Legislature(2017 - 2018)BUTROVICH 205
03/22/2018 03:30 PM STATE AFFAIRS
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|Confirmation Hearing(s): Lieutenant Governor Successor, Board of Fisheries|
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 31-SEX ASSAULT TRAINING & EXAM KITS; DOM VIOL 4:37:09 PM CHAIR MEYER announced the consideration of HB 31. 4:37:33 PM At ease. 4:38:21 PM CHAIR MEYER called the committee back to order. 4:38:42 PM REPRESENTATIVE GERAN TARR, Alaska State Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, sponsor of HB 31, provided an overview as follows: We have been working on the issues related to how we process our sexual assault kits for the last few years, starting in 2014 when I was contacted by a national organization called "End The Backlog," and it was an issue that I was not familiar with but through their organization learned about this effort and basically across the country there are these sexual assault kits that have not been tested, there's a variety of reasons that's been the case in the past, but it's been thousands and thousands of kits and there's become a movement around reforming how we deal with these kits and basically using it as a tool to address serial sexual assaulters and that is what has been found to be very helpful in accomplishing. We started out with a bill related to an audit that was the first piece of information that we needed to try and understand the extent of the problem in Alaska. At the same time the Federal Department of Justice started offering some grants because this issue took on a national impact and so they were offering these grants so then at that time the governor's office applied for one of the grants so there are kind of two things happening at once then, once those grant dollars were received by the state, the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) was formed and we have been working closely with them and trying to unravel where the problems are in Alaska and what we can do to address those issues. There are several different things that we could choose to work on at this time, but we have confined it to a few items right now because these are things that we can make changes to pretty immediately and continue working with the SAKI for more long term changes that we think will result in a much better system that functions well and makes sure it keeps the public safe. 4:40:50 PM REPRESENTATIVE TARR explained the bill's components as follows: This particular bill addresses three components. One is the audit and that piece was thankfully put into Senate Bill 55, so we got the first audit last year but it continues and has that same provision in it so that we can get an annual update of the status of the kits and the progress in Alaska, and that audit I would say was really helpful for us this year because what it did was help us define sort of the universe of untested kits, how many are out there, where are they and kind of get everybody on the same page because now we can actually come up with a plan of how we are going to address the backlog of untested kits. So, the audit provision remains, and I think that's an important way for the state to get updated, the Legislature to get updated on the progress and on an annual basis have a number that we are working off of, so we know progress is being made. We've worked closely with the department on that provision and my understanding is that they feel like that could be easily implemented as an ongoing thing that because we did it through Senate Bill 55: again, thank you to Senator Coghill for that last year, that infrastructure is in place to continue that on an annual basis and at some point that may not be necessary, but I think it's going to be a multi-year effort here for us to continue to working on this and it will keep us getting accurate information. So, one piece is the audit. 4:42:06 PM She continued as follows: A second piece is related to sexual assault training for law enforcement officials. Most folks in Alaska go through either the academy in Anchorage or the trooper academy unless there is someone who perhaps comes in, does a lateral transfer or something, but most of our folks are going to come through those two academies, but right now what the statute says is it requires that 12 hours for training on domestic violence, but it doesn't specify that there is also training required on sexual assault response, even though that is happening in practice. The recommendation to include this actually came in from the folks who are working on this, that way it is clear that it should be both domestic violence and sexual assault, there are ways that those can be the same information because, of course, a domestic violence situation could involve a sexual assault, but there are also instances where that is different and what we want to ensure that we have a good victim-centered approach and so that if someone is assaulted it doesn't matter whether it happened in northern Alaska or southeast Alaska, that there's going to be a strong victim- centered approach and that everybody is going to get the same response and treatment. 4:43:17 PM REPRESENTATIVE TARR continued as follows: The third provision is related to the actual options for a victim to report. About a year ago the Federal Department of Justice released a "white paper" on this very provision and there's a couple of ways to look at this, and this sort of took me a little bit to wrap my head around because when you start working on this and see what some of the results have been in other states, there's a strong motivation to say everything single kit needs to be tested because that individual could be a dangerous criminal and we want to get them off of our streets; however, we have to make sure that we have a victim-centered approach and it isn't always the case that a victim wants to engage in law enforcement and so we really do have to make sure that we have an opportunity for them to have the kit taken or evidence collected because it has to be done in a timely fashion if it's not done in about 72 hours then your evidence collection isn't going to be useful. Unfortunately, you have someone who just experienced a very traumatic situation, that has to go in for an invasive medical procedure to do the examination and collect the evidence and might not be the right time for them to make the decision about where they want to go, do they want to pursue a case with law enforcement or do they want to just make sure they don't have health issues as a result of the assault or STD testing, things like that. Because you have that limited window of time when you can do the collection, having a couple of different options is the best way to make sure that the individual who experienced the assault can choose what works for them. So, what we put in, and you will notice in the original version there were actually three different opportunities for a victim and in working with the department and through the SAKI that has been going on, we've been able to decide that this number-two can come out and as you look at it, what looks like number-three, one and three would be the two that remained, so you would have the option of getting the evidence collected and choosing to engage with law enforcement right at that moment and you would have the second option of an anonymous report and that allows you to choose at a later date whether you want to engage with law enforcement or not, and we are told that often the individual does choose to move forward, but needs a little bit of space from that whole experience to be able to get a support network around them, but able to work with the people who are trained to provide that kind of response, the trauma response, and once they feel more secure, more safe, more stable, that they know that that's something that they can move forward with then make that choice, but you haven't missed that window of opportunity when you can actually collect as evidence that would be usable. So, those are the two options that are allowed for that. 4:46:09 PM REPRESENTATIVE TARR summarized as follows: So, those are the three parts that are in the bill now. Some of the other provisions that people may want to consider in the future are a timeline within which all of the kits have to be tested, that was one thing we considered. Also, from the folks who have been working on this nationally, they are really pushing for a way for a victim to be able to track where their kit is, so that is something that we might consider at a later date. So, there are a couple of those other pieces out there that you may have heard of in the conversation, that's why I wanted to mention them today, but these ones are confined to the items that the department has said they can do at this time without a fiscal impact which is really important to the work we are all trying to accomplish in developing our sustainable fiscal plan, but can be meaningful and I think that is really important. I know that Senator Meyer, and I thank you for your leadership on sexual assault issues and always acknowledging April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, this is something that we try to work together on and so I'm encouraged that there is an option here where we can make meaningful changes that could have a positive impact, but also aware of our fiscal situation right now, don't have a big price tag attached to them. 4:47:20 PM CHAIR MEYER asked if 3,400 kits remain untested. REPRESENTATIVE TARR answered yes. She explained that batches of kits were being sent out to be tested, but there was a backlog in the facilities that do the testing because a lot of states were trying to move forward as well. She conceded that testing will take some time and noted hundreds of thousands of dollars is needed for all the kits to be tested. She said federal grants dollars would be used but noted that an audit would be helpful to assist in the process. She said prosecutions may occur because of the testing. She stated that the process would be ongoing, and her hope was that everyone will work together. 4:49:01 PM CHAIR MEYER thanked Representative Tarr for her leadership in sexual assault exam kits. He continued as follows: Often times we get asked what are our favorite bill that we ever got passed and mine was when we were able to drop the statute of limitations on rape and sexual assault; unfortunately, that was in 2001 or 2002, so anything prior to that we cannot go after. With these kits and with DNA, we are able to go back 10, 15, 20 years or more. SENATOR WILSON asked if the legislation assists current practice and specified as follows: During my time as a director of a DVSA program, we started a program in the Mat-Su and working with the SART team there, we already had these protocols in place in terms of anonymous reporting, I just didn't know if that was part of the statute. Is this just needed to help that, sort of? I'm trying to understand the need for anonymous reporting in statute versus what is currently in practice. I didn't know if there was an issue that's happening out there or not, and that's sort of a DPS type of question, I know that they still funded folks who wanted to have SART kits ran for the anonymous process. I didn't know if that was a new issue that was now coming up or not. 4:50:28 PM REPRESENTATIVE TARR replied as follows: What we hope to accomplish is to have a standard statewide policy. What has been explained to me, and that also relates to why we want to put the 12 hours of training in, is that there's over 200 law enforcement agencies in the State of Alaska, in some cases people are doing things a little bit different from the next and by having that standard policy it will ensure that everybody is getting that opportunity. SENATOR WILSON said his other question related to getting the actual number of untested rape kits. He conceded that his question may be better posed to the Department of Public Safety (DPS). He said his last question addressed the audit language in Senate Bill 55 and asked if the audit would be only for one year or for an annual audit. REPRESENTATIVE TARR replied yes and noted that committee members were provided with a report given to the Legislature on November 1, 2017 regarding the single-year audit. She continued as follows: This is where it states that there are 3,484 sexual assault kits inventoried; 3,219 were in the possession of the 7 largest agencies and that is the number we are working off of right now. The SAKI grant allows a portion of the grant money to be used to test kits and under these grants 571 sexual assault kits were identified as eligible for testing and those are the ones that are going to be sent outside to the contractor. 4:53:03 PM CHAIR MEYER opened invited testimony. SENATOR WILSON asked Mr. Dym from DPS to specify the number of sexual assault kits that remain untested. 4:53:39 PM ORIN DYM, Forensic Laboratory Manager, Alaska Department Public Safety, Anchorage, Alaska, answered questions relating to HB 31 as follows: We did provide the number in our report and what I can say is we have sent 300 kits so far to the contract vendor for analysis, we have not received any of those kits back yet, so they are not yet completed. We have another 132 kits staged, ready to go. Our vendor did request that we delay sending those because they ran out of space to put the kits. We have 432 kits scheduled to go to the vendor. We will be waiting to see whether or not we run out of money with those kits as to whether or not we can continue to send kits. SENATOR WILSON asked how testing for sexual assault kits is prioritized. 4:55:17 PM RANDI BREAGER, Criminal Justice Planner, Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory, Alaska Department of Public Safety, Anchorage, Alaska, answered questions relating to HB 31 as follows: We established a triage protocol to identify how we were going to send kits and in what order knowing that we might possibly run out of funds before we can test all 571 eligible kits. We prioritized first based on cases that have an unknown suspect or a stranger assault, essentially. Our next priorities where all sexual abuse of minor cases. The next step was any suspect that had more than ten incidences in their criminal history and that goes beyond sexual assault, so they could have a number of different other crimes attributed to them. Our next one was known suspects but not in [Combined DNA Index System (CODIS)] yet, and then our final category is a mix of the remaining kits. SENATOR WILSON pointed out that only 571 sexual assault kits were eligible and inquired what occurred with the remaining kits and would the state have to test the remaining kits. MS. BREAGER replied as follows: No, that's a great clarification point. So, the 571 kits are actually only Department of Public Safety- Alaska State Trooper kits. What we did with this grant was we applied first isolating Alaska State Trooper cases because they are within the jurisdictional control of the Department of Public Safety and we are utilizing it as sort of a pilot project if you will because it is taking an immense amount of resources for personnel and time to organize this project and we knew the smaller departments would not have the resources to dedicate to that level of a project. So, we are hoping by us going through this process that we will be able to provide policy recommendations, best practices, templates, etcetera, for all of the smaller departments to copy and implement, they could choose to apply for grant funds on their own or we can continue to have conversations about what it might look like for the state to help with that. CHAIR MEYER asked Ms. Breager if she had anything to add. MS. BREAGER replied that Representative Tarr did an excellent job explained the bill step-by-step and she did not have anything else to add. She noted that Representative Tarr worked closely with the Department of Public Safety throughout the process and she did a great job summarizing the feedback from multiple agencies. 4:58:19 PM CHAIR MEYER opened public testimony. 4:58:56 PM KEELEY OLSON, Standing Together Against Rape (STAR) and Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (ANDVSA), Anchorage, Alaska, testified in support of HB 31. She disclosed that there were 413 sexual assault kits submitted in 2017 and approximately 235 occurred in Anchorage. 5:00:31 PM NANCY PORTO, representing self, Kirkland, Washington, testified in support of HB 31. She disclosed that she grew up in Alaska and noted that she testified at a committee meeting in 2016 regarding her sexual assault that occurred in 2013. She revealed that she consented to a full rape kit examination, but the kit has not been fully processed and results have not been received from the biological evidence portion of her exam. She provided committee members details of her sexual assault and examination results. She disclosed that she continues to inquire about her examination but eventually leaves messages and no callbacks occur. She asked the committee to support the bill to provide closure for herself and others. 5:03:12 PM CASSANDRE HUMPHREY, representing self, Burbank, California, testified in support of HB 31. She disclosed that she is the sister of Nancy Porto and supports the need for action regarding sexual assault kit processing. She disclosed personal information on family members and friends who have been sexually assaulted in Alaska, noting that none have received justice. She asserted that Alaska's system on sexual assault has failed her sister and emphasized that victims need to know that their crimes will get a real response from the justice system and hopefully in turn, sexual crimes will eventually decrease in Alaska. 5:07:04 PM JANIS JOHNSON, representing self, Valdez, Alaska, testified in support of HB 31. She asserted that the sexual assault kit backlog compromises prosecution and allows perpetrators to continue at large and repeat their assaults and reoffend. She said not processing sexual assault examination kits was devasting to victims and the backlog needs to be addressed. She asserted that law enforcement agencies need to be accountable for the kits that have not been processed so that the justice department can prosecute. 5:08:50 PM BESSIE ODAM, representing self, Anchorage, Alaska, testified in support of HB 31. She said victims of sexual assault deserve justice and they deserve the protection of the law. She asserted that proper procedures must be taken to ensure that victims of sexual violence are able to get the closure they need and deserve. 5:09:45 PM SALLY PORTO, representing self, Anchorage, Alaska, testified in support of HB 31. She disclosed that her two daughters spoke earlier. She emphasized that no action has been taken over the past five years by state authorities to resolve her daughter's sexual assault. 5:12:48 PM JANE ANDREEN, representing self and the Alaska Women's Lobby, Juneau, Alaska, testified in support of HB 31. She provided the committee with her background in sexual assault training. She revealed that she was sexually assaulted in Minnesota in the 1970s and detailed her rape examination and police interview. She disclosed that she has never received any word on whether an arrest was made or what the results of her examination were. She explained that her sexual assault incident led her to move to Alaska and to work in the areas of domestic violence and sexual assault. She detailed her history in Alaska regarding domestic violence and sexual assault as follows: While in Homer as the director of South Peninsula Women's Services, we worked with South Peninsula Hospital to bring the first SART training to Alaska, and then when I took over as the director of the State Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in 1994, I was able to play a role in helping to expand that team approach across the state. I've dedicated a lot of my life to this issue and wanting to make it be much more victim centered and much more empowering as well as to be an affective tool in making arrests and holding offenders accountable. After I retired from the state about 18 months ago, I was working with one of the local programs on contract doing a needs assessment and as part of that I looked into the statewide data that we have and I just wanted to share for 2015, our Alaska victimization survey that is conducted by the University of Alaska Justice Center reported that 7662 adult Alaska women were raped in 2015, at that same time we look at the uniform crime report which is the reports that were made to law enforcement, there were 895 confirmed reports. So, you go from 7662 down to 895, and of those 895, only 130 arrests were actually made; this is a crime that represents between 10-20 percent of our violent crimes that are reported in Alaska every year, and yet we have the lowest conviction rate, we need this tool. I often wonder, because rapists are repeat offenders more often than not, how many other women were affected by that man who attacked me and what we could do if we could get this backlog cleared off. I really want to commend Representative Tarr for the work that she is doing and dedication, and also for the work that I know you have done individually and as a legislature, but for these reasons I think it is really important to support this bill and move these kits forward. 5:16:37 PM ALYSON CURREY, Legislative Liaison, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, Juneau, Alaska, testified in support of HB 31. She expressed her appreciation for Representative Tarr's leadership on the issue. She thanked those that testified and shared their personal stories. She asserted that the bill would clearly have a direct and positive impact for victims of sexual assault in Alaska who are waiting for closure and justice. 5:17:55 PM CHAIR MEYER closed public testimony. 5:18:15 PM SENATOR GIESSEL moved to adopt Amendment 1, version 30- LS0271\O.2. AMENDMENT 1 OFFERED IN THE SENATE TO: CSHB 31(FIN) Page 3, line 3: Delete "three" Page 3, line 8, following "system;": Insert "or" Page 3, lines 9 - 15: Delete all material. Renumber the following paragraph accordingly. Page 3, line 28, through page 4, line 25: Delete all material and insert: "* Sec. 6. AS 44.41 is amended by adding a new section to read: Sec. 44.41.070. Report on untested sexual assault examination kits. (a) By September 1 of each year, each law enforcement agency and state department charged with the maintenance, storage, and preservation of sexual assault examination kits shall conduct an inventory of untested sexual assault examination kits and report, in writing, to the Department of Public Safety the number of untested sexual assault examination kits in the possession of the agency or department and the date on which each sexual assault examination kit was collected. (b) By November 1 of each year, the Department of Public Safety shall prepare and transmit a report to the president of the senate and the speaker of the house of representatives that contains (1) the number of untested sexual assault examination kits stored by each law enforcement agency or department; (2) the date each untested sexual assault examination kit was collected; and (3) a plan for addressing the backlog and prevention of a backlog of untested sexual assault examination kits. (c) The Department of Public Safety shall deliver a copy of the report prepared under (b) of this section to the senate secretary and the chief clerk of the house of representatives and notify the legislature that the report is available. (d) In this section, "untested sexual assault examination kit" means a sexual assault examination kit with evidence that (1) has been collected but that has not been submitted to a laboratory operated or approved by the Department of Public Safety for either a serological or DNA test; or (2) has been collected and submitted to a laboratory operated or approved by the Department of Public Safety but that has not had a serological or DNA test conducted on the evidence. * Sec. 7. This Act takes effect July 1, 2018." CHAIR MEYER objected for discussion purposes. 5:18:33 PM DIANA RHOADES, Staff, Representative Tarr, Alaska State Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, explained Amendment 1 for HB 31 as follows: Earlier this year, Representative Tarr met with victim advocates and the Department of Public Safety to talk about as we mentioned the three reporting options and the need to remove the middle reporting option, we call it the "medical option." What this bill would do was on page, "delete 'three,'" so it is basically removing the middle option, the "medical option," and then it actually updates the information about the "reporting option" so that the original language had the one-time audit and this would make it be an annual audit, and then it just changes the dates in the bill, the bill says 2017 and it updates those dates. CHAIR MEYER asked if the bill has a zero fiscal note. MS. RHOADES answered yes. CHAIR MEYER asked if the amendment would change the fiscal note. MS. RHOADES answered no. 5:20:01 PM CHAIR MEYER removed his objection to Amendment 1. He announced that without objection, Amendment 1 was adopted. SENATOR WILSON noted that legislators can just ask for a report and questioned the need for statutorial reporting. MS. RHOADES answered as follows: It's just to make it clear that we have that reporting requirement so that it was one of the recommendations from across the country that it is very clear that there is this reporting requirement instate and it's by November 1 of each that the information should be collected and reported. 5:21:53 PM SENATOR GIESSEL moved to report SCS CSHB 31(STA), version 30- LS0271\O as amended, from committee with individual recommendations and attached zero fiscal note. 5:22:07 PM CHAIR MEYER announced that there being no objection, the motion carried.