Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/26/2004 01:10 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
               HOUSE JUDICIARY STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                         March 26, 2004                                                                                         
                           1:10 p.m.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Representative Lesil McGuire, Chair                                                                                             
Representative Tom Anderson, Vice Chair                                                                                         
Representative Jim Holm                                                                                                         
Representative Dan Ogg                                                                                                          
Representative Ralph Samuels                                                                                                    
Representative Les Gara                                                                                                         
Representative Max Gruenberg                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
HOUSE BILL NO. 423                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to accidents involving the vehicle of a person                                                                 
under the influence of an alcoholic beverage; and providing for                                                                 
an effective date."                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     - MOVED CSHB 423(JUD) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATE BILL NO. 299                                                                                                             
"An Act relating to a charge for a bad check."                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
     - MOVED HCS SB 299(JUD) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
HOUSE BILL NO. 533                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to the state's administrative procedures and to                                                                
judicial oversight of administrative matters."                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
     - MOVED CSHB 533(JUD) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
HOUSE BILL NO. 474                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to civil liability associated with aircraft                                                                    
runways, airfields, and landing areas."                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     - HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 30(JUD) am                                                                                               
"An  Act  relating  to  information  and  services  available  to                                                               
pregnant women  and other persons; and  ensuring informed consent                                                               
before an abortion  may be performed, except in  cases of medical                                                               
emergency."                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     - SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATE BILL NO. 344                                                                                                             
"An  Act  relating  to  the  Uniform  Probate  Code  and  trusts,                                                               
including  pleadings,  orders,   nonprobate  assets,  estates  of                                                               
decedents,  minors,  protected  persons,  incapacitated  persons,                                                               
guardians, conservators, trustees,  foreign trusts, principal and                                                               
income, and  transfer restrictions; relating to  corporate voting                                                               
trusts; and providing for an effective date."                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     - BILL HEARING POSTPONED TO 3/29/04                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
BILL: HB 423                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: TAXICAB DRIVER LIABILITY                                                                                           
SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVE(S) ANDERSON                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
02/02/04       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/02/04       (H)       JUD                                                                                                    
02/02/04       (H)       STA REFERRAL ADDED AFTER JUD                                                                           
02/09/04       (H)       REFERRAL ORDER CHANGED                                                                                 
02/09/04       (H)       STA, JUD                                                                                               
02/10/04       (H)       STA AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 102                                                                             
02/10/04       (H)       <Bill Hearing Postponed>                                                                               
03/02/04       (H)       STA AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 102                                                                             
03/02/04       (H)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
03/02/04       (H)       MINUTE(STA)                                                                                            
03/05/04       (H)       STA AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 102                                                                             
03/05/04       (H)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
03/05/04       (H)       MINUTE(STA)                                                                                            
03/09/04       (H)       STA AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 102                                                                             
03/09/04       (H)       Moved CSHB 423(STA) Out of Committee                                                                   
03/09/04       (H)       MINUTE(STA)                                                                                            
03/12/04       (H)       STA RPT CS(STA) NT 3DP 3NR 1AM                                                                         
03/12/04       (H)       DP: SEATON, HOLM, LYNN; NR: COGHILL,                                                                   
03/12/04       (H)       BERKOWITZ, WEYHRAUCH; AM: GRUENBERG                                                                    
03/19/04       (H)       JUD AT 1:00 PM CAPITOL 120                                                                             
03/19/04       (H)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
03/19/04       (H)       MINUTE(JUD)                                                                                            
03/26/04       (H)       JUD AT 1:00 PM CAPITOL 120                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
BILL: SB 299                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: BAD CHECK CHARGE                                                                                                   
SPONSOR(S): LABOR & COMMERCE                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
02/06/04       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/06/04       (S)       L&C, FIN                                                                                               
02/17/04       (S)       L&C AT 1:30 PM BELTZ 211                                                                               
02/17/04       (S)       Moved Out of Committee                                                                                 
02/17/04       (S)       MINUTE(L&C)                                                                                            
02/18/04       (S)       L&C RPT  3DP 1NR                                                                                       
02/18/04       (S)       DP: BUNDE, SEEKINS, STEVENS G;                                                                         
02/18/04       (S)       NR: FRENCH                                                                                             
03/01/04       (S)       FIN RPT 5DP 1NR                                                                                        
03/01/04       (S)       DP: GREEN, DYSON, HOFFMAN, BUNDE,                                                                      
03/01/04       (S)       STEVENS B; NR: OLSON                                                                                   
03/01/04       (H)       FIN AT 9:00 AM HOUSE FINANCE 519                                                                       
03/01/04       (S)       Moved SB 299  Out of Committee                                                                         
03/01/04       (S)       MINUTE(FIN)                                                                                            
03/04/04       (S)       TRANSMITTED TO (H)                                                                                     
03/04/04       (S)       VERSION: SB 299                                                                                        
03/08/04       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
03/08/04       (H)       STA, JUD                                                                                               
03/24/04       (H)       STA REFERRAL WAIVED                                                                                    
03/26/04       (H)       JUD AT 1:00 PM CAPITOL 120                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
BILL: HB 533                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: IF UNREAS. AGENCY DELAY, COURT DECIDES                                                                             
SPONSOR(S): STATE AFFAIRS                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
03/08/04       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
03/08/04       (H)       JUD, FIN                                                                                               
03/24/04       (H)       JUD AT 1:00 PM CAPITOL 120                                                                             
03/24/04       (H)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
03/24/04       (H)       MINUTE(JUD)                                                                                            
03/26/04       (H)       JUD AT 1:00 PM CAPITOL 120                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
BILL: HB 474                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: LIABILITY FOR AIRPORTS AND AIRSTRIPS                                                                               
SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVE(S) HOLM                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
02/16/04       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/16/04       (H)       JUD                                                                                                    
03/26/04       (H)       JUD AT 1:00 PM CAPITOL 120                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
JIM SHINE JR., Staff                                                                                                            
to Representative Tom Anderson                                                                                                  
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:   Provided an update  on HB 423 on  behalf of                                                               
Representative Anderson, sponsor.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MICHAEL L. LESSMEIER, Attorney at Law                                                                                           
Lessmeier & Winters                                                                                                             
Lobbyist for State Farm Insurance Company ("State Farm")                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION  STATEMENT:   Answered questions  during the  hearing on                                                               
HB 423.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR CON BUNDE                                                                                                               
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION  STATEMENT:   Presented SB  299 as  chair of  the Senate                                                               
Labor and Commerce Standing Committee, sponsor.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
RONALD JORDAN                                                                                                                   
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION  STATEMENT:   Characterized SB  299  as a  bad idea  and                                                               
responded to questions.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SCOTT KING                                                                                                                      
Cornerstone Credit Services, LLC                                                                                                
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION  STATEMENT:    Testified  in   support  of  SB  299  and                                                               
responded to questions.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHRIS D. GRONNING, Attorney at Law                                                                                              
Bankston, Gronning, O'Hara, Sedor, Mills, Givens & Heaphey, PC                                                                  
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION  STATEMENT:    During  discussion  of  SB  299  provided                                                               
comments on behalf of Cornerstone Credit Services, LLC.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
PAMELA LaBOLLE, President                                                                                                       
Alaska State Chamber of Commerce (ASCC)                                                                                         
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:   Provided comments  during discussion  of SB
299.                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BRUCE WEYHRAUCH                                                                                                  
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION  STATEMENT:   Offered comments  during discussion  of SB
299;  spoke  as  chair  of   the  House  State  Affairs  Standing                                                               
Committee, sponsor of HB 533.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
TODD LARKIN, Staff                                                                                                              
to Representative Jim Holm                                                                                                      
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Responded to  questions during discussion of                                                               
HB 474 on behalf of the sponsor, Representative Holm.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
TOM GEORGE, Alaska Regional Representative                                                                                      
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA)                                                                                   
Fairbanks, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION  STATEMENT:    Testified  in   support  of  HB  474  and                                                               
responded to questions.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
TAPE 04-48, SIDE A                                                                                                            
Number 0001                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  LESIL   McGUIRE  called   the  House   Judiciary  Standing                                                             
Committee  meeting  to  order  at   1:10  p.m.    Representatives                                                               
McGuire, Anderson,  Holm, Ogg,  and Samuels  were present  at the                                                               
call to  order.   Representatives Gruenberg  and Gara  arrived as                                                               
the meeting was in progress.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
HB 423 - TAXICAB DRIVER LIABILITY                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Number 0083                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE  announced that the  first order of  business would                                                               
be HOUSE  BILL NO. 423,  "An Act relating to  accidents involving                                                               
the  vehicle of  a person  under  the influence  of an  alcoholic                                                               
beverage;  and providing  for an  effective date."   [Before  the                                                               
committee was the proposed committee  substitute (CS) for HB 423,                                                               
Version 23-LS1600\I,  Luckhaupt, 3/17/04, which was  adopted as a                                                               
work draft on 3/19/04.]                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON, speaking as  the sponsor, requested that                                                               
his staff update the committee.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Number 0133                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
JIM  SHINE  JR., Staff  to  Representative  Tom Anderson,  Alaska                                                               
State  Legislature,  relayed  that  he  and  Mr.  Lessmeier  have                                                               
reviewed some proposed conceptual  amendments, and noted that the                                                               
sponsor statement has been updated.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
The committee  took an  at-ease from  1:15 p.m.  to 1:16  p.m. in                                                               
order to distribute the aforementioned amendments.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLM highlighted  the urgency  of the  bill.   He                                                               
characterized   it   as   a    recognition   of   people   taking                                                               
responsibility  for their  actions.   He  recalled  being in  Red                                                               
Deer, Alberta,  where an establishment did  something similar; in                                                               
fact, the  bar owners  and taxi companies  acted in  concert, and                                                               
the  patrons  paid  nothing.     Noting  that  Fairbanks  can  be                                                               
extremely cold at night and that  people risk losing a vehicle or                                                               
having it  freeze up someplace,  he pointed out that  people will                                                               
take the chance  of either driving home, or going  to their cars,                                                               
keeping the  cars running to  prevent freezing to  death, falling                                                               
asleep, but still  be considered drunk drivers,  even without the                                                               
intention of  driving.  He  concluded by characterizing  the bill                                                               
as a marvelous piece of legislation.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Number 0390                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SAMUELS   drew  attention   to  Amendment   1,  a                                                               
handwritten, edited  amendment, which read  [original punctuation                                                               
provided]:                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     The auto  insurance that covers the  driver also covers                                                                    
     the  taxi-cab  driver  that drives  the  car  from  the                                                                    
     licensed premises  to the home or  directed location of                                                                    
     the original driver.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SAMUELS offered  his  belief  that under  current                                                               
law, if [the owner of a  car] expressly tells someone that he/she                                                               
may  drive the  car,  that  person is  covered  by the  [owner's]                                                               
insurance.  Thus the amendment is unnecessary.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE announced that Amendment 1 was withdrawn.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Number 0450                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   GRUENBERG  moved   to  adopt   Amendment  2,   a                                                               
handwritten amendment that read [original punctuation provided]:                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     1.  page 1 line 7 after "by" insert "or on behalf of"                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     2.  page 2 line 12 after "person insert "or entity"                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON objected for the purpose of discussion.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG   suggested  bifurcating   Amendment  2                                                               
because the two parts are quite different.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE labeled the first  part Amendment 2a and the second                                                               
part Amendment 2b.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Number 0500                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON objected for the purpose of discussion.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG offered his  understanding that a person                                                               
could  have a  policy that  wasn't technically  purchased by  the                                                               
owner of the vehicle.   If a vehicle is owned  by a young person,                                                               
for example,  the parent may  purchase the insurance policy.   He                                                               
noted that Mr. Lessmeier was nodding.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON removed his objection.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Number 0545                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE asked whether there  were any further objections to                                                               
adopting  Amendment  2a.   There  being  none, Amendment  2a  was                                                               
adopted.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 0550                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE  brought attention  to Amendment 2b  [text provided                                                               
previously].                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON objected for the purpose of discussion.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  explained that  [page 2] line  12 talks                                                               
about a person that participates  in making the arrangements.  In                                                               
Anchorage,  however, it  isn't  a  person that  does  it, but  an                                                               
entity, a group of taverns.   He said he didn't know whether that                                                               
would  technically  qualify  as  a  "person"  under  the  general                                                               
definition in Title 1.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Number 0591                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON removed his objection.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE asked whether there  were any further objections to                                                               
adopting Amendment 2b.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE OGG  remarked that "entity" assumes  there is some                                                               
entity, and asked whether a group really is an entity.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Number 0614                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MICHAEL  L.  LESSMEIER, Attorney  at  Law,  Lessmeier &  Winters,                                                               
Lobbyist for  State Farm Insurance  Company ("State  Farm"), gave                                                               
his view  that if it says  "person or entity", it  would be broad                                                               
enough  to  cover  an  "organization   of  people,  whether  it's                                                               
informal or formal."                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE OGG  replied that  he'd withdraw his  objection as                                                               
long as "entity" [would be interpreted in that manner].                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Number 0649                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  McGUIRE  again  asked  whether   there  were  any  further                                                               
objections  to   adopting  Amendment  2b.     There  being  none,                                                               
Amendment 2b was adopted.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 0682                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG [made a motion  to adopt] Amendment 3, a                                                               
handwritten amendment by Representative  Gara that read [original                                                               
punctuation provided]:                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
      A page 2 line 19, after "vehicle", insert "or other                                                                       
     applicable."                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  ANDERSON  objected and  asked  to  hear from  Mr.                                                               
Lessmeier.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 0702                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.  LESSMEIER urged  the committee  to reject  Amendment 3.   He                                                               
said he believes it takes a bill  that is now very clean in terms                                                               
of its intent and makes it  messy.  If this amendment is adopted,                                                               
he predicted  there will  almost be  an issue  of what  is "other                                                               
applicable" insurance.   He also said it seems to  take away from                                                               
the original intent of the bill.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  ANDERSON  maintained  his  objection,  saying  he                                                               
tends to agree that it  expands this beyond driver's insurance or                                                               
automobile insurance and  goes too far to stay  within the intent                                                               
of the bill.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  asked Mr. Lessmeier whether  some other                                                               
kind of insurance such as homeowner's insurance might apply.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. LESSMEIER  answered that it's  really a  complicated question                                                               
because  most  homeowner's  insurance policies  exclude  anything                                                               
that arises  out of driving  a motor vehicle; that's  what people                                                               
buy motor  vehicle insurance  for.   He said  the problem  he has                                                               
with it  is this:   it's so broad that  one could almost  go back                                                               
and ask  whether the taxicab  company, the municipality  that put                                                               
this together, or  one of the people who participates  in a group                                                               
to try  to offer this  service has "other  applicable insurance".                                                               
He explained:                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     What happens in litigation  is, there's always a search                                                                    
     for the insurance,  and what we've tried to  do is make                                                                    
     it clear as  to where that search begins  and ends with                                                                    
     this bill, and  offer some coverage where  there was no                                                                    
     coverage before.  And so, I  just think once we go down                                                                    
     that road, we  go to areas that we  can't foresee right                                                                    
     now and that  ... I could almost guarantee  you will be                                                                    
     litigated.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Number 0823                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG asked  whether  technically, under  the                                                               
current  language  of  the  bill, an  umbrella  policy  would  be                                                               
included; if  not, then would  Mr. Lessmeier object to  having it                                                               
say "or applicable umbrella insurance coverage".                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. LESSMEIER answered:                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     My view is  that that is covered  under subsection (a).                                                                    
     In other words,  ... a person is not  liable beyond the                                                                    
     limits of any applicable  insurance policy purchased by                                                                    
     the owner of  the vehicle for damages  resulting from a                                                                    
     motor vehicle  accident if the  person was  driving the                                                                    
     vehicle.  Now,  ... if that owner has  a primary policy                                                                    
     on the vehicle  and also an umbrella  policy that would                                                                    
     cover the  damages resulting from an  accident for that                                                                    
     vehicle,  then, in  my view,  ...  it's already  there.                                                                    
     Once you go  beyond that, though, and  say any umbrella                                                                    
     policy, then we  run into these issues of  "where do we                                                                    
     stop."   And ...  I can't  sit here  and tell  you what                                                                    
     conceivable  situations would  come up,  but ...  I can                                                                    
     tell you that those situations would be litigated, and                                                                     
     that is exactly what you're trying to avoid with this                                                                      
     bill.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  replied that  with in mind,  he doesn't                                                               
support  the   amendment,  which   he'd  offered  on   behalf  of                                                               
Representative Gara, but  relayed his belief that  he didn't have                                                               
the authority to withdraw the amendment.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON renewed his objection.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Number 0970                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
A  roll call  vote was  taken.   Representatives Ogg,  Gruenberg,                                                               
Samuels, Holm,  Anderson, and McGuire voted  against Amendment 3.                                                               
Therefore, Amendment 3 failed by a vote of 0-6.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Number 0988                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM moved  to report the proposed CS  for HB 423,                                                               
Version  23-LS1600\I,  Luckhaupt,  3/17/04, as  amended,  out  of                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations and  the accompanying                                                               
[zero] fiscal  notes.   There being  no objection,  CSHB 423(JUD)                                                               
was reported from the House Judiciary Standing Committee.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SB 299 - BAD CHECK CHARGE                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
[Contains references to HB 516, the companion bill.]                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Number 0999                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE announced that the  next order of business would be                                                               
SENATE  BILL NO.  299, "An  Act relating  to a  charge for  a bad                                                               
check."                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Number 1012                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  CON BUNDE,  Alaska State  Legislature,  speaking as  the                                                               
chair  of  the  Senate  Labor and  Commerce  Standing  Committee,                                                               
sponsor of SB 299, relayed that  the bill comes at the request of                                                               
members of  the business  community.   Current law  permits those                                                               
who  write bad  checks  to require  that  the businesses  they've                                                               
written bad checks to document  the cost of collecting the funds.                                                               
He opined  that in some cases,  it is more expensive  to document                                                               
those costs  than the actual  costs themselves.  Senate  Bill 299                                                               
would allow business to assess a  flat fee of $30 on each bounced                                                               
check  it  receives,  and  removes the  necessity  of  having  to                                                               
document the  costs incurred while  going through  the collection                                                               
process.   He opined  that a  flat fee  will make  collecting the                                                               
money from bounced checks less cumbersome.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR BUNDE offered his understanding  that about 15 percent of                                                               
bounced checks  are written by  people unintentionally;  about 40                                                               
percent are written  by people who chronically  write bad checks,                                                               
and it  can take up  to 90 days  for businesses to  recover those                                                               
funds;  and that  about 45  percent of  bounced checks  are never                                                               
recovered.   He opined  that SB  299 will act  as a  deterrent to                                                               
writing bad checks, and that  the consequence of not passing this                                                               
legislation is that more and  more businesses will stop accepting                                                               
checks altogether.   He mentioned that HB 516,  a companion bill,                                                               
has been amended  in the House State  Affairs Standing Committee,                                                               
but asked  that the  committee adopt the  original version  of SB
299.                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR   McGUIRE   indicated   agreement  with   Senator   Bunde's                                                               
prediction  that   more  business  will  stop   accepting  checks                                                               
altogether  as  it  becomes  more difficult  to  collect  on  bad                                                               
checks.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   GRUENBERG  mentioned   that  he'd   offered  the                                                               
amendment to HB 516 changing  "beginning" and "begins" on lines 9                                                               
and   10,   respectively,   to  "commencing"   and   "commences",                                                               
respectively.   He  explained that  such  language is  consistent                                                               
with  that  found  in  Rule  3  of  the  Alaska  Rules  of  Civil                                                               
Procedure,  and indicated  that  he would  be  offering the  same                                                               
amendment to SB 299.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR BUNDE relayed that he did  not have any objection to such                                                               
a change.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE mentioned that in  committee packets is a memo from                                                               
Representative  Weyhrauch pertaining  to HB  516 and  the changes                                                               
made to that bill in the House State Affairs Standing Committee.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Number 1459                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
RONALD JORDAN said  he is speaking on his own  behalf as a former                                                               
business owner.   He opined  that the  change proposed by  SB 299                                                               
would  not be  for the  betterment of  anyone, that  the increase                                                               
from  $25 to  $30 will  only provide  more profit  for collection                                                               
companies, and that  the bill will not deter  people from writing                                                               
bad  checks.   He  remarked  that  the way  collection  companies                                                               
operate  and with  the fees  that banks  charge, a  $5 bad  check                                                               
could wind  up costing $70.   He then  characterized SB 299  as a                                                               
bad idea, relayed  his experience with bad  checks, and suggested                                                               
that the current  law is sufficient.  In response  to a question,                                                               
he  explained that  he used  to run  a drug  and alcohol  testing                                                               
service.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA asked  Mr. Jordan whether it  would allay his                                                               
concerns to give  business owners the flexibility  to charge less                                                               
than the proposed fee of $30.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. JORDAN  said yes and  no, but  reiterated his belief  that SB
299 will  only increase  the profits  of collection  agencies and                                                               
will not result in more money going to businesses.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON mentioned that  a couple of businesses in                                                               
his district asked  him to strengthen the laws  pertaining to bad                                                               
checks.  He  asked Mr. Jordan whether he condones  the writing of                                                               
bad checks.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. JORDAN  said he does  not, but  remarked that he  doesn't see                                                               
the  point of  SB  299 since  most bad  check  situations can  be                                                               
resolved with a phone call.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Number 1699                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SCOTT KING,  Cornerstone Credit Services,  LLC, said he  would be                                                               
testifying in support  of SB 299.  He relayed  that his company's                                                               
more than 2,000 clients would  be directly affected by this bill.                                                               
He elaborated:                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
     We  are  one  of  the main  collections  agencies  that                                                                    
     provide check  recovery services  to businesses  who do                                                                    
     not  wish   to  handle  this  problem   on  their  own.                                                                    
     Businesses  which  do  choose   to  collect  bad  debts                                                                    
     themselves  are  equally  affected  by this  bill.    I                                                                    
     believe  the  $30  charge  is  a  reasonable  and  fair                                                                    
     amount,  and, for  the record,  I'm the  business owner                                                                    
     today, now, and I have to deal with today's costs.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. KING indicated that he has  a concern with one of the changes                                                               
made to  HB 516 -  that of  inserting language specifying  that a                                                               
business owner  may waive the  fee -  because the purpose  of the                                                               
original legislation is  to simplify AS 09.68.115(a).   He opined                                                               
that this simplification will allow  creditors to collect for bad                                                               
checks  "without  the  fear  of   predatory  litigation  base  on                                                               
ambiguous language."  Should a similar  change be made to SB 299,                                                               
he  opined, it  will put  all business  at risk  and defeats  the                                                               
purpose of  the bill.   He  then noted  that his  company's legal                                                               
firm  has  provided a  couple  of  memorandums regarding  such  a                                                               
change,  adding that  he  supports the  view  expressed in  those                                                               
memorandums.  He  said that according to  his understanding, such                                                               
language  as that  added  to HB  516 is  not  found elsewhere  in                                                               
statute, and  opined that there should  be consistency throughout                                                               
the statutes.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. KING,  in conclusion,  offered his  belief that  "the greater                                                               
encompasses the lesser,"  and, thus, it is already  the case that                                                               
a business is  not required to charge the entire  fee proposed or                                                               
even any  fee if it  doesn't want to.   He thanked  the committee                                                               
for considering SB 299, and urged the committee to support it.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE said  she questions why adding the  language that a                                                               
business may waive  collection of the fee  would confuse anybody,                                                               
since  it  is  already  the  case that  the  business  can  waive                                                               
collection  if  it so  chooses.    What  is  the harm  in  adding                                                               
clarifying language?                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Number 1871                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.  KING opined  that doing  so will  raise a  whole new  set of                                                               
issues that [collection agencies] will  have to deal with, adding                                                               
that less  is best particularly  if everyone agrees  that leaving                                                               
the language as is will have the same result as changing it.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  ANDERSON noted  that  current language  specifies                                                               
that a person  "may" recover damages, and suggested  that such is                                                               
sufficient.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. KING concurred.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  ANDERSON said  he does  not see  the need  for an                                                               
amendment on this issue.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  McGUIRE  said  she  didn't   see  that  adding  clarifying                                                               
language  on  this  issue  would  result  in  litigation  against                                                               
business owners.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  said that adding language  specifying that a                                                               
business  may  waive  collection  of  the  fee  won't  result  in                                                               
litigation.   "I  think people  are fearful  of a  legal argument                                                               
that a  court would never uphold,  and I think we've  got to stop                                                               
making policy  based on the fear  that somebody might make  a bad                                                               
legal argument," he added.  Somebody  might say that some sort of                                                               
equal  protection problem  would  arise, but  there  is no  equal                                                               
protection problem, he opined, adding  that if a business doesn't                                                               
want to charge a fee, it doesn't have to.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  indicated that at one  point, he didn't                                                               
think that adding  language specifying that a  business may waive                                                               
collection  would generate  litigation.    However, he  remarked,                                                               
after reviewing  the aforementioned memorandums, he  is no longer                                                               
sure either way.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Number 2105                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHRIS D.  GRONNING, Attorney at Law,  Bankston, Gronning, O'Hara,                                                               
Sedor, Mills,  Givens & Heaphey,  PC, after confirming  that he'd                                                               
written  the  aforementioned  memorandums to  Cornerstone  Credit                                                               
Services, LLC, said that he  agrees with Representative Gara that                                                               
a  court probably  wouldn't uphold  an equal  protection argument                                                               
based on  statutory language  stating that  a business  may waive                                                               
collection of a fee.  He elaborated:                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     I  believe,  at the  end  of  the day,  after  thorough                                                                    
     litigation, that  that would indeed be  correct, that a                                                                    
     court would say,  "The power to waive is  there, in the                                                                    
     discretion  of  the  plaintiff, and  if  the  plaintiff                                                                    
     chooses  not  to  exercise  that  power,  that  is  the                                                                    
     decision  of  the  plaintiff and  we're  not  going  to                                                                    
     inquire further."   But I  think the problem is  in the                                                                    
     making of the argument and  the costs that the business                                                                    
     incurs  in defending  against the  argument, because  I                                                                    
     can easily  envision and think about  this mechanically                                                                    
     in the manner in which  these bad checks are collected.                                                                    
     A demand  letter is  normally sent  out that  says ...,                                                                    
     "You  have written  a  check  with insufficient  funds,                                                                    
     here is  the statute  and the appropriate  penalties at                                                                    
     appropriate  stages;   at  this  point  you   have  the                                                                    
     opportunity  to cure  by giving  us the  amount of  the                                                                    
     check and  ... a fee of  $30."  I'm assuming  that that                                                                    
     is the new law.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     At  that  point, the  person  sends  back a  check,  or                                                                    
     cashier's  check, or  comes in  and pays  the principal                                                                    
     amount, but  says:   "Well, I see  in the  statute that                                                                    
     ...  you have  the  opportunity to  waive.   Would  you                                                                    
     please waive this?"  And  then the collection agency or                                                                    
     the business says,  "No, we will not."   And the dialog                                                                    
     develops:  "Why will you not?   I'm not prepared to pay                                                                    
     this fee  until you've told  me why you won't  waive it                                                                    
     and  whether you'll  consider  the  arguments that  I'm                                                                    
     going to give you for why  you should waive it - all of                                                                    
     my hardships,  all of my reasons  - and then I  want to                                                                    
     see whether  you have a policy,  internally, about when                                                                    
     you  do or  don't  waive.   And  if  you  don't have  a                                                                    
     policy, I  want to know why  you don't.  And  if you do                                                                    
     have a policy, I want  to see whether it's a reasonable                                                                    
     one,  and ...  whether you're  applying it  properly or                                                                    
     fairly to me."                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     All of  those arguments,  I think, will  eventually get                                                                    
     made  in  court pleadings,  and  will  be expensive  to                                                                    
     rebut.  And  I think an attorney,  any defense attorney                                                                    
     who's fighting against  a claim like this,  is going to                                                                    
     send  out a  discovery  request that  asks  to see  the                                                                    
     policy, asks to schedule a  deposition of the person in                                                                    
     charge  of making  these kinds  of determinations,  and                                                                    
     [will want] to  see the history of waivers.   So you're                                                                    
     going to  run up  a significant amount  of cost  and it                                                                    
     will  be a  repetitive problem  as significant  or more                                                                    
     significant than  the current problem, which  is simply                                                                    
     documenting, to  a court's satisfaction, $25  of actual                                                                    
     incurred expense.   So that  is where I think  the real                                                                    
     harm is to the business owners.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Number 2274                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. GRONNING continued:                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     The  converse side  -  what's the  ...  benefit to  the                                                                    
     check  writer whose  check has  been  dishonored -  ...                                                                    
     that  person is  put in  no worse  [a] position  by not                                                                    
     including  this language,  because  the business  owner                                                                    
     always  has  the option  of  waiving  the fee  and  can                                                                    
     always listen  to a hardship  case.  And I  suspect any                                                                    
     of these  business owners and collection  agencies will                                                                    
     tell you,  there are  a fair  number of  those hardship                                                                    
     cases that sufficiently tug  at the heartstrings [such]                                                                    
     that these  are waived.   The fees can be  waived under                                                                    
     the  current  statute  without  the  language  that  is                                                                    
     proposed in  the amendment.   They can be  waived under                                                                    
     the new  statute, or the  proposed change,  without the                                                                    
     amendment.     And  having  the  amendment   creates  a                                                                    
     tremendous potential for litigation. ...                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     I have  not seen any  other statute ... where  a remedy                                                                    
     is granted  ... coupled with an  express statement that                                                                    
     the ... remedy  can be waived.   That's always implied;                                                                    
     it's always  understood.  Anyone  who has the  power to                                                                    
     collect something has the power  not to collect it.  So                                                                    
     I don't think it's necessary ....                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE pointed out, however,  that in some instances it is                                                               
desirable to  draw attention to  a particular right  that someone                                                               
has,  for example,  when a  plain  reading of  a statute  doesn't                                                               
elicit an  understanding that  that right exists.   She  said her                                                               
concern revolves  around businesses  and individuals  that aren't                                                               
educated enough  to realize that  waiving collection of a  fee is                                                               
an option.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
TAPE 04-48, SIDE B                                                                                                            
Number 2378                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLM opined  that the  use of  the word  "may" in                                                               
existing statute is sufficient.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  ANDERSON indicated  agreement with  the arguments                                                               
offered by Mr. King and Mr. Gronning.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS, indicating agreement  that the word "may"                                                               
is  sufficient, further  remarked,  "If you  don't  want to  take                                                               
their money, give it back to them."                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR BUNDE indicated a preference  for keeping the language in                                                               
the bill simple.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  McGUIRE  surmised,  however,  that  since  the  clarifying                                                               
language was added to HB 516  in the House State Affairs Standing                                                               
Committee, there must be some merit  to the arguments in favor of                                                               
including it in statute.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA indicated  that he  didn't see  the harm  in                                                               
including the clarifying language,  particularly since it appears                                                               
that everyone agrees that the  courts will decide that a business                                                               
can waive collecting the fee if it so chooses.  He added:                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     The whole  idea that  people who  write bad  checks are                                                                    
     then going to  litigate them is undermined  by this one                                                                    
     very  important fact:   if  you lose  a case  in Alaska                                                                    
     state court,  you have to  pay 20 percent of  the other                                                                    
     side's [attorney] fees  and their costs.   So if you're                                                                    
     sitting there in an attorney's  office, in my office or                                                                    
     Mr.  Gronning's office  ..., I  think both  of us  will                                                                    
     tell you:   "I wouldn't push this  because you're going                                                                    
     to have to pay your  check, ultimately, and, the longer                                                                    
     you push this,  the more money you're going  to have to                                                                    
     pay because you're  going to have to pay  20 percent of                                                                    
     the other  side's [attorney] fees  if you  keep pushing                                                                    
     this, so does  it make sense for you not  pay your $100                                                                    
     check  and instead  challenge this  in court  where the                                                                    
     more  arguments  you  make  the  more  [attorney]  fees                                                                    
     you're going  to have to pay  on the other side  so you                                                                    
     ultimately  have pay  $5,000  or  $10,000 or  $15,000?"                                                                    
     I'm  going to  tell you  not to  take that  case.   Mr.                                                                    
     Gronning,  I  think,  essentially  admitted  that  he's                                                                    
     going to tell you not to take that case.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     I  guess there's  a possibility  that someday  somebody                                                                    
     will take  that case, but  what can you do  about that?                                                                    
     I mean,  ... there  are a certain  number of  people in                                                                    
     the  community  who  sometimes  don't  make  reasonable                                                                    
     decisions, and  you can  never stop that.   So  I don't                                                                    
     think it's  going to start  a floodgate  of litigation;                                                                    
     if  it  does,  it's  going  to  start  a  floodgate  of                                                                    
     litigation by  people who are  just going to  decide to                                                                    
     pay  even more  money than  they would  have if  they'd                                                                    
     just paid  the check in  the first place. ...  And then                                                                    
     finally, this  whole idea that a  business can't charge                                                                    
     people  differently,  we do  it  all  the time  -  it's                                                                    
     capitalism.  You walk into a  store and you pay $40 for                                                                    
     a  garden  hose, somebody  else  walks  into the  store                                                                    
     after  you and  maybe negotiates  with the  store owner                                                                    
     and  says, "You  know,  ... what  about  $35?" and  the                                                                    
     store  owner   says,  "Okay,  $35."     I   mean,  it's                                                                    
     capitalism,  so ...  you just  charge  people based  on                                                                    
     what  you think  you  should charge  people, and  let's                                                                    
     just put it in the statute ....                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Number 2099                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  recommended that the committee  amend SB 299                                                               
in the  same fashion that  HB 516  was amended:   adding language                                                               
which clarifies that a business may waive collection of the fee.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG noted  that when the chair  of the House                                                               
State  Affairs Standing  Committee proposed  the amendment  to HB
516,  it   was  adopted  without  much   discussion  and  without                                                               
objection.   Representative Gruenberg offered his  belief that in                                                               
offering  the amendment,  the chair  of the  House State  Affairs                                                               
Standing Committee felt it would be helpful.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLM  concurred  that  no one  objected  to  that                                                               
amendment to HB 516.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG pointed  out  that a  third change  was                                                               
made to  HB 516  in the House  State Affairs  Standing Committee,                                                               
that of changing  "$30" to "a $30 fee".   Such a change clarifies                                                       
that this is a fee and just an arbitrary imposition.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  BUNDE  suggested  that if  the  language  pertaining  to                                                               
waiving the  fee is added  to SB  299, then the  committee should                                                               
also  consider  whether  it  should  be  added  to  all  statutes                                                               
pertaining to fees.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE said that is a good point.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 1950                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
PAMELA  LaBOLLE,  President,  Alaska State  Chamber  of  Commerce                                                               
(ASCC), said that the ASCC supports  SB 299, and pointed out that                                                               
the current  law has engendered  litigation and thus it  needs to                                                               
be simplified  in the manner  proposed.   She opined that  use of                                                               
the  word "may"  is sufficient  and so  there is  no need  to add                                                               
further language regarding the waiving  of fees.  She offered her                                                               
belief that business regularly make  the determination of whether                                                               
to  waive the  fees associated  with bad  checks.   She explained                                                               
that in  one instance where  the ASCC  received a bad  check, the                                                               
bank charged the  ASCC $25 and it  took about a month  to get the                                                               
money  for  that bad  check.    She  opined  that if  the  waiver                                                               
language is  inserted into  SB 299,  it will  create difficulties                                                               
and  costs for  businesses who  have to  go to  court to  try and                                                               
collect for a bad check.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA pointed  out, however, that if  such cases do                                                               
continue to come to court for  resolution, it won't be because of                                                               
the statutory language.   The person who wrote the  bad check did                                                               
not do  so because  he/she read the  statute and  determined that                                                               
he/she might  get away with not  being charged a fee  for writing                                                               
the bad check.  Instead such  cases will arise because a business                                                               
loses patience  and goes to court  in order to collect  the money                                                               
it's  owed.   The statute  is not  going to  cause people  to get                                                               
involved  in  litigation,  though  it may  give  someone  another                                                               
argument once he/she is already involved in litigation.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MS. LaBOLLE  mentioned that when  sending out a  letter demanding                                                               
payment  for  a  bad  check, the  business  typically  cites  the                                                               
statute giving  the authority for  that demand; thus  people will                                                               
become  familiar   with  the   statute  at   that  point.     She                                                               
acknowledged,  however, that  most  people who  receive a  demand                                                               
letter  will go  ahead and  pay the  money owed  before going  to                                                               
court.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON asked whether  the ASCC has ever received                                                               
calls from members wanting to know  if collection of a fee can be                                                               
waived.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MS. LaBOLLE  said that that kind  of service is not  what members                                                               
expect of  the ASCC  and so  it has not  received any  calls such                                                               
calls.   She opined that all  business owners know that  they may                                                               
charge a fee but are not required to do so.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE  said that as a  person who writes checks,  she did                                                               
not know that businesses had the discretion to waive the fee.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON remarked, "I say  sock it to them because                                                               
it's costing the  businesses fees, and I say don't  give any more                                                               
fodder  for ideas  for litigation  or to  waive; it's  known, and                                                               
don't codify it."                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE OGG remarked that the  language in statute is only                                                               
a  triggering device  for  the court  case.   In  other words,  a                                                               
plaintiff can go to court if  [paragraphs (1) and (2)] apply, but                                                               
if the don't both apply, then there will be no court case.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 1469                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG made  a motion to adopt  Amendment 1, to                                                               
change  "beginning" on  line  9 to  "commencing",  and to  change                                                               
"begins" on  line 10 to  "commences".  There being  no objection,                                                               
Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG   asked  Representative   Weyhrauch  to                                                               
comment  on the  addition, in  the House  State Affairs  Standing                                                               
Committee's version of HB 516, of the word "fee".                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Number 1386                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   BRUCE  WEYHRAUCH,   Alaska  State   Legislature,                                                               
instead explained  his intention behind  the amendment to  HB 516                                                               
that he'd offered  in the House State  Affairs Standing Committee                                                               
regarding  waiving collection  of the  fee.   He  opined that  it                                                               
ought to be  clear to all parties that collection  of the fee may                                                               
be waived,  adding that it  would be simplest  to just say  so in                                                               
statute rather than relying on an attorney's memorandum.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE OGG reiterated his  comments about the language in                                                               
statute simply being a triggering  device.  He opined that adding                                                               
specific language  regarding waiving  collection of the  fee will                                                               
cause ambiguity for the purpose of going to court.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WEYHRAUCH  disagreed.   He relayed,  however, that                                                               
he  didn't  want  to  influence   the  House  Judiciary  Standing                                                               
Committee's  policy  discussion on  this  issue.   He  added,  "I                                                               
simply ... thought it made sense  to allow a business to have ...                                                               
clear  discretion to  waive a  fee;  that was  simply the  intent                                                               
here."  In  response to a question, he clarified  that what could                                                               
be waived would be the fee, not the amount of the bad check.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE agreed  that if waiver language is  added, it would                                                               
only pertain to the fee, not the bad check.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WEYHRAUCH mentioned  that it might be  a good idea                                                               
if the  bill refers  to a  specific fee rather  than to  just any                                                               
fee.                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  McGUIRE  indicated  a  preference   for  having  the  bill                                                               
specifically  reference  that  it  is  the  fee  which  is  being                                                               
assessed as a  penalty that can be  waived, so as not  to have it                                                               
be confused  with any other  costs associated with  collection of                                                               
the bad check.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS  asked whether there is  motion before the                                                               
committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE observed that a motion has not yet been made.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Number 0927                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  made  a  motion  to  adopt  Conceptual                                                               
Amendment 2:                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
     [To] clarify that the plaintiff  may recover the amount                                                                    
     of the check,  the liquidated fee - which  would not be                                                                    
     the  court costs  but the  administrative fee  of going                                                                    
     through anything that they might  have had to do in the                                                                    
     collection effort -  they would also, if  the case went                                                                    
     to court, be entitled to  get costs under [Alaska Rules                                                                    
     of  Civil  Procedure]  Rule 79,  plus  [attorney]  fees                                                                    
     under [Alaska Rules  of Civil Procedure] Rule  82.  But                                                                    
     I want it clear that  the deletion of the term, "costs"                                                                    
     and the  insertion of  the term,  "fee" means  that you                                                                    
     would  be  entitled, if  you  didn't  go to  court,  to                                                                    
     demand the $30 in addition  to the amount of the check,                                                                    
     and,  if you  did go  to  court, you  could demand  the                                                                    
     amount of  the check, the  $30 fee, courts  costs under                                                                    
     Rule 79, and [attorney] fees under Rule 82.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Number 0836                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  McGUIRE  asked  whether   there  were  any  objections  to                                                               
Conceptual Amendment  2.  There being  none, Conceptual Amendment                                                               
2 was adopted.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Number 0809                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  made a motion to  adopt Conceptual Amendment                                                               
3,  to have  the language  from  [lines 10-13  of CSHB  516(STA)]                                                               
replace the language on lines 10-12 of SB 299.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON objected.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  McGUIRE, noting  that  SB 299  has  already been  amended,                                                               
suggested  that Representative  Gara restate  his motion  for the                                                               
purpose  of  clarifying  that  he  is  merely  referring  to  the                                                               
language pertaining to the waiver.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  opined that  it  would  be simpler  if                                                               
Conceptual  Amendment 3  were changed  such that  it adopted  the                                                               
language  in CSHB  516(STA), because  doing so  would incorporate                                                               
the amendments already made to SB 299.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE  opined that there  is really  no need to  do that,                                                               
adding, "I  think we  should be  clear about  what the  policy is                                                               
[that] we're focusing on, which is the waiver itself."                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Number 0703                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA, after  withdrawing Conceptual  Amendment 3,                                                               
made a motion to adopt a new Amendment  3 to SB 299:  after "$30"                                                           
on line 11,  insert ", but the plaintiff may  waive collection of                                                               
any fee."                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 0649                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE  made a motion to  amend Amendment 3, "to  say 'the                                                               
$30 fee'."                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA said, "I wouldn't object."                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Number 0641                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON objected.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
[Although  the   objection  to  amending  Amendment   3  was  not                                                               
addressed or withdrawn, Amendment 3 was treated as amended.]                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE OGG asked why a  business would continue a suit in                                                               
court if it was simply going to waive the fee.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA  opined that  such  would  not happen.    He                                                               
added:                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     But what  you're doing [currently] is  saying that just                                                                    
     so we  can protect the  person's right to go  to court,                                                                    
     we're  also going  to  require [that]  the  $30 fee  be                                                                    
     charged to  all people  we don't  go to  court against.                                                                    
     And that  was the  whole purpose  of the  amendment [as                                                                    
     amended]:   for the  bulk of cases,  you don't  want to                                                                    
     charge the $30 fee ...  if you have a good relationship                                                                    
     with a customer,  and we want to make  sure the statute                                                                    
     isn't  interpreted by  businesses  to  think that  they                                                                    
     have  to charge  the $30  fee against  a customer  that                                                                    
     they don't  want to  charge that fee  against.   So you                                                                    
     make a  decision, as a  business, that you're  going to                                                                    
     waive the fee or not waive  the fee; it's totally up to                                                                    
     you.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE OGG argued, however,  that the statute won't apply                                                               
if someone isn't being taken to court.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  McGUIRE offered  an example  illustrating  why a  business                                                               
should  still  have the  ability  to  take  someone to  court  to                                                               
recover  the  amount of  a  bad  check even  if  a  fee is  never                                                               
charged, and  opined that Amendment  3 [as amended]  provides for                                                               
that ability.   She noted  that current language  stipulates that                                                               
the  demand for  payment  must  be in  writing,  and offered  her                                                               
belief that the  language without Amendment 3  [as amended] would                                                               
also stipulate that a fee must be charged.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  offered his  belief that  under current                                                               
statute, a business  may always sue for the amount  of the check,                                                               
and pointed out that AS  09.68.115(a) - the statute being amended                                                               
via  SB 299  - simply  provides a  business with  the ability  to                                                               
claim  treble damages  up to  $1,000;  therefore, the  triggering                                                               
mechanisms in  SB 299 simply  pertain to collecting  damages, not                                                               
the right  to collect  on debt owed.   Additionally,  he remarked                                                               
that SB  299 and the  statute it amends  appear to only  apply to                                                               
checks written for a small  amount; he suggested that perhaps the                                                               
committee  could look  into  what  to do  about  checks that  are                                                               
written for large amounts.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS. LaBOLLE suggested that perhaps  that issue could be addressed                                                               
at another time, adding that it  was a recent court decision that                                                               
raised  concerns about  the current  language in  AS 09.68.115(a)                                                               
and engendered SB 299 and HB 516.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG observed, however,  that SB 299 will not                                                               
be helpful in instances wherein  bad checks for large amounts are                                                               
written.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 0057                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
A roll  call vote  was taken.   Representatives Gara  and McGuire                                                               
voted in favor of Amendment  3, as amended.  Representatives Ogg,                                                               
Gruenberg,  Samuels,   Holm,  and  Anderson  voted   against  it.                                                               
Therefore, Amendment 3, as amended, failed by a vote of 2-5.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Number 0039                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON moved  to report SB 299,  as amended, out                                                               
of   committee   with    individual   recommendations   and   the                                                               
accompanying zero fiscal  [note].  There being  no objection, HCS                                                               
SB  299(JUD)  was  reported from  the  House  Judiciary  Standing                                                               
Committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
HB 533 - IF UNREAS. AGENCY DELAY, COURT DECIDES                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
TAPE 04-49, SIDE A                                                                                                            
Number 0001                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE announced that the  next order of business would be                                                               
HOUSE   BILL  NO.   533,  "An   Act  relating   to  the   state's                                                               
administrative   procedures   and   to  judicial   oversight   of                                                               
administrative matters."  [Before  the committee was the proposed                                                               
committee  substitute  (CS)  for  HB  533,  Version  23-LS1833\D,                                                               
Bannister,  3/24/04,  which  was  adopted  as  a  work  draft  on                                                               
3/24/04.]                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 0030                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  BRUCE  WEYHRAUCH,  Alaska State  Legislature,  as                                                               
chair of the  House State Affairs Standing  Committee, sponsor of                                                               
HB 533,  relayed his appreciation  with regard to  the Department                                                               
of Law's  comments at the  last hearing.   He also noted  that he                                                               
has been  provided with a copy  of some proposed changes  and has                                                               
no objections to them.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Number 0105                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   GRUENBERG  moved   that   the  committee   adopt                                                               
Amendment  1,  a  handwritten   amendment  which  read  [original                                                               
punctuation provided]:                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     page 2 line 14 delete "15" insert "30"                                                                                     
     page 2 line 15 delete "provide" and insert "filed in"                                                                      
     page 2 line 15 delete "with" and insert "a"                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON objected.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG recalled  that  the  DOL had  expressed                                                               
concern  with  the  15-day  provision  to  file  the  notice  and                                                               
suggested   that    30   days   would   be    more   appropriate.                                                               
Representative Gruenberg said he  agrees with the aforementioned,                                                               
particularly  if  the private  party  is  another part  of  state                                                               
[government].  He highlighted that  Amendment 1 also incorporates                                                               
a language  change that specifies  that the [notice] is  filed in                                                               
the agency.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WEYHRAUCH  reiterated that he has  no objection to                                                               
Amendment 1.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON withdrew his objection.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR   McGUIRE,  upon   determining   there   were  no   further                                                               
objections, announced that Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Number 0197                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON  moved to report  the proposed CS  for HB
533, Version 23-LS1833\D, Bannister,  3/24/04, as amended, out of                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations and  the accompanying                                                               
fiscal  notes.   There  being  no  objection, CSHB  533(JUD)  was                                                               
reported from the House Judiciary Standing Committee.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
HB 474 - LIABILITY FOR AIRPORTS AND AIRSTRIPS                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Number 0247                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE  announced that the  final order of  business would                                                               
be  HOUSE BILL  NO.  474,  "An Act  relating  to civil  liability                                                               
associated with aircraft runways, airfields, and landing areas."                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM, speaking as  the sponsor, noted that members                                                               
have a proposed committee substitute (CS) in their packets.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Number 0299                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE moved to adopt the  proposed CS for HB 474, Version                                                               
23-LS1745\D, Bullock,  3/23/04, as the  work draft.   There being                                                               
no objection, Version D was before the committee.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLM said  that  HB 474  proposes  to make  minor                                                               
changes to  AS 09.65.093.  It  will remove the word  "natural" so                                                               
that "person" will include  "a corporation, company, partnership,                                                               
firm, association,  organization, business trust, or  society, as                                                               
well as a  natural person", which is currently  the definition of                                                               
"person"  given in  AS  01.10.060(a)(8).   With  regard to  civil                                                               
liability,  the  law  currently  only  protects  individuals  who                                                               
maintain  airstrips without  compensation; HB  474 will  allow "a                                                               
greater  range  of  people  and  organizations  to  provide  this                                                               
service for  free."  Also  included are changes intended  to make                                                               
the statute more  comprehensive and clear, he relayed.   The goal                                                               
is to allow volunteer organizations  and good corporate neighbors                                                               
to provide some services that  might otherwise fall to the state.                                                               
If a company or organization  or individual spends their own time                                                               
and money  to maintain or  construct an airstrip that  others are                                                               
free to land  upon, they should not be sued  for "this kind act,"                                                               
he concluded, noting  that HB 474 is [supported]  by the Aircraft                                                               
Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA).                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA asked if proposed  subsection (b) is supposed                                                               
to  apply  to  people  who voluntarily  provide  or  maintain  an                                                               
airfield.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM indicated that that is his intent.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   GARA  remarked,   however,   that  as   written,                                                               
subsection  (b) appears  to apply  to all  airfields, even  those                                                               
that  are "run  for  profit."   He  suggested  adding a  specific                                                               
reference,  in  subsection (b),  to  the  airfields described  in                                                               
subsection (a).                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM replied:                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
     I  think  the reason  is  ...  that private  or  public                                                                    
     airfields  would   fall  underneath  this   release  of                                                                    
     liability.   And  the reason  being is  that there  are                                                                    
     public  airfields   that  are  maintained   by  private                                                                    
     individuals  without compensation,  and  ... we  didn't                                                                    
     want to  limit the  ability of  somebody to  assist the                                                                    
     state and feel that their liability is increased.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA  said  he   agrees  that  those  individuals                                                               
volunteering  their  services should  not  be  held liable.    He                                                               
opined that such  would be clarified if, on page  1, lines 12-13,                                                               
the words  were changed  to say in  part:  "A  person who  is the                                                               
owner or  operator of  an aircraft  runway, airfield,  or landing                                                               
area described in subsection (a) ...".                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLM said  he  would accept  such  as a  friendly                                                               
amendment to Version D.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Number 0552                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  made a motion  to adopt Amendment 1,  to add                                                               
to  page  1,  line  13,  after  "landing  area"  the  words,  "as                                                               
described  in  subsection  (a)".     There  being  no  objection,                                                               
Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG suggested  that the  language currently                                                               
in  proposed  subsection  (b)(1)  would  exclude  a  person  from                                                               
liability  -  even  if  the act  or  omission  constitutes  gross                                                               
negligence, recklessness, or intentional  misconduct - as long as                                                               
the runway is not marked with a large "X."                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 0706                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
TODD  LARKIN,  Staff to  Representative  Jim  Holm, Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature,   in  response   to  questions   about  a   possible                                                               
duplication  of language  in proposed  subsections  (a) and  (b),                                                               
relayed   that  proposed   subsection   (a)  essentially   covers                                                               
"groomers,"  whereas proposed  subsection (b)  is "an  additional                                                               
consideration for owners who are  already covered under" proposed                                                               
subsection  (a).   He  said that  it is  possible  in Alaska  for                                                               
someone  -  for example,  a  gold  miner  or a  corporation  like                                                               
Alyeska [Pipeline Service Company]  ("Alyeska") - to actually own                                                               
an airstrip  privately and not charge  any fees but be  on public                                                               
land.  Currently,  such persons would be liable  to whoever lands                                                               
on  the  airfields they  maintain  even  though they  receive  no                                                               
compensation.  He went on to say:                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     [Proposed  subsection] (b)  ... specifically  speaks to                                                                    
     ... negligence  and recklessness; if you're  that owner                                                                    
     or operator  [and] you're not charging  the fee, that's                                                                    
     the  important part.    And  [say you]  need  to dig  a                                                                    
     utility  ditch across  your airstrip  ..., you  will be                                                                    
     grossly negligent  or reckless  if you  don't put  an X                                                                    
     [on  the strip]  and notify  the FAA  [Federal Aviation                                                                    
     Administration]  that  that  strip  is  closed.    Now,                                                                    
     everybody who wants to land  there who's in trouble can                                                                    
     go ahead and land,  but if they see a big  X or read in                                                                    
     FAA that  you've said  your strip  is closed,  and they                                                                    
     crash,  that  owner  who  dug   a  ditch  across  their                                                                    
     [airstrip is]  ... not going  to be liable:   the strip                                                                    
     was closed - you landed at your own risk.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  OGG  offered   his  understanding  that  proposed                                                               
subsection  (a)  pertains  to open  airstrips,  whereas  proposed                                                               
subsection (b) pertains to closed airstrips.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Number 0850                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   GRUENBERG    disagreed.      He    offered   his                                                               
understanding  that proposed  subsection (b)  applies to  owners,                                                               
and that "the rule is you're  not civilly liable for one of these                                                               
types of  airfields."   He surmised, however,  that "even  if the                                                               
owner was grossly  negligent, the field would have  to marked for                                                               
[he/she] to be liable."                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. LARKIN opined that if the  owner closes the field through the                                                               
two methods  listed in paragraphs (1)  and (2), then there  is no                                                               
opportunity for gross negligence of recklessness.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  asked, "How about  if the ...  field is                                                               
not closed but it is open?"                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.  LARKIN  replied, "If  you  have  not received  compensation,                                                               
again,  without  gross  negligence or  recklessness,  you're  not                                                               
liable."                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS said  he assumes that the  people who work                                                               
on the  runways for  Alyeska Pipeline  Service Company  are paid,                                                               
and thus  do not fall under  the category of not  having received                                                               
compensation.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. LARKIN said  that in the case of Alyeska  using its employees                                                               
to do  the work,  those employees would  be considered  assets of                                                               
Alyeska,  and thus  would not  be liable  as individuals  because                                                               
Alyeska would be simply using  its assets to improve/maintain its                                                               
airfield.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS referred  to the Red Dog  Mine, and asked,                                                               
"If somebody  works for  Cominco [Alaska] and  they go  out there                                                               
and  they  tell you  the  breaking  action  is fine,  and  Alaska                                                               
Airlines slides  off the runway  because the breaking  action was                                                               
nil, is anybody accountable for their actions?"                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Number 1060                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.  LARKIN said  he would  defer  the question  of whether  such                                                               
action  constitutes   gross  negligence   to  those   with  legal                                                               
experience.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS said:                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
     That would be considered  maintaining the runway, but I                                                                    
     don't  think  -- I  assume  that  you're getting  after                                                                    
     little mining strips  here and there, or  [if] some guy                                                                    
     owns  a lodge  and  gets  a bulldozer  and  he plows  a                                                                    
     runway, and  if some guy  happens to land there  and he                                                                    
     flips  over his  [plane] ...  he can't  sue [the  lodge                                                                    
     owner].  I assume that's  what you're trying to get at.                                                                    
     But when  you said Alyeska Pipeline  [Service Company],                                                                    
     if you  look at Coldfoot  and all the pump  stations up                                                                    
     the line, that's a little different story.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE OGG surmised that  "compensation" refers to things                                                               
like landing  fees.   "But if  these folks  had [an]  airport for                                                               
their  own business  and other  people landed  on it  and they're                                                               
just  negligent,  they're  not  liable, but  if  they're  grossly                                                               
negligent,  then  they  are liable,"  he  suggested,  adding  his                                                               
belief that  "the same thing"  applies under  proposed subsection                                                               
(b):   "you're not liable  for just  negligence, but if  you have                                                               
gross  negligence,   you're  liable  even  if   you  marked  [the                                                               
airstrip]."                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Number 1141                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
TOM GEORGE,  Alaska Regional Representative, Aircraft  Owners and                                                               
Pilots Association  (AOPA), said that  the AOPA's interest  is in                                                               
preserving   a   healthy   aviation   infrastructure,   including                                                               
backcountry  airstrips.   He relayed  that the  AOPA supports  HB
474,  which, he  opined,  broadens the  current statute  limiting                                                               
civil  liability  on  aircraft runways,  airfields,  and  landing                                                               
areas.  The primary goal  of [the proposed statutory changes], he                                                               
suggested,  is to  protect the  backcountry  airstrips that  [the                                                               
AOPA's members] rely on for  access to Alaska's remote locations;                                                               
HB  474  should help  protect  the  companies, corporations,  and                                                               
organizations  that  devote  their time  and  resources,  without                                                               
compensation, to maintaining airstrips across the state.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR. GEORGE  said that currently,  the statute only applies  to an                                                               
individual person, and the AOPA feels  it is necessary to use the                                                               
broader  definition of  person so  that entities  such as  mining                                                               
companies, lodges,  and aviation  associations are included.   He                                                               
offered  that the  other changes  encompassed in  Version D  will                                                               
clarify what activities and  situations "this protection" applies                                                               
to.   The AOPA thinks  HB 474 is  a good step  towards protecting                                                               
airstrips  that provide  access  primarily to  public lands,  and                                                               
that protection from liability should  help the AOPA find support                                                               
for keeping  those airstrips  open and usable  in years  to come.                                                               
In  conclusion,  Mr.  George   thanked  Representative  Holm  for                                                               
sponsoring  the bill,  and  relayed  that he  would  be happy  to                                                               
answer any questions from the committee.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 1219                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA,  after  noting  that he'd  made  a  mistake                                                               
regarding  Amendment  1, moved  that  the  committee rescind  its                                                               
action in  adopting Amendment 1.   There being no  objection, the                                                               
committee rescinded its action.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  asked whether it  is the intent of  the bill                                                               
to extend the  limitation on liability to someone  who operates a                                                               
business and  orders supplies, thereby requiring  that a delivery                                                               
plane  land  on an  airstrip  being  maintained by  the  business                                                               
owner.   In such  a situation,  the delivery  plane would  not be                                                               
paying a landing fee.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR. GEORGE suggested  that the issue is whether  the operation of                                                               
the airstrip  is commercial;  in other  words, is  somebody being                                                               
paid,  either  by the  government  or  through landing  fees,  to                                                               
operate the airstrip.  He  noted that there are approximately 260                                                               
airstrips  that   the  Department  of  Transportation   &  Public                                                               
Facilities (DOT&PF) supports,  and those would not  be covered by                                                               
HB 474.   Thus it wouldn't  matter whether the people  landing on                                                               
the  airstrip  are   doing  it  as  private   individuals  or  as                                                               
commercial  operators.    He  pointed  out  that  there  are  FAA                                                               
regulations regarding  what class of  aircraft can use  what kind                                                               
of airport, adding  that these regulations "would  deal with that                                                               
issue."                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  asked whether the  intent of the bill  is to                                                               
extend the limitation on liability  to those who run a commercial                                                               
airstrip but don't charge landing  fees; for example, the Red Dog                                                               
Mine airstrip.   "Assuming that they're not  charging any landing                                                               
fees, do  we want to extend  this limitation to an  airstrip that                                                               
knows that  supply planes are going  to come in for  a commercial                                                               
operation," he asked.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR. GEORGE replied:                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     I would argue  that we would want to  extend it because                                                                    
     they  are providing  a service  that the  state is  not                                                                    
     having to  pay for.   So  ... limiting  their liability                                                                    
     would hopefully  be an incentive  for them  to continue                                                                    
     to  provide that  service.   And ...  the same  case is                                                                    
     covered with Alyeska  Pipeline [Service Company], where                                                                    
     they're  operating airports  on,  as  I understand  it,                                                                    
     public lands,  but they're totally  paying the  cost of                                                                    
     maintenance and  operation, yet those  are open  to the                                                                    
     public to land  on.  So I think  limiting liability ...                                                                    
     in  a balanced  way  ...  is a  reasonable  way to  ...                                                                    
     [provide]   an  incentive   to   continue  doing   that                                                                    
     maintenance function.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SAMUELS asked:    "What's the  standard that  the                                                               
state follows? ... Is it gross negligence?"                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA said it is negligence.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 1475                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLM,   in  response   to  further   comments  by                                                               
Representative  Samuels,  said  that  the size  or  type  of  the                                                               
business does  not matter;  the intent  of the  bill is  to limit                                                               
liability   for   those    who   [maintain   airstrips]   without                                                               
compensation,  and   thereby  provide   incentive  for   them  to                                                               
continue.   He suggested,  however, that if  a business  makes an                                                               
assertion that an  airstrip is maintained in  a certain condition                                                               
and that is not true, then there might be [a cause of action].                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SAMUELS said  that he  could understand  limiting                                                               
liability   for   those   who  provide   this   service   without                                                               
compensation.   However, companies like Alyeska  Pipeline Service                                                               
Company are  getting paid:   "that's  their job,  is to  plow the                                                               
runway or  make sure the  lights are working  or what ever  it is                                                               
[they're] doing -  they are being compensating."   He offered his                                                               
belief that such a company should  not be liable for any airstrip                                                               
it built  but then abandoned,  but it should  be liable if  it is                                                               
paying somebody to  plow an airstrip or maintain  its lighting or                                                               
approach.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE OGG  surmised that  if a  company like  Alyeska is                                                               
maintaining  a runway,  it then  becomes  a "person"  and so  the                                                               
limit on liability  extends to any of its  employees because they                                                               
are a  part of the company.   The compensation being  referred to                                                               
in the bill, he also surmised,  is probably a landing fee, not an                                                               
employee's paycheck.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Number 1625                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  said  that  when  considering  whether                                                               
there has been compensation, the  question becomes:  compensation                                                               
for  what?   For  example,  is  it  somebody who  is  compensated                                                               
specifically for maintaining  the runway?  Or is  it somebody who                                                               
is compensated  for maintaining the  facility?  Or is  the entity                                                               
doing the maintaining a profit-making  business?  The question of                                                               
what the  legislature means by  the term,  "without compensation"                                                               
will become the subject of some litigation, he predicted.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLM pointed  out that  the language  on page  1,                                                               
lines 6-7, says  in part:  "who  without compensation constructs,                                                               
maintains, or  repairs an aircraft  runway, airfield,  or landing                                                               
area".                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  noted,  though,  that  the  bill  also                                                               
refers to the owner of  "an aircraft runway, airfield, or landing                                                               
area", and  surmised that  the target  will be  the owner  of the                                                               
airfield.   Current  law refers  to situations  involving private                                                               
land, but HB 474 could  conceivably refer to situations involving                                                               
any airfield anywhere, he remarked,  and opined that such is much                                                               
broader than would  be good public policy.  The  bill proposes to                                                               
immunize  airfield owners,  and could  conceivably be  considered                                                               
precedent for  immunizing owners of docking  facilities or people                                                               
who maintain private roads, he added.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Number 1769                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA said  he did not mind  limiting liability for                                                               
those who  do something on  a volunteer basis, and  surmised that                                                               
that is the goal of the bill.   With that in mind, subsection (a)                                                               
is  written fine,  he  remarked,  but coming  up  with the  right                                                               
language  so that  subsection (b)  has the  same effect  could be                                                               
problematic.  He added:                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     I would assume that we're  essentially trying to get at                                                                    
     airfields that  are run by noncommercial  entities, and                                                                    
     for  which  nobody  is receiving  compensation.  ...  I                                                                    
     assume   we  don't   want  to   extend  the   liability                                                                    
     [limitation] to an airfield that  a supply plane has to                                                                    
     use because  they've got a  contract with  the business                                                                    
     that's running  the airfield,  even though  they're not                                                                    
     charged  a landing  fee; I  think  the supplier  should                                                                    
     have  an  expectation  that  that's  a  responsibly-run                                                                    
     airfield.  ... So  maybe we  can  say "a  noncommercial                                                                    
     airfield operated without compensation".                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA asked  Representative Holm  to describe  the                                                               
circumstances that  he'd like HB 474  to apply to and  which ones                                                               
he doesn't want it to apply to.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  OGG  asked  whether the  definition  of  "person"                                                               
could   be  interpreted   to  mean   state   agencies  or   state                                                               
corporations.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR   McGUIRE   noted   that   "person"  is   defined   in   AS                                                               
01.10.060(a)(8) as:  "a  corporation, company, partnership, firm,                                                               
association, organization,  business trust,  or society,  as well                                                               
as a natural person".                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG offered  his  belief that  none of  the                                                               
members object  to having  that definition  of "person"  apply in                                                               
the bill.   However, the  bill also eliminates the  phrase, "that                                                               
is located on private land".                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVES  OGG and  HOLM offered  their understanding  that                                                               
that phrase only pertains to closed airports.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Number 1947                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.  GEORGE -  with regard  to the  phrase, "that  is located  on                                                               
private land", in subsection (b) -  said that part of the problem                                                               
is that  most of  Alaska is still  public land, and  so a  lot of                                                               
backcountry airstrips are operated -  to the extent that they are                                                               
operated at  all -  by miners  and lodge owners,  and so  if they                                                               
didn't do it,  either there wouldn't be access or  there would be                                                               
pressure put on the state to do it.  He went on to say:                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     The second  part of this  bill is about  extending that                                                                    
     protection  from  liability  in   the  case  where  the                                                                    
     airfield  needs to  by closed,  and showing  how to  go                                                                    
     about doing that  closing.  So I guess I  think that is                                                                    
      a reasonable thing to do and I don't think it takes                                                                       
     the lid off Pandora's box in terms of wildly extending                                                                     
     the coverage provided by the statute.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE, in response to  questions, highlighted the changes                                                               
proposed by subsection (b) of the bill.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  offered his belief that  proposed subsection                                                               
(b),  as written,  applies  to both  open  and closed  airfields,                                                               
specifically that everything after "a  person" on page 2, line 1,                                                               
applies to closed  airfields, and everything up  to and including                                                               
"a  person" applies  to open  airfields.   He suggested  that the                                                               
committee should  add language to  the bill that would  limit its                                                               
effect to airfields that are not  part of some sort of commercial                                                               
operation.  Another  alternative, he remarked, would  be to leave                                                               
subsection (b) applying only to  a "natural person", because that                                                               
would  maintain the  current policy  that  a person  who owns  an                                                               
airfield would not  be held liable, but corporations  that own an                                                               
airfield could be held liable.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR McGUIRE  relayed that  HB 474  would be  held over  for the                                                               
purpose of allowing the sponsor to address the issues raised.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLM  offered  his  understanding  that  proposed                                                               
subsection (b)  applies strictly to closed  airfields, but agreed                                                               
to look into the issue further.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVES  OGG  and   SAMUELS  agreed  with  Representative                                                               
Holm's interpretation of proposed subsection (b).                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  McGUIRE suggested  that any  forthcoming amendments  be in                                                               
writing.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
[HB 474 was held over.]                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
ADJOURNMENT                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Number 2130                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
There being no  further business before the  committee, the House                                                               
Judiciary Standing Committee meeting was adjourned at 3:30 p.m.                                                                 

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