Legislature(2015 - 2016)GRUENBERG 120
04/13/2016 01:00 PM House JUDICIARY
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SB 123-USE OF ELECTRONIC DEVICES WHILE DRIVING 2:20:38 PM CHAIR LEDOUX announced that the next order of business would be CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 123(JUD), "An Act relating to the bail forfeiture schedule and the penalty for the use of electronic devices while driving; and providing for an effective date." 2:21:06 PM SENATOR KEVIN MEYER, Alaska State Legislature, said that SB 123 mirrors an Anchorage Assembly ordinance that lowers the penalty for texting while driving from a class A misdemeanor, which carries up to a $10,000 fine and one year in jail, to a violation of $500. He explained that the thought behind lowering the penalty is that by allowing law enforcement to issue a ticket immediately, it will result in a stronger deterrent and provide swift punishment for those who engage in distracted driving. Another aspect of current law, which was originally part of Representative Gruenberg's bill, included higher penalties for those found guilty of texting while driving that resulting in an injury or death, and it will not be changed by this legislation. The intent is to prevent injury or death by being able to write a citation when law enforcement sees someone texting and driving. He related that the current class A misdemeanor charge of texting and driving is not working because it requires obtaining and serving a search warrant, obtaining the cell phone, investigating the contents of the cell phone, and then trying the case in a court of law. He pointed out that the cost of prosecuting individuals has proven to be a deterrent for law enforcement to charge individuals. For example, he said, since 2011, when the Anchorage [ordinance] went into effect, only 20 individuals have been charged while texting and of those only four resulted in a conviction. Under SB 123, an officer witnessing an individual texting while driving can pull the person over and immediately issue a citation. The person will still have the right to appeal the citation, but the process would be handled through traffic court rather than tying up criminal courts. Finally, he related, "the bill adds the violation to the bail schedule" and establishes an effective date of July 1, 2016, to give the court system time to update the schedule. There is a zero fiscal note, he said, and it is not intended to be a revenue bill, it is meant to be a deterrent to texting while driving. 2:23:54 PM REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN opined that this looks like an idea from the Anchorage Assembly. SENATOR MEYER agreed that it did come from the Anchorage Assembly, and passed last fall. He opined that it seems to be working for them thus far, and he thought that if it is a good ordinance, it is probably a good state law. REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN commented that it is consistent with the crime bill in terms of recognizing that rather than locking people up, giving law enforcement the option to write a citation. CHAIR LEDOUX said that Representative Claman mirrored her thoughts. REPRESENTATIVE KREISS-TOMKINS noted that he heard the bill in House State Affairs Standing Committee and it seems like a good idea. CHAIR LEDOUX listed witnesses available to answer questions, and opened public testimony. After ascertaining no one wished to testify, closed public testimony. 2:25:51 PM CHAIR LEDOUX advised that SB 123 would be set aside. [SB 123 was held over.]