Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/25/2003 01:10 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
              SB   8-TAMPERING WITH PUBLIC RECORDS                                                                          
CHAIR SEEKINS announced SB 8 to be up for consideration.                                                                        
MR.  RICHARD BENAVIDAS,  staff to  Senator  Davis, sponsor,  said                                                               
that tampering  with records involving  a child under the  age of                                                               
18 in  the care of the  state can be very  grave. Accurate record                                                               
keeping  is important  in light  of the  case of  a five-year-old                                                               
Miami girl  who disappeared  while in  the care  of the  State of                                                               
Florida. SB 8  is designed as a disincentive for  those who would                                                               
falsify those kinds of records.                                                                                                 
SENATOR OGAN asked whom they are targeting with this bill.                                                                      
SENATOR  DAVIS  replied  that  the case  in  Florida  raised  the                                                               
awareness of  this issue, but  tampering with records  has always                                                               
been around.  She worked in  the Department of Health  and Social                                                               
Services as  a social  worker and  a nurse for  17 years  and has                                                               
seen times recordings  were not being made because  of heavy case                                                               
loads. After a long time, you  forget some things that need to go                                                               
in the  records. It's not  always intentional when  people tamper                                                               
with  records. In  Alaska, there  is  no recourse  and this  bill                                                               
makes it a felony to do that.                                                                                                   
SENATOR OGAN  said he  doesn't want to  snare people  who weren't                                                               
SENATOR FRENCH  said that  AS 56.820 says  you have  to knowingly                                                               
make a  false entry  or alter  a public  record. This  bill adds,                                                               
"who are in the care of the  state" to children under 18 - foster                                                               
children, etc.                                                                                                                  
SENATOR DAVIS explained that she  was targeting all children that                                                               
fall under Title 47.                                                                                                            
CHAIR SEEKINS said he thought  the first section means that there                                                               
had  to be  an intent  to benefit  from the  alteration or  for a                                                               
child under the age of 18, etc.                                                                                                 
SENATOR THERRIAULT arrived at 1:22 p.m.                                                                                         
MR.  BENAVIDAS   responded  why  should  someone   get  the  same                                                               
treatment for  falsifying a child's  record and  possibly causing                                                               
harm,  as  someone  that  put  down  that  he  graduated  from  a                                                               
university when he didn't.                                                                                                      
SENATOR OGAN said  he didn't know how a child  could be harmed by                                                               
tampering with records  and wondered if there should  be a felony                                                               
charge if a kid doesn't get hurt.                                                                                               
SENATOR  DAVIS  responded  that  a  child does  not  have  to  be                                                               
physically harmed in order to be  hurt. If a caseworker says they                                                               
have visited a home and that  the child is fine and they actually                                                               
never went  to the home, things  might not be going  well. "A kid                                                               
could  very well  come  up dead....  We have  from  time to  time                                                               
[heard]  where children  have died  in  foster care  or in  other                                                               
treatment homes...."                                                                                                            
She  informed them  that  the Office  of  Children's Services  is                                                               
under  scrutiny  because  they  haven't been  able  to  pass  the                                                               
federal audit.  "I think  sometimes other  things need  to happen                                                               
other than just a reprimand or saying you can't do that."                                                                       
SENATOR  OGAN  agreed with  her  that  some situations  are  very                                                               
dangerous  and that  there is  a high  burnout rate  for workers.                                                               
However, if you're  not a very good record  keeper, and something                                                               
bad happens  to the  kid and you're  accused of  something, "It's                                                               
just  additional pressure  on that  group of  professionals... to                                                               
all of a sudden be a felon."                                                                                                    
He asked  if that  might be  a deterrent  to getting  and keeping                                                               
good people,  because they don't  want to be liable  for criminal                                                               
activity if they make a mistake.                                                                                                
SENATOR  DAVIS replied  that she  didn't  think it  would be  and                                                               
filing of  information is not  the problem. "We're  talking about                                                               
falsifying records, not poor filing."                                                                                           
SENATOR ELLIS arrived at 1:26 p.m.                                                                                              
SENATOR ELLIS asked  if a child at school is  considered to be in                                                               
the care and custody of the state.                                                                                              
SENATOR DAVIS  replied no,  it doesn't have  anything to  do with                                                               
keeping school records.                                                                                                         
SENATOR FRENCH asked if this could  be applied to a foster parent                                                               
who  is  not  the  person  who   is  charged  by  law  to  gather                                                               
SENATOR DAVIS  replied that there  are already laws on  the books                                                               
that would cover foster parents  who were falsifying pay vouchers                                                               
or whatever.                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  THERRIAULT said  he feels  there  was a  better ways  to                                                               
draft AS 8.15(a)(1) and (2).                                                                                                    
SENATOR DAVIS responded  that she asked the drafter  if there was                                                               
some other  way to do it,  but he felt  it was the best  way. She                                                               
offered to let the Department of Law look at it.                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH asked  if she heard any rumors to  the effect that                                                               
this is currently a problem here in the state.                                                                                  
SENATOR  DAVIS replied  she  has heard  some  horror stories  and                                                               
emphasized, "There are cases where this is needed."                                                                             
1:39 - 1:40 p.m. - at ease                                                                                                      
CHAIR  SEEKINS noted  that both  SB 8  and SB  55 amend  the same                                                               
section  of statute  and said  that  they would  take up  Senator                                                               
Dyson's bill. He said they would hold SB 8.                                                                                     

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