Legislature(2001 - 2002)

01/25/2001 04:30 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 41 - CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT/SOC SEC. #                                                                                  
CHAIR DYSON  announced the next  order of business as  HOUSE BILL                                                               
NO. 41,  "An Act repealing  the termination date of  changes made                                                               
by  ch. 87,  SLA  1997  and ch.  132,  SLA  1998 regarding  child                                                               
support   enforcement  and   related   programs;  repealing   the                                                               
nonseverability  provision  of  ch.   132,  SLA  1998;  repealing                                                               
certain  requirements  for  applicants   for  hunting  and  sport                                                               
fishing licenses  or tags,  and for  certain hunting  permits, to                                                               
provide  social security  numbers for  child support  enforcement                                                               
purposes; and providing for an effective date."                                                                                 
Number 0055                                                                                                                     
BARBARA   MIKLOS,  Director,   Central   Office,  Child   Support                                                               
Enforcement Division (CSED), Department  of Revenue, came forward                                                               
to  present HB  41.    She explained  that  when federal  welfare                                                               
reform legislation was passed in  1996 by Congress and amended in                                                               
1997,  both those  laws affected  the  CSED.   The theory  behind                                                               
welfare  reform was  to figure  out ways  to help  those families                                                               
going off welfare  to stay off welfare and not  get into trouble,                                                               
especially  families  with children.    In  order to  help  those                                                               
families,  the  CSED has  to  make  sure  that both  parents  are                                                               
supporting  the children.   A  great deal  of the  welfare reform                                                               
legislation  addressed  child  support.    The  State  of  Alaska                                                               
legislature  passed  laws  to comply  with  the  requirements  of                                                               
welfare reform  in 1996, 1997,  and 1998.   It is a  very complex                                                               
piece of legislation.                                                                                                           
MS. MIKLOS explained that the 1997  and 1998 pieces of the Alaska                                                               
statutes,  which  are  riddled  all over  through  child  support                                                               
statutes, were set to sunset in 2001,  and HB 41 is a repealer of                                                               
those  sunset provisions.    The bill  itself  is fairly  simple.                                                               
Section 1  is the Findings;  Purpose; Intent; Section 2   repeals                                                               
the sunset and nonseverability provisions;  Section 3 repeals the                                                               
social security number requirements  on hunting and sport fishing                                                               
licenses, which  has to do with  the waiver; and Section  4 and 5                                                               
provide  for  an  effective  date.   It  is  a  simple  piece  of                                                               
legislation,  but behind  it is  a  lot of  programs and  complex                                                               
MS.  MIKLOS  noted that  many  of  the  programs have  been  very                                                               
effective because of some of  the tools like the driver's license                                                               
program and the  new hire reporting program.   Some programs have                                                               
given more protection for the  public; others have given the CSED                                                               
more tools  to collect money.   In FY  [fiscal year] 99  the CSED                                                               
collected $81 million,  and in FY 2000 it  collected $85 million,                                                               
and  in  FY  2001  it  expects  to  collect  $90  million,  which                                                               
primarily  is going  to families.   Although  there are  concerns                                                               
about child  support, within  the last  three years  the concerns                                                               
have lessened,  not increased.   She asked the committee  to pass                                                               
this bill that would repeal those sunset provisions.                                                                            
MS. MIKLOS cited a recent study  done by the Department of Health                                                               
and  Social  Services of  694  families  in  which a  very  small                                                               
percentage of them had received  child support.  She doesn't know                                                               
why, but  42 percent  of the  money being brought  in now  is for                                                               
people who  used to be  on public  assistance at some  point, and                                                               
now they  are being helped  with child support.   It makes  a big                                                               
MS.  MIKLOS   referred  to  the  nonseverability   provision  and                                                               
explained that it was added in  1998 legislation.  It says if any                                                               
part of the  law is found to be unconstitutional,  the entire law                                                               
is found to  be unconstitutional.  The CSED prefers  that that be                                                               
taken out.  So far it  has withstood the biggest test because the                                                               
supreme court found the  driver's license program constitutional,                                                               
but the CSED would hate to  have everything thrown out because of                                                               
that clause.                                                                                                                    
MS. MIKLOS  went through the  Child Support  Enforcement "Sunset"                                                             
Summary included  in the  packets section by  section.   The CSED                                                             
took  a  summary  of  all  the   bills  that  include  a  lot  of                                                               
legislation.     When  the  CSED  worked  on  the 1997  and  1998                                                               
legislation, it  really tried hard  to make sure at  minimum that                                                               
the federal  requirements were met; that  was the focus.   All of                                                               
these  things  were  required  by   the  federal  welfare  reform                                                               
legislation.   One of  the reasons  that this  legislation passed                                                               
was the  federal government  included a sanction:   if  states do                                                               
not pass this  legislation, then there is a chance  of losing all                                                               
the  child support  and public  assistance money,  which for  the                                                               
State of  Alaska was $80 million.   That was the  biggest impetus                                                               
to pass  the legislation.   Now  she would like  to say  the CSED                                                               
really believes that some of programs really helped.                                                                            
MS.   MIKLOS   referred   to   the   section   "Availability   of                                                               
Records/Access  to Information"  and explained  that it  requires                                                               
various  agencies   like  Vital  Statistics  and   the  licensing                                                               
agencies  to give  the CSED  information.   Prior  to this  those                                                               
agencies were  doing it primarily  voluntarily, but now it  is in                                                               
state  law.    She  referred   to  the  section  "'Best  Efforts'                                                               
Language"   and  explained   that   the   driver's  license   and                                                               
occupational licensing program isn't  part of this legislation at                                                               
all because it  was passed in 1996,  so it does not  sunset.  The                                                               
part  that would  sunset is  the requirement  that the  CSED must                                                               
consider that someone is making the best effort.                                                                                
Number 0634                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL asked Ms. Miklos  if she has a place where                                                               
the SLA  [Session Laws of Alaska]  provision is going to  be tied                                                               
to what she is describing.                                                                                                      
MS. MIKLOS  answered no,  but she has  another document  that was                                                               
recently developed and would be happy to make a copy for him.                                                                   
MS.  MIKLOS  referred  to  the  "Central  Registry"  section  and                                                               
explained  that  whether CSED  enforces  the  order or  not,  the                                                               
orders are  supposed to come through  the CSED, so the  court has                                                               
always been doing that.   The CSED now keeps a  list of the court                                                               
orders, so it is available and  keeps track of things.  She noted                                                               
that Diane  Wendlandt already talked  [in the  previous overview]                                                               
about  due process  in terms  of  the section  on "Credit  Bureau                                                               
MS.  MIKLOS referred  to the  section on  "Definitions:   Duty of                                                               
support, earnings,  tribunal, arrearages" and explained  that all                                                               
the states  needed to  have consistent  definitions, so  the CSED                                                               
adopted those  definitions.   She said she  wouldn't go  over the                                                               
"Due Process"  section because  Diane Wendlandt  already reviewed                                                               
that in the overview.                                                                                                           
MS. MIKLOS  referred to the  section "Financial  Institution Data                                                               
Match and Immunity from Liability"  as one of the bigger programs                                                               
that is  part of  this law, one  that is just  in the  process of                                                               
implementation.  The CSED could  always do bank matches and could                                                               
attach money  in bank accounts,  but this program will  allow the                                                               
CSED to  actually send the list  of people in arrears  to various                                                               
banks, and they  will send the CSED names of  people they have in                                                               
accounts.    That  program  is  almost ready  but  is  not  quite                                                               
implemented yet.                                                                                                                
MS. MIKLOS  referred to the  section on "Income  Withholding" and                                                               
said a couple  things changed in the law.   One change gave seven                                                               
days  for the  employer  to  start taking  the  actions, and  the                                                               
second change  requires CSED to  get the payments out  within two                                                               
days.  Prior to that the CSED had a 15-day requirement.                                                                         
MS.  MIKLOS referred  to the  section on  "Liens."   Once someone                                                               
owes child  support then that sort  of becomes a lien  on his/her                                                               
property.  She understands that  that was always part of Alaska's                                                               
law  and hadn't  changed because  of  welfare reform.   What  did                                                               
change in  the law is CSED  gives full faith and  credit to other                                                               
state's   liens.      She  referred   to   the   section   called                                                               
"Miscellaneous."  It lists things that  are not as big as some of                                                               
the  other  programs:    exchange  information,  application  for                                                               
services, payments  to the agency,  audit of  collections, notice                                                               
of  public assistance,  order  establishment,  service of  paper,                                                               
regulations, fees for services, and state registry information.                                                                 
MS.  MIKLOS  referred  to  the section  on  "Modification."    It                                                               
requires the CSED  to give the parties notice that  they are able                                                               
to modify the orders every three years.                                                                                         
MS. MIKLOS  referred to the  section on "New Hire  Reporting" and                                                               
noted that  it has helped the  most in terms of  collections.  It                                                               
requires all employers  in the state to report  hires and rehires                                                               
to the  CSED within 20 days.   There is now  an automated holding                                                               
order in  the new  computer system.   The  minute the  CSED knows                                                               
that someone has a new employer,  a new withholding order is sent                                                               
out.    That helps  both  parties;  it  helps collect  the  child                                                               
support  sooner, and  it helps  the obligor,  so arrears  are not                                                               
Number 0997                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON asked how that works.                                                                                     
MS. MIKLOS said the employers  give the CSED the same information                                                               
they  have on  a W4  form, which  includes name,  address, social                                                               
security number,  and maybe one other  piece of datum.   The CSED                                                               
matches it, and  then those that don't match are  not part of the                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE JOULE  asked if this could  be done electronically                                                               
utilizing new technology.                                                                                                       
MS. MIKLOS  replied that  the larger employers  send tapes.   She                                                               
also noted  that Alaska was one  of the first states  to have new                                                               
hire  reporting but  prior  to welfare  reform,  only the  larger                                                               
employers reported.  The  CSED is trying to set up  a web site so                                                               
people can send it electronically.                                                                                              
MS. MIKLOS  noted that in  a six-month study of  the collections,                                                               
12 percent of the collections  came directly from the information                                                               
received  from  the  new  hire  reporting.   She  said  the  CSED                                                               
believes that it is very effective.                                                                                             
Number 1121                                                                                                                     
MS.  MIKLOS referred  to the  section on  "Non-cooperation."   If                                                               
someone is on public assistance,  unless there is good reason and                                                               
good reason  would be that he/she  or the children are  not safe,                                                               
then he/she  must cooperate  with the CSED.   If  someone doesn't                                                               
cooperate and  there is no  good reason to cooperate,  then there                                                               
are sanctions within the public assistance system.                                                                              
CHAIR DYSON asked Ms. Miklos how the safety issue is verified.                                                                  
MS. MIKLOS  answered that it depends  when it comes to  the CSED.                                                               
If  it comes  through  public assistance,  then  the Division  of                                                               
Public Assistance verifies  that.  She doesn't  know what process                                                               
is used.                                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON  asked  for  an example  of  what  she  is                                                               
talking about.                                                                                                                  
MS. MIKLOS  explained that  if someone  is on  public assistance,                                                               
the  CSED is  collecting child  support on  behalf of  the state.                                                               
The impetus is  it would want to collect that  money to reimburse                                                               
the state for  the public assistance.  The state  and the federal                                                               
government have agreed that it is not  worth it to even try to go                                                               
after this money if it would  put the parent's life or children's                                                               
lives in danger,  so he/she would not have to  cooperate with the                                                               
CSED.   It  is  not that  the family  wouldn't  be getting  child                                                               
support for  themselves; the  CSED wouldn't  be collecting  it on                                                               
behalf  of the  state.   For  example, take  a  case of  domestic                                                               
violence where  things are  stable now  but something  else could                                                               
trigger more violence, and maybe  the trigger would be collection                                                               
of child support.                                                                                                               
Number 1270                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL asked  if once  someone is  released from                                                               
his/her  child  support obligation,  is  he/she  notified of  the                                                               
MS. MIKLOS  replied that  the CSED closes  the case  and notifies                                                               
both parties by First-Class Mail.   If someone does send too much                                                               
money, that money is sent back.                                                                                                 
MS.  MIKLOS   referred  to  the  section   on  "Nondisclosure  of                                                               
Information"  and  said  it  also  addresses  domestic  violence.                                                               
Under  the original  law,  the CSED  only  gave the  noncustodial                                                               
parent the  address of  a custodial parent  if the  payments were                                                               
caught up.   The federal government said it  wanted child support                                                               
agencies  to  give  noncustodial   parents  the  address  of  the                                                               
custodial parents  in case they  don't know where  their children                                                               
are.   The federal government  opened that up  in a way  that was                                                               
different  than Alaska  had  it,  but it  said  not  in cases  of                                                               
domestic violence.   That  information will not  be given  out if                                                               
there is evidence of violence.                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL asked what kind  of violence or is there a                                                               
discretionary judgment on the part of CSED.                                                                                     
MS. MIKLOS  answered it  can be  that or the  CSED will  accept a                                                               
sworn  affidavit.   There has  never  been a  challenge to  that.                                                               
There would  also be an appeal  process on the other  side if the                                                               
noncustodial parent  said it wasn't  true, and then  he/she would                                                               
have a right to appeal.                                                                                                         
MS. MIKLOS  referred to  the "Paternity  Section" and  noted that                                                               
Diane  Wendlandt went  through that  in the  CSED overview.   She                                                               
reviewed the  next section "Seek  Work Orders."  This  gives CSED                                                               
the  authority if  someone is  not  working and  can't pay  child                                                               
support, he/she can  be ordered to work.  The  CSED has chosen to                                                               
go through the court, and that has been successful.                                                                             
MS.  MIKLOS referred  to the  "Social Security  Numbers" section.                                                               
The issue of the hunting  and fishing licenses was addressed, but                                                               
there  are  still requirements  for  social  security numbers  on                                                               
state licenses including  applications for professional licenses,                                                               
business  licenses,  marriage  licenses, and  driver's  licenses.                                                               
Those are  still required  by the federal  government.   The only                                                               
one that got a waiver was for recreational licenses.                                                                            
MS. MIKLOS referred  to the section on  "Subpoenas" and explained                                                               
that is a requirement that the CSED  be able to do subpoenas.  It                                                               
changed in law but  in practice it is pretty much  the way it has                                                               
been  because the  CSED could  subpoena that  information through                                                               
the authority of  the commissioner of the  Department of Revenue.                                                               
Now the CSED has direct authority.                                                                                              
MS.  MIKLOS referred  to the  "UIFSA" [Uniform  Interstate Family                                                               
Support Act]  section and  explained there  were just  some minor                                                               
changes to  make it clearer  and more consistent.   She concluded                                                               
her review of  the programs that were in the  changes in the law.                                                               
She noted that every time a  child support law is changed, it has                                                               
to be  changed in  four or five  places, so that  is why  so many                                                               
things are listed.  She urged the committee to pass HB 41.                                                                      
Number 1552                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  CISSNA asked  for  an explanation  on the  sunset                                                               
summary.  She wondered if it is based on federal requirements.                                                                  
MS. MIKLOS replied absolutely.                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE  CISSNA  asked  what  happens if  the  bill  isn't                                                               
MS. MIKLOS  answered that Congress  placed a sanction on  the law                                                               
that  the  states would  lose  all  the  money that  funds  child                                                               
support.  In Alaska this amounts  to about $12 million in federal                                                               
money for  the CSED and  about $63 million for  public assistance                                                               
for a total of about $80 million.                                                                                               
CHAIR DYSON  pointed out that  there is  a companion bill  in the                                                               
Senate and  Representative Coghill has  a bill.  It  is important                                                               
for the  committee to get  whatever information it needs  to make                                                               
amendments.    He asked  the  committee  members what  additional                                                               
information  they need  in  order  to take  action  on this  bill                                                               
probably late next week.                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE JOULE asked what the time frame is on HB 41.                                                                     
MS. MIKLOS answered  that it sunsets July 1, 2001,  which is this                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL asked  Ms. Miklos for help  on framing the                                                               
discussion on  nonseverability.  He  asked for the  rationale and                                                               
the impact on nonseverability.                                                                                                  
CHAIR  DYSON announced  that HB  41 would  be held  over to  give                                                               
people  time to  get more  information and  have their  questions                                                               
answered.   He will notify  people when  he expects to  hear this                                                               
bill again.                                                                                                                     

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