Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 124
04/28/2005 08:00 AM COMMUNITY & REGIONAL AFFAIRS
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HCR 12-LEG TASK FORCE ON RURAL SUSTAINABILITY 8:56:42 AM CO-CHAIR OLSON announced that the final order of business would be HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 12, Relating to the Joint Rural Assessment Task Force. 8:56:59 AM KACI SCHROEDER, Staff to Representative Bill Thomas, House Community and Regional Affairs Standing Committee, Alaska State Legislature, highlighted the state of the communities in Alaska. Communities throughout the state are becoming unable to provide services for residents or are shutting down completely. While revenue in these communities is declining, the cost of living is rising. Furthermore, many of these communities are unable to afford insurance, which automatically makes them ineligible for much state and federal funding. This resolution, HCR 12, provides that the Alaska State Legislature, the First Alaskans Institute, and the Alaska Municipal League will come together to form a task force, as specified in the resolution. This task force will work on and address issues rural communities are facing. First, there will be a community audit and needs assessment. Several communities throughout the state will be strategically selected and studied in depth. These communities will be selected based on population, location, organization status, and whether they receive federal funds. The [community audit and needs assessment] will generate a report. The report, the Rural Energy Action Council's Finding and Action Recommendations, and the Denali Commission's Five-Year Strategic Plan will be used to develop legislative findings and draft legislation to be proposed in the next legislative session. Ms. Schroeder emphasized that HCR 12 isn't an attempt to side-step already-introduced legislation addressing problems in rural communities. Unfortunately, many of those don't address the entire picture, and therefore the desire is for the legislature to develop a working plan to solve as many of the problems in rural Alaska as possible. 8:59:42 AM CO-CHAIR THOMAS moved that the committee adopt CSHCR 12, Version 24-LS0964\F, Cook, 4/27/05, as the working document. There being no objection, Version F was before the committee. 9:00:24 AM CO-CHAIR THOMAS said that he has four communities in his district that are suffering and almost defunct, which relates to his interest in moving this resolution along. Furthermore, he opined that it is this committee's job to go out and review the situation in these communities and come back with recommendations. He noted that the $14,000 fiscal note will require a House Finance Committee referral. 9:01:57 AM REPRESENTATIVE NEUMAN echoed Co-Chair Thomas' comments. He expressed the need to address the needs of the schools and determine how to make them better in rural areas. He informed the committee that 47.3 percent of Alaska Natives are graduating from high school, which needs to be improved. Representative Neuman announced his support for HCR 12, and related his willingness to testify in other committees to help move this resolution through the legislature. 9:03:00 AM KATHIE WASSERMAN, Alaska Municipal League (AML), highlighted that "we" have all failed to look at the large picture. For example, remodels of schools in some remote areas are funded, although no one takes into consideration that the community can't provide water or other necessities. Through discussions with those interested, the conclusion has been that there is the need to look at the large picture and the ability to do something, develop a plan, lays within the legislature. 9:04:32 AM REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX moved to report CSHCR 12, Version 24- LS0964\F, Cook, 4/27/05, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSHCR 12(CRA) was reported from the House Community and Regional Affairs Standing Committee.