Legislature(2003 - 2004)

02/05/2004 09:00 AM CRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 387-INCREASE FINE FOR SCHOOL ZONE VIOLATIONS                                                                               
CHAIR MORGAN announced  that the only order of  business would be                                                               
HOUSE  BILL NO.  387,  "An  Act relating  to  fines for  offenses                                                               
committed within school zones."                                                                                                 
Number 0089                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE CARL  GATTO, Alaska State Legislature,  sponsor of                                                               
HB 387,  informed the committee that  he has spent a  lot of time                                                               
in  schools  and thus  in  school  zones.   Representative  Gatto                                                               
reminded  the committee  that in  the  past the  fines have  been                                                               
doubled  for highway  zones that  were clearly  marked as  active                                                               
construction.  He related that  he hasn't heard a public backlash                                                               
to the  aforementioned.  School  zones, he opined, are  even more                                                               
dangerous because  most children are distracted.   Therefore, the                                                               
public needs to be as attentive  as possible in school zones.  To                                                               
specify that  [double fines] would  be in effect in  school zones                                                               
when the lights are flashing would  work in Anchorage, but not in                                                               
the communities without flashing lights  in the school zones.  In                                                               
some of  the smaller communities  there might not even  be signs.                                                               
He expressed the  hope that the committee could  help him fashion                                                               
language that  would specify the  timeframe when the  fines would                                                               
be double and  when they wouldn't because  currently the language                                                               
merely specifies [there  are to be double fines]  in school zones                                                               
and thus leaves the discretion  to the police and state troopers.                                                               
He pointed  out that the  legislation defines a "school  zone" as                                                               
"an  area   identified  by  signs   as  being  near   a  school."                                                               
Representative   Gatto  likened   [this   legislation]  to   [the                                                               
statutes] relating to [double fines] in construction areas.                                                                     
Number 0571                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS  pointed out that when  one drives through                                                               
a construction zone, the signs  specify that the fines are double                                                               
and thus  he surmised that  the sponsor  would want the  signs in                                                               
school zones to specify that the fines are double.                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO replied yes.                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS asked if  the municipalities would have to                                                               
hang the signs.                                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  remarked that  adding the  language "double                                                               
fines" to a sign wouldn't be much to add.                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS surmised that  there could be double fines                                                               
in school zones without [specifying such on the signs].                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  answered that  for almost all  traffic law,                                                               
ignorance is  no excuse.  However,  he said he would  like to see                                                               
the  double  fine  signs  installed   because  it's  a  reminder.                                                               
Representative  Gatto highlighted  that  he  wasn't doubling  the                                                               
points, merely the monetary fine.                                                                                               
Number 0713                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  SAMUELS  recalled  the   photo  radar  debate  in                                                               
Anchorage.  The debate arose  because the police were considering                                                               
school  zones as  such  even when  the  lights weren't  flashing.                                                               
This  legislation doesn't  clarify [the  timeframe when  a school                                                               
zone would be considered such in relation to the speed limit].                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  noted the difficulty in  defining this, but                                                               
informed the  committee that he  had wanted [the double  fines to                                                               
be implemented]  an hour  before school starts  to an  hour after                                                               
school starts  and an hour  before school  ends to an  hour after                                                               
school ends.                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS  said he wouldn't know  when school starts                                                               
if he doesn't see the flashing lights.                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  reiterated that ignorance isn't  an excuse.                                                               
Furthermore, he  noted that  schools are  starting and  ending at                                                               
different times not to mention  that some schools are active into                                                               
the evening as well.                                                                                                            
Number 0887                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  KOTT  moved  to   adopt  CSHB  387,  Version  23-                                                               
LS1521\D,  Luckhaupt, 1/30/04,  as the  working document.   There                                                               
being no objection, Version D was before the committee.                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE WOLF noted that in  his district there are schools                                                               
that have [flashing] lights and schools  that don't.  He asked if                                                               
the Department of Transportation  & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) is                                                               
required to post an area that  would fall under double fines.  He                                                               
further asked if  such a requirement would be  related to federal                                                               
funding for transportation.                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  answered that he hadn't  checked into that.                                                               
However,  he  reiterated  that  ignorance of  the  law  isn't  an                                                               
excuse, even  if it  isn't posted.   With  regard to  whether the                                                               
police  will  use   this  as  an  opportunity  to   set  a  trap,                                                               
Representative Gatto  said that  he didn't know.   Representative                                                               
Gatto  indicated  that [per  the  definition  of school  zone  in                                                               
Version D],  these double  fines wouldn't apply  in an  area that                                                               
isn't identified by signs as being near a school.                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  WOLF expressed  concern  with  regard to  whether                                                               
DOT&PF would  be required to put  up signs that specify  the area                                                               
is a double fine  zone.  If not, is the  school district going to                                                               
be faced with the additional cost of putting up such signs.                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE   GATTO  replied   no  and   explained  that   the                                                               
legislation simply  says that  if the signs  are there  the fines                                                               
are doubled.   Again,  if the  signs [designating  the area  as a                                                               
school  zone]  aren't there,  then  there  is no  requirement  to                                                               
double the  fines.   He mentioned  that there  may be  some areas                                                               
that don't want to double the fines.                                                                                            
Number 1226                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  SAMUELS posed  a  situation in  which someone  is                                                               
stopped for  speeding on  a Saturday  in a  school zone  when the                                                               
lights aren't  flashing.  In  such a situation, is  the intention                                                               
to double the fines, he asked.                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  related his experience that  when school is                                                               
actually in session,  the school zone is fairly  quiet.  However,                                                               
the  [drop-off] periods  before  and after  school  are busy  and                                                               
there are  also after-school programs  that go into  the evening.                                                               
Representative  Gatto  specified  that this  legislation  doesn't                                                               
intend  to  exploit for  profitability  but  rather to  encourage                                                               
people  to recognize  that school  zones are  different and  more                                                               
important than other zones.                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS  pointed out  that school zones  only have                                                               
lower speed  limits sometimes.   However,  Representative Samuels                                                               
said he understood  the sponsor to want to double  the fines in a                                                               
school zone whether school is in or not.                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO remarked  that  locations  where there  are                                                               
flashing  lights  indicating  a  school   zone  are  ideal.    He                                                               
explained that  he didn't want  to simply specify that  [a school                                                               
zone] is only where there  are flashing lights because that isn't                                                               
a  good idea  either.    Therefore, he  chose  [to define  school                                                               
zones] as he did in the legislation.                                                                                            
Number 1486                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  KOTT said  that he  believes this  is a  laudable                                                               
goal,  but  agreed that  it's  difficult  to determine  the  best                                                               
mechanism.   He  expressed  concern with  regard  to giving  [law                                                               
enforcement] discretion under this  legislation.  Beyond that, it                                                               
seems that  this legislation  is trying  to correct  an Anchorage                                                               
problem.   He pointed  out that  of the  481 citations  issued in                                                               
2003  410 were  issued in  Anchorage.   Therefore, he  questioned                                                               
whether there is a problem.   Representative Kott also questioned                                                               
whether  this  legislation  [raises  a  school  zone]  to  higher                                                               
importance than those areas which specify "Children at Play".                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  KOTT related  his  belief that  this  is a  local                                                               
control issue,  noting that  he didn't know  of any  schools that                                                               
are located on state roads.   Furthermore, he said he wasn't sure                                                               
of the  conditions that  would allow the  state to  control this.                                                               
Since  most of  the [school  zone fines]  are issued  under local                                                               
ordinances, he  suspected there may  be a variation in  the fines                                                               
for speeding in  a school zone.   If there is a  variation in the                                                               
fines, then  one group  may be  penalized at  a higher  rate than                                                               
another, which he indicated is of concern for him.                                                                              
CHAIR  MORGAN noted  his  appreciation for  what  the sponsor  is                                                               
attempting.   However, he highlighted  that in Bush  Alaska there                                                               
is  the gamut  of situations  in school  areas.   Furthermore, he                                                               
said that  much of Bush  Alaska will  never have signs  much less                                                               
flashing lights.                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO  said  that  the  variation  of  situations                                                               
throughout the state is essentially  why the legislation [defines                                                               
school zones]  as "an area  identified by signs".   He reiterated                                                               
that if an area isn't identified  as a school zone by signs, then                                                               
this legislation doesn't apply.                                                                                                 
Number 1821                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA  related her experience fighting  to have a                                                               
flashing  light  in  a  school   zone.    She  also  related  her                                                               
experience watching a school in  her neighborhood over the course                                                               
of a  couple of elections.   She  explained that on  election day                                                               
the problems weren't those coming  to vote but rather the parents                                                               
of the children in the school.   Although the signage [that would                                                               
result from this legislation] might  be great, HB 387 proposes an                                                               
unfunded mandate, she said.                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  echoed his  earlier testimony  that schools                                                               
are active  during other  times than when  school is  in session.                                                               
Furthermore, in  the summer the  school is often used  for sports                                                               
practice.  In fact, schools seem to be used year round.                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  KOTT pointed  out that  since the  legislature is                                                               
basically the authority in the  unincorporated areas, he asked if                                                               
passage  of  this legislation  would  mandate  that DOT&PF  place                                                               
signs in  areas where  there are  schools [in  the unincorporated                                                               
areas] and thus create a fiscal implication.                                                                                    
Number 2050                                                                                                                     
NONA WILSON, Legislative Liaison,  Department of Transportation &                                                               
Public Facilities,  related her  understanding that  upon passage                                                               
of HB 387  DOT&PF would only be responsible for  the school zones                                                               
that  are  located  on state-owned,  -maintained,  and  -operated                                                               
roads.   Each municipality and  school district would be  left to                                                               
decide whether to mark [the other]  school zones.  With regard to                                                               
the  unorganized  boroughs,  Ms. Wilson  reiterated  that  DOT&PF                                                               
would only be  responsible for those school  zones on state-owned                                                               
roads.   She  offered  to  find out  more  about the  unorganized                                                               
boroughs.   The department would  make its own signs,  she noted.                                                               
With  the  assumption  that  there   are  five  school  zones  in                                                               
Anchorage,  two up  North,  and three  in  Southeast, putting  up                                                               
signs at 10 schools and perhaps  an extra post would cost $70,000                                                               
to $100,000.   However, she noted that the  department is unclear                                                               
with regard to where exactly these signs would be placed.                                                                       
MS.  WILSON,   in  response  to  Representative   Wolf's  earlier                                                               
question  regarding  whether  DOT&PF  would  be  responsible  for                                                               
getting the  signs to  everyone, specified  that DOT&PF  would be                                                               
responsible for it's own gear.   She recalled that there has been                                                               
a lot  of reference to  the construction law, which  is different                                                               
than what this legislation is  attempting.  She explained that in                                                               
a construction area, DOT&PF marks  the locations where one enters                                                               
and exits  a double  fine zone because  the construction  zone is                                                               
constantly  changing.    In  order   to  double  the  fine  in  a                                                               
construction  zone, individuals  entering  and  exiting the  area                                                               
must  be  notified, which  requires  four  signs so  that  people                                                               
traveling in both directions can  see the signs.  Therefore, four                                                               
three-and-a-half  feet by  three-and-a-half  feet diamond  signs,                                                               
$400  per  school  zone.   The  aforementioned  estimate  doesn't                                                               
include perpetual maintenance or the cost  of a new post, were it                                                               
Number 2294                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  SAMUELS   offered  Conceptual  Amendment   1,  as                                                               
     Page 1, line 10, after "school zone."                                                                                      
     Insert "In a school zone if there is a differential in                                                                     
       speed limits, the double fines only apply when the                                                                       
     lower speed limit is in effect."                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE  SAMUELS explained  that if  during certain  times                                                               
the speed  limit is decreased,  then the double fines  would only                                                               
be in effect during the time of lower speed limits.                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE KOTT objected and  asked if Representative Samuels                                                               
would consider  applying the above  amendment to work  area zones                                                               
that are  addressed in this legislation  as well.  He  noted that                                                               
sometimes the [double  fine] signs in the work zones  are left up                                                               
when no one is working in the area.                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE   SAMUELS   agreed    to   Representative   Kott's                                                               
suggestion  and  thus  he  amended  Conceptual  Amendment  1,  as                                                               
     Page 1, line 10, after "school zone."                                                                                      
      Insert "If there is a differential in speed limits,                                                                       
     the double fines only apply when the lower speed limit                                                                     
     is in effect."                                                                                                             
CHAIR MORGAN  asked if  there were any  further objections.   [At                                                               
this  point,  Representative  Kott's  objection  was  treated  as                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO said that he didn't object.                                                                                
CHAIR MORGAN  announced that [Conceptual Amendment  1 as amended]                                                               
was adopted.                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KOTT  turned  attention to  a  document  labeled,                                                               
"State  of  Alaska  Department   of  Public  Safety  School  Zone                                                               
Violations FY  2003", which specifies that  Alaska State Troopers                                                               
issued only 26 citations.  In  what areas of the state were these                                                               
citations given, he asked.                                                                                                      
Number 2500                                                                                                                     
ALLEN  STOREY, Lieutenant,  Central  Office,  Division of  Alaska                                                               
State Troopers, Department of Public  Safety (DPS), answered that                                                               
he  didn't  have  such  information.     In  his  experience,  he                                                               
suspected that  those citations were  primarily issued  in school                                                               
zones  in the  Mat-Su Valley  and Fairbanks  region.   In further                                                               
response  to  Representative  Kott, Lieutenant  Storey  confirmed                                                               
that there  are variations in  fines because  municipalities have                                                               
the  ability, by  statute, to  establish its  own bail  schedule.                                                               
However,  some  areas  use  the   court's  bail  schedule,  which                                                               
includes  enhanced  penalties for  school  zone  violations.   He                                                               
informed  the committee  that under  the  state's bail  schedule,                                                               
speeding in a  school zone requires a  mandatory court appearance                                                               
with a six-point  penalty.  The aforementioned would  be the case                                                               
in identified  school zones during  the time one  would logically                                                               
assume that there would be danger to school children.                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE  KOTT turned  to the  substantial discretion  used                                                               
when a  speeding violator is  stopped.  He speculated  that there                                                               
is  probably  some  discretion   regarding  whether  to  issue  a                                                               
citation for someone  stopped for speeding less than  10 miles an                                                               
hour over  the speed limit.   However, the speeding  violation in                                                               
school  zones seems  to be  taken more  seriously because  of the                                                               
potential harm to children.                                                                                                     
LIEUTENANT  STOREY  agreed,  highlighting that  the  lower  speed                                                               
limit  in school  zones is  for the  protection of  the children.                                                               
Therefore, a variance of four to  five miles an hour could make a                                                               
significant difference  in a school  zone where there is  a large                                                               
number of children or other traffic.                                                                                            
Number 2668                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO  asked  if  the  10  school  districts  are                                                               
currently signed.                                                                                                               
MS.  WILSON answered  that from  her understanding,  "Yes."   She                                                               
reiterated  that  just to  sign  those  10 districts  would  cost                                                               
approximately $70,000-$100,000.                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  inquired as  to the  [cost] of  attaching a                                                               
rectangular  sign specifying  double fines  in [these  districts]                                                               
that are already signed as school zones.                                                                                        
MS. WILSON  surmised that the  small plaques would  probably cost                                                               
considerably less.   However, if DOT&PF is to  be responsible for                                                               
[placing  these  signs in  school  zones],  the department  would                                                               
place large signs.                                                                                                              
CHAIR MORGAN asked  whether there are regulations  with regard to                                                               
the size and height of signs.                                                                                                   
MS.  WILSON  responded that  in  hazardous  areas, such  as  work                                                               
zones, the  signs are the  three-and-a-half feet  by three-and-a-                                                               
half feet  reflective yellow signs.   Ms. Wilson offered  that in                                                               
this case,  the department may put  up the larger signs  when the                                                               
change  first occurs  in order  to inform  the public.   After  a                                                               
certain  amount  of time,  the  larger  signs would  probably  be                                                               
replaced with  the smaller plaques  that would probably  become a                                                               
permanent fixture on the post itself.                                                                                           
Number 2827                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KOTT inquired as to DOT&PF's position.                                                                           
MS. WILSON said that the  department would comply and agrees that                                                               
it  would be  to protect  children.   However, the  department is                                                               
trying to  determine the  requirements of  DOT&PF with  regard to                                                               
the size  and number  of signs  this would  require.   Ms. Wilson                                                               
noted that she  had learned from Representative  Gatto that there                                                               
are  506 school  zones.    Still, the  department  would need  to                                                               
determine which school zones are  located on state-owned roads as                                                               
well as determine the number of  signs required at each zone.  In                                                               
further  response to  Representative Kott,  Ms. Wilson  said that                                                               
she  didn't know  how  long it  would take  to  comply with  this                                                               
legislation.   However, she  offered that  to design  and produce                                                               
signs takes  a week.   She  remarked that  getting all  the signs                                                               
made and packed up and flying  a group of workers where there are                                                               
no DOT&PF workers  would require time and  organization and would                                                               
be expensive.                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE KOTT asked whether,  depending upon the number and                                                               
cost  of signs,  this  would have  to  go out  to  a request  for                                                               
proposals (RFP).                                                                                                                
MS. WILSON replied that she didn't  know.  She mentioned that the                                                               
department would produce  the signs and perhaps it  would be more                                                               
cost effective  to deliver those signs  to the area and  have the                                                               
municipality post  them.  In  further response  to Representative                                                               
Kott,  Ms.  Wilson  said  that there  hasn't  been  a  comparison                                                               
between  this legislation  and [similar  legislation] implemented                                                               
by  the State  of Washington.   However,  she recalled  that last                                                               
week Senator Wilken's testimony  in the Senate Judiciary Standing                                                               
Committee referred to conversations he  had with someone from the                                                               
State of Washington.                                                                                                            
TAPE 04-2, SIDE B                                                                                                             
Number 3012                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO  asked  if  DOT&PF  would  be  required  to                                                               
construct signs.                                                                                                                
MS.  WILSON  explained  that  the  language  referencing  "school                                                               
zones" would  mean that  the department  would have  to determine                                                               
which school  zones are located  on state roads and  DOT&PF would                                                               
have  to place  signs on  those roads.   She  indicated that  the                                                               
language  would   need  to  be   specific  in  saying   that  the                                                               
municipalities  and cities  would be  responsible for  [municipal                                                               
and city] roads.                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  pointed out  that school zones  are already                                                               
in existence and this legislation  doesn't address signing school                                                               
zones   or   any   requirement   for   DOT&PF   to   add   signs.                                                               
Representative Gatto  said that  he would like  to have  signs in                                                               
place for  this.  However,  he said he would  leave it up  to the                                                               
communities   to  decide   whether  the   signs  are   necessary.                                                               
Representative  Gatto  specified  that   he  never  intended  for                                                               
anything in HB 387 to direct  DOT&PF to establish signs in school                                                               
zones because he  presumed that DOT&PF has already  done its job.                                                               
If DOT&PF's  job is to  place signs  in school zones,  then those                                                               
signs should already be in place.                                                                                               
MS. WILSON reiterated that the  discussion since receiving HB 387                                                               
has been to  double the fines and DOT&PF has  been asked numerous                                                               
times whether  it would be  able to make  signs to post  in those                                                               
areas.   Therefore,  the  presumption was  that  the school  zone                                                               
areas would be clearly marked by signs.                                                                                         
CHAIR MORGAN asked if DOT&PF is prepared to issue a fiscal note.                                                                
MS. WILSON answered  that she could provide the  committee with a                                                               
fiscal note.  She mentioned that  the larger the fiscal note, the                                                               
more discouraged DOT&PF  will be.  It would be  expensive for the                                                               
department to  post signs in  areas where  there is little  to no                                                               
problem with this.                                                                                                              
Number 2834                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS  surmised that if clarifying  language was                                                               
included that said  no new signs were required,  then there would                                                               
be no need for a fiscal note.                                                                                                   
MS. WILSON replied yes.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE KOTT suggested that  the effective date be changed                                                               
to January 1, 2005, because the  [department] is unsure as to the                                                               
implementation period.   If this  legislation requires  DOT&PF to                                                               
do something, then  they should be allowed to do  it in a fashion                                                               
that's  acceptable   and  doesn't  place  the   department  in  a                                                               
difficult position.  Currently,  this legislation doesn't have an                                                               
effective date  and thus it  would go  into effect 90  days after                                                               
the governor signs the  legislation.  Furthermore, Representative                                                               
Kott  said  he  believes  that   the  public  needs  to  have  an                                                               
understanding  of  the  change  in   the  law  proposed  in  this                                                               
legislation because it's a rather significant change.                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  said that he was  thinking [an appropriate]                                                               
effective date  would be 12  months after the governor  signs the                                                               
legislation.   Such a timeframe  would provide the public  with a                                                               
one-year transition during which the  public could be educated to                                                               
the change.                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KOTT  said that  the effective  date can't  be one                                                               
year  after the  governor signs  the legislation  because no  one                                                               
knows when the governor will  sign the legislation.  Furthermore,                                                               
the governor can allow the  legislation to go into effect without                                                               
signing  it,  which  would  occur  90  days  after  reaching  the                                                               
governor's desk.  Therefore,  Representative Kott maintained that                                                               
January  1,  2005,  is  a  good date  that  allows  enough  of  a                                                               
Number 2659                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KOTT moved that the  committee adopt [Amendment 2]                                                               
that would  add language  specifying that  the effective  date of                                                               
this  legislation would  be  January  1, 2005.    There being  no                                                               
objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                                   
Number 2634                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  SAMUELS moved  to  report CSHB  387, Version  23-                                                               
LS1521\D, Luckhaupt,  1/30/04, as amended, out  of committee with                                                               
individual  recommendations.    There being  no  objection,  CSHB
387(CRA)  was  reported from  the  House  Community and  Regional                                                               
Affairs Standing Committee.                                                                                                     

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