Legislature(2003 - 2004)

02/26/2004 08:03 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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                                                               
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.                                                                                                             

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