Legislature(2017 - 2018)GRUENBERG 120

01/31/2017 03:00 PM STATE AFFAIRS

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             HB 31-SEXUAL ASSAULT EXAMINATION KITS                                                                          
3:51:33 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS  announced that the final  order of business                                                               
would be HOUSE  BILL NO. 31, "An Act requiring  the Department of                                                               
Public Safety  to develop  a tracking  system and  collection and                                                               
processing   protocol  for   sexual  assault   examination  kits;                                                               
requiring  law  enforcement  agencies   to  send  sexual  assault                                                               
examination kits  for testing within 18  months after collection;                                                               
requiring  an inventory  and reports  on untested  sexual assault                                                               
examination kits; and providing for an effective date."                                                                         
3:52:11 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GERAN TARR,  Alaska State  Legislature, presented                                                               
HB 31,  as prime sponsor.   She testified  that just a  few weeks                                                               
ago, serial  rapist Clifford  Lee was sentenced  to 90  years for                                                               
four rapes and  one attempted rape, occurring in 2014.   She said                                                               
Mr.  Lee  had a  long  history  of systematically  targeting  and                                                               
raping disadvantaged women.  She  added that the deoxyribonucleic                                                               
acid  (DNA) testing  of a  rape kit  tied Mr.  Lee to  additional                                                               
unsolved rapes occurring  in 2001 and 2005.  She  stated that for                                                               
16  years  Mr.  Lee,  a  dangerous criminal,  had  been  in  "our                                                               
community"  possibly   harming  other  victims.     She  referred                                                               
committee  members  to an  article  about  Mr.  Lee in  the  bill                                                               
MS. TARR  pointed out, "This is  just the most recent  story that                                                               
brutally reminds us  of Alaska's epidemic of sexual  assault.  It                                                               
reminds  us  of  our  responsibility  to  victims  to  diligently                                                               
collect and  process evidence to  bring violators to  justice and                                                               
remove  perpetrators  from our  communities."    She stated  that                                                               
Alaska currently has a backlog of  3,600 untested rape kits.  She                                                               
claimed  it is  an enormous  disrespect to  the victims  who have                                                               
endured the  trauma of sexual  assault and have taken  the effort                                                               
to be  tested, only  to have  the evidence  be disregarded.   She                                                               
offered that she  respects the right of victims to  choose not to                                                               
press charges  to avoid additional  trauma, but claimed  that the                                                               
intent of  HB 31 is  to give victims  the right to  press charges                                                               
and have  the DNA  from the  rape kits  entered into  a [tracking                                                               
system] database to  use for solving other crimes.   She declared                                                               
that  Alaska communities  remain at  risk if  rapists, who  could                                                               
have been identified by the DNA evidence, escape justice.                                                                       
MS. TARR stated that Alaska  consistently ranks among the highest                                                               
in  the  nation for  rates  of  rape  and  sexual assault.    She                                                               
offered,  "We must  do  everything  we can  to  turn around  this                                                               
epidemic."   She  said that  in 2015,  she was  proud to  sponsor                                                               
House  Bill 117,  regarding Alaska's  backlog  of sexual  assault                                                               
examination kits.   She stated she applauds  Governor Bill Walker                                                               
and  his staff  who,  at  that time,  "took  on  this issue"  and                                                               
successfully  procured  a  $1.1  million  federal  Department  of                                                               
Justice  (DOJ)  grant to  inventory  and  process the  backlogged                                                               
kits.   She offered that  HB 31 would  establish a new  system to                                                               
avoid  a  backlog,  as  currently  exists.   She  said  that  the                                                               
proposed  legislation  would  establish a  uniform  protocol  for                                                               
processing  rape kits,  which will  assist Alaska's  200-plus law                                                               
enforcement  agencies to  consistently  collect  and process  the                                                               
sensitive evidence  in a timely  manner.  She mentioned  that the                                                               
new system  would require the  rape kits  be sent for  testing no                                                               
later than 18  months after the sexual assault  examination.  She                                                               
added that  HB 31 would  require the Department of  Public Safety                                                               
(DPS) to report on the number  of untested rape kits, in order to                                                               
avoid a  large backlog.   She offered that the  approach outlined                                                               
in HB  31 is part  of a national  effort.   It has been  shown in                                                               
states  across  the  country  that  obtaining  the  DNA  evidence                                                               
catches  dangerous criminals  and makes  communities safer.   She                                                               
concluded  that in  an  effort  to give  victims  justice, HB  31                                                               
should be passed.                                                                                                               
MS. TARR  referred to a  packet of letters  in support of  HB 31,                                                               
which came from individual Alaskans  across the state, the Alaska                                                               
Network  on Domestic  Violence and  Sexual Assault  (ANDVSA), and                                                               
other women's  organizations familiar  with the impact  of sexual                                                               
assault and associated trauma.                                                                                                  
MS. TARR  said that HB  31 would  create a standard  protocol for                                                               
processing  rape kits,  and a  database for  tracking them.   She                                                               
referred  to  the  fiscal  note,  which  includes  a  link  to  a                                                               
description  of the  sexual assault  kit  tracking and  inventory                                                               
management  system.   The  fiscal  note  shows  a cost  of  about                                                               
$100,000  for the  tracking system.   She  added that  additional                                                               
staff would  be needed to  meet the requirements  of HB 31.   She                                                               
stressed,  "Even in  lean budget  times, these  are dollars  very                                                               
well  spent."    She  conceded  that  many  sexual  assaults  are                                                               
committed by an  individual the victim knows, but as  in the case                                                               
of Mr. Lee,  women were attacked and brutalized  in the traumatic                                                               
rape by a  stranger.  She noted  how difficult it must  be for an                                                               
individual to overcome such an  event.  She said, "People's lives                                                               
often fall apart and people commit  suicide - they end their life                                                               
from  that  kind of  trauma."    She  admitted that  $260,000  is                                                               
difficult to consider  in the current budget  crises but offered,                                                               
"If  we can  save  any  one victim,  I  think,  its dollars  well                                                               
3:57:35 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH asked why there  is such a large backlog and                                                               
how old the [unprocessed] rape kits are.                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE TARR  offered two  reasons for  the backlog.   She                                                               
said rape kits are sent  out to law enforcement organizations but                                                               
are not tracked; therefore, it is  difficult to know if they have                                                               
been "lost  along the way."   She  said that another  reason rape                                                               
kits  have not  been tested  is  that many  sexual assault  cases                                                               
involve  a known  perpetrator.   She  went on  to  say that  even                                                               
though the DNA  evidence may not be relevant in  these cases, the                                                               
perpetrator may have been involved  in other crimes.  She offered                                                               
that including  the DNA evidence  in the database could  link the                                                               
perpetrator to another crime.                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE TARR  stated that  some of  the untested  kits "go                                                               
back years."  She conceded  that an individual might request that                                                               
the kit  not be  tested.   She noted  the suffering  some victims                                                               
experience after such  a traumatic event and said  that some just                                                               
choose to  "move on."   She  said that facing  the set  of events                                                               
involved  with  pressing charges  -  the  multi-year court  case,                                                               
follow-up   testing,   testifying   in   court   -   might   seem                                                               
insurmountable for  some victims.   She  concluded that  with the                                                               
passage of HB  31, "we can protect that victim  and give them the                                                               
space and  path forward,  while also using  the DNA  evidence for                                                               
its intended purpose."                                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE  BIRCH  expressed  his   support  for  HB  31  and                                                               
mentioned his constituent, Bonnie Craig,  involved in a case that                                                               
was "cold"  for years,  which was  ultimately solved  through the                                                               
DNA of  someone "half a continent  away."  He expressed  his hope                                                               
that  the backlog  was  not continuing  to  accrue, and  welcomed                                                               
comments from DPS on that matter.                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  TARR  responded  that the  current  backlog  [for                                                               
unprocessed rape  kits in Alaska] is  3,600.  She went  on to say                                                               
such  a backlog  is  not  uncommon among  states  and a  national                                                               
effort emerged to  respond to the issue.  She  started working on                                                               
this issue in  2015, after receiving information  from a national                                                               
organization,  called End  the Backlog.    She said  that at  the                                                               
time,  Alaska did  not have  good  information on  the number  of                                                               
backlogged  rape kits.    She said  that at  the  same time,  DOJ                                                               
recognized  this  issue as  a  critical  public safety  need  and                                                               
developed a grant program to  help states process their backlogs.                                                               
She said  the first step  in applying for funding  was completing                                                               
an audit to  define the extent of the backlog  problem and, thus,                                                               
the  need  for  grant  funds.    She  relayed  that  a  bill  was                                                               
initiated;  Governor Walker  carried the  initiative forward  and                                                               
worked with law  enforcement agencies to complete  the audit; and                                                               
DPS  was able  to submit  the grant  application and  receive the                                                               
$1.1  million grant.   She  said the  grant should  help DPS  get                                                               
through the existing backlog of 3,600  rape kits, and HB 31 would                                                               
set time parameters for the ongoing processing of rape kits.                                                                    
4:03:13 PM                                                                                                                    
CAPTAIN DAN  LOWDEN, Deputy Commander,  Division of  Alaska State                                                               
Troopers  (AST), Department  of Public  Safety (DPS),  reiterated                                                               
the  various reasons  for  the  backlog of  rape  kits:   victims                                                               
choose not to press charges;  the perpetrator is known; and cases                                                               
are "pled  out" before kits  are tested.   He offered  his belief                                                               
that no  rape kits  went untested  due to  disinterest.   He said                                                               
when the rape kits were  administered, they were often thought of                                                               
as for  an individual case.   He offered that with  cases such as                                                               
the one  Representative Tarr  cited, DPS  is realizing  there are                                                               
serial perpetrators who are missed if  kits go untested.  He said                                                               
DPS supports HB 31.  He  stated, "We believe that by testing more                                                               
kits, we will catch more people."                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH  asked about opposition  to HB 31.   He also                                                               
asked  if  for  cases  involving  known  perpetrators,  rape  kit                                                               
testing is considered unnecessary.                                                                                              
CAPTAIN LOWDEN  answered that there  are rules for how  long rape                                                               
kits are retained.   He said he suspects that  cost may have been                                                               
a  factor  in  cases,  for  example,  when  the  perpetrator  was                                                               
convicted before the rape kit was  processed.  He opined that the                                                               
thought processes [for processing rape  kits] have now changed in                                                               
recognition that the information could help in other cases.                                                                     
4:07:00 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KNOPP  referred to a phrase  in HB 31, on  page 2,                                                               
line  1, which  read: "18  months after  collection."   He asked,                                                               
"Why 18 months ...?"   He also asked if there  is a timeframe for                                                               
getting the results of the test back.                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE   TARR  responded   that  after   consulting  with                                                               
prosecutors,  she chose  a timeframe  that would  fit within  the                                                               
timeframe needed  to gather  enough evidence to  bring a  case to                                                               
trial.  She  would support a shorter timeframe,  but offered that                                                               
this timeframe  fits the  fiscal note  appropriation.   She added                                                               
that HB  31 calls for hiring  a fulltime staff person,  which she                                                               
suspects would  allow DPS  to process  rape kits  in house.   She                                                               
stated  her  understanding  that  currently some  rape  kits  are                                                               
processed in state,  but kits processed with  federal grant money                                                               
would be sent out of state for processing.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  KNOPP  said  he  is  interested  in  the  current                                                               
schedule  for processing  rape  kits.   He  said that  processing                                                               
3,600 kits  would take nine and  a half years, at  a process rate                                                               
of one  kit per day.   He asked if  DPS is processing a  rape kit                                                               
every day and if it has a 10-year backlog.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE TARR  said that  the federal  grant funds  will be                                                               
critical to the  effort of processing the backlog,  and many more                                                               
kits  will be  processed  much  faster than  one  per  day.   She                                                               
pointed out that the effective date  of HB 31 would be January 1,                                                               
2018,  which would  give DPS  time  to work  through the  backlog                                                               
before that  effective date.   She expressed her hope  that there                                                               
would  be  a seamless  transition  from  completing the  work  of                                                               
processing the  backlog to meeting  the requirement of HB  31, if                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  KNOPP  rephrased his  question  to  ask what  the                                                               
3,600 kit  backlog represents  in processing  time, that  is, the                                                               
rate of processing kits.                                                                                                        
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS  requested the  representatives from  DPS to                                                               
provide that information.                                                                                                       
4:12:02 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  WOOL referred  to the  letter from  the Tennessee                                                               
Coalition to  End Domestic  & Sexual  Violence, in  the committee                                                               
packet,  which  cites  the  processing of  a  backlog  of  12,000                                                               
untested rape  kits.  It also  mentioned a law requiring  kits to                                                               
be tested  in 60  days, or  for the  person who  did not  want to                                                               
press charges,  put into  a hold  for three years.   He  asked if                                                               
currently all rape  kits in Alaska are tested in  state or out of                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  TARR replied  a  combination of  both, and  added                                                               
that [place of testing] is  determined by the complexities of the                                                               
evidence collected and the specific  analysis capabilities in the                                                               
DPS laboratory  versus more sophisticated  analysis Outside.   In                                                               
response  to  Representative  Knopp's  question,  she  said,  "If                                                               
you've got the money to pay  for it, there are scientists who can                                                               
process this evidence."  She  said that once the capacity exists,                                                               
the processing can be done faster.   She offered that the backlog                                                               
would be  processed in a  shorter time frame than  that described                                                               
by Representative Knopp.                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE WOOL asked for the cost of processing a rape kit.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE TARR referred to page  2 of the fiscal note, which                                                               
cites a cost of  about $1,500 per kit.  She  stated that would be                                                               
the standard cost.   She reminded the committee that  the cost of                                                               
processing the backlog is not  included in the fiscal note, since                                                               
that would be covered by the  federal grant.  She offered that HB
31  would improve  the training  and overall  processing of  rape                                                               
4:15:00 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  BIRCH asked  if the  high  cost is  due to  legal                                                               
issues, such as chain of custody.                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  TARR answered  yes,  and referred  to the  fiscal                                                               
note, page 2,  third paragraph, which states  the tracking system                                                               
would cost about $96,000.                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE  WOOL pointed  out  that 3,000  backlog kits  that                                                               
cost $1,500  each to  process amounts  to considerable  expense -                                                               
$4.5  million -  and  reiterated  that the  fiscal  note did  not                                                               
address that issue, which is a separate financing need.                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE TARR agreed.                                                                                                     
4:16:44 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS opened public testimony on HB 31.                                                                          
4:16:57 PM                                                                                                                    
CRYSTAL  GODBY,  Community  United   for  Safety  and  Protection                                                               
(CUSP),  explained  that  the Community  United  for  Safety  and                                                               
Protection (CUSP) is  a group of current and  former sex workers,                                                               
sex trafficking  victims, and allies.   She said CUSP  is working                                                               
to protect  everyone in Alaska's  sex industry.   She paraphrased                                                               
from  the  following   written  testimony  [original  punctuation                                                               
     We  would like  to  extend out  full  support for  this                                                                    
     important  House Bill.    Perpetrators  must know  that                                                                    
     they  are  going  to   suffer  consequences  for  their                                                                    
     heinous crimes  because rape kits  are no  longer going                                                                    
     to be hidden away as the lowest priorities.                                                                                
     Alaska will  never stop being  the rape capital  of the                                                                    
     United States as  long as we don't even  have rape kits                                                                    
     prioritized  to process  and  then  match results  with                                                                    
     state  and  national  data bases  to  hold  accountable                                                                    
     those  responsible  in  a  timely  manner.    In  2014,                                                                    
     Detroit  identified 188  serial  rapists by  processing                                                                    
     just 1,600 rape kits out of their much larger backlog.                                                                     
     In December  of 2016,  Community United for  Safety and                                                                    
     Protection had Hays Research  firm in Anchorage conduct                                                                    
     a   survey   of   904   Alaskan   voters'   priorities.                                                                    
     Processing Alaska's  backlog of  rape kits was  a close                                                                    
     second priority to investigating  cases of murdered and                                                                    
     missing  sex  workers, with  36%  listing  it as  their                                                                    
     first  priority  and 37%  listing  it  as their  second                                                                    
     priority ....                                                                                                              
     Clearly, Alaskans take this issue  seriously and are in                                                                    
     agreement with the passing of HB 31.                                                                                       
4:18:52 PM                                                                                                                    
CARMEN  LOWRY,  Ph.D.,  Executive  Director,  Alaska  Network  on                                                               
Domestic  Violence  and  Sexual  Assault  (ANDVSA),  stated  that                                                               
ANDVSA represents  18 member programs  across the state,  most of                                                               
which  provide  shelter and  emergency  services  to victims  and                                                               
survivors of  domestic violence  and sexual  assault.   She noted                                                               
the six affiliate members, who are  also part of the large ANDVSA                                                               
network.   She  said  that  ANDVSA fully  supports  HB  31.   She                                                               
asserted   that  HB   31  raises   the   accountability  of   law                                                               
enforcement,   sexual   assault   response  teams   (SART),   and                                                               
DR. LOWRY cited  three reasons for ANDVSA support of  HB 31.  She                                                               
claimed  that as  SART members  perform examinations  and collect                                                               
data and  evidence for  prosecution, there must  be a  system for                                                               
tracking rape kits, to understand  the backlog problem.  She said                                                               
the second reason  is "efficiency"; how to  become more efficient                                                               
and where  to focus resources.   She  stated the third  reason is                                                               
"effectiveness";  enactment  of  HB  31   would  lead  to  better                                                               
prosecution.   She said her  final point addressed  balancing the                                                               
state's need to track rape  examination kits with victims' rights                                                               
to choose  whether or  not to  prosecute.  She  said HB  31 would                                                               
promote respect for  the process of gathering  evidence, which is                                                               
intensive, intimate,  and invasive,  and ensure that  victims are                                                               
respected.   She said, "The  message is when  we do this  kind of                                                               
evidence  gathering through  a  rape  examination kit,  something                                                               
will come from it."                                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH noted the  challenges of smaller communities                                                               
in regard to  gathering evidence after an assault  charge, and he                                                               
asked about custody of the rape kit.                                                                                            
DR.  LOWRY   said  she  didn't   know  but  would   provide  that                                                               
information to the committee.                                                                                                   
4:26:07 PM                                                                                                                    
KEELEY  OLSON, Executive  Director, Stand  Together Against  Rape                                                               
(STAR), testified  in support of  HB 31 on  behalf of STAR.   She                                                               
claimed  that  the  proposed   legislation  represents  the  best                                                               
standard practice recognized nationwide.   She said that after an                                                               
audit  of the  current backlog,  it  is critical  to determine  a                                                               
consistent process  for all law  enforcement agencies  across the                                                               
state.   She  said  that HB  31 would  answer  all the  important                                                               
questions raised  by the committee  members.  She  mentioned that                                                               
there are  many jurisdictions throughout  the state that  have an                                                               
alternative   reporting   mechanism,   called   non-investigative                                                               
reports.   She said that in  these cases, the victim  undergoes a                                                               
forensic  examination, and  the  evidence is  saved  in case  the                                                               
victim chooses  to proceed with a  law enforcement investigation.                                                               
She offered  that these rape  kits are collected by  the examiner                                                               
with an  advocate present,  but no  law enforcement  personnel is                                                               
notified.  She  said a victim of sexual assault  may come forward                                                               
at  any time  to file  an anonymous  report and  request to  have                                                               
his/her case  opened up for  full investigation.  She  stated the                                                               
importance  of  not  coercing  victims   to  participate  in  the                                                               
criminal legal process against their will.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH  asked if  for some  rape kits,  victims may                                                               
choose not  to submit them to  law enforcement, and the  kits are                                                               
put into a holding place.                                                                                                       
MS. OLSON  responded yes.   She  said the reason  for that  is to                                                               
provide options to victims who  are hesitant to "come forward" or                                                               
intimidated by  the process but  recognize the need  for evidence                                                               
to be collected  in a timely manner to reserve  the right to open                                                               
those cases  to investigation.   She added  alternative reporting                                                               
has resulted in "some very  successful prosecutions" as a result.                                                               
She  mentioned this  mechanism  is a  provision  of the  Violence                                                               
Against Women Act (VAWA) [of 1994].                                                                                             
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS said he will  leave public testimony open on                                                               
HB 31.                                                                                                                          
[HB 31 was held over.]                                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB031 ver A 1.26.17.pdf HSTA 1/31/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 31
HB031 Sponsor Statement 1.26.17.pdf HSTA 1/31/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 31
HB031 Supporting Document-Support Letter 1.26.17.pdf HSTA 1/31/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 31
HB031 Supporting Document-Support Letter 1.26.17 (1).PDF HSTA 1/31/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 31
HB031 Additional Documents-1.26.17.PDF HSTA 1/31/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 31
HB007SponsorStatement1.23.17.pdf HSTA 1/31/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 7
HB007 Supporting Document-Article Denver Post 1.23.17.pdf HCRA 2/18/2017 10:00:00 AM
HSTA 1/31/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 7
HHB007 Supporting Document-Article Columbia University 1.23.17.pdf HCRA 2/18/2017 10:00:00 AM
HSTA 1/31/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 7
HB007 Supporting Document-Article Washington Post 1.23.17.pdf HCRA 2/18/2017 10:00:00 AM
HSTA 1/31/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 7
HB007 Supporting Documents-Article NSCL 1.23.17.pdf HSTA 1/31/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 7
HB 71 Hearing Request 1.24.17.pdf HSTA 1/31/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 71
HB 71 Sponsor Statement 1.24.17.pdf HSTA 1/31/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 71
HB 71 Sectional Analysis 1.24.17.pdf HSTA 1/31/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 71
HB0071A 1.24.17.pdf HSTA 1/31/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 71
HB 71 Fiscal Note 1.24.17.pdf HSTA 1/31/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 71
HB31-Supporting Documents 1.30.17.PDF HSTA 1/31/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 31
HB31-Supporting letter-1.30.17.PDF HSTA 1/31/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 31
DOA HB71 Salary Freeze Final STA.PDF HSTA 1/31/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 71
HB007 Fiscal Note 1.28.17.pdf HSTA 1/31/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 7
HB031 Fiscal Note 1.28.17.pdf HSTA 1/31/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 31
HB007 ver A 1.31.17.PDF HCRA 2/18/2017 10:00:00 AM
HSTA 1/31/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 7
HB007 Sectional Analysis ver A 2.1.17.pdf HSTA 1/31/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 7
HB007 Supporting Documents-Article NSCL 2.1.17.pdf HSTA 1/31/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 7