Legislature(2009 - 2010)BARNES 124


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01:09:14 PM Start
01:09:44 PM HB334
01:31:16 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved CSHB 334(MLV) Out of Committee
          HB 334-MILITARY DEPLOYMENT AND CHILD CUSTODY                                                                      
1:09:44 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE HARRIS  announced that the only  order of business                                                               
would be HOUSE BILL NO.  334, "An Act establishing child custody,                                                               
modification, and visitation standards  for a military parent who                                                               
is  deployed;  and  amending  Rule  99,  Alaska  Rules  of  Civil                                                               
1:09:59 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE BUCH  moved to adopt  CS for HB  334, 26-LS1310\E,                                                               
as the working document.                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  HARRIS asked  for any  objections to  the motion.                                                               
Hearing none, the working document was before the committee.                                                                    
1:10:29 PM                                                                                                                    
KACI SCHROEDER  HOTCH, Staff, Representative Bill  Thomas, Alaska                                                               
State  Legislature, discussed  the changes  in Version  E of  the                                                               
bill.   The first change  on page 2, line  25, would not  allow a                                                               
military member to  designate visitation to a  family member with                                                               
a history  of domestic violence.   The  second change on  page 4,                                                               
line 10,  was that  if a  court order  is in  place because  of a                                                               
domestic violence  issue, the non-deployed parent  would not have                                                               
to notify the  deployed parent of a change of  address, but would                                                               
have to notify the  court.  The third change on  page 4, line 20,                                                               
also  has to  do  with  not being  able  to designate  visitation                                                               
rights to  a family member  with a history of  domestic violence.                                                               
She advised  the committee that  the bill prime  sponsor supports                                                               
all of the changes in Version E.                                                                                                
1:11:26 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE RAMRAS  said he would  like to hear from  the bill                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  BILL THOMAS,  Alaska State  Legislature, recalled                                                               
his experience in  the military when he  witnessed suffering over                                                               
child custody.   The intent of the bill is  to relieve additional                                                               
burdens on military members serving in a combat zone.                                                                           
1:12:26 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE HARRIS  observed that  the bill would  stop family                                                               
members from  using military active  duty as an excuse  for child                                                               
custody purposes.                                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  THOMAS  expressed  his  concern  for  the  mental                                                               
stability of soldiers.                                                                                                          
1:14:17 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  SCHROEDER  HOTCH offered  to  display  a three-minute  video                                                               
pertaining to  the bill [but  the sound did  not work, so  it was                                                               
not played].  In response  to Representative Harris, she reviewed                                                               
the main points  of the proposed legislation.   Currently, active                                                               
duty, reserve,  and National Guard  members are  serving multiple                                                               
deployments which are putting additional  strain on family units.                                                               
As  a result,  divorce  rates  are rising  in  the military,  and                                                               
judges  are faced  with balancing  deployment  issues with  child                                                               
custody  issues.   Ms.  Schroeder  Hotch  explained that  HB  334                                                               
provides  guidelines  to  the  courts   on  how  to  balance  the                                                               
following  issues:   deployment cannot  be  used as  a factor  to                                                               
determine child  custody; the  service member has  a right  to an                                                               
expedited  hearing;  the  service  member  can  delegate  his/her                                                               
visitation rights  to a family  member; guidelines  for temporary                                                               
custody  orders;  guidelines  for   electronic  testimony.    She                                                               
pointed out that the prevailing guideline  is what is in the best                                                               
interest of the child.                                                                                                          
1:16:57 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE RAMRAS  talked about  his district and  the number                                                               
of deployments that  have occurred there, and  the general effect                                                               
military life  has on children.   Above that, there  are children                                                               
in the  district who have  lost parents.   He cautioned  that the                                                               
civilian community may be unaware  of the difficulties that arise                                                               
when  young members  of the  military are  deployed thousands  of                                                               
miles away  from home.  He  concluded that this addresses  a very                                                               
serious issue and he appreciated the intent of the bill.                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE HARRIS agreed that this is a serious subject.                                                                    
1:20:14 PM                                                                                                                    
MARK  SAN  SOUCI,  Regional   Liaison  Northwest,  Defense  State                                                               
Liaison Office, Office  of the Deputy Under  Secretary of Defense                                                               
DUSD  (Military Community  and  Family  Policy), Under  Secretary                                                               
Department  of  Defense,  United States  Department  of  Defense,                                                               
informed  the committee  the mission  of his  office is  to be  a                                                               
resource to state  policy makers as they address  quality of life                                                               
issues for  military families.   Mr. San  Souci related  that the                                                               
divorce rate  of military  families continues  to climb  and many                                                               
divorced  military have  issues concerning  children whose  other                                                               
parent   is   not   the    service   member's   current   spouse.                                                               
Additionally,  states   may  not  consider  a   service  member's                                                               
deployment  status when  making  decisions about  the custody  of                                                               
children.  In  fact, deployment away from home  can undermine and                                                               
disrupt  existing arrangements,  creating stress  on parents  and                                                               
children.  These inequities cause  such stress that this issue is                                                               
one of the  top ten issues affecting military families  in all of                                                               
the  states.   Mr.  San  Souci  related  that the  Department  of                                                               
Defense  believes  that although  the  welfare  of the  child  is                                                               
paramount, the  demands of military  service should  not abrogate                                                               
parents' rights.   He stated  that his office also  believes that                                                               
the states, not the federal  government, are in the best position                                                               
to  balance these  inequities.   As  previously  heard, the  bill                                                               
addresses all five  areas of concern, and  he encouraged adoption                                                               
of these protections for service members.                                                                                       
1:24:27 PM                                                                                                                    
MARK SULLIVAN,  Attorney, provided information on  his background                                                               
and extensive experience in military family  law.  He said he has                                                               
assisted  15 states  with  the passage  of  military custody  and                                                               
visitation statutes,  and participates on the  national and state                                                               
level  in related  law  issues.   Mr.  Sullivan  opined that  the                                                               
language  in HB  334 is  superior to  the related  North Carolina                                                               
statute  because  the  bill  does  not allow  the  absence  of  a                                                               
deployed  service member  to  be used  against him  or  her as  a                                                               
waiver of rights to be with  the child.  The proposed legislation                                                               
accomplishes this  by requiring  the non-deployed parent  to make                                                               
the  child available  to  the service  member  during periods  of                                                               
leave,  by  requiring  the   non-deployed  parent  to  facilitate                                                               
contact between  the service member  and the child,  by mandating                                                               
that  the deployed  parent give  timely information  to the  non-                                                               
deployed parent  about the leave  schedule, and by  the immediate                                                               
notification by the non-deployed parent  of any change in address                                                               
or contact  information.  Mr.  Sullivan applauded the  sponsor on                                                               
the  language  of  the  legislation  and  offered  to  facilitate                                                               
passage of the bill.                                                                                                            
1:27:41 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  RAMRAS   observed  that  Alaska  has   a  special                                                               
relationship with  its military,  and this  is an  opportunity to                                                               
lead the nation in looking out for soldiers and families.                                                                       
1:28:39 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  TAMMIE  WILSON  related her  personal  experience                                                               
with soldiers that will be helped by the proposed legislation.                                                                  
1:29:38 PM                                                                                                                    
McHUGH PIERRE, Deputy Commissioner/Chief  of Staff, Office of the                                                               
Commissioner/Adjutant   General,   Department   of   Military   &                                                               
Veterans'  Affairs, informed  the  committee  his department  has                                                               
worked closely  with the  veteran's caucus  staff, Representative                                                               
Thomas, and Senator Huggins to  meet the needs of Guard, reserve,                                                               
and active duty  service members.  He  expressed his appreciation                                                               
for "helping  to take these  loopholes out  of the law  that will                                                               
really ease our members' minds when they are deployed."                                                                         
1:30:45 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN  moved to report  CSHB 334,  26-LS1310\E, out                                                               
of   committee   with    individual   recommendations   and   the                                                               
accompanying  fiscal  notes.   There  being  no  objection,  CSHB
334(MLV)  was  reported  from  the  House  Special  Committee  on                                                               
Military and Veterans' Affairs.                                                                                                 

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