Legislature(2023 - 2024)BUTROVICH 205

03/24/2023 01:30 PM Senate JUDICIARY

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Audio Topic
01:30:57 PM Start
01:31:49 PM Presentation(s): Alaska Victimization Survey Results
02:16:03 PM SB104
02:45:04 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Presentation: Alaska Victimization Survey by
Dr. Ingrid Johnson, Assistant Professor,
Justice Center, University of Alaska Anchorage
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
Heard & Held
-- Invited & Public Testimony --
<Bill Hearing Canceled>
<Above Item Removed from Agenda>
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                SB 104-CIVIL LEGAL SERVICES FUND                                                                            
2:16:03 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR CLAMAN announced  the consideration of SENATE  BILL NO. 104                                                               
"An Act  relating to appropriations  to the civil  legal services                                                               
2:16:30 PM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Dunbar, District  J, Alaska  State Legislature,  Juneau,                                                               
Alaska presented SB  104, which increases funding  for the Alaska                                                               
Legal  Services Corporation  (ALSC).  He shared  his story  about                                                               
interning with ALSC  while attending law school.  During his time                                                               
with the  corporation, he  witnessed the  work offered  to people                                                               
unable  to  afford civil  legal  representation  or services.  He                                                               
compared Alaska  Legal Services Corporation to  a public defender                                                               
for  civil  law.  The services  include  elder  advocacy,  public                                                               
benefits, consumer  protection, family law and  housing advocacy.                                                               
He added that ALSC is the  states  largest provider of free civil                                                               
legal services for survivors of domestic violence.                                                                              
SENATOR DUNBAR mentioned a child custody  case he worked on as an                                                               
intern with  the corporation.  He shared  that he  considered the                                                               
case the most  important legal work he participated  in. He noted                                                               
that  the  corporation  sees  increased   demands  for  time  and                                                               
services while the funding is lower  than it was 40 years ago. He                                                               
remarked that state investment in  the corporation decreased over                                                               
time.  He explained  that  SB  104 takes  a  percentage of  court                                                               
filing fees and directs it  toward ALSC. The initial contribution                                                               
involved 25  percent of court  filing fees, which  was negotiated                                                               
down to  10 percent  with the agreement  that the  fee percentage                                                               
would be  revisited. He  stated that 10  percent of  court filing                                                               
fees provides  insufficient contributions to ALSC  for support of                                                               
Alaskans in need of legal aid.                                                                                                  
CHAIR CLAMAN  stated that Ms.  Nelson and Ms. Meade  were present                                                               
to respond to questions.                                                                                                        
2:19:10 PM                                                                                                                    
Arielle Wiggin, Staff, Senator  Dunbar, Alaska State Legislature,                                                               
Juneau, Alaska provided the sectional analysis for SB 104.                                                                      
     Section  1: amends  AS 37.05.590  Civil Legal  Services                                                                    
     Fund so that up to  twenty-five percent, instead of ten                                                                    
     percent,   of  Court   System   filing   fees  can   be                                                                    
     appropriated by  the Legislature to the  existing Civil                                                                    
     Legal Services Fund each year.                                                                                             
CHAIR CLAMAN stated that he was  a member of the legislature when                                                               
the  initial  bill  addressing state  contribution  to  ALSC  was                                                               
2:19:51 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KAUFMAN wondered why the  court filing fee percentage was                                                               
negotiated down to 10 percent.                                                                                                  
SENATOR DUNBAR deferred the question to Ms. Nelson.                                                                             
CHAIR CLAMAN asked  Ms. Nelson to answer the  question before she                                                               
provides invited testimony.                                                                                                     
2:20:27 PM                                                                                                                    
Nikole   Nelson,  Executive   Director,  Alaska   Legal  Services                                                               
Corporation,  Alaska informed  the committee  that the  change in                                                               
filing fee contribution  from 25 to 10 percent  was negotiated in                                                               
an attempt to stabilize the  funding source, with a commitment to                                                               
revisit the issue if 10  percent was inadequate. She acknowledged                                                               
that Senator Claman  carried the bill during his  time serving as                                                               
a House  Representative to  explore whether  10 percent  of court                                                               
filing  fees was  an adequate  contribution to  ALSC. She  stated                                                               
that  10 percent  is an  adequate contribution  to provide  legal                                                               
services to eligible Alaskans.                                                                                                  
2:21:20 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  KIEHL  requested  a  better  orientation  to  the  total                                                               
funding picture.                                                                                                                
MS. NELSON  replied that  the state  appropriation is  not ALSCs                                                                
only  source  of revenue.  The  total  budget  for ALSC  is  $7.5                                                               
million  obtained  from  various  sources.  She  noted  that  the                                                               
corporation  receives   federal  funding,   local  contributions,                                                               
fundraising  contributions,  private   donations  and  the  state                                                               
contribution. She  clarified that the state  contribution derived                                                               
from court  filing fees represents  a small portion of  the total                                                               
organization  funding.  She pointed  to  the  criticality of  the                                                               
state contribution for meeting community needs.                                                                                 
MS.  NELSON furthered  that the  state  appropriation is  divided                                                               
into  two   sources,  a  general  fund   appropriation  from  the                                                               
Department  of  Commerce,   Community  and  Economic  Development                                                               
(DCCED) of  $400 thousand  and 10 percent  of court  filing fees.                                                               
Together the  state contributes  less than  10 percent  of ALSCs                                                                
total funding picture.                                                                                                          
2:24:33 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KIEHL  understood that the additional  state contribution                                                               
helps ALSC better serve communities.  He asked how the additional                                                               
resources serve communities.                                                                                                    
MS. NELSON pointed  to a study by the Alaska  Mental Health Trust                                                               
Authority  showing that  for  every dollar  invested  in ALSC,  a                                                               
five-to-one  return  to  state  and  local  economies  was  seen.                                                               
Efforts to  help people avoid homelessness  and domestic violence                                                               
provide cost  savings to state  and local communities.  The study                                                               
also  showed  that  for  every  $100  thousand  investment  (2012                                                               
dollars),  ALSC can  serve another  182  individuals. She  stated                                                               
that greater  inflation increases programmatic costs,  so a boost                                                               
in state  dollars helps  meet the  increased costs.  She reminded                                                               
the  committee   about  the  Community  Justice   Worker  Program                                                               
discussed  in  a  recent   Senate  Judiciary  Standing  Committee                                                               
presentation. She  stated that the  program was the first  of its                                                               
kind in the  nation. She reminded the committee  that the program                                                               
trains new  lawyers to provide limited-scope  legal assistance to                                                               
those in need. She explained  that additional funding would allow                                                               
ALSC to actualize the new program.                                                                                              
2:27:24 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR CLAMAN moved to invited testimony.                                                                                        
MS.  NELSON provided  invited testimony  related to  SB 104.  She                                                               
explained the civil justice crisis  in Alaska. She noted that the                                                               
state  and  federal  constitutions   guarantee  due  process  and                                                               
protection under  the law. The  civil justice system is  facing a                                                               
crisis due to the gap between  people able to receive civil legal                                                               
help and those  who cannot. She explained that the  gap reached a                                                               
crisis  level because  existing funding  has not  kept pace  with                                                               
community needs.                                                                                                                
MS. NELSON continued  that ALSC is a  nonprofit organization with                                                               
the  mission to  ensure fairness  for all  in the  justice system                                                               
irrespective  of   a  persons    income  or  distance   from  the                                                               
courthouse. She  noted that ALSC  provides legal help  for people                                                               
seeking   aid  with   health,  safety   and  family   needs.  The                                                               
corporation provides  individual legal advice and  form drafting.                                                               
She added  that the corporation provides  community education and                                                               
clinics.  She spoke  about the  variety of  people seeking  legal                                                               
services from ALSC. She added  that veterans are regularly helped                                                               
when benefits are denied.                                                                                                       
2:31:07 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  NELSON continued  to describe  the  program and  all of  the                                                               
services. She added  that ALSC helps people keep  their homes and                                                               
ensures that access  to justice does not only happen  on the road                                                               
system. She stated that the  study showed successful outcomes and                                                               
eighty percent of cases do not  go to court. She stated that ALSC                                                               
is  forced  to  turn  50 percent  of  qualified  applicants  away                                                               
because of lack of staffing and resources.                                                                                      
MS. NELSON  continued that ALSC  is on the forefront  of fighting                                                               
the epidemic of domestic violence  by serving over 1000 survivors                                                               
of  domestic  violence. She  added  that  ALSC helped  over  2500                                                               
seniors  and  veterans  by protecting  them  from  financial  and                                                               
physical  abuse and  assisting them  with  processes like  wills,                                                               
probate and powers  of attorney. She noted that  ALSC helped over                                                               
700 families  avoid losing their  homes. The  corporation ensures                                                               
that access to justice exists off and on the road system.                                                                       
MS.  NELSON revisited  the Alaska  Mental Health  Trust Authority                                                               
study  referenced  earlier,  which   showed  that  ALSC  achieves                                                               
successful  outcomes for  clients  86 percent  of  the time.  She                                                               
added that  80 percent of  cases resolve without going  to court,                                                               
which saves  system resources.  She repeated  that ALSC  turns 50                                                               
percent  of eligible  people seeking  legal assistance  away. She                                                               
stated that the  target population grows each  year while funding                                                               
remains the  same. She noted  that ALSC received funding  of $1.2                                                               
million in 1984  to serve a target population of  40 thousand. In                                                               
2022,  ALSC  received  funding  of   $681  thousand  to  serve  a                                                               
population that tripled to 128 thousand.                                                                                        
2:34:16 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. NELSON furthered that the  state spent $81 dollars per person                                                               
in  1984  and  $5  per  person   in  2023.  She  noted  that  the                                                               
legislature  amended  ALSC  in 2018  with  widespread  bipartisan                                                               
support.  She  remarked  that  ALSC is  grateful  for  the  state                                                               
appropriation, but  the amount  available fluctuates  wildly from                                                               
zero to $360  thousand. She acknowledged that  economic times are                                                               
challenging,  but  passage of  SB  104  ensures the  priority  of                                                               
justice for all.                                                                                                                
2:35:43 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KAUFMAN  asked how  client eligibility  for legal  aid is                                                               
MS.  NELSON  replied  that  income  information  is  gathered  to                                                               
determine  eligibility.  She  mentioned that  the  Federal  Legal                                                               
Services  Organization  regulates   the  comprehensive  screening                                                               
process. The  income data is  documented and audited  annually to                                                               
comply with regulations.                                                                                                        
CHAIR  CLAMAN stated  that Senator  Dunbar  referenced the  large                                                               
number of survivors of domestic  violence represented by ALSC. He                                                               
recalled  a  statistic  related   to  access  to  legal  services                                                               
increasing  chances   that  a  person   will  leave   an  abusive                                                               
relationship. He  wondered about additional studies  with similar                                                               
2:37:31 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. NELSON replied that multiple  studies support the benefits of                                                               
providing an attorney  to a survivor of  domestic violence. Legal                                                               
assistance is one of the most  effective ways to end the cycle of                                                               
abuse.  She  mentioned  that  the   Attorney  General  of  Alaska                                                               
supported the creation of a large  group of pro bono attorneys to                                                               
help  address  the  epidemic  of   sexual  assault  and  domestic                                                               
CHAIR  CLAMAN requested  the seminal  research  mentioned by  Ms.                                                               
Nelson.  He  shared  that while  domestic  relations  cases  were                                                               
challenging, he  personally found  one to  be the  most rewarding                                                               
case in his career.                                                                                                             
2:39:28 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR CLAMAN opened public testimony.                                                                                           
2:39:56 PM                                                                                                                    
PATRICK REINHART, Director, Governor's  Council on Disability and                                                               
Special  Education, Homer,  Alaska,  testified in  support of  SB
104. He  stated that people  with intellectual  and developmental                                                               
disabilities are  often victims  of domestic violence  and sexual                                                               
assault.  He spoke  about an  "I have  rights  campaign  to teach                                                               
people with intellectual and  developmental disabilities how they                                                               
can report  elements of harm.  The council refers people  to ALSC                                                               
and the  disability law center  of Alaska for support.  He stated                                                               
that both organizations struggle  to keep qualified attorneys. He                                                               
appreciated  the  committee  for  hearing the  bill  and  Senator                                                               
Dunbar for his sponsorship.                                                                                                     
2:41:18 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR CLAMAN closed public testimony.                                                                                           
2:41:38 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  GIESSEL remarked  that her  mother was  an attorney  who                                                               
offered pro  bono work  to seniors.  She expressed  concern about                                                               
the  fiscal note  and  the difficulties  ahead  with the  finance                                                               
committee.  She  wondered if  offering  the  funding through  the                                                               
finance subcommittee might be a better option.                                                                                  
SENATOR DUNBAR  replied that he was  not a member of  the finance                                                               
subcommittee.  He asked  finance committee  members listening  to                                                               
the meeting to  fund ALSC. He recognized the  significance of the                                                               
fiscal note  but believed that  the bill provides  an appropriate                                                               
use  of court  fees. He  stated that  using fees  from the  legal                                                               
system to provide access to the system was appropriate.                                                                         
CHAIR  CLAMAN  clarified  that  the  Senate  Judiciary  Committee                                                               
requested the fiscal note, and  the chair of the Senate Judiciary                                                               
Finance Subcommittee was Senator Kiehl.                                                                                         
SENATOR  GIESSEL wondered  if the  fiscal  note could  be a  zero                                                               
fiscal note since the court already collects the filing fees.                                                                   
CHAIR CLAMAN responded that all  fees collected go to the general                                                               
2:44:00 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  KIEHL agreed  with Senator  Claman about  collected fees                                                               
and  the general  fund. He  added that  the civil  legal services                                                               
fund  appropriation is  a language  appropriation,  which is  not                                                               
appropriate for finance subcommittee consideration.                                                                             
2:44:27 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR CLAMAN  requested amendments to  SB 104 by 5:00  p.m. March                                                               
26, 2023.                                                                                                                       
2:45:04 PM                                                                                                                    
There being  no further  business to  come before  the committee,                                                               
Chair Claman  adjourned the  Senate Judiciary  Standing Committee                                                               
meeting at 2:45 p.m.                                                                                                            

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
Presentation on 2020 Alaska Victimization Survey Results to Senate Judiciary 3.24.2023.pdf SJUD 3/24/2023 1:30:00 PM
SB 104 version A 3.15.2023.PDF SJUD 3/20/2023 1:30:00 PM
SJUD 3/24/2023 1:30:00 PM
SJUD 3/27/2023 1:30:00 PM
SB 104
SB 104 Sponsor Statement version A 3.17.2023.pdf SFIN 4/12/2023 1:00:00 PM
SJUD 3/20/2023 1:30:00 PM
SJUD 3/24/2023 1:30:00 PM
SJUD 3/27/2023 1:30:00 PM
SB 104
SB 104 Sectional Analysis version A 3.17.2023.pdf SFIN 4/12/2023 1:00:00 PM
SJUD 3/20/2023 1:30:00 PM
SJUD 3/24/2023 1:30:00 PM
SJUD 3/27/2023 1:30:00 PM
SB 104
SB 104 Supporting Document - ALSC Civil Legal Services Fund Fact Sheet 3.17.2023.pdf SFIN 4/12/2023 1:00:00 PM
SJUD 3/20/2023 1:30:00 PM
SJUD 3/24/2023 1:30:00 PM
SJUD 3/27/2023 1:30:00 PM
SB 104
SB 104 Supporting Testimony - Received as of 3.23.2023.pdf SJUD 3/24/2023 1:30:00 PM
SB 104
SB 104 Opposing Testimony - Received as of 3.20.2023.pdf SJUD 3/20/2023 1:30:00 PM
SJUD 3/24/2023 1:30:00 PM
SJUD 3/27/2023 1:30:00 PM
SB 104
SB 104 Fiscal Note DCCED-DCRA 3.17.2023.pdf SJUD 3/20/2023 1:30:00 PM
SJUD 3/24/2023 1:30:00 PM
SJUD 3/27/2023 1:30:00 PM
SB 104