Legislature(2003 - 2004)

02/25/2004 01:07 PM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 188-BAIL SCHEDULE FOR SKIING VIOLATION                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR MASEK announced  that the first order  of business would                                                               
be HOUSE BILL  NO. 188, "An Act relating to  the authority of the                                                               
Department of  Natural Resources  to issue citations  for certain                                                               
skiing violations;  relating to establishing a  bail schedule for                                                               
certain  skiing  violations  and  to  procedures  for  issuing  a                                                               
citation for a skiing violation."                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Number 0135                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  MIKE HAWKER,  Alaska State  Legislature, speaking                                                               
as sponsor, explained that HB 188  was brought forth on behalf of                                                               
Alaska's skiing industry.  He  said former Senator [Jay] Kerttula                                                               
was  instrumental in  sponsoring  and moving  a  bill called  the                                                               
[Alaska]  Ski  Safety  Act, which  defined  responsibilities  and                                                               
guidance for the management and  operation of ski areas that were                                                               
developing in  the state.   He  said that  particular legislation                                                               
created some  obligations on the  part of skiing  participants to                                                               
be  safe and  prudent, but  it didn't  compromise the  ability to                                                               
enjoy an aggressive  and adventurous sport.  However,  he said it                                                               
did provide some  "does and don'ts," which  are fairly consistent                                                               
with  some prudent  practices.   Representative Hawker  indicated                                                               
that  under the  Alaska Ski  Safety Act,  a skier  involved in  a                                                               
collision with another skier, that  results in an injury, may not                                                               
leave the scene [of the accident]  except to secure aid.  He said                                                               
it was anticipated that the  Alaska Supreme Court would establish                                                               
a bail  schedule -  a schedule  of fines  - for  non-felony, non-                                                               
misdemeanor, and "traffic-ticket type of violations."                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER said the  Alaska Supreme Court [determined]                                                               
that the  language wasn't clear enough  and a letter in  the bill                                                               
packet from  the National Ski  Patrol offers a  particularly good                                                               
analysis of  the Alaska Supreme  Court's view and  an explanation                                                               
of  its problem  with  the creation  of the  bail  schedule.   He                                                               
paraphrased  from  the  letter,  which  read  in  part  [original                                                               
punctuation provided]:                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
      The Alaska Supreme Court ruled that the language in                                                                       
      the original legislation was not specific enough to                                                                       
     give them the authority to establish a bail schedule.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HAWKER  continued   paraphrasing  from  the  last                                                               
paragraph on page  1 of the letter, which read  in part [original                                                               
punctuation provided]:                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     Administrative  Rule 43(a)  states: "The  Supreme Court                                                                    
     will consider adopting a  bail forfeiture schedule only                                                                    
     when so authorized by statute  ...".  The Court decided                                                                    
     the  language in  AS 05.45.100(h)  is  not an  adequate                                                                    
     authorization.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER  indicated that  the intention of  the bill                                                               
is to  further fix a piece  of excellent legislation and  make it                                                               
work  as it  was originally  intended to.   He  said part  of the                                                               
original concern  was that the  authority to have  bail schedules                                                               
only  applied  to ski  operations  on  land  that the  state  had                                                               
jurisdiction.  He said it wasn't  clear that this was to apply to                                                               
both  privately operated  facilities  and those  operated by  the                                                               
state, which Section 1(h) addresses.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Number 0710                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER  noted that  Section 2  was added                                                                    
     to  [order the  Alaska  Supreme Court]  to establish  a                                                                    
     bail schedule,  and he explained  that the  language is                                                                    
     consistent with existing statute  in which similar bail                                                                    
     schedules  are  authorized  in the  state  for  boating                                                                    
     violations,  fish and  game fines,  and motor  vehicles                                                                    
     fines and schedules.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER noted  that it doesn't make a  lot of sense                                                               
in reading  the bill, and he  remarked, "You've got to  go in the                                                               
context of  the law  in which  it was intended  to operate."   He                                                               
concluded that  the bill authorizes  the Alaska Supreme  Court to                                                               
set up  a bail schedule,  a schedule  of fines for  violations of                                                               
specific provisions of  the Alaska Ski Safety  Act, and clarifies                                                               
that  the Alaska  Ski Safety  Act was  intended to  apply to  ski                                                               
resorts operating  on private land  throughout the state  as well                                                               
as land owned by the state.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Number 0858                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE asked about money collected from fines.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER  explained that  the Alaska Ski  Safety Act                                                               
does not establish  a specific fund to get  around the dedication                                                               
prohibitions,   so   it    ultimately   becomes   "general   fund                                                               
appropriateable money."                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Number 0914                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WOLF asked  if  all ski  resorts  in Alaska  have                                                               
liquor licenses.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HAWKER  deferred  the question  to  ski  industry                                                               
members.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WOLF asked about the  fiscal note in relation to a                                                               
peace officer issuing citations.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HAWKER asked  which provision  involving a  peace                                                               
officer is of concern.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WOLF asked if it would  be an expense to the state                                                               
for peace officers to issue citations.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HAWKER said  he thought  Representative Wolf  was                                                               
referring to AS 41.21.960.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  DAHLSTROM clarified  that  the statute  in question  is                                                               
listed on page 1, line 10 of the bill.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WOLF  said the statute  is also listed on  page 2,                                                               
[line 13].                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 1010                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER said it is  contextual and that a reference                                                               
to peace  officers is  not involved  in this  citation.   He said                                                               
that section is  intended strictly to authorize  a bail schedule.                                                               
He  explained that  the issue  would be  regarding whether  it is                                                               
applicable  under the  existing Alaska  Ski Safety  Act if  a DNR                                                               
employee or  an Alaska State  Trooper is enforcing  violations on                                                               
state lands.   Representative  Hawker said in  that case,  DNR is                                                               
authorized  to  empower people  who  meet  its qualifications  to                                                               
issue  citations  on nonpublic  lands.    He explained  that  the                                                               
violations are not authorized to  involve attorneys or additional                                                               
court  time, which  is  why  there is  a  bail schedule,  because                                                               
[these types  of cases]  get dispensed  very rapidly  without the                                                               
need for legal costs to the state.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  DAHLSTROM  said  she  also   had  some  of  these  same                                                               
questions and believes the next  committee of referral, the House                                                               
State Affairs  Standing Committee,  is the appropriate  place for                                                               
that discussion to take place.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Number 1129                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  pointed out that the  packet contains three                                                               
or  four  pages   that  deal  with  AS   05.45.100,  "Duties  and                                                               
responsibilities of  skiers."   He asked  a question  relating to                                                               
subsection (c), paragraph (2), regarding  the requirement for the                                                               
ski  to be  "equipped with  a strap  or other  device capable  of                                                               
stopping  the  ski should  the  ski  become unattached  from  the                                                               
skier".                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR DAHLSTROM said she thought it  was a valid issue, but it                                                               
should  be addressed  in House  State Affairs  Standing Committee                                                               
rather than in the House Resources Standing Committee.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Number 1242                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE STEPOVICH  asked if  the liabilities  already take                                                               
into  consideration  what  Representative  Hawker  is  trying  to                                                               
[address with this bill].                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER  explained that this bill  does not attempt                                                               
to  rewrite  or  reconsider  the  statutory  authority  that  was                                                               
created in  the Alaska Ski  Safety Act itself; instead  this bill                                                               
was drafted  to deal  with a  specific problem  with implementing                                                               
the Alaska Ski Safety Act.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  STEPOVICH said  he is  under the  impression that                                                               
[ski  areas are  already  enforcing the  issues being  addressed]                                                               
with  this  bill.    He  asked if  the  ski  patrol  could  issue                                                               
[citations under the authority of DNR].                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER remarked:                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     That would be  a decision ... made  by the commissioner                                                                    
     of  natural   resources  [DNR]  who  ...   in  self  is                                                                    
     constrained by  the regulations ... that  would need to                                                                    
     be  promulgated  to  quantify -  ...  essentially,  ...                                                                    
     investing  that authority  within the  commissioner ...                                                                    
     either  to  comply  with   existing  regulation  or  to                                                                    
     develop  the  regulation  necessary  to  (indisc.)  ...                                                                    
     authorize persons to provide for citations.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  STEPOVICH   asked  if   [the  bill   would  allow                                                               
citations] to be written on the ski hill for certain violations.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER  replied no.   He explained that  this bill                                                               
specifically  authorizes the  Alaska  Supreme Court  to create  a                                                               
bail  schedule  for citations  that  would  be issued  under  the                                                               
authority that  was provided  in the  original Alaska  Ski Safety                                                               
Act.                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  STEPOVICH  said it  seems  like  the [Alaska  Ski                                                               
Safety Act] addressed these [issues].                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   HAWKER   offered   to   provide   Representative                                                               
Stepovich with a  letter from the Alaska Supreme Court.   He said                                                               
the Alaska Supreme Court has  asked [the legislature] to grant it                                                               
specific authority and it would  develop the bail schedule, which                                                               
was contemplated in the original Act.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  DAHLSTROM asked  Representative Hawker  to provide  the                                                               
committee with  a copy  of the  letter and to  include it  in the                                                               
House State Affairs Standing Committee's  bill packets.  She said                                                               
she  was  positive  these  concerns   will  and  do  need  to  be                                                               
addressed.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  MASEK explained  that the  purpose  of the  bill is  to                                                               
address technical issues  that were not addressed  in the [Alaska                                                               
Ski Safety Act].  She said she  thought the intent of the bill is                                                               
to clarify the statutes in order  for the [Alaska Ski Safety Act]                                                               
to work.  She said the  courts can't really implement the [Alaska                                                               
Ski  Safety  Act]  or  enforce  it unless  it  is  authorized  in                                                               
statute,  because the  Alaska Supreme  Court has  determined that                                                               
there is no  clear authorization in statute for  such a schedule.                                                               
Co-Chair Masek called the bill "clean  cut," and she said DNR had                                                               
worked on implementing a bail  schedule, which is included in the                                                               
bill packet.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Number 1571                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE STEPOVICH remarked:                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
     In  respect  to people  that  bring  bills before  this                                                                    
     committee; they  want them  all to go  through.   ... I                                                                    
     don't know  where to  address this.   ...  I am  on the                                                                    
     resource committee;  I'm not on  state affairs.   ... I                                                                    
     just have trouble with the  qualifications of those who                                                                    
     are going to be able to get  these out.  I just want it                                                                    
     stated for  the record.   Qualifications for  those who                                                                    
     are going  to give  these tickets out  on the  ski hill                                                                    
     and their abilities to assess  the skills of the skiers                                                                    
     that they're going to give the tickets to.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Number 1619                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
PAUL  SWANSON,  Area  Manager,  Eaglecrest  Ski  Area,  City  and                                                               
Borough of  Juneau testified.   Mr. Swanson paraphrased  from the                                                               
following  written testimony,  which  read [original  punctuation                                                               
provided]:                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     Thank  you Madame  Chair and  Members of  the Committee                                                                    
     for  the  opportunity  to  testify  this  afternoon  in                                                                    
     support of HB 188.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     For the  record, my name  is Paul  Swanson.  I  am Area                                                                    
     Manager  of  Eaglecrest Ski  Area  which  is owned  and                                                                    
     operated by the City and Borough of Juneau.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     When the Alaska  Ski Safety Act was enacted  in 1994 it                                                                    
     clearly identified duties  and responsibilities of both                                                                    
     the ski area and the skier.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     However, currently  we are unable to  fully enforce all                                                                    
     provisions due  to the fact  that the bail  schedule as                                                                    
     called for in  the Act has not been  established by the                                                                    
     courts.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
     I feel that  passage of this bill is  needed to support                                                                    
     the intent of the Ski  Safety Act and reinforce current                                                                    
     area operations and safety policies  as approved by the                                                                    
     Department of Natural Resources.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     The establishment  of the bail  schedule will  allow us                                                                    
     to  deal  more  effectively  with  violators,  such  as                                                                    
     skiers  who enter  a closed  area and  those under  the                                                                    
     influence of alcohol and controlled substances.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     It is important to note  that the Act does not prohibit                                                                    
     skiers from going  out of the ski area  boundaries - at                                                                    
     their own risk.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     I appreciate your support and  am willing to answer any                                                                    
     questions you might have.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE STEPOVICH inquired about the number of violations                                                                
that have occurred at Eaglecrest Ski Area.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR.  SWANSON said  there were  less than  10 instances  of people                                                               
going into closed areas this year.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE STEPOVICH  asked if the Eaglecrest  Ski Area deals                                                               
with violations itself.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. SWANSON said it does at  the present time.  He explained that                                                               
the  ski area  deals with  it  by revoking  skiing privileges  or                                                               
taking the  skier's pass for  30 days,  which might occur  at the                                                               
end of the day.  However, he said  there is really no way to keep                                                               
that person away for 30 days.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE STEPOVICH noted that he  would rather pay the fine                                                               
than have  his privileges revoked.   He asked if there  are a lot                                                               
of collisions or civil suits against [Eaglecrest Ski Area].                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. SWANSON  remarked, "Not in  our case."   He said  many people                                                               
would not  want to  pay the  fine, and  he felt  the [bill]  is a                                                               
better avenue for  [the ski industry] to take.   Mr. Swanson said                                                               
he  doesn't consider  there  to be  a lot  of  offenders, but  if                                                               
[violators] had  to pay for  his or  her mistakes, he  thought it                                                               
would be  looked at  better than  the way  it is  currently being                                                               
dealt with.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE STEPOVICH  said some might  argue that it  is very                                                               
expensive  to go  skiing, but  he knows  Eaglecrest Ski  Area has                                                               
good prices.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. SWANSON replied, "We're not making any money."                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE STEPOVICH related his belief  that $50 is the most                                                               
someone in Alaska would pay to go  skiing, which is a lot for one                                                               
day.   He  offered his  belief that  $50 citations  can still  be                                                               
issued under current statute, and said  he would like to see [how                                                               
many citations have been issued thus far].                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  DAHLSTROM asked  Representative Hawker  to provide  the                                                               
committee with that information.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HAWKER  said   existing  circumstance  allows  an                                                               
operator to  issue a $50 maximum  fine.  He said  the bill packet                                                               
contains an additional letter offered  by the Eaglecrest Ski Area                                                               
that identified  the original DNR  proposed bail  schedule, which                                                               
identified  the  priorities where  DNR  wishes  to increment  the                                                               
individual fines beyond  the $50 maximum.  He  explained that the                                                               
Alaska Supreme  Court was asked  to authorize a bail  schedule to                                                               
put $150 for  skiing on a closed slope or  trail, $100 for riding                                                               
lifts  or skiing  under the  influence of  alcohol or  drugs, and                                                               
$150 for a  skier having a hit and run  accident.  Representative                                                               
Hawker said the  point of the bail schedule is  to increase a few                                                               
of these violation charges.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Number 2047                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
LARRY  DANIELS,  Alyeska  Ski Resort,  testified.    Mr.  Daniels                                                               
stated his support for HB 188  as proposed.  He explained that he                                                               
was  involved in  the original  legislation and  in promoting  it                                                               
through  the  legislature.    Mr. Daniels  said  this  bill  just                                                               
perfects  the original  Alaska Ski  Safety  Act of  1994, and  to                                                               
finish  the intent  of the  original legislation,  which did  not                                                               
provide that  specific authorization to the  Alaska Supreme Court                                                               
to  establish a  bail schedule.   He  explained that  on occasion                                                               
there are problems  with skiers colliding with each  other and in                                                               
some cases it can result in  a fairly serious injury.  Currently,                                                               
he said there is no deterrent  from that person running away from                                                               
the accident.   He  said even  if that  person is  identified and                                                               
caught,  the  process that  would  have  to  be gone  through  to                                                               
involve  the   Alaska  State  Troopers  and   using  assault-type                                                               
processes  have, to  this point  in time,  been essentially  non-                                                               
effective  because it  takes  so much  investigative  time and  a                                                               
large  degree of  effort on  behalf of  the district  attorney to                                                               
process.  He  said Alyeska Ski Resort has only  had one situation                                                               
like that, but currently there is no deterrent.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. DANIELS said  another example is of people skiing  in an area                                                               
that is  exposed to avalanche  conditions, and not only  do those                                                               
people expose  themselves to danger  but they  potentially expose                                                               
other  skiers and  the ski  patrol, if  a rescue  is needed.   He                                                               
compared it  to having speed limits  on a highway and  not having                                                               
the ability to  issue citations for driving violations.   He said                                                               
he didn't  think that enacting  HB 188 would increase  the number                                                               
of tickets  being written.   He remarked, "Once the  deterrent is                                                               
there, and  a few were  written - in  only the most  egregious of                                                               
cases  -  then  I  think  that   we  could  expect  to  see  some                                                               
significant reduction in those kinds of issues."                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Number 2231                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG  turned attention  to page 1,  line 11,                                                               
and  he asked  about  the jurisdictional  change  and the  larger                                                               
affect of the change.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Number 2293                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
RICK  THOMPSON,   Regional  Land  Manager,   Southcentral  Region                                                               
Office,  Division  of  Mining,  Land  and  Water,  Department  of                                                               
Natural Resources,  testified.  Mr.  Thompson said his  belief is                                                               
[the  bill] changes  the  jurisdiction from  ski  areas on  state                                                               
owned land to any ski area operator in the state.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HAWKER  noted that  the  bill  packet contains  a                                                               
letter  from the  commissioner of  DNR.   He  explained that  the                                                               
first paragraph  of the letter  does address that the  purpose of                                                               
this is  to provide  "the authority  to establish  bail schedules                                                               
for ski safety  act violations and that all ski  areas - those on                                                               
state  land and  those on  other lands  - be  treated equally  in                                                               
regards to  enforcement of these  violations."   He said it  is a                                                               
clarifying point.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE STEPOVICH  asked [Mr. Thompson] how  he envisioned                                                               
this bill working and who would be [issuing the citations].                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. THOMPSON said  DNR is looking forward to the  passage of this                                                               
bill.   He explained  that the ski  patrol would  investigate the                                                               
incident, write  a report,  and pass  on the report  to DNR.   He                                                               
said DNR  employees appointed  to work on  that project  would be                                                               
issuing  any [citations].   He  said typically,  DNR may  only be                                                               
issuing about  three [citations]  per year.   Mr.  Thompson noted                                                               
that there  was a high of  nine [citations] issued one  year, but                                                               
there  are zero  [citations]  issued  many years.    He said  the                                                               
violations are typically pretty serious when they do occur.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Number 2433                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  thanked Mr.  Swanson for  accommodating his                                                               
13 year-old son last year  during a one-day visit snowboarding at                                                               
Eaglecrest Ski Area.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Number 2455                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE  moved to  report HB  188 out  of committee                                                               
with  individual  recommendations  and  the  accompanying  fiscal                                                               
notes.   There being no objection,  HB 188 was reported  from the                                                               
House Resources Standing Committee.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                

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