Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/17/1995 01:22 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 HB 48 - MOTORCYCLE SAFETY                                                   
 Number 130                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE TOM BRICE, sponsor of HB 48, introduced the bill.              
 He said it is basically a clean-up bill addressing an inconsistency           
 in statute.  Sponsor statement:                                               
 "The federal highway safety act, ISTEA, requires each state to                
 adopt a mandatory helmet law.  The penalty for noncompliance in the           
 first year (FY95) is 1.5 percent of federal transportation funding            
 which must be transferred from the Department of Transportation &             
 Public Facilities (DOTPF) to the 402 fund for safety, training, and           
 enforcement.  In October 1994, (FY95) $2.6 million was transferred            
 to the 402 fund.  Each year thereafter for the remaining four years           
 of the act 3 percent will be moved.  Depending on whether the act             
 is fully funded by the U.S. Congress, $5.2 million will be moved to           
 402 each year.  Over the life of ISTEA the total would be                     
 approximately $23.5 million.                                                  
 "During the summer and fall of 1993, the state's Attorney General's           
 office, in an attempt to bring Alaska into compliance with ISTEA              
 mandates, issued an opinion supporting the state's ability to                 
 mandate the use of a helmet for motorcycle operators.  The                    
 opinion's argument revolved around the use of `singularly licensed            
 to drive a motorcycle.'  Although the opinion has been withdrawn,             
 this is a new interpretation of a statute that has been on the                
 books since 1976, and is contrary to legislative intent and current           
 enforcement policy.                                                           
 "To address this, HB 48 clarifies the statute to ensure that some             
 of these funds would be used for improving motorcycle safety, a               
 motorcycle safety program would be established under the Department           
 of Public Safety (DPS)."                                                      
 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE noted that he would be proposing two                     
 Number 180                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked how this would impact the federal funds            
 that we would receive for mandating helmets.                                  
 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE answered that it does not impact the current             
 status quo one way or another.  The passage of this legislation               
 would not cause us to lose any more money, nor would it cause us to           
 garner any more money, though there are attempts at the federal               
 level, to take the blackmail clauses out of the ISTEA legislation.            
 REPRESENTATIVE AL VEZEY was concerned about the clause giving the             
 Department of Public Safety the authority to enact regulations                
 regarding motorcycle helmet safety standards.  He recommended the             
 committee adopt a standard, rather than passing it on to an agency            
 to go through the administrative procedures and take 90 days or 6             
 months to adopt regulations, which may end up being regulations               
 that we do not want.  Standards would be fairly easy for us to                
 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE answered that concern had been raised in the             
 Transportation Committee as well.  According to the testimony given           
 by the DPS, it was understood that those standards are currently on           
 the books.  What this language would require is to go through yet             
 another administrative process to reimplement those regulations,              
 thereby inflicting a fiscal note.  The attempt here was to, in one            
 way or another, have the fiscal note removed.  To do that, we would           
 take out Sections 1 and 2 of the bill.  It is at the will of the              
 committee whether or not to make that decision.                               
 Number 250                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY clarified that he was referring more to                  
 adopting regulations as to what makes a safe helmet.  In Section 3            
 we would be a whole lot more free to adopt a standard.  We do not             
 need to repeat the efforts of agencies in testing motorcycle                  
 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE noted it is his understanding that the                   
 department has those types of standards and there are national                
 standards that helmets in this state must comply with, that have              
 been established through various federal procedures.                          
 REPRESENTATIVE CYNTHIA TOOHEY asked if the updating of new helmet             
 standards would be affected by this bill.                                     
 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE answered that this does not have anything to             
 do with changing those regulatory standards of the helmet itself.             
 This has to do with updating the statute to reflect the practice of           
 endorsements for motorcycle drivers, versus having motorcycle                 
 drivers singularly licensed to operate a motorcycle.  That is the             
 question this legislation is addressing.  It is not in any way,               
 shape or manner, changing the standards for helmet safety, or for             
 the type of helmet.                                                           
 Number 310                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVID FINKELSTEIN asked Representative Brice to                
 explain it one more time.  AS 28.35.250 says a person who is an               
 adult does not have to wear a motorcycle helmet.  What is different           
 about that in (b) on page 2?   He could not tell the difference               
 between the bill and existing law.                                            
 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE asked if Representative Finkelstein was                  
 referring to a memo from Deborah Boyd, dated September 28, 1993.              
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN said yes he was.                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE said that memo gives an inaccurate citation              
 (AS 28.35.250).  The concern should be AS 28.35.245 (b).  What they           
 are saying is that the person is the holder of a license which,               
 under regulations, is classified as a license to operate only a               
 motorcycle.  The department had made the interpretation that if you           
 are singularly licensed to operate a motorcycle, meaning you can              
 operate a motorcycle but no other type of motor vehicle that would            
 require a license, then you are required to wear a helmet.  That              
 flies in the face of a state policy that has been implemented since           
 the inception of this statute, which currently says if you are                
 endorsed to drive a motorcycle, and you are over 18, then you are             
 not required to wear a helmet.  The department, in an intent to say           
 that they had substantially complied with the ISTEA requirements of           
 having helmet laws in the books, stated that, if you are singularly           
 licensed you are not required to wear a helmet but everybody else             
 is required to.  The fact of the matter is, the state almost                  
 provides endorsement now; we do not singularly license anybody to             
 operate motorcycles.                                                          
 MARGOT KNUTH, Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division,                  
 Department of Law, said she was representing Governor Knowles who             
 supports this legislation and asked that it be passed, especially             
 without an amendment to subsection (b), which would require helmets           
 only for those under the age of 18.  The Governor believes that it            
 is inappropriate for government to intrude itself on every decision           
 made by persons in the state, and that whether to wear a motorcycle           
 helmet or not is a matter that should be left to the judgment and             
 responsibility of an individual.                                              
 Number 395                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked why we do not just put the motorcycle              
 helmet standard in the statute, and save a lot of trouble and                 
 expense of writing regulations.                                               
 MS. KNUTH answered that they already have a standard set out in               
 regulation that was adopted some time ago.  The reason why is                 
 because the standards change with increased technology, and with              
 what we learn from traffic accidents.  If it were set out in the              
 statute, we would have to come back and ask for it to be amended              
 regularly, to keep up with new information.  At this point the                
 standard is what is required by the federal government.  There is             
 a uniform standard.  Regulations are typically easier to amend than           
 statutes, at least historically they have been.  Even though there            
 is a process and expense, it is not as great as that involved in              
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE suspected there is a national organization               
 that tests motorcycle helmets, and that with their information, the           
 Department of Public Safety would formulate standards.                        
 Number 480                                                                    
 LEE ANN LUCAS, Special Assistant to the Commissioner, Department of           
 Public Safety, spoke in support of HB 48 without the amendment to             
 delete Section 2.  She said they do have existing regulations that            
 are broad enough to provide for the licensing and certifying of               
 those programs.  They currently have a program in Anchorage which             
 provides motorcycle training.  Alaska Bikers Advocating Training              
 and Education (ABATE) currently has an application in to begin                
 providing for a commercial driving school for motorcycles.                    
 MS. LUCAS explained that they had a 3.9 thousand dollar fiscal note           
 for the adoption of motorcycle regulations.  If Section 2 was                 
 deleted, that fiscal note would be zero.  She said the department             
 feels it does and can cover programs, as they have been.                      
 Number 500                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked if motorcycle passengers were required             
 to wear helmets.                                                              
 MS. LUCAS answered that their current regulations do provide for              
 equipment for riders.  A person operating or riding upon a                    
 motorcycle on a public roadway is required to wear a helmet.                  
 Persons 18 years of age or older are not required to do so, under             
 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE clarified that current statute says if you are           
 riding off road, in other words, dirt biking, you are required to             
 wear a helmet regardless of your age; and if you are a passenger on           
 a motorcycle, you are required to wear a helmet.  This will not               
 affect that either way.                                                       
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE made a motion to move Amendment One, dated               
 3/16/95.  The amendment would make the following changes:                     
      Page 1, line 1:                                                          
           Delete "motorcycle safety and to"                                   
      Page 1, lines 4 - 7:                                                     
           Delete all material.                                                
      Page 1, line 8:                                                          
           Delete "Sec. 3."                                                    
           Insert "Section 1."                                                 
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN objected and asked if public testimony             
 was complete.                                                                 
 VICE CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if anyone else wished to testify.  There            
 was a person on the teleconference network waiting to speak.                  
 SCOTT HAMANN, Legislative Representative, ABATE, said they support            
 the amendments deleting Sections 1 and 2.  He said they were not              
 too worried about Section 3, because the national standards are so            
 bogus anyway.  They do not mean anything to us.  They only test               
 helmets at 12 miles an hour.  They are really not in the real world           
 anyway, so we are not too concerned about that.  He urged passage             
 of the bill.                                                                  
 VICE CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if there was objection or discussion on             
 the amendment.  Hearing none, Amendment One was adopted.                      
 CHAIRMAN PORTER returned.                                                     
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN stated he would not object to the bill,            
 but did have great hesitancy on it.  He remembered the great debate           
 on mandating seatbelts, and the argument that maybe it was not in             
 the best interest of our citizens.  He said that death records                
 since then show that it is in the interest of our citizens.  He did           
 not think it would be out of line for the state to look into these            
 matters, and he was not convinced the case has been made that                 
 requiring helmets would save lives.                                           
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY made a motion to move CSHB 48(JUD) with                  
 individual recommendations and attached fiscal notes out of                   
 committee.  Seeing no objection, it was so ordered.                           

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