                        
figures were accurate                                                                                                           
Co-Chair John Torgerson asked for clarification that the                                                                        
bill did not stipulate a specific grant program. Robert                                                                         
Butcane affirmed.                                                                                                               
Co-Chair John Torgerson ordered the bill held in committee.                                                                     
He announced the next meeting schedule to hear balanced                                                                         
budget presentations.                                                                                                           
Senator Torgerson adjourned the meeting at 7:49 PM.                                                                             
SFC-99 (13) 4/7/99                                                                                                              

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