Legislature(2001 - 2002)

04/09/2002 01:34 PM TRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                    
                 SENATE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE                                                                              
                          April 9, 2002                                                                                         
                            1:34 p.m.                                                                                           
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator John Cowdery, Chair                                                                                                     
Senator Jerry Ward, Vice Chair                                                                                                  
Senator Robin Taylor                                                                                                            
Senator Gary Wilken                                                                                                             
Senator Kim Elton                                                                                                               
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
All Members Present                                                                                                             
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
SENATE BILL NO. 358                                                                                                             
"An Act naming state ferries."                                                                                                  
     MOVED SB 358 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                              
SPONSOR SUBSTITUTE FOR SENATE BILL NO. 100                                                                                      
"An Act relating to regulation and operation of electric personal                                                               
motor vehicles and to vehicle registration."                                                                                    
     MOVED CSSSSB 100 (TRA) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                    
HOUSE BILL NO. 405                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to the prosecution of criminal offenses                                                                        
committed on or against ferries and other watercraft owned or                                                                   
operated by the state; and providing for an effective date."                                                                    
     MOVED HB 405 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                              
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
SB 358 - No previous action to record.                                                                                          
SB 100 - See Transportation minutes dated 3/13/01.                                                                              
HB 405 - No previous action to record.                                                                                          
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
Kelly Huber                                                                                                                     
Staff to Senate President Rick Halford                                                                                          
State Capitol, Rm 111                                                                                                           
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified for  the sponsor of SB 358 and SSSB
Mr. Dennis Harris                                                                                                               
PO Box 21214                                                                                                                    
Juneau, AK  99802                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Opposed to SB 100                                                                                        
Mr. Dennis Poshard                                                                                                              
Department of Transportation &                                                                                                  
  Public Facilities                                                                                                             
3132 Channel Dr.                                                                                                                
Juneau, AK  99801-7898                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:   Stated  no position on  SB 100  but answered                                                            
Ms. Mary Marshburn                                                                                                              
Division of Motor Vehicles                                                                                                      
Department of Administration                                                                                                    
PO Box 110200                                                                                                                   
Juneau, AK  99811-0200                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:  Discussed technical problems with SB 100                                                                 
Representative Kevin Meyer                                                                                                      
Alaska State Capitol                                                                                                            
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:  Sponsor of HB 405                                                                                        
Ms. Anne Carpeneti                                                                                                              
Department of Law                                                                                                               
PO Box 110300                                                                                                                   
Juneau, AK  99811-0300                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:  Supports HB 405                                                                                          
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
TAPE 02-14, SIDE A                                                                                                            
CHAIRMAN JOHN  COWDERY called the Senate Transportation  Committee                                                            
meeting to order at 1:34 p.m.  Present  were Senator Ward, Senator                                                              
Elton,  Senator  Wilken  and  Chairman   Cowdery.  Senator  Taylor                                                              
arrived at  1:39 p.m.   The first  order of  business was  SB 358,                                                              
followed by SB 100 and HB 405.                                                                                                  
                   SB 358-NAMING STATE FERRIES                                                                              
CHAIRMAN  COWDERY  said  he  did   not  know  if  members  had  an                                                              
opportunity to read the packet and  noted that school children did                                                              
a good  job writing  essays for the  contest.   One winner  of the                                                              
contest selected  the name "Fairweather."  Wesley  Tyrrell's essay                                                              
contained a pretty good analogy.   "Chenega" was the other winning                                                              
name.   That ferry will  be named after  the Chenega Glacier.   SB
358 is a piece of legislation to make those choices legal.                                                                      
MS.  KELLY  HUBER,   staff  to  Senate  President   Rick  Halford,                                                              
explained  the  bill  was  introduced  through  the  Senate  Rules                                                              
Committee  as a  formality.   Senate President  Halford and  House                                                              
Speaker Porter, as  well as Lieutenant Governor  Ulmer, judged the                                                              
contest.  To make the process legal  and name the next two ferries                                                              
on the  production line "Fairweather"  and "Chenega," a  bill must                                                              
go through the legislative process  and be signed by the Governor.                                                              
MS. HUBER informed  the committee that many very  good essays were                                                              
submitted.   The  essays were  interesting and  children from  all                                                              
over the state participated.                                                                                                    
CHAIRMAN COWDERY said  he had a chance to read the  essays and was                                                              
very impressed.   He asked  if there  was anyone else  to testify.                                                              
[No response.]                                                                                                                  
SENATOR  WARD   moved  SB  358  from  committee   with  individual                                                              
recommendations.  There being no objection, the motion carried.                                                                 
          SB 100-PERSONAL MOTOR VEHICLES/ REGISTRATION                                                                      
MS. KELLY  HUBER, staff  to Senator  Halford,  sponsor of SB  100,                                                              
informed  members  that a  proposed  committee substitute  was  in                                                              
members'  packets.  She  noted  the  sponsor  has  requested  that                                                              
members  adopt  the proposed  committee  substitute  and that  she                                                              
would address that version (Version  L). She described the bill as                                                              
This bill was introduced because  of new technology. A new device,                                                              
called the electric  personal motor vehicle assistive  device, was                                                              
unveiled in the fall of 2001. It  is a clean fuel, quiet, upright,                                                              
two-wheel  tandem device  that  can  travel at  15  mph, that  was                                                              
designed for use  in pedestrian areas. Senator  Halford introduced                                                              
this legislation  to make sure that  use of those vehicles  is not                                                              
prohibited in certain areas and so  that registration licensure is                                                              
not required. The proposed committee  substitute addresses changes                                                              
in  statute  concerning  farm  and   construction  vehicles.  That                                                              
provision was removed  from Version L. Another  provision that was                                                              
removed  from  Version  L  prohibited   departments  from  writing                                                              
regulations   concerning  the  assistive   mobility  device.   The                                                              
departments  will be  able to  write regulations  but they  cannot                                                              
prohibit  use   of  the   device.  She   said  she  believes   the                                                              
Administration supports the legislation.                                                                                        
CHAIRMAN  COWDERY  asked  if  the   legislation  also  applies  to                                                              
electric wheelchairs.                                                                                                           
MS.  HUBER  said she  does  not  believe  there are  any  problems                                                              
associated  with  electric  wheelchairs  right  now.  The  sponsor                                                              
statement  refers to  wheelchairs as  an example  of an  assistive                                                              
mobility device  that is useful to  senior citizens. She  said the                                                              
sponsor wants  the electric personal  motor vehicle to  be treated                                                              
similar to  an electric wheelchair  rather than any other  type of                                                              
CHAIRMAN COWDERY asked  if the electric personal  motor vehicle is                                                              
a two-wheeled vehicle.                                                                                                          
MS. HUBER said it is and that the rider stands on it.                                                                           
CHAIRMAN COWDERY noted the presence of Senator Taylor.                                                                          
There  being no  further questions,  SENATOR WARD  moved to  adopt                                                              
Version L of SSSB 100 as the working document of the committee.                                                                 
CHAIRMAN COWDERY  announced that without objection,  Version L was                                                              
SENATOR  ELTON asked  Ms. Huber if  enactment  of this bill  would                                                              
preclude  any  municipality  from  regulating  the  use  of  these                                                              
devices on city sidewalks.                                                                                                      
MS. HUBER  said the  bill does not  contain a municipal  exemption                                                              
area, based  on the  idea that  this technology  is new  and there                                                              
will not  be many  of these devices  on the  streets for  a while.                                                              
Should an  issue arise later  on, the  matter can be  addressed at                                                              
that time.                                                                                                                      
SENATOR ELTON  said he hates to  sound like the  only conservative                                                              
in the room,  but it seems to  him that the legislature  would not                                                              
want  government  to mandate  rules  until  a problem  arises.  He                                                              
stated, "That  almost seems  backward to me  - that you're  saying                                                              
well, there may  or may not be a problem but we're  going to allow                                                              
it anyway." He said his concern is  that negotiating the sidewalks                                                              
in downtown  Juneau during  the cruise  ship season is  difficult.                                                              
Juneau  has  banned  the  use of  skateboards  on  sidewalks.  The                                                              
electric personal  motor vehicles travel five times  faster than a                                                              
normal person  walks and probably  10 times faster than  a tourist                                                              
ambles  through the  community. He  repeated that  he is having  a                                                              
difficult time with the concept that  state government is going to                                                              
tell  communities  how to  regulate  traffic in  highly  congested                                                              
MS. HUBER  responded that  it is not  that the sponsor  disagrees,                                                              
but he  does not foresee  any problems  at this time.  She pointed                                                              
out that electric wheelchairs travel on sidewalks.                                                                              
SENATOR   ELTON  said   if,   in  fact,   there   is  a   problem,                                                              
municipalities  will have to  come to  the legislature  to request                                                              
that  the statute  be  amended  so that  they  can  deal with  the                                                              
CHAIRMAN  COWDERY  asked  if  the   state  has  jurisdiction  over                                                              
municipal rights-of-way.                                                                                                        
SENATOR TAYLOR said  it does. He asked if electric  personal motor                                                              
vehicles could travel on bike paths  and whether the sponsor would                                                              
object to a friendly  amendment allowing snow machines  to use the                                                              
bike paths also.                                                                                                                
MS. HUBER said they would be allowed to travel on bike paths.                                                                   
CHAIRMAN COWDERY took public testimony.                                                                                         
MR.  DENNIS HARRIS  informed members  that  he is  very active  in                                                              
Juneau's  cycling  community.  He  is very  concerned  about  this                                                              
legislation for several reasons,  one being that there are already                                                              
many  conflicts on  multiple-use  paths. Those  paths are  already                                                              
congested, particularly  sidewalks in downtown Juneau.  He pointed                                                              
out there  is a  good reason  why state  law and  most city  codes                                                              
don't allow  the use of  bicycles on  sidewalks by anyone  over 12                                                              
years old  - because bicycles  move at  a much greater  speed than                                                              
pedestrians; the same reason skateboards  are prohibited in a good                                                              
part of  the downtown area  of Juneau.   Many elderly  people with                                                              
osteoporosis  fear bicycles and  skateboards on sidewalks  because                                                              
if  they fall,  their  injuries  are slow  to  heal.  He said  his                                                              
biggest concern about  this bill is that the first  orders will be                                                              
delivered to businesses  such as UPS and FedEx  for commercial use                                                              
in the next six  months. The manufacturer does not  expect them to                                                              
be in general use  for at least two years and  the manufacturer is                                                              
engaged in  a giant lobbying effort  across the country  to exempt                                                              
these vehicles from regulation. He stated:                                                                                      
     That's  what  this  bill  does  and  it's  wrong.  Quite                                                                   
     frankly,  we should  allow  some experience  with  these                                                                   
     vehicles before we decide what  kind of regulation to do                                                                   
     but  in  my opinion  they  should  not  be -  this  bill                                                                   
     essentially prohibits cities  from prohibiting their use                                                                   
     on  a sidewalk.  I can  just see  the situation  between                                                                   
     here and the  Governor's Mansion on Calhoun  Avenue - on                                                                   
     that very narrow  sidewalk - where someone  is trying to                                                                   
     zip along and get to work on  their segue at 15 miles an                                                                   
     hour and  it's crowded with  pedestrians in  the morning                                                                   
     trying to walk to work and there's  heavy traffic in the                                                                   
     street. This  is just not a  good idea. I think  we need                                                                   
     to  wait and see  what kind  of experience  we can  have                                                                   
     with these vehicles.                                                                                                       
MR. HARRIS said his other concern  is that people are not aware of                                                              
the mass  of these vehicles. They  weigh 80 pounds and  can travel                                                              
at  20 mph.  The delivery  devices  will be  set at  12.5 mph.  He                                                              
expressed concern  that the  promotion of  these devices  has been                                                              
disingenuous because  they are referred  to as personal  assistive                                                              
mobility  devices, which  sounds  like something  for  use by  the                                                              
handicapped.  However, they  will  not work  for many  handicapped                                                              
people  because  passengers  must  stand  to ride  them.  He  also                                                              
expressed  concern that  this bill  will take  away local  control                                                              
over  these devices.  He  indicated that  most  bicycle paths  and                                                              
pedestrian walkways alongside federal  aid highways in Alaska were                                                              
financed  by a federal  law.   Under that  federal law,  this bill                                                              
would not  be legal because the  federal law prohibits the  use of                                                              
any kind of motorized device on a  sidewalk or pedestrian way that                                                              
was  built with  federal aid  dollars.  He offered  to submit  the                                                              
correct citation to members.                                                                                                    
CHAIRMAN  COWDERY asked  Mr.  Harris to  describe  a multiple  use                                                              
MR. HARRIS  said that  multiple use paths  were designed  for non-                                                              
motorized use,  which is what is  stated in federal law.  He added                                                              
that in  doing research for a  proposed Juneau ordinance  to allow                                                              
the use  of motorized skooters, he  found they were  prohibited by                                                              
the same  federal law.  He urged  members to  move slowly  on this                                                              
legislation  as it  needs further  research,  particularly in  the                                                              
pedestrian conflict area.                                                                                                       
SENATOR  TAYLOR  pointed  out  that,   according  to  the  sponsor                                                              
statement,  "the National  Highway  Traffic Safety  Administration                                                              
ruled this device  is not a motor vehicle and should  not be under                                                              
their  jurisdiction." He  also  pointed out  that  12 states  have                                                              
enacted similar legislation.                                                                                                    
MR. HARRIS  said as far as he  is aware, the only activity  at the                                                              
federal level regarding  use of these devices is  a bill sponsored                                                              
by  Senator Bob  Smith  of New  Hampshire.  He said  use of  these                                                              
devices is  still prohibited by the  U.S. Code unless it  has been                                                              
changed in  the last six  months and  that maybe those  states are                                                              
ignoring the  federal law. He  repeated the manufacturer  has made                                                              
an aggressive lobbying effort in  every state. He said he believes                                                              
they  could  be  a great  idea  for  commercial  use  for  package                                                              
delivery as long as the vehicles are not running on sidewalks.                                                                  
MR.  DENNIS  POSHARD,  Special  Assistant  at  the  Department  of                                                              
Transportation  and Public Facilities  (DOTPF), told  members that                                                              
DOTPF has  taken no position on  this bill. He clarified  that the                                                              
National Highway  Traffic Safety Administration has  made a ruling                                                              
that  classifies   this  particular  device  as   a  non-motorized                                                              
vehicle. He  pointed out  that Section 1  of this bill  applies to                                                              
the state and  says that regulations adopted may  not prohibit the                                                              
use of  an electric personal  motor vehicle; however,  DOTPF could                                                              
adopt  regulations  that limit  their  use.  He assumed  the  same                                                              
provisions  under the Alaska  Uniform Traffic  Act would  apply to                                                              
local  governments so  they  could regulate  the  use of  electric                                                              
personal vehicles but not prohibit their use.                                                                                   
SENATOR ELTON asked if he is correct  in assuming that the city of                                                              
Juneau could  not prohibit the  use of electric  personal vehicles                                                              
on sidewalks in the core downtown  area during the tourist season.                                                              
MR. POSHARD  said he is  not qualified  to make a legal  analysis,                                                              
but his initial  reaction is that  a local government may  be able                                                              
to further  restrict  them. He is  aware of  certain traffic  laws                                                              
that local  governments have  adopted, particularly  in Anchorage,                                                              
that  are more  restrictive than  those contained  in the  state's                                                              
Uniform Traffic Act.  He did not know whether any  local laws have                                                              
been challenged.  He said the  Department of Law  recently pointed                                                              
out that Sec.  28.01.010 of the Alaska Uniform  Traffic Act reads,                                                              
"The provisions  of this title  and the regulations  adopted under                                                              
this  title  are  applicable within  all  municipalities  of  this                                                              
state."  He indicated  that could  be  legally interpreted  either                                                              
CHAIRMAN  COWDERY asked  Mr. Poshard  if he was  referring  to the                                                              
restriction  on  truck  routes  in   Anchorage  and  whether  that                                                              
restriction  was made  because  certain roads  were  not built  to                                                              
withstand heavy truck traffic.                                                                                                  
MR. POSHARD  said he believes  that is  true but noted  that other                                                              
provisions adopted  by the local government in  Anchorage are more                                                              
restrictive than the Uniform Traffic Act.                                                                                       
SENATOR TAYLOR said one could shoot  a cannon down the main street                                                              
of Wrangell  in the summer  and not hurt  anyone. He  suggested if                                                              
pedestrian traffic is a problem in  Juneau in the summertime, that                                                              
some of the pedestrians be sent to other communities.                                                                           
CHAIRMAN COWDERY continued to take public testimony.                                                                            
MS. MARY  MARSHBURN, Director  of the  Division of Motor  Vehicles                                                              
(DMV)  in  the Department  of  Administration,  said  she  assumes                                                              
members  are aware  of a  glitch in  current law  that requires  a                                                              
driver's  license to  operate a  snow  machine and  HB 397,  which                                                              
seeks to  fix that  glitch for  snow machines  and other  vehicles                                                              
that are not  designed for road use. She noted  that under current                                                              
law,  electronic  personal  vehicles  would be  defined  as  motor                                                              
vehicles and  because they do  not meet federal  safety standards,                                                              
they could  not be used  on the roadway.  Passage of HB  397 would                                                              
resolve that problem.                                                                                                           
CHAIRMAN  COWDERY asked  if any  licensing  requirements apply  to                                                              
MS. MARSHBURN said none do.                                                                                                     
SENATOR  WARD  asked Ms.  Marshburn  if  it  is her  opinion  that                                                              
drivers' licenses would be required  to drive an electric personal                                                              
motor vehicle.                                                                                                                  
MS.  MARSHBURN  replied,  "Mr. Chairman,  very,  very  technically                                                              
because of a glitch in the law, yes."                                                                                           
SENATOR WARD  said her  interpretation is  different than  his. He                                                              
asked her  to forward her opinion  to the committee in  writing so                                                              
that he could take a closer look at the issue.                                                                                  
CHAIRMAN  COWDERY asked  Ms. Marshburn  if she  would consider  an                                                              
electric personal motor vehicle to be a motor vehicle.                                                                          
MS. MARSHBURN  said they  are motor  vehicles by state  definition                                                              
because they are self-propelled devices.  Because they do not meet                                                              
the federal  safety equipment standards  required under  13AAC 04,                                                              
they cannot be operated on a roadway.                                                                                           
SENATOR  WARD asked  Ms.  Marshburn  if she  has  read the  latest                                                              
committee substitute (Version L)  and whether it is her impression                                                              
that this version  will allow electric personal  motor vehicles to                                                              
be operated on roadways.                                                                                                        
MS. MARSHBURN said she has the original bill.                                                                                   
SENATOR WARD  said a previous  witness mentioned  skateboards with                                                              
motors and asked if DMV requires skateboards to be licensed.                                                                    
MS. MARSHBURN said DMV does not.                                                                                                
SENATOR WARD asked why not.                                                                                                     
MS.  MARSHBURN  said a  motorized  skateboard  does not  meet  the                                                              
definition of a motor vehicle.                                                                                                  
SENATOR  WARD asked  if an  electric personal  motor vehicle  does                                                              
even though the federal government has ruled otherwise.                                                                         
MS. MARSHBURN said  that is correct. It is her  understanding that                                                              
the National  Highway Traffic Safety Administration  makes rulings                                                              
based on  the role that agency  will play in developing  standards                                                              
for vehicles.  The rulings have nothing  to do with  the operation                                                              
of the vehicles.                                                                                                                
SENATOR WARD asked why a skateboard  with a small gas engine and a                                                              
steering  device  would  not  be considered  to  be  a  licensable                                                              
vehicle while an electric personal motor vehicle would be.                                                                      
MS. MARSHBURN  said she did not  know that she could  give Senator                                                              
Ward an  answer to the  technicalities. She  stated, "And  I would                                                              
emphasize   -   you   know,  emphasize,   that   in   the   strict                                                              
interpretation of  the definition of  motor vehicle is  what we're                                                              
talking  about for  the segue  or the  IT just  as it  was a  very                                                              
strict interpretation  of the driver license law,  which said it's                                                              
required for a snow machine. That  certainly was not the intent of                                                              
the law."  She pointed  out this  refers to  a vehicle license  as                                                              
opposed to a driver license.                                                                                                    
CHAIRMAN  COWDERY  said  he believes  Senator  Ward  is  concerned                                                              
because Mr.  Poshard just said  that an electronic  personal motor                                                              
vehicle is not considered to be a  motor vehicle under the federal                                                              
guidelines. He  asked Ms.  Marshburn if she  has actually  seen an                                                              
electronic personal motor vehicle.                                                                                              
MS. MARSHBURN said she has seen pictures of them.                                                                               
SENATOR WARD asked Ms. Marshburn  to send a written explanation to                                                              
members of how she arrived at her  opinion that a driver's license                                                              
would be required to operate an electric personal motor vehicle.                                                                
MS. MARSHBURN agreed to do so.                                                                                                  
There  being  no  further testimony,  SENATOR  WARD  moved  CSSSSB
100(TRA) from committee with individual recommendations.                                                                        
SENATOR ELTON  objected for the  purpose of addressing  a proposed                                                              
amendment.  He  proposed  that  on  page  1,  line  12,  following                                                              
"personal  motor  vehicle  on  a,"  the  words  "state  owned  and                                                              
maintained"  be inserted.  He explained  with  that amendment  the                                                              
state  could  mandate that  electric  personal  motorized  devices                                                              
could be used  on state sidewalks, vehicular ways  and bike paths,                                                              
but it would  preserve the point of view that  the best government                                                              
is  the  government   closest  to  the  people   and  allow  local                                                              
governments to implement their own rules.                                                                                       
SENATOR WARD objected.                                                                                                          
SENATOR TAYLOR said  he was taken with Mr. Harris's  testimony, as                                                              
he believes these vehicles will be  difficult to navigate. He said                                                              
he does not  know that Senator Elton's amendment  accomplishes his                                                              
goal  because  he   does  not  know  that  the   state  does  much                                                              
maintenance on any of those paths.                                                                                              
MS. HUBER  said she  understands Senator  Elton's intent,  but she                                                              
believes  his amendment  would  be  difficult to  enforce  because                                                              
state  roads are  within  cities and  could  cause confusion.  She                                                              
asked the Chairman  if he would be willing to hold  the bill until                                                              
Thursday so  that she could work  with members on a  local option.                                                              
She  said she  would  also look  at what  other  states that  have                                                              
passed similar legislation have done.                                                                                           
SENATOR ELTON said that would be great.                                                                                         
CHAIRMAN  COWDERY  said  the  committee  has a  full  calendar  on                                                              
Thursday so he will reschedule it on Thursday or Tuesday.                                                                       
SENATOR WARD  reminded the  Chairman that his  motion to  move the                                                              
bill from  committee was  still active. He  said he does  not want                                                              
the Anchorage coastal trail exempted from this bill.                                                                            
SENATOR ELTON stated,  "Mr. Chair, what I would suggest  is that I                                                              
don't have  a problem with  that - I  think it's very  generous of                                                              
the sponsor's office  to make the offer and if, in  fact, we can't                                                              
come to some kind of an agreement,  I might vote against moving it                                                              
but I  certainly wouldn't try  to get in the  way of moving  it. I                                                              
would  think  that moving  the  bill,  either  amended or  in  its                                                              
present form, will take a matter  of less than a minute." He noted                                                              
he maintained his objection.                                                                                                    
SENATOR  WARD repeated  his motion  to move  CSSSSB 100(TRA)  from                                                              
committee with individual recommendations.                                                                                      
SENATOR ELTON objected  and said this bill imposes  big government                                                              
rules that  the municipalities  will have to  live under.  He said                                                              
electric personal  motor vehicles  would create  a big  problem in                                                              
his community.                                                                                                                  
SENATOR  WARD   stated  this  legislation  says   that  electronic                                                              
personal  motor vehicles  cannot be  prohibited; it  does not  say                                                              
they cannot be regulated.                                                                                                       
CHAIRMAN COWDERY announced the motion  carried with Senators Ward,                                                              
Taylor and Cowdery in favor and Senator Elton opposed.                                                                          
SENATOR  TAYLOR noted  for  the record  that  he  would work  with                                                              
Senator Elton and the sponsor's staff to try to create a local                                                                  
SENATOR WARD said he would do likewise.                                                                                         
The committee took up HB 405.                                                                                                   
        HB 405-CRIMES ON OR AGAINST STATE VESSELS/PLANES                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MEYER, sponsor of HB 405, gave the following                                                               
summary of the legislation.                                                                                                     
     HB  405 gives  the  state  jurisdiction over  our  state                                                                   
     owned  watercraft  including   our  watercraft  that  is                                                                   
     outside of state waters.                                                                                                   
     Recently   a   Superior  Court   judge   dismissed   the                                                                   
     prosecution  for a sexual assault  that occurred  on one                                                                   
     of  our  Alaska  state-owned  ferries while  it  was  in                                                                   
     Canadian waters.                                                                                                           
     Last year  a young woman who  was only 16 years  old was                                                                   
     sexually assaulted  while she  was on the Alaska  ferry,                                                                   
     Matanuska,  en  route  from Seattle  to  Ketchikan.  The                                                                   
     ferry  was  in  Canadian  waters  at  the  time  of  the                                                                   
     assault.  The district attorney  in Ketchikan  presented                                                                   
     the case  to the  grand jury there,  and the grand  jury                                                                   
     returned an  indictment of one  count of sexual  assault                                                                   
     in the first degree, one count  of sexual assault in the                                                                   
     second degree, and four counts of misdemeanor assault.                                                                     
     Unfortunately, Mr. Chairman,  the court found that there                                                                   
     was no  statutory authority for  the State of  Alaska to                                                                   
     prosecute  the  crime  even  though the  victim  was  an                                                                   
     Alaskan  on an Alaska-owned  state ferry. Under  federal                                                                   
     maritime   law,  the   United   States  Government   has                                                                   
     jurisdiction  over  crimes committed  on  United  States                                                                   
     vessels  in Canadian  waters  but the  dismissal by  the                                                                   
     state court is a concern because  the client is unlikely                                                                   
     to  be   prosecuted  by   the  federal  government   and                                                                   
     certainly  is of very  little interest  to the  Canadian                                                                   
     government.  The federal government  does not  generally                                                                   
     prosecute  offenses  such  as  sexual  assault  and  the                                                                   
     Canadian  government  has little  interest  in  pursuing                                                                   
     this  since it  was a state-owned  ferry  and it was  an                                                                   
     Alaska victim that it occurred to on the Alaska ferry.                                                                     
     I believe, Mr. Chairman, that  it's prudent that we pass                                                                   
     a law  that specifically will  give the State  of Alaska                                                                   
     the  power  to prosecute  cases  like  this one  and  to                                                                   
     protect  and defend  our passengers  on our  state-owned                                                                   
     ferry  system. Unfortunately  this  is  not an  isolated                                                                   
     incident  and  it is  not  going  to  go away.  Just  as                                                                   
     recently  as December, four  months ago, an  intoxicated                                                                   
     passenger  attacked  two  crewmembers   on  one  of  our                                                                   
     ferries  with  a  vodka bottle  and  caused  some  minor                                                                   
     injuries.  The  passenger  -   and  charges  were  filed                                                                   
     against this  passenger - but the passenger  has filed a                                                                   
     motion  to  dismiss  the  case  based  upon  the  sexual                                                                   
     assault  that was  dismissed  last summer.  Again,  this                                                                   
     occurred  in Canadian  waters  en route  between  Prince                                                                   
     Rupert and Ketchikan.                                                                                                      
     This bill is a very simple bill.  It's a simple solution                                                                   
     to  a very  serious  problem.  What we  have  here is  a                                                                   
     loophole  in our  law. The bottom  line is  that if  the                                                                   
     Canadians  won't and  don't want  to prosecute  criminal                                                                   
     activity that occurs on state-owned  vessels in Canadian                                                                   
     waters and the federal government  doesn't have the time                                                                   
     or doesn't want  to prosecute, then the State  of Alaska                                                                   
     should  at least  have  the option  to  do so  if we  so                                                                   
     desire. That, Mr. Chairman, is the just of the bill.                                                                       
SENATOR WARD  asked the  name of the  judge in Ketchikan  who made                                                              
the ruling.                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE MEYER  told members that  this case was  brought to                                                              
his  attention  by the  Department  of  Law.  He deferred  to  Ms.                                                              
Carpeneti for details of the case.                                                                                              
MS. ANNE CARPENETI,  Assistant Attorney General,  informed members                                                              
that Judge  Weeks made the decision  but said there is  reason for                                                              
his decision.  She noted  that although the  Department of  Law is                                                              
appealing the  decision, the  most prudent approach  is to  pass a                                                              
statute, which Judge Weeks suggested in his decision.                                                                           
SENATOR WARD  asked if  both the victim  and the alleged  offender                                                              
are American and Alaska citizens.                                                                                               
MS. CARPENETI  said the  victim is  an American  who lives  in the                                                              
Anchorage area. Ms.  Carpeneti said she believes she  is an Alaska                                                              
resident. The  defendant is  an American citizen  and she  was not                                                              
sure what state he is a resident of.                                                                                            
SENATOR WARD asked what charge the defendant was extradited on.                                                                 
MS.  CARPENETI said  she  did not  know as  he  was extradited  on                                                              
charges brought in another state.  She offered to get Senator Ward                                                              
more information  on the  extradition charge.  She added  that the                                                              
defendant was extradited in Alaska on this charge.                                                                              
SENATOR WARD stated, "He was indicted  on this charge, but yet the                                                              
judge ruled  that he couldn't be  indicted on this  charge because                                                              
there was no law for it?"                                                                                                       
MS.  CARPENETI  explained  the  ruling   stated  that  crimes  and                                                              
jurisdiction  over  crimes  in Alaska  are  dictated  by  statute;                                                              
Alaska  does  not   have  common  law  crimes   anymore.  Alaska's                                                              
jurisdictional  statute  allows  the  state  to  prosecute  crimes                                                              
committed in its  territory or committed outside  of the territory                                                              
when the  effect is  consummated  in our state.   This  particular                                                              
offense was committed  outside of Alaska's territory  and the harm                                                              
occurred  outside of  its territory.  For that  reason, the  judge                                                              
ruled that the state does not have jurisdiction.                                                                                
SENATOR WARD asked  if a sexual assault occurred  in a state-owned                                                              
military  airplane while  flying  over Canada's  airspace and  the                                                              
victim and offender  were American citizens, whether  Alaska would                                                              
have jurisdiction.                                                                                                              
MS. CARPENETI said this bill does  not address that issue and that                                                              
state airplanes generally operate in state airspace.                                                                            
SENATOR  WARD said  he  was referring  to  a state-owned  military                                                              
airplane that legally travels outside of state airspace.                                                                        
MS.  CARPENETI said  it  would depend  on  the circumstances.  She                                                              
remarked, "I'm  sure they would  be breaking somebody's  law. They                                                              
would probably be breaking federal  law and they would probably be                                                              
breaking  the law if  it's a  sexual assault  of the territory  in                                                              
which it happened - in the airspace where it happened."                                                                         
SENATOR WARD  asked, "And it's this  judge's opinion that  the law                                                              
wasn't broken because there was no law on it?"                                                                                  
MS. CARPENETI replied that Judge  Weeks did not express an opinion                                                              
on  the particular  offense. His  decision  was not  based on  his                                                              
opinion that a  law hadn't been broken but instead  that the state                                                              
needs  a  statute  on  which to  base  the  state's  authority  to                                                              
prosecute  the   case  because  it  occurred  outside   of  Alaska                                                              
SENATOR WARD asked, "So if, in fact,  this hypothetical airplane I                                                              
just  described  was  flying  outside   of  Alaska  airspace  into                                                              
Canadian  airspace and  this sexual  assault  had occurred,  would                                                              
there not be any law to bring charges in that situation?"                                                                       
MS. CARPENETI asked  Senator Ward if he was referring  to State of                                                              
Alaska law or Canadian law.                                                                                                     
SENATOR WARD said Alaska law.                                                                                                   
MS. CARPENETI said  that first of all, federal  law would probably                                                              
SENATOR WARD asked  if federal law would apply to  the case on the                                                              
MS. CARPENETI  said yes, the  federal government  has jurisdiction                                                              
on  United  States  flag  vessels   but,  generally,  the  federal                                                              
government does  not pursue cases  like this on ferries.  It tends                                                              
to pursue cases on airplanes.                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  MEYER  commented  that  it  seems  when  something                                                              
happens on an  airplane, the federal government is  right there to                                                              
prosecute.  However, since  the ferry system  is state-owned,  the                                                              
federal  government  does  not seem  to  have  the same  level  of                                                              
CHAIRMAN  COWDERY  asked about  cruise  ships or  privately  owned                                                              
ferry systems.                                                                                                                  
MS. CARPENETI  said the  jurisdictional theory  that this  bill is                                                              
based on is that  a state-owned vessel, "has enough  connections -                                                              
is kind of like a piece of Alaska  traveling through international                                                              
waters."  She assumed  a vessel  owned by  another private  entity                                                              
traveling  in Canadian  waters would  turn into  the next port  in                                                              
Canada and report  the crime there. It is much  more difficult for                                                              
an Alaska ferry to go off course  and off schedule and travel to a                                                              
port that may not be able to accommodate the vessel.                                                                            
SENATOR  TAYLOR said a  different Ketchikan  Superior Court  judge                                                              
found  jurisdiction  in  a previous  case  and  convicted  someone                                                              
traveling on the Alaska ferry in Canadian waters.                                                                               
MS. CARPENETI said she believes Senator Taylor is correct.                                                                      
SENATOR TAYLOR  said that is why  this decision was  considered to                                                              
be  unique or  aberrant to  the extent  that probably  no one  has                                                              
aggressively raised the defense before.                                                                                         
TAPE 02-14, SIDE B                                                                                                              
SENATOR TAYLOR  asked why the  legislation is limited  to ferries.                                                              
He  questioned whether  federal  jurisdiction  extends to  foreign                                                              
flag vessels bringing tourists to Juneau from Vancouver, B.C.                                                                   
MS. CARPENETI said she believes the  state could prosecute a crime                                                              
against a state  law on such a vessel if the  crime occurred while                                                              
the vessel was in Alaska territory.  The Canadian government would                                                              
have jurisdiction if the vessel was  in Canadian waters. She added                                                              
the flag of the  ship would have jurisdiction no  matter where the                                                              
ship is. The  United States government has prosecuted  crimes that                                                              
occurred  on U.S.  flagships traveling  on rivers  in Africa.  She                                                              
assumed the  Washington authorities  could prosecute a  crime that                                                              
happened between Bellingham and Canada.                                                                                         
SENATOR  TAYLOR said  he gets  confused  about the  jurisdictional                                                              
questions  because it  is  almost frightening  to  think about  an                                                              
incident  occurring  to a  tourist  on a  boat  registered in  the                                                              
Seychelles. He noted  that Dixon Entrance is a large  gray zone as                                                              
far as  whether Canada or the  United States has  jurisdiction. He                                                              
     You  could very  easily be  dealing  with two  different                                                                   
     foreign nationals involved.  You might have a crewmember                                                                   
     that's perpetrated  a crime and the crew  member is from                                                                   
     Italy  maybe, and  the victim  is from  Mexico. I  think                                                                   
     that all  becomes very  confusing. I  think at least  as                                                                   
     far as  our state-owned  vessels we  ought to have  some                                                                   
     continuity  and   I'm  assuming  that   your  department                                                                   
     supports this legislation.                                                                                                 
MS. CARPENETI said the department does support the legislation.                                                                 
SENATOR  TAYLOR asked  if  there  is any  reason  to not  consider                                                              
aircraft in  the legislation.  He said  the Departments  of Public                                                              
Safety  and Fish  and Game  have  an aircraft  fleet of  somewhere                                                              
between  46  and 52  and  that  any aircraft  flying  three  miles                                                              
offshore is in international airspace.                                                                                          
MS.  CARPENETI replied  that most  state aircraft  operate in  the                                                              
state but  she can  understand the  desire to include  state-owned                                                              
aircraft traveling  outside the state.   The problem, in  terms of                                                              
vessels, for the  Department of Law has not necessarily  been with                                                              
crimes that have  occurred in international waters  because Alaska                                                              
has a statute that says where the  federal government can exercise                                                              
jurisdiction, the state  can also.  That has allowed  the state to                                                              
prosecute  under Alaska's  theft  statutes.  The issues  generally                                                              
deal  with due  process -  whether  it is  fair for  the state  to                                                              
exercise jurisdiction under the circumstances  with the connection                                                              
between  Alaska and  the  offense. She  added  that a  state-owned                                                              
aircraft would probably be similar to a state-owned ferry.                                                                      
SENATOR  WARD  asked,  regarding   the  previous  conviction  that                                                              
Senator Taylor referred  to, if that person would  be able to file                                                              
for an appeal to get out of prison if this bill passes.                                                                         
MS. CARPENETI said she does not believe  so because this bill will                                                              
give the state jurisdiction to prosecute.                                                                                       
SENATOR  WARD  asked if  passage  of this  bill  could  set up  an                                                              
argument  that the  person  convicted of  rape  was not  convicted                                                              
legally because the state did not have jurisdiction.                                                                            
MS. CARPENETI  said she does not  believe so because  she believes                                                              
this  legislation makes  explicit a  position taken  in the  lower                                                              
SENATOR TAYLOR noted the case is  on appeal and a decision will be                                                              
made eventually  by Alaska's  Supreme Court as  to whether  or not                                                              
Judge Weeks  was correct in denying  jurisdiction to our  state in                                                              
those  waters.  If  the  Supreme   Court  decides  the  state  had                                                              
jurisdiction  all along and  Judge Weeks was  wrong, then  the man                                                              
convicted in Ketchikan was justly  convicted and there would be no                                                              
problem.  However,  if the  Supreme  Court  says Judge  Weeks  was                                                              
correct, the  state did not  have jurisdiction, the  convicted man                                                              
would have  some right  to appeal  that conviction. Enacting  this                                                              
law,  confirming or  reasserting  the state's  jurisdiction,  will                                                              
only be effective  from that date forward anyway  but it would not                                                              
play  upon the earlier  case  because it  is not  a negative  - it                                                              
doesn't  say  the state  did  not  have jurisdiction,  it  further                                                              
asserts  the state  did have  jurisdiction. He  commented that  he                                                              
does not  want to see  the case on appeal  dropped if this  law is                                                              
MS.  CARPENETI  stated  the  Department  of Law  is  pursuing  the                                                              
There being no further testimony  or questions, SENATOR WARD moved                                                              
HB 405 from committee with individual recommendations.                                                                          
CHAIRMAN  COWDERY announced  that  without  objection, the  motion                                                              
carried. With  no further business  to come before  the committee,                                                              
he adjourned the meeting at 2:30 p.m.                                                                                           

Document Name Date/Time Subjects