Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)
04/08/2010 09:00 AM Senate STATE AFFAIRS
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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HB 251-VEHICLE LIENS/TOWING/STORAGE/TRANSPORT 9:48:26 AM CHAIR MENARD announced the next order of business to come before the committee would be HB 251. [CSHB 251(JUD), 26-LS0786\S, was before the committee.] REPRESENTATIVE JAY RAMRAS, sponsor of HB 251, said the bill is helpful to both tow truck operators and to consumers who have had a vehicle impounded. A tow truck operator incurs a fee for towing and storage of an impounded vehicle. The bank can then recover the vehicle, leaving the tow truck company without a means to recover their costs because they stand behind the lien holder or lender. HB 251 also states that tow truck companies must notify consumers that their vehicles have been impounded within five days. Currently, up to 60 days elapse while the fees add up, leaving the consumer stunned by the amount owed to the impound yard. Section 1 of HB 251 [amending AS 28.10.391(a)] is helpful to the tow truck operators and Section 2 [amending AS 28.10.502(b)] requires the tow truck company to notify the owner and lien holder of the towing, transporting and storage of a vehicle by certified letter. This is a consumer protection. 9:51:09 AM CHAIR MENARD asked if other states have similar rules. REPRESENTATIVE RAMRAS said he does not know. He noted that state troopers or local municipalities will keep different tow truck companies on a rotation index to call to an accident or DUI. SENATOR KOOKESH said HB 251 looks clear and asked if any objection exists. REPRESENTATIVE RAMRAS replied that Representative Fairclough, who previously served as the presiding officer of the Anchorage municipal assembly, had consumers complain about fees that accrue while a vehicle is in an impound yard. Some people do not pay attention or cannot afford to get their vehicle out of the impound yard. He told Representative Fairclough that HB 251 is proactively improving existing statutes by requiring a certified letter from the tow truck company within five days of the impoundment. DON HABBIGER, aide to Representative Ramras, clarified that five days was changed to seven days in committee on the house side. Tow truck companies sometimes have to go out of state to local DMV's and five days was a bit tight. SENATOR PASKVAN clarified that it is seven working days. REPRESENTATIVE RAMRAS said Bill Satterberg, attorney, previously testified and suggested that seven days, not including weekends, amounts to about ten days. 9:55:34 AM SENATOR FRENCH said some towing charges in Anchorage are outrageous. While people who perform the work should get paid, there could be an opportunity to address "predatory practices" in the future. REPRESENTATIVE RAMRAS said HB 251 focuses on notification so that consumers know where their vehicles are and how long they have been there. Tow truck operators will tell you they are struggling as small businesses to make ends meet. SENATOR PASKVAN asked how a consumer finds out what happened or where an impounded car is. He asked how a proactive owner finds out about his or her car. 9:58:39 AM REPRESENTATIVE RAMRAS said he cannot answer that question. He noted he would welcome a conceptual amendment to improve consumer protection in that regard. SHAWN HESS, S&S Towing and Recovery, Fairbanks, said he supports HB 251. He noted that his company calls plate numbers in to local law enforcement when the impound request did not come from law enforcement. The owner can call the local police department and find out which company has the vehicle. 10:01:04 AM MARK DAVIS, owner, Interior Towing and Salvage Inc., said he has to do many things when impounding a car not at the direction of a police officer. HB 251 corrects a problem so that the towing company can get paid; the lending institution cannot walk in and take the car without paying any kind of a bill. He said he is in full support of HB 251. MARGARET RABY, Alaska Towing Association, said most members of the Towing Association are in full support of HB 251. HB 251 fixes a problem whereby towers may perform their services without getting paid. Most members also support the section about notification because that does eliminate what could be considered predatory towing. Legitimate towers want to make sure that owners get their vehicles back. SENATOR PASKVAN asked if the Alaska Towing Association has a policy that plate numbers be called in upon towing. MS. RABY said Alaska Towing Association does not set policy but that practice is generally regulated by municipalities. Both Anchorage and Fairbanks municipal code require any towing within city limits to be called in. Most towers, and the state troopers, consider it standard operating procedure though it is not required. If a tower does not call in a plate, law enforcement generally gets involved and suggests the tow was illegal. 10:04:14 AM SENATOR PASKVAN suggested that adopting a consumer-friendly policy, such as providing notice promptly, would keep government off the industry's back. MS. RABY said the Alaska Towing Association is a fledgling association and is growing to that point. ELIZABETH GRISWOLD, owner, Gabe's Towing, said she and Mark Davis brought this problem to the attention of Representative Ramras to get the loophole in the statutes fixed. A credit union found the loophole; they have the perfected lien over the possessory lien. She summarized an incident in which the credit union took possession of a vehicle without paying for the tow bill. She noted that her company and others are on the towing ordinance committee and must follow local ordinances and can be audited at any time. 10:07:23 AM She pointed out that Alaska does not have a stipulation that some other states have: if a tow bill is not paid, it counts against one's driver's license. JEFF VANEYCH, Dirty Deeds Towing and Recovery, Fairbanks, said he supports HB 251. He just wants to get paid for the work he does. Once the bank comes in and takes the vehicle, he has no way to recoup his costs. 10:08:46 AM CHAIR MENARD closed public testimony. SENATOR MEYER moved to report HB 251, from committee with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal notes. CHAIR MENARD announced that without objection CSHB 251(JUD) moved from Senate State Affairs Standing Committee.