Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/28/1994 09:10 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CHAIRMAN LEMAN brings up SB 302 (UNIFORM INTERSTATE FAMILY SUPPORT ACT) as the next order of business and asks that representatives from the Department of Revenue join the committee at the table. CHAIRMAN LEMAN announces the committee has a committee substitute that incorporates about four changes that the Alaska Family Support Group suggested. The chairman states it is his understanding that the Department of Revenue has no objection to the changes. Number 227 SENATOR MILLER makes a motion to adopt CSSB 302(STA) in lieu of the original bill. Number 229 CHAIRMAN LEMAN, hearing no objection, notes the committee substitute has been adopted in lieu of the original bill. The chairman asks Ms. Babcock to review the changes to SB 302. Number 239 PORTIA BABCOCK, Committee Aide, Senate State Affairs Committee asks the representatives of the Department of Revenue if they met with Mr. Kirk of the Alaska Family Support Group. LARAINE DERR, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Revenue says the department met with Mr. Kirk, but there is only one change the department agreed on with Mr. Kirk. The change was on page 13, line 17. The change involved non-disclosure of information in exceptional circumstances. Ms. Derr says Mr. Kirk suggested other changes, but the department did not agree with him that those changes needed to be made. DONNA PAGE, Senior Hearing Officer, Department of Revenue says the department didn't necessarily disagree with Mr. Kirk, but the change on page 13 was the only change the department felt had to be made. The department didn't have an opinion one way or the other on most of Mr. Kirk's concerns, because his concerns did not affect the agency. Number 256 MS. BABCOCK states the first change is on page 4, lines 24 and 25. it would add language stating a tribunal may dismiss a case for improper venue. The Department of Revenue has no position on that change. CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks Ms. Page if she can enlighten the committee as to the meaning of "improper venue." Number 280 MS. PAGE responds Mr. Kirk's concern was that this jurisdictional statement was very broad. Mr. Kirk wanted to agency to have the right to dismiss a case for improper venue. If no party of a support order lives in the state, the state does not really have any interest in the case. CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks if that change would do any disservice to the bill. MS. PAGE does not think it would. The act is intended to have the child support order in the state where someone involved in the order lives, so that it can be enforced. CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks if there is any discussion among committee members. Number 291 SENATOR TAYLOR says he is concerned about the use of the term "tribunal". It is being used to describe both an agency of the executive branch, and the court system. He thinks it is dangerous to recognize a state agency as a tribunal, and would hope that agency would not have the same powers and authorizations that a superior court would have. Number 300 MS. PAGE responds the bill was purposely written to include the administrative agency as a tribunal. The administrative agency as tribunal can only do what is already authorized by law. This would solve a problem by having the administrative agency operate under the same laws the court system operates under, insofar as having one child support order, one time, and one place. Right now, the agency is part of the problem. People move to Alaska, and Alaska starts a new support order, even though there may be an existing support order in their home state. You then find obligors having a child support order they're paying on in Alaska, and another state attaching their income tax return, because the other state does not know there is an existing child support order in Alaska. Number 325 CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks if there are any objections to this change. The chairman asks Ms. Babcock to move on to the second change. Number 327 MS. BABCOCK states the next change is on page 13, line 16, insert: "..upon a finding by the court." MR. MALLONEE notes the committee substitute does not say "...finding by the court", but "...finding by the tribunal". MS. BABCOCK says the original bill just stated "...upon a finding." She thinks the legislative drafter must have decided to use the term tribunal. The insertion was supposed to read, "...upon a finding by the court." Number 354 SENATOR TAYLOR says he continues to have a problem understanding how we can take the enforcement branch of government, which is often the initiating party (CSED), and call them a tribunal. Unless this is being mandated by federal law, he does not find that attractive thinking. Would anyone in the room like the legislature to do the same thing with the District Attorney's Office, or the Internal Revenue Service? Shall we give them the power of being a tribunal? CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks Senator Taylor if he is speaking in favor of an amendment. SENATOR TAYLOR thinks an amendment would be appropriate to at least designate the court. CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks if the department has any response to changing "...upon a finding by the tribunal.", to "...upon a finding by the court." Number 379 MR. MALLONEE states the department has no objection to that one change. In response to Senator Taylor's remarks, he says that where a tribunal is referred to in SB 302, it does specify that the tribunal has only those powers as otherwise dictated in statute. SENATOR TAYLOR says he is uncomfortable with the existing power CSED has to modify outstanding orders, based upon abilities to do things, as far as service requirements are concerned, that were significantly streamlined just for CSED. He does not think CSED should have but about half the authority they do. Judges should be involved in the process. CSED is there for one purpose: it's there to enforce support orders. It's not there to listen to people who have lost their job and have been out of work for four months. It's there to enforce support orders, and they will zealously do that, if they've got to go out and take your income tax, take your permanent fund, take 50% of whatever you're earning, even though you're current on your support, and then apologize later. Those are the calls Senator Taylor receives from constituents. Number 400 SENATOR DUNCAN asks if SB 302 has been referred to Judiciary. CHAIRMAN LEMAN responds SB 302 is going to the Judiciary Committee. SENATOR DUNCAN tells Senator Taylor to relax. SENATOR TAYLOR says he is just concerned with the tendency to empower an agency over the court system. Number 405 SENATOR MILLER makes an amendment to page 13, line 16, to substitute the word "court" for the word "tribunal". Number 407 CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks if everyone understands that amendment, and if there is any objection to the amendment. Hearing none, the chairman notes that the amendment has been adopted. The chairman asks Ms. Babcock to review the third change. Number 411 MS. BABCOCK states the next change is on page 13, line 22, eliminate subsection (b), leaving (a) and (c). CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks if someone from the Department of Revenue could explain what that change would do. Number 417 MS. PAGE replies this change affects the superior court, and the department does not have a position on the change one way or the other. It would allow the court to assess fees against an obligor. Mr. Kirk's objection was that subsection (b) didn't allow the assessment of fees against an obligee (the custodial parent). Number 423 CHAIRMAN LEMAN summarizes that by deleting subsection (b), the playing field would be leveled. Number 425 MS. PAGE adds that the court currently only assesses fees in child support cases, as a rule, when they feel one side or the other has not been cooperative and is acting in bad faith. CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks Ms. Page that, by deleting subsection (b), the legislature would not be changing existing policy. MS. PAGE responds that is correct. CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks if there is any objection to that change. Hearing none, the chairman notes the change has been adopted. The chairman asks Ms. Babcock to review the fourth change for the committee. Number 430 MS. BABCOCK states the fourth change is on page 21, line 1, adding language, "...except to the extent that a party was reasonably unable to respond." CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks if the department has any comment on that change. Number 446 MR. MALLONEE says the only thing that bothers him about that change is it would leave CSED wide open to a number of discussions over long periods of time about what is "...reasonably unable to respond." Number 449 CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks what the current CSED guidelines are regarding that subject. Number 452 MR. MALLONEE replies that at this time, it is a simple matter of responding to a notice within the allowable given time frame for that particular notice. He thinks there needs to be language giving the department indication as to what is reasonable. That type of subjective language makes it very difficult for interpretation. What Mr. Mallonee considers reasonable may not be considered reasonable by another person. He thinks it is going to be time consuming for CSED to figure out what the definition of reasonable might be. He thinks reasons for not responding in a timely manner should be quantified in the bill. Number 461 CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks Mr. Mallonee if there is currently discretion on the part of CSED to waive time requirements for responding to notices if a person has good reason for not responding within the allowable time period. Number 464 MR. MALLONEE responds CSED regularly re-hears cases when a person does not respond in a timely manner. MS. PAGE adds that hearing officers will make adjustments if justice requires it. However, not all cases reach the formal hearing level. MR. MALLONEE points out that all cases have the right and the opportunity for a formal hearing. Number 475 SENATOR TAYLOR comments he is concerned with the language on page 20, line 30, "...precludes further contest of the order...." He thinks that language would preclude any appeals. MS. PAGE agrees, saying if it came to her as an appeals officer, she would have to follow the statute. Ms. Page affirms that is not the case today. SENATOR TAYLOR says that it then is a major change. Number 494 CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks why having this language in SB 302 is necessary. The chairman asks if it is part of UIFSA. Number 495 MR. MALLONEE replies the whole bill came out of the standard UIFSA legislation put out by the Uniform Law Commissioners. He thinks that language is intended to require timely contestation of support orders. Why wasn't the order contested within the time period allowed? SENATOR TAYLOR states he can answer that question. The obligor has to go hire an attorney, he's already behind, CSED is already taking every dime he has, he's trying to support a new family, and he's been out of work for a while. Then CSED says, "Why didn't he assert the support order?" Because the obligor is not given free counsel, though the obligee is given free counsel. Senator Taylor comments he would not have so much problem supporting SB 302 if there was any kind of balance to the process. Dealing with CSED is like dealing with the IRS. Number 520 MS. PAGE points out that the language Senator Taylor is referring to applies to a child support order from another state. This simply gives Alaska the right to enforce an order from another state. Number 529 SENATOR TAYLOR says he understands that, and wants to give an example of why he does not think that is good language. A prosecutor in Oregon decided to zealously prosecute non-paying obligors in child support cases. This prosecutor decided to prosecute those cases which would fall under felony violations. As a district court judge, Senator Taylor says he received a 50,000$ felony warrant on a Wrangell resident. Why? Because this man has not paid support for his five children for seven years. This man happened to live across the street from Senator Taylor, and his five kids had been living with him that whole period of time. This man's ex-wife had been lying to the welfare people. Would this language preclude this man from coming forward to contest the child support claim? MS. PAGE responds that the obligor would always have the opportunity to respond, as long as they act in a timely manner. SENATOR TAYLOR comments that is assuming the obligor gets his mail. Number 546 CHAIRMAN LEMAN suggests to Senator Taylor that he either offer an amendment at this time, or work on the language when it gets to the Judiciary Committee. The chairman makes a motion to delete "...except to the extent that a party is reasonably unable to respond." The chairman asks if there is any objection to that amendment. Hearing none, he notes the language has been deleted. The chairman asks if there is any more discussion on SB 302. Number 559 SENATOR MILLER makes a motion to discharge SB 302 from the Senate State Affairs Committee with individual recommendations. SENATOR TAYLOR objects to that motion, and says he thinks the work should be done in the State Affairs Committee. Number 561 CHAIRMAN LEMAN, hearing the objection, states last time Senator Taylor offered to work on an amendment, he failed to do so. The chairman says he would be happy to discuss an amendment if Senator Taylor cares to offer one. CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks for a show of hands on whether to discharge SB 302 from the State Affairs Committee. The motion carries three to one, and so SB 302 is discharged from the Senate State Affairs Committee.