June 05, 2004
HB 438, sponsored by Rep. Jim Holm requires drivers approaching an emergency responder, such as police car, ambulance, or fire truck, to move out of the lane closest to the emergency vehicle, and to slow down to a reasonable and prudent speed. "This bill passed unanimously in the House and Senate," Murkowski said. "It is aimed at reducing the risk of emergency responders being hit by other drivers when they are doing their jobs."
HB 474, also by Rep. Holm, revises current civil liability statutes that relate to runways, airfields, and landing areas to provide the same degree of liability protection against accidents that occur in those areas, regardless of what entity owns the airfield. The bill extends liability protection to corporations that may own the airstrip. "Alaskans are highly dependent on air transportation, and should be able to land an airplane on a landing strip, even if it is owned by a corporation," Murkowski said. "Extending protection from liability for accidents that could occur at their airstrip will help to ensure that more airstrips are ready in the event of an emergency."
SB 393, by the Senate finance committee, authorizes the University of Alaska to garnish Permanent Fund dividends of students who are more than 180 days past due on payment of tuition, fees, and other charges. "This is a reasonable tool that will allow the University to collect most of the approximately $1 million in past due tuition and other fees," Murkowski said.
SB 305, also by Sen. Therriault, asserts the state's title to submerged lands in three ways: it gives general notice that the State of Alaska claims title to navigable waters in Alaska; it provides authority for the state to identify, in accordance with applicable federal and state laws, which waterbodies are navigable and which are not; and it requires the commissioner of natural resources to notify Native corporations that they can obtain non-submerged acreage for submerged lands they may have received under the Native Claims Settlement Act. "This Act will go a long way toward clearing up clouded titles caused by inaccurate conveyances and help the state clarify what criteria should be used for identifying navigable waters," Murkowski said.
SB 295, also by Sen. Therriault, extends the termination date of the Navigable Waters Commission for Alaska until September 18, 2006. The commission is charged with expediting the process of settling title to the state's submerged lands. However, it is composed of state and federal members, and requires authorization by both the state and Congress. "While authorization of the commission has not passed the U.S. House yet, extension of its sunset date by the State Legislature will give Congress more time, and increase the likelihood the commission will be formed," Murkowski said. "We look forward to having the majority of our navigable waters identified and ownership transferred to the state before our 50th anniversary of statehood."
SB 255, also by Sen. Therriault, would make it illegal for drivers to possess a device used to change traffic lights. "The use of such devices should be only authorized for emergency vehicles, to give them a priority over all other traffic and expedite their timely arrival at the scene of an emergency," Murkowski said.
Murkowski also read and signed SJR 27, by Sen. Ralph Seekins. It is a resolution encouraging the Secretary of the Interior and the Alaska congressional delegation to support and endorse the continuation of the process for recording federal disclaimers of interests for quieting title to submerged land. "The resolution also requests our congressional delegation to introduce legislation to provide for federal participation in the proposed state and federal Navigable Waters Commission," Murkowski said.