Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/27/1996 01:38 PM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE BILL NO. 6 "An Act relating to registration of a motor vehicle and suspension of a driver's license for failure to appear in court or failure to pay a fine." SENATOR ROBIN TAYLOR, sponsor SB 6, testified in support of the HCS CSSB 6 (CRA). He noted that the intent of the legislation is to encourage individuals to pay some of the 25,000 traffic fines for moving violations that go 9 uncollected each year. He noted that HCS CSSB 6 (CRA) was designed to provide additional leverage to the Alaska Court System in the collection of fines. It would also apply to an individual who fails to appear in court. He maintained that HCS CSSB 6 (CRA) would be a valuable tool for use by the courts in addressing the problems created by those who choose to ignore the law, especially those who fail to make court ordered appearances or to pay fines imposed by the court. He explained that the legislation was based on laws of other states. He observed that in the state of Washington over 50 percent of those who receive notice of possible sanctions clear up outstanding matters within one week. He noted that HCS CSSB 6 (CRA) allows the court to suspend the driver's license of anyone who fails to make a court appearance or pay a fine. The legislation provides that an offender's permanent fund dividend could be attached. He asserted that HCS CSSB 6 (CRA) will generate revenue, through the collection of outstanding fines and reinstatement fees collected by the Division of Motor Vehicles. He stressed that the legislation does not involve parking violations. Representative Brown observed that the accompanying fiscal notes showed a net cost to the legislation. Senator Taylor noted that the Department of Law's fiscal note, dated 2/23/96 was based on the assumption that requirements of the bill could result in a jury trial and court appointed counsel. He noted that the Department is anticipating that the Court's ruling in Baker versus City of Fairbanks would apply. He disagreed with the Department's assessment. He did not feel that the $657.5 thousand dollar Court System's fiscal note was justified. Representative Mulder referred to a letter by the National Motorist Association. He summarized that the letter concludes that the legislation will raise a $15 dollar ticket to the level of a suspended license charge. He asked if Senator Taylor agreed with that conclusion. Senator Taylor did not agree with their conclusion. He emphasized that the legislation will provide motivation to pay fines. Co-Chair Hanley pointed out that the fiscal notes by the Department of Public Safety have not changed. He noted that the Department of Law's new interpretation regarding mandatory jury trials is the basis for increased fiscal notes by the Alaska Court System and the Departments of Law and Administration. ANNE CARPENETI, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF LAW explained that the Department's fiscal note is based on the concern that the Court will rule that the Baker versus City of Fairbanks ruling will apply to the legislation. The 10 Baker case ruled that a jury trial and subsequent court appointed counsel is required due to the revocation of the driver's license. She noted that the Department is contesting the Court's ruling. She withdrew the Department of Law's fiscal note (copy on file). MIKE FORD, LEGAL COUNSEL, DIVISION OF LEGAL SERVICES stated that in his opinion HCS CSSB 6 (CRA) will not trigger the requirement for a jury trial. He noted that if enough speeding tickets are acquired a person's license is revoked under a point system. He stressed that because a license is lost under a point system does not give rise to the right of a jury trial for each ticket. He observed that if a person fails to pay a fine or appear in court that there is a collateral affect which may result in suspension of the license. He acknowledged that the Court could rule that the right to a jury trial pertains, but he did not think it would do so. Senator Taylor referred to "use it and loose it" legislation passed in 1995. The Alaska Supreme Court ruled in Baker versus City of Fairbanks, 471 P. 2d 386 (Alaska 1970) that the revocation of a license as a penalty stemming from a criminal offense requires a jury trial on the underlying offense. He noted that the Department of Law is appealing the Court's ruling. Ms. Carpeneti agreed that the Court's ruling is being appealed. Co-Chair Hanley noted that the Department of Law has withdrawn their fiscal note. CHRIS CHRISTENSEN, STAFF COUNSEL, ALASKA COURT SYSTEM stated that the Alaska Court System would revise their fiscal note to reflect the withdrawal of the Department of Law's fiscal note. He explained that they would reinstate their original fiscal note for $7.2 thousand dollars. Co-Chair Hanley noted that the Department of Administration's fiscal note from the Public Defender Agency was also based on assumptions that a jury trial would be required. Representative Mulder stated that it would be consistent to revise the Department of Administration's fiscal note to their original position. Representative Brown referred to language on page 2, line 31. Ms. Carpeneti explained that the intent is that the suspension for failure to appear would be terminated and upon a finding of guilt for the underlying offense the license be again suspended. Mr. Ford pointed out that the provision relates to suspension under the subsection. The provision only applies 11 if the offender was suspended for not appearing in court or not paying the fine. Representative Mulder questioned if Legislative Intent should be added to indicate that the legislation is not intended to entitle offenders to a jury trial. Mr. Ford observed that the issue of jury trial is a matter of constitutional interpretation. He did not think that an expression of intent by the Legislature would affect the Court's interpretation. SENATOR DAVE DONLEY requested that the Committee return HCS CSSB 6 (CRA) to the version that passed the Senate. He noted that the legislation was amended in the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee. He provided members with an amendment that would restore HCS CSSB 6 (CRA) to the version passed by the Senate (Attachment 1). He explained that HCS CS 6 (CRA) deleted a section added on the floor of the Senate limited the authority of Parking Authorities. He noted that Anchorage is the only municipality that currently has a parking authority. He provided members with a memorandum, dated 2/27/96 (Attachment 2). He explained that the amendment would require citations issued by a municipality to conform with the requirements of AS 12.25.200. He explained that this would require that basic information would be provided on any citation issued. The amendment would also require that an appeals process substantially similar to state law be provided. He observed that Attachment 2 compares the Anchorage Parking Authority's appeals process to state law. He stressed that under the Anchorage Parking Authority the fine must be paid before the appeal process is completed. Under the state process the fine is suspended until the appeal is completed. He added that the legislation would limit the authority of parking authorities to hire individuals that are not peace officers to issue citations. Individuals that are not peace officers could only issue fines for one half of the fine structure adopted by the Supreme Court. Peace officers could issue fines for the full amount. He maintained that individuals hired to issue citations would not have the same level of training as a peace officer. He asserted that these employees would have a conflict of interest since their salaries are derived from writing citations. He alleged that these employees must meet a quota. He observed that a person's permanent fund dividend or license could be taken based upon citations issued by the Anchorage Parking Authority. He stressed that procedural protections need to be in place. Co-Chair Hanley asked if Senator Donley could cite examples of ticketing abuse by the Authority. Senator Donley 12 stressed that he has received accounts that seem to have inherent unfairness involved. He observed that an employee of the Anchorage Parking Authority decides if a person's objection is valid. He maintained that there is an inherent conflict of interest in allowing the Anchorage Parking Authority to establish their own appeals process. In response to a question by Co-Chair Hanley, Senator Donley noted that a person can appeal to the Superior Court. He pointed out that a person must pay a $100.0 hundred dollar non-refundable fee to appeal a citation by the Anchorage Parking Authority before the Superior Court. He added that a $750.0 dollar bond is also required. Senator Taylor maintained that problems with the Anchorage Parking Authority should be taken up with the Anchorage Assembly. He stressed that HCS CSSB 6 (CRA) only involves moving traffic violations. He spoke in support of HCS CSSB 6 (CRA). Senator Donley suggested that the restriction on fine levels could be removed and the other provisions maintained. DAVE HARBOUR, ANCHORAGE PARKING ANCHORAGE (APA) testified via the teleconference network. He maintained that APA's appeal process is user friendly. He asserted that APA's appeal proceedings are in compliance with the Administrative Procedures Act and the Anchorage Municipal Code. He observed that APA operates a toll free phone number to answer questions about citations and appeals and that appeals can be deliver by fax or mail. He stressed that on request hearing officers provide hearing opportunities after hours and on weekends. He asserted that no fee of any kind is charged for an appeal. He noted that the deadline for filing an appeal was increased from 7 to 30 days. No payment penalty is assessed until 30 days after the issuance of a written decision from the hearing officer. He noted that APA supports requests for waivers of Superior Court bond requirements. He stressed that HCS CSSB 6 (CRA) will not effect APA's authority. Mr. Harbour referred to Attachment 2. He maintained that the appeal process meets all the tests imposed by the State or municipality. He maintained that APA has responded to requirements pertaining to information contained on the citations issued by APA. He stressed that "if a ticket is a bad ticket it should not be issued by anybody." He maintained that APA tickets are not inferior just because employees wear a different uniform. He stressed that traffic offenses are not parking offenses. He stated that quotas are not given to APA officers. He maintained that APA officers do not receive bonuses based on tickets issued. 13 He noted that the Port of Anchorage, Anchorage Telephone Utility, Municipality of Anchorage's security office, State Troopers, Anchorage Police Department and the Anchorage International Security Office have employees trained and certified by APA to issue tickets. Mr. Harbour objected to language contained in Attachment 2. He maintained that APA would be subject to a legal challenge if it abused its authority. Representative Brown questioned if APA has the authority to forward fines to a collection agency while citations are on appeal in Superior Court. Mr. Harbour stated that APA does not recommend that citations be paid while on appeal. He maintained that fines are suspended during appeal. He agreed that APA has the municipal authority to refer fines to collection agencies. He stated that he has no knowledge of any case in which payment was not suspended during appeal. He stated that if a citation is not appealed within 30 days the individual's right to appeal is forfeited. After 30 days the individual is given notice that they have another 30 days to pay the fine with an additional $15.00 dollar penalty. If the fine and penalty are not paid the offender is given a notice that non-payment will result in the fine's referral to a collection agency. Senator Donley clarified that the information contained in Attachment 2 was given to his staff by an employee of the Anchorage Parking Authority. TIM ROGERS, LEGISLATIVE PROGRAM COORDINATOR, MUNICIPALITY OF ANCHORAGE, BOARD MEMBER, ANCHORAGE PARKING AUTHORITY testified via the teleconference network. He spoke against the amendment prepared by Senator Donley. He stated that the amendment may infringe on municipal jurisdiction. He maintained that the requirement to employ peace officers to issue non-moving violations would place a financial burden on the municipality or result in a lack of enforcement of parking ordinances. BOB ALLEN, ANCHORAGE testified via the teleconference network. He spoke in support of the amendment prepared by Senator Donley. He noted that the Anchorage Ombudsman issued a report that APA's appeal process was unfair. He acknowledged that the procedure in question was changed, but maintained that APA changed their procedures grudgingly. He alleged that APA's hearing procedure would not stand the test of law. He criticized APA's hearing procedure. JAY DULANEY, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF MOTOR VEHICLES, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY clarified that the state fine for an unregistered vehicle is $50.0 dollars. Senator 14 Donley noted that the fine schedule is set by the State Supreme Court. The amendment would limit APA to one half of the fine schedule. JUANITA HENSLEY, CHIEF DRIVER'S SERVICES, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY explained that municipalities are allowed to set their own bail for mail in forfeitures. If a Municipality of Anchorage peace office writes a citation for failure to have a front license plate the municipal fine is $75 dollars. If a state trooper or APA official write the same citation it is a $50 dollar fine. (Tape Change, HFC 96-53, Side 2) Representative Mulder acknowledged that problems exist within the Anchorage Parking Authority. He suggested that problems with APA be addressed through other legislation. Representative Kohring agreed that issues surrounding APA should be addressed in separate legislation. Representative Mulder MOVED to report HCS CSSB 6 (CRA) out of Committee with individual recommendations and with the accompanying fiscal notes from the Department of Public Safety, Department of Corrections and Alaska Court System's revised fiscal note of $7.2 thousand dollars. There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered. HCS CSSB 6 (CRA) was reported out of Committee with a "do pass" recommendation and with four fiscal impact notes; two by the Department of Public Safety; one by the Alaska Court System; and one by the Department of Corrections.