Legislature(2015 - 2016)BUTROVICH 205
02/13/2016 10:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS
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SB 123-USE OF ELECTRONIC DEVICES WHILE DRIVING 10:03:57 AM CHAIR STOLTZE announced the consideration of SB 123. 10:04:06 AM SENATOR KEVIN MEYER, Alaska State Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, sponsor of SB 123, said that Anchorage had recently passed an ordinance to lower the penalty of texting while driving from a class A misdemeanor to a $500 fine. He said SB 123 proposes to do the same statewide that allows law enforcement officers to issue tickets immediately, resulting in a stronger deterrent. He added that no other aspect of current law was changed by SB 123. SENATOR MEYER said the bill will also prevent the long misdemeanor process and cost of prosecuting individuals using electronic devices while driving. 10:06:35 AM He continued to explain that under current law, only 20 individuals in Anchorage were cited over four years and only four resulted in a conviction. He described the ticketing process under SB 123. He noted that SB 123 has two zero-fiscal notes. He opined that the bill will save money and deter a very dangerous activity. CHAIR STOLTZE noted that the Municipality of Anchorage changed many of their traffic fines as a revenue measure. He asked Senator Meyer for his opinion. SENATOR MEYER answered that the intent of the bill is not to make money, but for safety and to save money for the state by eliminating the criminal court process. CHAIR STOLTZE asked if there will be more enforcement. SENATOR MEYER answered yes. He asserted that enforcement will be easier to enforce and compared the process to writing a traffic ticket. He emphasized that the intent is not to generate money for the state. CHAIR STOLTZE said he had heard the current texting penalty was comparable to a first-time DUI and officers were inclined to give a warning for first-time texting offenders. 10:10:01 AM SENATOR MEYER agreed with Chair Stoltze. He spoke of other laws, such as a minor in possession, that are also not being enforced and the possibility that it would be changed from a misdemeanor to a fine. CHAIR STOLTZE commented that if texting leads to bodily injury there are more severe consequences. SENATOR MEYER agreed. He said the current law states that if a person who is texting causes a death or great harm it results in a separate penalty. SENATOR COGHILL noted that in the bill, aggravation ramps up the penalty into a felony; for example, if a person uses an electronic device and causes an accident, the penalty is quite high. He agreed with ticketing for a simple violation. SENATOR MEYER noted a handout that shows the various penalties in the bill. CHAIR STOLTZE pointed out that a bail schedule offense requires action by the courts. 10:14:08 AM SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI joined the committee via telephone. SENATOR MEYER specified that traffic tickets are payable by mail and he wondered if that provision should be included in the bill. CHAIR STOLTZE commented that SB 123 is a deterrent. SENATOR MEYER concurred with Chair Stoltze and noted that people of every age text and the problem is serious. 10:16:53 AM NANCY MEADE, General Counsel, Alaska Court System, Anchorage, Alaska, answered questions related to SB 123. She explained that if the Legislature requests that the Alaska Supreme Court put the offense onto a bail schedule, a fine schedule, it can be disposed of by mailing in the fine amount. She used a speeding ticket as an example. She said the proposed change contained in SB 123 could be put onto a bail schedule. She added that traffic offenses can be put on a bail schedule because there is a statute already in place that provides for that. She said should SB 123 pass, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) would work with the Alaska Court System to request it be done and the Supreme Court would add it to the existing traffic bail schedule. 10:18:45 AM CHAIR STOLTZE asked if the Legislature would have an advisory role if the executive branch and the court don't agree to do it. MS. MEADE specified that the Legislature's role is to say what the fine amount would be. She added that if the legislative intent is that it goes on a bail schedule, her experience is that DPS would propose it and the court would do it. CHAIR STOLTZE asked if the Legislature's role is advisory. MS. MEADE replied that the Legislature could state definitively that something must be on a bail schedule and the Supreme Court has historically done so. 10:20:16 AM CHAIR STOLTZE postponed public testimony and held SB 123 in committee.