Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/20/1995 01:05 PM TRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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HB 48 - MOTORCYCLE SAFETY Number 014 REPRESENTATIVE TOM BRICE, Sponsor of HB 48, stated that currently state statute is outdated when it comes to terms of what we consider a motorcycle license.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 It did not rise to the level of an Attorney General's Opinion and it was withdrawn on December 20, 1993.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 goals. Number 127 REPRESENTATIVE JEANNETTE JAMES commented that she concurs with the bill. 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 doing. 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 Fairbanks. 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 written. 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.