Legislature(2001 - 2002)

02/21/2002 08:08 AM CRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HJR 39-DISAPPROVE HOMER BOUNDARY CHANGES                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR MEYER  announced that the  next order of  business would                                                               
be  HOUSE  JOINT  RESOLUTION  NO.   39,  Disapproving  the  Local                                                               
Boundary  Commission recommendation  regarding the  annexation of                                                               
territory to the City of Homer.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  MEYER  explained  that  HJR 39  is  a  resolution  that                                                               
disapproves    the    Local     Boundary    Commission's    (LBC)                                                               
recommendation.  If HJR 39  is approved, then the committee would                                                               
be disapproving  the LBC's decision.   If HJR 39  isn't approved,                                                               
then the LBC's recommendation is  being approved.  Co-Chair Meyer                                                               
noted those folks that were available to answer any questions.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Number 0478                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SCALZI commented that  [the Homer annexation] is a                                                               
contentious issue,  which he believes has  received good dialogue                                                               
with  the various  parties.   Representative Scalzi  acknowledged                                                               
that  being  the  local representative  for  Homer,  he  couldn't                                                               
escape his input in regard to  the outcome.  He also acknowledged                                                               
that the  legislature often defers  to the  local representative.                                                               
However, he pointed out that  when an annexation comes before the                                                               
LBC, the  LBC is the  disinterested, unbiased, third party.   The                                                               
LBC's recommendation is  reviewed by the legislature  in order to                                                               
determine  whether  the  process  was  followed  correctly.    He                                                               
emphasized  that the  legislature has  the final  review not  the                                                               
representative from the  impacted area.  Therefore,  he felt that                                                               
this should  be a committee decision.   Although he said  that he                                                               
could  go either  way on  this matter,  he said  he believes  the                                                               
decision  should   be  in  the   best  interest  of   the  state.                                                               
Furthermore, if HJR 39 is approved,  he hoped that there would be                                                               
good justification in the "Whereas"  clauses.  He noted that when                                                               
he reviewed other [annexations] that  have been vetoed, there was                                                               
little to no evidence why.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 0745                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  MURKOWSKI  agreed  with  Representative  Scalzi's                                                               
comments in  regard to  the need  to justify  a rejection  of the                                                               
annexation.   She  noted  that she  has  consistently heard  that                                                               
although  the  LBC  may  have   acted  within  its  jurisdiction,                                                               
improvements are necessary  in order to avoid  such a contentious                                                               
annexation.   However,  annexations  by  nature are  contentious.                                                               
Although Representative  Murkowski remarked  that this  should be                                                               
viewed as  an opportunity to  provide constructive  guidance, she                                                               
was at a  loss as to where to start  an outline [of improvements]                                                               
as mentioned  by Representative Scalzi.   She related  her belief                                                               
that the  City of Homer  could've done  better "leg work"  at the                                                               
beginning of the process.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 0982                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GUESS agreed with the  previous two speakers.  She                                                               
related  her belief  that the  standards were  met and  the final                                                               
decision  was  probably  the  correct  decision.    However,  she                                                               
believes the process was flawed.   She said she believes that the                                                               
council overreached  and was sloppy  in requesting the  25 square                                                               
miles.   Moreover, the public  process was poor.   Representative                                                               
Guess emphasized  that the [LBC]  should've returned to  the city                                                               
when the  [petition] was changed  to 4.5 square miles.   However,                                                               
she wasn't sure  how to go about fixing the  process.  She stated                                                               
her  belief  that  the  [change  to the]  4.5  square  miles  was                                                               
correct.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 1153                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HALCRO remarked  that the  greatest part  of this                                                               
discussion is that the process  worked.  He acknowledged that one                                                               
side to this issue is  regarding whether [the process was] legal,                                                               
which it was determined to be.   There is also the social side to                                                               
this issue.  Representative Halcro  said that one has to question                                                               
whether  one  more  public  hearing   would've  helped  when  one                                                               
considers the  large picture  and the  public's involvement.   He                                                               
couldn't  see  that  another  public   hearing  would've  made  a                                                               
difference.  He  remarked that the 4.5 square  miles [of annexed]                                                               
land  is justified.   Therefore,  Representative  Halcro said  he                                                               
believes that  the committee should  say that although  there are                                                               
some changes that  should be made, those  are another discussion.                                                               
In this case, the process worked, he reiterated.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Number 1314                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KERTTULA echoed  the  earlier comments  regarding                                                               
the difficulty of  this decision.  She noted  that Dan Bockhorst,                                                               
Staff,   LBC,  provided   her  with   case   law  regarding   the                                                               
constitution  and the  constitutional minutes  when the  decision                                                               
was  made to  create this  process, which  made her  realize that                                                               
this  is  something  the  legislature  is  supposed  to  resolve.                                                               
Although  she really  cared about  the individuals  involved, she                                                               
found that  the cases highlight  that there is a  public interest                                                               
in the way  that the state is  managed as well as its  land.  She                                                               
referred to  Wasilla's past when  the best farmland in  the state                                                               
was paved over for strip malls.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KERTTULA said  that she,  too, couldn't  point to                                                               
anything that  the municipality did  that was illegal.   However,                                                               
she did believe there was a  better way to manage public hearings                                                               
and such,  which she  believes the LBC  recognizes because  it is                                                               
putting in  place a regulation  to resolve some of  those issues.                                                               
Although she  agreed with Representative Halcro  that the process                                                               
worked, she didn't believe that the  ends justify the means.  She                                                               
expressed  concern  over what  she  viewed  as punishment.    She                                                               
announced that until  the vote is taken, she wasn't  sure how she                                                               
would vote.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Number 1593                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SCALZI  remarked, "I'd  like  to  whack the  city                                                               
myself."   However, he agreed  with Representative  Kerttula that                                                               
punishment isn't  the legislature's  role.  In  regard to  the 25                                                               
square  mile  boundary,  Senator   Torgerson  has  said  that  he                                                               
wouldn't    support   [the    annexation]    without   a    vote.                                                               
Representative  Scalzi  recalled that  at  the  time he  said  he                                                               
wouldn't support  the 25 square  miles, but would wait  to review                                                               
the LBC's [decision].  What  the LBC presented, annexation of 4.5                                                               
square miles, was reasonable.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SCALZI  referenced  a draft  resolution  that  he                                                               
provided  to  the  committee.     He  proposed  that  this  draft                                                               
resolution from  the committee would  be directed to the  LBC and                                                               
urge  the LBC  to promote  standards and  regulations that  would                                                               
provide  a  preliminary  judgment  on some  of  these  ridiculous                                                               
petitions.  Therefore, the city  or municipality would have to do                                                               
their homework on  the matter.  He noted that  Kevin Waring, LBC,                                                               
helped draft this draft resolution.   He hoped that the committee                                                               
would  review this  draft resolution  regardless  of the  outcome                                                               
with HJR 39.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SCALZI, in  response to  Co-Chair Meyer,  related                                                               
his belief that HB 13 is  a separate issue entirely and shouldn't                                                               
be incorporated into HJR 39.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Number 1858                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR MORGAN remarked that he  agreed with everyone's comments                                                               
thus far.   He  also agreed  that the process  worked.   He noted                                                               
that  he, too,  would have  to make  the decision  when the  time                                                               
comes.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR MEYER  noted that he was  torn as well.   He pointed out                                                               
that  this has  been a  long process  and thus  there will  be no                                                               
public testimony taken today.  He  also noted his respect for the                                                               
citizens  of  Homer  in  regard  to  the  manner  in  which  they                                                               
conducted  themselves throughout  this process.   Co-Chair  Meyer                                                               
echoed  earlier testimony  regarding the  notion that  4.5 square                                                               
miles is a  reasonable annexation.  Furthermore,  when looking at                                                               
the  map of  that  area,  [the 4.5  square  acres]  is a  densely                                                               
populated area, and  it looks as if  it is a part of  the City of                                                               
Homer.   He  concluded that  there should  be some  resolution to                                                               
this.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Number 2069                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI informed the  committee that when people                                                               
stopped by  her office,  she asked whether  the 4.5  square miles                                                               
should be  annexed.   Every person she  spoke with  conceded that                                                               
that  the 4.5  square miles  was reasonable  to annex.   If  this                                                               
annexation is  rejected, two years  from now the  committee could                                                               
be  reviewing   the  approval  of   the  same  4.5   square  mile                                                               
annexation.  On the other hand,  if the committee agrees that the                                                               
annexation  is reasonable,  she  questioned whether  it would  be                                                               
fair for  the citizens to have  to go through the  process again,                                                               
only to get the same result.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HALCRO  thanked Representative Scalzi for  all the                                                               
research he has done on  this issue.  Representative Halcro noted                                                               
that during the LBC's history  there have been 120 annexations, 9                                                               
of which  have been vetoed by  the legislature, and 7  of those 9                                                               
have returned  in the  next few  years with  little modification.                                                               
Representative Halcro  related his belief  that there is  no need                                                               
to put  the citizens of  Homer through  this for another  year or                                                               
two.  Representative Halcro commented  that he was impressed with                                                               
the city councilmen who announced  that they would resign and run                                                               
again  in order  to protect  the voting  voice of  [those in  the                                                               
annexed area].                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Number 2273                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GUESS returned  to Representative Halcro's comment                                                               
regarding whether one  more public hearing would've  helped.  She                                                               
said she  feels that  it would have  helped, although  she didn't                                                               
think the  lack of another public  hearing is a reason  to reject                                                               
the  resolution.     She  pointed  out  that  when   there  is  a                                                               
significant  change in  the  [annexed area],  there  should be  a                                                               
public hearing.   When dealing with boundary  changes, one should                                                               
move through the process very carefully.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  MEYER asked  if the  Representative  Scalzi wanted  his                                                               
draft  resolution  to  come forward  as  a  committee  resolution                                                               
regardless of the outcome of HJR 39.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SCALZI  answered yes.  Representative  Scalzi read                                                               
the draft resolution into the record.  [Please refer to HCR 27.]                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR MEYER  related his belief  that [HCR 27]  addresses some                                                               
of the issues and concerns  mentioned by the committee.  Although                                                               
[HCR  27] wouldn't  help  the current  situation,  it would  help                                                               
future annexations.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HALCRO  recalled that the [LBC]  comes before this                                                               
committee  every  year  to  provide  an  overview  of  the  LBC's                                                               
activities  of the  year.   He  also recalled  that the  overview                                                               
seems to  always include suggestions of  needed clarifications to                                                               
state law.   Therefore, he asked whether any of  the vagueness in                                                               
state law  clouded this public process  issue.  He also  asked if                                                               
there  is anything  that  can be  done  legislatively to  address                                                               
these problems.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Number 2650                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
KEVIN WARING,  Chairperson, Local Boundary  Commission, testified                                                               
via teleconference.   In  regard to [HCR  27], he  didn't believe                                                               
that any  clarification of law  is required.  Mr.  Waring pointed                                                               
out  that the  LBC does  receive "flawed"  petitions.   Petitions                                                               
that  are  procedurally flawed  can  be  returned.   Furthermore,                                                               
petitions that  are contrary to  laws or the constitution  can be                                                               
returned as  well.  In  the years of the  commission's existence,                                                               
petitions  that have  weak facts  or  petitions that  may not  be                                                               
supportable  by  the  standards  aren't  returned  without  going                                                               
through   the   entire  process.      Mr.   Waring  related   his                                                               
understanding that  [HCR 27] establishes  a circuit  breaker that                                                               
would allow the LBC to return  a petition that the commission has                                                               
deemed to not be supported by  facts or is seriously at odds with                                                               
the  standards   without  going   through  the   entire  process.                                                               
Therefore,  the local  government  could amend  the petition  and                                                               
resubmit it.   Mr. Waring  remarked that  he believes it  isn't a                                                               
question as  to whether the  LBC has statutory powers  but rather                                                               
would the commission pursue the  step of adopting regulations and                                                               
standards.  Mr.  Waring stated that this would be  a welcome step                                                               
forward as the LBC is always  looking to improve the process.  He                                                               
said he  believes that [HCR  27] would result in  an improvement.                                                               
If [HCR  27] was passed,  he expected  that the LBC  would report                                                               
[to the  legislature] regarding what it  has done to move  in the                                                               
direction of [HCR 27].                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Number 2800                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  MURKOWSKI inquired  as  to how  Mr. Waring  would                                                               
define "substantively deficient" [which  is the language included                                                               
in HCR 27].                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. WARING  answered that  the language would  be defined  in the                                                               
regulations.     He  related   his  belief   that  "substantively                                                               
deficient" would mean  [the petition] didn't have the  facts.  He                                                               
presumed that the LBC would adopt  standards and there would be a                                                               
process by which the staff  would evaluate a petition against the                                                               
standards.   If  the  staff  suggested that  the  LBC review  the                                                               
petition, he envisioned a "mini-hearing"  whereby the petition is                                                               
reviewed against the standards.  If  the LBC found that the facts                                                               
were weak,  then the commission  may make the decision  to return                                                               
the petition  so that the  petitioner would have  the opportunity                                                               
to review and  perhaps revise the petition.   In further response                                                               
to Representative  Murkowski, Mr. Waring  agreed that there  is a                                                               
difference between a  return of a petition versus  a rejection of                                                               
a  petition.    Rejection  has   consequences  that  prevent  the                                                               
petitioner   from  returning   the   petition   for  some   time.                                                               
Therefore,  it seems  punitive to  not allow  the opportunity  to                                                               
reject a  petition without  allowing the  petitioner to  make the                                                               
fix.                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Number 2916                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SCALZI noted the discussion  of a possibility of a                                                               
percentage that  must be  met in  relation to  the standard.   He                                                               
asked if  [the LBC] would  consider a guideline in  the standards                                                               
in order  to be clear  that the municipality  has to be  within a                                                               
certain standard of reason.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. WARING answered  that he wasn't sure that  a percentage would                                                               
work.   He pointed  out that statute  governing the  LBC mandates                                                               
that the  LBC accept and  consider petitions.  He  explained that                                                               
the regulatory  standards would include specific  guidelines that                                                               
would  be of  use to  potential petitioners.   He  hoped that  if                                                               
there were standards  of that sort that the LBC  might never have                                                               
to   utilize  this   authority.     Therefore,  warning   of  the                                                               
consequences  might  motivate  the   petitioner  to  do  the  job                                                               
correctly initially.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
TAPE 02-8, SIDE B                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
The committee took an at-ease from 8:59 a.m. to 9:07 a.m.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  MEYER  announced  that  the committee  has  decided  to                                                               
[sponsor] the draft resolution [HCR 27].                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 2957                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SCALZI  moved to  report HJR  39 out  of committee                                                               
with  individual  recommendations  and  the  accompanying  fiscal                                                               
notes.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HALCRO objected.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HALCRO  clarified that the committee  is voting on                                                               
whether  to  move  HJR  39   out  of  committee.    Therefore,  a                                                               
[majority] of yes votes would move  HJR 39 out of committee and a                                                               
[majority]  of  no  votes  would  fail to  move  HJR  39  out  of                                                               
committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
A  roll call  vote was  taken.   Representative Morgan  voted for                                                               
moving  HJR   39  out  of  committee.     Representatives  Guess,                                                               
Kerttula,  Halcro, Murkowski,  Meyer,  and  Scalzi voted  against                                                               
moving HJR  39 out  of committee.   Therefore,  HJR 39  failed to                                                               
move out  of the  House Community  and Regional  Affairs Standing                                                               
Committee by a vote of 1:6.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
The committee took an at-ease from 9:11 a.m. to 9:14 a.m.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                

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