Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 211
03/09/2009 01:30 PM Senate JUDICIARY
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 51-MOTOR VEHICLE WINDOW TINTING 1:38:10 PM CHAIR FRENCH announced the consideration of SB 51 and noted that it is not his intention to move the bill today. [Before the committee was CSSB 51(TRA).] Speaking as sponsor, he explained that the bill is about illegal window tinting. The Spenard Community Council said members of the public are concerned about vehicles with darkly tinted windows traversing their neighborhoods. Being unable to see who is in the car and therefore who is in the neighborhood is worrisome. In the course of their investigation they found that although it is illegal to drive a car with windows that have dark tinting, it is not illegal for a shop to install that product. The logical outgrowth of that observation is to make the installation of illegal window tint a citable offense. 1:39:36 PM He noted that California, Nevada and Washington all allow the imposition of jail time for installing tinting that is too dark. When the bill was introduced last year he concluded that it was too onerous to impose jail time for what is essentially a traffic offense. SB 51 keeps the traffic infraction penalty in place with a maximum fine of $300 for installing window tinting that is too dark according to state regulation. CHAIR FRENCH opened public testimony. 1:40:27 PM KEN STATAFORA, Lieutenant, said he has been a police officer in Anchorage for 31 years. Currently he is in charge of the traffic section and has spoken to numerous patrol and traffic officers who have legitimate complaints with dark window tinting. Two safety issues are involved. One is that accidents can be prevented if motorists are able to maintain eye contact with adjacent drivers. The other is that it can tie officers' hands if they can't see into vehicles when they're trying to locate a driver or match a particular car to a driver. Another concern relates to the medical exemption. The reality is that these are essentially hand-written notes and APD would like to request that they be an official standardized document that contains the doctor's name and phone number for verification purposes. LIEUTENANT STATAFORA stated support for the provision to require a tint hologram to identify the installer and certify that the installation complies with the law, but the biggest issue is safety. Walking up to a vehicle is one of the most dangerous jobs an officer faces and being able to see a suspect's action has allowed him to avert serious harm or death numerous times. "I'm sure that that claim is echoed by every law enforcement officer in the state," he said. SENATOR THERRIAULT asked how much time he has spent in a patrol car. LIEUTENANT STATAFORA replied he spent 18 years on the graveyard shift, 13 years working homicide and robbery cases. For 10 years he was on the SWAT team and was responsible for stopping numerous vehicles and taking violent suspects into custody. RODNEY DIAL, Lieutenant, Alaska State Troopers, Department of Public Safety (DPS), said DPS supports SB 51. The bill is not about changing standards; it is a means of keeping businesses from installing a product that makes a vehicle illegal. LIEUTENANT DIAL explained that last week in Ketchikan he used a certified tint meter on a series of foreign and domestic vehicles. On average, the driver's and passenger's side windows with factory installed light tint blocked 28 percent to 30 percent of all light, which is legal under current Alaska law. He then applied a medium tint on top of the stock factory tint and retested the windows. The combination blocked between 68 percent and 72 percent of all light. This is essentially darker than sunglasses, he said. If you were to apply a medium tint on top of windows that lawfully block 60 percent of light, the result would be a window that blocks over 90 percent of all light. Currently 45 states and the District of Columbia have net tint standards, which take into account after market tinting. Auto Trim Design is advocating a film standard to allow application of a 35 percent film atop stock factory tinted windows. This means that some windows would block 90 percent of all light, which is particularly dark at night. For perspective, cosmetic sunglasses allow four times more light to pass through and it's recommended that they not be worn at night. Relaxing the standards to make everyone happy really isn't an option, he said. The industry standpoint is that customers want medium or dark tint, but the current standards help keep law enforcement officers, pedestrians and other drivers safe. He asked the committee to maintain the current tint standards and pass SB 51. SENATOR THERRIAULT asked how much time he has spent in a patrol car where he has had to deal with tinted windows. LIEUTENANT DIAL replied nearly his entire career. About 12 years have been devoted to exclusive patrol functions and most of that time was in rural communities where there were few if any streetlights. Tinted windows were a bigger concern in those areas. SENATOR THERRIAULT asked if there is much tint on vehicle windows in rural Alaska. LIEUTENANT DIAL said no, but he ran into it on a frequent basis when he worked at the Talkeetna and Glennallen road posts. BOB BOSWOOD, President, Auto Trim Design, Fairbanks, said he opposes the current tinting regulations because they are too restrictive to allow his business to survive. His business is to tint windows and he feels that applying a 35 percent medium film allows sufficient view into a vehicle so as to not be a safety issue. He has spoken to numerous police officers and troopers in the Fairbanks area and 99 percent had no problem with that level of film. "Nor did they feel that they were at risk in pulling that vehicle over once they've lit them up at night," he said. MR. BOSWOOD disputed the statement that 35 percent tint atop factory tint blocks 90 percent of the light. Rather, it allows between 28 percent and 32 percent light transmittance. He said he would support tint laws like California, Nevada and Washington have, but he would note that all those laws are less restrictive than Alaska's tint laws. He relayed that all his customers sign a waiver acknowledging that the tint does not comply with Alaska regulations. He expressed the view that SB 51 will not stop people from applying dark tint, but it will put some reputable businesses out of business. SENATOR THERRIAULT asked if the current regulations require an installer to apply a hologram. CHAIR FRENCH said it's a new requirement in the bill on page 2, lines 2-3; it's not part of current regulation. STEVE VINCENT, General Manager, Auto Trim Design, Fairbanks, said Fairbanks Police Chief Dan Hoffman stated in a letter that he would support a reasonable lessening of the current tint laws so long as they comport with the majority of other state standards and allow adequate visibility to approaching law enforcement officers. North Pole Police Chief Paul Lindhag also sent a letter supporting 35 percent light transmission on the front windows of vehicles. MR. VINCENT told the committee that he has a medical waiver because of a family history of melanoma. 70 percent UV block on a window is not sufficient to stop the growth of melanoma or cancer cells, he said. Current law doesn't give people the opportunity to take preventative steps; they have to wait until they've been diagnosed with a cancer problem. He said he resents that he has a medical waiver, but his truck is targeted because there is no sticker to identify that he has a medical waiver. CHAIR FRENCH thanked him for the suggestion about an identifier for a medical waiver. 2:04:48 PM TATE OLSON, Technician, Auto Trim Design, Fairbanks, said he has worked hard for the last two years to become proficient at installing window tint. In that time he has tinted many vehicles and some are official. In his opinion 35 percent tint is a film that is very visible. The factory tint is very light. He sees work that he's done every day and he can see these drivers fully. CHAIR FRENCH, finding no further testimony, closed public testimony and announced he would hold SB 51 for potential future action.