Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/31/1993 03:00 PM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 195: AUTHORIZING YOUTH COURTS Number 028 REP. JOE SITTON testified as prime sponsor of HB 195. He said he was representing the co-sponsors, as well as the young Democrats and Young Republicans of Alaska. He read a sponsor statement that described the Anchorage Youth Court as a successful way to deal with young offenders, and said the bill would make it possible for other areas in the state to duplicate the Anchorage Youth Court by establishing similar programs under the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). The bill would allow nonprofit organizations to operate such courts. He said the state could benefit from the volunteer efforts of some youth to help address criminal behavior in other youths. (Rep. Brice arrived at 3:13 p.m. and departed at 3:20 p.m.) Number 171 CHAIR BUNDE said his experience had shown him that juveniles have strict conceptions of what is wrong and what is right, and can be stricter than adults in judging their peers. REP. VEZEY asked if it would be possible to amend the bill to replace the word "nonprofit corporations" with the word "person." REP. SITTON said he had no problem, but the change might carry legal ramifications. He said the Anchorage Youth Court framework required the use of the words "nonprofit." Number 197 REP. VEZEY noted that the use of nonprofit organization was good or bad in various cases. He asked whether the Legal Assistance and Juvenile Justice Grant Fund referred to in Section 3 was a new fund. REP. SITTON responded that the bill would change the name of the existing Legal Assistance Fund. REP. VEZEY expressed concern over co-mingling of funds. He asked why there was a matching grant requirement when such requirements could also be waived. REP. SITTON said that waivers would not be automatic. He stated he wanted to give the commissioner of DHSS the authority to waive the match if he saw fit to do so. He said the waiver would be adopted in regulation. Number 230 REP. VEZEY suggested eliminating language indicating it was a matching grant, and simply calling the program a grant program. REP. SITTON objected, saying the matching grant provision encouraged community involvement, which he said was a key to the success of the Anchorage Youth Court. He added, however, that he would be willing to eliminate the matching provisions if that were necessary to get the bill passed. Number 243 REP. VEZEY asked the scope of the regulations that would be created under the statute. REP. SITTON said the regulations would establish a procedure by which an entity could apply for a grant, and would outline departmental overview and monitoring of such grants to assess their success. He noted, however, that it was impossible to control exactly what form the regulations would finally take. Number 262 REP. VEZEY expressed reluctance to grant regulatory authority to state agencies. He cited a legislative effort to allow an election on the question of whether the legislature could annul regulations, and said that until such a provision was in place he was very reluctant to grant regulatory authority to state agencies. CHAIR BUNDE asked why HB 195 carried a zero fiscal note when the bill calls for $5,000 grants from the legal assistance and juvenile justice grant fund. REP. SITTON said it was probably not the first time the legislature had seen a zero fiscal note that may have been creative. He said his zero fiscal note was not creative. He anticipated receiving no more than 10 requests for such grants. CHAIR BUNDE said that would cost $50,000. REP. SITTON stated that he had been told that the fiscal note from the Department of Community and Regional Affairs addressed whether the department would have additional costs. CHAIR BUNDE asked whether the Department of Community and Regional Affairs could absorb such costs without additional appropriations. REP. SITTON answered that that was his understanding. CHAIR BUNDE invited public testimony on HB 195. Number 310 VALERIE THERRIEN, an ATTORNEY with the FAIRBANKS NORTH STAR BOROUGH and a BOROUGH ASSEMBLY MEMBER, testified in Juneau in support of HB 195. She said the Anchorage Bar Association (ABA), which supported the Anchorage Youth Court (AYC), had won a national award for its work with AYC. She said those involved in youth courts would prefer the legal protections afforded by a nonprofit status and that would probably be the best form to use. She said it would be logical to establish the next youth court in Fairbanks, and the community there could probably come up with a $5,000 match. She said youth courts help youth gain respect for the legal system and also provide an alternative to the juvenile court system that functioned as an effective deterrent. Number 347 CHAIR BUNDE said he did not intend his comments on matching grants to mean that municipalities could not come up with a fair share for matching funds for youth courts. Number 352 RANDALL HINES, DIVISION OF FAMILY AND YOUTH SERVICES, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES, testified in Juneau in support of HB 195. He cited a zero fiscal note from the Department of Health and Social Services dated 3/11/93. He said community support from the Anchorage School District (ASD) and the ABA has helped the Anchorage Youth Court be a successful model. He cited "legislative resolve" number 61 from 1992 which asked the Department of Health and Social Services to consider starting other youth court programs in Alaska similar to the one in Anchorage. He said the department had started that process in Juneau, Anchorage and Fairbanks, but was facing some drawbacks in Juneau, which had a small student population. CHAIR BUNDE asked if the youth court might not be a usable tool in smaller communities. Number 371 MR. HINES said youth courts would look different in smaller communities, but could be adapted to those settings. Number 379 CAREN ROBINSON, LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS, testified in Juneau for herself and for the League in support of HB 195, saying there was great interest in the program in Juneau. She said youth court was based on the idea that judgement by peers prevented young offenders from repeating their offenses. Such courts also save money, prevent delinquency, and educate youth about the legal system, she said. Sentencing should be appropriate, she stated, and has included community service, alcohol treatment or payment of restitution. She strongly encouraged the bill and said that almost every community contained organizations willing to support youth court. (Rep. Toohey arrived at 3:36 p.m. Rep. G. Davis arrived at approximately 3:40 p.m.) CHAIR BUNDE invited those testifying to limit their testimony to two minutes and not to repeat earlier testimony, if possible. Number 438 BLYTHE MARSTON, PRESIDENT, ANCHORAGE YOUTH COURT, INC., testified via teleconference from Anchorage in support of HB 195. She described the history of AYC. She said the court was unique in that it was run solely by youths with adult advisors. She described the qualifications and training youths had to have to serve in AYC. She said the AYC tries cases referred from Juvenile Intake, and it requires the juvenile and his parent or guardian to agree to have the case tried by AYC and to agree to abide by its judgement. She said the AYC have had youth accused of joyriding, carrying a concealed knife on school grounds, snow machine theft, and other crimes. She said the AYC hears about 20 cases a year, most of them misdemeanors. Convictions in AYC are wiped from an offender's record upon completion of sentence, she said. She listed the benefits of AYC for youth, including business experience, increasing respect for law, allowing redress of criminal activities, resolution of criminal cases without leaving youth with criminal records. She said the program also reduced the number of cases in Juvenile Intake. Number 522 BRIAN CLARK, PRESIDENT, ANCHORAGE YOUTH COURT BAR ASSOCIATION, testified via teleconference from Anchorage in support of HB 195. He said he had served in other capacities in the AYC. He said he wanted the AYC to have the authority to subpoena witnesses, a power granted by HB 195. Number 537 JESSE KICHL, CHIEF JUDGE OF THE ANCHORAGE YOUTH COURT, testified via teleconference from Anchorage in support of HB 195. He said those youths that go through AYC have low recidivism rates, which he attributed to the fact that the AYC provided for trial of youth by their peers. Number 567 ROBERT BUTTCANE, SUPERVISOR, JUVENILE INTAKE UNIT, DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY AND YOUTH SERVICES, testified via teleconference from Anchorage in support of HB 195. He said the AYC was a way for the Division of Family and Youth Services (DFYS) to meet its dual obligations to protect the public while addressing the needs of youthful offenders. He said peer judgement was an outstanding feature of AYC and led to low recidivism rates. He said the AYC was one of the most effective diversion programs he had ever seen, though not all youth were good candidates for trial by AYC. He said he supported the bill as a way to make youth courts possible across the state. TAPE 93-53, SIDE B Number 008 SHARON LEON, A FORMER HOUSING COORDINATOR FOR A RURAL STUDENT VOCATIONAL PROGRAM, testified via teleconference from Anchorage in support of HB 195. She said offenders tried by AYC, and those likely to be tried by other youth courts, do not realize that what they might consider mischief is actually illegal. She said many communities had made inquiries about AYC in the past year, and while some had been scared off by the complexity of the program, she said, youth courts could take many forms. She said students involved with AYC respect the confidentiality of those involved in the system. Number 070 JON EALY, VICE PRESIDENT, ANCHORAGE BAR ASSOCIATION, testified via teleconference from Anchorage in support of HB 195. He said the AYC was almost all-volunteer, but received early support from an American Bar Association grant. He said the $5,000 state grant would help smaller communities get set up before finding their own funding sources. He said it was important that youth courts be operated as nonprofit corporations so as to collect grants and tax-deductible contributions. He said the jurisdiction of youth courts would be up to local authorities. He reminded the committee that all cases brought before a youth court would be pre-screened, probably by a lawyer, to ensure that they were appropriate for the court. He said youth courts impose creative sentences, tailored to each youth and in the context of each community. He praised youth courts as a good way for children to learn the legal system and for lawyers to be involved in schools. Number 114 MARY BRISTOL, A SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHER IN THE ANCHORAGE SCHOOL DISTRICT, testified via teleconference from Anchorage in support of HB 195. She said the AYC was among the best real-life educational opportunities for youth she had ever seen. She said it was a very successful partnership between schools and the community, that it had received two national awards, and that it received many queries form other states and cities. She said she was glad it could be used as a model for similar programs around the state. Number 134 ROBERT OWENS, IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT OF THE ANCHORAGE BAR ASSOCIATION, testified via teleconference from Anchorage in support of HB 195. He said the ABA had long been involved in the AYC, supported it vigorously, and still contributed money to it each year, partly because the state had provide money to the program early on. He said a nonprofit designation is useful for youth courts. He said the AYC has been responsible in reporting its financial activities, even in the absence of formal, rigid financial regulations. He suggested making the youth court available to boroughs as well as first- or second-class municipalities and cities. Number 178 JOSHUA WALTON, A MEMBER OF THE ANCHORAGE YOUTH COURT, testified via teleconference from Anchorage in support of HB 195. He said the AYC provided benefits for both defendants and attorneys, was educational, and led to lower state court costs. Number 201 JUSTIN WALTON, A MEMBER OF THE ANCHORAGE YOUTH COURT BAR ASSOCIATION, testified via teleconference from Anchorage in support of HB 195. He said the AYC saved the state money and was effective. He noted that the AYC had a five percent recidivism rate, compared to 50 percent for the normal juvenile court system. Number 219 BRYAN MERRELL, PRESIDENT OF THE ANCHORAGE BAR ASSOCIATION YOUNG LAWYER SECTION, testified via teleconference from Anchorage in support of HB 195. He said the program gets lawyers involved with students, helps students learn about the judicial branch of government, reduces recidivism rates, and saves the government money. Number 250 MARIGH HUGHES, PARTNER AT HUGHES, THORSNESS, GANTZ, POWELL & BRUNDIN LAW FIRM, AND PRESIDENT OF THE ALASKA BAR FOUNDATION, testified via teleconference from Anchorage in support of HB 195. She said the foundation, which has funded the AYC, has rigid financial requirements which the AYC has always met. She called the program a model to be followed nationwide. She said the foundation trustees support HB 195. She stated that in 1991 the DOE had attempted, through its rural outreach program and in conjunction with the ABA, to establish two pilot rural youth court programs. Number 275 ROY HENDERSON, REHABILITATION COUNSELOR AND INSTRUCTOR IN THE JUVENILE DIVERSION PROGRAM OF THE ALASKA COALITION TO PREVENT SHOPLIFTING, INC., testified via teleconference from Anchorage in support of HB 195. He said it was a good program to educate youth who are good candidates for rehabilitation about the consequences of crimes often committed under peer pressure. He encouraged expansion of the youth court program to pay for follow-up assistance for poor youth. Number 300 CHAIR BUNDE thanked those testifying from Anchorage for their testimony. Number 303 JANE DEMMERT, PROGRAM COORDINATOR OF THE FAIRBANKS NATIVE ASSOCIATION, testified via teleconference from Fairbanks in support of HB 195. She said the bill would help Fairbanks learn from Anchorage's example while setting up its own youth court. She also noted with approval that the bill provided for alternative approaches in smaller communities. Number 324 STEVE PRAEDEL, AN ATTORNEY, AND ASSISTANT LEGAL ADVISOR TO THE ANCHORAGE YOUTH COURT, testified via teleconference from Anchorage in support of HB 195. He noted that the program attracted many dedicated volunteers, including police, teachers, judges, attorneys, court workers, and all types of students. He voiced the hope that the offenders would become part of the AYC system. As a family lawyer, he said the AYC was a more positive solution to youth crime than the normal juvenile justice system and could be a good model for the rest of the state. Number 358 CHAIR BUNDE closed public testimony on HB 195 and invited the committee to discuss the bill. He asked Rep. Sitton to comment on the suggestion that the bill be extended to include boroughs. REP. SITTON said he hoped the committee would entertain such a motion. Number 362 REP. VEZEY observed that amending the bill to substitute the word "person" for the word "nonprofit corporation" in the bill would extend the bill to include boroughs. CHAIR BUNDE observed that someone had testified that establishing a youth court under a nonprofit corporation umbrella would allow the youth courts to accept tax-exempt donations. REP. VEZEY countered that an organization merely had to have tax-exempt status, granted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in order to accept tax-deductible contributions. He said most nonprofit corporations did not necessarily have such status. Number 372 REP. B. DAVIS said that an organization needed 501 3(c) status, as did the AYC. REP. G. DAVIS noted that a slight change to the bill on page 3, line 24, changing the word "cities" to the word "municipalities" would extend the bill to boroughs and cities. REP. SITTON concurred. Number 380 CHAIR BUNDE moved the amendment suggested by Rep. G. Davis, changing the word "cities" to the word "municipalities" on page 3, line 24. Hearing neither discussion nor objection, he declared the motion passed. REP. VEZEY proposed an amendment to Section 3 of the bill to establish an independent fund for the youth court grants instead of mingling the fund with the legal assistance fund. He suggested such an amendment might take some legal research. REP. SITTON said he appreciated Rep. Vezey's concern for state money management, but added that he would hate to see the bill delayed by what he saw as an insignificant problem. Number 395 REP. G. DAVIS pointed out that two paragraphs in Section 3 of the bill defined the two distinct uses to which the fund would be put. CHAIR BUNDE asked Rep. Vezey if that would satisfy his concerns. Number 403 REP. VEZEY answered that it would not, and that there was a need, in his opinion, for separate funds in order to properly manage the funds. REP. NICHOLIA moved for passage of HB 195 from the committee with individual recommendations. REP. VEZEY objected. CHAIR BUNDE asked Rep. Vezey if he had made a motion. Number 413 REP. VEZEY answered that he had not made a formal motion, as he believed it would first be necessary to perform research on the issue he had raised. He said he had two other amendments he wanted to present. REP. NICHOLIA withdrew her amendment. Number 418 REP. VEZEY moved an amendment to the bill to substitute the word "person" for the words "corporation" or "nonprofit corporation" in four places: page 2, line 23; page 2, line 29; page 3, line 21; and page 4, line 1. REP. B. DAVIS objected to the motion and said the committee should have representatives from Legal Services present before voting on the motion. CHAIR BUNDE said HB 195 was apparently going to take longer than he had thought. He suggested that the committee take up the confirmation of Stowell Johnstone to the State Board of Education and delay action on HB 195 pending arrival of a representative from Legal Services. He declared his intention to finish discussion on HB 195 that day. HB 195: AUTHORIZING YOUTH COURTS CHAIR BUNDE noted that there was a question of the necessity of 501 (c) nonprofit designation. REP. SITTON invited his aide to address that question. Number 520 PAULA TERRELL, AIDE TO REP. JOE SITTON, testified on HB 195. She said she had consulted with Jack Chenoweth of the Legislative Legal Counsel in the Legislative Affairs Agency, who had answered some of the committee's questions on HB 195. She stated Mr. Chenoweth said that the use of the word "person" would include nonprofits and the bill language was broad enough to allow communities to adapt the bill to their own purposes. She said the courts might look askance at having a single individual person operate a youth court, but that issue could be resolved when such a person attempted to establish a youth court program. Number 527 CHAIR BUNDE said that answered his question. REP. VEZEY noted that the term "nonprofit" was used three times in the bill, and the term "corporation" was used twice. Number 530 CHAIR BUNDE asked whether the nonprofit designation would remain should the committee pass Rep. Vezey's proposed amendment to change "nonprofit" to "person." MS. TERRELL said that she believed, based on her conversation with Mr. Chenoweth, that this was correct. REP. TOOHEY moved passage of Rep. Vezey's amendment. CHAIR BUNDE noted that Rep. Vezey had already made that amendment. REP. TOOHEY said that she would therefore repeat the amendment. CHAIR BUNDE asked for objections. Number 541 REP. B. DAVIS said she had voiced objection to the motion earlier, but she wished to withdraw her objection. CHAIR BUNDE said, "That takes care of that amendment. And, Rep. Vezey, you had another amendment that you were concerned with." Number 542 REP. VEZEY moved an amendment to page 4, line 4, of the bill, deleting the last sentence of the paragraph, (an amendment which would have the effect of preventing waiver of the requirement for matching grants). He said the bill offered enough flexibility in the form of matching contributions such that if a community was not willing to provide some matching contribution, the state should not provide the grant. REP. NICHOLIA objected. REP. SITTON said the amendment would not substantially alter the bill. He said he agreed with the amendment. Number 555 REP. NICHOLIA said she believed the commissioner of the DOE should have the ability to waive the match because rural areas might not be able to afford the match and would be deprived of the benefits of youth courts. TAPE 93-54, SIDE A Number 000 CHAIR BUNDE asked for further discussion on the amendment. Hearing no further objection, he called for a roll call vote. Those voting yes were Reps. Vezey and Kott. Those voting no were Reps. G. Davis, Olberg, B. Davis, Nicholia, Toohey and Bunde. The motion failed 2-6. Number 032 REP. VEZEY moved an amendment to split the legal assistance grant fund from the juvenile justice grant fund. REP. G. DAVIS said he had no problem with the amendment. He said it was a good bill and suggested the committee pass it along to the Judiciary Committee with a letter of intent to avoid the delay that would come with drafting an amendment. Number 048 CHAIR BUNDE asked Rep. Vezey if that would satisfy his concerns. He also said he was willing to return the bill to the committee again the next day to allow time to draft the amendment. REP. VEZEY said he would be willing to act at the pleasure of the chair, and he did not see any large rush. He observed that HB 195 would not make it to the floor, as the legislative session was nearing an end. He agreed to send a letter to the Judiciary Committee requesting his amendment. Number 064 REP. OLBERG asked if the committee would vote on the motion or view the amendment first. CHAIR BUNDE said he would prefer to hold the bill one day to allow language to be drafted to address Rep. Vezey's concerns and avoid the need to try to have another committee try to assess the HESS Committee's will. He announced the end of business on HB 195.