Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/03/2004 08:17 AM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
              SENATE JUDICIARY STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                          May 3, 2004                                                                                           
                           8:17 a.m.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
TAPE(S) 04-59,60                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Senator Ralph Seekins, Chair                                                                                                    
Senator Scott Ogan, Vice Chair                                                                                                  
Senator Gene Therriault                                                                                                         
Senator Hollis French                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Senator Johnny Ellis                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CS FOR SPONSOR SUBSTITUTE FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 273(JUD) am                                                                        
"An  Act  relating  to  the  right   of  a  parent  to  waive  an                                                               
unemancipated child's  claim of negligence against  a provider of                                                               
sports or recreational activities."                                                                                             
     HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 275(FIN)                                                                                                  
"An Act  relating to animals, and  to the care of  and to cruelty                                                               
to animals."                                                                                                                    
     HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 427(JUD)                                                                                                  
"An Act  relating to guardianships  and conservatorships,  to the                                                               
public guardian  and the  office of  public advocacy,  to private                                                               
professional guardians and  private professional conservators, to                                                               
court  visitors, court-appointed  attorneys, guardians  ad litem,                                                               
and fiduciaries, and to the  protection of the person or property                                                               
of certain  individuals, including  minors; amending  Rule 17(c),                                                               
Alaska  Rules of  Civil  Procedure, and  Rules  16(f) and  17(e),                                                               
Alaska  Rules   of  Probate  Procedure;  and   providing  for  an                                                               
effective date."                                                                                                                
     HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 549(JUD) am                                                                                               
"An  Act  relating  to unsolicited  communications  following  an                                                               
aircraft accident."                                                                                                             
     HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
BILL: HB 273                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: PARENTS' WAIVER OF CHILD'S SPORTS CLAIM                                                                            
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) MCGUIRE                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
04/16/03       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
04/16/03       (H)       TRA, JUD                                                                                               
05/07/03       (H)       TRA REFERRAL WAIVED                                                                                    
02/16/04       (H)       SPONSOR SUBSTITUTE INTRODUCED                                                                          
02/16/04       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/16/04       (H)       JUD                                                                                                    
03/22/04       (H)       JUD AT 1:00 PM CAPITOL 120                                                                             
03/22/04       (H)       Moved CSSSHB 273(JUD) Out of Committee                                                                 
03/22/04       (H)       MINUTE(JUD)                                                                                            
03/29/04       (H)       JUD RPT CS(JUD) NT 4DP 1NR                                                                             
03/29/04       (H)       DP: SAMUELS, HOLM, OGG, MCGUIRE;                                                                       
03/29/04       (H)       NR: GRUENBERG                                                                                          
04/15/04       (H)       TRANSMITTED TO (S)                                                                                     
04/15/04       (H)       VERSION: CSSSHB 273(JUD) AM                                                                            
04/16/04       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
04/16/04       (S)       STA, JUD                                                                                               
04/29/04       (S)       STA AT 3:30 PM BELTZ 211                                                                               
04/29/04       (S)       Moved    CSSSHB   273(JUD)am    Out   of                                                               
                         Committee                                                                                              
04/29/04       (S)       MINUTE(STA)                                                                                            
05/01/04       (S)       STA RPT 3NR                                                                                            
05/01/04       (S)       NR: STEVENS G, STEDMAN, GUESS                                                                          
05/03/04       (S)       JUD AT 8:00 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
BILL: HB 275                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: ANIMALS AND CRUELTY TO ANIMALS                                                                                     
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) CHENAULT                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
04/17/03       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
04/17/03       (H)       L&C, RES                                                                                               
02/20/04       (H)       L&C AT 3:15 PM CAPITOL 17                                                                              
02/20/04       (H)       <Bill Hearing Postponed>                                                                               
03/29/04       (H)       L&C AT 3:15 PM CAPITOL 17                                                                              
03/29/04       (H)       Moved CSHB 275(L&C) Out of Committee                                                                   
03/29/04       (H)       MINUTE(L&C)                                                                                            
03/31/04       (H)       RES REFERRAL WAIVED                                                                                    
04/01/04       (H)       L&C RPT CS(L&C) NT 3DP 2NR 1AM                                                                         
04/01/04       (H)       DP: CRAWFORD, LYNN, ANDERSON;                                                                          
04/01/04       (H)       NR: ROKEBERG, DAHLSTROM; AM: GUTTENBERG                                                                
04/01/04       (H)       JUD REFERRAL ADDED AFTER L&C                                                                           
04/01/04       (H)       FIN REFERRAL ADDED AFTER JUD                                                                           
04/05/04       (H)       JUD AT 1:00 PM CAPITOL 120                                                                             
04/05/04       (H)       -- Meeting Postponed to Tues. 4/6/04 --                                                                
04/06/04       (H)       JUD AT 1:00 PM CAPITOL 120                                                                             
04/06/04       (H)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
04/06/04       (H)       MINUTE(JUD)                                                                                            
04/07/04       (H)       JUD AT 1:00 PM CAPITOL 120                                                                             
04/07/04       (H)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
04/07/04       (H)       MINUTE(JUD)                                                                                            
04/14/04       (H)       JUD AT 1:00 PM CAPITOL 120                                                                             
04/14/04       (H)       Moved CSHB 275(JUD) Out of Committee                                                                   
04/14/04       (H)       MINUTE(JUD)                                                                                            
04/19/04       (H)       JUD RPT CS(JUD) NT 2DP 2NR                                                                             
04/19/04       (H)       DP: GRUENBERG, MCGUIRE; NR: SAMUELS,                                                                   
04/19/04       (H)       HOLM                                                                                                   
04/26/04       (H)       FIN AT 8:30 AM HOUSE FINANCE 519                                                                       
04/26/04       (H)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
04/26/04       (H)       MINUTE(FIN)                                                                                            
04/27/04       (H)       FIN AT 1:30 PM HOUSE FINANCE 519                                                                       
04/27/04       (H)       Moved CSHB 275(FIN) Out of Committee                                                                   
04/27/04       (H)       MINUTE(FIN)                                                                                            
04/28/04       (H)       FIN RPT CS(FIN) NT 5DP 6NR                                                                             
04/28/04       (H)       DP: CROFT, MEYER, CHENAULT, FOSTER,                                                                    
04/28/04       (H)       WILLIAMS; NR: HAWKER, STOLTZE, JOULE,                                                                  
04/28/04       (H)       MOSES, FATE, HARRIS                                                                                    
04/30/04       (H)       TRANSMITTED TO (S)                                                                                     
04/30/04       (H)       VERSION: CSHB 275(FIN)                                                                                 
05/01/04       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
05/01/04       (S)       JUD, FIN                                                                                               
05/03/04       (S)       JUD AT 8:00 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
BILL: HB 427                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: GUARDIANS, CONSERVATORS,OPA,  ETC                                                                                  
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) ANDERSON                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
02/04/04       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/04/04       (H)       HES, JUD                                                                                               
04/01/04       (H)       HES AT 3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                                                                             
04/01/04       (H)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
04/01/04       (H)       MINUTE(HES)                                                                                            
04/06/04       (H)       HES AT 3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                                                                             
04/06/04       (H)       Moved CSHB 427(HES) Out of Committee                                                                   
04/06/04       (H)       MINUTE(HES)                                                                                            
04/08/04       (H)       HES RPT CS(HES) 1DP 5AM                                                                                
04/08/04       (H)       DP: CISSNA; AM: SEATON, COGHILL, WOLF,                                                                 
04/08/04       (H)       GATTO, WILSON                                                                                          
04/13/04       (H)       FIN REFERRAL ADDED AFTER JUD                                                                           
04/14/04       (H)       JUD AT 1:00 PM CAPITOL 120                                                                             
04/14/04       (H)       Moved CSHB 427(JUD) Out of Committee                                                                   
04/14/04       (H)       MINUTE(JUD)                                                                                            
04/21/04       (H)       JUD AT 1:00 PM CAPITOL 120                                                                             
04/21/04       (H)       Moved   New   CSHB   427(JUD)   Out   of                                                               
                         Committee                                                                                              
04/21/04       (H)       MINUTE(JUD)                                                                                            
04/22/04       (H)       JUD RPT CS(JUD) NT 7DP                                                                                 
04/22/04       (H)       DP: GARA, SAMUELS, GRUENBERG, OGG,                                                                     
04/22/04       (H)       HOLM, ANDERSON, MCGUIRE                                                                                
04/23/04       (H)       FIN REFERRAL WAIVED                                                                                    
04/30/04       (H)       TRANSMITTED TO (S)                                                                                     
04/30/04       (H)       VERSION: CSHB 427(JUD)                                                                                 
05/01/04       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
05/01/04       (S)       JUD, FIN                                                                                               
05/03/04       (S)       JUD AT 8:00 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
BILL: HB 549                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: UNSOLICITED COMMUNICATION: AIRCRAFT CRASH                                                                          
SPONSOR(s): JUDICIARY                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
03/29/04       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
03/29/04       (H)       JUD                                                                                                    
04/05/04       (H)       JUD AT 1:00 PM CAPITOL 120                                                                             
04/05/04       (H)       -- Meeting Postponed to Tues. 4/6/04 --                                                                
04/06/04       (H)       JUD AT 1:00 PM CAPITOL 120                                                                             
04/06/04       (H)       Moved CSHB 549(JUD) Out of Committee                                                                   
04/06/04       (H)       MINUTE(JUD)                                                                                            
04/07/04       (H)       JUD RPT CS(JUD) NT 4DP 1NR 1AM                                                                         
04/07/04       (H)       DP: SAMUELS, HOLM, ANDERSON, MCGUIRE;                                                                  
04/07/04       (H)       NR: GARA; AM: OGG                                                                                      
04/21/04       (H)       TRANSMITTED TO (S)                                                                                     
04/21/04       (H)       VERSION: CSHB 549(JUD) AM                                                                              
04/22/04       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
04/22/04       (S)       L&C, JUD                                                                                               
04/27/04       (S)       L&C AT 1:30 PM BELTZ 211                                                                               
04/27/04       (S)       Moved   SCS   CSHB   549(L&C)   Out   of                                                               
                         Committee                                                                                              
04/27/04       (S)       MINUTE(L&C)                                                                                            
05/01/04       (S)       L&C RPT SCS 1DNP 3NR   SAME TITLE                                                                      
05/01/04       (S)       NR: BUNDE, SEEKINS, STEVENS G;                                                                         
05/01/04       (S)       DNP: FRENCH                                                                                            
05/03/04       (S)       JUD AT 8:00 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Vanessa Tondini                                                                                                             
Staff to Representative McGuire                                                                                                 
Alaska State Capitol                                                                                                            
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified for the sponsor of HB 273 and HB
549                                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Representative Mike Chenault                                                                                                    
Alaska State Capitol                                                                                                            
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Sponsor of HB 275                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Sue Wright                                                                                                                      
Staff to Representative Chenault                                                                                                
Alaska State Capitol                                                                                                            
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:  Answered questions about CSHB 275(FIN)                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Ethel Christensen                                                                                                           
Director, Alaska PCA                                                                                                            
No address provided                                                                                                             
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supports CSHB 275(FIN)                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Sally Clampitt                                                                                                              
President                                                                                                                       
Alaska Equine Rescue                                                                                                            
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supports CSHB 275(FIN)                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Representative Tom Anderson                                                                                                     
Alaska State Capitol                                                                                                            
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:  Sponsor of HB 427                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Jim Shine                                                                                                                   
Staff to Representative Anderson                                                                                                
Alaska State Capitol                                                                                                            
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Answered questions about CSHB 427(JUD)                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Jim Parker                                                                                                                  
Assistant Public Advocate                                                                                                       
Office of Public Advocacy                                                                                                       
Department of Administration                                                                                                    
900 W 5th Ave.                                                                                                                  
Anchorage, AK 99501-2090                                                                                                        
POSITION STATEMENT: Supports and answered questions about CSHB
427(JUD)                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Josh Fink                                                                                                                   
Office of Public Advocacy                                                                                                       
Department of Administration                                                                                                    
900 W 5th Ave.                                                                                                                  
Anchorage, AK 99501-2090                                                                                                        
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supports and  answered questions  about CSHB
427(JUD)                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Marcia Davis                                                                                                                
ERA Aviation                                                                                                                    
No address provided                                                                                                             
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supports CSHB 549(JUD)am                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Art Warbelow                                                                                                                
Warbelow Air Adventures                                                                                                         
No address provided                                                                                                             
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supports CSHB 549(JUD)am                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Bruce McGasson                                                                                                              
Grant Aviation                                                                                                                  
No address provided                                                                                                             
POSITION STATEMENT: Supports CSHB 549(JUD)am                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Ed Greager                                                                                                                  
ALG Insurance                                                                                                                   
No address provided                                                                                                             
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supports CSHB 549(JUD)am                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
TAPE 04-59, SIDE A                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  RALPH   SEEKINS  called  the  Senate   Judiciary  Standing                                                             
Committee  meeting  to  order  at   8:17  a.m.  Senators  French,                                                               
Therriault and  Chair Seekins  were present.  The first  order of                                                               
business to come before the committee was HB 273.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
   CSSSHB 273(JUD)am-PARENTS' WAIVER OF CHILD'S SPORTS CLAIM                                                                
                                                                                                                              
MS.  VANESSA  TONDINI,  staff to  Representative  Lesil  McGuire,                                                               
sponsor, explained  that this legislation legally  recognizes the                                                               
right of a parent to waive  a child's claim of negligence against                                                               
a provider  of a  sports or  recreation activity.  She explained,                                                               
"The reason for  this bill - [it]  came about as the  result of a                                                               
recent Colorado Supreme Court case  that they actually refused to                                                               
uphold the right  of a mother of a 17-year  old skier's signature                                                               
on a  release document used  in a juvenile racing  camp program."                                                               
Ever  since   that  decision,  the  outdoor   industry  has  been                                                               
concerned about  the ramifications  that could  result if  such a                                                               
holding were to occur in  Alaska. Representative McGuire believes                                                               
this erroneous  rationale runs contrary  to some  mid-western and                                                               
eastern states, which do find  and hold that parents specifically                                                               
have binding rights to sign  release documents on behalf of their                                                               
minor  children.  To find  differently  would  be detrimental  to                                                               
scouting, athletic and extra-curricular  school programs. A well-                                                               
settled legal  history of recognized  parental rights  over minor                                                               
children exists in the medical  treatment and education arena. To                                                               
not extend the  same logic to recreational  activities is unfair.                                                               
She  also  noted that  the  practical  consequences of  saying  a                                                               
parent's signature  is invalid on  such waivers makes  the waiver                                                               
itself  invalid.   That  could  affect  insurance   coverage,  as                                                               
insurance   providers  might   hesitate  to   cover  recreational                                                               
activity providers.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MS. TONDINI concluded:                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     So we don't  want these programs to go  out of business                                                                    
     or to be operating  illegally. As an outdoor recreation                                                                    
     supported state,  Alaska just  didn't want to  stand by                                                                    
     and watch these types of  results. So it's important to                                                                    
     know that  this bill  would not defeat,  in any  way, a                                                                    
     parent or guardian's  right to sue an  operator that is                                                                    
     not providing  a safe service  or program.  An ordinary                                                                    
     release waiver  only provides  a relief  through causes                                                                    
     of action founded in negligence.  Claims of reckless or                                                                    
     intentional misconduct are never  released in a release                                                                    
     waiver and  this bill also reflects  that. It's crucial                                                                    
     to remember,  with respect to  pre-recreation releases,                                                                    
     these  documents  -  they regard  activities  that  are                                                                    
     totally voluntary in nature and  the personal choice of                                                                    
     the  participant.  If  parents decide  that  a  certain                                                                    
     activity isn't  right for their  child -  too dangerous                                                                    
     or something,  and they don't want  them to participate                                                                    
     in it, they  definitely have that right to  do so. This                                                                    
     bill just  reflects the freedom  of choice  and freedom                                                                    
     of   contract  regarding   these  activities.   So  the                                                                    
     fundamental right  to make choices regarding  a child's                                                                    
     activities is being protected here.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH  asked the current  law in Alaska and  whether the                                                               
Alaska Court  System has made  any recent pronouncements  on this                                                               
subject.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS. TONDINI said the court  has not made any pronouncements. This                                                               
bill is  "sort of a look  into the future." She  pointed out that                                                               
the  Alaska  Court  System scrutinizes  these  types  of  release                                                               
documents  and  is  very  particular   about  making  sure  those                                                               
documents are clear.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH asked  Ms. Tondini to cite some  Alaska cases that                                                               
discuss this concept.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MS. TONDINI  offered to  get back  to Senator  French at  a later                                                               
date. She noted she has a lot of case law from other states.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT  asked if the  release is only for  the sports                                                               
activity  itself   and  not  for  ancillary   services,  such  as                                                               
transportation.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MS.  TONDINI believed  that would  be  left to  the company  that                                                               
designed  the waiver.  This legislation  would cover  a potential                                                               
claim  of negligence  against the  provider of  those activities.                                                               
She was unsure  at what point the provision of  the service would                                                               
begin  and end  but surmised  that would  depend on  the way  the                                                               
services  were  structured.  She   guessed  the  release  of  any                                                               
potential claim  of negligence would begin  whenever the activity                                                               
provided  began, and  that  would  have to  be  specified in  the                                                               
release waiver.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT  asked if  the  waiver  would apply  if,  for                                                               
example, a group  of children was not  properly supervised before                                                               
a game started.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS said  he reads it to say the  waiver is against any                                                               
prospective claim of negligence  against the provider so anything                                                               
in the  package offered  by the provider  would be  covered under                                                               
that waiver.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  FRENCH  thought  the larger  consideration  is  that  in                                                               
Alaska, recreational teams  travel to sporting events.  He said a                                                               
claim could  arise over something  that happened in a  hotel room                                                               
in which  the coach was  somehow involved. He  questioned whether                                                               
the coach would be immune from  all claims of negligence while in                                                               
contact  with the  minors or  only  from claims  that arise  from                                                               
conduct during the sporting event itself.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT   said  most   parents  know   that  sporting                                                               
activities  are inherently  dangerous  but he  doesn't know  that                                                               
parents  should  have   to  worry  about  an   inherent  risk  in                                                               
transporting  students or  their overnight  stays. He  questioned                                                               
whether those things could be separated out.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  TONDINI said  the bill  only covers  providers of  sports or                                                               
recreational activities as defined in AS 09.65.290. She read:                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     Provider  means  a  person   or  a  federal,  state  or                                                                    
     municipal agency  that promotes,  offers or  conducts a                                                                    
     sports  or recreational  activity, whether  for pay  or                                                                    
     otherwise.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
She furthered that sports or  recreational activities are defined                                                               
at length. She said her reading is  that it would only apply to a                                                               
provider of those specific activities  so she felt there would be                                                               
a good  argument that a hotel  owner would not be  covered unless                                                               
the release waiver included the entire trip.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT asked  who the  provider would  be, i.e.  the                                                               
Fairbanks-North Star Little League association.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MS. TONDINI said  yes or the federal, state or  local agency or a                                                               
private agency or individual.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS  thought, if  the  minors  were entrusted  to  the                                                               
coach's  care, a  coach might  be liable  for negligence  but the                                                               
association would not be.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT said  the Little  League association  usually                                                               
covers everything  and questioned whether this  legislation would                                                               
cover everything or just the sporting event.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS thought it would cover everything.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH  expressed interest in narrowing  the bill's focus                                                               
to just the sporting event itself.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS said the first  stage of an insurance policy covers                                                               
all claims  that result  from an  accident of  any kind,  such as                                                               
medical  costs.  Negligence would  be  the  next portion  of  the                                                               
claim.  He   pointed  out  that  any   damages  from  intentional                                                               
misconduct or reckless  behavior are no longer  covered under his                                                               
business's policy. He said he  believes what is happening is that                                                               
many  sports organizations  are having  a difficult  time getting                                                               
coverage because a higher number of  people not only want to make                                                               
sure their  children are  covered for medical  costs but  to also                                                               
get additional damages for negligence.  That is why these waivers                                                               
are more predominant.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH  said the rub  is that insurance companies  do not                                                               
want to cover negligence. He  surmised that the legislation needs                                                               
to  be   as  narrowly  focused  as   possible  because  insurance                                                               
companies will write  a policy based on it the  day it passes and                                                               
will no longer cover negligence and transport.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS felt that sports  providers feel they have too much                                                               
liability and  can't get coverage for  it. He said the  choice is                                                               
that  parents  either  waive  the claim  for  negligence  or  the                                                               
activity  must cease.  He said  the question  is whether  parents                                                               
should  have the  right  to waive  liability  coverage for  their                                                               
children.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT maintained  that the  fact that  the bill  is                                                               
moving through the system is due  to the fact that everyone knows                                                               
that sporting  activities can  be inherently  dangerous. However,                                                               
there  is the  issue  about the  associated  activities, such  as                                                               
transportation and  lodging. He believed that  most parents would                                                               
sign a waiver  knowing their children might get  bruised but most                                                               
would not know that waiver  includes all of the other activities.                                                               
He  said  if  the  transportation  and  lodging  is  a  potential                                                               
problem, he  wants to hear  that, otherwise it is  getting pulled                                                               
along with  the waiver of  liability for the activity  that makes                                                               
sense, yet there is a logical difference between the two.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS  said the basic  overriding question is  whether or                                                               
not a parent can sign an effective waiver.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS. TONDINI said  that is correct and the sponsor  believes it is                                                               
very important to recognize parental  rights in this area. To not                                                               
do  so  would be  inconsistent  with  other recognized  areas  of                                                               
parental rights.  She then  told Senator  French that  the Alaska                                                               
Supreme Court  has heard two  cases on the effectiveness  of pre-                                                               
recreational  releases,  both of  which  were  denied. She  cited                                                               
those cases  and said  in both  of those  cases, the  court found                                                               
neither  release contained  the  words  "negligence" or  "death,"                                                               
which the court is careful to scrutinize for.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS  noted that no  one wished  to testify on  the bill                                                               
and asked the will of the committee.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT  repeated  his  desire to  specify  that  the                                                               
waiver is for a sports activity only.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Members  discussed possible  language  changes  to address  their                                                               
concern.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT offered  to work  with the  legal drafter  to                                                               
confine  the liability  waiver  to the  activity  itself and  not                                                               
include the ancillary services.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS  agreed to bring  the bill  up at the  next meeting                                                               
and announced an at-ease.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
8:40 a.m.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
          CSHB 275(FIN)-ANIMALS AND CRUELTY TO ANIMALS                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MIKE  CHENAULT, sponsor, deferred to  his staff to                                                               
present the bill.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS  noted that he  is the  Vice Chairman of  the State                                                               
Policy Committee  of the American Quarter  Horse Association. One                                                               
of  his duties  is the  continuous evaluation  of animal  cruelty                                                               
laws across the country, particularly as they apply to equines.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MS.  SHARALYN  WRIGHT,  staff to  Representative  Chenault,  told                                                               
members this legislation  is the result of hard work  done on the                                                               
House side  with many participants.  The issue of  animal cruelty                                                               
arose four  years ago after  several incidents of  animal cruelty                                                               
came to  light. This  bill aligns  Alaska law  with laws  in some                                                               
other states.  Current Alaska statute  has very  few applications                                                               
to  animal cruelty  so  prosecuting cases  of  animal cruelty  is                                                               
difficult. It is  not the sponsor's intent  that this legislation                                                               
affect livestock  or dog mushing.  It is the sponsor's  intent to                                                               
stop animal cruelty at its worst.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS took public testimony.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS. CHRIS  HEINZE, a Kenai  Peninsula farmer, stated  support for                                                               
CSHB  275(FIN). She  informed members  that she  has been  taking                                                               
care of unwanted and abused animals  for many years and that many                                                               
people on the  Kenai Peninsula are tired of seeing  the abuse and                                                               
cruelty of animals there.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS. ETHEL CHRISTIANSEN, director and  founder of the Alaska SPCA,                                                               
stated  support  for CSHB  275(FIN)  and  said  it will  be  very                                                               
important for her community.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  SALLY CLAMPITT,  President of  Alaska Equine  Rescue, stated                                                               
strong  support for  CSHB  275(FIN) because  it  is sensible  and                                                               
provides  parameters and  details.  The current  statute is  very                                                               
hard to enforce;  CSHB 275(FIN) will make  prosecution easier for                                                               
the district attorney.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS said  he wants to see a penalty  for abuse put into                                                               
law but  wants to  maintain the ability  to euthanize  an animal.                                                               
This legislation  allows a licensed veterinarian  to make certain                                                               
determinations.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT referred  to the language on page  4, line 29,                                                               
and  expressed  concern  that  some  ethnic  groups  eat  certain                                                               
domesticated animals.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MS.  WRIGHT said  that  the House  Labor  and Commerce  Committee                                                               
inserted that language.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT  felt  the   bill  should  acknowledge  other                                                               
culture's food sources. He then  referred to the language on page                                                               
4, line 28, and asked for an explanation.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS.  WRIGHT  said  that  the  prohibition  against  decompression                                                               
chambers  is current  law because  that  is an  inhumane form  of                                                               
euthanasia.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH referred  to lines 20-21 on page 6  and asked what                                                               
is meant by securing an animal in the back of a vehicle.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS. WRIGHT  said last  year she was  driving on  Kalifonsky Beach                                                               
road when  a dog fell out  of the back  of a truck and  landed in                                                               
front of  her vehicle.  She had  the choice  of having  a head-on                                                               
collision with another  car, hitting the dog, or  swerving into a                                                               
gas station.  She said securing  a dog is  a matter of  tying the                                                               
dog with a short rope or leash inside the back of the truck.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  FRENCH questioned  whether  that  requirement should  be                                                               
restricted  to  highways  or  streets and  not,  for  example,  a                                                               
vehicle driving along a beach.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS agreed with Senator French.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  CHENAULT  pointed  out that  some  municipalities                                                               
have  ordinances  requiring  animals  to  be  secured  inside  of                                                               
vehicles.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS  questioned the language  on lines 18-19 of  page 6                                                               
and said  it would  raise the  hackles of  members of  the Alaska                                                               
Trappers Association.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MS. WRIGHT  said this bill  allows for commercial  or subsistence                                                               
trapping.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH cited lines 25-26 of the same page.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS  said a  person  could  be charged  with  unlawful                                                               
trapping  under that  language so  the person  would be  burdened                                                               
with the defense for lawful trapping.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH agreed.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS  suggested  rewording   that  section  so  that  a                                                               
legitimate trapper would not have to defend himself in court.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT  questioned why  that section was  not written                                                               
to address  people with  the sole purpose  of snaring  a domestic                                                               
animal since trapping a wild animal is allowed.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH suggested the phrase,  "intentionally sets a steel                                                               
jaw, leg  hold snare, spring or  similar trap for the  purpose of                                                               
injuring or killing a dog or cat or domestic animal."                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
TAPE 04-59, SIDE B                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS said that section could be worked on.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH commented  that he agrees with the  purpose of the                                                               
bill and  is interested in  moving it out of  committee, however,                                                               
his only  concern is  that the requirement  to secure  animals in                                                               
the back of pick-up trucks be restricted to highways.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS agreed. He then  referred to the section pertaining                                                               
to  care  of  animals  on  page  1  and  said  that  could  be  a                                                               
potentially inflammatory section depending  on who interprets it.                                                               
He  said  he realizes  the  determination  is  to  be made  by  a                                                               
veterinarian  but said  people's  standards  differ and  although                                                               
some  standards might  be acceptable  from a  health perspective,                                                               
others might  find those standards objectionable.  His concern is                                                               
that if  a police  officer investigates a  case of  animal abuse,                                                               
the police  officer be required to  at least make contact  with a                                                               
veterinarian before any  animals are confiscated so  that a well-                                                               
intentioned  but  overzealous  person  does not  make  the  wrong                                                               
decision.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  CHENAULT  pointed  out   that  to  get  a  search                                                               
warrant, one  must show  probable cause.  The bill  also contains                                                               
the phrase, "if  warranted" so that just because  a complaint was                                                               
filed and a  judge issued a search warrant, an  officer would not                                                               
automatically  have to  take the  animals into  custody. He  said                                                               
although egregious  cases of abuse  are obvious,  police officers                                                               
are not trained in animal cruelty.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS said  he wonders if prior to seizure  of an animal,                                                               
some consultation with  a veterinarian be required.  He felt that                                                               
would make for a better prosecutorial case.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH  thought only the  most egregious cases  would get                                                               
attention because  state troopers must prioritize  their work and                                                               
an animal abuse case may fall low on the list.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  CHENAULT  said  that  is true  but  if  they  are                                                               
required to take a look, he  wants them to make the best decision                                                               
possible.  He said  he  personally  has no  problem  if a  police                                                               
officer makes contact, at a minimum, with a veterinarian.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS said  that is why he is suggesting  that the police                                                               
officer consult with a veterinarian  as soon as possible. He then                                                               
announced that he  would hold the bill for further  review of the                                                               
aforementioned issues.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT  specified those  issues are:  the consumption                                                               
of domesticated animals by certain  cultures; legal trapping; and                                                               
securing a pet in a vehicle.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
The committee took an at-ease from 9:20 a.m. to 9:27 a.m.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
           HB 427-GUARDIANS, CONSERVATORS, OPA, ETC.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  TOM ANDERSON,  sponsor  of HB  427, told  members                                                               
that HB 427  is the result of conversations he  has had with Josh                                                               
Fink of the Office of  Public Advocacy regarding the mistreatment                                                               
of vulnerable adults who receive  services from private guardians                                                               
and conservators.  Mr. Fink felt  it important that Alaska  be in                                                               
parody  with other  states that  have regulatory  and supervisory                                                               
statutes  to prevent  abuse. He  sponsored this  bill in  concert                                                               
with  the  Office  of  Public   Advocacy  and  the  Alaska  State                                                               
Association  for  Guardianship  and  Advocacy,  Adult  Protective                                                               
Services,  the  Long  Term Care  Ombudsman,  the  Disability  Law                                                               
Center, the Senior Advocacy Coalition,  AARP and the Alaska Court                                                               
System.  He  explained  that professional  guardians  and  family                                                               
guardians  provide  services  to  approximately  2,500  disabled,                                                               
vulnerable  adults   in  Alaska.   Under  current   law,  private                                                               
guardians  and  conservators  make  legal,  medical  and  housing                                                               
decisions for those adults and  are completely unregulated by the                                                               
state. Disabled adults are obviously  easy prey for those wishing                                                               
to  exploit their  resources, so  HB 427  would grant  regulatory                                                               
authority over  private guardians and conservators  and establish                                                               
minimum  qualifications and  standards,  which  will help  ensure                                                               
that disabled adults  get the help and care they  deserve. HB 427                                                               
will require  private guardians and conservators  to meet certain                                                               
criteria and to  register with the state.  Private guardians will                                                               
have to be certified by  the National Guardianship Foundation and                                                               
have at least  two years of professional  experience working with                                                               
clients or a  degree in human services,  social work, psychology,                                                               
sociology, special education  or a closely related  field. HB 427                                                               
will  also  require guardians  to  have  experience in  financial                                                               
management or a degree in  accounting. This legislation prohibits                                                               
private guardians from registering  with the state and practicing                                                               
in the state  without a criminal background check.  HB 427 allows                                                               
the  Division  of  Occupational Licensing  to  revoke  a  private                                                               
guardian's license  if the guardian  has abandoned,  neglected or                                                               
exploited  his   or  her  ward   or  has  become  unfit   due  to                                                               
professional incompetence.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR.  JIM SHINE,  staff to  Representative Anderson,  told members                                                               
that  since the  legislature is  under the  24-hour rule,  it has                                                               
been  difficult  to  get  in  touch  with  the  people  who  were                                                               
instrumental in  getting this legislation drafted  but Mr. Parker                                                               
was available to testify via teleconference.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  JIM  PARKER, Assistant  Public  Advocate,  Office of  Public                                                               
Advocacy,  said  he is  a  member  of  the State  Association  of                                                               
Guardianships  and   a  member  of   the  task  force   that  was                                                               
instrumental in drafting this legislation.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS  asked for  an explanation of  the changes  made in                                                               
Version S [CSHB 427(JUD)].                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR.  PARKER stated  that the  House Judiciary  Committee made  no                                                               
major  changes.   One  change,  suggested  by   the  Division  of                                                               
Occupational Licensing,  was to amend  Title 8 rather  than Title                                                               
13  regarding   the  qualifications  of  private   guardians  and                                                               
conservators.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS   asked  for   an  estimate   of  the   number  of                                                               
conservators and guardians in the state.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR.  PARKER said  the  great majority  of  persons appointed  are                                                               
family members.  This bill does not  cover people who are  not in                                                               
the business of providing guardianships or conservatorships.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS asked if a family member would not be regulated.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. PARKER  said that is  correct, although that person  would be                                                               
obligated  to  file  reports  with the  court  and  receive  some                                                               
training.  The State  Association  of  Guardianships has  created                                                               
videotape  for  training  purposes.  Also,  friends  who  act  as                                                               
guardians would not be regulated.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH asked  if, outside the Office  of Public Advocacy,                                                               
there  is a  discrete group  of  people who  act as  professional                                                               
guardians, and if Mr. Parker could estimate that number.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR. PARKER  said about  10 or 12  people in  Southcentral Alaska,                                                               
fewer than optimal.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH  asked if any  of those  people will be  unable to                                                               
continue  to provide  services if  the requirements  of the  bill                                                               
apply.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR.  PARKER  said  he  did  not  believe  the  legislation  would                                                               
disqualify anyone.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH  referred to line 17  on page 2 and  said a person                                                               
cannot be  licensed if convicted  of a  crime within 10  years of                                                               
application. He asked if that would  be 10 years from the date of                                                               
judgment  or  10 years  from  the  date the  probationary  period                                                               
expired.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR.  PARKER  said  it  would  be   10  years  from  the  date  of                                                               
conviction. He  added that  issue was discussed  in the  House. A                                                               
guardian must be  in good standing with  a national organization;                                                               
the only one  that pertains to guardianships at this  time is the                                                               
National  Guardianship Association  (NGA). The  NGA requires  its                                                               
test applicants to have a clean criminal record.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH  said he  mentioned it because  a person  could be                                                               
convicted  of a  serious  offense, get  a  10-year sentence,  but                                                               
become a guardian right after serving that sentence.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR.  PARKER said  the House  Judiciary  Committee discussed  that                                                               
possibility. He  assured Senator French that  the NGA's standards                                                               
are higher  than those in  the bill so  that is not  something to                                                               
worry about.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR   SEEKINS  noted   that   without   further  questions   or                                                               
participants, public testimony was closed.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT  questioned how the Alaska  Court System (ACS)                                                               
can take  on the additional  responsibilities set out on  page 13                                                               
if the  fiscal notes are  zero. He  said it is  his understanding                                                               
that the ACS does not  produce the report required under existing                                                               
statute so this will add to that requirement.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. SHINE told members that Doug  Wooliver played a major role in                                                               
the process  of drafting this bill  but was unable to  attend due                                                               
to a prior  commitment. According to Mr.  Wooliver, CSHB 427(JUD)                                                               
will have no fiscal impact on the ACS.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. JOSH  FINK, Director of  the Office of Public  Advocacy, said                                                               
he does not believe that  requirement will trigger a fiscal note.                                                               
Guardians are  required to file  annual reports and a  visitor to                                                               
the ACS  must file a  report every  third year. The  language [in                                                               
existing statute] is  ambiguous as to whether or  not the visitor                                                               
is to  file a  report annually,  but the  visitor cannot  do that                                                               
without  access to  the information  every year.  The point  of a                                                               
third year review by the visitor  was to give the ACS input about                                                               
how the guardianships  were going, any problems,  and whether any                                                               
clients had improved and no longer needed guardianship services.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT said the language  on page 13, lines 25-27, is                                                               
an  attempt to  clarify the  language  that is  being deleted  on                                                               
lines  27-28.  However,  language  [in  the  previous  paragraph]                                                               
requires the guardian  to submit a report to the  ACS but the ACS                                                               
is not tracking  those reports and nothing is  submitted. He said                                                               
he does  not know whether that  is due to lack  of resources, but                                                               
he would like an  answer as to why the ACS is  willing to take on                                                               
additional responsibility  when it is not  following the existing                                                               
statute. He  then referred to written  correspondence in members'                                                               
packets and asked who Mr. Robert Penzenik represents.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR. SHINE  said he is a  family guardian who lives  in Anchorage.                                                               
He  testified  in support  of  the  bill  before the  House  HESS                                                               
Committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT  asked what Mr. Penzenik's  relationship is to                                                               
the guardianship issue.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR.  SHINE  said  Mr.  Pensenik  is a  family  guardian  for  his                                                               
daughter. He  stated in the  House HESS Committee that  this bill                                                               
will not impact family guardians.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT  asked if he acts  as a guardian in  any other                                                               
arena.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. SHINE said  he works in conjunction  with another conservator                                                               
for other minors.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  ANDERSON  expressed  concern  that  Mr.  Wooliver                                                               
could not answer members' questions.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS  stated  that Senate  President  Therriault  could                                                               
determine  whether this  legislation  should be  waived from  the                                                               
Senate  Finance  Committee. He  noted  the  chair of  the  Senate                                                               
Finance Committee will  have to be convinced that  this bill will                                                               
have no fiscal impact before agreeing to waive the bill.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH asked if guardians will pay a fee for licensure.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. SHINE thought the fee would be $100 biennially.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON  noted the  fee would  cover the  cost of                                                               
licensure by the Division of Occupational Licensing.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  FRENCH said  the fiscal  note is  unclear as  to whether                                                               
licensees will pay $100 or $450.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS  indicated the Senate  Finance Committee  will want                                                               
an answer to that question before agreeing to waive the bill.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON agreed to  get answers to those questions                                                               
and  distribute  them  to Senate  Judiciary  and  Senate  Finance                                                               
members.  If  the  Senate  Finance   Committee  members  are  not                                                               
satisfied with those  answers, he will not request  that the bill                                                               
be waived from that committee.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THERRIAULT  asked that the  bill be held in  committee to                                                               
give him time to talk to Mr. Wooliver.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS  agreed and  said he  would schedule  several bills                                                               
that are being held over to the next day.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
    CSHB 549(JUD)am-UNSOLICITED COMMUNICATION:AIRCRAFT CRASH                                                                
                                                                                                                              
MS. VANESSA TONDINI, staff to  Representative McGuire, sponsor of                                                               
HB  549,  told  members  this bill  prohibits  an  attorney  from                                                               
contacting passengers  or their families  in the aftermath  of an                                                               
aviation  accident for  45  days. She  noted  that attorneys  are                                                               
bound by  rules of professional  conduct; Rule 7.3  is applicable                                                               
to this type of conduct. That rule states:                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     Attorneys  shall  not  solicit  by in  person  or  live                                                                    
     telephone   contact    special   employment    from   a                                                                    
     prospective client, with whom  the lawyer has no family                                                                    
     or prior  professional relationship when  a significant                                                                    
     motive  for  the  lawyer's doing  so  is  the  lawyer's                                                                    
     pecuniary gain.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
She  explained the  reason behind  Rule 7.3  is that  prospective                                                               
clients  who are  feeling overwhelmed  may find  it difficult  to                                                               
evaluate  all  alternatives  with   reasoned  judgment  after  an                                                               
accident. Those  situations are fraught  with the  possibility of                                                               
undue influence  or intimidation.  However, even though  Rule 7.3                                                               
has  been in  place  for some  time, it  has  not controlled  the                                                               
"feeding  frenzy" that  takes  place in  the  aftermath of  awful                                                               
accidents. The  federal government  tried to correct  the problem                                                               
by passing  the Aviation  Disaster and  Family Assistance  Act in                                                               
1996.  That  law  mandated that  air  carriers  provide  specific                                                               
support to  families of  those injured  or killed  and prohibited                                                               
unsolicited contact  by attorneys for  30 days. In 2000  that law                                                               
was  amended to  expand the  scope to  include associate  agents,                                                               
employees, or other representatives  of attorneys and it expanded                                                               
the time  frame to 45 days.  She pointed out that  enforcement of                                                               
the federal  law requires action  by the Civil  Aeronautics Board                                                               
or  the U.S.  Attorney General.  The penalty  for a  violation is                                                               
close to  a $1,000  fine. Currently,  little enforcement  of this                                                               
law takes  place and  there is debate  about whether  the federal                                                               
law  is enforceable  against attorneys  who violate  it regarding                                                               
accidents  that  happen  entirely   within  Alaska.  She  thought                                                               
everyone would agree that passengers  and their families are very                                                               
vulnerable  to  pressure  by  others   in  the  aftermath  of  an                                                               
accident, especially in  rural Alaska. She pointed  out that this                                                               
bill will apply  only to flights that take  place entirely inside                                                               
of Alaska.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS. TONDINI  indicated that CSHB  549(JUD)am merely  codifies the                                                               
federal  law  except  that  a  reference  to  the  air  carrier's                                                               
attorney has been  added to make it clear that  all attorneys are                                                               
to   refrain  from   making  contact.   The   main  reason   that                                                               
Representative McGuire  included a criminal sanction  in the bill                                                               
is  because  she   felt  a  civil  financial   penalty  would  be                                                               
inadequate because  the contingency  fees for  representing these                                                               
clients are  high. In addition,  people are hesitant to  file bar                                                               
complaints against their  neighbors in small towns,  just as they                                                               
would be  hesitant to file a  civil claim.  Also,  the Alaska Bar                                                               
Association will take  notice of a criminal case. The  crime is a                                                               
class A  misdemeanor with  a fine of  $100,000 or  the attorney's                                                               
legal fee, whichever is greater.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
TAPE 04-60, SIDE A                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS. TONDINI further explained that  CSHB 549(JUD)am only prevents                                                               
attorneys  from making  initial  contact; a  client can  initiate                                                               
contact at any time.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
10:00 a.m.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS  asked if the  definition of an  "attorney" include                                                               
an agent or representative of an attorney.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS. TONDINI  said it does on  page 1, line 10,  and in subsection                                                               
(b).                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS  said  he  wanted   it  on  the  record  that  the                                                               
definition of  attorney extends  to anyone  who is  soliciting on                                                               
the attorney's behalf as well. He then took public testimony.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS.  MARCIA   DAVIS,  ERA  Aviation,  stated   support  for  CSHB
549(JUD)am.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH  asked Ms. Davis if  she has ever settled  a claim                                                               
that happened on an ERA flight and, if so, when.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MS. DAVIS said ERA has settled.  When ERA is contacted by someone                                                               
who claims to  have suffered an injury during a  flight, ERA asks                                                               
the person  to submit medical  bills, which it  pays immediately.                                                               
If  the person  asks for  extraneous damages,  such as  lost work                                                               
time, ERA  pays those as  well if they seem  reasonable. However,                                                               
if ERA  believes the person  is trying  to take advantage  of the                                                               
situation,  ERA  tries  to  settle   those  cases  fairly,  which                                                               
sometimes  involves offering  additional air  transportation. She                                                               
said she  cannot think of  any cases  in which the  passenger was                                                               
dissatisfied with  how the claim  was resolved when ERA  was able                                                               
to  deal with  the  claim directly.  However,  in instances,  for                                                               
example, where a person had a  bumpy flight out of Bethel and had                                                               
an attorney write a letter,  those situations have not gone well,                                                               
primarily because  the individual did  not intend to sue  but was                                                               
encountered by a lawyer. Individuals have admitted that.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR.  ART WARBELOW,  Warbelow Air  Adventures,  stated support  of                                                               
CSHB 549(JUD)am.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR.  BRUCE  McGASSON, Grant  Aviation,  stated  support for  CSHB
549(JUD)am.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.   ED  GRAEGER,   ALG  Insurance,   stated  support   of  CSHB
549(JUD)am.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR OGAN asked  if people who got a bruise  on a bumpy flight                                                               
actually file claims.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR. GRAEGER replied:                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     Unfortunately, what we do  see is attorney solicitation                                                                    
     of  claims for  very minor  injuries and  that's what's                                                                    
     part  of eating  into capacity  and cost  for providing                                                                    
     liability  coverage for  the  various  air carriers  in                                                                    
     Alaska  is  that  minor  matters  are  getting  pursued                                                                    
     aggressively  by counsel  and it  affects, over  a long                                                                    
     period of time, the  costs of providing perhaps, larger                                                                    
     limits  for people  who are  more  deserving with  more                                                                    
     serious injuries. So, our interest  in this is to avoid                                                                    
     unnecessary  solicitation  of  minor  matters  so  that                                                                    
     greater capacity  can be available  to respond  to more                                                                    
     serious injuries.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
He told members  ALG Insurance covers the full  gamut of aviation                                                               
carriers.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH  asked Ms. Tondini  if the attorney  general would                                                               
be nervous about filing a civil complaint against a lawyer.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS. TONDINI  said she does not  know that "nervous" is  the right                                                               
word  but she  does not  believe civil  suits would  be filed  as                                                               
aggressively  as criminal  suits  would be.    She said  everyone                                                               
agrees  such  conduct on  an  attorney's  part  is wrong  so  the                                                               
penalty in the bill is strong enough to be worth enforcement.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH noted  that he asked, at a prior  hearing, to hear                                                               
from people who have been harassed by attorneys.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MS. TONDINI  deferred to the aviation  representatives to discuss                                                               
some of  those situations, however  they would not  release names                                                               
to her because of privacy concerns.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MS. DAVIS  related a current case  in which a nose  wheel snapped                                                               
off on a  landing outside of Bethel. Although no  one was injured                                                               
at the scene,  all passengers were brought to  Bethel for medical                                                               
care  as a  safety precaution.  ERA offered  the passengers  free                                                               
tickets.  A  passenger  told  an   ERA  employee  that  a  lawyer                                                               
contacted  him and  a friend  afterward. The  passenger told  the                                                               
lawyer he had  no intention of suing but the  friend succumbed to                                                               
pressure from the lawyer and is  now pursuing a claim for damages                                                               
for emotional trauma.  She said it is difficult to  get people to                                                               
talk about  their neighbors  who are  sometimes the  lawyers. She                                                               
noted that ERA  does not file bar complaints because  that is one                                                               
of the  last things  it would want  to do while  in the  midst of                                                               
litigation and trying  to settle. In addition,  it is problematic                                                               
from a public relations aspect.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS noted that he  would hold CSHB 549(JUD)am until the                                                               
next day and adjourned the meeting at 10:13 a.m.                                                                                

Document Name Date/Time Subjects