Legislature(2003 - 2004)
02/26/2004 08:03 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 297-WILDFIRES AND NATURAL DISASTERS CHAIR WEYHRAUCH announced that the next order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 297, "An Act relating to wildfires and other natural disasters." Number 1273 REPRESENTATIVE BILL STOLTZE, Alaska State Legislature, spoke as sponsor of HB 297. Representative Stoltze explained that he and his staff had tried to answer the questions that were posed the last time HB 297 was heard before the House State Affairs Standing Committee. Representative Stoltze stated the reasons that he is presenting this bill haven't changed. He said that HB 297 deals with self-reliance and allowing people to help themselves despite the government's desires. REPRESENTATIVE STOLTZE said that in his district the people who had violated the well-intentioned barricades set up by the police and fire departments in order to protect their property, animals, or other cherished items were often the ones responsible for saving those things. Admitting that HB 297 still needed some refining, Representative Stoltze said that it is a start, and he wants to have a mechanism in place whereby people can help themselves to protect their cherished items from fires. He said he agreed with the recommendation of the House State Affairs Standing Committee that HB 297 should receive a House Judiciary Standing Committee referral instead of a House Resources Standing Committee referral. He also pointed out that since HB 297 has an indeterminate fiscal note, it will receive more scrutiny from the House Finance Committee. Representative Stoltze offered to answer questions. Number 1107 REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ commented that the title of HB 297 needed to be tightened up. CHAIR WEYHRAUCH stated that those issues had been discussed conceptually and it was on the record. He stated that those issues needed to be reaffirmed, but there was discussion about changing the title to add a new crime and to the rights related to persons affected by the bill. REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ, expressing that he is probably the last person in the legislature who believes in keeping the criminal code as simple as possible, referred to Section 1 of the bill. He said that instead of putting the specific crime under AS 11.56.210, it should be under the false-information section of AS 11.56.800. He noted that AS 11.56.800 already has a section making false reports to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) a class A misdemeanor. REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ shared that he thought that the language in AS 19.70.500 could also be "tightened up" so the statute wouldn't be quite so long. He inquired about [subsection] (c) where the DNR is given the regulatory authority, whereas in most of Title 18 the regulatory authority belongs to the Department of Public Safety. He stated that there were some issues there that needed to be resolved. Number 1006 REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ posed a hypothetical circumstance where someone was unable to return to his/her home, and wanted to designate someone else to do so for him/her. He noted the way that HB 297 was currently written, no one other than the resident would be able to return to the property, and he wanted to address that issue. Number 0963 REPRESENTATIVE WEYHRAUCH made the statement that HB 297 was a House Judiciary Standing Committee bill, since it dealt with the criminal code and the liability of individuals. He said that HB 297 establishes some good policies that need to be moved forward, but they need to be adapted to the current codes a little better. REPRESENTATIVE STOLTZE agreed with the previous sentiments. He stated that the committee process, although sometimes difficult, yields a lot of valuable results. Number 0906 REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL asked Chair Weyhrauch if it was his intention to pass along the information discussed in the House State Affairs Standing Committee to the other committees that HB 297 is referred to, or whether the committee should adopt a committee substitute (CS) for HB 297 to record the information. Number 0853 CHAIR WEYHRAUCH at first stated that the House State Affairs Standing Committee would have to adopt a CS for the bill in order to reflect the discussion about it during the committee meetings. He then announced, however, that it is his intention to provide a report containing all the amendments to accompany the bill when HB 297 is reported out of the House State Affairs Standing Committee. REPRESENTATIVE STOLTZE agreed to incorporate the ideas that were brought up during the meeting into HB 297, stating that everything brought up made sense. Number 0807 REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ commented that on page 2, line 7, of HB 297, there is a reference to AS 26. He said that he thought it should be further specified to refer to AS 26.23, which specifically deals with fires and other disasters. CHAIR WEYHRAUCH suggested further changes he thought were relevant to HB 297. He thought that under Section 2, where HB 297 amends AS 18.70.500, the word "disaster" should be changed to "disasters", since the bill deals with many types of natural disasters. He added that the title needed to be amended to reflect that HB 297 imposes a new crime. Referring to page 2, subparagraph (B), Chair Weyhrauch stated that the person should be liable for any property damage, as well as death, and that he thought subparagraph (B) should reflect that. He pointed out a legal issue: on page 2, subsection (a), lines 5 and 6, the statement "clear and immediate threat" needs to be further defined. CHAIR WEYHRAUCH informed Representative Stoltze that it was his intention to ask the House State Affairs Standing Committee to move HB 297 [unamended] with a report to accompany the bill to the House Judiciary Standing Committee. He added that it would be Representative Stoltze's responsibility to get the House Resources Standing Committee referral removed and to get a House Judiciary Standing Committee referral in its place. Number 0575 REPRESENTATIVE HOLM moved to report HB 297 out of committee with individual recommendations, accompanying fiscal notes, and the previously mentioned committee analysis. There being no objection, HB 297 was reported from the House State Affairs Standing Committee.