Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/14/1994 09:07 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
ED MCNALLY, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Law (DOL) thanks the chairman and members of the committee for their attention to the governor's crime package legislation. Mr. McNally states the five bills before the committee (SB 349, SB 350, SB 351, SB 352, and SB 353) will help to protect Alaska's women and children, and will also help prevent some crime from occurring in the first place. All of the bills are inexpensive; several will actually save money and, at the same time, put more law enforcement personnel on the street without any budget increases. MR. MCNALLY states the governor's crime package has been endorsed by nearly every major victim's rights group, women's advocacy group, and law enforcement group in Alaska. The committee's desire to hear the bills as a package speaks well of the consensus and the recognition that more must be done in responding to violence against Alaska's women and children. MR. MCNALLY says some of the elements in the governor's crime package have to do with budgetary concerns, while some provisions address other concerns, such as "three strikes, you're out", juvenile waivers, and conspiracy. These bills are designed to combat the crimes that most threaten Alaska's women and children: domestic violence, stalking, rape, and child abuse. MR. MCNALLY states that, at the core of this initiative, are six new laws to level the playing field. The governor filed six bills in the house, but only five in the senate, because Senator Donley has already filed a bill, SB 24, which would extend probation. Four bills are designed particularly for protecting women and children, those are SB 350, SB 351, SB 352, and SB 24. The other two bills in this package, SB 349 and SB 353 would serve to provide new protections for all victims of crime. These last two bills would put more law enforcement personnel on the street and would give prosecutors and defendants an equal number of jury challenges, as recommended in the American Bar Association's National Standards. Number 103 MR. MCNALLY stresses that these bills have very few moving parts. There is not an extraordinary amount of language in these bills which would open them up for amendment, the way the complex legislation that has been previously worked on involves. Mr. Mcnally would contrast the governor's crime legislation package with President Clinton's crime legislation package, which is the size of a telephone book. The legislation before the committee is an Alaska package; it was designed by Alaska's police, Alaska's prosecutors, and Alaska's women's advocacy groups, to meet an Alaskan problem. MR. MCNALLY says that brings him to the second point he would like to make today: the problem of rape, domestic violence, and child abuse is enormous. Alaska does not have the number one murder problem in the United States. We do not have the number one drug abuse problem. On a per capita basis, Alaska has one of the highest rates of rape, domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual abuse of children in the nation. Not only are these cases among the most difficult and sensitive to prosecute, they are also among the most devastating in terms of the outrage, the grief, and the emotional trauma inflicted on victims, their families, and the entire community. The offenders in these cases are clearly among those most deserving of aggressive prosecution. They are cowards. They prey on our most vulnerable citizens: children, the elderly, and women. The problem of domestic and sexual violence in Alaska cuts across all boundaries of race, culture, status, educational background, and other demographic factors. It is acute in both urban and rural areas. Mr. McNally shows the committee several statistic charts. The charts show the rising number of reported cases in the early 1990's. Number 156 SENATOR TAYLOR asks Mr. McNally how many cases, of those that were reported, were found to have no substance. The senator had heard that DFYS (Division of Family & Youth Services) reported 67% had no substance and asks Mr. McNally if that percentage is accurate. Number 165 MR. MCNALLY responds he is not familiar with that number and is not in a position to address it. However, he is familiar with the cases that are actually brought to prosecution by law enforcement agencies that state they have reason to believe they have proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the abuse actually occurred. Number 170 SENATOR TAYLOR would like to see the number of actual prosecutions. The senator says there is probably a corresponding rise in those numbers too, but he has suspicions about DFYS's numbers. MR. MCNALLY says he appreciates Senator Taylor's concern, and he is not familiar with the 67% figure from DFYS, but Mr. McNally states he is not familiar with any law enforcement professional, court system professional, or advocacy professional who is not under the impression that Alaska's problem is significantly greater than that of other similarly sized populations in the country. SENATOR TAYLOR says he agrees with that, and believes it is due to the high alcohol abuse rate. MR. MCNALLY shows a chart indicating the number of rapes reported to the Anchorage Police Department. Certainly, 150 or so reported rapes a year is highly unacceptable to any community. In 1991 and 1992, Anchorage saw about 200 to 250 reported rapes a year, but in 1993 that figure jumped to over 400 reported rapes. Mr. McNally states, to give the committee an idea of how the prosecution in the state has voted with its' feet, that the number of assistant district attorneys in Anchorage has dropped from 26 to 22 in the past few years. Despite the loss in personnel, the number of personnel assigned full-time to rape, domestic violence, and child abuse cases has gone from zero to four in that same time period. Obviously, that means less prosecutorial resources are going into prosecuting any number of other categories of crime, primarily business crime, shoplifting, bad checks, burglaries, and other crimes against property. That gives you an indication of how seriously these problems are viewed by those of us who are obliged to respond to them. Number 208 MR. MCNALLY states another indication of the enormity of the problem can be gleaned from an editorial which appeared in the Anchorage Daily News (Mr. McNally passes a copy of the editorial out to each committee member). Mr. McNally says one of the most acute problems is the first item underlined in the editorial: that 84% of victims do not file a police report. That is a national figure, and is another part of the problem before the state. Part of the purpose of this legislation is to encourage women to come forward and report these crimes by making the court room a safe place for them; a place where they will be respected, and where their dignity will be respected. Everyone is talking about violent crime, but in Alaska, we are talking about crime against women and children. People of our communities are angry and disgusted by these crimes and by the archaic and unacceptable attitudes, sometimes in the system itself. MR. MCNALLY says that concludes his general testimony on the governor's crime package, and he would now be happy to discuss individual pieces of legislation. CHAIRMAN LEMAN brings up SB 352 (CONFIDENTIALITY OF MOTOR VEHICLE RECORDS) as the next order of business before the State Affairs Committee. The chairman asks Mr. McNally to comment on SB 352. Number 235 MR. MCNALLY states SB 352 was given impetus by the stalking murder of actress Rebecca Shaffer. Anti-stalking legislation has been passed by many states. Here in Alaska, there are have been at least two dramatic cases in Anchorage where information from the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) was used to stalk and murder the victim. Right now, any citizen can go to the Z. J. Loussac Public Library and use the DMV terminal, or any other of DMV terminals in the state and simply pull up DMV information. All one needs is someone's license plate number to find out a persons name, address, phone number, and other private information. Mr. McNally gives several examples where DMV information was used in murders. MR. MCNALLY states, that, of all the bills the governor is presenting, SB 352 is perhaps the least important. It might save only one or two lives a year, as opposed to the other legislation which is going to save many victims of crime from further trauma in the system and elsewhere. Nevertheless, one or two lives a year is a significant thing, and that is why the governor urges your support of SB 352. Number 281 SENATOR TAYLOR asks if DMV is still selling information on drivers. MR. MCNALLY replies he does not know. SENATOR TAYLOR says he thinks the state makes money from the sale of DMV records. MR. MCNALLY says he believes there are legitimate uses, such as recall by auto manufacturers of defective automobiles. Mr. McNally says he believes SB 352 would allow the regulators to make exceptions for those types of important purposes. However, he does not know if DMV would be allowed to continue selling that information. CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks Ms. Hensley from DMV if she can help answer questions. The chairman asks how many people tap into DMV information. Number 301 JUANITA HENSLEY, Chief, Driver Services, DMV says there is a terminal in the Anchorage Field Office where individuals can research vehicle files. However, in any other offices, there is a five dollar charge per record. DMV does sell the entire vehicle file to several companies. SB 352 would still give DMV the opportunity to continue selling those files, however addresses would not be contained in that information. Ms. Hensley states the president's crime package also contains provisions to lock up motor vehicle information. It will allow DMV to adopt regulations stipulating who can have access to that information. SENATOR TAYLOR asks if organizations that buy information from DMV could give out all the addresses, but not individual addresses. MS. HENSLEY responds those organizations could not give out any addresses unless it was for legitimate law enforcement purposes or something of that nature. SENATOR TAYLOR says that would probably wipe out any activity those business were doing with DMV information. If DMV does not give those businesses the address, they cannot create mailing lists. MS. HENSLEY replies DMV would be able to give addresses to those companies, but the companies would have to have an agreement with DMV that they would not be able to give that address to any John Q. Public. SENATOR TAYLOR states he personally does not like DMV selling his name and address to anybody, and the state has been making almost 60,000$ per year doing that. However, if we are going to restrict selling that information and cut off someone's business, he will need to think about that. Number 356 MS. HENSLEY adds that drivers' license information, as set out in Title 28, is private and confidential. Vehicle records fall under Title 9, and are public information. SENATOR TAYLOR asks about voting records. Several committee members respond that the Division of Elections can release information on registered voters. SENATOR TAYLOR asks, if he really wanted someone's address, could he not simply contact the Division of Elections? Number 370 MR. MCNALLY responds that we are dealing with degrees of accessibility. There is a difference between someone being able to anonymously look up names and addresses of people at a DMV terminal and writing a letter with a return address to the Attorney General or the Division of Elections asking for certain information. We cannot prevent crime, but we can make it more difficult. Alaska has a unique constitutional tradition of privacy. Mr. McNally believes this legislation would be very consistent with that tradition. SENATOR LEMAN asks if there is anyone in the public who would like to testify. Number 381 MITCH GRAVO, representing R.L. Polk Company, says they are concerned they will no longer have access to names and addresses of car owners. That access is needed for continuation of business purposes. R.L. Polk Company supports the intent of SB 352, but wants to insure that their business relationship with DMV can continue in the event SB 352 passes into law. R.L. Polk does have suggested language to insure the continuance of that relationship. Mr. Gravo asks the committee to consider that language. These amendments would very clearly indicated that if a party has a legitimate business interest, that party could continue to get that information. Number 398 MR. MCNALLY states that, on behalf of the Criminal Division of the Department of Law, he has no objection to either of the suggestions of Mr. Gravo. They do not interfere with the intent of the law, and they do not interfere with the purpose of the law. Number 400 MS. HENSLEY states that she does not have any problem with the amendments either. DMV does release driver's records to certain companies for insurance business purposes only, and she believes these amendments would basically be the same thing. She does not see a problem with the proposal. Number 408 MR. MCNALLY states, as a practical matter, this suggestion would put into law that DMV would have to accommodate businesses in acquiring automobile registration information. Mr. McNally thinks Mr. Gravo's amendments would achieve the purposes being discussed. Number 413 CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks if there is any further discussion. The chairman states he does not have a problem with the additional language. The chairman announces SB 352 will be held over until Wednesday, at which time he hopes to move the bill. SENATOR TAYLOR comments there is an amendment pending on SB 352. SENATOR LEMAN says the committee will hold SB 352 to do some work on it.