Legislature(2015 - 2016)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

03/18/2015 01:30 PM JUDICIARY

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Audio Topic
01:38:16 PM Start
01:38:40 PM SB43
01:50:57 PM Confirmation Hearing: Attorney General
03:02:14 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled:
-- Rescheduled from 03/13/15 --
+ Confirmation of Governor's Appointment: TELECONFERENCED
Craig Richards, Attorney General - Department of
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled: TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
            SB  43-IMMUNITY FOR FIRE DEPT. & MEMBERS                                                                        
1:38:40 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  MCGUIRE announced  the  consideration  of SB  43. "An  Act                                                             
relating  to immunity  for  a fire  department  and employees  or                                                               
members of a fire department."                                                                                                  
SENATOR  COGHILL,  speaking  as  sponsor, explained  that  SB  43                                                               
addresses  immunity for  fire departments.  In the  Interior some                                                               
volunteer  fire departments  contract with  local governments  to                                                               
provide  services  and  they  aren't   given  the  same  immunity                                                               
protection from  liability as the  employees of  fire departments                                                               
operated by  municipalities. He  deferred further  explanation to                                                               
Mr. Shilling.                                                                                                                   
1:40:11 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  COGHILL   motioned  to  adopt  the   proposed  committee                                                               
substitute  for  SB  43,  labeled  29-LS0325\P,  as  the  working                                                               
1:41:01 PM                                                                                                                    
At ease                                                                                                                         
1:41:36 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MCGUIRE  reconvened the meeting and  announced that without                                                               
objection, version P is before the committee.                                                                                   
1:42:00 PM                                                                                                                    
JORDAN SHILLING, Staff, Senator  John Coghill, explained that the                                                               
language  on page  1, lines  11-13, clarifies  that the  immunity                                                               
does not apply  if the legal action  taken is based on  an act or                                                               
omission of  an employee or  member of  a fire department  in the                                                               
execution of a duty under contract with a private entity.                                                                       
MR.   SHILLING  summarized   the   intent   of  the   legislation                                                               
paraphrasing from the following sponsor statement:                                                                              
     Senate Bill 43 extends  protections to certain types of                                                                    
     fire departments.                                                                                                          
     Under   current  law,   employees  of   municipal  fire                                                                    
     departments receive  immunity from  liability. However,                                                                    
     some  fire departments,  such  as  those in  Fairbanks,                                                                    
     Chugiak, and Girdwood,  operate as volunteer-based non-                                                                    
     profits  that   contract  with  local   governments  to                                                                    
     provide  services.  These  types  of  fire  departments                                                                    
     aren't    similarly    protected   in    statute    (AS                                                                    
     Liability  protections  should   not  be  exclusive  to                                                                    
     employees    of    fire   departments    operated    by                                                                    
     municipalities and  should be  extended to  include all                                                                    
     fire departments  that have a  contractual relationship                                                                    
     with local governments.                                                                                                    
     Senate  Bill  43  also extends  immunity  available  to                                                                    
     municipal  fire  departments  and  to  contracted  fire                                                                    
     departments. While  municipal fire  departments already                                                                    
     have   some   statutory  protections,   contract   fire                                                                    
     departments  have  none.  Because the  current  statute                                                                    
     does  not  protect  them  from  liability,  these  fire                                                                    
     departments,   local    governments,   and   ultimately                                                                    
     taxpayers, are vulnerable.                                                                                                 
He reviewed  the history  of the statute.  It was  established in                                                               
1975 at the request of  the Juneau Volunteer Fire Department, and                                                               
was modeled after  a law from Delaware. He  noted that Fairbanks,                                                               
Anchorage,   and   the   firefighters  themselves   support   the                                                               
1:45:51 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI  asked what the  rewrite in Section  1 tries                                                               
to do.                                                                                                                          
MR. SHILLING replied the current  statute only covers municipally                                                               
operated  fire  departments. Section  1  on  page 2,  lines  2-3,                                                               
redefines  fire  department  to  include  fire  departments  that                                                               
operate  under  contract  or agreement  with  a  municipality  or                                                               
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI observed that  the repealed and reenacted AS                                                               
09.65.070(c) is a lot longer than the current statute.                                                                          
MR. SHILLING  clarified that  the changes  are to  cover contract                                                               
fire departments and  to create an exception to  the immunity for                                                               
intentional  misconduct or  gross negligence.  That language  was                                                               
lifted from the 911 statutes.                                                                                                   
SENATOR COGHILL  added that  these standards  are not  unusual in                                                               
these types of circumstances.                                                                                                   
MR. SHILLING  pointed out that AS  09.65.070(c) provides immunity                                                               
primarily  to  staff  of  a  fire  department  but  also  to  the                                                               
department  itself and  subsection (d)  provides immunity  to the                                                               
department itself.                                                                                                              
CHAIR MCGUIRE asked Mr. Shilling to  bring a copy of the existing                                                               
AS   09.65.070(c)  to   the  next   hearing  with   the  proposed                                                               
substantial changes highlighted.                                                                                                
1:49:40 PM                                                                                                                    
MITCH  FLYNN,  Fire  Chief,  Steese  Volunteer  Fire  Department,                                                               
Fairbanks, Alaska, said he works  for a nonprofit in Fairbanks to                                                               
provide fire  and EMS  services under  contract to  the Fairbanks                                                               
North Star Borough.  This past year he learned about  the lack of                                                               
immunity  protection the  fire  department has  because  it is  a                                                               
contractor.  This  exposes  the   fire  department  to  potential                                                               
litigation and  large judgments. He  urged the committee  to pass                                                               
the legislation.                                                                                                                
1:50:41 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MCGUIRE  announced she  would hold SB  43 in  committee for                                                               
further consideration.                                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
1 SB43 Sponsor Statement.pdf SJUD 3/18/2015 1:30:00 PM
SB 43
2 SB43 Version H.pdf SJUD 3/18/2015 1:30:00 PM
SB 43
3 SB43 Summary of Changes Version W to H.pdf SJUD 3/18/2015 1:30:00 PM
SB 43
4 SB43 Letter of Support Fire Chiefs Assoc.pdf SJUD 3/18/2015 1:30:00 PM
SB 43
4.1 SB43 Letter of Support FNSB.pdf SJUD 3/18/2015 1:30:00 PM
SB 43
4.2 SB43 Letter of Support Interior Fire Chiefs.pdf SJUD 3/18/2015 1:30:00 PM
SB 43
4.3 SB43 Letter of Support - AFD.pdf SJUD 3/18/2015 1:30:00 PM
SB 43
4.4 SB43 Letter of Support - City of Fairbanks.pdf SJUD 3/18/2015 1:30:00 PM
SB 43
5 SB43 FN #1.pdf SJUD 3/18/2015 1:30:00 PM
SB 43
5.1 SB43 FN #2.pdf SJUD 3/18/2015 1:30:00 PM
SB 43
6 CS SB43 Version P.pdf SJUD 3/18/2015 1:30:00 PM
SB 43
Attorney General -Craig Richards.pdf SJUD 3/18/2015 1:30:00 PM
Craig Richards