Bill halts PFDs for ex-cons

Checks would go to crime victims

Posted: Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Criminals would temporarily and in some cases permanently lose their eligibility for permanent fund dividend checks under a bill approved by the Senate on Tuesday. The measure now goes to the House.

PFD checks would instead be used to compensate victims of violent crime.

Those convicted of murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, rape, sexual abuse of a minor or misconduct involving a controlled substance would lose PFD check eligibility forever.

The bill also would make:

• Violent felons ineligible for 20 years.

• Nonviolent felons ineligible for 10 years.

• Those who intentionally damage an oil or gas facility ineligible for 20 years.

• Those convicted of violent misdemeanors ineligible for five years.

• Those convicted of violent or nonviolent crimes but not incarcerated ineligible for two years.

Current law makes criminals ineligible for checks if convicted or incarcerated at any time during the qualifying year. Those sent to prison regain eligibility two years after being released.

The bill, filed by the Senate Finance Committee under co-chairman Sen. Dave Donley, an Anchorage Republican, received no debate on the Senate floor Tuesday.

Donley was unavailable for comment, but a sponsor statement said the measure would help create revenue for the state.

"Since the budget currently uses both general funds and prisoners' permanent fund dividends to fund (victims' compensation) programs, an increase of prisoners' permanent fund dividend funds will help reduce the fiscal gap," the statement said.

No figure for the revenue expected was available.

This method of raising revenue and collecting payments has worked well for other agencies such as the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education. On a fiscal note attached to the bill, ACPE Executive Director Dianne Barrans said her agency collected $10.5 million on various defaulted student loans in 2001.

"Since the first year of garnishment activity, the commission has collected well over $100 million," her statement said, noting that collecting PFD checks is one of the most effective methods of paying default loans.

Barrans said the bill would likely have "some impact of diminished access to the dividend collection," because those affected by the bill could also be in default for student loans.

Sen. Lyman Hoffman, a Bethel Democrat, cast the only dissenting vote against the measure Tuesday. After the floor session, Hoffman said the bill would disproportionately affect the poor.

"The problem is that there is a larger portion of Alaska Natives that are going to be affected by the legislation," Hoffman said. "And I didn't feel that the legislation would be fair under those circumstances."

Hoffman said he might have supported the measure had it not been so "stringent."

"I just think it went a little overboard," he said.

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