Legislature(1999 - 2000)
03/29/1999 01:11 PM House JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 violation." CHAIRMAN KOTT called on Representative Bill Hudson, sponsor of the bill. 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' concern. 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.