Legislature(2015 - 2016)CAPITOL 106

04/07/2016 08:00 AM House STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved CSSCR 16(STA) Out of Committee
Moved CSSB 123(JUD) Out of Committee
Moved SCR 20 Out of Committee
Moved HCS CSSB 6(STA) Out of Committee
Moved CSSB 24(JUD) Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
         SB 123-USE OF ELECTRONIC DEVICES WHILE DRIVING                                                                     
8:16:28 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LYNN 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."                                                                    
8:16:43 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KEVIN  MEYER, Alaska State Legislature,  as prime sponsor                                                               
of SB  123, advised that  Anchorage recently passed  an ordinance                                                               
to lower  the penalty for  texting while  driving from a  class A                                                               
misdemeanor to  a $500 fine or  citation.  This bill  attempts to                                                               
turn  the  Anchorage  ordinance  into  a  statewide  law.      He                                                               
indicated  that  under SB  123,  the  current  law is  not  being                                                               
enforced,  and he  posited that  the  $500 fine  would provide  a                                                               
stronger  deterrent against  drivers' texting  while operating  a                                                               
motor vehicle.                                                                                                                  
CHAIR LYNN asked  Senator Meyer to confirm he is  saying that the                                                               
proposed lowering of  the violation from a misdemeanor  to a $500                                                               
fine would make it less likely drivers would text while driving.                                                                
SENATOR  MEYER explained  that in  order to  prosecute a  class A                                                               
misdemeanor, a search  warrant must be served to  obtain the cell                                                               
phone, then the  content of the cell phone  must be investigated,                                                               
and offered that trying the case  in a court of law is expensive,                                                               
time consuming,  and hard to  prove.   For example, he  said, the                                                               
current law in Anchorage was  passed in 2011, only 20 individuals                                                               
were charged over  that four year period, and only  four of those                                                               
individuals were actually convicted.   Therefore, he pointed out,                                                               
current law does not work,  yet the ordinance passed in Anchorage                                                               
appeared to work when  it went to a violation or  fine, such as a                                                               
speeding ticket.  He stressed  that no other provision of current                                                               
law will be  changed, such that if someone is  texting, gets into                                                               
an  accident  and causes  serious  harm,  injury, or  death,  the                                                               
individual will  suffer the higher  penalty.  The intent  of this                                                               
bill is to  try to prevent a serious accident  from taking place,                                                               
he advised.                                                                                                                     
CHAIR LYNN asked  whether it is difficult for  law enforcement to                                                               
observe texting taking place in another vehicle.                                                                                
SENATOR  MEYER  responded  that  it is  possible  to  see  people                                                               
texting while  they are driving,  and [texting while  driving] is                                                               
8:20:29 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE VAZQUEZ said she supports  the intent of the bill,                                                               
although  she  expressed  concern  regarding  individuals  caught                                                               
texting  three  or  four  times,  and  suggested  increasing  the                                                               
penalty if they are caught texting over two times.                                                                              
SENATOR  MEYER  replied  that  he  had  not  considered  multiple                                                               
violations,  but if  someone is  picked up  multiple times,  they                                                               
have  potentially  spent  $2,000,  which one  would  hope  was  a                                                               
deterrent.  He  reiterated that currently people  texting are not                                                               
being pulled over at all.                                                                                                       
8:22:19 AM                                                                                                                    
EDRA  MORLEDGE,   Staff,  Senator   Kevin  Meyer,   Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature,  answered  that  Senator   Meyer's  office  did  not                                                               
contemplate habitual  offenders, and  she deferred  to Lieutenant                                                               
David Hanson.  She said she  was unsure whether there is latitude                                                               
for  officers  to  charge  under a  different  statute,  such  as                                                               
reckless  endangerment,  and whether  dispatch  could  look up  a                                                               
person's driving record while he/she is pulled over.                                                                            
8:22:54 AM                                                                                                                    
LIEUTENANT  DAVID HANSON,  Alaska State  Troopers, Department  of                                                               
Public  Safety,  advised  he  has  been  with  the  Alaska  State                                                               
Troopers for 22 years, and he  is the current deputy commander of                                                               
the  Alaska  Bureau  of Highway  Patrol  overseeing  activity  of                                                               
patrol troopers dedicated to working  in the safety corridors and                                                               
special events around the state.                                                                                                
LIEUTENANT HANSON,  in response  to a  question from  Chair Lynn,                                                               
advised  that he  reviewed  the case  records  from 2012  through                                                               
2015,  and the  Department  of Public  Safety  (DPS) initiated  a                                                               
total of 69  cases involving texting, operating  a screen device,                                                               
or otherwise  driving while  distracted in a  motor vehicle.   Of                                                               
the 69  cases, 17 were charged  under 13 AAC 02.495(c),  which he                                                               
described   as   a   catch-all  regulation   addressing   drivers                                                               
distracted  by something  in the  vehicle, such  as a  small dog,                                                               
trying  to  eat,  operating an  electronic  device,  or  applying                                                               
makeup, for example.  He advised  the other 52 cases were charged                                                               
under  AS 28.35.161,  which  specifically addressing  prohibiting                                                               
screen devices,  which is roughly  13 cases each year.   Troopers                                                               
are  less  likely  to  charge   an  individual  with  a  class  A                                                               
misdemeanor under  AS 28.35.161, burden of  proof requirements in                                                               
criminal  proceedings, evidence  the driver  was distracted  by a                                                               
screen device.   Whereas, he pointed out, the  trooper might have                                                               
an in-car video  that would capture bad driving,  such as weaving                                                               
within the lane, abrupt braking, or slow or erratic speeds.                                                                     
LIEUTENANT  HANSON offered  that it  is oftentimes  difficult and                                                               
unsafe for  the trooper to  attempt to document a  driver texting                                                               
or using his/her  phone for a reason that  violates the statutory                                                               
definition.   The trooper would  then appear in a  criminal trial                                                               
with little  or no physical  evidence.  He offered,  reducing the                                                               
crime to a violation allows a  trooper to observe an offense such                                                               
as,  a driver  running  a stop  sign or  making  an illegal  lane                                                               
change, and simply cite them into  court.  He related that SB 123                                                               
would  still  allow  a  due  process  option  and  encourage  law                                                               
enforcement  to contact  more  drivers  observed committing  this                                                               
offense to  educate them on  the dangers of texting  and driving,                                                               
and take an appropriate enforcement action.                                                                                     
8:25:55 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LYNN  reiterated his question  previously asked  of Senator                                                               
Meyer regarding the difficulty in  looking into someone's car and                                                               
observing the driver texting.                                                                                                   
LIEUTENANT HANSON  replied that  it is not  that difficult.   The                                                               
question becomes whether  that person is dialing  a phone number,                                                               
which they are  allowed to do under current law,  or if he/she is                                                               
texting.   He noted  that in  the case of  a larger  screen being                                                               
held in front of the person,  it is not difficult for the trooper                                                               
to  see text  bubbles, which  indicate texting.   Many  times the                                                               
troopers will see  people looking down into their  laps and drive                                                               
erratically or slowly  within a lane, and it  takes 30-60 seconds                                                               
of investigation while  driving next to a vehicle to  see what is                                                               
going  on  and   whether  the  driver  is   being  distracted  by                                                               
something.  In reality, he said,  if a person is dialing a phone,                                                               
it  takes a  couple of  seconds, especially  with the  hands free                                                               
features, and  there is no  need to  be distracted by  the screen                                                               
device for any length of time.                                                                                                  
8:27:43 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE VAZQUEZ  said she  agrees with  the intent  of the                                                               
bill and opined that as written,  she could imagine that many law                                                               
enforcement officers  don't bother due  to the requirements  of a                                                               
misdemeanor,  especially  when  moving  on to  a  robbery  or  an                                                               
assault.  She  noted the burden of proof is  higher when charging                                                               
someone with  reckless driving; this  statute would make  it easy                                                               
if they  are texting; and  more people will be  cited if it  is a                                                               
violation.  She referred to  her concern with the individual with                                                               
two or four  violations on the books, and said  she would like to                                                               
see a bigger hammer for those people habitually texting.                                                                        
8:30:35 AM                                                                                                                    
LIEUTENANT HANSON  agreed that subsequent offenses  could be more                                                               
difficult to  figure out,  such as "if  one hammer  doesn't work,                                                               
will a second hammer work?"   He opined that if troopers are able                                                               
to stop more  people and $500 fines are issued,  most people will                                                               
be significantly affected  and hopefully stop this  behavior.  He                                                               
suggested that the point system  may work, because eventually the                                                               
person would  receive an administrative action  from the Division                                                               
of Motor Vehicles, which could  adversely affect the person's car                                                               
insurance.  The issue of  the violation becoming a misdemeanor at                                                               
some  point would  be  difficult, because  depending  on where  a                                                               
person is in the process  with his/her prior activity, the Alaska                                                               
Public  Safety Information  Network  (APSIN) might  not have  the                                                               
information.    He  then  clarified that  the  revenue  from  the                                                               
citations  go   into  the  general   fund.    Speaking   from  an                                                               
enforcement point of  view and his own  experiences, he suggested                                                               
that   the  point   system  would   probably  be   the  deterrent                                                               
Representative Vazquez  is looking for without  elevating this to                                                               
a reckless  driving level.   For  example, if a  $500 fine  and a                                                               
four  point offense  were  imposed,  he opined  that  would be  a                                                               
fairly strong deterrent.                                                                                                        
8:33:36 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE VAZQUEZ remarked that she  likes the idea of added                                                               
points, yet  the point system  of driving under the  influence is                                                               
fairly Draconian  at times  and yet  there are  repeat offenders.                                                               
She said  she would  like to  see an  amendment adding  the point                                                               
system as described by Lieutenant Hanson.                                                                                       
8:34:17 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  MEYER  noted  that  the  point  system  is  set  through                                                               
MS. MORLEDGE advised that the  point system is established by the                                                               
Department of  Administration, and  she would look  into amending                                                               
SB 123  to direct the  department to add [texting  while driving]                                                               
to the point system.                                                                                                            
CHAIR LYNN pointed out that  Alaska's late friend, Max Gruenberg,                                                               
had  a bill  addressing  the  issue in  the  House State  Affairs                                                               
Standing Committee some years ago.                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER recommended  moving  slowly  on the  point                                                               
system regulation, not because it is  a bad idea, but to make one                                                               
change at a time to allow time on the violation first.                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE  KREISS-TOMKINS noted  that some  members of  this                                                               
committee  are also  on the  next committee  of referral,  and he                                                               
asked whether  members could work with  Representative Vazquez to                                                               
examine options.                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE VAZQUEZ  remarked that  if it is  the will  of the                                                               
committee,  the  bill should  be  moved  out  today to  the  next                                                               
committee of referral.                                                                                                          
SENATOR  MEYER   remarked  he  looks  forward   to  working  with                                                               
Representative Vazquez'  office on a possible  amendment, so that                                                               
when  the  proposed  legislation  gets  to  the  House  Judiciary                                                               
Standing Committee, it is ready to go.                                                                                          
8:37:42 AM                                                                                                                    
The committee took a brief at ease.                                                                                             
8:37:58 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  VAZQUEZ moved  to report  CSSB 123(JUD),  labeled                                                               
29-LS1198\E out of committee  with individual recommendations and                                                               
the accompanying  fiscal notes.   There being no  objection, CSSB
123(JUD) passed from the House State Affairs Standing Committee.                                                                

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
01 SB 24 ver E.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 24
01-a SB 24 v.W.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 24
02 SB 24 Sponsor Statement.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 24
03 SB 24 Sectional Analysis.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 24
04 SB 24 Summary of changes ver W to ver E.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 24
05 SB 24 Leg Research Report Subcontractors.PDF HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 24
06 SB 24 Applicable Statutes.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 24
07 SB 24 Contracts - Rec by Ethics Office.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 24
08 SB 24 Fiscal Note.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 24
09 SB 24 Previous Advisory Opinions.PDF HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 24
10 SB 24 Previous Minutes & Committee Action.PDF HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 24
01 SB123 ver E.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 123
01a SB123 ver A.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 123
02 SB123 Sponsor Statement.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 123
03 SB123 Summary of Changes from Version A to Version E.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 123
04 SB123 Supporting Documents ADN Article 11.15.15.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 123
05 SB123 Supporting Documents Alaska Texting While Driving Charges.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 123
06 SB123 Supporting Documents Alaska Texting While Driving Penalties.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 123
07 SB123 Supporting Documents AO 2015-126 Pages 14-15.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 123
08 SB123 Supporting Documents Hands Free Info.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 123
09 SB123 Supporting Documents Legal Memo 2.24.2016.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 123
10 SB123 Supporting Documents Legal Research Municipal Laws.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 123
11 SB123 Supporting Documents NCSL Texting While Driving State Laws.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 123
12 SB123 Fiscal Note-1-2-021716-DPS-N.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 123
13 SB123 Fiscal Note-2-2-021716-ADM-N.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 123
01 SCR 16 ver W - CS(STA).pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SCR 16
01a SCR 16 ver A.PDF HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SCR 16
02 SCR 16 Summary of Changes.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SCR 16
03 SCR 16 Fiscal Note #1 - SSTA 03-25-16.PDF HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SCR 16
04 SCR 16 Backup Document - 2015 Alaska Legislature Salary and Business Expense Report.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SCR 16
05 SCR 16 Backup Document - Governor's Letter to Legislature - 03-23-16.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SCR 16
06 SCR 16 Backup Document - LAA 4-1-16 Memo RE Seismic Retrofit & Life Safety Improvement Timeline.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SCR 16
07 SCR 16 Backup Document - LAA Estimate of Anchorage vs Juneau Special Session - 10-12-2015.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SCR 16
08SCR 16 Backup Document - LAA Expense Actuals of 1st, 2nd, & 3rd 2015 Special Sessions - 3-18-2016.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SCR 16
01 SCR20 Ver A.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SCR 20
02 SCR20 Sponsor Statement.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SCR 20
03 SCR20 Fiscal Note-1-1-030216-STA-N.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SCR 20
04 SCR20 Supporting Documents Alaska Victimization Survey Media Release.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SCR 20
05 SCR20 Supporting Documents ANDVSA Support Letter.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SCR 20
06 SCR20 Supporting Documents CDVSA Annual Report 2015.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SCR 20
07 SCR20 Supporting Documents DVSA_Dashboard_2015.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SCR 20
08 SCR20 Supporting Documents Key Results 2015 AK Victimization Survey.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SCR 20
09 SCR 16 Backup LRS Report from LAA - Historical Special Session.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SCR 16
2016 SB 6 Additional Testimony.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 6
SB6 Testimony Rak, Paula 4-7-2016.pdf HSTA 4/7/2016 8:00:00 AM
SB 6