Legislature(2013 - 2014)BARNES 124

03/26/2013 01:30 PM TRANSPORTATION

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Delayed to 2:00 p.m. Today --
Moved CSHJR 13(TRA) Out of Committee
Moved CSHB 176(TRA) Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
               HB 176-EXPERIMENTAL VEHICLE PLATES                                                                           
2:11:42 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR P. WILSON announced that  the first order of business would                                                               
be  HOUSE  BILL  NO.  176,   "An  Act  relating  to  experimental                                                               
2:12:22 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  ISAACSON moved  to adopt  the proposed  committee                                                               
substitute  (CS)  for HB  176,  Version  U [labeled  28-LS0674\U,                                                               
Strasbaugh,  3/18/13] as  the working  document.  [Version U  was                                                               
before the committee.                                                                                                           
2:12:47 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   STEVE   THOMPSON,  Alaska   State   Legislature,                                                               
speaking as  sponsor of HB  176, stated  that this bill  is badly                                                               
needed in the state.  He  recalled that about 10 years ago, while                                                               
he was mayor in Fairbanks, he was  trying to get a test track for                                                               
winter  testing  of manufacturers  of  vehicles.   He  discovered                                                               
large numbers of worldwide car  manufacturers were using Interior                                                               
Alaska  for cold-weather  testing, although  most people  did not                                                               
know the  testing was  occurring since  the cars  were disguised.                                                               
He  characterized auto  manufacturer's testing  as a  pretty good                                                               
sized industry.   He reported three people in  Fairbanks told him                                                               
they  test   drive  every  winter  in   Fairbanks  for  different                                                               
manufacturers.    Volkswagen  Group   of  America,  Inc.  (VWGoA)                                                               
brought up test  vehicles last winter, but needed  to re-test and                                                               
VWGoA the DMV indicated the vehicles  would need to be titled and                                                               
licensed  since temporary  licenses were  not available  for test                                                               
vehicles.  This bill would authorize  license plates for up to 36                                                               
months to  allow winter  testing programs to  occur.   He offered                                                               
his  belief  that  the  test driving  is  an  important  economic                                                               
development   driver   that   uses  local   mechanics,   garages,                                                               
warehouses, and drivers.                                                                                                        
2:15:21 PM                                                                                                                    
JANE PIERSON, Staff, Representative  Steve Thompson, Alaska State                                                               
Legislature,  on  behalf  of the  sponsor,  Representative  Steve                                                               
Thompson,  stated this  bill would  give statutory  authority for                                                               
experimental  vehicle plates  to  be issued  by  the Division  of                                                               
Motor Vehicles (DMV)  to manufacturers or distributors  for a 12-                                                               
month period, with the ability for  the license to be renewed for                                                               
additional 12-month  periods, for  a maximum of  36 months.   She                                                               
clarified   that   this   authority   will   be   restricted   to                                                               
manufacturing or distributors and not  just an individual who has                                                               
built an  experimental vehicle  in a garage.   When  the vehicles                                                               
leave  Alaska  they  are  relocated   or  destroyed  since  these                                                               
vehicles cannot be titled due  to their experimental nature.  The                                                               
bill would amend  AS 28.10.181 related to  registration of unique                                                               
and special vehicles  to be used for special  purposes, and would                                                               
create  a  special license  plate  the  purposes of  cold-weather                                                               
experimental  vehicles.   She  reiterated  that  this is  a  good                                                               
economic driver for Interior Alaska.                                                                                            
2:17:10 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN  asked whether other  type of testing  can be                                                               
MS. PIERSON answered that according  to DMV currently there isn't                                                               
any other  testing is going  on in Alaska.   She deferred  to the                                                               
department to expand on this.                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN  said perhaps  other types of  testing should                                                               
be happening.                                                                                                                   
MS. PIERSON answered that the  sponsor would not have any problem                                                               
with expanding  the scope  of the bill;  however, she  would like                                                               
DMV to respond in case it raises any issues for the department.                                                                 
2:18:31 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  ISAACSON offered  his  support for  HB  176.   He                                                               
understood  that  Minnesota is  the  only  other state  currently                                                               
offering  cold-weather  testing.    He  reported  that  Minnesota                                                               
charges $50  for first four license  plates and $35 for  each one                                                               
thereafter.   The  plates  expire each  December  31 without  any                                                               
prorated  fees.   He  asked for  a comparison  in  DMV's fees  in                                                               
Minnesota and Alaska.                                                                                                           
2:19:54 PM                                                                                                                    
SHELLY MELLOT,  Deputy Director,  Director's Office,  Division of                                                               
Motor Vehicles (DMV), Department  of Administration (DOA), stated                                                               
that  DMV  currently charges  $90  for  annual registration  fees                                                               
since the fees fall under  commercial vehicle rates.  In response                                                               
to  Representative   Lynn's  previous  question,  she   said  the                                                               
department did not have any  issue with going beyond cold-weather                                                               
testing.   The  DMV has  visited the  facility and  currently the                                                               
testing  is   limited  to  cold-weather  testing;   however,  the                                                               
department  does not  have an  issue  with removing  cold-weather                                                               
from the bill.                                                                                                                  
2:20:53 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  ISAACSON asked  whether  the $90  covers a  three                                                               
year period per vehicle.                                                                                                        
MS. MELLOT answered the fee is every 12 months.                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE ISAACSON  understood that Alaska's DMV  fees would                                                               
be higher than the ones Minnesota  charges.  He asked whether the                                                               
DMV sets the fee structure.                                                                                                     
MS.  MELLOT indicated  the  legislature sets  the  fees under  AS                                                               
28.10.421,  noting  these   vehicles  are  considered  commercial                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE ISAACSON asked whether  a special category such as                                                               
a vehicle testing category could be done in this bill.                                                                          
2:22:12 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE P.  WILSON asked  for clarification on  the effect                                                               
of  removing  "cold-weather" and  whether  that  would allow  the                                                               
department  to  be more  flexible  with  respect to  experimental                                                               
vehicle testing.                                                                                                                
MS. MELLOT answered yes; that the change would be more flexible.                                                                
2:22:42 PM                                                                                                                    
ALLISON  EARHART, Attorney,  Volkswagen  Group  of America,  Inc.                                                               
(VWGoA)  stated  that   VWGoA  is  the  parent   company  of  the                                                               
Volkswagen operations  in the U.S.   She offered  VWGoA's support                                                               
for this bill.  She stated  she is an in-house attorney for VWGOA                                                               
and she  specializes in licensing  matters.  She offered  that HB
176 would  allow VWGoA  to continue  to perform  its cold-weather                                                               
testing in  Alaska.   She summarized  that VWGoA  typically tests                                                               
its vehicles in  Alaska and apply for a  one-year registration in                                                               
order to  do so;  however, with more  stringent EPA  standards it                                                               
has become  necessary to bring  the vehicles back  for subsequent                                                               
years for additional testing; however,  the DMV does not have any                                                               
provision   available  to   allow  for   additional  testing   in                                                               
subsequent years.                                                                                                               
2:24:08 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE ISAACSON  understood this bill would  be adequate,                                                               
but   perhaps   removing   "cold-weather"   would   allow   other                                                               
experimental  vehicle  testing;  however, perhaps  the  committee                                                               
should not  worry about adjusting  fees at  this time.   He asked                                                               
whether  this would  be adequate  to  keep VWGoA  in business  in                                                               
MS. EARHART answered yes.                                                                                                       
2:24:47 PM                                                                                                                    
JIM   DODSON,    President,   Fairbanks    Economic   Development                                                               
Corporation  (FEDC) stated  that  FEDC has  been promoting  cold-                                                               
weather testing for  more than 20 years.  He  characterized it as                                                               
a growing industry  that creates jobs and helps  to diversify the                                                               
economy in  Interior Alaska and  in the  state.  He  reported the                                                               
FEDC has partnered  with the City of Valdez and  the community of                                                               
Big  Delta to  attract  the cold-weather  automotive industry  in                                                               
Alaska to  do their  cold-weather testing.   Today at  least four                                                               
car manufacturers  have been  performing cold-weather  testing in                                                               
Fairbanks.    The  FEDC  has advertised  Fairbanks  as  the  most                                                               
accessible, reliable,  and affordable place  in the nation  to do                                                               
cold-weather testing.   This industry creates more  than 200 jobs                                                               
annually in Fairbanks and it is  a growing industry.  In fact, it                                                               
represents  an industry  that the  state  has not  had to  invest                                                               
money to attract.   The state has the natural  weather to attract                                                               
cold-weather testing.   He urged members to support HB  176 as it                                                               
is rewritten.                                                                                                                   
2:26:13 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTIS  asked  whether  Fairbanks  is  the  least                                                               
expensive place in the nation to do the testing.                                                                                
MR.  DODSON answered  that one  factor is  the accessibility  and                                                               
reliability of cold-weather.  For  example, a manufacturer may go                                                               
to  Minnesota  to  perform tests,  but  if  cold-weather  doesn't                                                               
materialize,  the company  has lost  the  opportunity to  conduct                                                               
CHAIR P. WILSON remarked she lived  in Tok for four years and she                                                               
recalled  experiencing 78  below  zero degree  weather without  a                                                               
wind-chill factor.                                                                                                              
2:27:22 PM                                                                                                                    
JULIE  EMSLIE, Project  Manager, Cold-weather  Testing, Fairbanks                                                               
Economic  Development   Corporation  (FEDC)   Fairbanks  Economic                                                               
Development Corporation  (FEDC), stated  that everyone  thinks of                                                               
Alaska,  especially Interior  Alaska, as  being cold.   She  said                                                               
that   Interior   Alaska  experiences   consistent   cold-weather                                                               
conditions  which are  difficult  to find  anywhere  else in  the                                                               
world.    She  explained  that the  weather,  combined  with  the                                                               
facilities  and  vibrant  service  industry has  become  a  prime                                                               
location for companies  to cold-weather test its  products.  This                                                               
testing brings significant, positive  impacts to the community of                                                               
Fairbanks.   She  estimated that  cold-weather testing  generates                                                               
$500 million  annually for  the local economy.   She  pointed out                                                               
that the  automotive testing  industry heavily  utilizes Interior                                                               
Alaska  for  cold-weather testing.    In  fact, it  was  recently                                                               
brought  to  the   FEDC's  attention  that  some   of  the  local                                                               
automotive  testing   companies  have  encountered   issues  with                                                               
Alaska's  current vehicle  titling and  registration regulations.                                                               
As previously  stated, this has largely  becoming problematic due                                                               
to changes  in federal regulations  on emissions.  She  said that                                                               
Alaska's current laws are incompatible  with what the car testing                                                               
companies need  to do  to perform  their work.   She  offered her                                                               
belief that  HB 176  offers a  solution to  this problem  and the                                                               
bill would  remove the  barrier to  automotive testing,  but will                                                               
also not infringe on the DMV's mission, as well.                                                                                
2:29:19 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN  asked whether the cold-weather  testing will                                                               
change  emission   systems  and  if  any   provision  allows  for                                                               
experimental  types  of  emission  systems.   In  response  to  a                                                               
question,  he  repeated  his  question  and  clarified  that  one                                                               
emission system may  perform better in the cold than  others.  He                                                               
wondered if  an alternative system  might run afoul  of emissions                                                               
testing  in Alaska,  although he  acknowledged  he was  uncertain                                                               
about emissions.                                                                                                                
MS. MELLOT  answered that she  is not aware  of all the  types of                                                               
testing being  done.   She recalled  that part  of the  reason to                                                               
perform testing  beyond 12 months  was due to the  requirement by                                                               
the EPA for longer periods of emissions testing.                                                                                
CHAIR P. WILSON  pointed out she is  somewhat familiar, recalling                                                               
it has  something to  do with  the types of  gasoline used.   She                                                               
further  recalled   Alaska  has  been  working   on  a  [federal]                                                               
exemption.  She  suggested that it might be  necessary to revisit                                                               
2:31:39 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   KREISS-TOMKINS   wondered  how   Fairbanks   was                                                               
partnering with Valdez on cold-weather testing.                                                                                 
MS.  EMSLIE  answered it  relates  to  snow levels  since  Valdez                                                               
receives lots  of snow  whereas Fairbanks  does not  so Fairbanks                                                               
has partnered with Valdez to  accommodate all of the cold-weather                                                               
testing needs.  She stated  that [Valdez] has also attended trade                                                               
shows and  the FEDC can  also refer  companies to Valdez  who are                                                               
primarily interested in testing vehicles [in snow conditions].                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE  KREISS-TOMKINS  was  curious if  any  other  ways                                                               
exist to make Alaska's bad weather economical.                                                                                  
2:32:57 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR P.  WILSON, after first  determining no one else  wished to                                                               
testify, closed public testimony on HB 176.                                                                                     
2:33:08 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  ISAACSON  made  a   motion  to  adopt  Conceptual                                                               
Amendment 1, to remove "cold-weather" on  page 1, lines 6, 7, and                                                               
11 of HB 176.                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE FEIGE objected for purpose of discussion.                                                                        
CHAIR P. WILSON  recapped the reason for  Conceptual Amendment 1,                                                               
which  is to  expand the  bill  to allow  for additional  vehicle                                                               
testing.    She advised  that  the  DMV  and  the VWGoA  did  not                                                               
anticipate any issues arising by taking out "cold-weather."                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE FEIGE removed his objection.                                                                                     
There  being no  further  objection, Conceptual  Amendment 1  was                                                               
2:34:12 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE ISAACSON  moved to  report the  proposed committee                                                               
substitute  (CS) for  HB 176,  labeled [28-LS0674\U,  Strasbaugh,                                                               
3/18/13],   as  amended,   out  of   committee  with   individual                                                               
recommendations  and the  accompanying zero  fiscal note.   There                                                               
being no further  objection, the CSHB 176(TRA)  was reported from                                                               
the House Transportation Standing Committee.                                                                                    
The committee took a brief at-ease.                                                                                             

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB0176A.pdf HTRA 3/26/2013 1:30:00 PM
HB 176
HB 176 Sponsor Stmt ver A.pdf HTRA 3/26/2013 1:30:00 PM
HB 176
HB 176 FEDCO support letter.pdf HTRA 3/26/2013 1:30:00 PM
HB 176
HB 176 VWGoA memo.pdf HTRA 3/26/2013 1:30:00 PM
HB 176
HJR013A.pdf HTRA 3/26/2013 1:30:00 PM
HJR 13
HJR 13 Sponsor Statement Coast Guard Vessels.pdf HTRA 3/26/2013 1:30:00 PM
HJR 13
HJR 13 Support NSC fact sheet.pdf HTRA 3/26/2013 1:30:00 PM
HJR 13
HJR 13 support Arctic Shield 2012.pdf HTRA 3/26/2013 1:30:00 PM
HJR 13
HJR 13 support CGC Bertholf - Arctic Circle.pdf HTRA 3/26/2013 1:30:00 PM
HJR 13
HB 176 - CS version U.pdf HTRA 3/26/2013 1:30:00 PM
HB 176
HB176-DOA-DMV-3-22-13.pdf HTRA 3/26/2013 1:30:00 PM
HB 176
HB 176 - CS version U.pdf HTRA 3/26/2013 1:30:00 PM
HB 176
HJR-13-TRA-3-22-13 Home Port Coast Guard Cutter.pdf HTRA 3/26/2013 1:30:00 PM
HJR 13