Legislature(1999 - 2000)

03/29/1999 01:11 PM House JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 134 - SKI VIOLATIONS BAIL SCHEDULE                                                                                           
CHAIRMAN KOTT announced the next order of business is HB 134, "An                                                               
Act relating to the authority of the Department of Natural                                                                      
Resources to issue citations for certain skiing violations;                                                                     
relating to establishing a bail schedule for certain skiing                                                                     
violations and to procedures for issuing a citation for a skiing                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT called on Representative Bill Hudson, sponsor of the                                                              
Number 0203                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE BILL HUDSON, Alaska State Legislature, stated HB 134                                                             
is simple.  It is a technical amendment to the Alaska Ski Safety                                                                
Act of 1994 which provides ski areas and skiers with equitable                                                                  
treatment on the ski slope for their own safety and the safety of                                                               
others around them.  This bill amends sections of the Act that will                                                             
improve enforcement.  It will make it available to all ski areas in                                                             
the state.  He explained, when the Alaska Ski Safety Act was                                                                    
fashioned in 1994, the drafter laid on some language that related                                                               
to the ski areas over which the state has jurisdiction when there                                                               
are a number of ski areas in which the land is owned by private                                                                 
operators.  In addition, in order to fully implement the Act, a                                                                 
bail schedule needs to be established which was not included in the                                                             
original bill in 1994.  The courts have indicated that they need                                                                
specific language in the law in order to permit them to establish                                                               
a bail schedule.  Section 2 gives them that ability.  A bail                                                                    
schedule is absolutely essential to enforce the Act.  He reiterated                                                             
HB 134 is technical; it doesn't expand any of the language in the                                                               
original Act; it doesn't expand any police powers on the ski                                                                    
slopes; it simply provides a technical change for the courts to                                                                 
establish a bail schedule.                                                                                                      
Number 0426                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN KOTT asked Representative Hudson whether this will cite                                                                
the seven year olds on the slopes.                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON replied no.  This is trying to save their                                                                 
lives by keeping the big guys from not following the rules.  This                                                               
keeps skiers out of areas that might generate a landslide forcing                                                               
the ski patrol to rescue them from areas that are secured.  A skier                                                             
can still get off the trail if that skier wants to.                                                                             
Number 0491                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN KOTT asked Representative Hudson whether there are signs                                                               
posted to warn skiers of the issuance of citations.                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON deferred the question to the experts.                                                                     
Number 0558                                                                                                                     
LARRY DANIELS, General Manager, Alyeska Resort, testified via                                                                   
teleconference from Anchorage in support of HB 134.  The 1994 ski                                                               
safety Act is very broad.  It identifies numerous responsibilities                                                              
of the ski areas, the state, and individual skiers.  It                                                                         
contemplates the issuance of citations for skiers who violates                                                                  
specific sections of the Act, but as the supreme court correctly                                                                
noted, it does not mention a bail schedule.  The Act is also                                                                    
ambiguous concerning ski areas not on state lands.  House Bill 134                                                              
corrects those deficiencies and provides ski area operators a tool                                                              
to encourage appropriate behavior.  Currently, ski area operators                                                               
have authority to issue a $50 citation, and thus far no citations                                                               
have been issued.  Therefore, any concerns of a large number of                                                                 
citations being issued are not realistic.  Citations have been                                                                  
issued in years past, but at the current level there isn't a                                                                    
deterrent to significantly discourage skiers from going back and                                                                
performing the same act.  In regards to signs, the Act requires a                                                               
notice at every lift, but because it is so wordy, a skier has to                                                                
seek out specific issues from the Act itself.                                                                                   
Number 0711                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI asked Mr. Daniels whether there is the                                                                 
ability to pull a ticket, besides issuing a citation, or is it an                                                               
either-or deal.                                                                                                                 
MR. DANIEL replied ski operators have the right and do revoke                                                                   
skiing privileges.  However, more often than not, a violation                                                                   
occurs late in the afternoon and taking away a ticket with the                                                                  
balance of an hour or so doesn't provide that much of a deterrent.                                                              
Number 0841                                                                                                                     
GARY MENDIVIL, Vice President, Alaska Ski Areas Association,                                                                    
testified in Juneau in support of HB 134.  He is also the business                                                              
manager for the Eaglecrest Ski Area.  He noted that there are over                                                              
14 ski areas in the state.  Some are operated by non-profits; some                                                              
are operated by city governments; some are privately operated; and,                                                             
some are operated by the military.  When the Act was passed in                                                                  
1994, it contained language allowing for a bail schedule for                                                                    
citations on a specific list of infractions.  But, the court system                                                             
declined to create a bail schedule because there was no clear                                                                   
authorization in statute.  The purpose of HB 134 is to correct that                                                             
oversight.  Although these citations may be considered the                                                                      
equivalent of a parking ticket, they will not be issued as                                                                      
frequently.  Each individual ski area has policies and disciplinary                                                             
procedures in place for dealing with many of these offenses.                                                                    
Unfortunately, there are chronic and intentional offenders that do                                                              
not comply with the discipline requiring appropriate legal action.                                                              
The proposed bail schedule will allow ski areas to deal more                                                                    
effectively with those persons.                                                                                                 
Number 0945                                                                                                                     
PAUL SWANSON, Manager, Eaglecrest Ski Area, testified in Juneau in                                                              
support of HB 134.  He concurs with everything that Mr. Daniels                                                                 
said.  The Act was intended to set a bail schedule for certain                                                                  
violations.  The bill will not prohibit skiers from going outside                                                               
ski area boundaries.  It says that skiers cannot go into closed                                                                 
areas.  Eaglecrest does not recommend that skiers go outside the                                                                
boundaries because there is no avalanche control or first aide work                                                             
done outside them.  But, people are able to go out there on their                                                               
own.  The problem at Eaglecrest is that people go into areas that                                                               
are roped for avalanche control, and once they go into those areas,                                                             
Eaglecrest has to stop its control work and chase them out.                                                                     
Currently, the policy at Eaglecrest is to restrict ski privileges                                                               
for two weeks if a person is caught within an area.  But, if that                                                               
person has a day pass, there isn't much that can be done.  He feels                                                             
that people come to Eaglecrest to have fun and this bill helps to                                                               
ensure that.                                                                                                                    
Number 1149                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA stated a concern she has heard is that this                                                             
approach is more disciplinarian than educational.  According to                                                                 
statute, it is the responsibility of the ski operator to make                                                                   
available at reasonable fees instruction and education on the                                                                   
dangers and risks of skiing.  She asked Mr. Swanson to put on the                                                               
record the efforts that Eaglecrest has made towards that.                                                                       
Number 1192                                                                                                                     
MR. SWANSON replied Eaglecrest presently has signs and runs a                                                                   
video.  The ski patrol does a very good job at addressing and                                                                   
marking hazards, and dealing with the public.                                                                                   
Number 1220                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA asked Mr. Swanson whether the ski                                                                       
instructors also make a big point of teaching safety.                                                                           
MR. SWANSON replied yes.  It is part of the curriculum.                                                                         
Number 1250                                                                                                                     
RUPE ANDREW testified in Juneau in support of the intent of HB 134.                                                             
There are problems in the way the bill is written.  It may cause                                                                
problems that aren't seen right now.  For example, he wants to know                                                             
whether it applies to Nordic skiers.  They ski most of the time                                                                 
outside of regulated areas.  They are all over the countryside.  In                                                             
addition, the bill indicates that the commissioner of DNR                                                                       
(Department of Natural Resources) and/or the ski operator will                                                                  
designate people to enforce it.  What happens if a person refuses                                                               
to sign a citation? he asked.  Enforcement will not be without                                                                  
cost, if a citation is challenged.  Who will provide for lost wages                                                             
and time in court? he asked.  In addition, AS 11.81.900 defines the                                                             
term "recklessly" which leaves a lot of personal interpretation by                                                              
the person charged with enforcement.  A defendant has the burden of                                                             
preponderance [of evidence] in proving his/her innocence.                                                                       
Number 1383                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI commented she read somewhere that a person                                                             
doesn't have to sign a copy of a citation.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA noted that was changed in Section 3 of the                                                              
bill, precisely for the reasons that Mr. Andrews cited.                                                                         
MR. ANDREWS asked whether the person charged with enforcement will                                                              
have the authority to arrest a person for refusing to sign a                                                                    
citation.  There will be a "preponderance" of juveniles in these                                                                
cases, and fines of $75 to $100 will be tough for them.                                                                         
Number 1458                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN KOTT noted that Nordic skiers are included.                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA replied that Nordic skiers are not                                                                      
included.  Cross-country ski trails are not included in the                                                                     
definition of ski area.  There could be a Nordic skier on a                                                                     
downhill slope, however.                                                                                                        
Number 1481                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE CROFT referred to AS 05.45.200 and the definition of                                                             
the term "ski area."  He said it really isn't going to prohibit                                                                 
back-country skiing.  It has to be under the control of a downhill                                                              
ski area.  If they have no power to open it, they have no power to                                                              
close it.                                                                                                                       
Number 1505                                                                                                                     
MR. ANDREWS referred to AS 11.81.900 and the definition of the term                                                             
"recklessly."  He interprets it as "going beyond area boundaries."                                                              
The boundaries are clearly marked, and if a skier goes beyond them,                                                             
it's that skier's responsibility financially if something happens.                                                              
Number 1539                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA noted the intention of HB 134 is to enact                                                               
the bail schedule in AS 05.45.100.  The list is pretty exclusive                                                                
and includes skiing on a slope or trail that has been posted as                                                                 
"closed."  It doesn't cover out-of-bound skiing, however.  The list                                                             
has been in statute since 1994, but the supreme court has not had                                                               
specific language to enact a bail schedule.                                                                                     
MR. ANDREWS explained he was looking at AS 05.45.100(c)(5),                                                                     
"knowingly enter upon public or private land from an adjoining ski                                                              
area when the land has been closed by an owner and is posted by the                                                             
owner or by the ski area operator under AS 05.45.060(e)(3)."  To                                                                
him, that means "skiing out of bounds."  He supports Mr. Swanson's                                                              
testimony that when an area is posted as "closed" it should jolly                                                               
well be closed.  "If you're gonna go off a cliff, I'd like to see                                                               
a 'closed' sign there."  He would like to see specific language for                                                             
better legislation and safety.                                                                                                  
CHAIRMAN KOTT noted that the definition refers to land that is                                                                  
closed and posted "closed."  He thinks that covers Mr. Andrews'                                                                 
Number 1662                                                                                                                     
GARY CUSCIA, President, Eaglecrest Ski Area Board of Directors,                                                                 
testified in Juneau in support of HB 134.  We are talking about an                                                              
area that is closed within a ski area boundary.  Imagine that you                                                               
are a member of a ski patrol and your job is to go into an area,                                                                
that is presently closed, to do avalanche control work and a few                                                                
skiers or snowboarders sneak in, you are put in harm's way.  Those                                                              
skiers are in a place that they shouldn't be, and you have to get                                                               
them out.  That is the board's primary concern.                                                                                 
Number 1730                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN KOTT closed the meeting to public testimony.                                                                           
Number 1736                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA made a motion to move HB 134 from the                                                                   
committee with individual recommendations and the attached fiscal                                                               
note(s).  There being no objection, HB 134 was so moved from the                                                                
House Judiciary Standing Committee.                                                                                             

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