Legislature(2003 - 2004)

02/03/2004 01:33 PM TRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 213-PROVISIONAL DRIVER'S LICENSE                                                                                           
Number 0064                                                                                                                     
CHAIR HOLM  announced that the  first order of business  would be                                                               
HOUSE BILL  NO. 213, "An  Act relating to a  provisional driver's                                                               
license and to issuance of  a driver's license; and providing for                                                               
an effective date."                                                                                                             
CHAIR  HOLM  requested  a  motion   to  adopt  the  new  proposed                                                               
committee substitute (CS).                                                                                                      
Number 0102                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  STEPOVICH  [moved  to   adopt  the  proposed  CS,                                                               
Version 23-LS0786\X, Luckhaupt, 1/29/04, as a work draft].                                                                      
CHAIR  HOLM   clarified  the  version  and   announced  that  the                                                               
committee would take it up.  [Version X was treated as adopted.]                                                                
CHAIR HOLM  recognized the arrival  of Representatives  Masek and                                                               
Number 0172                                                                                                                     
LINDA SYLVESTER, Staff to  Representative Bruce Weyhrauch, Alaska                                                               
State Legislature,  spoke on behalf of  Representative Weyhrauch,                                                               
sponsor.   She said  Version X contains  several changes  made in                                                               
response to testimony and comments  received at the last hearing.                                                               
The  first  change, on  page  1,  line 12, in  the  certification                                                               
section, reduces the  hours required to transition  from a permit                                                               
to a  provisional license  from 50  hours to  40 hours;  she said                                                               
this is  to accommodate folks who  live in less crowded  areas of                                                               
the state.                                                                                                                      
MS. SYLVESTER noted that a  handout shows a breakdown relating to                                                               
[the amount  of driving per week  or month that would  result in]                                                               
40  hours  or  50  hours.    In response  to  a  request  for  an                                                               
explanation from  Chair Holm, she  said a 14- or  15-year-old who                                                               
has a permit  is required to hold  it for six months.   This bill                                                               
also requires the parent to  certify a minimum amount of practice                                                               
time.     Ms.  Sylvester  remarked,   "It's  a   very  permissive                                                               
statement.  There's no ... enforcement  of it."  She said it's an                                                               
educational  tool  to  heighten  awareness  statewide  of  what's                                                               
really required  for a kid to  be a competent novice  driver.  If                                                               
the 40 hours is acquired over  six months' time, this breaks down                                                               
to 6.6 hours of driving each month, or 1.6 hours each week.                                                                     
AN UNIDENTIFIED MEMBER asked whether  Ms. Sylvester believes that                                                               
is sufficient.                                                                                                                  
MS. SYLVESTER  replied, "We think  that's fair.   Mothers Against                                                               
Drunk  Driving disagrees  and would  prefer  that it  stay at  50                                                               
hours. ...  It's a judgment call."   She noted that  according to                                                               
comments, Alaska has a requirement  for 40 hours [of flying time]                                                               
to  get  a private  pilot's  license;  South Dakota,  similar  to                                                               
Alaska in population  and its division of rural  and urban areas,                                                               
has a 40-hour [driving] requirement;  and California, which has a                                                               
different kind of environment, and  most of the other states have                                                               
a  50-hour requirement.   Saying  the idea  isn't to  make people                                                               
break  the law  by lying  when they  certify this,  Ms. Sylvester                                                               
emphasized  that  it's an  educational  tool  that includes  some                                                               
driving  during the  nighttime or  when  the weather  is bad  and                                                               
conditions might be icy.                                                                                                        
Number 0377                                                                                                                     
MS.  SYLVESTER addressed  the next  change, on  page 1,  line 13,                                                               
also in  the certification  section, which  expands it  from just                                                               
"nighttime  driving" to  "including ...  increasingly challenging                                                               
circumstances,  such   as  driving   in  inclement   weather  and                                                               
nighttime driving".  She explained  that this language comes from                                                               
a brochure provided  to the committee that the  Division of Motor                                                               
Vehicles (DMV) will  be distributing to all the kids  who come in                                                               
to  get a  license; this  change  reflects that  Alaska has  more                                                               
challenging circumstances than just darkness.                                                                                   
CHAIR  HOLM recognized  the arrival  of Representative  Kookesh a                                                               
couple of minutes earlier.                                                                                                      
Number 0442                                                                                                                     
MS.  SYLVESTER  turned  attention  to  page  2,  line  26.    She                                                               
explained  that  once a  provisional  driver's  license has  been                                                               
issued, there is  a six-month restriction during  which time kids                                                               
cannot  drive  around  between  1  and 5  a.m.    There  are  two                                                               
exceptions.   The first  is that  they may  drive around  with an                                                               
adult; the  bill had  said "25", but  that was  inconsistent with                                                               
the other ages discussed in  the driver's licensing statutes, and                                                               
so it had been  lowered [to age 21 in Version X].   The second is                                                               
for a  work permit; it had  been suggested that the  bill be very                                                               
clear that a young person driving  in the scope of employment, to                                                               
and from  work, would be  exempted [from the restriction]  in the                                                               
middle  of the  night.   She emphasized  that it's  just for  the                                                               
brief   six-month  period   during   which   there  are   several                                                               
protections for the novice driver.                                                                                              
Number 0552                                                                                                                     
MS.  SYLVESTER said  the last  change is  important:   on page 2,                                                               
line 31,  a new [subsection]  (c) has  been added in  response to                                                               
concerns that HB 213 might  infringe upon the hardship license or                                                               
off-systems restricted  license that DMV  issues.  The  desire is                                                               
to be very clear that this bill doesn't deal with that at all.                                                                  
CHAIR HOLM  asked Representative  Kookesh whether  that satisfies                                                               
some of his concerns.                                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE KOOKESH  said he'd talked  to the sponsor  and his                                                               
staff about  it.  He  emphasized that the off-systems  license is                                                               
"a different animal" and shouldn't be changed.                                                                                  
CHAIR HOLM noted that Representative  Kapsner had voiced concerns                                                               
as well.  He expressed appreciation that it had been addressed.                                                                 
Number 0603                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE OGG began discussion of  a possible amendment.  He                                                               
said  use of  the  word  "employment" leaves  out  a spectrum  in                                                               
Alaska - commercial  fishing people - because  a crewmember isn't                                                               
an  employee and  thus wouldn't  fit under  this.   Therefore, he                                                               
suggested  a  clarifying  amendment  is needed  to  say  "or  the                                                               
person's commercial fishing work".                                                                                              
MS. SYLVESTER  agreed such an  amendment could be made,  but said                                                               
the work  permit is envisioned  to most likely be  issued through                                                               
the police  departments that  enforce this.   Saying  she doesn't                                                               
think  it will  be  a  "rigorous, ...  hard-and-fast  kind of  an                                                               
issue," she explained:                                                                                                          
     If a young  driver is out driving around  in the middle                                                                    
     of the  night and  the police  pulls him  over, they're                                                                    
     going to  pull out  the department-issued  work permit.                                                                    
     And  what their  main concern  is going  to be  is that                                                                    
     they're  not out  driving around  and joyriding  in the                                                                    
     middle  of the  night, and  ... since  they issued  the                                                                    
     permit, they'll be able ... to make that call.                                                                             
Number 0773                                                                                                                     
CHAIR HOLM  surmised that Representative  Ogg wants to  make sure                                                               
it's on  the record that the  intention is that those  who aren't                                                               
"formally employed" still fall underneath the protection.                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE OGG concurred, but  said the less discretion given                                                               
to [the  Department of]  Public Safety,  the fewer  problems will                                                               
arise, especially  in this age group.   He said clarity  is best,                                                               
and  added that  he'd  make  that amendment  if  it didn't  cause                                                               
"great heartburn."                                                                                                              
MS.  SYLVESTER suggested  that there  be  a conceptual  amendment                                                               
that the legislative drafters would address.                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE OGG remarked that he  didn't want to hold the bill                                                               
further, since it had been through numerous hearings.                                                                           
Number 0800                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE STEPOVICH offered  that he interprets "employment"                                                               
to mean "working" and thus no change is needed.                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE   OGG  responded   that  there   certainly  is   a                                                               
difference  between  an  employee  and  a  commercial  fisherman,                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE   STEPOVICH   suggested   the  person   would   be                                                               
[The possible amendment wasn't addressed further.]                                                                              
Number 0877                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING  questioned the need for  the government's                                                               
involvement  and this  law.   He  suggested  perhaps this  should                                                               
involve  private entities  or require  more parental  involvement                                                               
instead; suggested the  need to look at what  has been successful                                                               
in other  communities; and noted  that an e-mail included  in the                                                               
committee  packet from  a  constituent  in the  Matanuska-Susitna                                                               
area  discusses a  successful  community-run  program there  that                                                               
costs parents $80 for driver's training for a child.                                                                            
MS. SYLVESTER  replied that  this empowers  parents to  have more                                                               
control  over  their  kids'  moving  into  a  full,  unrestricted                                                               
license.     Statistically,  states  that  have   adopted  a  GDL                                                               
[graduated  driver's  license]  program   have  seen  a  dramatic                                                               
decrease in deaths, she reported;  this ranges between 40 percent                                                               
and a low  of 11 percent, with  an average of 21  percent for the                                                               
drop in the  death rate, to her belief.   In addition, driving is                                                               
a privilege,  not a right,  and the state already  regulates this                                                               
process by  issuing a  permit and requiring  the young  person to                                                               
hold  the   permit  for  six  months;   furthermore,  people  are                                                               
regulated in  how they  drive, and the  state requires  people to                                                               
drive using a seatbelt, for example.  She continued:                                                                            
     It's  a balance,  I would  imagine, between  ... public                                                                    
     safety  and individual  rights.   And since  this is  a                                                                    
     privilege and  the state has  an obligation  to protect                                                                    
     other people on  the road, the state  has an obligation                                                                    
     to protect me, as well.  ... And statistics show, again                                                                    
     -  and the  experience of  other states  - that  ... by                                                                    
     adding these  very simple, very permissive  steps, then                                                                    
     public safety is enhanced.                                                                                                 
MS.  SYLVESTER offered  that this  is a  small imposition  on the                                                               
young driver,  but will have a  huge impact.  For  six months, it                                                               
requires not driving  in the middle of the night  or driving with                                                               
friends, which statistically are the deadly behaviors.                                                                          
Number 1090                                                                                                                     
MS. SYLVESTER  said she believed  the comment in the  e-mail from                                                               
Representative Kohring's constituent  was very good, recommending                                                               
driver's   education.      However,  she   told   members   that,                                                               
surprisingly,  driver's education  hasn't been  shown to  produce                                                               
these results;  rather, it teaches  people the rules of  the road                                                               
and the  laws, and provides  a "holding period" that  extends the                                                               
process of going  to a fully unrestricted driver's  license.  She                                                               
went on to say:                                                                                                                 
     That's  the spirit  of the  GDL.   And, again,  $80 ...                                                                    
     would  be   prohibitive  for   many  people.     School                                                                    
     districts ... aren't going to  be able to pay that, and                                                                    
     ... it  would be much  more intrusive of the  state ...                                                                    
     to require  families to pay  that.   The GDL is  a very                                                                    
     simple -  simple - beautifully successful  program that                                                                    
     is very minimal  ... on the infringement  of the rights                                                                    
     ... of a young person.                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING reiterated  that nongovernmental solutions                                                               
should  be explored  and that  perhaps  the same  goals could  be                                                               
achieved  through  less government  and  more  activities at  the                                                               
local  level.   He  said he'd  like to  see  greater research  on                                                               
effective community programs in other states.                                                                                   
Number 1174                                                                                                                     
CHAIR HOLM  returned to Ms.  Sylvester's point that  policies are                                                               
in  place that  allow people  to  have privileges  if they  don't                                                               
abuse them.   He acknowledged that he doesn't  want [new drivers]                                                               
to put him or his children in harm's way.                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE  STEPOVICH   offered  his  understanding   that  a                                                               
driver's  education course  could be  used for  the mandatory  40                                                               
[Ms. Sylvester nodded affirmatively.]                                                                                           
Number 1222                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  MASEK  remarked  that  the intent  is  good,  but                                                               
Alaska is  different from the  Lower 48  as far as  diversity and                                                               
the road  system.  She explained  that her only concern  is about                                                               
potential  impacts on  low-income  or  single-parent families  in                                                               
rural  areas outside  of  Wasilla, for  example,  who don't  have                                                               
money  for a  driver's education  course  or the  ability to  put                                                               
their kids through 40 hours of driving in a six-month period.                                                                   
Number 1293                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE STEPOVICH  moved [to report CSHB  213, Version 23-                                                               
LS0786\X, Luckhaupt,  1/29/04, out  of committee  with individual                                                               
recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes].                                                                             
CHAIR  HOLM  clarified the  version  and  announced that  without                                                               
objection,   CSHB   213(TRA)   was  reported   from   the   House                                                               
Transportation Standing Committee.                                                                                              

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