Legislature(1997 - 1998)

04/30/1997 01:36 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 HB 231 - REGULATION OF SNOWMOBILES                                            
 Number 0689                                                                   
 CHAIRMAN GREEN announced the next item of business was House Bill             
 No. 231, "An Act relating to regulation of snowmobiles."                      
 REPRESENTATIVE BEVERLY MASEK, sponsor of HB 231, explained that the           
 bill resulted from work by the Alaska State Snowmobile Association            
 and the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation.  She views it as            
 an important tool in promoting a genuinely Alaskan activity and               
 creating opportunities for winter recreation.                                 
 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK advised members that there has been a                    
 statutory requirement for registering snowmobiles since 1968.                 
 However, few Alaskans register their snowmobiles, which she                   
 believes is primarily due to the registration process.  The owner             
 of a new snowmobile must take the title to the Division of Motor              
 Vehicles (DMV) and wait in line to get the $5 registration.  She              
 believes that there is no mail-in system for renewal, as there is             
 for vehicles, and that snowmobile owners must renew annually.  This           
 bill would make registration easier.                                          
 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK said by allowing dealers to handle                       
 registration at the time of purchase, HB 231 will create a better             
 process for compliance with current statutes.  It will also allow             
 dealers and other agents to handle renewals.  Furthermore, having             
 a good system in place will provide an accounting of the number of            
 machines in Alaska.  This information is important for acquiring              
 monies available from the national "Recreational Trails Program"              
 (created by the National Recreational Trails Fund Act) for                    
 construction, trail heads, signs and grooming equipment.                      
 Establishment and maintenance of a good trail system throughout               
 Alaska will provide Alaskans a place to ride and, more importantly,           
 provide an opportunity to expand recreation and winter tourism.               
 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK concluded by saying HB 231 will require input            
 and work from the public and the legislature, and she hopes to work           
 on it during the interim with the snowmobile groups, the Division             
 of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, and convention and visitor                   
 bureaus.  She noted that committee files contain a statement of               
 support from the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau, and                
 other such bureaus support it statewide.  She advised members that            
 Eddie Grasser could answer technical questions.                               
 Number 0959                                                                   
 CHAIRMAN GREEN asked how the Recreational Trails Program worked,              
 whether it supplied money based on the number of snow machines                
 registered in Alaska or whether Alaska, being one of 40 states with           
 snowmobiles, would get one-fortieth of the funds, for example.                
 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK replied that only 15 to 20 percent of owners             
 register currently.  With an accurate account of who in Alaska                
 registered their snow machines, and how many, they would be                   
 eligible for this national Recreational Trails Program through the            
 Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation.                                     
 Number 1020                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES asked what the current registration process              
 is.  For example, how does one know whether a snow machine is                 
 registered?  Is there a license attached to it?                               
 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK stated her belief that an owner goes into the            
 DMV to fill out a registration form and is given the title and a              
 sticker with the registration number to put on the snow machine.              
 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES asked whether it required proof of ownership.            
 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK said yes.                                                
 Number 1120                                                                   
 JUANITA HENSLEY, Chief, Driver Services, Division of Motor Vehicles           
 (DMV), Department of Public Safety, testified that the DMV has                
 registered 12,000-14,000 snow machines statewide.  The process,               
 somewhat as Representative Masek had stated, is that after purchase           
 of a machine, the owner comes to the DMV and fills out the                    
 application.  She clarified that the owner does not get a title;              
 the DMV does not title snow machines in the state.  The owner                 
 receives a registration, just as people do for their cars, and a              
 registration tab that must be put on the cowling of the snow                  
 machine.  It is a two-year registration for $5.  The DMV does not             
 issue metal license tags for this.                                            
 Number 1286                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE noted that during previous discussion of                 
 snowmobile registration in the legislature, people promoted it                
 because of theft, as it would provide a way to trace stolen                   
 machines.  He said he assumed that was still a reason for                     
 registration, in addition to obtaining federal trails money based             
 on the number of snow machines in Alaska.                                     
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE next referred to page 2, line 3, which says,             
 "A snowmobile dealer shall" register it.  He suggested that would             
 take care of a lot of enforcement problems, and he believed it was            
 important.  However, he wanted to make sure it did not conflict               
 with page 1, line 9, which says, "An agent may accept" a                      
 CHAIRMAN GREEN suggested there were agents other than dealers, for            
 which this bill provides.                                                     
 MS. HENSLEY agreed and explained that the bill is trying to allow             
 new vehicle sales to be registered at the point of sale.  But for             
 anyone else who has a snow vehicle, they can have contract agents             
 to do the registration.                                                       
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said he agreed with registering snowmobiles to           
 reduce theft and get financial support for facilities.  Referring             
 to page 2, lines 12 through 15, he asked why, then, they would                
 exempt machines used on private property, in snow machine races or            
 in communities where motor vehicles are not required to be                    
 registered, because theft would still occur and it was important to           
 have as many machines registered as possible to obtain the federal            
 funds.  Therefore, they may not want to exempt (2), (3) and (4).              
 CHAIRMAN GREEN asked why those were excluded.                                 
 Number 1355                                                                   
 EDDIE GRASSER, Legislative Assistant to Representative Beverly                
 Masek, suggested that Jim Stratton from the Division of Parks and             
 Outdoor Recreation, who had spent a lot of time writing this, could           
 answer that, or possibly someone from the Alaska State Snowmobile             
 Association could.  Mr. Grasser said he himself grew up on a farm,            
 where they had unregistered vehicles used only on the farm, on                
 private property.  He assumed that somebody using a snow machine              
 strictly on private property, for whatever reason, would fall in              
 the same category.                                                            
 JIM STRATTON, Director, Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation,             
 Department of Natural Resources, came forward to testify.  He                 
 referred to item (2) on page 2, line 12, "used strictly on private            
 property for private, noncommercial purposes", and said that                  
 related to use of snowmobiles for farming, for example, or as work            
 MR. STRATTON referred to item (3), "used only in sanctioned                   
 snowmobile races", and said those types of specially-built snow               
 machines are typically used only for racing.  The division had felt           
 it was not appropriate to require their registration because they             
 were not for use on public lands or on the trail system.                      
 MR. STRATTON referred to item (4), "used exclusively in communities           
 exempt from motor vehicle registration under AS 28.10.011", and               
 said when he got involved with the Alaska State Snowmobile                    
 Association in developing this legislation, the main emphasis was             
 to create more funding for recreational trails.  Recreational trail           
 riding is primarily in the railbelt area, which has the largest               
 population.  Therefore, registering snowmobiles in the bush did not           
 fit in.                                                                       
 MR. STRATTON said that instead of including all snowmobiles in                
 Alaska at the very beginning, they had wanted to ensure the bill's            
 passage; if the residents of the bush wanted to participate, they             
 then could ask to be included and to have their snowmobiles                   
 registered.  He added, "And at that time, then, they could ...                
 partake of some of the registration money, which we eventually see            
 as getting to the level of being able to provide grants out to                
 snowmobile clubs and communities around the state."                           
 MR. STRATTON said besides the theft question, the big push is the             
 number of riders in the state, not only for more federal money,               
 "but we will begin to generate some money of our own."  If the                
 legislature sees fit to reinvest that into snowmobile trails, those           
 recreational trails will primarily benefit cities where automobiles           
 are registered.  "And so, we felt that was just a clean way to do             
 it and to make it parallel that way," he concluded.                           
 Number 1550                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER asked whether this section generally                    
 replicates what exists already, in terms of which snow machines               
 must be registered.                                                           
 MR. STRATTON said no, this is a change.                                       
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER said he did not know whether it was expanded            
 or contracted, but he did not agree with (2), (3) or (4).  He                 
 explained, "If number (2) is to get at this huge agricultural --              
 well, we don't have one; so, I don't know what that's about. ...              
 Number (3), I would agree with that if the sanctioned snowmobile              
 races were on a quarter-mile track like dragsters or something.               
 But these things go all over the state on public lands .... That's            
 where these races are.  So, to the extent that they could                     
 contribute a little bit to that, I don't see that's a big problem."           
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER referred to item (4), "used exclusively in              
 communities exempt from motor vehicle registration".  He said that            
 was because of lack of roads, which was what vehicle registration             
 is about.  However, snowmobiles use public lands, just like                   
 everybody else.  "So, I really don't think that (2), (3) or (4) are           
 appropriate," he concluded.                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE CROFT asked how a snowmobile is used for farming.              
 Number 1643                                                                   
 MR. GRASSER said he himself had used snow machines for farming,               
 which included herding animals.  For example, they had kept 60                
 horses on approximately 1,500 acres in the Matanuska Valley.  As a            
 young boy, he had used a snow machine to transfer the herd from one           
 part of the farm to another in the wintertime.                                
 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said she agreed with Representative Porter's             
 concerns on this issue, indicating that if they were going to                 
 register snow machines, they ought to just do it.  She also had a             
 little problem philosophically with doing it just to get some                 
 federal funds.  Furthermore, she believed the theft issue made                
 registration important.  She asked whether it cost $5.                        
 MS. HENSLEY said it is $5 for a two-year period.                              
 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES suggested that was hardly worth the paper on             
 which it is written.  She asked how much work the department does             
 to keep track of these registrations and whether $5 for two years             
 is enough for the paperwork, regardless of whether federal funds              
 are available.                                                                
 MS. HENSLEY emphasized that only 12,000 to 14,000 are registered              
 now.  With this legislation, including point-of-sale registration,            
 all vehicles being registered, keeping track of all those vehicles            
 and ensuring that they are in the computer system, the Division of            
 Information Services (DIS) charge-backs, based on the space used in           
 the system by the DMV, would increase.  She had no doubt that it              
 would increase the costs to the DMV.                                          
 MS. HENSLEY agreed that the fee possibly should be looked at,                 
 whether for operation of the program or for monies for trail                  
 maintenance, to obtain matching funds or even for additional funds            
 through the federal programs for trails.                                      
 MS. HENSLEY advised members that under current law, snow machines             
 are required to be registered before competing in any type of race            
 or "game program."  She believes the increase in registrations over           
 the last few years is basically because of the theft situation and            
 because for race clubs, for example, registration is required by              
 law before snowmobiles are allowed to operate in those races.                 
 Number 1855                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK, responding to Representative James, said the            
 intent is to get funding to help the snowmobilers with the trails.            
 But it also will establish trails for recreational snowmobilers.              
 In Anchorage, for example, there is no place to use snow machines.            
 People must drive 100 miles or more to do so.  She believes this is           
 a good way to establish a recreation trail that will be safe and              
 for multiple uses.  Where she herself snow machines on the Yentna             
 River, there are snowmobiles, dog mushers and skiers.  They need to           
 look at safety factors, including putting up signs, for example.              
 Number 1950                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said she understood those kinds of things and            
 had been a snow machine user herself.  Her concern over the                   
 registration was whether the money was enough.  Not only would                
 there be the original registration, but whenever a machine was sold           
 or junked, there would be additional work.  She was not convinced             
 this would pay for itself or provide any money.                               
 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES also asked how this would be enforced, noting            
 there was no penalty for failing to register.  In addition,                   
 machines may need to be counted by category to obtain federal                 
 funds.  She believes they need to think seriously about how this              
 will work.                                                                    
 Number 2036                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked Ms. Hensley whether the DMV provides            
 copies of the registrations to local municipalities for purposes of           
 personal property tax.  He also asked how many jurisdictions have             
 a personal property tax on snowmobiles.                                       
 MS. HENSLEY said she could not answer either question.  The DMV               
 does currently registers the vehicles, and a municipality could               
 request from the DMV a listing of all snow machines registered                
 within that municipal boundary.  Referring to Representative                  
 Masek's comments about working on this over the interim, she noted            
 that it is under Title 5, relating to amusements and sports.  The             
 DMV proposes putting this all under Title 28, which contains all              
 the other registration of motor vehicles, because the snow machine            
 is a motor vehicle.  The DMV also proposes working out some of the            
 other issues with the legislation.                                            
 VICE CHAIRMAN BUNDE took over chairing the meeting in the absence             
 of Chairman Green.  He announced that follow-up should be brief, as           
 there were many people wishing to testify.                                    
 Number 2181                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG inquired about taking up Representative               
 Masek's proposed amendments while there was still a quorum.                   
 VICE CHAIRMAN BUNDE said he would prefer to take testimony first.             
 He advised members that the hearing must conclude by 3:30 p.m.                
 because of another committee meeting.  He asked testifiers to limit           
 comments to two minutes in order to accommodate all speakers.                 
 KEVIN DAVIS, General Manager, Arctic Recreational Distributors,               
 testified via teleconference from Anchorage, specifying that his              
 Anchorage-based company is a wholesaler from which all of the                 
 Arctic Cat dealers in Alaska buy their machines.  They support                
 point-of-sale registration and believe it will help with recovery             
 of stolen machines, among other things.  Referring to the trail               
 system proposed by the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation,            
 he suggested that using examples from other states, including                 
 Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Washington and California, the                
 proposed system could be paid for in just a few years through the             
 registration of snowmobiles.  When snowmobilers renew their                   
 registrations, that continues to help with the funds.  In many                
 cases, states have ended up with extra funds, beyond those used to            
 maintain and construct trails.  He emphasized that this is not                
 something new because there are examples that can be copied.                  
 TAPE 97-73, SIDE A                                                            
 Number 0006                                                                   
 VICE CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked Mr. Davis to send the committee an idea             
 of what other states charge for registration, if he had that                  
 BOB KOWALKE, Yamaha Motor Corporation USA, testified via                      
 teleconference from Anchorage, saying he has been in the business             
 for 29 years, including snow machines, motorcycles and all-terrain            
 vehicles.  He likened the snow machine business in Alaska to a                
 creek that has grown into a river over the years.  He believes that           
 it is up to everyone involved to harvest the power behind that                
 river constructively.  The monetary impact on the state from snow             
 machines is beginning to be recognized; it could increase if they             
 use these monies to develop trails and increase policing of stolen            
 machines, for example.  He concluded by saying the first step in              
 moving ahead is this point-of-purchase registration.                          
 TOM HEATKE, District Sales Manager, Polaris Industries, testified             
 via teleconference from Anchorage, saying he represents roughly 55            
 dealers in the state and over 400 employees.  He really stands                
 behind the point-of-sale registration in concept.  He had moved up            
 here from Minnesota.  With the seven or eight months of winter in             
 Alaska, he saw no reason why there could not be a decent trail                
 system to encourage tourists.  He concluded by saying he concurred            
 with the previous two speakers.                                               
 JANA LITTLEWOOD, Alaska State Snowmobile Association, testified via           
 teleconference from Anchorage, saying they strongly support the               
 concept of a point-of-sale registration.  She said accurate numbers           
 of snowmobilers must be available to gain access to funding sources           
 such as the gas tax reimbursement and the national Recreational               
 Trails Program fund.                                                          
 MS. LITTLEWOOD said this legislation is the first step toward a               
 snowmobile program in Alaska that will promote safe, alcohol-free             
 riding and responsibly create a statewide trail system that works.            
 She reported that they had worked closely with the state Division             
 of Parks and Outdoor Recreation to create this bill, and they do              
 support it.  While some recreational users have differences with              
 that division, they have seen the division make what she believes             
 are correct decisions.  They want to allow that division the                  
 opportunity to follow through with their commitment to snowmobile             
 MS. LITTLEWOOD said they had written a transferable registration              
 into this bill to help deal with theft issues.  Their first                   
 priority, however, is getting an accurate count of snowmobiles in             
 Alaska in order to move forward, which this point-of-sale                     
 registration will achieve.  Once there is a trail system and                  
 program to show users, then they could look at raising some fees.             
 TIM BORGSTROM, Special Projects Director, Anchorage Economic                  
 Development Corporation, testified via teleconference next, saying            
 he had been working on "winter infrastructure development projects"           
 for over 12 months.  They recognize Anchorage as a "winter city"              
 with a summer season, and his job is developing ways to diversify             
 the economy.                                                                  
 MR. BORGSTROM had studied all the "winter states" in North America,           
 approximately 27 including Canadian provinces, discovering the                
 phenomenon that snowmobile trail construction for resident users              
 leads to additional infrastructure, which evolves into a tourism              
 industry.  In North America, snowmobiling is a $7-billion-per-year            
 industry.  In Alaska, the 1995-1996 winter season brought more than           
 $54 million in retail sales for snowmobiles and accessories.                  
 MR. BORGSTROM believes with point-of-sale registration, they can              
 tap into monies that historically have not returned to                        
 snowmobilers, to develop a trail network that would bring national            
 and international tourists to Alaska in the winter.  In West                  
 Yellowstone, Montana, the "granddaddy of winter snowmobiling," they           
 accommodate up to 6,000 or 7,000 rental vehicles weekly, people               
 going there just to snowmobile.  Becoming a popular industry, it is           
 something he believes Alaskans can effectively manage and organize            
 in concert with the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation.  He             
 feels that there is a tremendous opportunity to replace the "closed           
 for the season" signs in downtown businesses with "open for winter            
 business" signs.                                                              
 RANDY CROSBY, Trails Coordinator, Alaska State Snowmobile                     
 Association, testified via teleconference from Anchorage.  He said            
 HB 231, in addressing registration, is an important part of                   
 providing for the needs of snowmobilers, both residents and                   
 visitors.  He expressed hope that through development and refining            
 of this bill, Alaska will be able to collect monies from snowmobile           
 owners to eventually provide trails, frontage, education and other            
 needs that will eventually help all Alaskans.  One has only to look           
 at other states in the snowbelt to see how a well-developed                   
 snowmobile infrastructure benefits citizens economically and                  
 socially; snowmobile registration is one key element of that                  
 infrastructure.  He hopes that as this bill progresses, the                   
 legislature and Governor Knowles will work with the DMV and the               
 "snowmobile community" to provide that these registration fees are            
 directed to trails, safety and education.                                     
 SUSAN OLSEN testified via teleconference from Anchorage, speaking             
 as a supporter of the Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition, which seeks a            
 fair and equitable allocation between motorized and nonmotorized              
 uses on state lands.  She had originally come to support the bill,            
 prior to seeing the amendments.  She emphasized that registration             
 is a fine first step.                                                         
 MS. OLSEN pointed out that there currently are conflicts between              
 snowmobilers and those who seek quiet wilderness experiences, such            
 as skiers.  As trail development goes forward, it needs to be                 
 coordinated something like the Mat-Su trails plan that is already             
 in preparation.  She emphasized that the differences in the two               
 types of users must be acknowledged, with the rights of both                  
 recognized.  She concluded by saying that multiple-use trails do              
 not work, as the uses are incompatible.  The original bill gives              
 recognition to that for the first time, and she hopes that as it              
 goes forward, it keeps these other, larger issues in mind in                  
 addition to registration.                                                     
 Number 0805                                                                   
 VICE CHAIRMAN BUNDE turned the gavel back to Chairman Green.                  
 CHARLES JOHNSON testified via teleconference from Fairbanks, saying           
 he is a member of the Fairbanks Snow Travelers (ph), the Alaska               
 State Snowmobile Association and the nordic ski club in Fairbanks.            
 He believes that multiple uses are compatible.  Noting that the               
 amendments would have the DMV administer this, he asked whether               
 that had happened yet or was still just a proposal.                           
 CHAIRMAN GREEN said they had not yet taken up any amendments.                 
 MR. JOHNSON stated that he favored snowmobile registration "and               
 everything that has been said."  He would prefer that it remain               
 with the DMV, which is already set up to do registrations, already            
 doing them, and mandated to do so.                                            
 MR. JOHNSON said on talk shows and in letters to the editors, they            
 hear about problems with snowmobilers trespassing and roaring up              
 and down through rural subdivisions at midnight.  He believes                 
 having a sticker on the machine would cause people to think twice             
 about doing that; it would aid in identifying snowmobiles involved            
 in crimes such as trespassing and disturbing the peace.  He                   
 believes all snowmobiles should be registered.                                
 Number 0939                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked two questions of all testifiers,                   
 requesting that they send in a response:  Should all snow machines            
 be registered, or should the exemptions discussed earlier continue?           
 And did they support or oppose putting identification numbers on              
 tracks, which he understands they do in the Lower 48 in order to              
 apprehend scofflaws?                                                          
 STERLING MUTH, President, Fairbanks Snow Travelers (ph), testified            
 via teleconference, saying he was a former safety officer of the              
 Alaska State Snowmobile Association as well.  His organization                
 supports HB 231 with the proposed amendments.  They believe the DMV           
 needs to do the registration, and they cannot support it if any               
 other organization is involved in that.  He noted that some members           
 had mailed in their registrations to the DMV; therefore, that is              
 already possible but could use some standardization.                          
 MR. MUTH believes the point-of-sale registration is needed to                 
 receive Alaska's fair share of the gas tax dollars, which is based            
 on the number of machines registered.  Another positive outcome of            
 the bill would be a reduction of theft.  He believes that multiple-           
 use trails work with coordination, education and understanding.               
 For example, his organization grooms hundreds of miles of trails              
 that are connected with dog mushers' trails, and they all use the             
 trails together.  Mentioning enforcement, he reported that people             
 are writing tickets in parks near Anchorage for those who do not              
 display their registration decals.  He concluded by restating the             
 desire for the DMV to do the registration.                                    
 WILLIAM EASTHAM, President, Mat-Su Motor Mushers, testified via               
 teleconference, stating simply that they support the bill with the            
 sponsor's proposed amendments.                                                
 Number 1145                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER said he must attend another meeting.                    
 CHAIRMAN GREEN noted that they would lose their quorum; he also had           
 to attend that meeting.  He announced HB 231 would be held over.              
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER suggested taking a close look at the level of           
 the registration fee either by the next hearing or over the                   
 interim, commenting that "you can't lose money per unit and make it           
 up by volume."  He believes the DMV would go increasingly in the              
 hole with this expanded activity at $5 for two years.                         
 Number 1233                                                                   
 MR. GRASSER advised members that he had just spoken with Mr.                  
 Stratton and Ms. Hensley; as he believed he had mentioned to                  
 Representative Masek, all of them would like to pursue Ms.                    
 Hensley's suggestion of rewriting this into Title 28 so that it               
 comes in line with other DMV regulatory authority derived from                
 statute.  They had also just discussed calling dealers and snow               
 machine groups to check into the fee structure.                               
 (HB 231 was held over.)                                                       

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