Legislature(2003 - 2004)

02/05/2003 01:00 PM House JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 68 - OFFICE OF VICTIMS' RIGHTS: INCLUDE MUNIS                                                                              
Number 0045                                                                                                                     
CHAIR McGUIRE  announced that the  first order of  business would                                                               
be HOUSE BILL NO. 68, "An  Act relating to the office of victims'                                                               
Number 0083                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS,  speaking as the sponsor,  explained that                                                               
HB  68  merely clarifies  existing  statute  with regard  to  the                                                               
jurisdiction of the  Office of Victims' Rights (OVR);  HB 68 does                                                               
not expand  the authority of  the OVR,  which was created  by the                                                               
22nd legislature  in order to  give victims an  independent voice                                                               
in the  criminal justice system.   In  effect, he added,  the OVR                                                               
[acts as] an ombudsman; the OVR can  issue a report at the end an                                                               
investigation, with  possible requests for any  necessary changes                                                               
including  changes  in  statutes.    He  indicated  that  in  the                                                               
legislation  that  originally  created   the  OVR,  the  language                                                               
defining   "justice   agency"   did  not   specifically   include                                                               
municipalities.     However,  in  addition   to  the   OVR  being                                                               
headquartered  in Anchorage,  over 50  percent of  all [Alaska's]                                                               
crime  victims  are subject  to  investigation  by the  Anchorage                                                               
Police  Department  (APD) and  live  within  the Municipality  of                                                               
Anchorage (MOA).                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SAMUELS relayed  that the  question of  the OVR's                                                               
jurisdiction was raised  as a result of its  investigation of the                                                               
circumstances  following  the  murder  of  former  Department  of                                                               
Public  Safety   (DPS)  commissioner,  Glenn  Godfrey,   and  the                                                               
shooting of his  wife, Patricia Godfrey.  He  noted that although                                                               
this particular  conflict between  the OVR and  the MOA  has been                                                               
resolved, HB  68 would ensure that  such a question would  not be                                                               
raised in the  future.  He explained that he  is sponsoring HB 68                                                               
at the request  of the mayor of Anchorage, George  P. Wuerch, and                                                               
noted that  in members' packets  are letters of support  from the                                                               
Anchorage Assembly, the OVR, and the Godfrey family.                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM  asked whether  "municipality" is  defined in                                                               
statute and,  if so, does  it clearly indicate that  boroughs and                                                               
cities are included in that definition.                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS opined that in  creating the OVR, the 22nd                                                               
legislature   intended  for   municipalities  and   their  police                                                               
departments to  be included in  the OVR's jurisdiction.   He then                                                               
read a portion of that original legislation:                                                                                    
     (1)  "justice  agency"   means  a  department,  office,                                                                    
     institution,   corporation,  authority,   organization,                                                                    
     commission, committee, council, court,  or board in the                                                                    
     executive or judicial branches  of the state government                                                                    
     that is,  in any  manner, involved with  or responsible                                                                    
     for  the apprehension,  prosecution, incarceration,  or                                                                    
     supervision of criminal or juvenile offenders ....                                                                         
Number 0312                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG directed  members  to  Title 29,  which                                                               
contains   the   definition   of   "municipality"   as   follows:                                                               
"'municipality' means a  political subdivision incorporated under                                                               
the laws of the state that is a  home rule or general law city, a                                                               
home rule or general law borough, or a unified municipality".                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA,  after  noting  that HB  68  is  warranted,                                                               
opined that  municipalities are already  covered by  the existing                                                               
law.   He indicated, however,  that HB 68  ought to be  passed to                                                               
keep anyone  from arguing  that point  in the  future.   He asked                                                               
what reasoning the MOA used in saying that it was not covered.                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS remarked that  that question would best be                                                               
directed at "the city attorney."                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA said:                                                                                                       
     At  this point,  I can't  see the  good faith  argument                                                                    
     that the [MOA] wasn't covered  in the first place.  And                                                                    
     that  there   is  somebody  who   is  ...   making  the                                                                    
     legislature go  through this process of  enacting a new                                                                    
     bill  just to  address  a concern  that  I still  don't                                                                    
     understand ... rubs me the wrong way.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS relayed  that by the time  he entered into                                                               
the discussion, there were already  a lot of misunderstandings, a                                                               
lot of hard feelings, and a lot of heels dug in.                                                                                
Number 0525                                                                                                                     
STEPHEN BRANCHFLOWER, Director, Office  of Victims' Rights (OVR),                                                               
Alaska State  Legislature, relayed that  he was appointed  in May                                                               
2002 by the 22nd legislature to  serve on the OVR, the purpose of                                                               
which is to  advocate on behalf of crime  victims and investigate                                                               
their  complaints,  ensuring  that  none of  a  victim's  50-plus                                                               
statutory  and  constitutional  rights  are violated.    He  also                                                               
relayed that one  of the very first cases that  the OVR undertook                                                               
to  investigate was  the aforementioned  Godfrey  case, and  this                                                               
investigation  lasted  approximately  three   months.    The  OVR                                                               
subpoenaed  over  4,000  documents,  took  sworn  testimony,  and                                                               
published its report on its web site on November 26, 2002.                                                                      
MR.  BRANCHFLOWER  explained that  under  the  terms of  the  OVR                                                               
legislation, the  MOA had a  statutory right to file  a response,                                                               
which,  in part,  raised  the  question of  whether  the OVR  had                                                               
jurisdiction to  investigate the  MOA.  The  MOA argued  that the                                                               
definition  of  a  "justice  agency"   in  AS  24.65.250(1)  only                                                               
addressed   the  judicial   and  executive   branches  of   state                                                               
government.   He  said that  counter to  the MOA's  argument, his                                                               
position  is that  there  is other  authority  granted within  AS                                                               
24.65.110, which very  clearly states that the  OVR "shall assist                                                               
crime  victims   in  obtaining  the  rights   crime  victims  are                                                               
guaranteed  under the  constitution and  laws of  the state  with                                                               
regard to the contacts crime victims have".                                                                                     
MR.  BRANCHFLOWER  relayed that  as  a  result of  the  publicity                                                               
surrounding both  the Godfrey case  and the MOA's  assertion that                                                               
the  OVR  did  not  have  jurisdiction,  the  Anchorage  Assembly                                                               
adopted  a  resolution  -  Resolution No.  AR  2002-391(F)  -  on                                                               
December 17,  2002, specifically  acknowledging that the  MOA was                                                               
subject to the jurisdiction of the  OVR.  He also relayed that on                                                               
January 25, 2003,  the MOA passed Ordinance No.  AO 2003-2, which                                                               
states  explicitly  that,  "the  jurisdiction of  the  Office  of                                                               
Victims'  Rights  over  the Municipality  of  Anchorage  and  its                                                               
departments,  agencies, officials,  and  employees is  officially                                                               
acknowledged".   He, too, referred  to the letters of  support in                                                               
members' packets.                                                                                                               
Number 0784                                                                                                                     
MR.  BRANCHFLOWER opined  that  it  is important  to  pass HB  68                                                               
because, in many  areas of the state, crimes  are investigated by                                                               
local police  departments rather than the  Alaska State Troopers.                                                               
He also  opined that  in creating the  OVR, the  22nd legislature                                                               
intended   that  municipalities   would   be   included  in   the                                                               
jurisdiction   of  the   OVR,   particularly   the  largest   law                                                               
enforcement agency in  the state, the APD.  He  relayed that most                                                               
of his cases  originate with the APD, and that  at this time, the                                                               
OVR has 124 cases.                                                                                                              
MR.   BRANCHFLOWER   surmised   that    the   reason   the   word                                                               
"municipality" was omitted from  the original OVR legislation was                                                               
because  when it  was  created, it  was  modeled after  statutory                                                               
language  pertaining  to  the  Office  of  the  Ombudsman,  which                                                               
specifically  did  not  include   "municipality"  in  order  that                                                               
individual municipalities  could institute their  own ombudsman's                                                               
offices.  He posited that  this omission was merely an oversight,                                                               
and that  the 22nd  legislature did  intend for  the area  of the                                                               
state with the largest population  to fall under the jurisdiction                                                               
of  the OVR.   In  closing,  he said  that the  OVR supports  the                                                               
adoption of HB 68.                                                                                                              
CHAIR  McGUIRE  relayed her  belief  that  "justice agencies"  as                                                               
defined in AS 24.65.110 is  certainly broad enough to include the                                                               
largest police  force in the state  of Alaska, adding that  HB 68                                                               
will clarify that issue for the future.                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG raised  the  issue  of amendments,  and                                                               
spoke   of  possibly   adding,  to   page  1,   line  10,   after                                                               
"municipality" the words "as defined in AS 29.71.800".                                                                          
MR. BRANCHFLOWER confirmed that  such an amendment would preclude                                                               
smaller  jurisdictions   from  arguing  that  somehow   they  are                                                               
excluded from the definition of  "justice agency" in AS 24.65.250                                                               
simply because they  don't qualify as a municipality.   He opined                                                               
that such a change would be an improvement.                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG asked whether  the OVR would be amenable                                                               
to  adding   language  that  would   allow  the  OVR   to  assist                                                               
individuals with issues related to junk cars.                                                                                   
MR.  BRANCHFLOWER  pointed  out  that  the  OVR  is  specifically                                                               
designed  to  assist victims  of  crimes  against a  person,  not                                                               
property crimes,  and remarked that  his preference would  be for                                                               
the  OVR to  focus  its limited  resources  on addressing  crimes                                                               
against  a  person,  as outlined  in  the  original  legislation:                                                               
felonies,   misdemeanors   involving   domestic   violence,   and                                                               
misdemeanors involving violations of AS 11.41.                                                                                  
Number 1312                                                                                                                     
GERAD  GODFREY,  speaking  on   behalf  of  the  Godfrey  family,                                                               
recounted for the  committee the process that his  family and the                                                               
OVR  went through  in investigating  the circumstances  following                                                               
the shooting of his parents,  Glenn and Patricia Godfrey, as well                                                               
as  details of  the MOA's  response  to that  investigation.   He                                                               
relayed that the OVR has proved  to be an invaluable resource for                                                               
his  family, whose  primary goal  at this  juncture is  to ensure                                                               
that no one else suffers from  the same problems uncovered by the                                                               
OVR's investigation,  including the problems  encountered because                                                               
of  the  MOA's  -  specifically, the  city  attorney's  office  -                                                               
obstructive stance regarding that  investigation.  In closing, he                                                               
reiterated  that  the  OVR  has  been  an  invaluable  tool,  and                                                               
expressed his support for the passage of HB 68.                                                                                 
CHAIR McGUIRE  assured Mr.  Godfrey that  the committee  would do                                                               
every thing it  can to ensure that the OVR's  jurisdiction is not                                                               
questioned again.                                                                                                               
Number 1747                                                                                                                     
MARCI SCHMIDT  said simply that  she is in  support of HB  68 and                                                               
the OVR, and  mentioned that it was Victims for  Justice that put                                                               
her in touch with  the OVR.  She asked members  to continue to do                                                               
what they can to support the efforts of the OVR.                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA extended an  invitation to the Godfrey family                                                               
to contact  his office  regarding the  possibility of  pursuing a                                                               
bar complaint against  the city attorney for  his conduct related                                                               
to the OVR's investigation of the Godfrey case.                                                                                 
Number 1878                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG made  a motion to adopt  Amendment 1, on                                                               
page  1, line  10, after  "municipality"  add "as  defined in  AS                                                               
29.71.800".  There being no objection, Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG then  expressed  concern regarding  the                                                               
title of HB  68, and relayed that he had  an another amendment to                                                               
offer on that point.                                                                                                            
The committee took an at-ease from 1:37 p.m. to 1:38 p.m.                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE   GRUENBERG,   after   distributing   [Conceptual]                                                               
Amendment 2,  explained that his  intent is to narrow  the title,                                                               
which  would then  read:   "An Act  adding municipalities  to the                                                               
definition of  'justice agency' with  regard to  the jurisdiction                                                               
of the office of victims' rights".                                                                                              
Number 1931                                                                                                                     
The committee took an at-ease from 1:40 p.m. to 1:42 p.m.                                                                       
[Not on  tape, but reconstructed  from the  committee secretary's                                                               
log notes, was the following motion:]                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  made  a  motion  to  adopt  Conceptual                                                               
Amendment 2.                                                                                                                    
Number 2010                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  McGUIRE  asked  whether   there  were  any  objections  to                                                               
adopting  Conceptual  Amendment 2.    There  being no  objection,                                                               
Conceptual Amendment 2 was adopted.                                                                                             
Number 2023                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL moved to report  HB 68, as amended, out of                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations and  the accompanying                                                               
zero fiscal  note.   There being no  objection, CSHB  68(JUD) was                                                               
reported from the House Judiciary Standing Committee.                                                                           

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