Legislature(1995 - 1996)

01/18/1996 01:05 PM CRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 HB 361 - CAP PROJ MATCHING GRANT FOR INDIAN RESERV                          
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR IVAN noted that the committee packets for HB 361 contained           
 the bill; a zero fiscal note from the Department of Community and             
 Regional Affairs (DCRA); a letter from DCRA describing the impact             
 of the bill; a sponsor statement; a sectional analysis; a support             
 letter from the Council Annette Islands Reserve; and corresponding            
 statutes.                                                                     
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE AL VEZEY joined the meeting at 1:07 p.m.                       
                                                                               
 Number 156                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE JERRY MACKIE, sponsor of HB 361, presented the bill.           
 He explained that HB 361 was introduced at the request of the                 
 Metlakatla Indian Community.  He said that when Metlakatla's FY 96            
 municipal assistant matching grant program appropriation was                  
 eliminated from the previous year's budget, it was the result of an           
 technical oversight that HB 361 was designed to correct.                      
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE MACKIE stated that Metlakatla had always qualified             
 as a municipality for the program under the Department of                     
 Administration's regulations.  However, legal analysis revealed               
 that the statutory definition was not specific enough to include              
 the Metlakatla Indian Community in the program.  Since the                    
 statutory definition superseded the regulatory definition, the                
 appropriation was eliminated and Metlakatla subsequently received             
 a grant under the Unincorporated Community Capital Matching Grant             
 Program.                                                                      
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE MACKIE explained that HB 361 amended AS 37.06 by               
 adding a new section that included a municipality organized under             
 federal law as an Indian reserve.  He added that HB 361 had been              
 drafted to specifically include Metlakatla within the Municipal               
 Assistance Matching Grant Program and to exclude them under the               
 Unincorporated Community Capital Project Matching Grant Program.              
 He noted that Metlakatla had in the past received both but would              
 now receive one like every other community in the state.                      
                                                                               
 Number 340                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE MACKIE commented that although Metlakatla was the              
 only Indian reservation in Alaska, in most areas it functioned like           
 other communities in the state.  He pointed out that HB 361 did not           
 create a new program nor give the Metlakatla Indian Community                 
 anything they had not received in the past.  On the contrary, it              
 actually removed one of the grants they had been receiving.  The              
 purpose of HB 361 was to clarify the original statute as it was               
 intended.                                                                     
                                                                               
 Number 471                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked if Representative Mackie would elaborate           
 on the dollar amounts involved.                                               
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE MACKIE responded that he did not have the figures in           
 front of him.  He emphasized that Metlakatla was not an                       
 unincorporated community; it was incorporated and should be treated           
 as such.                                                                      
 Number 587                                                                    
                                                                               
 JEANIE SMITH, Legislative Assistant to Representative Mackie,                 
 informed the committee that in 1994, Metlakatla received $60,619;             
 in 1995, they received $58,909; and in 1996, they would have                  
 received $59,421.  However, the 1996 appropriation was eliminated             
 and they received $25,000 under the unincorporated community grant.           
                                                                               
 Number 622                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY explained that his concern was that because              
 there were 226 new tribes in Alaska, there had been a major step              
 towards creating 226 new governments.  He wondered if these tribes            
 would qualify under this category.                                            
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE MACKIE replied that although he understood                     
 Representative Vezey's concern, HB 361 did not deal with all the              
 Indian tribes in Alaska, but merely allowed the Metlakatla Indian             
 Community to be treated like every other community in Alaska that             
 had an elected mayor, city council, school district, police                   
 department and so forth.  In the process, it also eliminated                  
 Metlakatla's unincorporated community grant.  He asserted that HB             
 361 made a technical change to the statute to allow Metlakatla to             
 be treated like similar communities, which was fully the intent of            
 the statute in the first place.  In fact, he added, the program had           
 operated that way since its inception.  There was no intent to                
 raise sovereignty issues.                                                     
                                                                               
 Number 743                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said he would feel more comfortable if the               
 wording included "as recognized on or by" a certain date.                     
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE MACKIE referred to HB 361, page 1, line 7, which               
 reads, "A municipality organized under federal law as an Indian               
 reserve that existed before enactment of 43 U.S.C. 1618(a) and is             
 continued in existence under that subsection is a municipality for            
 purposes of AS 37.06.010 - 37.06.090 ...."  Representative Mackie             
 suggested that the wording accomplished what Representative Vezey             
 wanted.  He added that Metlakatla was the only municipality in                
 Alaska meeting that criteria.  Although it had not been                       
 specifically mentioned by name, Metlakatla was the only community             
 that would be affected.                                                       
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR IVAN noted that Representative Nicholia had joined the               
 meeting.                                                                      
                                                                               
 Number 920                                                                    
                                                                               
 SOLOMON ATKINSON, Council Member, Metlakatla Indian Community,                
 testified via teleconference in support of HB 361.  He mentioned              
 that with him was Mayor Jack Booth, Sr.  Mr. Atkinson provided                
 background information and the reasons for requesting the                     
 legislation, saying Metlakatla had provided almost all of the                 
 services and organizations available in any municipality.  He                 
 admitted Metlakatla might differ from other reservations in the               
 Lower 48 in that they tried to work closely with surrounding                  
 communities and the state of Alaska.  They were seeking                       
 clarification of the statute and were aware that they would be                
 eliminating funding under the unincorporated community grant                  
 program.                                                                      
                                                                               
 Number 1173                                                                   
                                                                               
 JACK FARGNOLI, Senior Policy Analyst, Office of the Director,                 
 Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Office of the Governor,                
 concurred with Representative Mackie on the interpretation of the             
 history and original intent of the bill.  He said OMB had helped              
 draft the legislation and the original intent was to have                     
 Metlakatla treated as a municipality under the program, largely on            
 the grounds that it functioned as a municipality.  The technical              
 interpretation was not what they had intended but had been brought            
 to OMB's attention by Tamara Cook of the Legal Services Division.             
 Mr. Fargnoli offered to answer questions and stated that the                  
 Governor supported Metlakatla's being treated as a municipality and           
 being taken out of the unincorporated side of the program.                    
                                                                               
 Number 1240                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT mentioned that for 1996, Metlakatla was                   
 allocated $59,000 under the matching grant regulations.  He                   
 wondered what would happen to those funds if Metlakatla became a              
 municipality.                                                                 
                                                                               
 MR. FARGNOLI responded that he believed HB 361 explicitly provided            
 for Metlakatla to retain prior balances and carry those balances              
 with them to the municipal side of the line.  He explained that was           
 how OMB had treated the three or four other communities that had              
 crossed over the line from one status to another.  He added that              
 the original purpose of the bill was to allow communities to                  
 accumulate money, for up to five years, so they could aggregate               
 amounts large enough to fund significant projects.  Regardless of             
 the reason why a community changed status, OMB had no compelling              
 interest in making communities either lose or gain funds.  Thus, he           
 said, OMB had tried to take a neutral stance.                                 
                                                                               
 Number 1328                                                                   
                                                                               
 KIMBERLY METCALFE-HELMAR, Special Assistant, Office of the                    
 Commissioner, Department of Community and Regional Affairs (DCRA),            
 suggested that anyone having specific questions contact Tena                  
 Bavard, Grants Administrator for DCRA, who runs the Unincorporated            
 Community Capital Project Matching Grant Program.  Ms. Metcalfe-              
 Helmar stated that DCRA had no problems with the bill, which                  
 cleared up an ambiguity in current law.   They viewed it as a                 
 housekeeping measure with no fiscal impact.                                   
                                                                               
 Number 1360                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA commented that HB 361 was a good bill that            
 was needed, especially for Metlakatla.  She made a motion to move             
 the bill to another committee.                                                
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR IVAN asked to hear from Representative Mackie before                 
 taking up the motion.                                                         
                                                                               
 Number 1379                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE MACKIE expressed that he did not realize the                   
 committee was to that point yet and noted that others in the                  
 audience from the Administration and the Legal Services Division              
 could answer any questions.  He said he had represented Metlakatla            
 for six years.  Metlakatla participated like any other community in           
 Alaska; they operated the same way, educated their children the               
 same way, and took part in numerous statewide programs, as well as            
 state and federal elections.  Representative Mackie commented that            
 it was sometimes discouraging to Metlakatla residents to be treated           
 as if their community was different.  The reason they were an                 
 Indian community under federal law was due to an arrangement made             
 with the federal government years before.                                     
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE MACKIE pointed out that when the Alaska Native                 
 Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) was instituted and communities across           
 the state acquired corporations, land and money, Metlakatla                   
 received none because of their previous settlement with the federal           
 government.  In no way was Metlakatla a rich community with a large           
 influx of federal funds; in many ways, it was less advantaged than            
 other Alaska communities.  They simply wanted to be treated fairly            
 like other communities and to have the language clarified.                    
                                                                               
 Number 1479                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY reiterated that his concern was over who else            
 might be included under the bill.  He asked when 43 U.S.C. 1618(a)            
 was enacted.                                                                  
                                                                               
 MR. FARGNOLI deferred to the Legal Services Division for a                    
 response.                                                                     
                                                                               
 Number 1510                                                                   
                                                                               
 TAMARA COOK, Director, Legal Services Division, said she did not              
 know the answer to Representative Vezey's question but could find             
 out.  She explained that as she understood it, under ANCSA, Indian            
 and Eskimo groups around the state were given the option of going             
 to reservation status akin to that in the Lower 48 or going with              
 the new corporate form of government.  Metlakatla was the only                
 group that elected reservation status.  It is organized as a                  
 reservation along the same lines as other Indian reservations in              
 the United States.                                                            
                                                                               
 MS. COOK continued, saying other groups under ANCSA had elected               
 corporate status.  Ultimately, 13 Native corporations were                    
 established.  Metlakatla had no representation in those Native                
 corporations.  Ms. Cook said Representative Vezey was correct that            
 there were other federal laws, including the Indian Reorganization            
 Act (IRA) under which IRA councils were created, allowing Native              
 corporations to form governments.  However, Metlakatla was the only           
 Alaska group that was an established Indian reserve.  Ms. Cook said           
 she did not believe the opportunity to form another Indian reserve            
 currently existed in Alaska.  In either case, the language was                
 drafted so that if in the future another Indian reserve were                  
 formed, it would not qualify under the terms of HB 361 because                
 Metlakatla was the only one in existence before ANCSA that                    
 continued in that status.  Its reservation was never dissolved.               
                                                                               
 Number 1609                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR IVAN noted the committee had been joined by Representative           
 Elton.                                                                        
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY wondered whether the United States Congress              
 were precluded from rewriting Title 43 of the United States Code,             
 creating a new Section 1618(a).                                               
                                                                               
 MS. COOK responded that the United States Congress could amend the            
 code.  However, she said, the test under Alaska law would be 1)               
 whether the Indian or Eskimo group existed as a reservation prior             
 to the enactment of that particular federal law and 2) whether,               
 under the terms of that law, it continued in existence as a                   
 reserve, which was a highly specific status under federal law.                
                                                                               
 Number 1658                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked if there were some reason the language             
 in HB 361 would be superior to, for example, putting in a calendar            
 date.                                                                         
                                                                               
 MS. COOK replied that they could certainly put in a calendar date.            
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked again whether the proposed language                
 would be superior.                                                            
                                                                               
 Number 1688                                                                   
                                                                               
 MS. COOK said she did not know that it would be superior.  She                
 explained the wording was taken from a statute already on the                 
 books.  In 1986, she said, the municipal assistance program, a                
 large state aid program, was expanded to include Metlakatla as a              
 municipality.  The language in HB 361 was modeled after the                   
 municipal assistance program language.  Ms. Cook said she had used            
 that wording because the state of Alaska already had experience               
 manipulating that language in the context of an aid program.                  
 However, she added, there was no reason why the language could not            
 be changed to include a particular date.                                      
                                                                               
 Number 1718                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY commented that as far as he was concerned,               
 they could use just about any hard date.  He stated his concern was           
 that if part of the United States Code were to be rewritten and               
 renumbered, it might affect the law in question.  He asked for                
 confirmation that the language was written in numerous other Alaska           
 statutes.                                                                     
                                                                               
 MS. COOK responded that no, she was aware of only one other Alaska            
 statute where the definition appeared in that form, which was the             
 statute addressing the municipal assistance program.  She added               
 that it had been on the books approximately ten years in that form.           
 She did not know that the definition had caused a problem with                
 respect to that program.                                                      
                                                                               
 Number 1758                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR IVAN commented that his own community had been recognized            
 as a reservation prior to statehood.  When they were provided the             
 option under ANCSA of remaining a reservation or incorporating                
 under Alaska law, the community opted out of the reservation system           
 at that time.  He asked if there were questions or comments.                  
                                                                               
 Number 1797                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA made a motion to move HB 361 out of the               
 House Community and Regional Affairs Committee.  There being no               
 objection, it was so ordered and HB 361 moved from the committee.             

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