Legislature(2015 - 2016)CAPITOL 17

03/08/2016 01:00 PM TRANSPORTATION

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01:12:01 PM Start
01:12:31 PM HB319
02:25:35 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
*+ HB 319 SNOWMOBILE REGISTRATION FEES TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Invited Testimony Followed by Public --
              HB 319-SNOWMOBILE REGISTRATION FEES                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
1:12:31 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR HUGHES announced  that the only order  of business would                                                               
be HOUSE BILL  NO. 319 "An Act relating to  registration fees for                                                               
snowmobiles and off-highway vehicles."                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
1:13:08 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CATHY TILTON,  Alaska State Legislature, explained                                                               
that HB 319  would increase the two-year snowmobile  fee from $10                                                               
to  $20  and  provide an  option  to  pay  a  six-year fee  at  a                                                               
discounted rate of  $50.  She indicated that  in Alaska's current                                                               
fiscal climate, it  was refreshing for the proposal  to have come                                                               
from  some of  the  user  groups themselves.    She relayed  that                                                               
snowmobile  organizations  view  the proposed  legislation  as  a                                                               
means  to  improve  development  and  maintenance  of  snowmobile                                                               
trails  and  promote  snowmobile  safety.    She  explained  that                                                               
current snowmobile fees generate up  to $250,000 per year for the                                                               
snowmobile  trail development  program Snowmobile  Trail Advisory                                                               
Council  (SnowTRAC),  which  is  managed  by  the  Department  of                                                               
Natural Resources (DNR), Division  of Parks & Outdoor Recreation.                                                               
She stated that user groups want  to keep the funds available and                                                               
are willing  to do their part  to ensure the continuation  of the                                                               
program.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE TILTON  related that according to  a recent report                                                               
prepared  by  legislative  research,  there are  22  states  with                                                               
snowmobile  registration fees  and, of  those, Alaska  and Oregon                                                               
have the  lowest fees.  She recounted that  prior to  working for                                                               
the  legislature, she  was involved  in the  snowmobile industry,                                                               
and she  offered that there  are different types of  user groups,                                                               
disciplines,  and  opinions.   She  indicated  that  Kevin  Hite,                                                               
President of the Alaska State  Snowmobile Association (ASSA), and                                                               
Dan Mayfield  of SnowTRAC would  provide testimony in  support of                                                               
HB 319.  She  said Ben Ellis from DNR would  discuss how the fund                                                               
is  used and  Amy Erickson  of the  Department of  Motor Vehicles                                                               
(DMV) would explain the fiscal note and fee collection.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
1:15:16 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR FOSTER  remarked that it had  been a while since  he had                                                               
purchased a snow machine, but that  he did not recollect paying a                                                               
registration fee.   He  inquired whether the  fee is  included in                                                               
the purchase of  a snow machine and asked  for clarification that                                                               
the $10 fee is good for two years.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
1:16:56 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  TILTON replied  affirmatively and  explained that                                                               
the  fee, as  currently  in  statute, is  on  a two-year  renewal                                                               
schedule  and  generally   charged  at  the  point   of  sale  at                                                               
dealerships. In  response to a  follow-up question  from Co-Chair                                                               
Foster,  she indicated  that renewals  are mailed  out every  two                                                               
years, similar to vehicle or trailer registrations.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
1:17:15 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  HUGHES   requested  that   Amy  Erickson   discuss  the                                                               
registration renewal  process and  the response rate  for renewal                                                               
notifications.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
AMY  ERICKSON,  Director,  Division   of  Motor  Vehicles  (DMV),                                                               
Department of Administration (DOA), said  she was uncertain as to                                                               
the renewal  rate, but offered  that of the  approximately 39,000                                                               
registered  snow machines,  25,000  have  a 2-year  registration,                                                               
7,500  have  a  4-year  registration, and  6,500  have  a  6-year                                                               
registration.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
1:20:27 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR FOSTER  inquired whether  the renewal  notifications are                                                               
sent to  everyone in rural  Alaska. He  explained that he  owns a                                                               
snow   machine  but   doesn't   remember   receiving  a   renewal                                                               
notification in the past.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
1:20:49 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  ERICKSON responded  that it  is required  that snow  machine                                                               
owners register their snow machines.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR FOSTER commented that he  was unaware of the requirement                                                               
to  register and  offered  that most  rural  Alaskans are  likely                                                               
unaware of the requirement.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS. ERICKSON  responded that if  a snow machine is  not currently                                                               
registered to its owner then there is  no way for the DMV to send                                                               
the owner a renewal notification.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
1:21:35 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR HUGHES suggested that a  private party sale would likely                                                               
not  involve  the  registration  fee.    She  asked  whether  the                                                               
registration is  completed at the  time of the  original purchase                                                               
from a dealership.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MS  ERICKSON replied  that is  correct,  and she  stated that  if                                                               
dealerships register  the snow machine,  then the DMV  would know                                                               
about it, but in  the case of a personal sale,  the DMV would not                                                               
necessarily  know about  it because  there is  no certificate  of                                                               
title.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
1:22:09 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  FOSTER recounted  that  he purchased  his snow  machine                                                               
brand new, hasn't  sold it, and it has always  been registered in                                                               
his  name.   He  stated that  he  purchased it  in  2003, and  he                                                               
suggested that  by now  he probably should  have received  six or                                                               
seven  renewal  notifications  by  mail,  yet he  has  not.    He                                                               
explained that he  was inquiring because he was  trying to figure                                                               
out the  structure of the  renewal requirements and how  it could                                                               
affect rural Alaskans.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
1:22:50 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  HUGHES asked  how long  the  renewal requirements  have                                                               
been in effect and shared that  when she lived in Fort Yukon, her                                                               
primary mode of transportation was a snow machine.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MS ERICKSON stated that the statute was effected in 1998.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
1:23:38 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHRISTOPHER  CLARK, Staff,  Representative  Cathy Tilton,  Alaska                                                               
State Legislature,  drew members'  attention to the  documents in                                                               
the  committee  packet  listing the  number  of  registered  snow                                                               
machines in each community throughout  the state.  He pointed out                                                               
that  in Co-Chair  Foster's  town there  are  only 45  registered                                                               
machines, and  he suggested that  he may  not be the  only person                                                               
not receiving a renewal notice.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR FOSTER speculated  that more than 45  snow machines were                                                               
sold in  Nome in  the last year.   He offered  that it  is likely                                                               
that the  registration paperwork is handled  appropriately by the                                                               
dealers, but he  estimated that there are 2,000  snow machines in                                                               
the region.   He asked whether  any of the revenue  acquired from                                                               
registrations  had  been  distributed  to rural  Alaska,  as  the                                                               
trails  referenced  thus  far  were  generally  in  South-Central                                                               
Alaska or more urban areas.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
1:25:10 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
BEN  ELLIS, Director,  Division  of Parks  & Outdoor  Recreation,                                                               
Department  of  Natural  Resources   (DNR),  responded  that  the                                                               
majority of Snowmobile Trails  Advisory Council (SnowTRAC) funds,                                                               
which are registration fees transferred  from DMV to the Division                                                               
of Parks &  Outdoor Recreation, are distributed  primarily to the                                                               
urban areas  to offset  costs for trail  grooming.   He mentioned                                                               
that  over  the   last  three  years  he   has  encouraged  grant                                                               
recipients from  off of the road  system to apply for  safety and                                                               
education  grants  for  the  purpose  of  trail  markers  between                                                               
villages or similar improvements.   Three years ago, DNR received                                                               
a request  for, and provided  a $15,000  grant, to a  village but                                                               
the  program was  never executed.   He  explained that  it was  a                                                               
reimbursable  grant:   a  city,  community,  or club  receives  a                                                               
project  go-ahead, receipts  for  the project  are retained,  and                                                               
upon project completion  the receipts are reimbursed.   He stated                                                               
that for  the next two  years DNR  focused on getting  grants for                                                               
signage, education,  and emergency response to  rural Alaska, but                                                               
did not have any applicants.   Finally last year, after the money                                                               
has been  sitting idle  for three years,  the division  rolled it                                                               
back into  the trail grooming pool.   He stated that  SnowTRAC is                                                               
and  was designed  as  a statewide  program,  and DNR  encourages                                                               
safety and education grant applications  from locales outside the                                                               
urban areas, with little or no response.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
1:27:48 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  FOSTER  stated  that  his  initial  inclination  is  to                                                               
support the registration fee increase  from $10 to $20 for people                                                               
who would be benefitting from  groomed trails, and that perhaps a                                                               
Bush exemption  would be  appropriate, if none  of the  funds are                                                               
benefitting rural Alaska.  Trail  marking and emergency response,                                                               
are  very important  to people  who  use snow  machines in  rural                                                               
Alaska, and it may be a  matter of improving program awareness to                                                               
outlying areas.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
1:28:54 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  HUGHES mentioned  that  there had  been several  recent                                                               
tragic events  related to avalanches  and asked if any  funds are                                                               
collected specifically for search and rescue.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
1:29:23 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  ELLIS answered  that there  were no  funds specifically  for                                                               
search and  rescue through  the DNR  snow machine  grant program,                                                               
although the agency  does provide snow machine  ranger service at                                                               
Hatcher Pass and other locations.   The rangers are all qualified                                                               
in CPR and  have received training in advanced  search and rescue                                                               
techniques.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
1:30:03 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  HUGHES asked  how much  is spent  on search  and rescue                                                               
related to snow machine users statewide.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR.  ELLIS  deferred response,  and  offered  to provide  further                                                               
information.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
1:30:46 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  CLAMAN  sought  clarification  that  the  revenue                                                               
generated by  the snow  machine fees is  directed to  the general                                                               
fund and,  although there  are programs  that allocate  funds for                                                               
purposes  such  as  trails,  there  is  no  requirement  that  an                                                               
increase  in revenue  would be  distributed to  the snow  machine                                                               
program.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
1:31:29 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. ELLIS replied  that Representative Claman was  correct in his                                                               
understanding.  He  explained that this bill  would increase snow                                                               
machine registration fees, but there  is not currently, nor would                                                               
there  be a  nexus between  increased  fees and  funding for  the                                                               
SnowTRAC program.   The  money collected by  DMV would  be slated                                                               
for  the  general  fund,  and  subsequently  a  request  must  be                                                               
submitted to the governor or  the legislature for the Division of                                                               
Parks  &  Outdoor Recreation  to  have  receipt authority  for  a                                                               
certain  amount of  money.    He further  explained  that in  the                                                               
fiscal year 2016  (FY16) budget, the Division of  Parks & Outdoor                                                               
Recreation was slated  to receive up to $250,000  in snow machine                                                               
registration  fees  [for  SnowTRAC]; however,  the  division  has                                                               
never  received the  full  amount of  the  receipt authority  and                                                               
generally  they receive  around  $200,000 for  the  program.   He                                                               
noted that  doubling the  fee would not  necessarily result  in a                                                               
doubling of the division's receipt authority for the program.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
1:33:06 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  ELLIS,  in response  to  a  question from  Co-Chair  Hughes,                                                               
clarified that unless the allocation  is written into statute, it                                                               
would be the  legislature's decision each year whether  or not to                                                               
support the amount  designated in the governor's budget.   In the                                                               
instance that it was excluded  from the governor's budget, as was                                                               
the  case  the  previous  year, it  would  be  the  legislature's                                                               
prerogative whether or not to fund it, and at what level.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
1:34:10 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN asked if  receipt authority guarantees that                                                               
all  fee revenue  is earmarked  for  and passed  directly to  the                                                               
program or if the legislature actually appropriates the funds.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR.  ELLIS stated  his understanding  that the  revenue generated                                                               
has  never   exceeded  the  amount   of  the   program's  receipt                                                               
authority.  He elaborated that  the money is transferred into the                                                               
general fund  and the  receipt authority  for the  program allows                                                               
those  funds to  be transferred  to the  division's capital  fund                                                               
where it is "pigeonholed" for the SnowTRAC program.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR.CLARK  added  that all  funds  are  subject to  appropriation.                                                               
Statute provides  authorization, but  the legislature  is charged                                                               
with affecting the appropriation.   The fiscal note, available in                                                               
the committee  packet, stipulates  that any revenue  collected in                                                               
excess of current  receipt authority is to remain  in the general                                                               
fund.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
1:36:11 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR HUGHES asked about the  price range of snow machine fees                                                               
imposed  by other  states, and  whether  the primary  use is  for                                                               
trail maintenance.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
1:36:37 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. CLARK  stated that  22 states and  5 Canadian  provinces have                                                               
snowmobile fees.   Alaska and Oregon  have the lowest fee  at $10                                                               
biennially, and New  York has the highest fees  at $100 annually.                                                               
He declined to speculate on the primary use of the funds.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
1:37:20 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR FOSTER noted that SnowTRAC  is statewide program and the                                                               
rural  communities are  eligible  to  apply for  a  share of  the                                                               
funds.    He  said  he  would inform  rural  communities  of  the                                                               
opportunity and  asked about  the level of  effort that  has been                                                               
put into notifying Bush areas about the program.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
1:38:04 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  ELLIS stated  that the  snow machine  trail coordinator  has                                                               
conducted  outreach  to  Buckland, Kotzebue,  Bethel,  and  other                                                               
areas  to encourage  submission of  grant applications;  however,                                                               
despite  interest,  applications have  not  been  submitted.   He                                                               
stated that the division would  be interested in working with Co-                                                               
Chair  Foster's  office  to  disseminate  information  about  the                                                               
program throughout  rural communities, noting that  trail markers                                                               
and  safety training  could save  lives  in areas  that use  snow                                                               
machine routes as highways.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR FOSTER stated  his appreciation for the  efforts made by                                                               
the  Division  of  Parks  & Outdoor  Recreation.    He  expressed                                                               
excitement  about the  prospect of  adding tripod  trail markers,                                                               
village by  village throughout  the state,  as there  are several                                                               
accounts  of fatalities  resulting from  getting lost  along snow                                                               
machine routes during inclement  weather. He offered that perhaps                                                               
there  could be  an amendment  regarding reporting  requirements,                                                               
specifically  listing the  annual distribution  amounts for  each                                                               
community.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
1:40:27 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. ELLIS  stated that distribution  information is  available on                                                               
the  division's webpage.    The  information available  includes:                                                               
allocation  amounts, communities  receiving allocations,  and use                                                               
of the allocation.  He  explained that the division distributes a                                                               
press release each year.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR.  ELLIS further  explained that  the  SnowTRAC Advisory  Board                                                               
reviews the  grant requests, which  are thoroughly  discussed and                                                               
vetted,  prior  to  making a  recommendation  to  the  director's                                                               
office.  Mr. Ellis said  he usually approves the recommendations.                                                               
The  only exception  in recent  history was  that no  communities                                                               
applied for  the rural safety  program funds, dollars  which were                                                               
subsequently rolled back into the  snow machine grant program; an                                                               
action the  division would likely take  again in the future.   He                                                               
noted that it is important to  get the message out that the funds                                                               
are available, and the division would continue to do its part.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
1:41:52 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN inquired about  other states' fees and what                                                               
is the average fee for snow machine registration.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
1:42:12 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. CLARK replied:   Maine has a $46 annual fee  and New York has                                                               
a $100 resident  and non-resident fee that is reduced  to $45 for                                                               
members of the New York  Snow Mobile Association; Minnesota has a                                                               
$78.50 three-year "trail use" fee;  Montana has a one-time fee of                                                               
$60.50 and a multi-year rental  fee schedule; Nebraska has a $200                                                               
manufacturer registration  fee; and  Washington has a  $50 annual                                                               
fee for  snow machines less than  30 years old and  $12 for those                                                               
30-plus  years  old.    He  added that  Newfoundland  has  a  $23                                                               
Canadian dollar  (CAD) annual fee  and Quebec has a  $92.90 (CAD)                                                               
annual fee.  He did not offer an average rate.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
1:43:25 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  HUGHES  asked how  the  nine  members of  the  SnowTRAC                                                               
Advisory  Board  are selected  and  whether  rural residents  are                                                               
represented/seated on the committee.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
1:43:52 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. ELLIS replied  that the SnowTRAC Advisory  Board is appointed                                                               
by the  director of the  Division of Parks &  Outdoor Recreation.                                                               
Two of the  advisory boards in the division are  appointed by the                                                               
governor, one  is appointed  by the  commissioner, and  the other                                                               
seventeen  advisory boards  are appointed  by the  director.   He                                                               
recalled that a Nome resident  was seated, but resigned; thus, no                                                               
rural resident is currently seated.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  HUGHES  inquired  whether there  were  any  regulations                                                               
dictating  the geographic  composition of  the SnowTRAC  Advisory                                                               
Board.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. ELLIS  replied that  the SnowTRAC  Advisory Board  has bylaws                                                               
and  operating procedures  that discuss  diversity on  the board,                                                               
but there  is no statutory  requirement.   He said the  board was                                                               
established   by  the   former  director   of  Parks   &  Outdoor                                                               
Recreation, in  1998, in conjunction  with the  implementation of                                                               
the snow machine registration fee.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
1:46:17 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
DAN MAYFIELD, Chair, SnowTRAC Advisory  Board, stated that HB 319                                                               
was  a simple  bill  that  could have  a  great  impact on  trail                                                               
safety,  education, access,  development, grooming,  signage, and                                                               
the economies  of communities that depend  on winter recreational                                                               
visitation from snow machine and other  trail users.  He said the                                                               
aforementioned goals  are the  subject of  the work  of SnowTRAC.                                                               
He  informed the  committee that  SnowTRAC is  the only  revenue-                                                               
neutral, self-funded,  user-based program in Alaska;  all funding                                                               
is derived from the registration  of snow machines.  He explained                                                               
that available funding  has fallen short of  the amount necessary                                                               
to sustain  the goals  of the program  and SnowTRAC  is currently                                                               
operating  in survival  mode.   The  organization  has set  aside                                                               
goals beyond trail grooming, in  hopes that funding opportunities                                                               
may be available in the future.   He recounted that over the last                                                               
three  years,  funding  requests  have  ranged  from  a  high  of                                                               
$373,551  to  a low  of  $360,831,  while available  funding  has                                                               
ranged  from $204,000  to $278,000,  far less  than necessary  to                                                               
meet demand.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.   MAYFIELD   offered   that   HB  319   would   restore   the                                                               
sustainability of the  SnowTRAC program and allow it  to meet the                                                               
demands of  trail users at  little or no cost  to the state.   He                                                               
posed the question to the  committee: "What better investment can                                                               
you make  in tough financial  times than to let  users adequately                                                               
fund their  own program?"   He acknowledged that  all legislation                                                               
receives some  opposition; however,  it's worth  considering that                                                               
over 85  percent of  all registered  users come  from communities                                                               
that  either directly  benefit  from, or  have  the potential  to                                                               
benefit  from,  the  funding  of services  that  the  bill  would                                                               
provide.   He clarified that  the other  15 percent of  users are                                                               
important and SnowTRAC will continue  to make strong overtures to                                                               
inform rural  Alaskans of available  funding. He  emphasized that                                                               
SnowTRAC is  a statewide  program, and  it's something  that they                                                               
want to continue on a statewide basis.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR.  MAYFIELD requested  that the  committee consider  increasing                                                               
receipt authority for  the SnowTRAC program.   He reiterated that                                                               
the SnowTRAC is an inclusive  group that celebrates the successes                                                               
of all snow  machine advocates and, accordingly,  rural Alaska is                                                               
very  important  to  the  program.     He  related  that  one  of                                                               
SnowTRAC's  original  plans  was  to develop  a  statewide  trail                                                               
network, a  vision that he said  it still embraces.   He surmised                                                               
that  it would  ultimately come  to fruition,  but that  it would                                                               
take a  significant amount of time  to build.  He  disclosed that                                                               
he   is  the   president  of   Big  Lake   Trails,  a   501(c)(3)                                                               
organization; President of the Big  Lake Chamber of Commerce; and                                                               
an assembly member in the Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Valley.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
1:51:17 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR FOSTER  stated that  he was inclined  to agree  with the                                                               
need to  increase receipt  authority for the  program.   He asked                                                               
whether anyone on  the board could be  considered semi-rural, for                                                               
example from just outside of Mat-Su.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
1:52:15 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.   MAYFIELD  replied   that  there   is  representation   from                                                               
Fairbanks, Anchorage,  Mat-Su, Juneau,  and the  Kenai Peninsula.                                                               
He noted  that although there  is no representation  from Western                                                               
Alaska, it is not for lack of effort.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
1:53:21 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
KEVIN  HITE,  President,   Alaska  State  Snowmobile  Association                                                               
(ASSA), recounted  that he had the  privilege of being a  part of                                                               
the group that  originally developed SnowTRAC and  has watched it                                                               
progress from its  nascent stages to its current form.   He noted                                                               
that  the  program  was  designed  with a  focus  on  safety  and                                                               
infrastructure  in  the  state and  offered  that  a  significant                                                               
amount of  work has been  invested by different groups  that have                                                               
been a  part of the  SnowTRAC Advisory  Board.  He  recalled that                                                               
the  board has,  in the  past, filled  seats with  residents from                                                               
Kotzebue and other areas of Western Alaska.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.  HITE  explained  that  inflation   has  eaten  away  at  the                                                               
available funding and, as a  result, the program has transitioned                                                               
away  from  some  of  its  original  intent,  which  was  heavily                                                               
weighted toward safety,  including avalanche, backcountry travel,                                                               
and  travel between  villages.   He explained  that SnowTRAC  has                                                               
evolved into more  of a grooming program, and  he speculated that                                                               
although it  was not  part of the  program's original  intent, it                                                               
has likely done  more good than any  previous program initiative.                                                               
He related that snow machine users  are proud that the program is                                                               
self-funded.    He acknowledged  that  there  is a  communication                                                               
issue with  people living  outside the  dealership areas;  it has                                                               
become  much  more  difficult  to   distribute  the  funds  in  a                                                               
meaningful way.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. HITE  testified in support of  HB 319, and related  that ASSA                                                               
views the increase in registration  fees as the first step toward                                                               
statewide trail  infrastructure; one  of the original  intents of                                                               
SnowTRAC.    He  stated  that   the  association  estimated  that                                                               
providing a  good, comprehensive  statewide safety  program would                                                               
cost approximately  $300,000 to $320,000  per year.   He asserted                                                               
that  raising the  registration  fee and  increasing the  receipt                                                               
authority  for   the  program  is   a  good  first   step  toward                                                               
accomplishing the goal.   He  stated that ASSA is very focused on                                                               
revitalizing SnowTRAC  with some new  funding.  He  attested that                                                               
SnowTRAC is doing a terrific job  with a small amount of funding,                                                               
which is  being spread very  thin, and he acknowledged  that some                                                               
areas are not  getting the money they  should.  He said  a lot of                                                               
work goes into the programs, and  many of the trail groomers have                                                               
been  completing the  work  on  their own  time  and  money.   He                                                               
mentioned funding obstacles and said  that in order to change the                                                               
situation, the proposed fee increase is an absolute necessity.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. HITE  clarified that  in addition  to registration  fees, New                                                               
York  and  other  New  England States,  impose  a  trail  program                                                               
sticker  fee for  individual counties.    In some  states, it  is                                                               
possible to pay  an annual cost in registration  fees of anywhere                                                               
from  $250-$450 per  year, when  using  the interconnected  trail                                                               
systems.   He  explained that  the funds  come directly  from the                                                               
user  groups  and  the  applicable   agencies  work  together  to                                                               
collectively  develop   statewide  programs.    He   stated  that                                                               
Alaska's snow machine organizations  intend to mimic these models                                                               
for future  development efforts.   He noted  that as a  result of                                                               
fee systems, some  states have budgets of $2-$3  million for snow                                                               
machine programs.   He suggested that Alaska has work  to do, not                                                               
just  on infrastructure,  but also  on finding  ways to  fund the                                                               
infrastructure  without putting  any additional  financial weight                                                               
on the state.  He indicated  that Alaskan snow machine users have                                                               
always  stepped forward  to  do  their part  and  enjoyed a  good                                                               
relationship with DNR  and DMV.  He said there  has never been an                                                               
instance  where the  DMV collected  money that  it didn't  direct                                                               
back  into the  program and,  if anything,  the agency  has given                                                               
more to  SnowTRAC over the  years than  it has received  in fees.                                                               
He suggested that although a fee  increase is a small first step,                                                               
it is imperative.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
2:00:29 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR HUGHES opened public testimony on HB 319.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
2:01:30 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JAMES   SQUYRES  stated   opposition  to   HB  319,   and  voiced                                                               
disagreement  with claims  in the  sponsor's  statement that  the                                                               
bill "enjoys support  from users who are willing to  pay more for                                                               
a service they  need and enjoy."  He adamantly  stated that he is                                                               
not  willing to  pay.    The proposed  legislation  is a  revenue                                                               
raising  measure  under  which  the fee  would  increase  by  100                                                               
percent,  and  he  suggested  it   was  a  distraction  from  the                                                               
legislative  priority of  reducing the  budget.   He pointed  out                                                               
that the Republican  Party platform calls for a  limited size and                                                               
scope of government.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. SQUYRES stated that the issue  of snow machine fees should be                                                               
examined in its totality.  He  advised that many Alaskans live in                                                               
remote areas  and half the  state is unorganized. He  pointed out                                                               
that the sponsor and co-sponsor  come from the more organized and                                                               
urbanized areas of  the state.  He mentioned that  he had run his                                                               
snow machine  twice that day, once  to bring in seasoned  wood to                                                               
replenish his  cabin and  once to  haul green  wood to  split and                                                               
stack for  future use.   He explained  that where he  lives, snow                                                               
machines are  used as a  tool; there are  no groomed trails.   If                                                               
residents  want a  groomed trail  for cross-country  skiing, they                                                               
tow a weighed-down section of  chain link fence behind their snow                                                               
machines; they do  it on their own.   He related that  he was not                                                               
aware  of anyone  in his  area that  has registered  his/her snow                                                               
machine. He offered  that he was sympathetic to  part of Co-Chair                                                               
Foster's previous statement, as  registration of snow machines is                                                               
almost  entirely ignored  in  rural Alaska.    He explained  that                                                               
people  are  either  unaware  that  there  is  a  requirement  to                                                               
register their  snow machines  or choose not  to comply  with the                                                               
requirement, as the  revenue from the fees provide  no service to                                                               
rural Alaska.  He offered that  no state program would ever groom                                                               
a  trail near  his home,  as his  nearest neighbor  is six  miles                                                               
away.  He  pointed out that there are five  Alaska State Troopers                                                               
assigned  to  an area  that  covers  thousands of  square  miles;                                                               
therefore, there is very little enforcement.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
[Mr.  Squyres' testimony  ended at  this point  due to  technical                                                               
difficulties.]                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
2:05:35 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SCOTT LAPIENE  stated support  for HB  319, and  said that  he is                                                               
currently on the board of  the longest standing multi-modal trail                                                               
organization in  the Matanuska-Susitna Borough;  the organization                                                               
has been  in place for  27 years.  He  related that he  served on                                                               
the SnowTRAC Advisory  Board twice, once in 1999  as an appointee                                                               
of the governor  and a second time under director  Ben Ellis.  He                                                               
stated his  support of "pay  to play," the principle  that people                                                               
who   enjoy  outdoor   recreation   should   contribute  to   the                                                               
maintenance of  that infrastructure and  the fees paid  should be                                                               
returned  to  the  user  community.    He  offered  that  if  the                                                               
registration fee  was increased, then the  legislature would also                                                               
need  to increase  receipt authority  for  the SnowTRAC  program.                                                               
The  development of  winter recreation  in Alaska  is generations                                                               
behind the Lower 48, he opined,  and reported that during his 20-                                                               
plus   years  of   working  on   trails,  he   has  had   several                                                               
opportunities  to study  and discuss  other  states' systems  and                                                               
modes  of funding.   Regarding  the previously  expressed concern                                                               
about rural areas, he recalled that  in the 1990s the trail board                                                               
had  difficulty  getting  rural communities  to  participate  and                                                               
apply for  grant money.   He  offered that  the grant  process is                                                               
more  difficult now,  as grant  applicants must  be incorporated,                                                               
non-profit   organizations,   government    bodies,   or   native                                                               
corporations.     He explained that the "hurdle  is high," and it                                                               
is  difficult even  for established  organizations to  meet.   He                                                               
explained  that past  attempts to  engage  the rural  communities                                                               
have been thwarted by the aforementioned difficulties.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR.  LAPIENE suggested  that there  are  a couple  of options  to                                                               
address the  issue.  He said  the law could be  changed, but held                                                               
that  this would  not be  preferable  because he  would like  all                                                               
citizens  to  be   treated  equally.    He  opined   that  it  is                                                               
unrealistic to think registration fees  would ever be enforced in                                                               
the  Bush,   as  there  is   no  enforcement  of   motor  vehicle                                                               
registration in rural  areas, and he recounted  having seen motor                                                               
vehicles with out-of-state plates  and registrations that are 10-                                                               
years old.   Nevertheless, he said he  believes rural communities                                                               
should have  the opportunity to  participate in  attracting money                                                               
to  improve their  systems.   He  mentioned  that another  option                                                               
would be  to leverage organizations  like Iron Dog, Inc.  and the                                                               
Iditarod  Trail  Committee, Inc.  to  sponsor  grants and  locate                                                               
workers  to  ensure  a  more   equitable  distribution  of  funds                                                               
throughout  the state.    He  said the  DMV  database also  needs                                                               
improvements,  as   it  is  currently  very   difficult,  if  not                                                               
impossible, to determine how many  snow machine registrations are                                                               
renewals and how many are made at the point of sale.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. LAPIENNE  mentioned as an aside  that snowmobile registration                                                               
existed long before  SnowTRAC was enacted in 1998,  which is also                                                               
when point-of-sale registration was added  to Alaska statute.  He                                                               
stated that it  would be valuable to  track information regarding                                                               
the   source   of   the   funds,   whether   from   point-of-sale                                                               
registrations or  renewals, because  it would indicate  the level                                                               
of continued voluntary  participation. He stated that  he has one                                                               
significant  concern  with  the  proposed legislation.    In  its                                                               
current  form, the  bill strikes  the word  "snowmobile" from  AS                                                               
28.10.421(d)(7)  and leaves  only  "off-highway  vehicle" in  its                                                               
place.  He informed the  committee that ATVs, off-road jeeps, and                                                               
similar vehicles are  akin to snowmobiles in  that although there                                                               
are  point-of-sale registrations,  there is  no enforcement.   He                                                               
stated his  belief that  there should be  a summer  equivalent to                                                               
SnowTRAC  for off-road  motorized  recreation,  and a  compulsory                                                               
point-of-sale  registration  for   off-highway  vehicles  is  the                                                               
mechanism that would allow that to occur.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
2:12:37 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN  asked whether  Mr. Lapiene  was suggesting                                                               
that the off-highway vehicle fee should also be raised to $20.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
2:13:02 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. LAPIENE replied  no, not until the legislature  is willing to                                                               
establish  an  off-highway  vehicle   grant  program  similar  to                                                               
SnowTRAC.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN requested  clarification that Mr. Lapiene's                                                               
exception  with the  removal of  the  aforementioned language  is                                                               
that it would highlight the  lack of enforcement related to other                                                               
off-road  vehicle fees  and that  Mr. Lapiene  would prefer  that                                                               
discussion to be delayed for now.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR. LAPIENE replied, "That's correct."                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  HUGHES  asked  whether  the  $10  fee  for  off-highway                                                               
vehicle registration is levied at the point-of-sale.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR.  LAPIENE replied  that there  is no  compulsory point-of-sale                                                               
registration  for off-highway  vehicles, and  estimated that  1-2                                                               
percent   of  owners   voluntarily  register   their  off-highway                                                               
vehicles.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR FOSTER asked  whether tribes are also  eligible to apply                                                               
for  grants.   He noted  that tribes  are the  organizations most                                                               
likely to get involved in trail marking in his district.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR. LAPIENE deferred.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR.  ELLIS  stated that  tribes  do  fall  into the  category  of                                                               
organizations that are able to apply for the grant, as do non-                                                                  
profits, cities, municipalities, and boroughs.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
2:16:22 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  SQUYRES suggested  that  there  is a  large  amount of  non-                                                               
compliance  surrounding  the  registration requirement  in  rural                                                               
Alaska.  There  is a nullification for participation  in a system                                                               
such  as [SnowTRAC]  when the  money is  not reinvested  in rural                                                               
parts of the  state.  He pointed  out that most of  the people on                                                               
the board of SnowTRAC reside, and  the revenue is being spent, in                                                               
urban areas.  He questioned why  people in rural areas would want                                                               
to participate when they already  cut and groom their own trails.                                                               
He restated  that he  doesn't know anyone  whose snow  machine is                                                               
registered and  that there are  only 5 troopers for  thousands of                                                               
square  miles.   He  requested  that, since  the  topic has  been                                                               
brought before  the legislature,  he would  like members  to take                                                               
the opportunity  to repeal  the section  of statute  entirely and                                                               
reduce  the  size of  government.    He  suggested that  if  snow                                                               
machine  program  funding is  an  issue  in organized  areas,  it                                                               
should be specifically  dealt with in those locales.   He posited                                                               
that  if Representative  Foster were  to secure  SnowTRAC funding                                                               
for his  constituents, the money  would be tied to  a requirement                                                               
for registration compliance, which residents may not appreciate.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. SQUYRES  voiced frustration with the  comparisons being drawn                                                               
between Alaska  and other states; he  said Alaska is unique.   He                                                               
opined that Alaska  should not be modeling its  programs based on                                                               
other  states, as  it would  result in  a larger  government, and                                                               
emphasized  that   the  legislature  should  not   be  increasing                                                               
financial burdens on  Alaskans or growing the  size of government                                                               
during a  financial crisis.   Rural Alaska  is "under  attack" by                                                               
the proposal to  restructure the permanent fund.  He restated his                                                               
opposition to the bill and  urged committee members to repeal the                                                               
pertaining  statute  and  get  Alaska back  to  being  "the  Last                                                               
Frontier."                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR HUGHES asked Mr. Squyres  how the state should cover the                                                               
cost of search and rescue operations conducted in rural Alaska.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. SQUYRES  replied that there  is a responsibility to  be fully                                                               
prepared that rests on the  shoulders of the individual living in                                                               
or accessing remote  areas.  He recounted that  the previous fall                                                               
he  was several  miles  away  from any  help  and his  motorcycle                                                               
landed on  his ankle.   He was injured  and it was  difficult for                                                               
him to get  out.  He stated  that he had taken  the initiative to                                                               
share his plans with his wife  and his neighbor, thus, had he not                                                               
been able to get out on his  own, he had people prepared to help.                                                               
He  stated  that   anyone  residing  in  a  remote   area  has  a                                                               
responsibility  to behave  like  the  previous generations  have,                                                               
which  is to  be prepared.   He  said, "If  you are  out in  bear                                                               
country, you carry a sidearm; you  carry a means to start a fire;                                                               
you  do  what you  need  to  do to."    He  offered that  in  his                                                               
experience, many of  the instances that require a  rescue did not                                                               
need  to  occur  in  the  first  place.    He  acknowledged  that                                                               
education is  important, but suggested  that it should  come from                                                               
parents and peers, rather than the government.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
2:21:48 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR HUGHES posed  a scenario where all  of the precautionary                                                               
actions taken by  Mr. Squyres had failed and the  state still had                                                               
to use  resources to provide  search and  rescue.  She  asked how                                                               
those costs should be covered.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. SQUYRES responded  that there are consequences  of making the                                                               
decision to lead an alternative lifestyle;  it may come to a grim                                                               
end.  He suggested that there  are many people in rural areas who                                                               
would rather  "live life"  than depend on  government to  come to                                                               
their  rescue.   He  said  with five  Alaska  State Troopers  for                                                               
thousands of  square miles, assistance  comes after the  fact. He                                                               
maintained  that it  is the  individual's responsibility  to know                                                               
what he/she  is getting into.   He offered an  anecdote regarding                                                               
an acquaintance who  runs 125 miles of trap line  by himself, and                                                               
has for  many years,  and suggested  that rural  residents should                                                               
aspire to a  similar level of self-reliance,  take the wilderness                                                               
seriously, and "do  what they need to do."   He suggested that it                                                               
is  absurd that  money is  being spent  on grooming  in the  more                                                               
urbanized  areas.   He offered  that there  is a  natural balance                                                               
taking place,  wherein people in  the urban areas are  paying for                                                               
grooming  and   people  in  rural   areas  are   nullifying  [the                                                               
registration  system].    Mr.  Squyres  recounted  Representative                                                               
Foster's  statement that  he had  never  received a  registration                                                               
renewal notice and didn't know anyone  who had.  He held that the                                                               
effect of the natural balance  is to turn honest Alaskan citizens                                                               
into outlaws or  bandits as a result of their  noncompliance.  He                                                               
indicated that the  reason that limited government  is a platform                                                               
plank for the  Republican Party is because  they appreciate self-                                                               
reliance and the responsibility of individuals.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
[HB 319 was held over.]