Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/31/2004 01:20 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 474 - LIABILITY FOR AIRPORTS AND AIRSTRIPS                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Number 0140                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE  announced that the  first order of  business would                                                               
be  HOUSE BILL  NO.  474,  "An Act  relating  to civil  liability                                                               
associated with aircraft runways,  airfields, and landing areas."                                                               
[Before the committee was the  proposed committee substitute (CS)                                                               
for  HB 474,  Version  23-LS1745\D, Bullock,  3/23/04, which  was                                                               
adopted as a work draft on  3/26/04; on 3/26/04 an Amendment 1 to                                                               
Version  D was  adopted,  but  at the  request  of Amendment  1's                                                               
sponsor,  the  committee,  later   in  the  meeting  on  3/26/04,                                                               
rescinded its action in adopting Amendment 1.]                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM, speaking  as the sponsor, noted  that he has                                                               
a proposed amendment  for HB 474, a new Amendment  1, labeled 23-                                                               
LS1745\D.1, Bullock, 3/31/04, which read:                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     Page 1, line 6:                                                                                                            
          Delete "A [NATURAL]"                                                                                                  
          Insert "Except as provided in (c) of this                                                                         
     section, a [A NATURAL]"                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     Page 2, following line 9:                                                                                                  
     Insert a new bill section to read:                                                                                         
      "* Sec. 2.  AS 09.65.093 is amended by adding a new                                                                   
     subsection to read:                                                                                                        
          (c)  The immunity from civil liability under (a)                                                                      
     of this section does not apply to an owner or operator                                                                     
     of an aircraft runway, airfield, or landing area with                                                                      
        respect to the provider of flight services under                                                                        
     contract with the owner or operator."                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 0185                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLM said  he  would like  to  "put ...  forward"                                                               
Amendment 1 because it addresses one  of the issues raised at the                                                               
bill's last hearing.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE, after  ascertaining that no one  wished to testify                                                               
on the  bill and that  a representative from the  Aircraft Owners                                                               
and Pilots Association (AOPA) was  available to answer questions,                                                               
closed public testimony on HB 474.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said he has  an amendment to Amendment 1                                                               
that will clarify Amendment 1.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLM  said that  Amendment  1  would address  the                                                               
issue  of whether  someone who  contracts another  to land  on an                                                               
airfield would be  given immunity from liability.   He added that                                                               
Amendment   1  proposes   to  "fix"   this  issue.     He   asked                                                               
Representative Samuels to comment.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS said that his  concern is that there are a                                                               
few airports that  contract flying and he wanted  to exclude from                                                               
the bill some of  the larger runways.  He noted  that HB 474 does                                                               
not propose  to change  any of the  standards already  in current                                                               
law   with  regard   to   gross   negligence,  recklessness,   or                                                               
intentional misconduct.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA pointed out  that current law already exempts                                                               
owners  of private  airstrips who  "run them  voluntarily for  no                                                               
money" unless  they engage in  exceptionally bad conduct  such as                                                               
gross negligence,  recklessness, or intentional misconduct.   The                                                               
bill, he surmised,  will extend that exemption  from liability to                                                               
businesses  that  run  airstrips,  adding that  he  does  have  a                                                               
problem with  doing such  unless the  scope of  the bill  is very                                                               
limited.   He offered  his belief that  Amendment 1  will protect                                                               
airplane companies that contract with  the owners of an airfield,                                                               
but will not protect people.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA,  to  illustrate   his  point,  offered  the                                                               
following hypothetical:   "What if you're being flown  into a ...                                                               
fishing lodge ... and you've  arranged your own flight service in                                                               
...?"   If for some  reason a massive  ditch has been  dug across                                                               
the  runway  that the  lodge  owner  is purportedly  maintaining,                                                               
neither the person  nor the flight company would  know about that                                                               
hazard.   In such a  situation, neither  the person flying  in to                                                               
use the lodge  nor the airplane company have a  contract with the                                                               
lodge,  and so  would not  be able  to seek  civil damages  under                                                               
Amendment 1.   He opined that  both the bill and  Amendment 1 are                                                               
flawed in this regard.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Number 0595                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  offered what he termed  a friendly amendment                                                               
to Amendment 1, to add at the  end of Amendment 1, the words, "or                                                               
passenger" for  the purpose of  protecting not just  the airplane                                                               
carrier but the passengers on the airplane carrier.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE announced that HB 474  would be set aside [with the                                                               
amendment  to  Amendment  1  left pending]  for  the  purpose  of                                                               
hearing  the next  [three bills].   [HB  474 was  taken up  again                                                               
later in the meeting.]                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
HB 474 - LIABILITY FOR AIRPORTS AND AIRSTRIPS                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Number 0555                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE  announced that the  committee would return  to the                                                               
hearing  on  HOUSE  BILL  NO.  474, "An  Act  relating  to  civil                                                               
liability  associated  with   aircraft  runways,  airfields,  and                                                               
landing areas."                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  McGUIRE remarked  that Representative  [Holm] had  offered                                                               
Amendment 1  [text provided during  the first portion  of today's                                                               
hearing  on  HB  474],  and   that  Representative  Gara  had  an                                                               
amendment to Amendment 1.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 0627                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  again offered the amendment  to Amendment 1,                                                               
to add  at the end of  Amendment 1, after "operator",  the words,                                                               
"or passenger".                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Number 0630                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM objected.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  said that  Amendment 1  as written  does not                                                               
afford protection  to passengers -  for example, if the  owner of                                                               
an airstrip  dug a ditch across  it and didn't tell  anybody even                                                               
though he/she knew a passenger was  flying in - and the amendment                                                               
to Amendment 1 would do just that.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLM offered  his  understanding that  passengers                                                               
would be  protected because they  are covered by the  air carrier                                                               
they are using.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA  argued,  however,  that  an  air  carrier's                                                               
liability insurance  would only  protect a  passenger if  the air                                                               
carrier was negligent,  but not if the owner of  the airstrip did                                                               
something  to  cause  a  mishap,  like dig  a  ditch  across  the                                                               
airstrip without telling anybody.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM opined that a  good pilot wouldn't land on an                                                               
airstrip that had a ditch dug across it.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  McGUIRE  invited  the  representative  from  the  Aircraft                                                               
Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) to comment.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Number 0845                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
TOM GEORGE,  Alaska Regional Representative, Aircraft  Owners and                                                               
Pilots Association  (AOPA), said:   "The original clause  in this                                                               
bill should protect  the passengers.  Again, if there  is a ditch                                                               
dug  across the  airport, then  the airport  operator is  grossly                                                               
negligent, and I  think that's ... a  fairly balanced protection,                                                               
both for the consumer and for  the person who's trying to operate                                                               
the airport."                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG asked that  the amendment to Amendment 1                                                               
be  amended such  that the  words "or  to a  passenger" would  be                                                               
added after "provider of flight services".                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA  opined  that  such a  change  doesn't  make                                                               
sense.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE OGG  mentioned the lack of  a relationship between                                                               
the owner/operator and the passenger.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA,  upon   further  consideration,  agreed  to                                                               
accept  Representative Gruenberg's  suggestion  on the  condition                                                               
that he restate it.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Number 0979                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  made  a  motion, then,  to  amend  the                                                               
amendment  to Amendment  1 such  that after  "provider of  flight                                                               
services", the words "[or] to a passenger" are added.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA indicated that he would accept that change.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Number 1027                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM  withdrew his objection [to  the amendment to                                                               
Amendment 1].                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE stated  that the amendment to Amendment  1 has been                                                               
adopted,  and that  Amendment 1,  as amended,  is now  before the                                                               
committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  said  he  has a  second  amendment  to                                                               
Amendment 1 [as amended].                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
The committee took an at-ease from 3:15 p.m. to 3:17 p.m.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 1103                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM withdrew Amendment 1 [as amended].                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Number 1113                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG made  a  motion to  adopt Amendment  2,                                                               
which  was  labeled  23-LS1745\D.1, Bullock,  3/31/04;  contained                                                               
handwritten changes; and read:                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
     Page 1, line 6:                                                                                                            
          Delete "A [NATURAL]"                                                                                                  
          Insert "Except as provided in (c) of this                                                                         
     section, a [A NATURAL]"                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     Page 2, following line 9:                                                                                                  
     Insert a new bill section to read:                                                                                         
        "* Sec. 2.  AS 09.65.093  is amended by adding a new                                                                
     subsection to read:                                                                                                        
          (c)  The immunity from civil liability under (a)                                                                      
     of  this section  does not  limit the  liability of  an                                                                    
     owner or  operator of an aircraft  runway, airfield, or                                                                    
     landing  area to  a provider  of flight  services under                                                                    
     contract with the owner or operator."                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  said  he  would  also  like  to  amend                                                               
Amendment 2,  to add,  after "provider  of flight  services", the                                                               
words, "and its passengers".                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
[Although  no  motion was  made  to  amend  Amendment 2,  it  was                                                               
treated as amended.]                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Number 1178                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  McGUIRE  asked  whether   there  were  any  objections  to                                                               
Amendment  2 [as  amended].   There being  none, Amendment  2, as                                                               
amended, was adopted.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA, referring  to HB 474, said that  he is still                                                               
not sure who this liability  limitation is being extended to that                                                               
is not already covered by current law.  He also said:                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     It  was okay  when it  was  people who  ... operate  an                                                                    
     airstrip voluntarily,  but now  it's not just  people -                                                                    
     it's also  businesses.   And I do  have a  problem with                                                                    
     that.  If we want to  extend the immunity to people who                                                                    
     do  things voluntarily,  that's okay.   If  we want  to                                                                    
     extend  it   to  sort  of  nonprofit   associations  or                                                                    
     voluntary,  that's  okay.   But  to  the  extent  we're                                                                    
     starting  to  extend  it to  profit-making  businesses,                                                                    
     I've got a problem with the bill.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Number 1200                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SAMUELS moved  to report  the proposed  committee                                                               
substitute  (CS)  for  HB   474,  Version  23-LS1745\D,  Bullock,                                                               
3/23/04,   as  amended,   out   of   committee  with   individual                                                               
recommendations and  the accompanying fiscal notes.   There being                                                               
no  objection,   CSHB  474(JUD)  was  reported   from  the  House                                                               
Judiciary Standing Committee.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                

Document Name Date/Time Subjects