Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/23/2004 08:01 AM House STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 188-BAIL SCHEDULE FOR SKIING VIOLATION                                                                                     
Number 0050                                                                                                                     
CHAIR WEYHRAUCH  announced that the  first order of  business was                                                               
HOUSE BILL  NO. 188,  "An Act  relating to  the authority  of the                                                               
Department of  Natural Resources  to issue citations  for certain                                                               
skiing violations;  relating to establishing a  bail schedule for                                                               
certain  skiing  violations  and  to  procedures  for  issuing  a                                                               
citation for a skiing violation."                                                                                               
Number 0096                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE MIKE HAWKER, Alaska  State Legislature, as sponsor                                                               
of  HB  188,  stated  that  HB 188  is  legislation  proposed  to                                                               
facilitate   implementation  of   legislation   that  passed   in                                                               
approximately 1994,  which he  indicated was  referred to  as the                                                               
Alaska Ski  Safety Act.   That Act, he said,  recognized Alaska's                                                               
growing  skiing facilities  across  the state  and provided  that                                                               
individual skiers  have some duties and  responsibilities as they                                                               
participate  in the  sport.   It included  facilities run  by the                                                               
state,  as well  as  private enterprises  that  run downhill  ski                                                               
facilities.  He said, "This is kind  of ... the same thing as the                                                               
Motor Vehicle Code for skiers."                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  HAWKER indicated  that it  was "contemplated"  in                                                               
the  "original passage"  of the  [1994] bill  to have  the Alaska                                                               
Supreme  Court  prepare  a  bail   schedule  for  the  violations                                                               
contained  in  the  Ski  Safety  Act.    The  bail  schedule,  he                                                               
explained,  would  be  the  schedule  of fines  to  be  paid  for                                                               
violations of provisions of the Act.   He said the violations are                                                               
those  that were  considered  the most  egregious  and merited  a                                                               
fine.  [The list of violations can  be found on the third page of                                                               
Representative Hawker's sectional analysis,  which is included in                                                               
the committee packet.]   He stated that the reason  for HB 188 is                                                               
to  ask the  legislature's  assistance in  implementing the  bail                                                               
schedule that was "contemplated in that Act."                                                                                   
Number 0355                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER turned to a  letter, dated August 16, 1995,                                                               
from  the Alaska  Supreme Court's  Office  of the  Administrative                                                               
Director and signed by Susan  Miller, Office of Special Projects.                                                               
The letter  states that  the court declined  to prepare  the bail                                                               
schedule contemplated under the Ski  Safety Act because "there is                                                               
no clear authorization  in the statute for such a  schedule."  He                                                               
told  the committee  that  he  has spoken  with  people who  were                                                               
involved in the  crafting of the Ski Safety Act  who believe that                                                               
the  Act  did   provide  that  authority.     He  indicated  that                                                               
legislative statutes are often not  interpreted the same by those                                                               
in the legal system.                                                                                                            
Number 0450                                                                                                                     
CHAIR WEYHRAUCH said it's puzzling  that it has taken eight years                                                               
to come up with a bill to clarify the 1995 letter.                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER  noted that [similar] legislation  has made                                                               
it through the  House before getting "lost in the  shuffle at the                                                               
end of a session."  He indicated  that his interest is due to his                                                               
own involvement in representing Alyeska  [Resort], as well as the                                                               
fact that  one of his  staff member's family runs  Juneau's Eagle                                                               
Crest.    He said,  "It's  definitely  a  priority bill  for  our                                                               
Number 0509                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE   GRUENBERG  turned   to   his  two-page   handout                                                               
regarding statutes [included in the  committee packet].  He noted                                                               
that  there would  only  be  a few  statutes  that  would be  the                                                               
subject  of violations.    He  said a  violation  is basically  a                                                               
traffic ticket for a skiing accident.   He posited that there are                                                               
other  things  in  the  Act   that  ought  to  be  considered  as                                                               
violations   and,  thus,   considered  in   the  bail   schedule.                                                               
Referring  to Section  05.45.100, on  page 2  of his  handout, he                                                               
turned  to subsections  (b), (d),  (e),  and (f),  which read  as                                                               
follows (original punctuation provided):                                                                                        
          (b) A skier has the duty to maintain control of                                                                       
     the skier's speed  and course at all  times when skiing                                                                    
     and to  maintain a proper lookout  so as to be  able to                                                                    
     avoid  other  skiers  and objects.  However,  a  person                                                                    
     skiing  downhill   has  the   primary  duty   to  avoid                                                                    
     collision with a person or object below the skier.                                                                         
          (d) A skier shall stay clear of snow grooming                                                                         
     equipment,  vehicles,  lift  towers, signs,  and  other                                                                    
     equipment on the ski slopes and trails.                                                                                    
          (e) A skier has the duty to heed all posted                                                                           
     information  and other  warnings  and  to refrain  from                                                                    
     acting in a manner that  may cause or contribute to the                                                                    
     injury of the skier or  others. Evidence that the signs                                                                    
     required by  AS 05.45.050  and 05.45.060  were present,                                                                    
     visible, and readable  at the beginning of  a given day                                                                    
     creates  a presumption  that all  skiers using  the ski                                                                    
     area on that day have seen and understood the signs.                                                                       
          (f) Before beginning to ski from a stationary                                                                         
     position or before  entering a ski slope  or trail from                                                                    
     the side, a  skier has the duty to  avoid moving skiers                                                                    
     already on the ski slope or trail.                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  noted  that   the  first  sentence  of                                                               
subsection (b)  is a basic  speed law, while the  second sentence                                                               
is a  basic right-of-way.   He  noted that (d)  and (f)  are also                                                               
right-of-way positions.                                                                                                         
Number 0585                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG suggested  considering those subsections                                                               
as violations that  would require a bail schedule.   He turned to                                                               
the  first  page   of  his  handout,  and   pointed  out  Section                                                               
05.45.070, subsections (a), (b), and (c), which read as follows:                                                                
     Sec. 05.45.070.  Other duties of ski area operators.                                                                       
          (a) A ski area operator shall equip a motorized                                                                       
     snow-grooming vehicle with a  light visible at any time                                                                    
     the vehicle  is moving on or  in the vicinity of  a ski                                                                    
     slope or trail.                                                                                                            
          (b) When maintenance equipment is being employed                                                                      
     to maintain  or groom  a ski slope  or trail  while the                                                                    
     ski slope or trail is open  to the public, the ski area                                                                    
     operator  shall place  a  conspicuous notice  regarding                                                                    
     the maintenance or grooming at  or near the top of that                                                                    
     ski slope or trail.                                                                                                        
          (c) A motor vehicle operated on the ski slope or                                                                      
     trails of a ski area shall be equipped with at least                                                                       
          (1) one lighted head lamp;                                                                                            
          (2) one lighted red tail lamp;                                                                                        
          (3) a brake system maintained in operable                                                                             
     condition; and                                                                                                             
          (4) a fluorescent flag at least 40 square inches                                                                      
     mounted  at least  six  feet above  the  bottom of  the                                                                    
Number 0700                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said, "I  was wondering what the sponsor                                                               
would think  about amending those  provisions, lines 6 and  11 to                                                               
page 1, and line  1 on page 2, to include  those (indisc. - paper                                                               
Number 0720                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER  responded that although there  is merit to                                                               
Representative Gruenberg's  suggestions, the intent of  HB 188 is                                                               
specifically not to rewrite the Ski  Safety Act, which had a full                                                               
and  complete  hearing.    He  reiterated that  HB  188  is  only                                                               
intended to direct the supreme  court to establish the originally                                                               
intended bail schedule.                                                                                                         
Number 0765                                                                                                                     
CHAIR WEYHRAUCH  said he would  like to  keep [HB 188]  "a little                                                               
bill in  a little package"  and address  the issue raised  by the                                                               
Number 0780                                                                                                                     
LARRY  DANIELS,  General  Manager,   Alyeska  Resort,  asked  the                                                               
committee to pass the proposed legislation.   He said it would be                                                               
"a tool in  our quiver" that would give the  state an opportunity                                                               
to "provide  an additional  incentive for  the most  egregious of                                                               
violators."   He indicated  some people think  "that we  would be                                                               
standing down here with our ticket  books out and writing them to                                                               
... a  large number of  people."  He said  that would not  be the                                                               
case.   He noted that,  currently, the  option exists to  write a                                                               
$50-dollar  ticket and  only one  or two  of them  are written  a                                                               
year.  He assured the committee  that "this is not something that                                                               
would be a  revenue source for the state."   He offered to answer                                                               
questions  from  the  committee.   He  noted  that  his  mountain                                                               
manager,  Dave  Wilson,  was  also   available  to  testify  [via                                                               
Number 0950                                                                                                                     
MIKE  SULLIVAN, Natural  Resources  Manager, Southcentral  Region                                                               
Office,  Division  of  Mining,  Land  and  Water,  Department  of                                                               
Natural Resources  (DNR), testified.   In response to  a question                                                               
from  Representative  Holm,   regarding  whether  he  anticipates                                                               
[needing]  state employees  to  write tickets,  he said  [writing                                                               
tickets] is  something that has been  done for a number  of years                                                               
on a limited basis.  He continued as follows:                                                                                   
     We don't  anticipate it's going  to be a  huge increase                                                                    
     in workload,  and we've always viewed  our relationship                                                                    
     with  Alyeska and  the other  ski  areas as  kind of  a                                                                    
     partnership, as  it's a sharing  of public  and private                                                                    
     land.   And we kind of  wanted to support them,  and we                                                                    
     believe this is an important  thing to pursue.  So, the                                                                    
     relatively small  amount of time that  it would occupy,                                                                    
     I don't believe is a major impact.                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM  asked how many  cases of  egregious activity                                                               
throughout the state Mr. Sullivan has noticed in the last year.                                                                 
MR. SULLIVAN  estimated that only  a few [cases occur]  per year.                                                               
He mentioned using "parks authority"  and currently being able to                                                               
write  tickets  for  out-of-bound  skiing.    He  indicated  that                                                               
"adding  a  couple  ...  more  offenses"  wouldn't  significantly                                                               
change the numbers.                                                                                                             
Number 1048                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER  brought to the committee's  attention that                                                               
there are two  zero fiscal notes attached to the  bill, from both                                                               
the Alaska Court System and  the Department of Natural Resources.                                                               
He  clarified that  the bail  schedule would  allow the  [Alaska]                                                               
Supreme  Court to  increase the  "specific issues"  to above  the                                                               
current  $50-dollar amount  allowed.   It would  have a  zero net                                                               
effect on "work and labor involved."                                                                                            
Number 1063                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON asked  if  the bill  covers cross  country                                                               
skiing as well as downhill skiing.                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER  replied that the  legislation specifically                                                               
addresses   organized  ski   areas,  which   would  include   all                                                               
activities in those areas.                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON asked  if that  would mean  that a  person                                                               
cross-country skiing off  of a groomed trail would  be liable for                                                               
a penalty.                                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER  indicated that there  is a huge  amount of                                                               
space in an organized ski area.   He said, "Just because you step                                                               
off of  a groomed trail  in a park  is not  going to be  an issue                                                               
here."   He clarified, "It  is intended to  be in those  areas in                                                               
which organized activity is being conducted."                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON responded  that he just wanted  to get that                                                               
on the record.                                                                                                                  
Number 1130                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLM stated  he thinks  [HB 188]  seems to  be "a                                                               
bill  ... for  common  sense."   He  opined that  it  is kind  of                                                               
strange to fine  somebody because they might  run into something.                                                               
He said, "Everything I see in  here says to me that we've stepped                                                               
over the  bounds, where we're  going to  say, 'We're going  to go                                                               
ahead  and write  policy against  ...  stupidity.'"   He said  it                                                               
really bothers him.                                                                                                             
Number 1185                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  HAWKER suggested  looking  to  the motor  vehicle                                                               
code as a parallel, which  he said accomplishes two things beyond                                                               
"dealing  with stupid  people."   He  characterized  the bill  as                                                               
addressing [bad] behavior in a positive  manner.  He said from an                                                               
industry prospective, providing  these guidelines facilitates the                                                               
development of  a vital  tourist industry in  the state,  and the                                                               
[dangerous]  behaviors  are  viewed   as  a  risk  assessment  by                                                               
potential  investors and  insurance companies.   Those  insurance                                                               
companies,  he said,  are  looking for  some  statutory guide  or                                                               
authority  that  shows  that  there   will  be  some  responsible                                                               
management that protects the people  involved and gives investors                                                               
the ability to protect their investment.                                                                                        
Number 1270                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM responded  that this is not an  issue that he                                                               
wants to debate.   However, he stated that he  can't imagine that                                                               
the legislature  needs to  be adding  policy that  makes business                                                               
take  care of  itself.   He  said he  thinks that  the way  these                                                               
businesses are run should be for  their own safety and ability to                                                               
buy insurance, not based upon whether  or not the State of Alaska                                                               
has  the  right to  (indisc.  -  coughing).   He  said  he has  a                                                               
business and he is not sure he  wants the State of Alaska to say,                                                               
[for example], that  if someone were to use a  pesticide he sells                                                               
and kill a  plant there would have to be  some penalty that would                                                               
be  imposed  upon  them  because   they  misused  something  they                                                               
purchased from him or "did something on their own."                                                                             
Number 1319                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  BERKOWITZ stated,  "We have  the rule  of law  in                                                               
order  the  write  down  the  codes of  conduct."    He  said  he                                                               
understands Representative Holm's  point; however, "We've already                                                               
written  volumes of  statutes that  have asked  that point."   He                                                               
asked, "Who's going to enforce these?"                                                                                          
Number 1337                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER  said a representative from  DNR could best                                                               
answer that.  Notwithstanding that,  he said the employees of the                                                               
state-operated  or  privately  operated   [ski]  areas  have  the                                                               
authority  to  propose  a  citation.    That  citation  would  be                                                               
forwarded  to  the department,  where  that  "application" for  a                                                               
citation would be reviewed.   The citation itself would be issued                                                               
out of the state department, he explained.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE   BERKOWITZ  stated   that   that   is  the   most                                                               
problematic  aspect  -  having private  citizens  acting  as  law                                                               
enforcement, even if it has to  go through a vetting process.  He                                                               
suggested that a way around that  may be to endow the private ski                                                               
operators  the ability  to  enforce their  own  code of  conduct,                                                               
which might be to subject certain  fines.  In many ways, he said,                                                               
it would take the state out of the business.                                                                                    
Number 1397                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON turned  to  page  1, line  11  and 12  and                                                               
pointed  to the  language that  was removed,  which read,  "[OVER                                                               
WHICH THE  STATE HAS  JURISDICTION]".  He  said it's  almost like                                                               
saying  the  motor vehicle  code  would  be enforced  on  private                                                               
property.  He asked, "Is that  the significance of this, ... that                                                               
... even  though we don't  have state jurisdiction over  an area,                                                               
we'll apply the law to that area?"                                                                                              
Number 1420                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  HAWKER  said  that,  in talking  with  those  who                                                               
"originally worked on  this bill," the intent  of that particular                                                               
language was simply  to define the difference  between lands that                                                               
are  controlled and  all  other lands.   He  said  the state  has                                                               
jurisdiction   over  state-owned   lands,  as   well  as   having                                                               
jurisdiction over  activities occurring on private  property.  He                                                               
said it  had been  pointed out  that it  could be  interpreted as                                                               
meaning  only  state-owned  and -operated  ski  facilities,  when                                                               
clearly  the  intention is  for  it  to include  those  privately                                                               
operated facilities.  Many of  those [private] facilities involve                                                               
lands that are leased from the  state.  He concluded, "That's why                                                               
that simple clarification was being made."                                                                                      
MR. SULLIVAN  addressed the previously stated  question regarding                                                               
a ski  operator with  the authority to  enforce the  violation as                                                               
opposed to giving  the citation and having it  referred to [DNR].                                                               
He explained that, currently, [DNR]  gets fairly detailed reports                                                               
from  ski patrollers  who witness  the activities.   He  said the                                                               
department doesn't lightly make  decisions to issue the citations                                                               
and discusses the  matter directly with the ski patrol.   He said                                                               
this method  has worked fairly  well over the  last approximately                                                               
ten years the department has been doing this.                                                                                   
Number 1521                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG mentioned some  ski areas that are owned                                                               
by a  municipality.  Looking at  Section 1 of the  bill, he noted                                                               
that the  only people who  are, under current law,  authorized to                                                               
issue citations are the commissioner  of DNR, a person designated                                                               
by the ski  area operator, who's authorized  by the commissioner,                                                               
or an  employee of DNR.   He suggested that a  municipal official                                                               
should be added to that list  to be authorized to issue citations                                                               
in municipal ski areas.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER  responded that if it  was appropriate, the                                                               
municipal  official may  be  the person  designated  by the  area                                                               
operator  to manage  the process.    He said,  "I believe  that's                                                               
adequately contemplated in existing statute."                                                                                   
Number 1626                                                                                                                     
CHAIR WEYHRAUCH  indicated that  he thinks  the bail  schedule is                                                               
the main focus of the bill.                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  HAWKER asked  that the  committee not  expand the                                                               
scope of the bill.                                                                                                              
Number 1640                                                                                                                     
CHAIR WEYHRAUCH  closed public testimony  and asked for  a motion                                                               
on the bill.                                                                                                                    
Number 1650                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  moved to  report HB  188 out  of committee                                                               
with  individual  recommendations  and  the  accompanying  fiscal                                                               
notes.  There being no objection,  HB 188 was reported out of the                                                               
House State Affairs Standing Committee.                                                                                         

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