Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/08/2003 03:40 PM Senate STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
         SB 158-MOVE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE COUNCIL TO DHSS                                                                      
PAULETTE SCHUERCH, legislative intern to Senator Ben Stevens,                                                                   
read from the sponsor statement:                                                                                                
     SB 158 would transfer  the Council on Domestic Violence                                                                    
     and  Sexual  Assault  (Council) to  the  Department  of                                                                    
     Health  and  Social  Services  (DHSS).  Alaska  Statute                                                                    
     18.66 established  the Council under the  Department of                                                                    
     Public  Safety (DPS)  in 1981.  This statute  gives the                                                                    
     Council the  authority "...to provide for  planning and                                                                    
     coordination  of   services  to  victims   of  domestic                                                                    
     violence or sexual assault or  to their families and to                                                                    
     perpetrators  of domestic  violence and  sexual assault                                                                    
     and to  provide for crisis intervention  and prevention                                                                    
     programs."   This   coordination   includes   providing                                                                    
     emergency safe  housing, counseling, education/outreach                                                                    
     services, and technical assistance  to programs such as                                                                    
     Advocates for  Victims of Violence, Abused  Women's Aid                                                                    
     in  Crisis,  Arctic  Women in  Crisis,  Alaska  Women's                                                                    
     Resource  Center,  South  Peninsula  Women's  Services,                                                                    
     Standing  Together  Against  Rape and  Sitkans  Against                                                                    
     Family Violence to name a few.                                                                                             
     The  mission of  DHSS is  to "promote  and protect  the                                                                    
     health and  well-being of Alaskans." DHSS  has in place                                                                    
     established   programs  and   services  that   will  be                                                                    
     beneficial  to the  Council on  Domestic Violence  that                                                                    
        · Division of Administrative Services that deals                                                                        
          with federal granting agencies                                                                                        
        · Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse to assist                                                                       
          in developing prevention and education                                                                                
        · Division of Family and Youth Services that have                                                                       
          29 field offices for child protective services in                                                                     
     SB  158  would  create a  closer  working  relationship                                                                    
     between  the  Council  and  DHSS   as  required  in  AS                                                                    
     18.66.050  (12)   &  (14)  for   developing  standards,                                                                    
     procedures   and  continuing   education  on   domestic                                                                    
     violence.  A  2002  sunset audit  review  performed  by                                                                    
     Legislative Budget  and Audit showed that  this had not                                                                    
     yet  been  accomplished.  Adoption of  this  bill  will                                                                    
     provide   adequate    resources   to    enhance   their                                                                    
     capabilities  and  become   a  more  efficient  Council                                                                    
     program under DHSS.                                                                                                        
SENATOR JOHN COWDERY said this appears  to make sense, but at the                                                               
same  time  it makes  sense  to  leave  the Council  on  Domestic                                                               
Violence and Sexual Assault with  the Department of Public Safety                                                               
(DPS). It's a question of which makes most sense.                                                                               
KRISTY TIBBLES,  legislative assistant  for Senator  Ben Stevens,                                                               
said   because   there   is    reorganization   under   the   new                                                               
Administration and  specifically because the Council  for Victims                                                               
Justice,  the Victims  Crime Compensation  Board and  the Violent                                                               
Crimes  Compensation  Board are  moving  from  DPS to  DHSS,  the                                                               
sponsor  feels  it is  appropriate  to  transfer the  Council  on                                                               
Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault at this time as well.                                                                      
SENATOR COWDERY  asked whether there  was any  economic incentive                                                               
for the move.                                                                                                                   
MS. TIBBLES replied a potential  benefit would be that since DHSS                                                               
has more  federal grant  writers than DPS,  they might  be better                                                               
able to assist the Council in this area.                                                                                        
SENATOR COWDERY asked if this would  be a positive impact for the                                                               
MS. TIBBLES said she believed so.                                                                                               
SENATOR COWDERY asked how many people would be affected.                                                                        
MS. TIBBLES wasn't sure.                                                                                                        
CHAIR GARY STEVENS  questioned whether the move would  in any way                                                               
lessen the role played by DPS in cases involving violence.                                                                      
MS.  TIBBLES  replied  a  DPS  representative  was  available  to                                                               
respond  then said,  "We certainly  hope it  does not  lessen the                                                               
role at all. We've come a  long way to take those domestic crimes                                                               
SENATOR GRETCHEN GUESS declared a  conflict because she is a STAR                                                               
(Standing  Together Against  Rape) board  member. She  questioned                                                               
the proposed move because there  would be no monetary impact. The                                                               
argument  that  DHSS  has more  grant  writers  isn't  defensible                                                               
because  that  department  has many  divisions  and  writes  more                                                               
federal  grants.   She  inquired   whether  the  sponsor   had  a                                                               
commitment that  DHSS would dedicate  a grant writer  to domestic                                                               
violence  and sexual  assault issues  because  she couldn't  find                                                               
anything  in writing  that indicated  there would  be more  money                                                               
dedicated to these issues.                                                                                                      
MS. TIBBLES acknowledged there was  no such commitment then noted                                                               
the  2002 legislative  audit recommended  the  Council work  more                                                               
closely with DHSS.                                                                                                              
SENATOR  GUESS   advised  that   recommendation  was   made  with                                                               
reference to specific issues that have been resolved.                                                                           
Her  second question  dealt  with the  reference  to the  statute                                                               
regarding  standards  with  DHSS,   but  it's  actually  domestic                                                               
violence standards.  She noted  the sponsor  statement repeatedly                                                               
made  reference to  domestic violence,  but those  in the  sexual                                                               
assault  advocacy community  understand sexual  assault is  not a                                                               
domestic crime. She questioned the  reasoning for moving criminal                                                               
issues  to  DHSS and  asked  whether  she  was correct  that  the                                                               
statute was just on domestic violence.                                                                                          
MS. TIBBLES wasn't sure.                                                                                                        
SENATOR GUESS  said she was quite  certain that was the  case and                                                               
Ms. Tibbles might want to check that.                                                                                           
She made reference  to a letter from the  Governor that requested                                                               
that the  Council stay at  DPS and  asked whether he  had changed                                                               
his position.                                                                                                                   
MS.  TIBBLES replied  the Governor  originally considered  moving                                                               
the  Council  to  DHSS  then  chose  not to  do  so.  It  is  her                                                               
understanding that  the Administration has now  assumed a neutral                                                               
SENATOR  GUESS asked  why domestic  violence  grants wouldn't  be                                                               
transferred   between   departments  by   reimbursable   services                                                               
agreement  (RSA)  as  is  now the  case.  Currently  the  Council                                                               
receives RSA money  from the federal health  education and social                                                               
services  as well  as  the Department  of  Justice. She  couldn't                                                               
understand why that  wasn't a viable alternative if  DHSS does in                                                               
fact have more comprehensive grant writing capabilities.                                                                        
MS. TIBBLES acknowledged that could be an alternative.                                                                          
CHAIR  GARY  STEVENS  asked  the   Department  of  Public  Safety                                                               
representative to come forward.                                                                                                 
JUANITA HENSLEY,  special assistant  to the commissioner  of DPS,                                                               
advised the  department is neutral  on the bill.  Arguments could                                                               
be made for  either maintaining the status quo or  for moving the                                                               
Council  to DHSS;  the  decision  is up  to  the Legislature.  In                                                               
either case,  DPS Commissioner Tandeske  is committed  to support                                                               
any domestic  violence and  sexual assault  cases. Of  course she                                                               
couldn't  predict whether  subsequent commissioners  would be  as                                                               
SENATOR  FRED DYSON  stated the  staff and  volunteers from  STAR                                                               
deal directly  with the  police at crime  scenes by  assisting in                                                               
gathering  evidence  and  in  accompanying   the  victim  to  the                                                               
hospital to  arrange for services.  This is the point  where most                                                               
interaction with state agencies occurs.                                                                                         
SENATOR GUESS said the Senator brought  up a good point and there                                                               
is a broader policy issue  here. Because the relationship between                                                               
public safety  officers and  victims and  people who  support the                                                               
victims is the  most important relationship there  is in victim's                                                               
services, she questioned why a  move to DHSS would be considered.                                                               
Although   she   is   impressed  with   Commissioner   Tandeske's                                                               
commitment  to domestic  violence and  sexual assault,  decisions                                                               
should be  made that plan  beyond the tenure of  one commissioner                                                               
or this Administration. Why risk this established relationship?                                                                 
MS. HENSLEY replied  the Council on Domestic  Violence and Sexual                                                               
Assault oversees the policies on  domestic violence in the state.                                                               
It is a granting agency  that grants monies to victim's programs.                                                               
That won't change; advocacy work  doesn't come from public safety                                                               
other  than when  the  police  officer takes  the  victim to  the                                                               
SENATOR GUESS agreed then pointed  out the role the Council plays                                                               
in  facilitating  different  groups  was  being  overlooked.  The                                                               
Council  has worked  hard  to establish  and  maintain a  working                                                               
rapport with  the department  and housing  the Council  there has                                                               
facilitated that.                                                                                                               
Again she  asked whether the  Governor had changed his  mind with                                                               
regard to where the Council should reside.                                                                                      
MS. HENSLEY replied  the Administration is neutral  at this time;                                                               
it's a legislative decision. She  didn't believe the commissioner                                                               
had spoken directly to the Governor on this issue.                                                                              
SENATOR GUESS  suggested it was  important that someone  from the                                                               
Administration testify on  the bill before it was  moved from the                                                               
committee  because   it's  important   to  know   the  Governor's                                                               
There were no further questions for Ms. Hensley.                                                                                
CHAIR  GARY  STEVENS  asked  the   DHSS  representative  to  come                                                               
KARLENE  JACKSON,  Deputy  Commissioner  for  the  Department  of                                                               
Health  and   Social  Services,  testified  they   are  similarly                                                               
ambivalent  regarding  the move.  Good  arguments  could be  made                                                               
either way.  At this  time DHSS  has a seat  on the  Council. The                                                               
department  is in  the midst  of a  reorganization that  involves                                                               
five different  components from the Department  of Administration                                                               
(DOA)  and  the Department  of  Education  and Early  Development                                                               
(DEED) so they  aren't looking for new work.  However, they would                                                               
welcome the Council  if the Legislature should  make the decision                                                               
to move  it to DHSS.  Although she's  a newcomer, she  finds they                                                               
have  a  good working  relationship  with  DPS and  wherever  the                                                               
Council is placed, they will make the situation work.                                                                           
SENATOR  COWDERY  asked  whether   any  safety  issues  would  be                                                               
jeopardized if the Council were to move to DHSS.                                                                                
MS.  JACKSON replied  she isn't  the  best person  to answer  the                                                               
question. Although  the current working relationship  between DPS                                                               
and DHSS  is very good, that  could change, which could  become a                                                               
safety issue.  Other than that,  many divisions within  DHSS work                                                               
with DPS issues.                                                                                                                
There were no further questions asked of Ms. Jackson.                                                                           
CHAIR  GARY STEVENS  noted there  were  a number  of people  that                                                               
wanted to testify.                                                                                                              
MARCIA  McKENZIE  advised  she  wrote to  each  committee  member                                                               
stating  her deep  concerns regarding  the proposed  move. It  is                                                               
well established  that domestic  violence and sexual  assault are                                                               
major crimes  that can be  life threatening. Among  other things,                                                               
shelters  help   victims  do   safety  planning   which  includes                                                               
coordinating  access  to  law enforcement  when  needed.  Because                                                               
restraining  orders aren't  always  as effective  as expected  or                                                               
hoped, close ties to law  enforcement are all the more important.                                                               
Over the course of  the 15 years she was in  the field, there was                                                               
a  marked  and  welcome  change  in  attitude.  She  assumes  the                                                               
committee  members  are concerned  about  the  victims and  their                                                               
safety and asked them to  look beyond the Administration and seek                                                               
the views of the victims groups.  She asked the committee to look                                                               
at the granting  process to see whether  DHSS could realistically                                                               
receive more federal  grants. Her experience causes  her to doubt                                                               
that; the  Council seems  to get  all the  federal money  that is                                                               
CAREN  ROBINSON, Alaska  Women's Lobby  representative, testified                                                               
she has  a very personal stake  in this legislation. In  1981 she                                                               
was one  of the legislators  who worked with victims  and victims                                                               
programs for  a year to  craft good legislation. They  started in                                                               
the DHSS  commissioner's office and  through a  long deliberative                                                               
process they set  up the Council on Domestic  Violence and Sexual                                                               
Assault. One of  the final decisions was to house  the Council in                                                               
the  Department of  Public  Safety,  which is  "one  of the  best                                                               
things  that's  ever  happened  to  changing  the  attitudes  and                                                               
setting the direction  this state has gone." Not  only did Alaska                                                               
set   a  model   for  the   rest  of   the  nation,   the  Reagan                                                               
Administration  honored them  for having  the foresight  to place                                                               
the Council in the Department of Public Safety.                                                                                 
In  1994 the  Attorney General's  Task Force  on Family  Violence                                                               
recommended the following for the justice system:                                                                               
     Family violence  should be recognized and  responded to                                                                    
     as  a  criminal  activity.  Law  enforcement  officers,                                                                    
     prosecutors,  and judges  should develop  a coordinated                                                                    
     response  to  family  violence and  communities  should                                                                    
     develop  a  multi  disciplinary  team  to  investigate,                                                                    
     process  and treat  all  instances  of family  violence                                                                    
     especially  cases  of  physical  and  sexual  abuse  of                                                                    
In Alaska  people were  made aware that  the top  law enforcement                                                               
officer  was  committed to  work  to  end domestic  violence  and                                                               
sexual assault.                                                                                                                 
LORI HUGINAN  from the  Alaska Network  on Domestic  Violence and                                                               
Sexual Assault  (Network) explained the Network  is the coalition                                                               
of  the  community-based  programs   that  are  primarily  funded                                                               
through  the Council.  She echoed  Ms.  Robinson's testimony  and                                                               
asked members to table the bill.                                                                                                
She  advised  she  wanted  to talk  about  the  funding  sources.                                                               
Although  they appreciate  Senator Ben  Steven's efforts  to find                                                               
more federal  dollars for  the Council,  and they  agree programs                                                               
are  under funded  and that  there are  areas of  the state  that                                                               
don't offer programs,  it's not been their  experience that there                                                               
are not more federal dollars  available for the programs than the                                                               
Council  is already  receiving. The  Council receives  money from                                                               
the Family Violence  Prevention and Services Act,  the Victims of                                                               
Crime Act,  Rape Prevention and  Sexual Assault  Prevention block                                                               
grant, and  the Center for  Disease Control. They  were receiving                                                               
money for temporary assistance for  needy families but that money                                                               
won't  be  available  in  FY04. There  are  also  some  statewide                                                               
initiatives  the  Council funds  then  RSAs  the money  to  other                                                               
departments for intervention and prevention services.                                                                           
A highlighted  initiative is the  Services Training  Officers and                                                               
Prosecution (STOP)  program. Since its 1996  inception, they have                                                               
RSAd  over $1.1  million to  DPS, $1.1  to DOL,  $290,000 to  the                                                               
court  system, and  over $1.8  million to  victim's services  and                                                               
other    discretionary   projects.    During   this    time   the                                                               
administrative costs have been kept  to about five percent of the                                                               
distributed  amount. They  have  encountered  no difficulties  in                                                               
being  able to  accept  federal dollars  whether  the money  came                                                               
through DHSS or  the Department of Justice.  Similarly, they have                                                               
not exhibited  problems in being  able to accept RSAs  from other                                                               
state departments or RSAing to other state departments.                                                                         
Housing the Council in DPS has  not been a hindrance to acquiring                                                               
federal dollars and she asked  for support in keeping the Council                                                               
in DPS.                                                                                                                         
DEB KNAFF  from Sitka read  a statement from Grace  Brooks urging                                                               
the  committee  to keep  the  Council  on Domestic  Violence  and                                                               
Sexual Assault  housed in the  Department of Public  Safety. Both                                                               
domestic  violence  and  sexual  assault are  crimes  that  would                                                               
receive more  public awareness  under DPS  than DHSS.  Moving the                                                               
Council  would set  the  state  back 20  years  to when  domestic                                                               
violence  was considered  and responded  to as  a private  family                                                               
matter.  Domestic violence  is a  crime against  a victim  but it                                                               
also diminishes  a community and  deserves a  community response.                                                               
Similarly, sexual  assaults are nearly always  felony crimes that                                                               
don't fit with a social services treatment program.                                                                             
CAROL  GOODEN-RICE  from  Valdez  testified  against  moving  the                                                               
Council  from DPS  to  DHSS. Both  domestic  violence and  sexual                                                               
assault are crimes  that involve power and control  and thrive in                                                               
isolation.  She couldn't  understand how  DHSS would  be able  to                                                               
advocate for both  victims and perpetrators of  these crimes. She                                                               
raised that question because it  is not uncommon for perpetrators                                                               
to have  interactions with DHSS  and the Division of  Alcohol and                                                               
Drug Abuse. These crimes are not a private family matter.                                                                       
ANNA  FAIRCLOUGH,   Executive  Director   of  STAR,   echoed  the                                                               
sentiments of  those who spoke  previously regarding the  need to                                                               
keep the Council  on Domestic Violence and  Sexual Assault housed                                                               
in  the Department  of Public  Safety.  She asked  the record  to                                                               
reflect that the  Governor's letter had not been  refuted and she                                                               
didn't believe  he was  neutral on  the issue.  She had  a letter                                                               
that made it clear he wanted the Council to remain in DPS.                                                                      
She  appreciated Senator  Dyson acknowledging  that STAR  went to                                                               
Alaska Regional Hospital  255 times last year  when the Anchorage                                                               
Police Department called  them. They went to the  crime scene and                                                               
were in  the room supporting  the victim while  forensic evidence                                                               
was collected.  Last year they  responded to children  355 times,                                                               
but if family  calls for help were included the  total would rise                                                               
to about 1,200.                                                                                                                 
They are  a part of the  multi-disciplinary team that is  part of                                                               
the goal  for response in  the State  of Alaska. The  Council has                                                               
been housed in DPS  for 22 years and to move it  to DHSS would be                                                               
a step  backward. Both  are crimes  and rape  is a  felony crime,                                                               
which is a public safety issue.                                                                                                 
SENATOR  DYSON  asked  why  STAR didn't  also  go  to  Providence                                                               
MS. FAIRCLOUGH  replied the Anchorage Police  Department sent out                                                               
an  RFP  and  has  a three-year  contract  with  Alaska  Regional                                                               
Hospital to provide services.                                                                                                   
MICHELLE DeWITT,  Executive Director of Tundra  Women's Coalition                                                               
in  Bethel, testified  in  opposition to  SB  158. The  Coalition                                                               
provides shelter  and outreach to  victims of  domestic violence,                                                               
sexual assault, and child sexual  abuse. She assured everyone the                                                               
Department  of Public  Safety  is the  best  place to  coordinate                                                               
services  to crime  victims.  These  are crimes  and  need to  be                                                               
responded to as such.                                                                                                           
As an administrator  and counselor she finds  housing the Council                                                               
in  DPS  facilitates  and strengthens  relationships.  It's  also                                                               
important for victims to have  voices in public safety and having                                                               
the Council there provides a direct link.                                                                                       
She works with program grants on  a daily basis and has been well                                                               
pleased with the Council's grant  writing and administration. The                                                               
Council  is an  excellent resource  and  it is  excellent in  the                                                               
public safety infrastructure.                                                                                                   
ELENA ALUSKAK,  a children's advocate  from Bethel,  testified in                                                               
opposition to  SB 158.  She is pleased  with the  current funding                                                               
arrangements.  Keeping  the  Council  in DPS  helps  support  the                                                               
knowledge that  domestic violence  and sexual assault  are crimes                                                               
and need to be treated as crimes.                                                                                               
BRENDA  STANFILL,  Executive  Director for  the  Interior  Alaska                                                               
Center  for Nonviolent  Living in  Fairbanks echoed  the previous                                                               
testimony. Sexual  assault is  a felony  crime and  those victims                                                               
need  support  from  advocates  and  law  enforcement  that  work                                                               
together  while  they go  through  the  difficult forensic  exam.                                                               
There  was a  time  when law  enforcement  and domestic  violence                                                               
advocates didn't  work well together,  but having the  Council in                                                               
DPS  has helped  built  a positive  relationship. It's  important                                                               
that the  Council is seen  as part of the  "safe team" and  if it                                                               
were moved to  DHSS they would become separate. "This  has got to                                                               
be a team  issue. It's something as a community  we have to stand                                                               
up  and say  this is  not okay  and  as a  team we  are going  to                                                               
address this  to make this stop.  I urge you to  keep the Council                                                               
on  Domestic Violence  and Sexual  Assault in  the Department  of                                                               
Public Safety."                                                                                                                 
KIMBERLEE  VANDERHOOF  from  Fairbanks related  the  story  about                                                               
Dorothy Hobson who  was murdered by her husband  in February 2001                                                               
in  front  of  her  children.  She  told  several  more  domestic                                                               
violence  stories in  which women  were ultimately  murdered. She                                                               
reported,  "In 1991  81 percent  of women  presenting to  hostels                                                               
nationwide for  suicide attempts  were battered  women." Domestic                                                               
violence  is not  a human  services issue;  it's a  public safety                                                               
issue. As  a legal  advocate for  the Fairbanks  women's shelter,                                                               
she has  worked with  thousands of  domestic violence  and sexual                                                               
assault victims. Part  of her job was  to establish relationships                                                               
with  law enforcement  officers so  she could  refer victims  and                                                               
encourage a trust between victims  and law enforcement. While she                                                               
maintained a good relationship with  human service providers, she                                                               
relied on law enforcement to focus on victim safety.                                                                            
It's important to  keep the Council in DPS.  When law enforcement                                                               
officers are most at risk  responding to domestic violence calls;                                                               
when work place violence is a  concern of Alaskan employers as it                                                               
impacts local economies; when in  1995 80 percent of homicides in                                                               
Alaska were domestic violence related  and when 25 percent of the                                                               
1996 domestic  violence deaths were  of children  this absolutely                                                               
demonstrates that domestic  violence is a safety issue.  "It is a                                                               
well educated,  responsible government which supports  victims by                                                               
acknowledging  that  domestic  violence and  sexual  assault  are                                                               
brutal crimes.  Maintaining the Council within  the Department of                                                               
Public Safety is responsible government."                                                                                       
There was no further testimony.                                                                                                 
CHAIR GARY  STEVENS expressed appreciation  for all  the comments                                                               
and testimony. He announced SB 158 would be held in committee.                                                                  

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