Legislature(2015 - 2016)HOUSE FINANCE 519
03/24/2016 09:30 AM House FINANCE
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HOUSE BILL NO. 77 "An Act relating to training regarding disabilities for police officers, probation officers, parole officers, correctional officers, and village public safety officers; relating to guidelines for drivers when encountering or being stopped by a peace officer; relating to driver's license examinations; and relating to a voluntary disability designation on a state identification card and a driver's license." Ms. Pierson read a portion of the Sponsor Statement: The goal of HB77 is to improve communications between law enforcement and corrections professionals who interact with people who have non-apparent disabilities, whether these disabled individuals encounter the "systems" as victims, witnesses, or alleged perpetrators. Ms. Pierson reported that the bill had three parts; a training component, a voluntary option to have an identifying mark on a driver's license denoting the driver had a disability, and an added section in the driver's manual in which questions could appear on the written driver's test. Co-Chair Thompson OPENED public testimony 10:17:13 AM RICK WEBB, WALLBUSTERS, FAIRBANKS (via teleconference), supported the bill. He believed education was very important. The bill would help to change preconceived ideas. He noted that the bill would not equate to a "Get- out-of-jail-free" card. He provided a personal story about his friend in a wheelchair who had been arrested for drunk driving. He emphasized that the legislation was about equal treatment not special treatment. He thanked the committee for its time. 10:20:05 AM JUANITA WEBB, WALLBUSTERS, FAIRBANKS (via teleconference), supported the legislation and understood the importance of the bill. She opined that the bill was about educating people. She thanked the bill sponsor for bringing the legislation forward and urged committee members to pass the bill along. Co-Chair Thompson CLOSED public testimony. 10:21:44 AM Representative Wilson supported the bill. She expressed concerns about having identification without having any backup about the type of disability. She wondered if it would be an issue to only see that a disability existed rather than specifying the disability type. Co-Chair Thompson commented that the intention of the bill was not to highlight a person's disabilities but to begin a conversation between an officer and the person who was stopped. 10:22:30 AM CHAD GOEDEN, ALASKA STATE TROOPERS, SITKA (via teleconference), understood concerns around the balance of privacy and an officer having enough information to make the best decisions. Since it was a voluntary option he suggested the inclusion of a provision that enabled people to determine how much information they wanted to make available. Information could be added to the dispatch system rather than on a license so that the information could be provided to an officer upon calling into dispatch Representative Wilson stated that it had been brought to her attention that even with a designation there had been issues with people getting nervous and having difficulty in providing information. She was wondering if the objective of the legislation could be accomplished through changing regulation since it was voluntary. She added that even with a simple designation more information could smooth over a situation. Representative Gara thought it would be best to make it clear that the person had some sort of disability rather than specifically designating a disability. It was an alert to officers that there was an issue and to further investigate. He liked the way the bill was currently written and thought it struck a better balance. 10:25:39 AM Vice-Chair Saddler was co-sponsoring the bill. He expressed concerns about placing too much responsibility on the police to have a positive outcome between the disabled person and law enforcement. He encouraged disabled people to help police knew of the person's situation. He thought meeting with police officers and school resource officers. He also suggested the use of identification bracelets. He recommended that parents review appropriate responses when interacting with police officers such as complying, being respectful, and answering questions. He opined that a person could not legislate common sense. Vice-Chair Saddler continued that the responsibility for a positive outcome between anyone and police officers was a shared responsibility. He believed that the legislation offered police officers additional information and was a good step that he would support. Representative Gattis asked Officer Goeden to walk her through what would be included in training if the bill were to pass. Office Goeden asked whether she meant what the troopers would do for training or what an officer would do if they came in contact with a person with the proposed mark on their license. Representative Gattis supposed she meant both but most importantly wondered what a law enforcement officer would do when stopping someone with a disability. She thought that an officer would have to be trained. Officer Goeden suggested that when troopers made a traffic stop they positioned their car so that there was a safe lane of travel to get up to the vehicle. The law enforcement vehicle would have overhead flashing lights front and rear. Officers would try to be aware of several things simultaneously such as oncoming traffic, movements in the car, number of people in the car being pulled over, and what the passengers were doing. The troopers would identify themselves, ask the driver for identification and proof of insurance, ask for any legal reason for why they were stopped, and give them a decision as to whether a citation would be issued. 10:28:42 AM Representative Gattis asked what the officer would do differently than the standard protocol when stopping a person with a designation on their driver's license. Officer Goeden replied that it would depend on how much detail was provided with the designation. It would also depend on the driver's behavior. For instance, if a person was acting unusual or extremely nervous an officer might ask whether there was anything they should be aware of. It all hinged on getting to the point where the law officer was looking at a person's driver's license to see a special designation. Representative Gattis relayed that Officer Goeden had answered her question. 10:30:38 AM Representative Guttenberg liked the bill because he thought it addressed problems from both the side of the trained officer and the motorist. He was very concerned with public safety officers having an adequate level of training. He asked if there was specific training to handle stops made with vehicles having handicap license plates. Officer Goeden responded that the academy's recruits went through an 8 hour crisis intervention training. The training covered hidden and visible disabilities including how to recognize them and how to deal with them. He had never specifically spoken with the instructor about an approach change if an officer saw a handicap license placard. He hoped that a visual indicator would provide a clue that the person might have a disability. Co-Chair Thompson thanked Officer Goeden for being available for questions. Vice-Chair Saddler reviewed the zero fiscal note from Department of Administration. Vice-Chair Saddler MOVED to report CSHB 77 (FIN) out of Committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal note(s). There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered. CSHB 77 (FIN) was REPORTED out of committee with a "do pass" recommendation and with a new zero fiscal note from the Department of Administration. 10:33:46 AM AT EASE 10:35:54 AM RECONVENED 10:35:54 AM