Legislature(1999 - 2000)

2000-01-26 House Journal

Full Journal pdf

2000-01-26                     House Journal                      Page 2009
HB 321                                                                       
HOUSE BILL NO. 321 by the House Rules Committee by request of                  
the Governor, entitled:                                                        
"An Act relating to the confidentiality of investigations, court              
hearings, and court and public agency information in child in need             
of aid matters; relating to immunity regarding disclosure of                   
information in child in need of aid matters; amending Rules 3 and              
22, Alaska Rules of Child in Need of Aid; and providing for an                 
effective date."                                                               
was read the first time and referred to the Health, Education & Social         
Services, Judiciary, and Finance Committees.                                   
The following fiscal notes apply:                                              
Fiscal notes (2), Dept. of Health & Social Services, 1/26/00                   
Fiscal note, Dept. of Law, 1/26/00                                             
Zero fiscal notes (2), Dept. of Administration, 1/26/00                        
Zero fiscal note, Dept. of Public Safety, 1/26/00                              
The Governor's transmittal letter dated January 25, 2000, appears              

2000-01-26                     House Journal                      Page 2010
HB 321                                                                       
"Dear Speaker Porter:                                                          
As part of my administration's continuing effort to improve Alaska's           
child protection system, I am transmitting a bill that will open to the        
public information that has generally been closed -- court hearings,           
court records and state agency records in child in need of aid (CINA)          
The issues surrounding public disclosure in children's matters can             
quickly become complicated, but the goal of this bill is simple: Shed          
more light on the child protection system and the system will improve.         
I believe public support for the approach taken in this bill will grow         
when the tragic circumstances affecting so many young lives are more           
fully understood, along with the daily challenges faced by those who           
work so hard to protect children.                                              
Concerns have been raised during the past few years about the state's          
confidentiality laws.  These laws were created to protect the privacy          
of children and their families.  But they also have the practical effect       
of limiting public oversight and understanding of the goals and                
activities of our child protection agencies.                                   
In response to growing concerns, I established the Governor's Task             
Force on Confidentiality of Children's Matters, consisting of state and        
media officials.  I asked the task force to determine whether Alaska's         
confidentiality laws could be relaxed with minimal infringement on the         
privacy of children, and whether we could design a more open system            
without jeopardizing child protection programs and continued receipt           
of federal funding.  This bill reflects the task force recommendations         
to allow greater public access to court hearings, court records and            
records of state agencies concerning child protection activities.              
Amending our CINA statutes and court rules requires thoughtful                 
planning.  Thus, the bill will not be effective until July 1, 2001             
approximately one full year after it is signed into law.  It also requires     
a report back to the public and legislature by December 2002 to assess         
these new procedures and make recommendations to address any                   
problems that may arise.                                                       

2000-01-26                     House Journal                      Page 2011
HB 321                                                                       
More specifically, the bill affects CINA cases in the following ways:          
Court hearings would be opened to the public with limited                   
exceptions -- for example, if the court determines an open hearing             
would emotionally harm a child, or when other state or federal                 
laws require closed hearings.                                                  
Court records would be opened unless a federal or state law                 
prohibits the release.                                                         
State agency records would be made available to the public in               
some cases, such as responding to allegations surrounding harm to              
a child in state custody.                                                      
We have launched many initiatives in the past years to make Alaska             
a healthier, safer place for our children.  But we can and must do             
more.  This bill is the next step in our continuing efforts to protect         
young Alaskans.                                                                
							Tony Knowles