Legislature(2019 - 2020)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

01/25/2019 01:30 PM Senate JUDICIARY

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01:32:26 PM Start
01:34:10 PM Overview: Alaska Court System
02:30:37 PM SB8
02:59:36 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Alaska Court System by Nancy Meade, General
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony <Time Limit May Be Set> --
          SB 8-ACCESS TO MARIJUANA CONVICTION RECORDS                                                                       
2:30:37 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES  announced the consideration  of SENATE BILL  NO. 8:                                                               
"An   Act  restricting   the  release   of  certain   records  of                                                               
convictions; amending Rule 37.6,  Alaska Rules of Administration;                                                               
and providing for an effective date."                                                                                           
2:31:54 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR TOM  BEGICH, Alaska State  Legislature, sponsor of  SB 8,                                                               
introduced himself  and his staff,  Sydney Lienemann.  He thanked                                                               
Chair Hughes for hearing the bill.  This bill is identical to the                                                               
bill that  was considered,  passed, and  supported by  the Senate                                                               
Judiciary Standing Committee last  year. This bill would restrict                                                               
the release  of certain  criminal records  for the  possession of                                                               
marijuana, which is a class  B misdemeanor. These crimes would no                                                               
longer  be  considered  criminal  based on  the  legalization  of                                                               
marijuana that occurred some years ago.                                                                                         
He  stated  that the  original  bill  was  brought  to him  by  a                                                               
constituent who works  on employment issues at  the Mountain View                                                               
library.  His  constituent  witnessed people  start  to  complete                                                               
their employment forms but not  finish the process. When he asked                                                               
why, the response was that  these applicants did not believe they                                                               
could obtain  employment or housing  options because of  a single                                                               
prior conviction related to a  crime that is no longer considered                                                               
a crime today.  He stated that employment and  housing issues are                                                               
critical throughout the state due  to homelessness and situations                                                               
in which people  find themselves unable to get into  housing or a                                                               
job because they made a single mistake.                                                                                         
SENATOR  BEGICH   said  SB  8  would   automatically  remove  the                                                               
conviction  from CourtView.  The  records would  also be  removed                                                               
from  some background  checks administered  by the  Department of                                                               
Public Safety, if requested by  the individual. It would not fall                                                               
on  the state  to  proactively remove  the  conviction; the  bill                                                               
places the responsibility  on the person. He  emphasized that the                                                               
records  would  be available  for  any  criminal justice  search,                                                               
including employment checks  related to the medical  field or for                                                               
those working  with children or  dependent adults. He  has worked                                                               
with the  Department of  Law (DOL),  Department of  Public Safety                                                               
(DPS), the  Alaska Court System  (ACS), and  non-profit providers                                                               
on  the  bill.  He  reiterated that  recurring  issues  adversely                                                               
affect re-entry programs  that work to ensure people  do not come                                                               
back  into the  criminal  justice system.  The governor  recently                                                               
spoke  about opportunities  for hope  and success  and this  bill                                                               
could  provide  an  opportunity   to  Alaskans.  He  reported  an                                                               
estimated 700 people would be affected  by the bill. He asked Dr.                                                               
Lienemann to review some of  the changes discussed for a proposed                                                               
committee substitute.                                                                                                           
2:35:28 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  HUGHES  stated  that  Representative  Hopkins  joined  the                                                               
2:35:38 PM                                                                                                                    
SYDNEY LIENEMANN, Ph.D., Staff, Senator Tom Begich, Alaska State                                                                
Legislature, offered to review proposed changes to SB 8 for a                                                                   
committee substitute.                                                                                                           
DR. LIENEMANN presented sectional analysis of SB 8 on behalf of                                                                 
the sponsor, which read as follows [original punctuation                                                                        
     Section 1:  Describes the legislative intent  to reduce                                                                    
     barriers to  re-entry for those convicted  of low-level                                                                    
     marijuana   possession,  which   would  no   longer  be                                                                    
     considered crimes today.                                                                                                   
DR. LIENEMANN  referred to page  1, line 9, and  stated that                                                                    
the   language  currently   states,   "a  criminal   history                                                                    
background  check," and  the intent  is  to clarify  certain                                                                    
types of  background checks since  this protection  would be                                                                    
limited  to  certain  parties  requesting  background  check                                                                    
related  to employment  and  housing,  but the  individuals'                                                                    
criminal   history  would   still   be   available  to   law                                                                    
enforcement and prosecutors.                                                                                                    
DR. LIENEMANN continued.                                                                                                        
     Section 2:  Prohibits the Department of  Public Safety,                                                                    
     and  any designated  reporting agency,  from disclosing                                                                    
     any  criminal  records  associated with  possession  of                                                                    
     less  than  one  ounce  of a  schedule  VIA  controlled                                                                    
     substance conviction,  covering both State  Statute and                                                                    
     municipal ordinance, if requested.  These cases will be                                                                    
     protected from disclosure  only if marijuana possession                                                                    
     is the  only crime for  which the person  was convicted                                                                    
     in  a   particular  criminal   case.  A   schedule  VIA                                                                    
     controlled  substance  considered  to have  the  lowest                                                                    
     degree of  danger to users.  Marijuana is the  only VIA                                                                    
DR.  LIENEMANN explained  that  this  prohibition would  not                                                                    
include any  search related to the  criminal justice system.                                                                    
She referred  to page 2, line  12, noting the DOL,  DPS, and                                                                    
ACS  suggested  replacing   "Notwithstanding,"  with  "In  a                                                                    
request under" for clarification.                                                                                               
DR. LIENEMANN continued.                                                                                                        
     Section  3:  Limit  access  to  Alaska  Court  System's                                                                    
     records  of criminal  cases  involving convictions  for                                                                    
     possession  of  less than  one  ounce  of marijuana  on                                                                    
     Court View.                                                                                                                
DR. LIENEMANN  explained that the departments  requested removing                                                               
the word "confidential"  [on page 2, lines 6, and  7] in order to                                                               
ease  the  ability  to transfer  records  between  agencies.  She                                                               
related  the sponsor's  intention  is  to replace  "confidential"                                                               
with similar  language from  Representative Drummond's  bill that                                                               
passed the House last year  that will remove defining the records                                                               
as  confidential.   She  reiterated  that  this   language  would                                                               
restrict this  information from being available  on CourtView but                                                               
would allow the  DOL, DPS, and ACS to have  ongoing access to the                                                               
2:38:29 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  HUGHES related  her understanding  that  one problem  that                                                               
arose with  "confidential" is that the  ACS would not be  able to                                                               
release records to the DPS.                                                                                                     
2:38:42 PM                                                                                                                    
     Section 4: Indirectly amends  Alaska Court System Rules                                                                    
     of  Administration   by  limiting  access   to  certain                                                                    
     criminal records.                                                                                                          
DR.   LIENEMANN  stated   [on   page  2,   line   17]  the   word                                                               
"confidential" would also need to be removed in that section.                                                                   
     Section 5: Because Section 4  indirectly amends a court                                                                    
     rule, this  legislation will require a  two thirds vote                                                                    
     as described by the Alaska Constitution.                                                                                   
     Section 6:  Provides 120 days  for this  legislation to                                                                    
     take effect  after bill signing, giving  the Courts, as                                                                    
     well  as  affected  agencies,   time  to  change  their                                                                    
     reporting protocols.                                                                                                       
2:39:19 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BEGICH  said he understands additional  work still needed                                                               
to be done on the bill.                                                                                                         
2:39:39 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  HUGHES asked  the record  to reflect  that other  concerns                                                               
exist. She referred to page 1,  lines 6-7, which read, "It is the                                                               
intent of  the legislature to  reduce barriers to  employment ?."                                                               
She referred to  the analysis of [Section 2],  which read, "These                                                               
cases  will  be  protected  from  disclosure  only  if  marijuana                                                               
possession  is  "the  only  crime"   for  which  the  person  was                                                               
convicted in  a particular criminal  case." She pointed  out that                                                               
on page 2, lines 3 and  12, the language reads "was not convicted                                                               
of  any  other charges  in  that  case  ?."  She said  that  this                                                               
language limits the application of  the restriction of records to                                                               
specific cases where  the possession is the  only crime resulting                                                               
in  a  conviction, but  it  ignores  the  fact that  an  existing                                                               
criminal history  involving other  crimes would remain  a barrier                                                               
to employment for that person.                                                                                                  
She asked for  the rationale for ignoring the rest  of a person's                                                               
criminal  history  if  the  intent   is  to  reduce  barriers  to                                                               
employment   for  people   convicted  of   low-level  misdemeanor                                                               
marijuana possession  if the  person's criminal  history includes                                                               
other crimes that  already create barriers. She  asked whether it                                                               
was possible to  reduce the number of people  that would [benefit                                                               
from having their records removed from CourtView].                                                                              
SENATOR  BEGICH  answered  that  if the  only  crime  the  person                                                               
committed was  related to marijuana  and the record had  no other                                                               
crime associated with it, the  prior record would be cleared from                                                               
CourtView. He  said the person's  record would still  contain any                                                               
other prior convictions.                                                                                                        
SENATOR BEGICH, after a brief  reiteration of people charged with                                                               
a single conviction of simple  possession and those with multiple                                                               
convictions, said he understood her  point. He suggested that the                                                               
only reason  would be to  remove these cases  from the 700  or so                                                               
cases. He was unsure of the total number SB 8 would affect.                                                                     
CHAIR  HUGHES said  in the  materials or  in discussion  of other                                                               
states, including  Vermont, he stated the  individuals could have                                                               
[the record] removed  by petition. However, Vermont  also set out                                                               
additional conditions,  including that  the person would  only be                                                               
eligible  5   years  after  sentence  completion   and  that  all                                                               
restitutions must  be paid. She  said that in instances  in which                                                               
the  person was  convicted of  a subsequent  crime 10  years must                                                               
have passed since the sentence  was completed and restitution for                                                               
all crimes  had been made. She  recapped that the bar  in Vermont                                                               
was much higher  than a simple petitioning the court.   She asked                                                               
whether he would be open to  raising the bar to be certain people                                                               
were  clean. She  asked  for further  clarification  on when  the                                                               
marijuana law passed.                                                                                                           
2:44:39 PM                                                                                                                    
DR. LIENEMANN  recalled that the  marijuana law went  into effect                                                               
in February 2015.                                                                                                               
SENATOR BEGICH pointed out that Vermont  is not one of the states                                                               
that has legalized possession and  use of marijuana. He related a                                                               
scenario in  which a  person committed a  crime of  possession of                                                               
marijuana, first in  2012 and again in 2014. He  pointed out that                                                               
three years  has lapsed since  2015. It is not  currently illegal                                                               
for a person to use marijuana  so it would be difficult to assign                                                               
a criminal penalty, and he was  not willing to do so; however, he                                                               
offered to sit down to hold discussions with the Chair's office.                                                                
2:45:35 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  SHOWER asked  how plea  bargains are  considered in  the                                                               
bill. He said it  seemed like it might be a  loophole, but he was                                                               
DR.  LIENEMANN related  her understanding  from discussions  with                                                               
the court system, that the  final criminal record is reflected in                                                               
the court system's  database. She said if the  person was charged                                                               
with several  crimes but pled down  to the elements listed  in SB
8, the  charges would be  removed from CourtView.  She reiterated                                                               
that the  conviction would  still remain in  the system  for most                                                               
higher-level background checks, but it  would no longer appear in                                                               
2:47:14 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BEGICH  added prosecutors would  also have access  to the                                                               
records and case  file. He recalled that had  been discussed last                                                               
SENATOR  SHOWER offered  to  discuss this  with  the sponsor.  He                                                               
referred to  the rights of  the employer and what  is restricted.                                                               
He would like  to better understand when the  provisions would be                                                               
specifically applied or  excluded. He offered his  belief that in                                                               
certain fields an employer needs  to know information about their                                                               
employees, for  example, in the Department  of Transportation and                                                               
Public Facilities (DOTPF).                                                                                                      
2:48:20 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  MICCICHE  asked  the  record   to  reflect  that  simple                                                               
possession  and someone  making a  mistake  is one  thing, but  a                                                               
person  with a  long history  of criminal  behavior is  different                                                               
since it demonstrates judgment issues  that a future employer may                                                               
wish to know about.                                                                                                             
CHAIR HUGHES concurred with that point.                                                                                         
2:49:02 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR   BEGICH  said   Senator   Micciche's   comment  was   an                                                               
appropriate one. He expressed a  willingness to work with Senator                                                               
Micciche to find a way to make it work.                                                                                         
2:49:25 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR REINBOLD echoed Senator  Micciche's concern. She asked to                                                               
have  Mr.  Duxbury  come  before the  committee  to  provide  his                                                               
perspective on the  number of times an  individual uses marijuana                                                               
before being  arrested as well  as the  number of cases  that are                                                               
typically  dismissed  prior  to   conviction.  She  recalled  Mr.                                                               
Duxbury  discussed  on KTVA  the  percentage  of cases  involving                                                               
marijuana. He  also indicated marijuana  use was a gateway  to so                                                               
much more. She said  she is not an expert and  would like to hear                                                               
his views on marijuana use.                                                                                                     
2:50:11 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  HUGHES  expressed  her  concern  about  SB  8  creating  a                                                               
loophole  for the  18-20-year-old age  group, since  marijuana is                                                               
still not  legal for them.  She expressed further concern  that a                                                               
person  could permanently  lose eligibility  for employment  with                                                               
the state if  the person unintentionally or  otherwise conceals a                                                               
fact when submitting  a job application. She did not  want to set                                                               
up a person to fail.                                                                                                            
[CHAIR HUGHES opened public testimony on SB 8.]                                                                                 
2:51:56 PM                                                                                                                    
CATHLEEN  MCLAUGHLIN, Director,  Partners  Reentry Center  (PRC),                                                               
offered  to  make comments  to  put  this into  perspective.  She                                                               
stated the PRC has served  7,500 high-risk high-needs individuals                                                               
who would be  homeless if the PRC had not  assisted them. The PRC                                                               
works  with  reentrants  whose parole  and  probation  conditions                                                               
mandate  that they  do not  use marijuana.  That condition  still                                                               
holds true whether  marijuana use is legal or not,  she said. She                                                               
offered her belief that SB  8 would only retroactively affect 700                                                               
people  and the  bill  does not  necessarily  affect those  being                                                               
served in the criminal justice  system. She related a scenario in                                                               
which the PRC wanted to  hire someone deemed as highly qualified,                                                               
but  the   person  had  previously   been  convicted   of  simple                                                               
possession  of  marijuana  10  years   ago,  prior  to  attending                                                               
college.  That banned  the  person from  being  employed in  this                                                               
industry,  she said.  She surmised  that SB  8 intends  to target                                                               
this type of person rather than the clients the PRC serves.                                                                     
2:54:17 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  REINBOLD asked  for further  clarification  on what  she                                                               
meant by high-risk and high-needs individuals.                                                                                  
MS. MCLAUGHLIN  said the PRC  assists people who  would otherwise                                                               
be  homeless,  whose  chance  of recidivism  is  very  high.  She                                                               
related that Alaska has a 66  percent recidivism rate and the PRC                                                               
focuses on this population in  an effort to reduce recidivism and                                                               
enhance  public safety.  These are  individuals  with strong  and                                                               
lengthy  continual felony  and  misdemeanor  records. She  stated                                                               
that  the PRC  uses a  tool called  the LSIR,  that those  with a                                                               
score  of  29  or  higher  are  considered  high-risk  high-needs                                                               
individuals.  These  are  individuals  whose  criminal  behaviors                                                               
create a risk to the community when they are released, she said.                                                                
2:55:20 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES asked her to explain the acronym LSIR.                                                                             
MS. MCLAUGHLIN explained the acronym  LSIR helps the DOC classify                                                               
individuals  with  a  minimum, medium,  or  maximum  risk-leveled                                                               
behaviors. She offered to report back on the acronym.                                                                           
2:55:46 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MICCICHE  asked whether alcohol  was also on the  list of                                                               
conditions for parole or probation.                                                                                             
MS. MCLAUGHLIN  answered absolutely,  that the  court establishes                                                               
probation and parole conditions based on the underlying crime.                                                                  
SENATOR MICCICHE said she had  previously mentioned the age group                                                               
18-20  and  noted that  the  legislature  treats minor  consuming                                                               
differently for that age group, which is worth evaluating.                                                                      
CHAIR HUGHES asked whether the 700 individuals were statewide.                                                                  
MS. MCLAUGHLIN said  she was referring to an  attachment by Nancy                                                               
Meade that gave a ballpark figure.                                                                                              
2:56:43 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  HUGHES asked  the sponsor  to provide  information on  the                                                               
proposed  700 people  potentially affected  by SB  8 and  whether                                                               
these individuals had other convictions.                                                                                        
2:57:16 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. MCLAUGHLIN reported that the  acronym LSIR refers to level of                                                               
service inventory revised.                                                                                                      
2:57:22 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR SHOWER related  his understanding that the  people with a                                                               
higher risk and  a demonstrated behavior are  not necessarily the                                                               
ones that  SB 8 would clear,  since those are the  ones who would                                                               
present  problems for  employers, housing,  or other  issues that                                                               
the  public would  want  to  know about.  He  suggested that  the                                                               
potential 700  people SB 8  would address do  not seem to  be the                                                               
people that PRC treats. He said  it seemed like the intent of the                                                               
bill and the people she serves are like "apples and oranges".                                                                   
MS. MCLAUGHLIN agreed. She said  that none of the individuals the                                                               
PRC serves or who work with the center have only one conviction.                                                                
2:58:48 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES  closed public testimony on  SB 8. She held  SB 8 in                                                               

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SJUD Agenda 1.25.19.pdf SJUD 1/25/2019 1:30:00 PM
1.24.19 Agenda
SB8 VerA.PDF SJUD 1/25/2019 1:30:00 PM
SB 8
SB8 Sponsor Statement.pdf SJUD 1/25/2019 1:30:00 PM
SB 8
SB8 Sectional Analysis.pdf SJUD 1/25/2019 1:30:00 PM
SB 8
SB8 Supporting Document - Leg Research Report.pdf SJUD 1/25/2019 1:30:00 PM
SB 8
SB8 Supporting Document - State Marijuana Criminal Record Confidentiality Actions.pdf SJUD 1/25/2019 1:30:00 PM
SB 8
SB8 Fiscal Note (AK Court System).pdf SJUD 1/25/2019 1:30:00 PM
SB 8
SB 8 Letter of Support ACLU.pdf SJUD 1/25/2019 1:30:00 PM
SB 8
2-1-19 Letter to Sen Hughes re Prosecution Dismissals.pdf SJUD 1/25/2019 1:30:00 PM
DOL Response