Legislature(1995 - 1996)
01/18/1996 01:05 PM CRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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 Since the statutory definition superseded the regulatory definition, the appropriation was eliminated and Metlakatla subsequently received a grant under the Unincorporated Community Capital Matching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.