Legislature(1997 - 1998)
03/19/1998 01:35 PM TRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CSHB 231(FIN) - REGULATION OF SNOWMOBILES CHAIRMAN WARD brought CSHB 231(FIN) before the committee as the final order of business and stated the committee would take testimony from witnesses waiting to testify over the legislative teleconference network. MAX LOWE, President of the Alaska Snowmobile Representatives Alliance (ASRA), testifying from Anchorage in support CSHB 231(FIN), said the alliance feels it is the proper funding mechanism for construction and improvement of trails, trail signage maintenance, etc., in the state of Alaska. He said there are great safety implications for snowmobiling in the bill, and it has the support of the majority of recreational users and clubs. Number 268 SENATOR HALFORD questioned what the envisioned fee would be for registering a snowmobile at the time of purchase. MR. LOWE replied that there is currently a $5 per year fee which has to be renewed every two years. He noted that in eleven western states, the fees range anywhere from $15 to $26 per year. SENATOR HALFORD asked the status of municipal taxation on these vehicles. MR. LOWE responded that there is none at this time. Although it was on the property tax roles of the municipality at one time, it was exempted along with boats, aircrafts, etc. SENATOR HALFORD said his only concern is that we not create a very attractive vehicle for municipalities to jump on to and people end up paying $50 or $75 on a new machine per year. MR. LOWE agreed that it is a possibility, but he expressed the need to move this legislation ahead and get some trails funding because that could be a possibility at any time. Number 295 CHAIRMAN WARD announced the arrival of Representative Masek who is the prime sponsor of HB 231. KEVIN HITE, representing the Alaska State Snowmobile Association and testifying from Anchorage, stated their support for CSHB 231.(FIN). For years snowmobile clubs have sought this type of state mechanism for registration and accounting. They support the legislation in several areas, primarily the accounting of the number of registrations in Alaska for acquiring trail funding, as well as the advantages and benefits to owners of this being a theft deterrent. MICHAEL EASTHAM, representing the Snomad Snowmachine Club and testifying from Homer, voiced their total support for the legislation. They believe it will a big advantage to snowmobile owners because it will provide an easier way to register their snowmachines. He noted a state parks survey has shown that approximately six to eight thousand new snowmobiles are sold annually in Alaska, which, he said, represents a large dollar value of revenues being lost to the state. It is his understanding that some snowmobile dealers are opposed to this legislation because of the added responsibility of registering newly purchased snowmobiles, but he believes these dealers should have to share the burden for the convenience of the new owners. He has also heard that some Native groups and persons living in remote areas are opposed to this, and although it has been law since 1968 that snowmobiles be licensed by owners, he assumes that 10 percent or less of those people living in those areas even register their snowmobiles, which is a great loss of revenue to the state. Number 360 BILL EASTHAM, testifying from the Mat-Su LIO in support of CSHB 231(FIN), said they need another vehicle for snowmachine users to be able to register their snowmachines besides standing in line at the Division of Motor Vehicles. SENATOR HALFORD wondered if any of the people testifying would object if the legislation had a provision in it that said it wouldn't be used as the basis of establishing a municipal snowmobile property tax. EDDIE GRASSER, staff to Representative Masek, said it is not the intent of this legislation to assist the boroughs or municipalities in assessing a property tax. REPRESENTATIVE MASEK added that perhaps Senator Halford's concern could be addressed in a separate piece of legislation. Number 428 JAMES DAY, representing Arctic Cat and testifying from Anchorage, stated support for the legislation because it will provide an accurate account of snowmachine sales in the state, which is very important to the manufacturers. It will also aid police forces in all communities in their efforts to find and return stolen snowmachines. Number 446 JAY DULANY, Director, Division of Motor Vehicles, Department of Administration, testifying from Anchorage, said he would address some of the questions raised during the meeting. Relating to a discussion on the fee, Mr. Dulany said the fee set under AS 28.10.421(d)(7) is not affected by this bill, and it is currently set at $10 for the biannual period. He said there is a provision in statute that allows the Division of Motor Vehicles to collect taxes on certain vehicles, but this class of vehicles is not listed in that table, so for the division to collect the tax there would have to be a change in the table made by the Legislature. Mr. Dulany pointed out that snowmobile registrations can be renewed over the Internet or by telephone, so people don't have to go to the DMV offices. Mr. Dulany also pointed out that it is a common practice for dealerships to charge a fee for processing paperwork. JIM STRATTON, Director, Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, testifying from Anchorage, said he was present to respond to questions about the trail use and trail moneys that would come from adding increased registrations. SENATOR HALFORD pointed out that none of this money is dedicated so it could be used for non-motorized trail development. MR. STRATTON said they would hope that when the money is authorized for trail use that it would come with intent on how it is to be spent. He added that the money the division currently gets from the federal government for trails is dedicated specifically for trails and there is formula that allocates that money between motorized and non-motorized that they do follow. He also clarified that fuel tax money goes into the general fund and there is no reallocation of fuel tax money to the trail program. Number 506 SENATOR WILKEN inquired if the state is losing money from the National Trails funds because of the lack of registration of snowmachines. MR. STRATTON acknowledged that the state is losing money because the snowmobile numbers aren't as high as they should be. There are about 12,000 snowmobiles registered in the state of Alaska, but it is estimated that up to 80,000 exist. He said he is not sure how much more money the state would get if all of them were registered, but that question has been posed to the people who administer that grant money. The division currently gets about $165,000 in federal highway money, and he estimated it would be about a 15 percent increase. TIM BORGSTROM, representing the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation and testifying from Anchorage, said the corporation has been looking for ways to promote winter tourism and they have concluded that snowmobile recreation is an increasing and very lucrative industry in roughly 28 states. Every one of those states has a point of sale registration law in place which helps as a funding mechanism for the development of trails to attract tourists to the state. Mr. Borgstrom said he has talked to the president of the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Associations and was told that it is not just federal highway money that the state is losing out on. The state has lost out on millions of dollars because of not having a point of sale program. In his closing comments, Mr. Borgstrom related that there have been over 80 snowmobiles stolen within the Anchorage bowl this winter. With a point of sale registration, snowmobile owners would have to register their machines every year, get a new sticker that would be easily identifiable at a distance. He said the legislation provides mechanisms for money, mechanisms for law enforcement, and a protection and safety net for snowmobile owners. There being no further witnesses to testify on HB 231, CHAIRMAN WARD asked Representative Masek if she had any additional comments. Number 554 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK said she wanted to make it clear that this is not a new fee that is being initiated. There has been a statutory requirement on the books since 1968 for registering snowmobiles; however, very few Alaskans have participated in this process and HB 231 makes it easier for people who want to purchase snowmachines in the future to comply with the requirement. She pointed out that the legislation has a lot of support and she urged the committee's support as well. SENATOR HALFORD asked Representative Masek if she would object to an option that would make it easier for people to re-register their machines by providing a longer period of time in between registering the machine at the time of purchase and the renewal requirement. He suggested instead of it being $10 for two years, it could be $20 for four years. He said he thinks a lot of the objection to registration is just the contact with the bureaucracy. REPRESENTATIVE MASEK responded that the legislation provides for a mail in system for registration renewal the same as is done with motor vehicles. TAPE 98-5, SIDE B Number 587 MR. DULANY added that he didn't see a problem with handling it either way. SENATOR WILKEN said most of the comments he has had on this legislation were good with the exception of one dealer who thought he didn't want the burden of the additional paperwork. He asked if there was some thought of increasing the $5 yearly fee. REPRESENTATIVE MASEK responded that at this time the $5 fee is adequate. SENATOR WILKEN asked how the dealer will get the required signature to complete the paperwork if a Fort Yukon resident orders a snowmachine from a Fairbanks dealer. MR. DULANY replied that it could be handled in the same way that occurs now with automobile dealers. When the individual is ordering the snowmachine, he can request that the application for the registration be faxed or mailed to him. Once the application is completed and returned the dealership would either register the machine or submit the paperwork to the local DMV office for registration. He added that before the machine can be shipped the chain of title would have to be complete. There being no further testimony on HB 231, CHAIRMAN WARD asked for the pleasure of the committee. SENATOR WILKEN moved CSHB 231(FIN) and the accompanying fiscal note be passed out of committee with individual recommendations. Hearing no objection, it was so ordered.