Legislature(1995 - 1996)

02/20/1995 01:05 PM TRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 HTRA - 02/20/95                                                               
 HB 48 - MOTORCYCLE SAFETY                                                   
 Number 014                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE TOM BRICE, Sponsor of HB 48, stated that currently             
 state statute is outdated when it comes to terms of what we                   
 consider a motorcycle license.  Currently, the statutes refer to              
 singly license to operate a motorcycle, however, the division no              
 longer singly license motorcycle operators.  What they provide is             
 an endorsement on the driver's license.  This led to some                     
 confusion, and also to an Attorney General's Opinion in the fall of           
 1993, which would have reversed state policy for a number of years            
 (I believe, close to 16 or 17 years) of the state not having a                
 helmet law for the operator of a motorcycle over 18.                          
 Representative Brice further explained that the Attorney General's            
 Office, in an attempt to capture Intermodal Surface Transportation            
 Efficiency Act (ISTEA) funds, wrote an opinion saying the state did           
 have a helmet law, and that only those people who were singly                 
 licensed to operate a motorcycle, could go without a helmet.  This            
 was misinterpreted by the public, as well as the legislature.                 
 Representative Brice explained that HB 48 simply clarifies the                
 current state policy, that Alaska does not have helmet laws in                
 place for operators over 18 years of age.  Representative Brice               
 asked if there were any questions.                                            
 Number 080                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN DAVIS concurred with Representative Brice and stated he              
 had reviewed the bill.  Chairman Davis mentioned two people in the            
 local audience have requested to testify.  Chairman Davis                     
 introduced Margot Knuth from the Department of Law.                           
 Number 095                                                                    
 MARGOT KNUTH, Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division,                  
 Department of Law, said she was here on behalf of the Governor who            
 supports HB 48.  She said there has been reference made to an                 
 Attorney General's Opinion from 1993 related to this issue.  She              
 stated there is a memo was from an attorney with the Department of            
 Law that was prepared in 1993.  It did not rise to the level of an            
 Attorney General's Opinion and it was withdrawn on December 20,               
 1993.  At this point, our understanding and the interpretation of             
 the law in this state, is that we do not require adults to wear               
 helmets.  She said HB 48 will clarify that that is indeed the state           
 of Alaska's position.  Ms. Knuth said Alaska is with 25 other                 
 states that have declined the "opportunity" that the federal                  
 government has provided for all states to require motorcycle                  
 helmets to be used.  She said there's obviously an issue between a            
 matter of public safety and a matter of respecting a person's                 
 liberties and the freedom to make decisions for themselves about              
 their safety.                                                                 
 MS. KNUTH said the Governor does not wish anyone to be injured when           
 riding a motorcycle, but at the same time, for the state of Alaska            
 to tell its citizens in this detail, how they are to conduct the              
 affairs of their life is a serious matter.  She reiterated the fact           
 that 25 other states have declined to impose this requirement.  She           
 commented that the result of it isn't a loss of the federal funds,            
 but a transfer of those funds from the Department of Transportation           
 to the Department of Public Safety.  She stated the monies are                
 being utilized for public safety matters; that is, matters to                 
 protect the safety of the people of the state of Alaska.  She                 
 indicated this allocation has been ongoing for the past year and              
 can continue to happen, it seems satisfactory - it achieves several           
 Number 127                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE JEANNETTE JAMES commented that she concurs with the            
 CHAIRMAN DAVIS thanked Ms. Knuth for her testimony and called                 
 Juanita Hensley from the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV),                    
 Department of Public Safety to testify.                                       
 Number 156                                                                    
 JUANITA HENSLEY, Chief of Driver Services, Department of Public               
 Safety, stated her concerns regarded Section 1 of HB 48, which adds           
 a new section requiring the department to adopt regulations                   
 implementing a motorcycle safety program.  Ms. Hensley explained              
 that the department currently licenses commercial driving schools             
 under AS 28.  She added the department also has regulations                   
 regarding the type of instruction, who can be instructors, and how            
 the training is to be conducted, etc.  The Division of Motor                  
 Vehicles currently has a defensive driving program for motorcycles            
 riders.  She mentioned there was one organization in Anchorage that           
 is certified to teach a defensive driving program for motorcycle              
 riders.  Ms. Hensley stated the DMV has an application for ABATE              
 (Alaskan Bikers Advocating Training and Education) of Alaska to               
 become a commercial driving school for motorcycles.  The curriculum           
 is being submitted and is being reviewed at this time.  She                   
 commented that the department feels the existing statute and                  
 regulations are broad enough to cover motorcycle safety and they              
 are currently licensing and certifying programs to do that, and               
 have for some time.  She said the department supports HB 48, but              
 pointed out that it would require them to adopt separate                      
 regulations for motorcycle safety and they are currently doing that           
 program under the existing laws and regulations.                              
 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES referred to Section 1 of HB 48 which states              
 "it is the policy of the state that the Department of Public Safety           
 implement a motorcycle safety program."  Representative James asked           
 Ms. Hensley for confirmation regarding the existing program of the            
 Department of Public Safety on this matter.                                   
 MS. HENSLEY responded that the department has in regulation and it            
 is broad enough in the current statute, that DMV can license and              
 implement a motorcycle safety program through the current                     
 regulations and law.  She commented there is one organization in              
 Anchorage that has an approved defensive driving program for                  
 motorcycles only.                                                             
 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES commented that from Ms. Hensley's testimony,             
 it appeared to her that if Section 2 was removed from the bill,               
 then Section 1 is not going to make any difference to what DMV is             
 MS. HENSLEY responded that is correct.                                        
 Number 213                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN DAVIS stated that both Section 1 and Section 2 are                   
 currently being provided and that Ms. Hensley's testimony is that             
 this would mandate - they're being provided as a matter of policy,            
 but not as a matter of law.                                                   
 MS. HENSLEY reiterated the law was broad enough to cover motorcycle           
 safety programs.  She said Section 1 would just be an instruction             
 from the legislature to the department, and according to her                  
 interpretation, the legislature is wanting the Department of Public           
 Safety to use the existing laws to include a motorcycle safety                
 program that is currently being done.  Section 2 of the bill then             
 would mandate the department to write regulations that would speak            
 directly to motorcycle safety.  The department feels the law is               
 already broad enough that the department can cover that type of a             
 program in their safety programs.                                             
 Number 232                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS recognized there were people on teleconference           
 from Soldotna.                                                                
 SCOTT HAMANN, Member of Kenai/Soldotna ABATE, stated his support              
 and the support of Alaska Bikers Advocating Training and Education            
 (ABATE) for HB 48.  He concurred with Ms. Hensley that a lot is               
 already being done in the state, but he would like to see the state           
 review this and maybe put it into law, instead of having it handled           
 through the administration process.  He felt the main reason for              
 the bill was for the final section to change the wording to clarify           
 the current law.                                                              
 Number 257                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN DAVIS recognized Charles Mitchell on teleconference from             
 CHARLES MITCHELL, President, Tanana Valley ABATE, stated he and               
 ABATE were in full support of the bill.  He further explained that            
 after many discussions, Representative Tom Brice introduced this              
 bill in 1993 and would like to see the state support it, and the              
 legislature to recommend that the Department of Transportation                
 formalize this in some manner.                                                
 CHAIRMAN DAVIS stated for the record that Representative Jerry                
 Sanders joined the meeting at 1:10 p.m.  Chairman Davis recognized            
 Pat Caffrey from Fairbanks on teleconference.                                 
 PAT CAFFREY, Member, Tanana Valley ABATE, testified that he                   
 completely supports HB 48, as it clarifies current helmet laws and            
 recognizes motorcycle safety training.                                        
 RICHARD GEIGER, Member, Tanana Valley ABATE, testified that he also           
 supports HB 48.                                                               
 JAMES MACLEAN, Member, Tanana Valley ABATE, testified that he                 
 supports HB 48.                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES asked the people who testified from Fairbanks            
 if they would have any problem deleting Section 2 of the bill,                
 particularly since we are faced with extra costs, and regulations             
 are already in effect.                                                        
 Number 304                                                                    
 MR. MITCHELL from Fairbanks responded that to the best of his                 
 knowledge there was a $4,000 tab added to this for rewriting some             
 of the existing laws.  He stated this could be verified with                  
 Representative Tom Brice's office.  Mr. Mitchell felt that $4,000             
 was not too much of an expenditure to formalize this issue.                   
 CHAIRMAN DAVIS added this was a one-time, not a continuous                    
 expenditure.  He recognized that others were on-line from Soldotna            
 to testify.                                                                   
 KIM ZUFELT, Member, Kenai/Soldotna ABATE, testified that she                  
 supports HB 48.                                                               
 RICK ZUFELT, Member, Kenai/Soldotna ABATE, testified that he                  
 supports HB 48 and believed that Section 2 should remain, as $4,000           
 is a menial cost compared to some of the other things we spend                
 money on.                                                                     
 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES explained that she had been working                      
 extensively on regulation reform and said that she finds                      
 regulations are extremely time-consuming, costly and interfering              
 with the rights of the people to do things.  She added that she did           
 not want to see an extensive amount of regulations, but understands           
 the need for them.  Representative James directed a question to Ms.           
 Hensley regarding Section 2 which states, "regulations necessary to           
 implement a motorcycle safety program."  Representative James asked           
 if it couldn't be construed that the existing regulations would               
 meet this criteria, so new regulations would not have to be                   
 MS. HENSLEY responded it was her belief that the existing                     
 regulations and statute that are in place now, are broad enough to            
 cover Section 2.                                                              
 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES asked Ms. Hensley, "Even if we leave Section             
 2 in, it will not cause you to write new regulations?"                        
 MS. HENSLEY acknowledged that it would require the adoption of new            
 regulations, because it is mandating the department to have                   
 regulations specifically tied to a motorcycle safety program.  She            
 further explained that the other regulations currently in place               
 deal with an overall safety program for driver training. This would           
 be mandating that the department adopt regulations strictly for a             
 motorcycle safety program.  Ms. Hensley reiterated this would be              
 further broadening the current regulations.                                   
 Number 351                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN DAVIS commented that the "key provision here is since we             
 are implementing it, then it is in statute and not something that             
 you can do or can't do.  It is something that you shall do and that           
 is where, I think some of the testimony indicated that is what the            
 testimonies wanted and I don't tend to speak for the maker of the             
 legislation."  Chairman Davis added that the main difference is               
 clarification for later administrations and later personnel in                
 different departments.                                                        
 Number 360                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE commented that he and Chairman Davis had sat             
 on the Administrative Regulation Review together and what they                
 don't want to do, but they understand, that quite often an                    
 administration's points of view do vary from administration to                
 administration.  During the next four years, the Governor may be              
 very amenable to a motorcycle safety program; however, the next               
 Governor may say forget it.  Representative Brice felt that placing           
 it in statute would assure there would be enough understanding                
 about what the legislators' desires are and the administrations               
 will follow through.                                                          
 CHAIRMAN DAVIS stated he understood the concern of Representative             
 James in regard to how regulations can become misconstrued from the           
 original intent, which was what brought this particular legislation           
 to the table; that being the intent of a statute which did not                
 follow the intended interpretations.  Chairman Davis felt                     
 comfortable with ABATE's involvement.                                         
 Number 392                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES responded she would be a lot more comfortable            
 if that one line said that we were recognizing ABATE as the                   
 official people to do the training.  She explained that her problem           
 stems from the fact that when regulations are written intending to            
 be in the best of interest, but then they go through the Department           
 of Law and loose intent.  Representative James stated she would not           
 make a motion to delete that part out because it seems to be the              
 interest of everyone not to do that, but she emphasized she was not           
 happy with that.  She further emphasized that she had no problem              
 with making ABATE become the official trainers of motorcycle                  
 safety.  She explained this would abolish the need for regulations            
 and the training would be ABATE's responsibility and they would               
 determine how their safety program should be carried out.                     
 Representative James concluded by stating, "I don't think we as a             
 state, are that knowledgeable, and I think that the more                      
 regulations we can get out of our Administrative Procedures Act,              
 the better our state will run."                                               
 Number 407                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN DAVIS stated his concerns for the importance of                      
 regulations and the importance of input on this issue.  He added              
 that it would be Representative Brice's responsibility to monitor             
 the passage of HB 48.                                                         
 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK added "it was too bad that one phoney opinion            
 by one attorney is causing the legislature to go through the                  
 trouble and expense of this bill".  She stated it is her belief               
 that the extra protection of HB 48 is important for the people                
 involved.  She added that she concurs with Representative James's             
 concerns on the regulation process and would support HB 48.                   
 Number 415                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE BILL WILLIAMS recommended HB 48 be moved out of                
 committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note.           
 CHAIRMAN DAVIS asked if there were any objections.  Hearing none,             
 HB 48 passed out of committee.                                                

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