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Minutes for SB62 - Committee on Transportation

Short Title

Allowing police vehicle drivers to engage in certain actions without using audible and visual signals.

Minutes Content for Thu, Feb 7, 2019

The Chairperson opened the hearing on SB62.

 Assistant Revisor Adam Siebers briefed the Committee on the bill.  He stated that section one of the bill identifies certain actions and conditions under which a law-enforcement officer may choose to violate certain provisions of the Uniform Act Regulating Traffic but forgo use of lights or sirens.  He explained that these provisions do not relieve the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle from the consequences of reckless disregard for the safety of others.  Mr. Siebers responded to members’ questions, saying that under certain situations a driver must use lights and siren and that this bill creates a new section in the statutes.

The Chairperson welcomed Ed Klumpp, Legislative Liaison for the Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police, Kansas Sheriffs Association, and the Kansas Peace Officers Association; Mr. Klumpp offered support for the bill (Attachment 1).   He explained that the need for the bill came from multiple law-enforcement agencies and various sections of the state with law-enforcement members expressing a desire to minimize complaints against law-enforcement officers.  He explained that the key provisions of the bill address circumstances where lights/siren will hinder an officer from being as effective as the officer might otherwise be in responding to certain calls or surveillance activities.  He noted that the bill permits other police activities that are, for any other citizen, prohibited, such as parking in the median or exceeding the speed limit but that a police vehicle may violate when lights and siren are activated.  He also noted this bill differs from the other permissive statute (KSA 8-1506) in that it requires an officer to come to a stop at any traffic-control signal or stop sign before proceeding.

Responding to a question, Mr. Klumpp replied that, in the event of an accident when an officer is following the permissions of this bill, it depends on the circumstances who is liable; however, the burden of responsibility is on the officer.

Some members commented that the bill seems an overreach and expressed a desire to establish clearer parameters to more clearly define the permitted thresholds of the bill.

Proponent written-only testimony was provided by Lieutenant Stephen La Row, Kansas Highway Patrol (Attachment 2).

The Chairperson recognized Callie Jill Denton, Executive Director, Kansas Trial Lawyers Association (KTLA), as an opponent of the bill (Attachment 3).  Ms. Denton outlined the concerns of the KTLA; she commented, although she appreciates the work of law enforcement and she acknowledged that the bill might make sense under certain circumstances, the bill goes too far, is too broad, and is overly permissive; too many decisions rest solely with the officer.  She said the discretionary nature of the bill creates a potential threat to public safety.  She noted that the current statutes offer uniform standards.

Responding to a question, Ms. Denton replied SB62 allows circumstances that have the potential to  cause accidents.  A member expressed a desire to further consult with Ms. Denton regarding details of the bill.  Another member noted that, as a caution to any law-enforcement driver, the bill warns the driver not to display a reckless disregard for the safety of others.

Ms. Denton expressed regret that another conferee was unable to appear because of inclement weather.  Blake A. Shuart, Hutton and Hutton Law Firm in Wichita, provided written-only testimony in opposition to the bill (Attachment 4).

The hearing on SB62 was closed.

The Chairperson expressed regret to the Kansas Department of Revenue that there was not enough time for their presentation.

The Chairperson announced that the Committee will take action on SB17 at the next meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, February 12, 2019.  The meeting was adjourned at 9:30 a.m.