Legislature(1995 - 1996)

04/03/1996 01:30 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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                                                                  
 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              
 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             
 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR adjourned the meeting at 2:40 p.m.                            

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