Legislature(2013 - 2014)CAPITOL 106
03/27/2014 08:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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HB 293-BEAR LICENSE PLATES 8:11:32 AM CHAIR LYNN announced that the first order of business was HOUSE BILL NO. 293, "An Act relating to motor vehicle registration plates; and providing for an effective date." 8:12:16 AM REPRESENTATIVE KELLER moved to adopt the proposed committee substitute (CS) for HB 293, Version 28-LS1304\N, Strasbaugh, 3/17/14, as a work draft. There being no objection, Version N was before the committee. 8:12:39 AM REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON, Alaska State Legislature, as prime sponsor, introduced her staff to present HB 293. 8:12:58 AM CHERE KLEIN, Staff, Representative Peggy Wilson, Alaska State Legislature, presented HB 293 on behalf of Representative P. Wilson, prime sponsor. She stated that the proposed legislation would "add an option to our primary license plate." She said a constituent told Representative P. Wilson about how many compliments he used to receive on his bicentennial license plate, which depicted a bear, when he drove in the Lower 48 back in the '70s and '80s. She said a recent poll at carinsurance.com shows that Alaska's plain yellow license plate is one of the least favorite of all the 50 states' plates. She relayed that a former commissioner of the Department of Public Safety (DPS) said the main reason the bear was put on the Alaska license plate in 1976 was that the bear is something that all of Alaska has in common. MS. KLEIN said another constituent asked Representative P. Wilson why she was wasting time on an insignificant license plate when there are important issues, such as education, a gas pipeline, and state funds, to address. She said the comment made Representative P. Wilson wonder why the legislature needs to be involved in what could be day-to-day operations of the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and question whether the legislature should spend its time drafting and carrying a bill every time a constituent wants a specialty plate, when there are more important matters to consider. Ms. Klein noted that [a request for new license plate design] had been brought before the legislature about every two years. 8:15:15 AM MS. KLEIN stated that under HB 293, all specialty license plates would be approved within the DMV. The [division] would develop a standard procedure that all constituents could follow when requesting a specialty license plate, as well as develop a fee schedule that would cover the cost of all new specialty plates. Additionally, the DMV would change current language regarding specialty plates for fire fighters and [emergency medical service providers] from "former" to "retired". 8:16:13 AM CHAIR LYNN, regarding Ms. Klein's comment about perceived unimportant legislation, stated that the consideration of issues such as education, the gas pipe line, and the budget are not delayed by consideration of other legislation. He explained that he wants to assure the public that the legislature attends to multiple issues quite well, with "a sensitive priority." 8:17:53 AM REPRESENTATIVE GATTIS relayed that she has constituents who were involved in specialty license plates related to the National Rifle Association, and she indicated that the sale of those license plates funded "shooting groups." She asked how the turning over of license plate management to the DMV, under HB 293, would affect "the future fundraisers coming forward." REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON indicated that nothing about the DMV's regulations would be changed under the proposed legislation. REPRESENTATIVE GATTIS clarified that she wanted to know if, under HB 293, groups that want license plates for fundraising purposes would not be able to come to the legislature to ask for them. REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON deferred to the director of the DMV. 8:19:45 AM AMY ERICKSON, Director, Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Department of Administration (DOA), said she thinks Representative Gattis has a point that "these specialty plates that are tied to an appropriation would need to be handled by the legislature." She continued as follows: So, while we could take care of the specialty plates, and the ordering of them, and setting up the design, if you're going to dedicate it to a certain fund, I think you would have to touch it after we did. MS. ERICKSON, in response to a question, said she did not think it would matter whether the legislature addressed those license plates before or after the DMV did. REPRESENTATIVE GATTIS expressed concern that those fundraising plates would not be thwarted. 8:21:23 AM REPRESENTATIVE ISAACSON noted that he had been planning to propose a broad amendment to delete Section 4; however, after discussing the issue, he indicated he was considering instead just deleting the words "active" and "retired" - the latter of which would replace "former" under Version N - in Section 4, beginning on page 2, line 18, through page 3, line 9. He asked what the effect of such an amendment would be on [the division]. 8:22:23 AM MS. ERICKSON answered that "it could go two ways." First, the DMV could "turn that into a specialty plate," which anyone could choose; second, there could be standards for which people could qualify, which would require the DMV to set up some regulations to establish what the standards are. REPRESENTATIVE ISAACSON asked if adopting a conceptual amendment so special request license plates for firefighters and EMS providers would be available for those who had served five years, whether retired or not, would provide the necessary direction to [the DMV]. MS. ERICKSON answered that she thought it would. 8:23:22 AM REPRESENTATIVE KELLER directed attention to Section 5 of Version N, [on page 3, lines 10-30, regarding special request specialty organization license plates]. He expressed concern that the language in Section 5 would put the division in the position of having to choose between political concepts, and he opined that it does not seem right to place that task on the administrative branch. He expressed appreciation for specialty plates, and he said they are a matter of state pride. Nevertheless, he said the idea of [the DMV] having to decide whether someone is pro- gun or anti-gun, for example, makes him squirm. He said, "It seems to me like we have avoided that well in the legislature; I think it needs to be continued to be avoided." He asked Ms. Erickson to correct him if he was presuming things he should not be presuming, but said he would like Section 5 deleted from the proposed legislation. 8:25:00 AM MS. ERICKSON responded, "It wouldn't necessarily be me, but it would be the ... Department of Administration." REPRESENTATIVE KELLER said he understood. He said the DMV's regulations specify processes, but under the proposed legislation, the politicized process would be removed from the legislature and given to the administration. MS. ERICKSON responded that she thought Representative Keller was right. 8:25:41 AM REPRESENTATIVE HUGHES said she had been asked to sponsor a bill for a specialty license plate, but had not done so, because her understanding was that many such bills did not get adopted because of the cost involved in setting up a mold for the design. She asked what the cost was to make a specialty license plate. Regarding the bear design, she noted that the fiscal note is for the design, but does not address the cost of setting up the equipment to create the licenses. MS. ERICKSON answered that the DMV works with whatever organization wants the plate and gives them specifications for the size of the plate and the type of file in which the design needs to be made. The design then needs to be approved by the commissioner of DOA. The cost to set up the license with DMV's vendor is $250, which is stated in the fiscal note. 8:27:16 AM REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON indicated that she supported the conceptual amendment suggested by Representative Isaacson. She said currently DOA handles the design of the license plates; the legislature merely tells the department what it wants. 8:28:10 AM REPRESENTATIVE ISAACSON moved to adopt Conceptual Amendment 1, labeled 28-LS0905\U.1, Martin, 3/14/14, on page 2, line 18, through page 3, line 9, to delete references to "active" and "retired", and on page 3, lines 6 and 9, to change "10" to "five". 8:28:40 AM REPRESENTATIVE KELLER objected for purposes of discussion. He asked for the reason for changing the 10 years to five. 8:29:03 AM REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON said one reason is because "more people would be interested in the plates." She remarked that people in Alaska move around a lot. She said many fire fighters and EMS providers in Alaska work as volunteers, and without them many lives would be lost. Representative P. Wilson opined that because of that, it is "only fair that they be able to purchase these license plates also." 8:29:42 AM REPRESENTATIVE ISAACSON said he spoke to two fire chiefs and one police chief. He said the fire chiefs explained that they want the specialized plates made available to both retired and active fire fighters, but not to someone who has only been with them for six months; therefore, a five-year requirement would be good. He relayed that the police chief instructs his departments to view the license plates as a badge of service, not a license to speed. REPRESENTATIVE KELLER removed his objection to the motion to adopt Conceptual Amendment 1. There being no further objection, it was so ordered. REPRESENTATIVE KELLER acknowledged he may have put the bill sponsor on the spot with his previous suggestion to delete Section 5 of the bill; however, he said he still had concerns. He asked the sponsor what she thought about his suggestion. REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON responded that she thought it would be good to keep the language of Section 5 in the bill; however, she stated that if it was not the will of the committee to do so, "that wasn't the main purpose of the bill to begin with." 8:32:28 AM JERRY CEGELSKE stated that he is the one who originally contacted Representative P. Wilson. He confirmed that he acquired the bear license plate in 1978, and it drew positive attention when he drove in the Lower 48. He opined that the license plate is free advertising that can help with the state's tourism economy. He mentioned Kansas may be thought of as the first of the rectangle states, while Alaska is known as the Last Frontier. He said currently his friends are driving through about 20 states, which is an opportunity to advertise the state amongst a broad section of the general public. He said that is the main driving factor for his having requested that Representative P. Wilson sponsor the proposed legislation. 8:34:46 AM JEFF TUCKER stated that he was a fire service professional of Alaska testifying on behalf of himself. He stated support of Conceptual Amendment 1, because he thinks that would allow fire fighters and "any of us professionals around the state" to take advantage of the special license plate that would reflect the pride of being an active or retired fire fighter in the state. 8:35:59 AM CHAIR LYNN, after ascertaining that no one else wished to testify, closed public testimony. 8:36:06 AM REPRESENTATIVE KELLER moved to adopt Conceptual Amendment 2, to delete Section 5, on page 3, lines 10-30. REPRESENTATIVE ISAACSON objected for the purpose of discussion. REPRESENTATIVE KELLER explained that he sees Section 5 as being a problem for DOA if the department would have to decide between nonprofit organizations. He said, "Even if we have equal time in the regulations, so that all sides can have their say, it just seems like it's something that the legislature is here to represent the state." He echoed the idea that an attractive license plate can serve as a positive influence on state tourism. He indicated that if the legislature were to politicize the issue, at least it would do so "on the basis of constituents, and in this case in the House, 15,000 each that ... are represented." 8:37:50 AM REPRESENTATIVE GATTIS asked for clarification from Representative Keller. REPRESENTATIVE KELLER said he thinks switching which entity does the approval of special license plate designs from the legislature to the DMV would burden the DMV with "a dangerous situation." He remarked upon the passion behind issues, and expressed concern that there may be endless requests to the DMV from 501(c)(3) organizations wanting to use license plates as a means to promote their interests. 8:39:25 AM CHAIR LYNN responded, "So, in other words, you're saying that it would put the DMV in the political process rather than [the decision being made through] the legislative political process." REPRESENTATIVE KELLER said, "Precisely." REPRESENTATIVE GATTIS offered her understanding that [the intent of the proposed Conceptual Amendment 2] was to keep the legislature in the decision-making "loop," rather than being taken out of it as the bill sponsor had recommended [in Section 5]. REPRESENTATIVE KELLER responded, "That's right." 8:39:57 AM REPRESENTATIVE HUGHES asked if, under current law, DOA is obligated to accept any license design that is brought to them. REPRESENTATIVE KELLER answered that the department currently has "broad powers to break regulations," and it can choose "yes or no." He said it seems like putting that process out of the reach of the legislature is a potential problem. He said if a person in the department chooses "to approve something that is politically caustic," then the consequences to the department or division could be huge. He remarked that the legislature is used to making those kinds of decisions all the time. CHAIR LYNN pointed out that legislators get elected, but state workers do not. 8:43:05 AM REPRESENTATIVE ISAACSON said he appreciates the sponsor wanting to streamline that process, but would like to hear from Ms. Erickson how many times the DMV receives requests for specialty license plates and how she would direct regulation, because he said, "To one person, what is caustic might be to another person the purpose for existence." 8:43:45 AM MS. ERICKSON responded that currently the DMV does not get any requests, because they are handled through the legislature; however, the commissioner of DOA has said that he would not object to the responsibility. She said she understood Representative Keller's point that under Section 5, it would be the commissioner's responsibility to establish regulations, but she said she does not know how that would be done. 8:44:41 AM REPRESENTATIVE ISAACSON said that [without deleting Section 5], the legislature would be imitating Congress by allowing agencies to do its work rather than doing its own due diligence. He stated his support of Conceptual Amendment 5. 8:45:01 AM REPRESENTATIVE GATTIS highlighted statistics [shown on a handout in the committee packet entitled, "Specialty license plates"]. She noted that there was a "Breast Cancer Awareness" license plate that had zero purchased within a five-year period; "Military unit designation" had 3,705 sold in five years; and "Support our Troops" had 1,182 sold in five years. She said she can see Representative Keller's point of view and would support Conceptual Amendment 2. 8:45:54 AM REPRESENTATIVE HUGHES said she thinks there may be an increased [workload] for the department with [Section 5] left in the proposed legislation, because the legislative process of getting a license plate approved is more complex than the process would be through the department. She expressed appreciation for the sponsor's attempts for streamlining, but said in this case streamlining concerned her. 8:46:29 AM REPRESENTATIVE ISAACSON removed his objection to the motion to adopt Conceptual Amendment 2. There being no further objection, it was so ordered. 8:46:46 AM REPRESENTATIVE ISAACSON observed that because Conceptual Amendment 1 had been adopted, now the committee needed to address the language in Section 6, which lists fees for specialty license plates, by removing the words "active" and "retired", as well as deciding on one fee rather than the two listed. 8:47:47 AM REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON offered her understanding that the bill drafter would go through the bill and automatically remove [all references to "active" and "retired", because of Conceptual Amendment 1. REPRESENTATIVE ISAACSON offered his understanding that because he had been specific in Conceptual Amendment 1, by listing page numbers and lines, he would need to propose the change in Section 6 in a new conceptual amendment. He asked the sponsor if she had a preference over whether the specialty license plate for the fire fighters and EMS providers would cost $30 or $50. [REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON and MS. ERICKSON spoke amongst themselves inaudibly.] REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON offered her understanding that Ms. Erickson had said the decision about fees would be up to the legislature. 8:49:09 AM REPRESENTATIVE GATTIS suggested that the fee be the same for all specialty license plates. CHAIR LYNN responded that then there would be no preferential treatment. 8:49:43 AM MS. ERICKSON said she does not know the cost of some of the plates, but said she thinks some of them are as much as $100. REPRESENTATIVE GATTIS questioned whether some of the specialty license plates are sold in an effort to raise funds for a nonprofit organization. She indicated that she would like the plates sold as fundraisers to be treated separate from those that are sold "plate only." She said she could not determine the difference by looking at the aforementioned list. She asked the bill sponsor about her intent: "Was it to be a fundraiser or just the actual plate?" REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON answered, "Just the actual plate." 8:50:51 AM REPRESENTATIVE ISAACSON moved to adopt Conceptual Amendment 3, on page 4, Section 6, to delete references to "active" and "retired", and to set the fee equivalent to that of the veteran's license plate. 8:51:18 AM REPRESENTATIVE GATTIS objected for the purpose of discussion. REPRESENTATIVE ISAACSON stated his understanding that the veteran's plate is not a fundraising plate. REPRESENTATIVE GATTIS removed her objection to the motion to adopt Conceptual Amendment 3, under the condition that the intent is clear for the record that the veteran's plate is not a fundraising plate, but rather a flat fee. MS. ERICKSON stated that the fee for the non-fundraising plate is $30. 8:52:36 AM REPRESENTATIVE GATTIS restated that she had removed her objection. REPRESENTATIVE ISAACSON moved an amendment to Conceptual Amendment 3, to reflect that the specialty plate for fire fighters and EMT providers be $30. There being no objection, the amendment to Conceptual Amendment 3 was adopted. 8:53:12 AM CHAIR LYNN asked if there was any objection to the motion to adopt Conceptual Amendment 3, as amended. There being none, Conceptual Amendment 3, as amended, was adopted. 8:53:26 AM REPRESENTATIVE KELLER moved to report hte proposed committee substitute (CS) for HB 293, Version 28-LS1304\N, Strasbaugh, 3/17/14, as amended, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSHB 293(STA) was reported out of the House State Affairs Standing Committee.