Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/03/1996 01:30 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE April 3, 1996 1:30 p.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Senator Robin Taylor, Chairman Senator Lyda Green, Vice-Chairman Senator Mike Miller Senator Al Adams MEMBERS ABSENT Senator Johnny Ellis COMMITTEE CALENDAR CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 520(FIN) "An Act relating to death investigations and inquests, coroners, public administrators, and medical examiners, including the state medical examiner; relating to the jurisdiction of district court judges and magistrates in certain cases involving death." HOUSE BILL NO. 333 "An Act relating to licensure requirements for employees of the office of public advocacy and the Public Defender Agency." SENATE BILL NO. 263 "An Act relating to copyright licensing and royalties; and providing for an effective date." PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION HB 520 - No previous Senate committee action. HB 333 - No previous Senate committee action. SB 263 - No previous Senate committee action. WITNESS REGISTER Art Snowden Court Administrator Alaska Court System 303 K Street Anchorage, AK 99501-2084 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports HB 520 Elmer Lindstrom Special Assistant Dept. of Health and Social Services P.O. Box 110601 Juneau, AK 99811-0601 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports HB 520 Dr. Michael Propst Medical Examiner Dept. of Health and Social Services 5700 E. Tudor Rd. Anchorage, AK 99508 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports HB 520 Carol Wilson CHARR 341 E. 56th Ave. Anchorage, AK 99518 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SB 263 Maurice McDonald Anchorage, Alaska POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SB 263 John Salemi Public Defender Agency Dept. of Administration 900 W. 5th Ave., Suite 200 Anchorage, AK 99501-2090 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports HB 333 ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 96-33, SIDE A Number 001 CHAIRMAN ROBIN TAYLOR called the Judiciary Committee meeting to order at 1:52 p.m. Present were Senators Adams and Miller. The first order of business was HB 520. HB 520 INQUESTS, CORONERS, POST MORTEMS, ETC. ART SNOWDEN, Administrative Director of the Alaska Court System, stated the House Finance Committee sponsored HB 520 at the Court System's request. For many years, Alaska followed the minority lead of having magistrates act as coroners but this system has created many problems with other agencies involved in transport and identification of bodies, such as the State Troopers. The majority view in the United States has always been to have a medical examiner system, which is an executive-branch based system to ferret out crime. The bill would take the coroner function from the Court System and place it in DHSS where the medical examiner is now located. HB 520 bill is a law and order bill, allows prosecutors and police to gain evidence, protects innocent suspects, and has a zero fiscal note. HB 520 is supported by police, prosecutors, the Court System and DHSS. Number 073 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR asked what the new triggering mechanism will be when a death occurs with no medical doctor in attendance, and the death is reported to the local magistrate. MR. SNOWDEN replied a number of things could occur. If contacted, the magistrate could notify the medical examiner or a hospital could notify the medical examiner directly. The major change in the bill is that the Court System will give up its 4 1/2 coroner positions statewide and DHSS will contract for medical investigators instead. Rural nurses, public health nurses, and doctors will be performing this function in the future which means many bodies will not be moved from rural communities. If the Court System is contacted about a death, it will notify the medical examiner's office. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR asked if HB 520 passes and there is a contracted person in the community, whether anyone becoming aware of a death would notify that person. MR. SNOWDEN was not sure, but said if the Court System was notified, it would notify the contracted person. The Court System is concerned that magistrates do not have forensic pathology experience, and it would like to prevent bodies from having to be moved from the villages as they are today. Number 110 ELMER LINDSTROM, Department of Health and Social Services, responded to Chairman Taylor's question. Over the short term, the current system will not change, but over the long term, it will allow DHSS to put into place, through contract providers in local communities, four death investigator positions attached to the state medical examiner office. The death investigators will be points of referral and will be involved in recruiting other individuals in villages. He did not foresee confusion in the field through the transition period and noted law enforcement officers are well accustomed to working with the state medical examiner. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR stated his primary concern is scene investigation. He asked who would be training contract providers in rural areas to ensure investigations are conducted properly and to protect evidence that might be at the scene. MR. LINDSTROM replied the state medical examiner and staff will be responsible for recruitment and training. One continuing issue in this area is cost control. Before the medical examiner position was created, if a coroner requested an autopsy, DHSS had contract pathologists and would simply pay the bill. With the medical examiner position, DHSS has begun to get control of costs in this area. This is the first year in the history of the program that DHSS has lived within its budget. It is in the interest of the medical examiner's office to recruit and adequately train people so that unnecessary autopsies do not have to take place, because of the high associated costs of an autopsy. Number 190 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR repeated his concern about the training aspects of the program and the need to ensure stability in the program. He asked if HB 520 will change any of the existing state or federal autopsy requirements such as the National Safety Transportation Board's mandate to conduct autopsies in every airplane crash. MR. LINDSTROM stated DHSS does not envision any change in that respect. There have been a number of crashes in the last year and the medical examiner's office was able to accommodate those. Number 213 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR noted that as a judge he became aware of questionable autopsy results and poor investigative methods used. He strongly supported attempts at improvement in this area. SENATOR ADAMS asked Mr. Lindstrom if DHSS is satisfied with the fiscal note provided by the Court System that transfers the positions to DHSS. MR. LINDSTROM replied DHSS is, and worked jointly with the Court System on the fiscal note. DR. MICHAEL PROPST, state medical examiner, stated his support of HB 520. SENATOR ADAMS moved, and asked unanimous consent, that HB 520 be moved out of committee with individual recommendations. There being no objection, the motion carried. HB 333 BAR MEMBERSHIP:PUBLIC DEFENDER/ADVOCATE REPRESENTATIVE SEAN PARNELL, sponsor of HB 333, stated the bill was suggested to his office by John Salemi, the Public Defender. HB 333 allows the Public Defender Agency and Office of Public Advocacy to employ a person for ten months who is waiting to pass the bar exam. The privilege is currently accorded to the District Attorney's Office, and according to Mr. Salemi, HB 333 will enable him to hold costs down and help in recruiting public defenders. Number 278 JOHN SALEMI, of the Public Defender Agency, stated HB 333 is a housekeeping matter. The Department of Law already has, by statute, the opportunity to hire recent law school graduates who are not yet members of the Alaska Bar Association. The statute was passed before either the Office of Public Advocacy or the Public Defender Agency was in existence. Including those two offices in statute will expand the pool of available applicants for public defender and OPA staff attorney positions. That will enable both offices to recruit qualified individuals especially for positions in rural or Bush offices as it is difficult to find an adequate number of applicants to consider for those positions. Expanding the pool of applicants to include recent law school graduates will help to keep costs down. Number 325 SENATOR GREEN moved HB 333 from committee with individual recommendations. There being no objection, the motion carried. SB 263 COPYRIGHT ROYALTIES AND LICENSING SHERMAN ERNOUF, Senate Labor and Commerce Committee aide, explained SB 263 was introduced at the request of CHARR and has been a few years in the making. Senate Judiciary Committee staff has worked with CHARR to prepare the proposed committee substitute. SENATOR MILLER moved adoption of CSSB 263(JUD). SENATOR ADAMS objected to ask if the five proposed amendments were included in the committee substitute. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR clarified the amendments are not. SENATOR ADAMS removed his objection, therefore CSSB 263(JUD) was adopted. Number 349 CAROL WILSON, Executive Director of the Anchorage Restaurant and Beverage Association (ARBA) and the Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association (CHARR), testified in support of CSSB 263. Members of ARBA and CHARR are small business owners in the State of Alaska, who are not trying to escape paying something they are legally required to pay, but want identification of what they are charged for. Performing rights societies ask those businesses to pay for unidentified services. CSSB 263 provides all retailers, not just restaurants and bars, with certain rights under contracts entered into in this state. Although music licensing copyright law is federal law, this bill accomplishes a lot to help businesses. She read a letter of support from a business owner demonstrating the frustration business owners are experiencing when dealing with music licensing agencies. Thirteen other states have adopted similar legislation, 11 states have legislation pending, and two states have passed legislation and are awaiting governor's signatures. CHARR has attempted to work with other interested parties; one of the performing rights societies was represented in discussions on the proposed committee substitute. CHARR has agreed to support the proposed amendments. MS. WILSON explained the amendments. The first amendment decreases the length of time when notification is required from 7 days to 72 hours. The second amendment requires the performing rights societies to make available their most recent list of the people they represent and the list of the copyrighted musical works in their repertoire. That file can be made available electronically and would be made accessible through the CHARR office. Business owners want to be able to work with only one of the societies to save money. To remain legal, they need to know what songs are copyrighted by a particular society so that they play only those songs. Right now there is no way to get that information. SENATOR MILLER asked how a business that is not a CHARR member would access that information. MS. WILSON replied she has asked that the information be made available on computer disk, and she would be willing to make it available to other businesses. SENATOR MILLER expressed concern that the legislation apply to businesses statewide, and questioned how other businesses would know to contact CHARR for that information. MS. WILSON stated she would not be opposed to having the information available through a state agency. MS. WILSON explained the third amendment deletes a section that pertains to notice after a violation. This deletion was requested by the performing rights societies because they believe the section would hamper their attempts to investigate. The fourth amendment deals with people who are reproducing sound recordings without consent, and specifies that it does not apply to investigations by a law enforcement agency or other persons concerning a suspected violation. MS. WILSON noted the fifth amendment was added by Legal Services. Originally a violation was called an unfair trade practice, but because prohibited practices and a course of action are included in the bill, the unfair trade practice violation was removed. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR moved all five amendments as one amendment. There being no objection, the motion carried. MAURICE MCDONALD, a restaurant owner from Anchorage, stated he has followed this issue in Washington, D.C. and has attended several task force meetings on this issue. SB 263 is important to not only the restaurant industry, but to all of the small shops where background music is played. The businesses do not have a problem paying the fee to play the music, but as electronics have become more popular, BMI and AMCAP have found more ways to double and triple charge for their music. There seems to be no way to slow them down. Business owners are demanding they be provided with a list of the products they are purchasing. When representatives of the music copyright industry arrive at a restaurant they will have to identify who they are and why they are there before looking through a restaurant's music and video inventory. Business owners are currently negotiating in Washington, D.C. to get a compromise agreement with the performing rights societies. This bill will help businesses to know who, what, and why they are paying the charges. Currently, there is no consistency in charges, because the performing rights societies arbitrarily make deals with different businesses. Number 504 SENATOR GREEN questioned whether the bill before the committee adequately covers the concern of business owners that representatives of the performing rights societies can just walk into a business and demand to look at its inventory. MR. MCDONALD believed it does because AMCAP and BMI would be on notice that when doing business in Alaska, they will have certain responsibilities. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR commented at one time crew members brought videos on the ferry system to show to passengers, at no charge, but the practice was disallowed because it was considered a commercial service by the performing rights societies. He asked if that situation is being remedied in this bill. MR. MCDONALD responded that is under the jurisdiction of federal law and is considered incidental use of music and video. Congress must address those situations, but SB 263 will endorse the need for reform of the federal legislation. Number 513 SENATOR GREEN moved CSSB 263 as amended from committee with individual recommendations. There being no objection, the motion carried. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR adjourned the meeting at 2:40 p.m.