Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/25/2003 09:06 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                                                                                                                                
     SENATE BILL NO. 53                                                                                                         
     "An Act relating to  disposition of a traffic offense involving                                                            
     the death of a person;  providing for the revocation of driving                                                            
     privileges by a court  for a driver convicted of a violation of                                                            
     traffic  laws  in connection  with  a  fatal motor  vehicle  or                                                            
     commercial motor vehicle  accident; amending Rules 43 and 43.1,                                                            
     Alaska Rules of Administration;  and providing for an effective                                                            
     date."                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
This  was the first  hearing  for this  bill in  the Senate  Finance                                                            
Committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Co-chair Wilken  informed the Committee  that this bill would  allow                                                            
the revocation  of  a person's  driving  license in  the event  that                                                            
their traffic violation results in a death.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR SCOTT OGAN, the  sponsor of the bill, explained that current                                                            
State  statute does  not provide  provisions  to  address a  traffic                                                            
violation  that results  in a death.  He shared  that he  personally                                                            
knows families who have  lost a relative or suffered a disability as                                                            
the  result  of  another   driver  running  a  red   light,  and  he                                                            
communicated that  the at-fault driver only received  a $50 fine for                                                            
a  traffic  violation.  He  stated  that unless  a  driver  is,  for                                                            
instance,  intoxicated,  there  is no  State  statute  that holds  a                                                            
driver  who drives  too  fast for  conditions  or runs  a red  light                                                            
responsible for their actions.  He stated that the legal defense for                                                            
these people  "is that they really  didn't intend to kill  someone."                                                            
He stated that similar  legislation was presented to the Legislature                                                            
the previous  session, "but  was held up in  the closing minutes  of                                                            
the session."                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Senator Taylor asked how  this legislation would address a situation                                                            
whereby a vehicle  slides off a road due to icy road  conditions and                                                            
results in  a family member in the  car being killed. He  noted that                                                            
the driver's negligence,  according to this Legislation, contributed                                                            
to a fatality.  He asked whether the  word "may" in the Legislation                                                             
would allow the court discretion in addressing this scenario.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Senator Ogan responded  that judges would have sufficient  authority                                                            
to appropriately  address  the situation  and that  the court  would                                                            
render an appropriate response.  He stated that this "is exactly the                                                            
reason"  the  legislation  includes  the  word  "may."  However,  he                                                            
asserted,   this   legislation   would  also   allow   a  judge   to                                                            
appropriately address a  situation whereby the action of the driver,                                                            
or repeated  infractions  of  a driver,  causes personal  damage  to                                                            
others.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Senator Bunde expressed  understanding of the frustration that might                                                            
be  caused  by  current  statutes  limitations;  however,  he  asked                                                            
whether revoking  a driver's license would have the  desired result;                                                            
as, he  furthered,  some people  would  continue to  drive or  might                                                            
otherwise not be "inconvenienced."                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Senator Ogan suspected  that there are some people  who "would thumb                                                            
their  nose" at  the loss  of their  driver's license.  However,  he                                                            
stressed that this legislation  would be a deterrent to those people                                                            
who violate traffic  laws by driving too fast or who  run red lights                                                            
as opposed to  those people who routinely drive recklessly  or drive                                                            
while intoxicated.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
LIEUTENANT  MATT  LEVEQUE,  Alaska  State  Troopers,  Department  of                                                            
Public Safety, testified  via teleconference from an offnet site and                                                            
agreed that some  people would continue to drive without  a driver's                                                            
license;  however, some  would  respect the  law and  not drive.  In                                                            
response to  Senator Bunde's comment  about further inconveniencing                                                             
offenders  by, for instance,  prohibiting  them from airline  travel                                                            
because  they  would not  have  a  driver's license  to  present  as                                                            
required at  time of airline check-in,  Lieutenant Leveque  informed                                                            
that  individuals  who  lose their  driver's  license  would  remain                                                            
eligible  to apply for  a state identification  card. Therefore,  he                                                            
continued  the  State would  not  deny individuals  the  ability  to                                                            
travel.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Senator Olson  asked whether Lieutenant  Leveque supports  the bill.                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Lieutenant Leveque responded  that the Department supports the bill.                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Taylor  moved  to  report  the  bill  from  Committee  with                                                            
individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal note.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Without objection,  HB 53 was REPORTED from Committee  with previous                                                            
fiscal notes  #1 and #2  from the Department  of Administration  and                                                            
previous fiscal note #3 from the Department of Law.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                

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