Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/18/2003 01:32 PM TRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
             SB 103-MOTOR VEHICLE REGISTRATION FEES                                                                         
CHAIR COWDERY  announced the committee  would take up SB  103 and                                                               
asked an administration representative to come forward.                                                                         
MR. KEVIN  JARDELL, Assistant Commissioner  of the  Department of                                                               
Administration  (DOA),   reminded  members  that   Duane  Bannock                                                               
provided the committee  with an overview of the bill  at the last                                                               
hearing and that he was available to answer questions.                                                                          
CHAIR  COWDERY  said he  held  this  bill  in committee  for  the                                                               
purpose  of  giving   members  and  the  public   time  to  voice                                                               
objections. He heard none.                                                                                                      
SENATOR  LINCOLN asked  if public  testimony had  been taken  and                                                               
noted the bill was only introduced on March 6.                                                                                  
MR. JARDELL  replied the  bill was heard  in committee  last week                                                               
and  was announced  to the  public at  that time  just as  it was                                                               
SENATOR LINCOLN asked what DOA did to publicize the legislation.                                                                
CHAIR  COWDERY remarked  the committee  noticed the  bill in  the                                                               
same way  it does every  other bill. He  said from the  number of                                                               
inquiries he received, he believes people are aware of the bill.                                                                
SENATOR  LINCOLN  apologized  for  her absence  at  the  previous                                                               
hearing  and asked  for an  explanation of  the need  to increase                                                               
registration fees.                                                                                                              
MR. JARDELL explained that user  fees within DOA were reviewed to                                                               
determine when they were increased last,  the value of the fee to                                                               
the state at  that time, and whether the state  is receiving that                                                               
value  today.  With  regard to  vehicle  registration  fees,  DOA                                                               
determined  the value  had  decreased  significantly. Staff  then                                                               
looked  at other  states to  see how  Alaska's fees  compared and                                                               
determined that the increase provided  in SB 103 would still keep                                                               
Alaska's  registration  fees  below   the  national  average.  He                                                               
acknowledged  that determination  was made  in-house and  that it                                                               
was difficult to compare vehicle  registration fees from state to                                                               
state  because  each  state uses  a  different  methodology.  For                                                               
example,  some states  impose taxes  in addition  to the  vehicle                                                               
registration  fee; some  calculate the  value of  the car  in the                                                               
registration  fee formula.   SB  103 updates  the fees  to better                                                               
reflect the intent of the original legislation.                                                                                 
SENATOR LINCOLN  asked for  the average  registration fee  in the                                                               
MR. JARDELL said  the national average is about $118.  He said he                                                               
would provide her with the formula DOA used.                                                                                    
SENATOR LINCOLN asked if DOA  staff determined an average fee for                                                               
each category of vehicle.                                                                                                       
MR. JARDELL  said they did  not. They did a  baseline calculation                                                               
to  see if  SB 103  would treat  Alaska citizens  in a  disparate                                                               
manner from the other states. He  said it would be too onerous to                                                               
make that comparison for every category.                                                                                        
SENATOR  LINCOLN   asked  how   DOA  came   up  with   a  taxicab                                                               
registration fee of $160.                                                                                                       
MR. JARDELL  said in general, the  fees were raised $10  per year                                                               
so the  biannual registrations would  increase $20.  However, the                                                               
passenger vehicle  registration fee increase  is $30. That  was a                                                               
streamlining  decision.   Years  ago,  passenger   vehicles  were                                                               
charged different  rates than  SUVs or trucks.  It does  not make                                                               
sense to do that today so  passenger vans and pick-up trucks were                                                               
combined into  one category. By increasing  the passenger vehicle                                                               
fee  $30, the  fee  would be  the same  for  both categories.  He                                                               
explained the extra  $2 stems from the time  when the Legislature                                                               
instituted biannual  registrations and decided it  didn't want to                                                               
simply  double  the  annual  fee  so they  doubled  the  fee  and                                                               
subtracted  $2. DOA  decided to  simplify  and raise  the fee  an                                                               
additional $2 because it's easier to collect $100 than $98.                                                                     
SENATOR LINCOLN asked if school buses would be exempt.                                                                          
MR. JARDELL  said school buses would  be treated in the  same way                                                               
they are today and it is  his understanding that school buses for                                                               
a  non-profit  organization  are   exempt  under  the  non-profit                                                               
category. School buses for other  entities would pay registration                                                               
SENATOR LINCOLN asked if the fee is $300 for a school bus.                                                                      
MR. JARDELL  said he believes the  fee amount is the  same as the                                                               
amount charged  for a  commercial vehicle,  which depends  on the                                                               
weight of the vehicle. He offered  to get back to Senator Lincoln                                                               
to verify that information. He  said Section 1(4) applies to tour                                                               
buses only. That is  one area in which DOA made  a policy call on                                                               
the  increase. In  the  past, tour  buses  used for  out-of-state                                                               
tourists were  in a special  category with  a fee lower  than the                                                               
normal commercial rate. That rate was increased.                                                                                
SENATOR  OLSON  asked  Mr.  Jardell  if  the  bill  distinguishes                                                               
between  school  buses owned  by  school  districts versus  those                                                               
owned by the private sector.                                                                                                    
MR.  JARDELL said  he believes  a  distinction is  made for  non-                                                               
profit entities.  He offered  to get back  to the  committee with                                                               
more information  on school buses.  He repeated that SB  103 does                                                               
not change  the current method  of charging registration  fee for                                                               
school buses; it only increases the fee.                                                                                        
SENATOR  WAGONER  noted some  districts  own  their school  buses                                                               
while others contract with private owners.                                                                                      
TAPE 03-09, SIDE B                                                                                                            
MR. JARDELL said  it is his understanding that  a school district                                                               
that owns its buses pays a registration fee.                                                                                    
SENATOR WAGONER  asked why the  fee is  the same for  a passenger                                                               
vehicle and a motor home.                                                                                                       
MR. JARDELL  said that was  a previous  policy call that  DOA did                                                               
not change.  The idea behind it  was that a motor  home in Alaska                                                               
is not used for  more than a couple of months  per year. The same                                                               
logic applies to registration fee for motorcycles.                                                                              
SENATOR WAGONER  said he thinks  motor home owners are  getting a                                                               
free  ride  because many  of  the  motor  home owners  use  those                                                               
vehicles  from  April  through  October.   He  said  there  is  a                                                               
tremendous  amount of  motor home  traffic on  the roads  between                                                               
Anchorage  and  the  Kenai  Peninsula  and  Seward.  He  said  he                                                               
believes that  fee is very  low for  a person driving  a $500,000                                                               
motor home.                                                                                                                     
CHAIR COWDERY said  trailer and motor home  registration in other                                                               
states is a lot more.                                                                                                           
SENATOR WAGONER  pointed out  they also  pay a  special licensing                                                               
fee to the county.                                                                                                              
CHAIR COWDERY asked  if the boroughs in Alaska  charge a separate                                                               
MR. JARDELL replied they do not.                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT asked if local governments have that option.                                                                 
MR. JARDELL said he did not know.                                                                                               
CHAIR COWDERY thought they do have that option.                                                                                 
SENATOR  OLSON  said  although  the  fees  for  motor  homes  and                                                               
motorcycles are tied  to usage, it is his  understanding that the                                                               
majority of the fees collected  are used for road maintenance. He                                                               
said the wear  and tear on a  road caused by a  motorcycle is far                                                               
different from  that of a motor  home. He said he  would consider                                                               
the weight of a vehicle.                                                                                                        
MR. JARDELL  said the fee charged  for a motor home  is more than                                                               
the fee charged for a motorcycle  because of road damage. He said                                                               
motorcycle fee  isn't the same  as passenger vehicle  fee because                                                               
motorcycles are used for a limited time during the year.                                                                        
SENATOR OLSON asked when fees were last increased.                                                                              
MR. JARDELL offered  to get back to Senator Olson  with an answer                                                               
to that question.  He said he believes the  last overall increase                                                               
was  in  1978 and  the  disparity  between  trucks and  cars  was                                                               
changed  in  1986.  The  Legislature   decided  on  the  biannual                                                               
registration at that time.                                                                                                      
SENATOR  OLSON  asked if  the  registration  fees only  apply  to                                                               
vehicles used on state roads.                                                                                                   
MR.  JARDELL  said they  apply  to  vehicles  used on  state  and                                                               
borough roads.                                                                                                                  
SENATOR OLSON asked if it applies  to vehicles that are driven on                                                               
the beach.                                                                                                                      
MR. JARDELL said SB 103 does not change current practice.                                                                       
SENATOR  OLSON asked  if  there are  three  categories of  school                                                               
buses: those  owned by school  districts; those owned  by private                                                               
contractors; and private buses owned by private schools.                                                                        
MR. JARDELL could not verify that.                                                                                              
SENATOR  OLSON asked  how  the fees  for  those three  categories                                                               
compare with each other.                                                                                                        
MR.  JARDELL  replied  that  a non-profit  agency  would  seek  a                                                               
registration  under  its  non-profit status.  Other  agencies  or                                                               
school  bus   owners  would  seek  registration   for  a  general                                                               
commercial  vehicle.  He  repeated  that  he  would  verify  that                                                               
information for committee members.                                                                                              
SENATOR  LINCOLN  said  she  like  the  committee  to  hold  this                                                               
legislation until  it gets  that information.  She asked  if most                                                               
road damage is done during the  months from May to September, the                                                               
same time motor homes are used.                                                                                                 
CHAIR  COWDERY thought  most  damage is  done  during the  winter                                                               
months when studded snow tires are used.                                                                                        
SENATOR LINCOLN  said she was  thinking about vehicle  weight and                                                               
noted the  Legislature separated fees for  passenger vehicles and                                                               
trucks in 1986 because of a  disparity. Now they would be charged                                                               
the same  amount. She asked Mr.  Jardell to provide her  with the                                                               
formula  DOA used  to determine  the comparison  to the  national                                                               
average  and  information  about  registration  fees  for  school                                                               
MR. JARDELL  said he  would provide  the information,  but wanted                                                               
committee members  to understand that  SB 103 increases  the fees                                                               
and not the methodology.                                                                                                        
SENATOR  LINCOLN said  she still  wants  to know  who would  fall                                                               
under that non-profit status.                                                                                                   
SENATOR THERRIAULT asked  Mr. Jardell if he  wrote down committee                                                               
members' questions.                                                                                                             
MR. JARDELL said he would  provide answers to the questions about                                                               
the  local option,  how school  buses  will be  charged, and  the                                                               
formula used to determine the national average.                                                                                 
SENATOR  THERRIAULT  asked Mr.  Jardell  to  provide the  answers                                                               
quickly because  he would  like to  see them  before the  bill is                                                               
taken up in another committee.                                                                                                  
MR. JARDELL said he would do so.                                                                                                
CHAIR  COWDERY announced  he would  hold  SB 103  until the  next                                                               
Senate Transportation Committee hearing.                                                                                        
SENATOR WAGONER noted his intent to  offer an amendment to SB 103                                                               
to increase the  motor home registration fee to $150.  He said he                                                               
also believes  that motor  homes for  hire should  be categorized                                                               
under Section 1(4)  and that fee should be increased  to $300. He                                                               
said about 25  to 30 percent of  the motor homes on  the road are                                                               
SENATOR  OLSON   suggested  decreasing  the  fee   for  passenger                                                               
vehicles rather than increasing the fee for motor homes.                                                                        
There being  no further  business to  come before  the committee,                                                               
CHAIR COWDERY adjourned the meeting at 2:37 p.m.                                                                                

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