Legislature(1993 - 1994)

03/10/1994 03:35 PM TRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 CHAIRMAN SHARP brings up HB  61 (LOWER ALCOHOL LIMIT TO 0.08 FOR              
 OMVI'S) as the first order of business before the committee.  The             
 chairman calls the prime sponsor to testify.                                  
 Number 034                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE NORDLUND thanks the chairman and the committee for             
 scheduling HB 61.  The representative states HB 61 would lower the            
 blood alcohol limit by which a person is considered legally drunk             
 to drive.  HB 61 would lower that limit from 0.10 to 0.08.  Most              
 experts agree that driving at 0.08 blood alcohol level and above,             
 is a level at which a person is significantly impaired.                       
 Number 078                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE NORDLUND cites statistics on accidents and blood               
 alcohol levels from information in the committee bill file.                   
 Representative Nordlund states he has been known to have a few                
 drinks, and he knows there is no way someone who has had five                 
 drinks in the space of an hour should be allowed to get behind the            
 wheel of an automobile.  He states his objective in HB 61 is not to           
 encourage people to quit drinking, but to make sure that if people            
 do drink, they do not get behind the wheel of an automobile and               
 compromise the safety of others and themselves.                               
 REPRESENTATIVE NORDLUND states as of 1993, ten states have passed             
 0.08 blood alcohol level laws.  All European countries have a legal           
 limit at 0.08 or less.  Three-year-average statistics from                    
 California, Utah, Oregon, and Maine, states which have 0.08 blood             
 alcohol level limit, indicate that there are 15.5% fewer                      
 fatalities, while the arrest rate for Driving While Intoxicated               
 (DWI) only went up about 4%.  Representative Nordlund notes that              
 names of organizations which support HB 61 and studies that support           
 HB 61 are named in his sponsor statement for HB 61.                           
 Number 114                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN SHARP thanks Representative Nordlund for his testimony and           
 asks if there are any questions for the representative.  Hearing              
 none, the chairman calls Margot Knuth from the Department of Law to           
 Number 122                                                                    
 MARGOT KNUTH, Assistant Attorney General, Department of Law (LAW),            
 Criminal Division, states the department supports HB 61.  Ms. Knuth           
 states there is no crime that kills more people in Alaska than                
 drunk driving.  She thinks this legislation will have better and              
 more consequences for the State of Alaska than many other bills               
 that are being considered.                                                    
 MS. KNUTH states that one of the legal aspects the Department of              
 Law is up against is that anyone with a prior conviction for DWI              
 from a state with 0.08 blood alcohol level, cannot have that                  
 conviction counted as a previous conviction in Alaska.  The courts            
 of the State of Alaska have ruled that a conviction from a 0.08               
 state, even if the person was found to have a blood alcohol level             
 of 0.15 for that conviction, is substantially dissimilar from                 
 Alaska's law governing DWI offenses.  So anyone with a record of              
 convictions for DWI from any of the states, such as Oregon,                   
 California and the others, get treated as a first offender under              
 Alaska law.  Ms. Knuth states that is inappropriate.  This is an              
 instance where parity with other states is needed.                            
 Most of those arrested for DWI are at about .10 blood alcohol                 
 level.  There are not a lot of people pulled over who are at .07 or           
 even .08.  But if a person is very close to 0.10, it becomes worth            
 it for the defendant to go to trial and contest the charge.  By               
 dropping to a 0.08 level, many people at 0.10 will plead out,                 
 rather than going to trial.                                                   
 MS. KNUTH states the Department of Law does not expect to see very            
 many more arrests, but they do expect to see more convictions as a            
 result of HB 61.                                                              
 Number 163                                                                    
 SENATOR LINCOLN asks Ms. Knuth how many people plead out with a               
 MS. KNUTH says she does not have that information with her, but she           
 could get back to Senator Lincoln with the answer.  She does not              
 know how many DWI cases there are statewide, and how many are                 
 prosecuted by troopers rather than by municipalities.  Ms. Knuth              
 points out that the City & Borough of Juneau (CBJ) is looking at              
 passing an ordinance instituting 0.08 blood alcohol level law.  She           
 believes it is better not to have two different standards, one at             
 the state level and one at the local level.                                   
 Number 176                                                                    
 SENATOR LINCOLN asks if Ms. Knuth has statistics showing the number           
 of people who are stopped for DWI whose blood alcohol level is                
 between 0.08 and 0.10.                                                        
 MS. KNUTH replies the Department of Public Safety (DPS) has those             
 Number 183                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN SHARP says he has read of instances where a person went to           
 trial, was not convicted of DWI, but still had their license                  
 suspended under administrative revocation procedures.  He asks Ms.            
 Knuth if administrative revocation is proper in those                         
 MS. KNUTH responds DPS may do better in answering that question,              
 but she believes in instances of administrative revocation, the               
 person whose license is revoked has an opportunity to contest that            
 revocation.  If the person whose license is suspended forgoes that            
 opportunity, there may be no recourse.                                        
 Number 201                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN SHARP thanks Ms. Knuth for her testimony and calls Juanita           
 Hensley from the Division of Motor Vehicles.                                  
 Number 204                                                                    
 JUANITA HENSLEY, Chief, Driver's Services, Division of Motor                  
 Vehicles (DMV), Department of Public Safety (DPS) states DPS                  
 supports HB 61 and feels it is a tragedy to lose lives as the                 
 result of drunken driving.  To answer Senator Lincoln's question,             
 DPS uses an intoximeter 3000 is used to determine the blood alcohol           
 level in a person's blood.  Ms. Hensley states she has been advised           
 from the State Crime Lab that there was a total of 174 breath tests           
 given in 1993 that resulted in a level of 0.08 to 0.099.  Unless              
 those individuals were in an accident which resulted in aggravating           
 injuries, they are not charged with DWI.                                      
 Number 222                                                                    
 SENATOR LINCOLN asks why the DPS fiscal note is zero.                         
 MS. HENSLEY states the fiscal note is zero because HB 61 is not an            
 enforcement bill, so DPS does not anticipate very many additional             
 arrests due to the legislation.  DPS does plan to apply for federal           
 highway safety grants for public education.                                   
 Number 234                                                                    
 SENATOR LINCOLN asks Ms. Hensley to clarify that there would not be           
 additional expense in arresting persons with a blood alcohol level            
 between 0.08 and 0.099.                                                       
 MS. HENSLEY replies that in 1993 there were in excess of 5,500                
 arrests for DWI statewide, and she does not see the small number of           
 people with blood alcohol levels between 0.08 and 0.099 having much           
 of a fiscal impact on the department.  Of the arrests made for DWI,           
 approximately 4,000 of those arrests were made by municipal police            
 departments.  DPS does not feel that the approximately 173 persons            
 with a blood alcohol level between 0.08 and 0.099 would have much             
 of a fiscal impact on the department.                                         
 Number 259                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN SHARP asks what the purpose of section 4 is in HB 61.                
 Number 275                                                                    
 MS. HENSLEY replies section 4 would set the legal blood alcohol               
 level at 0.04 for commercial drivers and at 0.08 for all other                
 drivers.  Right now, a person can be charged with DWI at a 0.05               
 level if they are in an accident involving serious injury to                  
 someone.  Section 4 would also reduce this level to 0.04.                     
 CHAIRMAN SHARP thanks Ms. Hensley for her testimony and calls Mr.             
 Hackenmiller to testify.                                                      
 Number 377                                                                    
 LARRY HACKENMILLER, Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, and Restaurant                     
 Retailer's Association (CHARR) says he is from Fairbanks, where he            
 owns a tavern.  Mr. Hackenmiller states he has some statistical               
 data which was not taken into consideration regarding HB 61.  Mr.             
 Hackenmiller submitted a letter to the committee which he wrote to            
 the editor of the Fairbanks newspaper in April of 1993.  He cites             
 information from this letter.  Mr. Hackenmiller believes the state            
 should look at improving other aspects of highway safety, not just            
 lowering the allowable blood alcohol content (BAC).  The experts              
 Mr. Hackenmiller has talked to state lowering the BAC will have no            
 bearing at all on highway safety.                                             
 MR. HACKENMILLER states 79% of the fatalities on highways involve             
 a person who has a BAC level over 0.15.  Half the people involved             
 in fatal accidents have a BAC level of 0.20.  We should deal with             
 these offenders.  The state also needs to enhance enforcement for             
 speeding, failure to yield, and so on.                                        
 Number 364                                                                    
 SENATOR LINCOLN asks how the lowering of the allowable BAC will               
 affect restaurants and bars.  Will employees have to be trained to            
 recognize the difference between a 0.10 BAC and a 0.08 BAC?  Will             
 bars and restaurants be legally liable for patrons driving.                   
 Number 377                                                                    
 MR. HACKENMILLER replies that title 4 indicates that bars and                 
 restaurants cannot serve a visibly intoxicated person.  The BAC               
 level is not applicable with regards to 0.08 or 0.10.  In server              
 training, servers are taught to recognize the various stages of               
 drinking and intoxication.  Mr. Hackenmiller says his bar no longer           
 takes the keys from intoxicated persons to keep them from driving:            
 it is that persons responsibility to not drive if they are                    
 intoxicated.  However, his bar will call the cops if an intoxicated           
 person intends to drive.  Mr. Hackenmiller says he bought his bar             
 at about the same time MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) was               
 being organized, and he is a supporter of MADD.                               
 MR. HACKENMILLER says the state needs to address the problem of               
 repeat offenders of DWI, and they need to address offenders whose             
 BAC is over 0.15.  Those offenders are the ones who are going to              
 kill people.                                                                  
 Number 395                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE NORDLUND states perhaps he can help answer some of             
 Senator Lincoln's questions.  There was a section of HB 61 that was           
 adopted on the house floor that would prevent the results from the            
 intoximeter or any sort of other breathalyzer tests from being used           
 as evidence in civil litigation against a bar or restaurant.  Right           
 now, if a person tests at over 0.10 on a test, it can be used in              
 evidence in civil litigation against a bar or restaurant.  HB 61              
 would disallow that linkage.                                                  
 REPRESENTATIVE NORDLUND says, in response to several of Mr.                   
 Hackenmiller's statements, that there are a number of things we can           
 do to make our roads safer, and he is correct that the bulk of the            
 DWI problem is caused by people who are over 0.15 BAC.  We can                
 attack this problem from both ends, however.  If you have had five            
 drinks in one hour, you are impaired and should not be operating a            
 motor vehicle.  This is a modest step to set the BAC at a correct             
 limit.  0.10 is too high.                                                     
 Number 416                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN SHARP thanks Mr. Hackenmiller and Representative Nordlund            
 and asks if anyone else wishes to testify.  The chairman asks if              
 there is anyone in the room from the Public Defenders Office.  The            
 chairman asks if there is anyone in the room from the Department of           
 Apparently, there is no one in the room from either the Public                
 Defenders Office or the Department of Corrections.                            
 REPRESENTATIVE NORDLUND states he is not prepared to talk about the           
 Public Defenders fiscal notes.                                                
 CHAIRMAN SHARP says the Senate Finance Committee can address the              
 bill's fiscal notes when the bill reaches that committee.                     
 Number 427                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE NORDLUND mentions that HB 61 will enable the state             
 to take advantage of some federal highway safety planning funds.              
 Passage of HB 61 will enable the state to capture more federal                
 Number 432                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN SHARP says the fiscal notes he has in front of him appear            
 to total about 225,000 dollars.                                               
 Number 434                                                                    
 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS says there are general fund receipts which             
 would pay for part of the cost of the fiscal notes.                           
 Number 442                                                                    
 MS. HENSLEY says, for the state to keep 192,000 dollars in federal            
 alcohol incentive grants, a 0.08 BAC law must be passed within                
 three years.  With the passage of HB 61 the state will get an                 
 additional 5% grant.  This money will be available for a three to             
 eight year period.  This money would pay for alcohol server                   
 training, administrative hearing officer training, overtime for               
 holiday alcohol programs, education, and enforcement.                         
 Number 462                                                                    
 SENATOR LINCOLN asks Ms. Hensley to clarify that the state would              
 receive 200,000 dollars each year for eight years if HB 61 is                 
 passed and how much the total cost of HB 61 would be to the state.            
 MS. HENSLEY replies there would be no cost to the state.                      
 SENATOR LINCOLN says her concern is that there will be additional             
 DWI offenders having to wait to serve their sentences.  She asks if           
 the state will have to build an additional facility to serve these            
 offenders.  The senator states she is solidly in favor of keeping             
 people from driving while intoxicated, but asks if there is a way             
 to perhaps prevent people from driving while intoxicated.                     
 Number 483                                                                    
 MS. HENSLEY states that a bill passed in 1993 that helped the                 
 Department of Corrections by specifying that a DWI offender has to            
 pay for their time in jail.  The fee paid can be up to 1,000                  
 dollars.  In addition, the time served does not have to be served             
 in a prison, but can be served in a halfway house.                            
 Number 493                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN SHARP asks if there are any other questions and what the             
 pleasure of the committee is.                                                 
 Number 496                                                                    
 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS makes a motion to release HB 61 from the               
 Senate Transportation Committee with individual recommendations.              
 Senator Phillips notes that he would like the Senate Finance                  
 Committee to pay particular attention to the fiscal notes from the            
 Public Defenders Office and the Department of Corrections.                    
 Number 502                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN SHARP, hearing objection from Senator Kelly, orders a role           
 call vote on whether to release HB 61 from committee with                     
 individual recommendations.                                                   
 The vote was taken and the motion passes by three yeas, one nay,              
 and one absent.  Voting in favor of releasing HB 61 from the Senate           
 Transportation Committee are Senators Sharp, Phillips, and                    
 Kerttula.  Voting against releasing HB 61 from committee is Senator           
 Kelly.  Senator Lincoln is absent.                                            
 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS, after hearing the secretary announce the              
 vote, makes an off-hand, disparaging remark about the committee               
 secretary being able to count.                                                

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