Legislature(2003 - 2004)
02/03/2004 01:33 PM TRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 Ogg. 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, though. REPRESENTATIVE STEPOVICH suggested the person would be "employed." [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 hours. [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.