Legislature(2015 - 2016)BUTROVICH 205

02/16/2016 09:00 AM Senate STATE AFFAIRS

Note: the audio and video recordings are distinct records and are obtained from different sources. As such there may be key differences between the two. The audio recordings are captured by our records offices as the official record of the meeting and will have more accurate timestamps. Use the icons to switch between them.

Download Mp3. <- Right click and save file as

* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
+ Continuing Presentation & Discussion TELECONFERENCED
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled: TELECONFERENCED
Moved SB 127 Out of Committee
Moved SB 123 Out of Committee
         SB 123-USE OF ELECTRONIC DEVICES WHILE DRIVING                                                                     
9:09:03 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  STOLTZE announced  the consideration  of SB  123. He  said                                                               
public testimony was taken and is still open.                                                                                   
9:09:53 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KEVIN  MEYER, Alaska  State Legislature,  Juneau, Alaska,                                                               
sponsor of  SB 123, reviewed  the bill's intent. He  related that                                                               
the bill mirrors the ordinance  Anchorage passed and would change                                                               
the penalty for driving while  texting from a class-A misdemeanor                                                               
to a  violation of  up to  $500. He  said the  intent is  to have                                                               
better enforcement  of the offense.  He noted that only  20 cases                                                               
had been enforced  and of those, only 4 went  to court. He stated                                                               
that SB  123 is not  intended to be  a revenue bill.  He asserted                                                               
that  the bill  should  save the  state money  by  not having  to                                                               
involve the court system. He called it a safety bill.                                                                           
CHAIR  STOLTZE  clarified  that  the  bill  makes  texting  while                                                               
driving a  bail-schedule offense and  the person cited can  pay a                                                               
fine or  ask for  a trial.  The court system  is expected  to add                                                               
this to their list of bail-schedule offenses.                                                                                   
SENATOR MEYER agreed.                                                                                                           
CHAIR  STOLTZE  asked  if  there was  any  public  testimony.  He                                                               
requested Mr.  Hanson report  on the  enforcement of  the current                                                               
texting-while-driving law.                                                                                                      
9:13:23 AM                                                                                                                    
DAVID  HANSON,  Lieutenant,  Alaska  State  Troopers,  Anchorage,                                                               
Alaska, answered  questions regarding  SB 123. He  explained that                                                               
in  the position  of Deputy  Commander  of the  Alaska Bureau  of                                                               
Highway Patrol  he oversees  the patrol  troopers. He  noted that                                                               
most of  his comments  would mirror what  Senator Meyer  said. In                                                               
reviewing case  records from 2012  to 2015, Alaska  Department of                                                               
Public Safety  initiated a  total of  69 cases  involving drivers                                                               
that were texting or operating  a screen device while driving; of                                                               
these, 172  were charged with  distracted driving and  the others                                                               
were charged with distracted driving  due to screen devices. Part                                                               
of the  reason troopers are  less likely to charge  an individual                                                               
with the  class-A misdemeanor is  because of the burden  of proof                                                               
9:15:31 AM                                                                                                                    
LIEUTENANT  HANSON explained  that  in a  misdemeanor trial,  the                                                               
trooper  would  need to  provide  evidence  that the  person  was                                                               
distracted; this is  often difficult to do  and sometimes unsafe.                                                               
The  individual  would have  to  consent  to examination  of  the                                                               
device in order  to capture the evidence needed  for a successful                                                               
prosecution. Reducing  the crime to  a violation would  result in                                                               
allowing the trooper  to observe the offense and  issue a ticket;                                                               
it  would encourage  troopers to  contact more  drivers, even  if                                                               
just to educate  them on the dangers of texting  while driving. A                                                               
fine amount would need to be established for each offense.                                                                      
CHAIR STOLTZE noted that it would be up to the court to do so.                                                                  
SENATOR  MEYER  agreed.  He  added  that  the  20  cases  he  was                                                               
referring to were just in Anchorage.                                                                                            
9:17:38 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STOLTZE closed public testimony.                                                                                          
He said the bill is a policy call  and he said he was glad it was                                                               
a stand-alone bill in order to give it the attention it needs.                                                                  
SENATOR  MEYER related  that  the  rest of  the  bill, which  was                                                               
passed  in 2011,  does not  change. If  a person  is texting  and                                                               
injures someone it  is a class-C felony; if  someone is seriously                                                               
injured it is a class-B felony; and  if someone is killed it is a                                                               
class-A felony.                                                                                                                 
SENATOR  MCGUIRE  noted  the next  committee  assignment  is  the                                                               
Senate Judiciary Committee.  She said she supports  the bill. She                                                               
wished for  clarification on the  search and  seizure protections                                                               
in the next committee.                                                                                                          
9:19:30 AM                                                                                                                    
At ease                                                                                                                         
9:20:19 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  COGHILL  moved to  report  SB  123 from  committee  with                                                               
individual  recommendations  and  attached zero  fiscal  note(s).                                                               
There being no objection, the motion carried.