Legislature(2001 - 2002)
02/26/2002 03:20 PM MLV
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 438-DISABLED VETERANS LICENSE PLATES CHAIR CHENAULT announced the first order of business, HOUSE BILL NO. 438, "An Act relating to motor vehicle registration plates for disabled veterans; and providing for an effective date." Number 0112 REPRESENTATIVE LESIL McGUIRE, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor, noted that HB 438 authorizes the [Division] of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to create a special license plate for disabled veterans. She offered her belief that this small step will send a big message to the 900 disabled veterans in Alaska - a number she said is estimated to grow next year alone by 50 to 70 percent [50 to 70 registrations, according to DMV]. Bringing attention to page 2, line 20, paragraph (16), she pointed out that although the drafter had referenced a fee, no fee is currently charged for disabled veterans for "any kind of registration." Therefore, the proposed committee substitute (CS) [Version C] corrects that drafting error. REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE told members she believes the $5,700 fiscal note from the DMV is miniscule and will be recouped. She highlighted the DMV's estimation, in the fiscal note analysis, of $3,000 in first-year revenue; according to the statistics, she said, it appears 70 percent of the fiscal note will be paid back within two years. She called it a "small investment to make in a community that has invested a whole lot of their life for us, in representing our country ... in foreign wars." Number 0380 REPRESENTATIVE HAYES asked how many different Alaskan license plates recognize veterans currently. REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE deferred to Mr. Hosack of the DMV. She said there are roughly 812 [855 according to the fiscal note analysis] disabled veterans using other types of [Alaskan] license plates. Number 0485 CHARLES R. HOSACK, Deputy Director, Division of Motor Vehicles, Department of Administration, responded via teleconference that currently 10 [categories of] plates, out of the 41 issued [by DMV], are dedicated to veterans. He listed the following that the DMV currently issues: "the regular veterans' plates for every type of service"; "the disabled veterans, with the wheelchair logo [or] without the wheelchair logo"; ex-prisoner of war; Purple Heart; National Guard; and Pearl Harbor survivors. REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE added that even though it seems there are a lot [of plates already], "there is certainly a community that we've heard from, of individuals who are interested in having that special recognition and honor." She offered that in the bill she'd tried to be fiscally responsible: although it provides an option for a plate, there is a $30 fee, and it is estimated that $3,000 will be recouped in the first year. Number 0634 JIM POUND, Staff to Representative Lesil McGuire, Alaska State Legislature, in response to Representative Hayes, explained that this bill gives a disabled veteran an opportunity to have a plate that is distinctively different from handicapped license plates available in Alaska now: the proposed plate is red, white, and blue; the current DAV [Disabled American Veterans] plate is a standard gold-and-blue handicapped-type license plate that simply has the letters "DAV" on it. In response to Representative Murkowski about whether someone would want to pay $30 for another plate, he explained that he'd been approached at the VFW [Veterans of Foreign Wars] in Eagle River by some disabled veterans whose interest was to have a red, white, and blue plate that would be more noticeable and distinctive than the current plate, and that would indicate those veterans had served their country and given part of themselves in doing so. Number 0819 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN brought attention to the fiscal note analysis, which references a minimum of 900 pairs of plates, for a cost of $5,750 [under the current license plate contract]. He asked how often a change will be required and suggested that eventually the plates will have to be replaced. REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE offered her understanding that the design of the plate and logo is what requires the investment cost. She reiterated that the estimated recoupment the first year is about $3,000; she said it might even be more. She indicated that although DMV is doing an estimate, Mr. Pound is doing one as well, based on the "disabled veteran community"; she said it is hard to match those numbers. She added her understanding that "once the structure is in place, it's in place, and then it would just be a matter ... of continuing to order as demand came about." She deferred to Mr. Hosack for a further response. MR. HOSACK explained that the minimum order of license plates, "with the sheeting and aluminum," is 900 pairs, reflected in the DMV's fiscal note at 5.7 [thousand dollars]. Noting that in the last five years [DMV] has seen an increase of 50 to 70 registrations a year for disabled veterans' plates, he offered that 900 pairs of plates will last [DMV] quite awhile. Because some people with existing plates likely will switch over to the new design, Mr. Hosack told members he'd estimated 100 [would switch] in the first year; in succeeding years a small portion of those 50 to 70 new registrants would opt for this plate, rather than the gold-and-blue one [for which there is no charge]. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked whether that will also take care of the fact that the plates will wear out [eventually] and have to be reissued. MR. HOSACK agreed that someday there would be a need to reorder, but said the 900 plates will take care of replacement plates; in addition, [DMV] still has a quantity of regular gold-and-blue plates. "And that will be picked up in our regular operating expenses for license plates," he added. Number 1054 REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI asked Mr. Hosack when the gold-and-blue plates were initially made available to disabled veterans, and how many are left now. She surmised that an initial order of 900 [pairs] had been required for those as well. MR. HOSACK answered that [DMV] has been issuing disabled- veterans plates since at least 1980. Although he didn't know when the last order was placed, he surmised it was probably in the early 1990s. Of that order, [DMV] has about 800 plates left - split between those with and without the logo. REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI expressed surprise that 800 plates are left after ten years. REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE emphasized that this [new plate has been requested by the disabled veteran] community. She conveyed her understanding, from Mr. Pound's involvement with VFW, that veterans don't see [the current plates] as a distinct honor or as distinctive in any way, since they just say ["DAV"]. These people are asking for these license plates to "give a distinctive honor" so that when they are driving, they'll be recognized and stand out. Number 1283 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT acknowledged his involvement in many of the discussions relating to this special license plate. He agreed the existing plates aren't something disabled veterans will clamor to have on their cars. He also surmised that the estimate is low [in the fiscal note analysis] with regard to how many disabled veterans would switch to these plates, or obtain them in the first place. He conveyed his understanding that the plates would only cost [DMV] $6.30 [each], and suggested it would only take about 200 to break even. He said he believes perhaps 100 people from the Eagle River VFW post would [buy these new plates]. REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI related her understanding that the lack of use has been due to the design, then. REPRESENTATIVE KOTT suggested [the proposed plates] are a good deal for disabled veterans, giving them recognition at a very cheap cost to the state - or no cost [after the break-even point in reached]. Number 1396 REPRESENTATIVE HAYES expressed his understanding that this would replace one of the ten [types of] existing plates [offered by the DMV]. He asked whether there would be separate plates with and without the wheelchair logo. MR. POUND related his understanding that the handicapped logo could be through use of a sticker, for instance, for the purpose of being able to park in a handicapped-parking zone. He added that the existing inventory of gold-and-blue plates would remain; those are free to [disabled veterans] who request them, and would remain so. By contrast, there is a $30 charge for the proposed plates; that fee is to cover the cost. Number 1479 REPRESENTATIVE HAYES asked whether there are [special] plates for Gulf War veterans, for example; he said he could foresee having a plate for veterans of the war on terrorism, for example. He acknowledged that he was just curious. REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE answered, "We kind of have kicked around some of those ideas, but I think in this particular instance we've tried to amalgamate ... the category as much as we can." These plates would be for disabled veterans, she said, whether from the war in Afghanistan, World War II, or the Gulf War, for instance; having [special plates for any of those] would go a step too far, and the bill is a middle ground. She acknowledged that perhaps a sticker system could be used for people to delineate that they are disabled veterans from a specific war, but she suggested it is too cumbersome for this bill. She specified that her main concern, when the legislation was presented to her, was to give an opportunity to honor disabled veterans, "but through a fiscally responsible way." [There was a brief discussion of "regular veteran plates," which have a white background with light blue and red.] REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI offered her understanding that only the disabled veterans ended up with the old-style [gold-and-blue] plate "with nothing unique to it," because the Purple Heart [plate] is unique, for example. REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE concurred, suggesting it might have been an oversight [when the issue of special plates was brought to legislators' attention previously]. Number 1780 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT noted that under the bill a [veteran] who is 70 percent [disabled will qualify]; he asked Mr. Pound whether it is the same threshold used for a property tax exemption. MR. POUND said he didn't know for a fact and would look into it, but believed it to be 50 percent. He recalled that a friend had obtained an exemption from the Fairbanks North Star Borough with a 50-percent disability, to his belief. REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE responded that if that fact could be ascertained, a committee substitute (CS) could be offered in a subsequent committee to "marry" the two [percentages]. REPRESENTATIVE KOTT agreed that if it is 50 percent for [a property tax exemption], it should be 50 percent [under the bill]. He offered to have his own staff research it. Number 1825 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT moved to adopt the proposed CS, version 22- LS1503\C, Ford, 2/26/02, as a work draft. CHAIR CHENAULT announced that [Version C] was adopted. Number 1845 ED KNOEBEL testified via teleconference, noting that he is a disabled veteran, "category 2" under the VA [Department of Veterans Affairs]; he asked whether that specification would qualify for the [proposed plate]. Mr. Knoebel pointed out that many of these people are disabled and have a hard time getting around, although they might not use wheelchairs. He also indicated originally there was a colored Purple Heart plate, whereas now the equivalent plate just has a Purple Heart stamped on it; he said he'd been told that when [DMV] runs out of plates, it will order the [former] type. He asked Mr. Hosack whether [DMV] still has the old plate or will be issuing "the new type of Purple Heart one." MR. HOSACK answered that [DMV] has had a request from the "Purple Heart or combat-wounded association" to change the plate's design when it is reordered. "We will accommodate their request," he told Mr. Knoebel, adding that he wasn't sure what the [DMV's] current inventory was of that [stamped] plate. MR. KNOEBEL specified that he'd be interested in another Purple Heart plate - since he doesn't have one now and doesn't like [the stamped version] - as well as this [proposed plate]. Number 2004 MR. HOSACK explained that the major portion of the cost for new, specialty plates is for the design and "getting our manufacturer to do a small quantity of the special sheeting." He affirmed Representative Kott's calculation that it would cost "$6 and something" [for each proposed plate]. With respect to the 800- some plates currently on hand, those were done when Alaska had gold-and-blue plates for all license plates, so there was some economy of scale: they only cost $2.50 each, to his recollection; thus the cost of the 800 plates in the current inventory was about $2,100. MR. HOSACK, although agreeing that the disabled veteran community certainly deserves recognition, voiced DMV's concern with having three different types of plates for a fairly small community. He explained that existing [law] allows [DMV] just to issue a special plate; it doesn't specify the design. He told members: So if it is the [desire] of the committee to go to a new design, rather than having three different types of plates, DMV would prefer just to take our existing inventory of gold-and-blue plates, donate them to a metal recycling, and just adopt a new design and have one plate - the newer design - for all the disabled veterans. Number 2120 CHAIR CHENAULT thanked Mr. Hosack and asked whether anyone else wished to testify. He then closed public testimony. CHAIR CHENAULT called an at-ease at 3:52 p.m. He called the meeting back to order at 3:55 p.m. [A motion to move the bill out of committee was interrupted in order to make the following amendment.] Number 2255 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT moved to adopt conceptual Amendment 1, as follows: indicating he'd just received word that it conforms to the property tax exemption, he explained that Amendment 1 "takes it [the disability requirement] down to 50 percent and basically defines 'disabled veteran' meaning a person who is separated from the military service of the United States under a condition that is not dishonorable, who is a resident of the state, whose disability was incurred or aggravated in the line of duty in the military service of the United States, and whose disability has been rated as 50 percent or more by the branch of service in which that person served (indisc.) the United States Department of Veteran Affairs or, (b), who served in the Alaska Territorial Guard, was a resident of the state, whose disability was incurred or aggravated in the line of duty while serving in the Alaska Territorial Guard, and whose disability has been rated as 50 percent or more." Number 2295 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked Representative Kott what he was reading from. REPRESENTATIVE KOTT said it conforms to the provision currently in statute that allows disabled veterans to receive a property tax exemption. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN suggested, rather than adding the foregoing, that a reference could just say "disabled veterans" has the meaning in [the appropriate specified statute]. It would keep it from being cumbersome. REPRESENTATIVE KOTT agreed, provided the drafters would do it. REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE proposed that it might be simpler to make a conceptual amendment on page 2, line 4, to insert "50" percent instead of "70". REPRESENTATIVE KOTT responded that [Representative McGuire's suggestion] probably captures the intent, but offered his belief that the definition of "disabled veteran" is [already in statute], and agreed with Representative Green that referencing it in the bill would keep it simple. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN moved to adopt the foregoing [reference to the definition of "disabled veteran" in statute] as a friendly amendment to Amendment 1. REPRESENTATIVE KOTT concurred, saying the drafters could figure it out. Number 2418 CHAIR CHENAULT asked whether there was any objection to [conceptual] Amendment 1 [as amended]. There being no objection, Amendment 1 was adopted. Number 2429 REPRESENTATIVE HAYES moved to report CSHB 438 [version 22- LS1503\C, Ford, 2/26/02], as amended, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal note. There being no objection, CSHB 438(MLV) was moved out of the House Special Committee on Military and Veterans' Affairs.