Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/26/2004 01:10 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 423 - TAXICAB DRIVER LIABILITY                                                                                             
Number 0083                                                                                                                     
CHAIR McGUIRE  announced that the  first order of  business would                                                               
be HOUSE  BILL NO. 423,  "An Act relating to  accidents involving                                                               
the  vehicle of  a person  under  the influence  of an  alcoholic                                                               
beverage;  and providing  for an  effective date."   [Before  the                                                               
committee was the proposed committee  substitute (CS) for HB 423,                                                               
Version 23-LS1600\I,  Luckhaupt, 3/17/04, which was  adopted as a                                                               
work draft on 3/19/04.]                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON, speaking as  the sponsor, requested that                                                               
his staff update the committee.                                                                                                 
Number 0133                                                                                                                     
JIM  SHINE  JR., Staff  to  Representative  Tom Anderson,  Alaska                                                               
State  Legislature,  relayed  that  he  and  Mr.  Lessmeier  have                                                               
reviewed some proposed conceptual  amendments, and noted that the                                                               
sponsor statement has been updated.                                                                                             
The committee  took an  at-ease from  1:15 p.m.  to 1:16  p.m. in                                                               
order to distribute the aforementioned amendments.                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLM highlighted  the urgency  of the  bill.   He                                                               
characterized   it   as   a    recognition   of   people   taking                                                               
responsibility  for their  actions.   He  recalled  being in  Red                                                               
Deer, Alberta,  where an establishment did  something similar; in                                                               
fact, the  bar owners  and taxi companies  acted in  concert, and                                                               
the  patrons  paid  nothing.     Noting  that  Fairbanks  can  be                                                               
extremely cold at night and that  people risk losing a vehicle or                                                               
having it  freeze up someplace,  he pointed out that  people will                                                               
take the chance  of either driving home, or going  to their cars,                                                               
keeping the  cars running to  prevent freezing to  death, falling                                                               
asleep, but still  be considered drunk drivers,  even without the                                                               
intention of  driving.  He  concluded by characterizing  the bill                                                               
as a marvelous piece of legislation.                                                                                            
Number 0390                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  SAMUELS   drew  attention   to  Amendment   1,  a                                                               
handwritten, edited  amendment, which read  [original punctuation                                                               
     The auto  insurance that covers the  driver also covers                                                                    
     the  taxi-cab  driver  that drives  the  car  from  the                                                                    
     licensed premises  to the home or  directed location of                                                                    
     the original driver.                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE  SAMUELS offered  his  belief  that under  current                                                               
law, if [the owner of a  car] expressly tells someone that he/she                                                               
may  drive the  car,  that  person is  covered  by the  [owner's]                                                               
insurance.  Thus the amendment is unnecessary.                                                                                  
CHAIR McGUIRE announced that Amendment 1 was withdrawn.                                                                         
Number 0450                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE   GRUENBERG  moved   to  adopt   Amendment  2,   a                                                               
handwritten amendment that read [original punctuation provided]:                                                                
     1.  page 1 line 7 after "by" insert "or on behalf of"                                                                      
     2.  page 2 line 12 after "person insert "or entity"                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON objected for the purpose of discussion.                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG   suggested  bifurcating   Amendment  2                                                               
because the two parts are quite different.                                                                                      
CHAIR McGUIRE labeled the first  part Amendment 2a and the second                                                               
part Amendment 2b.                                                                                                              
Number 0500                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON objected for the purpose of discussion.                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG offered his  understanding that a person                                                               
could  have a  policy that  wasn't technically  purchased by  the                                                               
owner of the vehicle.   If a vehicle is owned  by a young person,                                                               
for example,  the parent may  purchase the insurance policy.   He                                                               
noted that Mr. Lessmeier was nodding.                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON removed his objection.                                                                                  
Number 0545                                                                                                                     
CHAIR McGUIRE asked whether there  were any further objections to                                                               
adopting  Amendment  2a.   There  being  none, Amendment  2a  was                                                               
Number 0550                                                                                                                     
CHAIR McGUIRE  brought attention  to Amendment 2b  [text provided                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON objected for the purpose of discussion.                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  explained that  [page 2] line  12 talks                                                               
about a person that participates  in making the arrangements.  In                                                               
Anchorage,  however, it  isn't  a  person that  does  it, but  an                                                               
entity, a group of taverns.   He said he didn't know whether that                                                               
would  technically  qualify  as  a  "person"  under  the  general                                                               
definition in Title 1.                                                                                                          
Number 0591                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON removed his objection.                                                                                  
CHAIR McGUIRE asked whether there  were any further objections to                                                               
adopting Amendment 2b.                                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE OGG  remarked that "entity" assumes  there is some                                                               
entity, and asked whether a group really is an entity.                                                                          
Number 0614                                                                                                                     
MICHAEL  L.  LESSMEIER, Attorney  at  Law,  Lessmeier &  Winters,                                                               
Lobbyist for  State Farm Insurance  Company ("State  Farm"), gave                                                               
his view  that if it says  "person or entity", it  would be broad                                                               
enough  to  cover  an  "organization   of  people,  whether  it's                                                               
informal or formal."                                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE OGG  replied that  he'd withdraw his  objection as                                                               
long as "entity" [would be interpreted in that manner].                                                                         
Number 0649                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  McGUIRE  again  asked  whether   there  were  any  further                                                               
objections  to   adopting  Amendment  2b.     There  being  none,                                                               
Amendment 2b was adopted.                                                                                                       
Number 0682                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG [made a motion  to adopt] Amendment 3, a                                                               
handwritten amendment by Representative  Gara that read [original                                                               
punctuation provided]:                                                                                                          
      A page 2 line 19, after "vehicle", insert "or other                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE  ANDERSON  objected and  asked  to  hear from  Mr.                                                               
Number 0702                                                                                                                     
MR.  LESSMEIER urged  the committee  to reject  Amendment 3.   He                                                               
said he believes it takes a bill  that is now very clean in terms                                                               
of its intent and makes it  messy.  If this amendment is adopted,                                                               
he predicted  there will  almost be  an issue  of what  is "other                                                               
applicable" insurance.   He also said it seems to  take away from                                                               
the original intent of the bill.                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  ANDERSON  maintained  his  objection,  saying  he                                                               
tends to agree that it  expands this beyond driver's insurance or                                                               
automobile insurance and  goes too far to stay  within the intent                                                               
of the bill.                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  asked Mr. Lessmeier whether  some other                                                               
kind of insurance such as homeowner's insurance might apply.                                                                    
MR. LESSMEIER  answered that it's  really a  complicated question                                                               
because  most  homeowner's  insurance policies  exclude  anything                                                               
that arises  out of driving  a motor vehicle; that's  what people                                                               
buy motor  vehicle insurance  for.   He said  the problem  he has                                                               
with it  is this:   it's so broad that  one could almost  go back                                                               
and ask  whether the taxicab  company, the municipality  that put                                                               
this together, or  one of the people who participates  in a group                                                               
to try  to offer this  service has "other  applicable insurance".                                                               
He explained:                                                                                                                   
     What happens in litigation  is, there's always a search                                                                    
     for the insurance,  and what we've tried to  do is make                                                                    
     it clear as  to where that search begins  and ends with                                                                    
     this bill, and  offer some coverage where  there was no                                                                    
     coverage before.  And so, I  just think once we go down                                                                    
     that road, we  go to areas that we  can't foresee right                                                                    
     now and that  ... I could almost guarantee  you will be                                                                    
Number 0823                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG asked  whether  technically, under  the                                                               
current  language  of  the  bill, an  umbrella  policy  would  be                                                               
included; if  not, then would  Mr. Lessmeier object to  having it                                                               
say "or applicable umbrella insurance coverage".                                                                                
MR. LESSMEIER answered:                                                                                                         
     My view is  that that is covered  under subsection (a).                                                                    
     In other words,  ... a person is not  liable beyond the                                                                    
     limits of any applicable  insurance policy purchased by                                                                    
     the owner of  the vehicle for damages  resulting from a                                                                    
     motor vehicle  accident if the  person was  driving the                                                                    
     vehicle.  Now,  ... if that owner has  a primary policy                                                                    
     on the vehicle  and also an umbrella  policy that would                                                                    
     cover the  damages resulting from an  accident for that                                                                    
     vehicle,  then, in  my view,  ...  it's already  there.                                                                    
     Once you go  beyond that, though, and  say any umbrella                                                                    
     policy, then we  run into these issues of  "where do we                                                                    
     stop."   And ...  I can't  sit here  and tell  you what                                                                    
     conceivable  situations would  come up,  but ...  I can                                                                    
     tell you that those situations would be litigated, and                                                                     
     that is exactly what you're trying to avoid with this                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  replied that  with in mind,  he doesn't                                                               
support  the   amendment,  which   he'd  offered  on   behalf  of                                                               
Representative Gara, but  relayed his belief that  he didn't have                                                               
the authority to withdraw the amendment.                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON renewed his objection.                                                                                  
Number 0970                                                                                                                     
A  roll call  vote was  taken.   Representatives Ogg,  Gruenberg,                                                               
Samuels, Holm,  Anderson, and McGuire voted  against Amendment 3.                                                               
Therefore, Amendment 3 failed by a vote of 0-6.                                                                                 
Number 0988                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM moved  to report the proposed CS  for HB 423,                                                               
Version  23-LS1600\I,  Luckhaupt,  3/17/04, as  amended,  out  of                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations and  the accompanying                                                               
[zero] fiscal  notes.   There being  no objection,  CSHB 423(JUD)                                                               
was reported from the House Judiciary Standing Committee.                                                                       

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