Legislature(2009 - 2010)
03/24/2010 02:20 PM JUD
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SB 194 - ALCOHOL VIOLATIONS: PENALTY/CIVIL DAMAGES 2:22:07 PM CHAIR RAMRAS announced that the first order of business would be CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 194(JUD), "An Act relating to penalties and civil damages for certain alcohol violations." [Included in members packets was a House committee substitute (HCS) for CSSB 194(JUD), Version 26-LS0895\C, Luckhaupt, 3/23/10; and a proposed House Concurrent Resolution, labeled 26-LS1624\A, Luckhaupt, 3/22/10.] 2:22:46 PM CHAIR RAMRAS moved to adopt House Concurrent Resolution, labeled 26-LS1624\A, Luckhaupt, 3/22/10. There being no objection, it was so ordered. 2:22:57 PM REPRESENTATIVE HERRON moved to adopt the House committee substitute (HCS) for CSSB 194(JUD), Version 26-LS0895\C, Luckhaupt, 3/23/10, as the working document. There being no objection, Version C was before the committee. 2:23:13 PM SENATOR KEVIN MEYER, Alaska State Legislature, explained that SB 194 would increase the civil damages, which are already part of existing law, from $1,000 to $1,500. He pointed out that SB 194 would bring civil damages to both an underage alcohol purchaser, and a person purchasing for an underage person. Upon conviction for this offense, the person would also be required to attend a juvenile alcohol safety action program. He stated that underage drinking in Alaska is a problem and that this would send a message that it would not be tolerated. He reminded that there is a tough penalty for the adults involved, but not much is done to the underage youth. CHAIR RAMRAS, testifying as a licensee, concurred that law enforcement has been reluctant to police underage youth. SENATOR MEYER noted that the licensee is at risk, and that the increase in the civil damages was written at the request of the Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant & Retailers Association (CHARR). He pointed to the support of licensees as they have a lot to lose, and are willing to help support and enforce the law. 2:27:21 PM CHAIR RAMRAS remarked on an inconsistency with the ABC Board. He reflected that when the IDs of underage consumers were impounded by the establishment, law enforcement would not follow up, much less collect the IDs. He compared this to a "sting" operation, when the trooper involved collected the impounded fake ID from the establishment, so that the "sting" could continue at another establishment. He reflected that this was not teaching a good lesson to the servers at the establishment. 2:29:58 PM SENATOR MEYER replied that one of the reasons the industry supports the bill is because they are trying to abide by the law. CHAIR RAMRAS reflected on the industry's effort to be self- policing and he depicted the minors as the predators in this case. 2:31:46 PM REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG expressed his support for SB 194. He asked about the differences between the House and Senate versions. SENATOR MEYER replied that both versions were the same. The committee took an at-ease from 2:34 p.m. to 2:35 p.m. 2:35:26 PM REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG repeated his question, and pointed to Version P, which included an amendment to AS 04.16.047 (b), lines 3-8, which were deleted in Version C. CHAIR RAMRAS replied that he had spoken with the sponsor and asked that it be deleted. He explained that he had a concern for assessing greater monetary penalties on adults with substance abuse addiction. He emphasized that he was not interested in targeting adults, but wanted to focus the issue of minors acquiring and consuming. He shared that this was the reason for the title change. 2:38:39 PM REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG offered his opinion that this was a disease for a minor as well and it did not make sense to not increase the fine for both adults and minors. He asked whether Chair Ramras would oppose the bill if that section were reinserted. CHAIR RAMRAS replied that this was precisely why he spoke to the sponsor and is offering a committee substitute. SENATOR MEYER explained that the bill was specifically to increase the fine for minors, and those purchasing for minors, as both of these groups impact the licensee. It was then amended to include those with restricted licenses, but that was not the sponsor's original intent. He reflected that this amendment was different than the original intent, and he expressed support for Chair Ramras. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG asked to clarify that this was now the original bill version. SENATOR MEYER verified that it is. CHAIR RAMRAS opined that there is a difference between minors forming their habits and adults fighting alcoholism. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG asked if the Senate would accept this version. SENATOR MEYER replied, yes. 2:41:53 PM DALE FOX, President & CEO, Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant & Retailers Association (CHARR), stated that it was the minors entering the premises that were making the choice to break the law, yet it was the licensees who suffered the greatest risk. He offered his belief that this bill will provide a deterrent. He said that many of the smaller establishments could not afford to execute these claims without some outside help, hence the increase in the claims. 2:44:10 PM CHAIR RAMRAS asked whether the Anchorage CHARR was collecting on behalf of the licensees. MR. FOX replied that CHARR was helping with the claims forms and paperwork to file. CHAIR RAMRAS asked Senator Meyer for an explanation to the civil penalty which could be applied to the alcohol safety program. 2:44:51 PM CHRISTINE MARASIGAN, Staff, Senator Kevin Meyer, Alaska State Legislature, replied that part of the civil damages could be used toward the alcohol safety program, or a similar program. She shared that Anchorage CHARR had negotiated about 42 cases with 15 more court cases pending. 2:45:32 PM SENATOR MEYER added that it was his understanding that with a civil penalty, the alcohol safety program could not be required. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG offered his belief that, as the current Version C was now the same as the original SB 194, it was no longer necessary for the title amendment offered in the House Concurrent Resolution. [CHAIR RAMRAS indicated to Representative Gruenberg to withhold his request.] 2:47:20 PM SHIRLEY GIFFORD, Director, Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC), Department of Public Safety, in response to the earlier question regarding compliance checks, agreed that the program is not supported by all licensees. She relayed that in 2008, the Board conducted more than 500 compliance checks, and in 2009, this was increased by 42 percent. She reported that during this time the success rate increased from 83 percent to 87 percent. She praised the licensees, and shared that the ABC goal was for 95 percent success. She referred to studies which showed that compliance checks increased compliance. She defended the program. She pointed to AS 04.16.09 (f), which stated that a person under 21 years of age does not violate the section. She emphasized that the compliance program was working and she voiced her pride for it. She stated that it protects the licensees, in the long term. 2:52:11 PM CHAIR RAMRAS expressed his appreciation for the zeal of the ABC board, and directed attention to HB 75, which required minors to surrender their driver's license upon turning 21 years of age. He pointed out that this would remove vertical license use, but he reported little assistance from law enforcement agencies. He reported that his businesses would not accept a minor's driver's license as identification. He expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of interest from local law enforcement for enforcement of HB 75. He questioned the aggressiveness of the ABC agents involved in the sting operations, and opined that a better sensitivity training for treatment of people is warranted. 2:59:18 PM MS. GIFFORD indicated that she would strive to make improvements in the training of the agents. She indicated that she has made some procedural changes that she hopes will soon be seen by licensees. She stated that she would be in contact with Mr. Fox to work toward improvement. CHAIR RAMRAS expressed concern for the behavior of law enforcement officers toward those that pass the sting operation, and asked for a written statement from ABC outlining the improvements to the procedures. MS. GIFFORD agreed to do so. 3:05:32 PM CHAIR RAMRAS, after ascertaining that no one else wished to testify, closed public testimony on SB 194. 3:05:40 PM REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG moved to report CSSB 194(JUD), as amended, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, HCS for CSSB 194(JUD) was reported from the House Judiciary Standing Committee. 3:06:24 PM REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG moved to report House Concurrent Resolution, labeled 26-LS1624\A, Luckhaupt, 3/22/10 out of committee. There being no objection, it was so ordered.