Legislature(1997 - 1998)

04/25/1997 01:50 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                   SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE                                  
                         April 25, 1997                                        
                           1:50 p.m.                                           
  MEMBERS PRESENT                                                              
 Senator Robin Taylor, Chair                                                   
 Senator Drue Pearce, Vice-chair                                               
 Senator Mike Miller                                                           
 Senator Sean Parnell                                                          
 Senator Johnny Ellis                                                          
  MEMBERS ABSENT                                                               
  COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                           
 CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 6(FIN) am                                               
 "An Act relating to minors and amending laws relating to the                  
 disclosure of information relating to certain minors."                        
  PASSED SCSCS HB 6(JUD) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                      
 CS FOR HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 4(JUD)                                 
 Relating to records generated and maintained by the Department of             
 Health and Social Services.                                                   
  PASSED HCR 4 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                
 HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 30                                                 
 Relating to the creation of a new United States Court of Appeals              
 for the Twelfth Circuit.                                                      
  PASSED HJR 30 am OUT OF COMMITTEE                                            
  PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION                                             
 HB 6 - See Senate Judiciary minutes dated 4/23/97.                            
 HCR 4 - No previous Senate committee action.                                  
 HJR 30 - No previous Senate committee action.                                 
  WITNESS REGISTER                                                             
 Representative Pete Kelly                                                     
 Alaska State Capitol                                                          
 Juneau, Alaska  99801-1182                                                    
  POSITION STATEMENT:   Sponsor of HB 6                                        
 Walter Majoros                                                                
 Executive Director                                                            
 Alaska Mental Health Board                                                    
 431 N. Franklin #101                                                          
 Juneau, Alaska  99801                                                         
  POSITION STATEMENT:   Commented on HB 6.                                     
 Laura Rorem                                                                   
  POSITION STATEMENT:   Commented on HB 6.                                     
 Dr. Russell Hoffman                                                           
 140 Kilbuk                                                                    
 Bethel, Alaska                                                                
  POSITION STATEMENT:   Commented on HB 6.                                     
 Jeff Logan                                                                    
 Legislative Aide to Representative Green                                      
 Alaska State Capitol                                                          
 Juneau, Alaska 99801-1182                                                     
  POSITION STATEMENT:   Testified for sponsor of HJR 30.                       
  ACTION NARRATIVE                                                             
 TAPE 97-31, SIDE A                                                            
 Number 000                                                                    
  CHAIRMAN ROBIN TAYLOR  called the Judiciary Committee meeting to             
 order at 1:50 p.m. and announced the presence of Senators Miller              
 and Parnell.  The first order before the committee was HB 6.                  
          HB   6 RELEASE OF INFORMATION ABOUT MINORS                          
  REPRESENTATIVE PETE KELLY , sponsor of HB 6, discussed an amendment          
 (#1) submitted to the committee (0-LS0063\CA.5).  The amendment is            
 the result of an agreement with the Administration.  Previously the           
 Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) requested that                
 juveniles get a second chance on the adjustment side.  He                     
 compromised with DHSS, and allowed a second chance for juveniles              
 who committed burglary, but not for committing the other crimes               
 listed in the bill.  A later amendment was adopted that provided a            
 second chance for all of the crimes listed in the bill, and                   
 consequently a juvenile who committed burglary would get a third              
 chance.  That was not the intention of either DHSS or himself.  The           
 amendment before the committee would cleanup that error.                      
  SENATOR PARNELL  moved the adoption of amendment 1 (0-LS0063\CA.5).          
 There being no objection, the amendment carried.                              
 Number 058                                                                    
  SENATOR PARNELL  asked Representative Kelly to describe two other            
 amendments submitted to the committee (0-LS0063\CA.1 - amendment              
  REPRESENTATIVE KELLY  explained amendment #2 was requested by the            
 Municipality of Anchorage and allows court proceedings to be open.            
 In the confidentiality bill, many things were opened but not the              
 court proceedings.  The language in amendment #2 was taken from the           
 Governor's dual sentencing bill and was recommended by the                    
 Governor's Task Force on Youth and Justice but is a little bit                
 milder than the Governor's version.  The Governor was leaving the             
 decision to open court proceedings to the discretion of the                   
 District Attorney.  Amendment #2 gives that discretion to DHSS and            
 says the proceedings shall be open unless DHSS petitions.  It is              
 consistent with the rest of the bill.                                         
  SENATOR PARNELL  moved to adopt amendment #2 for discussion purposes         
 and asked where the idea for amendment #2 originated.                         
  REPRESENTATIVE KELLY  answered amendment #2 was requested by the             
 Municipality of Anchorage.                                                    
 Number 084                                                                    
  SENATOR PARNELL  asked Representative Kelly to elaborate on the              
 differences between amendment #2 and the provision in the                     
 Governor's bill.   REPRESENTATIVE KELLY  replied the Governor's Task          
 Force version says that when a District Attorney is elected to seek           
 imposition of a dual sentence, the court proceedings shall be open            
 to the public, except where prohibited by order of the court.  It             
 also sets out criteria for a minor who is 16 years old, has                   
 committed a felony offense against a person, and was previously               
 adjudicated.  It is consistent with HB 6 in that it requires that             
 the person was previously adjudicated but differs in that it says             
 the District Attorney shall seek open hearings.  He thought DHSS              
 would be the more appropriate entity because most of these cases              
 are handled by them, and they would have more familiarity with each           
  CHAIRMAN TAYLOR  announced there was no objection to amendment #2,           
 so it was adopted.                                                            
  SENATOR PARNELL  moved amendment #3 for the purpose of discussion.           
  REPRESENTATIVE KELLY  explained that lines 10-13 of amendment #3             
 enable a state or municipal agency employee to disclose information           
 regarding a case to school officials to enable the school to                  
 provide appropriate counseling and supportive services to meet the            
 needs of the minor.  The idea behind amendment #3 is to include               
 school officials so that they can be part of the solution.                    
 Providing this information to the school will also enable it to               
 protect others.                                                               
 Number 132                                                                    
  SENATOR PARNELL  asked why, on page 2, line 11, information may be           
 disclosed to the victim or the victim's insurance company.                    
  REPRESENTATIVE KELLY  answered the victim's insurance company can be         
 left out of loop and which makes it difficult to collect damages.             
  SENATOR PARNELL  questioned whether there is any reason to be                
 concerned that disclosure be made to just the victim's insurance              
 company, without the victim in the loop.   REPRESENTATIVE KELLY  said         
 the insurance company may have already paid claims for the victim             
 and then needs copies of the police reports to collect for damages.           
  CHAIRMAN TAYLOR  believed an additional reason is that the victim            
 may not have the right to disclose that information to other                  
 parties.  The victim is in a contractual relationship with the                
 insurance company and is required by the contract to cooperate with           
 the insurance company in seeking subrogation from the juvenile. The           
 victim would be put in the position of having to break                        
 confidentiality which carries sanctions and penalties.                        
 Number 174                                                                    
  SENATOR PARNELL  asked if the intent is that disclosure by a state           
 or municipal agency is limited to disclosures under AS 47.12.                 
  REPRESENTATIVE KELLY  replied it is.                                         
  CHAIRMAN TAYLOR  announced there was no objection to amendment #3,           
 therefore it was adopted.                                                     
 Number 190                                                                    
  WALTER MAJOROS,  Executive Director of the Alaska Mental Health              
 Board, made the following comments.  The Board is concerned about             
 the impact of HB 6 on children who have mental illnesses and                  
 disorders.  These children are often not diagnosed until they come            
 in contact with the juvenile justice system.  Recent statistics               
 about the interface between the juvenile justice system and mental            
 health system reports similarities with the adult system where                
 approximately 29 percent of the 4,000 inmates in the Department of            
 Corrections have mental illnesses.  The Board is concerned that our           
 system tends to criminalize people with mental illnesses and                  
 serious emotional disorders.  Disclosing information about these              
 juveniles will stigmatize and ostracize them and, instead of                  
 guiding them to treatment programs rather than the criminal justice           
 system, they will eventually end up in the adult system.  The Board           
 understands the need for a balance between confidentiality and                
 disclosure as the issue of public safety becomes more critical, but           
 it does not believe HB 6 achieves the appropriate balance.  It                
 favors amendments that would prevent disclosure until adjudication            
 takes place and to disallow disclosure for adjusted cases.  The               
 Board has heard from many parents who are concerned that the                  
 release of their children's names would have had a very detrimental           
 effect on the treatment of their children who were in similar                 
 situations in the past.                                                       
 Number 237                                                                    
  CHAIRMAN TAYLOR  commented the Legislature today is more sensitized          
 toward the disclosure of confidential information than it was three           
 or four days before and will take Mr. Majoros' comments into                  
 consideration.  He noted HB 6 will be heard before the Finance and            
 Rules Committees if additional amendments need to be discussed.  He           
 thought all legislators are concerned about the dilemma that is               
 imposed by the delicate balancing act between disclosure and                  
 confidentiality, and what the impacts may be on the mental health             
 community.  He asked Mr. Majoros to consider how to make                      
 definitional changes to remove that category of juveniles from the            
 disclosure provision.  He noted his concern that last year the                
 committee heard legislation to try to address a situation where a             
 mentally ill adult repeatedly sexually abused children but                    
 continually fell through the crack between the criminal justice and           
 mental health systems.  The difficulty in addressing that                     
 legislation centered around the definitions.                                  
  MR. MAJOROS  replied that a narrow fix is to allow DHSS to petition          
 to keep information confidential for youth with serious mental                
 illness or disorders.  In terms of statutory definition, one is               
 contained in the enabling legislation for the Alaska Mental Health            
 Trust Authority that defines the mentally ill beneficiary group.              
 A problem, however, is the assumption that when a youth enters the            
 criminal justice system for the first time, the mental illness or             
 disorder has been diagnosed.  In many cases that is not the                   
 situation.  It is very possible information will be released to the           
 community at large, and then while the juvenile is within the                 
 criminal justice system, the mental illness will be diagnosed.                
 Although DHSS' ability to petition is a narrow fix, it does not               
 totally address the problem.                                                  
  SENATOR PARNELL  clarified that the disclosure would not contain             
 information about a mental illness.   MR. MAJOROS  agreed but noted           
 that one of the most difficult issues children with mental                    
 illnesses have to deal with is the issue of stigma.  Name                     
 disclosure for criminal activity will further stigmatize that                 
 juvenile and exacerbate the condition.  After disclosure, the                 
 community often "writes off" that juvenile and leaves them to a               
 life within the criminal justice system as opposed to a life with             
 appropriate treatment to normalize the individual.                            
  CHAIRMAN TAYLOR  commented it has been difficult to get the                  
 appropriate professional assistance for these youth, especially in            
 rural communities.  If a diagnosis can even be made, the Title 47             
 process kicks in to provide services, but without a specific                  
 diagnosis and recommendation, nothing can be done.  He added he has           
 seen people utilize the criminal justice system so that people can            
 get the services they need because it is more efficient or                    
 effective at providing the immediate attention these people need.             
  MR. MAJOROS  agreed and said he is presently working with a judge in         
 Anchorage to try to identify those misdemeanants with mental                  
 illnesses who are often arrested on nuisance charges, and to                  
 provide them with more appropriate treatment options.  Anything               
 that can divert children with mental health problems from the                 
 criminal justice system and into community treatment settings will            
 minimize future criminal activity.                                            
  SENATOR ELLIS  arrived at 2:12 p.m.                                          
 Number 322                                                                    
  LAURA ROREM , representing herself, referred to written testimony            
 she submitted about juveniles with mental illnesses and her concern           
 with the impacts of placing these juveniles in the criminal justice           
 system.  She stated by publishing the names of these juveniles, it            
 becomes more difficult for both the parents and children to get               
 appropriate services.                                                         
  DR. RUSS HOFFMAN  of Bethel said he worked with Representative Kelly         
 and DHSS during the past few days to perfect the bill.  He                    
 appreciated Representative Kelly's sincere concern during that                
 process.  He noted that one additional meeting was scheduled that             
  REPRESENTATIVE KELLY  responded to the concerns expressed about              
 juveniles with mental illnesses.  He reminded members there is a              
 petition process so that DHSS can ask that the court not publish              
 the names of certain individuals.  Second, on the adjustment side,            
 the names are only disclosed for a second conviction of a serious             
 crime.  DHSS will have had prior experience with these juveniles.             
 The theory behind HB 6 is that if continued criminal activity                 
 cannot be controlled by DHSS, the community needs to know because             
 of the seriousness of the crimes.  Crimes such as vandalism and               
 shoplifting are not included in the bill and it does contain                  
 provisions allowing for second chances.                                       
 Number 382                                                                    
  SENATOR PARNELL  moved CSHB 6(JUD) from committee with individual            
 recommendations.  There being no objection, the motion carried.               
          HCR  4 DHSS RECORDS FOR DELINQUENTS & CINA                          
  REPRESENTATIVE KELLY , sponsor of the measure, explained HCR 4               
 allows DHSS to reorganize in such a manner that disclosure can                
 occur without a significant loss of federal funds.                            
  SENATOR PARNELL  moved HCR 4 from committee with individual                  
 recommendations.  There being no objection, the motion carried.               
        HJR 30 ENDORSE US COURT OF APPEALS-12TH CIRCUIT                       
  JEFF LOGAN , legislative assistant to Representative Joe Green who           
 sponsored HJR 30, explained that the resolution provides                      
 legislative support for a court system that is more responsive to             
 Alaska's needs and specifically to S 431 which has been introduced            
 by Senator Murkowski.  A March 12 press release from Senator                  
 Murkowski reports that Senator Stevens, Senators Craig and                    
 Kempthorne of Idaho, Senator Smith of Oregon, and Senator Gorton of           
 Washington have cosponsored the legislation, however Senator Burns            
 from Montana was also a co-sponsor.  Because of that omission in              
 the press release, Senator Burns' name was not included in HJR 30.            
 Mr. Logan asked the committee to consider amending HJR 30 to add              
 Senator Burns' name on page 1, line 10.                                       
  SENATOR PEARCE  asked why anyone would oppose HJR 30.   MR. LOGAN            
 answered he does not know of anyone who does.  He added there was             
 a question on the House floor in reference to a lawsuit the state             
 has an interest in that is named in the resolution but there was no           
 opposition during House committee hearings.                                   
  SENATOR PARNELL  moved HJR 30 as amended from committee with                 
 individual recommendations.  There being no objection, the motion             
  CHAIRMAN TAYLOR  adjourned the committee at 2:23 p.m.                        

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