Legislature(2003 - 2004)

02/24/2004 01:34 PM TRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 387-INCREASE FINE FOR SCHOOL ZONE VIOLATIONS                                                                               
CHAIR HOLM  announced that the  first order of business  would be                                                               
HOUSE  BILL NO.  387,  "An  Act relating  to  fines for  offenses                                                               
committed within school zones."                                                                                                 
Number 0083                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE CARL GATTO, Alaska  State Legislature, speaking as                                                               
the sponsor,  began by relating  a quote from an  Anchorage Daily                                                             
News  article included  in the  committee packet,  which read  as                                                             
follows:   "About 460 drivers  were cited for speeding  in school                                                               
zones  in 2002,  according to  the Anchorage  Police Department's                                                               
Annual Statistical  Report.  But  police officials  said Thursday                                                               
they can't  catch or deter  all the  speeders, even when  they do                                                               
stings  for  days  at  a  time."   Therefore,  he  surmised  that                                                               
[speeding  in  school zones]  isn't  an  occasional event.    The                                                               
committee packet also contains a  letter from the Fairbanks North                                                               
Star  Borough  School  District,  which  relates  the  following:                                                               
"Approximately two-thirds  of our 15,000 students  walk to school                                                               
each day."   The legislation, he explained, relates  to the fines                                                               
for  motor  vehicle  violations  within  school  zones  and  it's                                                               
similar  to  the  double fines  for  [motor  vehicle  violations]                                                               
within  highway work  zones.   He noted  that highway  work zones                                                               
often have a  flagger who signifies the [beginning  of] a highway                                                               
work  zone.   He  indicated  that the  flagger  coupled with  the                                                               
double  fine signage  has reduced  accidents within  highway work                                                               
zones.   This legislation would  double the fines  for violations                                                               
in clearly marked school zones.                                                                                                 
CHAIR HOLM highlighted that there is  a zero fiscal note from the                                                               
Alaska State Troopers of the  Department of Public Safety and the                                                               
Criminal  Division of  the Department  of  Law.   He related  his                                                               
assumption that these violations would end up in traffic court.                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO informed the committee  that there is also a                                                               
zero fiscal note  from the Department of  Transportation & Public                                                               
Facilities  (DOT&PF).    He  explained  that  originally,  DOT&PF                                                               
assumed that it  would be required to place signs  in areas where                                                               
no  signs  existed;  however,  that isn't  the  intention.    The                                                               
legislation simply  intends to reduce  the number of  speeders in                                                               
school zones.  He commented that  some of the worst offenders are                                                               
high school students.                                                                                                           
Number 0413                                                                                                                     
CHAIR HOLM  assumed that  there would be  some cost  to troopers,                                                               
and therefore he asked if the fines would cover that extra cost.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO commented  that when a fine  is increased so                                                               
does  the potential  for a  challenge  in court  rather than  the                                                               
offender merely paying the fine.                                                                                                
CHAIR HOLM  reminded the  sponsor that  the legislature  has been                                                               
discussing  the   graduated  drivers'   license  (GDL)   and  the                                                               
inability of  young people to  obtain a drivers' license  if they                                                               
have an offense  such as this.  Therefore,  he questioned whether                                                               
there are some unintended consequences.                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO highlighted  that  this legislation  merely                                                               
doubles the fines.                                                                                                              
CHAIR  HOLM  recalled that  under  the  GDL legislation  a  young                                                               
person cannot have  any violations within the last  six months in                                                               
order to progress to the next step.                                                                                             
Number 0545                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  STEPOVICH  surmised  that  the goal  is  to  stop                                                               
speeding in neighborhoods.  However,  he opined that young people                                                               
don't  think  about [the  dangers  or  repercussions of  reckless                                                               
activities such  as speeding].  Therefore,  he questioned whether                                                               
increasing  the fines  will stop  young  people [from  speeding].                                                               
Representative Stepovich inquired as  whether there have been any                                                               
discussions with regard to signage.                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO noted  that he  has had  long conversations                                                               
with DOT&PF.   He  also noted  that his  goal was  not to  have a                                                               
fiscal note attached  to the legislation.   This legislation only                                                               
applies to school zones that are already signed.                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE STEPOVICH  asked if there was  any discussion with                                                               
regard  to law  enforcement  using speed  traps  at school  zones                                                               
rather than out on the highway.                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO pointed  out that  law enforcement  already                                                               
does [use speed traps at school zones].                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  STEPOVICH surmised  that the  double fines  could                                                               
impact  law   enforcement  and  provide  an   incentive  for  law                                                               
enforcement  to [be  in  school  zones] in  order  to obtain  the                                                               
larger fine.                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO said that it's  usually up to the captain to                                                               
schedule the location of law enforcement.                                                                                       
Number 0756                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  OGG opined  that HB  387 deals  with metropolitan                                                               
areas.   He related that  he doesn't see a  need for this  in his                                                               
area.  Furthermore, the speed  limits in [the metropolitan areas]                                                               
are a  lot higher  and the  traffic patterns  are different.   He                                                               
mentioned the "cookie cutter program."                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  interjected that the aforementioned  is why                                                               
the  legislation  is   limited  to  marked  school   zones.    He                                                               
acknowledged that the smaller schools  have no need for or desire                                                               
for signs.                                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE OGG  remarked that there are  different magnitudes                                                               
between the urban and rural areas of the state.                                                                                 
CHAIR  HOLM turned  attention to  page 2,  line 7,  which defines                                                               
"school zone."  He asked if it  would make more sense to refer to                                                               
"only an area identified by signs as being near a school."                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO indicated that was the intent.                                                                             
Number 0903                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE OGG  moved that the  committee adopt  Amendment 1,                                                               
which would  specify on  page 2,  line 7,  that a  "'school zone'                                                               
means only an area identified by signs as being near a school."                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  STEPOVICH  commented  that  there  are  different                                                               
dangers at different schools.                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO informed  the  committee that  he lives  on                                                               
Trunk Road, which  he characterized as one of  the most dangerous                                                               
roads in the state and at the  end of it is an elementary school.                                                               
In further  response to Representative  Stepovich, Representative                                                               
Gatto  indicated   that  the  committee  packet   should  include                                                               
information regarding what  other states do with  fines in school                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  STEPOVICH surmised  that the  double fines  apply                                                               
while school in session.                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO expressed  concern with  the aforementioned                                                               
because when  the school is in  session, the children are  in the                                                               
school rather  than when  the school  is out  of session  and the                                                               
children  are  outside  and  around  the  school.    However,  he                                                               
acknowledged  that schools  are  used at  other  times for  other                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  STEPOVICH indicated  that  the legislation  could                                                               
refer to "when children are present".                                                                                           
Number 1068                                                                                                                     
CHAIR HOLM related that in his  area there is a major highway off                                                               
of which  a school sits; the  children don't walk on  the highway                                                               
and  aren't  dropped off  on  the  highway.    He said  he  could                                                               
understand  this legislation  in  the context  of a  neighborhood                                                               
rather than off of  a major highway.  He noted  that it is marked                                                               
as a school zone  and the speed limit drops by  10 miles per hour                                                               
(mph) to 55 mph.  He inquired as to how that would be addressed.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  directed attention to page  1, lines 11-12,                                                               
which  specifies that  the double  fine applies  only during  the                                                               
period when a lower speed limit is in effect.                                                                                   
Number 1158                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING inquired as to the typical fine now.                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO informed  the committee  that in  Anchorage                                                               
the speeding fines for speeds up to  9 mph is $12 per mile, up to                                                               
19 mph  over is $14,  and up to  20 mph or  more is $16  per mile                                                               
plus a reckless driving charge.                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING surmised  then that speeding up  to 10 mph                                                               
over the  speed limit would  result in  a $200 fine,  which under                                                               
this legislation  would double to  $400.   He then turned  to the                                                               
sponsor  statement and  the justification  that this  legislation                                                               
will increase  public awareness.   However,  he wasn't  sure that                                                               
would  be  a  justification.    He expressed  the  need  to  have                                                               
information illustrating  that legislation  such as HB  387 would                                                               
result  in a  decrease  in  the number  of  children and  vehicle                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO pointed out  that currently double fines are                                                               
implemented in highway work zones.   He related his understanding                                                               
that doubling the  fines in highway work zones  has decreased the                                                               
number of  collisions in  that area.   He  agreed to  obtain that                                                               
information.  He  then added that this matter  has been addressed                                                               
by most all states.                                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING opined that  even with increased fines and                                                               
penalties  for  violations, such  as  for  drunk drivers,  people                                                               
continue to  drive carelessly and  drunk.  Therefore, he  said he                                                               
wasn't  convinced that  increasing fines  would do  anything more                                                               
than  put more  money  in  the pockets  of  some bureaucracy  and                                                               
wouldn't make  kids safe on  the streets.   With regard  to Trunk                                                               
Road,  the problem  is related  to the  need for  infrastructure,                                                               
which is being addressed.                                                                                                       
Number 1368                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE STEPOVICH  commented that  the goal  of HB  387 is                                                               
great.  However,  he opined that the "bad guys"  will always will                                                               
be the  "bad guys" and  the increased fines  will be a  burden to                                                               
the inattentive individuals.                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  said that when he  contemplates introducing                                                               
legislation, he questions whether it  will make a difference.  If                                                               
the  legislation  will  make  a  difference,  then  the  question                                                               
becomes how large  of a difference will it make.   Some would say                                                               
that saving even one child would  be enough of a difference to do                                                               
this while others may not.   Therefore, it's for the committee to                                                               
determine what constitutes enough.   Representative Gatto related                                                               
his belief  that fines  do get people's  attention and  does some                                                               
good.  This legislation, he opined, has value to it.                                                                            
CHAIR  HOLM turned  attention to  the document  in the  committee                                                               
packet  that specifies  the number  of school  zone citations  in                                                               
2003.   The document specifies  that in Anchorage there  were 410                                                               
such citations as compared to  the [next highest] of 26 citations                                                               
statewide in  areas that aren't  listed.  Therefore,  he surmised                                                               
that  this  is  a  problem  only in  Anchorage.    For  instance,                                                               
Fairbanks has  one-third of the  state's population but  only had                                                               
10 violations.                                                                                                                  
Number 1588                                                                                                                     
CODY  RICE,  Staff to  Representative  Carl  Gatto, Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature,  informed the  committee  that the  document in  the                                                               
committee packet was provided by  the Alaska State Troopers based                                                               
on  the  numbers   they  have  received.    He   noted  that  one                                                               
possibility is  that not everyone  reports these figures  and not                                                               
everyone codes  speed offenses  in the  same manner.   Therefore,                                                               
there  may  a  fairly  good  percentage  of  under-reporting  and                                                               
perhaps an "apples to oranges" comparison.                                                                                      
CHAIR  HOLM,  again   turning  to  the  number   of  school  zone                                                               
violations,  asked  if  a  statewide  "fix"  is  required  for  a                                                               
regional problem.                                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO agreed  that the  results are  understated.                                                               
He  related that  in  discussions with  police  officers, he  has                                                               
discovered that [law enforcement]  doesn't work school zones very                                                               
much.   Furthermore, there  seems to  be an  acceptable threshold                                                               
for speeding  such that  if the  speed limit is  55 mph,  one can                                                               
drive  64  mph  without  being  stopped.    Representative  Gatto                                                               
related  his  belief that  signs  for  double  fines would  be  a                                                               
motivator to slow down.                                                                                                         
Number 1732                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE OGG  moved that the  committee adopt  Amendment 1,                                                               
as follows:                                                                                                                     
     Page 2, line 7, following "means":                                                                                         
     Insert "only the"                                                                                                          
There being no objection, Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                              
Number 1775                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  OGG moved  that  the  committee adopt  Conceptual                                                               
Amendment 2,  which would  state:  "the  double fines  for school                                                               
zones applies only in municipalities  of populations greater than                                                               
200,000 people".                                                                                                                
CHAIR HOLM objected for discussion purposes.                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO pointed  out  that  Conceptual Amendment  2                                                               
would essentially  limit this legislation  to only  one community                                                               
in the state,  although [the Palmer - Wasilla area]  is just like                                                               
a municipality  in terms  of traffic.   He said  this legislation                                                               
would be  valuable to [the Palmer  - Wasilla area].   In response                                                               
to  Representative  Ogg,  Representative   Gatto  said  that  the                                                               
population  of  the  Matanuska-Susitna Borough  is  approximately                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  OGG offered  changing Conceptual  Amendment 2  to                                                               
refer to municipalities with populations greater than 60,000.                                                                   
CHAIR HOLM  suggested that would  be beneficial.  He  then turned                                                               
to  the situation  in the  Denali Borough  through which  a large                                                               
highway would run.                                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  commented that  there are schools  in rural                                                               
Number 1935                                                                                                                     
CHAIR HOLM withdrew his objection to Conceptual Amendment 2.                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE STEPOVICH  noted that  he was astonished  with the                                                               
number of violations in Anchorage.                                                                                              
MR.  RICE,  in  response  to  Chair  Holm's  request  for  better                                                               
information,  informed the  committee  that the  problem is  that                                                               
many of  the recording agencies  aren't necessarily  coding these                                                               
offenses correctly.                                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE STEPOVICH expressed concern  with regard to having                                                               
double fines without proper coding.                                                                                             
Number 2015                                                                                                                     
DON SMITH,  Administrator, Alaska  Highway Safety  Office (AHSO),                                                               
Division of  Program Development, Department of  Transportation &                                                               
Public Facilities  (DOT&PF), informed  the committee  that [ASHO]                                                               
has  funded  a  program  with the  Anchorage  Police  Department,                                                               
particularly for  traffic enforcement  and seat  belt use  at the                                                               
Anchorage schools.   He remarked that  the aforementioned program                                                               
may account for the high number [of violations] in Anchorage.                                                                   
CHAIR HOLM remarked, "Essentially, not  just speeding so it could                                                               
be other violations like seat belts."                                                                                           
MR. SMITH  pointed out that  in Alaska  one can't be  stopped for                                                               
not wearing  a seat  belt; but  if an  individual is  stopped for                                                               
speeding  and that  individual isn't  wearing a  seat belt,  that                                                               
individual can be cited for not wearing a seat belt.                                                                            
CHAIR HOLM  reminded the committee  that Conceptual  Amendment 2,                                                               
as  amended,  remains before  it.    Conceptual Amendment  2,  as                                                               
amended, would insert the following  language:  "the double fines                                                               
for school  zones applies only  in municipalities  of populations                                                               
greater than 60,000 people".                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  STEPOVICH  objected,  and  stated  that  if  this                                                               
proposal is going to be done it should be done statewide.                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING  objected, and stated that  he didn't want                                                               
this to apply to the state at all.                                                                                              
A roll call  vote was taken.  Representatives Ogg  and Holm voted                                                               
in favor of Conceptual Amendment  2, as amended.  Representatives                                                               
Stepovich and  Kohring voted against  it.   Therefore, Conceptual                                                               
Amendment 2, as amended, failed by a vote of 2-2.                                                                               
CHAIR HOLM  announced that this legislation  wouldn't be reported                                                               
from committee  today because  he wanted  to allow  the committee                                                               
members not present today the opportunity to discuss this.                                                                      
Number 2141                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  OGG surmised  that  if  this legislation  passes,                                                               
communities  with  [school] zones  would  have  to post  them  as                                                               
double fine [zones].                                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  disagreed.  The legislation  specifies that                                                               
if  the  sign  [specifying  a   school  zone]  exists  then  "the                                                               
situation occurs."  There is no DOT&PF involvement with this.                                                                   
CHAIR HOLM announced that HB 387 would be held over.                                                                            

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