Legislature(2001 - 2002)
03/13/2001 01:33 PM TRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 100-REGULATION OF AERONAUTICS CHAIRMAN COWDERY stated that SB 100 was before the committee and that he did not intend to move the bill today. He asked Senator Halford, sponsor of SB 100, to present the bill. SENATOR RICK HALFORD explained that the state air commerce laws are primarily based on a 1960 act that was carried from the 1927 and 1939 acts. Those laws are out-of-date. A number of provisions do not apply and have been superceded by federal law or they are in direct conflict with the current state policy so they have not been enforced. DOTPF did most of the research on which provisions of the statutes need to be repealed. DOTPF also recommended an amendment. Both a House and Senate bill have been introduced on the survival gear provisions. The existing provisions are not only out-of-date, they are impossible to meet if a plane flies to Canada. He informed committee members that the House bill is close to passing and he suggested the contents of SB 100 be added to the House bill. CHAIRMAN COWDERY repeated his intention not to pass SB 100 from committee today. SENATOR ELTON asked for clarification of Sections 3, 4 and 5. He noted the sponsor statement states that Section 3 specifies that an airport must be public or if private, open, for a person to be charged with obstructing the airport or runway. He reads those sections to remove the provision under which an operator of an aircraft can be charged with DWI. SENATOR HALFORD said that is certainly not his intent. SENATOR ELTON said he didn't think so. He also asked for clarification of the definition of "intoxicating liquor" in section 4. He questioned whether, under Section 5, a person who is convicted is punishable by a fine of not more than $500, which is considerably less than the DWI provisions. SENATOR TAYLOR noted a committee substitute had been prepared. SENATOR ELTON acknowledged that those sections were removed from the committee substitute. SENATOR WARD moved to adopt CSSB 100(TRA) as the working document of the committee (Version F). There being no objection, the motion carried. SENATOR ELTON clarified that the provisions he was speaking to are now included in Sections 6, 7, and 8 of the committee substitute. CHAIRMAN COWDERY said, to his understanding, if certain conditions prevail, a pilot can land anyplace. SENATOR HALFORD asked Juli Lucky to provide the committee with a sectional analysis of the committee substitute. MS. JULI LUCKY, staff to Senator Rick Halford, said in Section 1, the reference to the Department of Commerce and Regional Affairs (CRA) was changed to the Department of Transportation because it now deals with DOT. Sections 3, 4, and 5 are new sections that specify when a private airport must be open for a person to be charged with obstructing an airport or runway. Section 9 adds a few survival rations and specifies that larger planes are exempt, which is in statute. Section 10 contains references to statutes and penalty sections. She pointed out Section 10 speaks to Senator Elton's question. Section 11 deals with civil liability. Section 12 contains a technical change, and Section 13 contains the repealers. MS. LUCKY stated that regarding Sections 6, 7, and 8, which Senator Elton questioned, those sections were recommended by the Alaska State Troopers. The DWI provision is covered under AS 28.35. The troopers found that having DWI laws in two places was duplicative and confusing. The troopers requested that the references to AS 28 regarding DWI be removed and changed to controlled substances, which is consistent with the other statutes. She explained the part that was in the aviation statutes will be taken care of in the DWI statutes. SENATOR ELTON said his concern is which provisions are applied, especially on the penalty side. For a violation of the chapter that is covered under Section 6, he would rather have the penalties in AS 28.35 applied than the $500 cap. MS. LUCKY said, to her understanding, one reason the troopers want the DWI removed from this section of the aviation statutes is to avoid confusion. Therefore, DWI will not covered in Title 2; the reference will be moved to AS 28. SENATOR ELTON offered to follow up with Ms. Lucky and the troopers on that question before the next meeting. Number 1038 SENATOR HALFORD said, regarding the questions that relate to closing a public versus a non-public runway, at the time the original acts were passed, there was a real effort to maintain every possible runway. Since then, liability questions and private property questions have arisen. Sections 3, 4, and 5 apply to those questions. He felt those sections are the most substantive in the bill; the rest of the bill consists of DOTPF recommendations. SENATOR TAYLOR asked Senator Halford if it would do any damage to insert "or rotor wing" in Section 5. SENATOR HALFORD said he didn't think so. SENATOR TAYLOR pointed out that would cover helicopter landing opportunities also. He said he raised the question because federal agencies have closed off the entire national forest and wilderness in Southeast to helicopter landings unless the pilot can prove he or she has landed in that spot in the past. SENATOR HALFORD did not think SB 100 would preempt the federal government from doing that. SENATOR TAYLOR agreed but said SB 100 will impact state lands and private lands. SENATOR HALFORD responded, "Well, it's navigable water and public lands so it's not the private property and it's subject to public safety and a basic notice requirement." SENATOR TAYLOR asked Senator Halford to consider the inclusion of helicopters as a proposed amendment. He referred to Section 11, regarding civil liabilities, and said his primary concern is to make sure the runways that section applies to are privately owned. He does not think the bill contains a clear definition of a private airstrip that welcomes the public and a private landing strip where others are not welcome to land. SENATOR HALFORD said the two questions regarding the ability to close and where liability accrues are clearly tort questions, which is why he asked Senator Taylor if he wanted the Judiciary Committee to hear the bill. SENATOR TAYLOR said he thinks the bill is a good draft but he is concerned that commercial activity is considered to be the triggering device. One could have a totally private landing strip that the owner uses for a guiding business, which is commercial. He pointed out that one of the triggers in Section 11 is whether a fee is charged for landing but it does not address a runway owner who leases hangar space. SENATOR HALFORD said he is counting on Senator Taylor to figure those answers out. He indicated he is trying to remove the disincentive for an individual to maintain or have anything to do with a runway because of the potential liability. The other problem is that there are airports all over that aren't listed in the airmen's guide because owners don't want people to know they are there. Some are on public property adjacent to private property. No one wants to maintain those runways. SENATOR TAYLOR said he has asked to have some research done and hopes to come up with some answers but he does not know that any lawsuits have ever been filed in Alaska involving a runway. SENATOR HALFORD pointed out that the bill contains a large repealer section to the old Title 2. The sections in the bill that are significant are the issues they have been discussing. Number 1415 CHAIRMAN COWDERY asked why weapons were not included in Section 9. He asked if that issue has been addressed in the House bill. SENATOR HALFORD said that is addressed in the House bill. The weapon requirement was taken out for flights to Canada only. He pointed out that this is an area where the existing state law has not been enforced for decades. The bill initially, at the request of DOTPF, repealed the whole section but the Department of Public Safety (DPS) wanted to have something in the bill. DPS wanted a general statement so that there was some requirement they could go after but that looked like it might lead to selective enforcement and not be a good way to go. He then went back and tried to come up with the simplest and shortest version of a list that was an update from the original list. He didn't include a firearm at that point. He pointed out that pilots who make a living flying generally carry a lot more than what is required by the list. CHAIRMAN COWDERY repeated that SB 100 will be held in committee. MR. KURT PARKAN, Deputy Commissioner of DOTPF, informed the committee that Carl Sevey (ph) is an engineer in the statewide aviation section of DOTPF. Mr. Sevey worked with Senator Halford's staff on SB 100; he is available for questions. There being no further questions or comments from committee members, CHAIRMAN COWDERY said he would wait for the House bill and work with both bills. He then adjourned the meeting at 3:38 p.m.