Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/24/1994 03:00 PM L&C
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 360 - AIRCRAFT/WATERCRAFT GUEST PASSENGER LAW Number 085 REP. CON BUNDE, Prime Sponsor of HB 360, stated that HB 360 was offered in response to the current law that permits a person to get sued if they take friends out fishing or flying and there is an accident. This bill would allow that to happen without jeopardizing personal finances. The bill would provide for the guest passenger to acknowledge that there are inherent risks when traveling in recreational vehicles to access the outdoors. REP. BUNDE stressed that the bill does not excuse anyone from responsibility for gross negligence. REP. BUNDE offered an amendment that would include watercraft in the bill, stating it was an oversight in drafting. CHAIRMAN HUDSON asked for an explanation of the exception on line 14, page 1. REP. BUNDE answered that the exception covers the situation where a person is demonstrating the use of a vehicle for the purpose of selling it to the person. Number 156 REP. GREEN asked if this would provide for the release of liability that is not afforded to an operator of an automobile. Number 167 REP. BUNDE responded that it did. He noted that the risk is somewhat different than boating or flying. Number 175 REP. MULDER asked if any other states have guest passenger laws on automobiles. Number 180 MS. PATTI SWENSON, Staff, Rep. Bunde, responded that there were no guest passenger laws for automobiles. Number 194 REP. MULDER offered a technical amendment to page 2, line 1, to add "watercraft." No objections were heard; it was so ordered. Number 205 REP. PORTER moved Amendment 1 with friendly amendment. No objections were heard; it was so ordered. Number 214 MR. JOHN GEORGE, Lobbyist, representing the National Association of Independent Insurers and the Alaska Outdoor Council, testified in support of HB 360. He stated that it was important to understand that when buying aircraft insurance you buy two different things, one for the number of seats you have and two for what the airplane does when it crashes into something. Number 257 MR. MIKE PANNONE, immediate past president of the Alaska Airmen's Association, testified via teleconference in support of HB 360. Number 267 MR. MIKE SCHNEIDER testified via offnet in opposition to HB 360. Mr. Schneider noted that HB 360 is special interest legislation that would treat watercraft and aircraft owners differently than owners of other types of vehicles and may pose a constitutional problem. MR. SCHNEIDER suggested that owners of aircraft and watercraft may conclude that they don't need insurance if this bill passes, since they would be immune to any liability. If an owner fails to purchase insurance and the law is found infirm, the owner would find himself in a bad legal situation. MR. SCHNEIDER stated that litigation against uninsured persons in this kind of situation is rare and rarely results in significant judgments. MR. SCHNEIDER said that HB 360 would make it impossible for persons who wish to insure their liability to protect their family if something did happen. Number 337 CHAIRMAN HUDSON asked if other states have this kind of immunity. Number 342 MR. SCHNEIDER replied that he did not know. Number 349 REP. BUNDE listed 14 states that have guest passenger legislation. Number 360 REP. GREEN asked, even if an operator was not liable under HB 360, would not the operator be able to contractually deal with an insurance company? Number 362 REP. BUNDE replied yes. Number 376 CHAIRMAN HUDSON asked Mr. Schneider why he thought this bill would be declared unconstitutional. Number 378 MR. SCHNEIDER replied that since the bill would establish different classes of people: those that operate aircraft and have guest passengers as opposed to those who operate anything else. Mr. Schneider believed this would trigger an equal protection analysis. Under Alaskan constitutional law there is a sliding scale analysis where you have to show a reasonable relationship between the legislative enactment and the purpose that it seeks. Number 410 REP. BUNDE noted that the Department of Law helped craft HB 360 and did not raise any constitutional problems. Number 415 REP. PORTER moved HB 360 as amended with individual recommendations and zero fiscal notes. No objections were heard; it was so ordered.