Legislature(2009 - 2010)CAPITOL 106

03/10/2009 08:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved CSHB 136(STA) Out of Committee
Moved Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
HB 139-ALLOW SCREEN DEVICES IN UTILITY VEHICLES                                                                               
8:05:43 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LYNN announced  that the first order of  business was HOUSE                                                               
BILL  NO.  139, "An  Act  providing  for  an exception  to  allow                                                               
drivers  of  public  utility  motor  vehicles  to  operate  those                                                               
vehicles  with certain  screen devices  operating and  visible to                                                               
the drivers."                                                                                                                   
8:05:47 AM                                                                                                                    
ALLISON  LAFFEN,  Staff,  Representative  Max  Gruenberg,  Alaska                                                               
State Legislature,  presented HB 139 on  behalf of Representative                                                               
Gruenberg, co-sponsor.  She explained  that House Bill 88, passed                                                               
during the  Twenty-Fifth Alaska State Legislature,  prohibits the                                                               
driver of an  automobile from operating a screen  device, such as                                                               
a  television,  video  monitor,   or  portable  computer,  within                                                               
his/her view while the automobile  is in motion.  Exceptions were                                                               
made at the time for cell  phone and Global Position System (GPS)                                                               
usage,  as well  as to  address the  needs of  the Department  of                                                               
Transportation regarding construction  and maintenance.  However,                                                               
because of  an oversight,  an exception was  not made  for public                                                               
utilities  companies.   The  proposed  legislation would  correct                                                               
that oversight.                                                                                                                 
MS. LAFFEN explained the needs  of the public utilities companies                                                               
by paraphrasing  a portion of  the sponsor statement,  which read                                                               
as follows:                                                                                                                     
     This  legislation would  provide public  utilities with                                                                    
     similar  access   for  maintenance,  repair,   or  data                                                                    
     acquisition  in order  to perform  their duties.  As an                                                                    
     example,  meter readers  for a  gas  company no  longer                                                                    
     physically   exit   their    car   to   collect   usage                                                                    
     information;  instead the  information is  collected by                                                                    
     interrogating  the meter  as  the  meter reader  drives                                                                    
     past the location.  The drivers need to  verify as they                                                                    
     drive by  a home, for  example, that the data  is being                                                                    
     collected. More  importantly, if  there is a  gas leak,                                                                    
     the driver will see on  his screen device that there is                                                                    
     a problem  with the line as  he drives by the  point of                                                                    
     leak. Finally,  the drivers also receive  messages from                                                                    
     police  and   fire  departments  in  the   case  of  an                                                                    
     emergency where a  gas line would need to  be shut off.                                                                    
     Other  public utilities,  as defined  in AS  42.05.990,                                                                    
     have  similar reasons  for needing  access to  a screen                                                                    
     device in performance of their duties.                                                                                     
8:08:23 AM                                                                                                                    
PHIL  STEYER,   Director,  Government  Relations   and  Corporate                                                               
Communications, Chugach  Electric Association (CEA),  stated that                                                               
CEA has two  primary uses of screen devices:   to view the result                                                               
of meters  being read by a  radio signal; and to  see the display                                                               
of a  mobile mapping  system.   He said  both those  systems have                                                               
made CEA much more efficient.                                                                                                   
8:10:05 AM                                                                                                                    
JIM POSEY,  General Manager, Anchorage  Municipal Light  & Power,                                                               
had his  testimony, in support of  HB 139 and in  appreciation of                                                               
the work of  the committee in addressing the  issue, presented by                                                               
Phil Steyer.                                                                                                                    
MR.  STEYER,  in  response  to Chair  Lynn,  confirmed  that  the                                                               
traditional meter reader  is no longer used; meters  are now read                                                               
either  by a  van-mounted system  or by  a handheld  device.   He                                                               
illustrated  the efficiency  of  the new  system  by noting  that                                                               
[CEA] used  to need  thirteen meter readers,  but now  only needs                                                               
about three.                                                                                                                    
8:11:14 AM                                                                                                                    
BRIAN NEWTON,  President/CEO, Golden Valley  Electric Association                                                               
(GVEA), said he  supports [HB 139].  He said  GVEA has been using                                                               
mobile devices  in its trucks  for about five years  and, through                                                               
the use  of handheld  devices, is  now doing  the work  with five                                                               
meter readers  that used to  require eight.   He noted  that GVEA                                                               
embarked on  a program to test  the use of laptop  [computers] in                                                               
its  trucks.   He explained  that  some of  the truck  operators,                                                               
especially  those  who  do  repairs, use  laptops  and  have  the                                                               
ability  to  see the  screen  as  they  drive.   The  information                                                               
displayed  helps the  truck  operator get  to  the location  much                                                               
quicker.   He  said the  use of  laptops is  a critical  means of                                                               
finding direction and becoming more efficient.                                                                                  
MR.  NEWTON, in  response Chair  Lynn, said  currently GVEA  uses                                                               
cell phones  to relay emergency  information, but  ultimately the                                                               
company would like to link  the laptop with mobile communication,                                                               
which would  enable it  to receive and  transmit orders  from the                                                               
field remotely.                                                                                                                 
8:13:52 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  said he wants  to ensure that  the drivers                                                               
would not be using the laptop while operating the vehicle.                                                                      
8:14:34 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. NEWTON  said drivers would  be prohibited from  entering data                                                               
while driving; they  would use the screen  to determine location,                                                               
but stop the vehicle before entering data.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON said  he wants  the committee  to make  it                                                               
clear that that prohibition should  be part of all the companies'                                                               
CHAIR  LYNN said  that would  be the  committee's recommendation,                                                               
but  the  committee has  no  power  to  say  what goes  into  the                                                               
companies' manuals.                                                                                                             
MR. NEWTON  said driving while  entering information would  be as                                                               
dangerous as driving while "texting" on a cell phone.                                                                           
8:16:18 AM                                                                                                                    
CURTIS  THAYER, Director,  Corporate &  External Affairs,  ENSTAR                                                               
Natural Gas Company  ("ENSTAR"), testified in support  of HB 139.                                                               
He  said  the passage  of  the  bill  would ensure  that  utility                                                               
companies  are in  compliance with  state law.   He  related that                                                               
ENSTAR is  a leader in  using new technology to  improve customer                                                               
service  and hold  down operating  costs.   The company  has been                                                               
using  automated meter  reading  for 10  years,  he noted,  which                                                               
provides  customers with  "real-time"  information upon  billing.                                                               
The   system   requires  a   van   operator   to  drive   through                                                               
neighborhoods at  10 miles per  hour, at which time  [the reader]                                                               
acquires data.   Mr.  Thayer reported that  ENSTAR is  looking to                                                               
introduce  a  field  order  system  (FOS)  to  provide  real-time                                                               
information on  work orders between field  personnel dispatch and                                                               
customer  service.    He said  ENSTAR  currently  dispatches  its                                                               
service technicians and distribution crews  as a normal course of                                                               
business,  which includes  responding  to gas  leaks, fires,  and                                                               
other emergency situations.  He  announced that ENSTAR's dispatch                                                               
response is ranked one of the  best in the country, at 21 minutes                                                               
compared to the national average of 30 minutes.                                                                                 
MR. THAYER,  in response to Representative  Seaton, said ENSTAR's                                                               
company policy  is that the  van operator pull over  before doing                                                               
any testing or data input.   Meter reading, he explained involves                                                               
data  being received  into a  terminal  [inside the  van] as  the                                                               
driver proceeds down the street.                                                                                                
8:19:14 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  said the word, "information",  used [on                                                               
page  2, sub-paragraphs]  (F), (G),  and  (I), means  information                                                               
coming in; it needs no further clarification.                                                                                   
8:19:57 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  LYNN, after  ascertaining that  there was  no one  else to                                                               
testify, closed public testimony.                                                                                               
8:20:08 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  indicated that some utility  companies had                                                               
expressed concern regarding the  issue of vehicle dispatching and                                                               
response information.                                                                                                           
8:21:20 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG responded  by referred  to a  letter in                                                               
the  committee  packet  from  Gerald  P.  Luckhaupt,  Legislative                                                               
Counsel, dated March 4, 2009, which read, in part, as follows:                                                                  
     You have asked  if the exception provided  by this bill                                                                    
     for  public  "utility construction,  maintenance,  [or]                                                                    
     repair"   would   include  dispatching   and   response                                                                    
     information  for  those purposes.    In  my opinion  it                                                                    
     would include  dispatching and response  information as                                                                    
     well   as   other   activities  related   to   "utility                                                                    
     construction, maintenance, [or] repair."                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  said this statement was  transmitted to                                                               
the utility  companies, and  he stated his  belief that  they are                                                               
satisfied with the current language.                                                                                            
8:22:09 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON  opined that  the term  "data acquisition"                                                               
is a  broad enough term to  cover "anything they want  to send to                                                               
these trucks."   He said he  thinks it is not  necessary to amend                                                               
the language.                                                                                                                   
8:22:40 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG indicated  that  the  new language  [on                                                               
page 2, lines  13-15,] was drafted from language  provided by Mr.                                                               
Thayer and is  based upon language in  [sub-paragraphs] (F), (G),                                                               
and (H).                                                                                                                        
8:23:07 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  moved to  report HB  139 out  of committee                                                               
with  individual  recommendations  and  the  accompanying  fiscal                                                               
notes.  There being no objection,  HB 139 was reported out of the                                                               
House State Affairs Standing Committee.                                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
01 HSTA - HB0139A.pdf HSTA 3/10/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 139
02 HSTA - HB 139 Sponsor statement.doc HSTA 3/10/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 139
03 HSTA - Westlaw HB 139 AS49 05 990.rtf HSTA 3/10/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 139
04 HSTA HB 139 SLA Laws - HB0088Z.pdf HSTA 3/10/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 88
HB 139
05 HSTA - HB139-DPS-DET-03-05-09.pdf HSTA 3/10/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 139
06 HSTA - HB 139 Additional Backup Memo - Legal Letter - Enstar.pdf HSTA 3/10/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 139
HSTA -3-5-09 CS HB136 ver E 3 6 09.pdf HSTA 3/10/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 136
HB136 3-9-09 Updated Sponsor Statement.doc HSTA 3/10/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 136
HB136CS(STA)- DNR SSD 02-27-09.pdf HSTA 3/10/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 136