Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/06/1995 01:08 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE JUDICIARY STANDING COMMITTEE February 6, 1995 1:08 p.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Representative Brian Porter, Chairman Representative Joe Green, Vice Chairman Representative Con Bunde Representative Bettye Davis Representative Al Vezey Representative Cynthia Toohey Representative David Finkelstein COMMITTEE CALENDAR Presentation: "State of AK - An Assessment of Impaired Driving Programs" HB 19:"An Act relating to the definition of 'fault' as that term is used for the purposes of determining the liabilities of parties in civil actions, setting limitations on civil liability, and authorizing the award, in conformance with applicable court rule, of attorney fees in civil actions." PASSED OUT OF COMMITTEE * HB 18:"An Act amending the statute of limitations applicable to civil actions brought against peace officers and coroners." PASSED OUT OF COMMITTEE HB 25:"An Act revising Rule 16, Alaska Rules of Criminal Procedure, relating to discovery and inspection in criminal proceedings, to adopt the comparable federal rule." SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD (* First public hearing) WITNESS REGISTER RON OTTE, COMMISSIONER DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY P.O. BOX 111200 JUNEAU, AK 99811-1200 Telephone: (907) 465-4322 POSITION STATEMENT: Provided information on Impaired Driving Programs LORN CAMPBELL, ADMINISTRATOR DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY ALASKA HIGHWAY SAFETY PLANNING AGENCY P.O. BOX 111200 JUNEAU, AK 99811-1200 Telephone: (907) 465-4371 POSITION STATEMENT: Presented Impaired Driving Programs CHARLES FROBENIUS, PRIVATE INDIVIDUAL Matanuska-Susitna Borough Legislative Information Office Phone number and address not obtained POSITION STATEMENT: Testified against HB 18 WILDA WHITAKER, AIDE TO REPRESENTATIVE GENE THERRIAULT Alaska State Legislature State Capitol, Room 421 Juneau, AK 99801-1182 Telephone: (907) 465-4797 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in favor of HB 18 ANNE CARPENETI, COUNSEL HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE Alaska State Legislature State Capitol, Room 120 Juneau, AK 99801-1182 Telephone: (907) 465-4990 POSITION STATEMENT: Gave information on HB 18 PREVIOUS ACTION BILL: HB 19 SHORT TITLE: DEFINITION OF "FAULT" FOR CIVIL LIABILITY SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVE(S) THERRIAULT JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 01/06/95 25 (H) PREFILE RELEASED 01/16/95 25 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S) 01/16/95 25 (H) JUD, FIN 01/30/95 (H) JUD AT 01:00 PM CAPITOL 120 02/01/95 (H) JUD AT 01:00 PM CAPITOL 120 02/06/95 (H) JUD AT 01:00 PM CAPITOL 120 BILL: HB 18 SHORT TITLE: STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS:POLICE/CORONERS SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVE(S) THERRIAULT JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 01/06/95 25 (H) PREFILE RELEASED 01/16/95 25 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S) 01/16/95 25 (H) JUDICIARY 02/06/95 (H) JUD AT 01:00 PM CAPITOL 120 BILL: HB 25 SHORT TITLE: CRIMINAL DISCOVERY RULES SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVE(S) PARNELL,Porter,Green,Bunde JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 01/06/95 27 (H) PREFILE RELEASED 01/16/95 27 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S) 01/16/95 27 (H) JUD, FIN 01/18/95 75 (H) COSPONSOR(S): GREEN 01/19/95 89 (H) COSPONSOR(S): BUNDE 01/27/95 (H) JUD AT 01:00 PM CAPITOL 120 01/27/95 (H) MINUTE(JUD) 01/30/95 (H) JUD AT 01:00 PM CAPITOL 120 01/30/95 (H) MINUTE(JUD) 02/01/95 (H) FIN AT 01:30 PM HOUSE FINANCE 519 02/06/95 (H) JUD AT 01:00 PM CAPITOL 120 ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 95-7, SIDE A Number 000 The House Judiciary Standing Committee was called to order at 1:08 p.m. on Monday, February 6, 1995. A quorum was present. CHAIRMAN BRIAN PORTER stated the following would be heard: A presentation on the Impaired Driving Program, HB 19, and HB 18. He noted that due to the time factor, the hearing for HB 25 would be moved to Wednesday, February 8. Number 048 RON OTTE, COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY introduced Lorn Campbell who was present to explain the Impaired Driving Program. Number 075 LORN CAMPBELL, ADMINISTRATOR, HIGHWAY SAFETY PLANNING AGENCY, stated the assessment was requested by the Department of Public Safety, Highway Safety Planning Agency, and was conducted by a technical assistance team, the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration. He said the team was composed of people having demonstrated abilities in the field of impaired driving program development, implementation, and evaluation, at both state and local levels. He named all the members. MR. CAMPBELL explained that last year, Alaska had the lowest number of traffic fatalities in seven years. He attributes this to increased enforcement efforts, and the "headlights on" rule on the highway. On February 15, there will be a highway transportation safety administration town meeting to discuss a ten year plan to combat highway fatality and injury. There are plans to combine agency efforts in developing and implementing prevention programs. MR. CAMPBELL said they planned to fund a crime lab toxicologist position and an ion spectrum machine to start testing blood and urine samples for drugs. The "Cops in the Shop" program in Anchorage has spread to Fairbanks and the Kenai Peninsula. The amount of money spent on that program has been increased by $100,000. There is a program that trains nurses in the emergency room to go out to the high schools and make presentations on the seriousness of speeding, drinking, and driving to teenage groups. Money may also be allocated for a drug recognition training program. MR. CAMPBELL noted that a high priority item for them is to explore the alternatives for jail space. From the highway safety standpoint, the Department of Corrections' problem is a big concern, because it takes anywhere from four weeks to as much as 18 months before they can find bed space for people convicted of drunk driving. This provides little incentive for the drunk driver to not drive drunk. He books himself in when the time is convenient for him to get in there for a long period of time. MR. CAMPBELL felt a Governor's Task Force, including a broad base of members, would be beneficial. He thought the combined efforts of like interest groups would have an affect on the Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) problem. Number 340 REPRESENTATIVE CYNTHIA TOOHEY asked where the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) town meeting would take place. Number 342 MR. CAMPBELL replied it would be held at the Captain Cook Hotel. Number 347 REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY asked Mr. Campbell if he planned to make headlights mandatory on all highways within the state. Number 350 MR. CAMPBELL said that is the decision of both the Commissioner of Public Safety and the Commissioner of Highways. They both want the program expanded, but there is nothing that can be done while most of the ground is frozen. The signs have already been purchased to include the Parks and the Glenn Highways. It costs about $500 per sign. A lot of car makers are going to automatic "headlights on" which shut off when the engine shuts off. Other states are becoming interested in this plan. Number 370 REPRESENTATIVE CON BUNDE asked if the effectiveness was just because seeing headlights is a novelty; and if the novelty would wear off and lose the plan's effectiveness. MR. CAMPBELL said lights would not be required for short stretches of road, but he believes that when car lights are seen out on the highway, it alerts people to think about the dangerousness of that particular stretch of highway. He felt the headlights had a definite deterrent effect. Number 390 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked how the "Cops in Shops" was going, and whether he had details on its effectiveness. Number 392 MR. CAMPBELL said this has been effective, along with the "use it/lose it" bill. He felt it deterred drinking within the teenage group. This idea has spread to the Kenai Peninsula and Fairbanks areas. Number 405 REPRESENTATIVE BETTYE DAVIS said while they are talking about preventative money, she wondered about the money that was earmarked to come out of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) for prevention purposes. She asked if any of this money was coming to some of the programs Mr. Campbell had just talked about. Number 415 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked if she meant the "Helmet" money. Number 417 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS said yes. Number 418 MR. CAMPBELL brought a list of projects being funded this year and handed it out. He said the money was being broadly distributed. The accident-free days provided Anchorage, Fairbanks, Palmer, Juneau and Wasilla with extra overtime for traffic enforcement. All the emergency medical services and "Cops in the Shops" receive funds. He said the motorcycle helmet money is used for buying traffic equipment for police departments; $275,000 worth of radar and cameras for 16 cities. A safety equipment program is in place where cities can quickly get a $5,000 grant to buy things like orange signs, paint stripers, etc. MR. CAMPBELL continued, describing the prevention plan. He felt the Alaska Highway Safety Agency along with the Department of Education should take the lead in establishing the K-12 traffic safety education programs, with materials emphasizing alcohol and drug impaired driving. He said the state used to have drivers' education classes, which ended when funding ran out. He felt it would be a waste of money to implement a training program that may just be funded for a couple of years. A whole lot of people would have to want this to continue once it was started, to avoid wasting the money. He felt the staff of the Alcohol Control Board should be increased. He also felt the law should allow for the revocation of licenses from those who serve underage drinkers. He felt that if you pulled a bar license, the server could move from bar to bar, so some legislative consideration is due there. He felt the officers should have the option of demanding blood tests. Number 500 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked why the officer would want the choice of giving a blood or breath test. He guessed you would make the choice for blood, which is a more expensive test, if you were suspicious of other drugs involved. Number 515 MR. CAMPBELL said yes. Number 520 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY noted the person being stopped can request a blood test, but the officer cannot. Number 525 MR. CAMPBELL explained there is a bill presently pending in the legislature which would make the third and subsequent DWI an offensive felony. Another issue up for legislative consideration is vehicle homicide and DWI assault laws. They would like to implement a training program to enhance the officers' ability to detect and apprehend DWI suspects at lower levels of blood alcohol content and controlled substances. He said they will be holding several different courses on the standard field sobriety testing and drug recognition for officers. Part of the equipment purchases made were portable, hand-held breathalizers. MR. CAMPBELL recommended developing a program of sobriety checkpoints, realizing that the public knowledge of the checkpoints is as much a deterrent as the apprehension that may result. Sobriety checkpoint legislation was introduced last year, but not this year yet. He felt that having checkpoints does not arrest more people, it deters them from drinking and driving, and prevents them from being arrested. The object is not to arrest people, it is to get them to obey the law, so you do not have to arrest them. They also want to expand the Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP), which is effective in Anchorage, but has not gone much further than the Anchorage area. They also want to create intervention programs for young offenders. They have mini-grants this year of $1,000 for activities at graduation time that will keep the kids in the high schools. There is a Canadian production show called "Heros" that goes into the high schools throughout the state. A judicial task force should be formed to include the Department of Corrections, state and local police, and other public safety groups, members of the judiciary, state and local government; persons to form plans to eliminate the overcrowded jails. We need to look into a process for determining which misdemeanors are prioritized for entrance into the jails. Number 640 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked Mr. Campbell to explain what the 85 percent increase in collections for the ASAP program was all about. Number 645 MR. CAMPBELL understood that they collect a fee from the clients who use the program. Number 660 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE thought the decreased number in highway fatalities last year was due to the efforts of the Department of Public Safety and the Alaska Highway Safety Planning Agency. CHAIRMAN PORTER thanked Mr. Campbell and Commissioner Otte for presenting their program suggestions. HJUD - 02/06/95 HB 19 - DEFINITION OF "FAULT" FOR CIVIL LIABILITIES Number 695 CHAIRMAN PORTER summarized where the committee was on HB 19. The bill proposed to add something that may not be necessary, but may reduce some court time in trying to establish or not establish that an intentional act is also an act that should be accrued to civil fault. If they put this into effect, how would it affect the general case law position which says an intentional actor is often considered totally responsible for culpability of civil wrong. This might diminish someone's recovery from people who are perhaps negligently involved in a wrong, but not from one of the actors who did so intentionally. While that is an interesting question, it is not a question this bill is asked to answer. He read the Letter of Intent, which states: "In adding `intentional' to the definition of fault in this chapter, the committee intends to make it clear that parties whose actions are arguably intentional may be named or joined in the litigation, as well as those who are allegedly negligent or reckless. The inclusion of intentional tortfeasors does not preclude consideration of whether intentional tortfeasor's acts relieve unintentional tortfeasors of liability." In other words, what this says, is that we are not trying to answer that question regarding the intentional actor's liability. It is out there to be answered on an individual basis anyway. What we are doing here is just stating that intentional actors do not get a free ride from civil liability. He asked if there were any questions about the Letter of Intent. Number 740 REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY made a motion to adopt the Letter of Intent, which adds "intentional". No objections were made, so the Letter of Intent was adopted. Number 745 REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY made a motion to move HB 19 with the Letter of Intent, attached fiscal notes, and individual recommendations. No objections were heard, so the bill moved out of committee. HJUD - 02/06/95 HB 18 - STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS: POLICE/CORONERS Number 760 WILDA WHITAKER, AIDE TO REPRESENTATIVE GENE THERRIAULT came forward to answer questions about HB 18. She described this to be an Act amending the statute of limitations for civil actions brought against peace officers and coroners; bringing them into conformity with the statute of limitations for general civil actions. It proposes to reduce from three years to two years, the period in which civil actions may be brought against peace officers and coroners, based on an act performed in an official capacity, or on failure to perform an official duty. The three year statute relating to peace officers was enacted for Alaska by Congress in 1900. Congress took the statutes from Oregon which, in turn, took them from New York. New York's peace officer statute was enacted in 1829. Its purpose was to benefit peace officers by providing a period of limitations shorter than the general statute, which was six years. In future years, the statute of limitations for general tort claims has been reduced to two years, with no corresponding change in the peace officer statute. What started as a protective measure for police officers is no longer serving that purpose. This legislation would serve a twofold purpose of affording police officers the same protection as is provided to the general public, in bringing an antiquated statute into conformity with more recent law. The statute of limitations would remain for three years, for civil actions currently in progress. Basically, what started out as a protection for police officers has since become a detriment, and we wanted to bring the statute up to date. REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY thought if there was a special statute for peace officers and coroners, why not just repeal it, to make them equal to everybody else? MS. WHITAKER said they did repeal AS 09.10.060(a), and then they put it back in, and another one, AS 09.10.070, but it just adds it as a section. We repealed a section that pertains to peace officers, and we put it back in another section, so it would still specifically refer to peace officers. Number 795 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked why not just be silent on it. Why do you have to add another paragraph? Number 797 MS. WHITAKER did not know. She guessed they could. Number 799 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked Anne Carpeneti, Committee Counsel if there was a further answer to that. Number 800 ANNE CARPENETI, COUNSEL, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, said, subsection (a), which we are moving from one statute to another, specifically applies to an act done in an official capacity, or by the omission of an official duty. Repealing the statute in hopes that it is covered by another statute, is not very safe. Number 810 CHARLES FROBENIUS, a private individual from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough testified against HB 18, via teleconference. He felt there was no reason to change the statute as it is right now, for specific reasons. The statutes for criminal proceedings against private individuals will be three to five years. Peace officers are no longer second class people when they violate laws, or use their position (indisc.). They should not be treated any differently. Their ability to obtain legal assistance and financial support is quite extensive, if they are in the wrong and someone brings suit against them. A private individual is nearly hamstrung trying to find legal counsel to support his claim. How many lawyers do you think you are going to find that are going to go to City Hall? I have tried; there are few. It is hard to find witnesses who will testify against an officer. They do not want to do it for fear of retribution against them, and for good reason. He feels there is no reason to change this law as it stands right now. Number 850 CHAIRMAN PORTER clarified this bill, saying it would not, in any way, affect an allegation of a criminal act by a police officer or coroner, only the standard civil allegations that come along. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE understood that this reduces peace officer protection from three years to two years; so it is, in fact, a disadvantage to the peace officers. Number 859 CHAIRMAN PORTER said the statute of limitations for bringing civil actions, is basically two years; which we will be hearing a lot about when we get to another bill. From the time the act bringing about the problem occurred, or when the person who is harmed discovers or should have discovered; two years from that time on, a person may bring suit against the person for that act. Right now, for cops, it is three years. For everybody else it is two years. Number 870 MS. WHITAKER pointed out to Mr. Frobenius that they are not making an exception for police officers, it just brings them into conformity. They do not get off any easier than anyone else. Number 872 CHAIRMAN PORTER said Ms. Whitaker's testimony implied that, while police officers were given three years, everyone else had some longer period of time. MS. WHITAKER replied that it used to be three years for police officers, and six years for everyone else. The reason behind giving the police officers a shorter statute of limitations, is because they wanted to protect them. Now that six year period has been shortened to two years, yet the three year limit still applies to police officers, giving them the advantage. TAPE 95-7, SIDE B Number 000 REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY made a motion to move the bill with individual recommendations and attached fiscal notes. There was no objection, and the bill moved out of committee. ADJOURNMENT The House Judiciary Committee adjourned at 2:00 p.m.