Legislature(2003 - 2004)
05/15/2003 08:39 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL NO. 295 An Act relating to the publishing and furnishing of certain public notices regarding regulations or rules of certain state agencies; relating to distribution of the Alaska Administrative Code, Alaska Administrative Register, and supplements to the code or register; and providing for an effective date. DEBORAH BEHR, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, LEGISLATION AND REGULATIONS SECTION, DEPARTMENT OF LAW, noted that Assistant Attorney General Tillery from Anchorage was on line to address the Committee's technical questions. Ms. Behr explained that the legislation would deal with legal notices for regulations that appear in newspapers. It would change the legal adds for adopting regulations. The goal of the legislation would allow the State to move toward an abbreviated notice with more user-friendly information. The legal notice in the paper would refer to on-line public notice where more detailed information could be found. If someone does not have a computer, they could make a public records request in order to receive a hard copy or get on the Department's mailing list. The goal is to make it "user friendly" and is anticipated to cost the State 75% less for the notices with less information. Ms. Behr highlighted the second change, which would furnish notices to agencies that are not covered by the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). She understood that most people prefer to get information by email or have the option to request written copy. The legislation broadens that language to non-APA agencies not covered by the Act. Ms. Behr continued, there could be a minor change as some agencies have a requirement that the information be published in three newspapers. The language of the bill reduces that to one. If the agency thought that it was appropriate to put it in more papers, they would have that option. Additionally, the bill moves toward web-only notices for appropriate sets of regulations. The Department was careful as to which programs were selected for web notices, making sure that there was access to computers or ready access to the Internet. Ms. Behr pointed out that historically, the Executive Branch provided municipalities hard copies of regulations. Some of the smaller municipalities prefer to use the Internet notice. The final change in the bill allows the smaller areas to request information. If they want hard copy, a cost of no more than $600 dollars would be charged. Ms. Behr referenced the cost savings to the State. Representative Kerttula voiced concern with Section 11, the Oil and Gas leasing section. She asked if there were sections throughout the bill in which all public notice would be deleted. Ms. Behr advised that the program selection had been done carefully in order to make sure that there were computers or access to them. Section 11 deals with the Department of Natural Resources, the Oil and Gas section. She understood that section had be chosen as if it was a full blown leasing process, not changing any of the Title 38 numbers and that it would only affect the notices related to the underline rate process. The public would still receive the same information either through an Internet notice or the Department of Natural Resources website. Co-Chair Williams requested that Representative Berkowitz move his amendment. Representative Berkowitz MOVED to ADOPT new Amendment #1. (Copy on File). Co-Chair Williams OBJECTED. Representative Berkowitz explained that the amendment would strip out the provisions in the bill indicating that no notices would be required for certain agencies. The agencies that are exempted from newspaper notice requirement include the oil and gas, conservation, pipeline act regulations, and insurance regulations. The primary savings in the bill comes from the reduced amount of newspaper print. He stressed that to exempt these items from public notice would make the public think that government does not want people to know what is going on. He added that the amendment would preserve most of the cost savings contained in the bill. Co-Chair Williams suggested that people that know what they are looking for are the ones that usually read public notices. He did not believe that most people read them. Ms. Behr commented that her experience has proven that most people get their info through emails or mailing notices. She was not aware that newspaper notices were a primary way to receive information concerning regulations. The newspaper ads are mostly used for legal notice versus the actual notice. Co-Chair Williams asked if the regular newspaper reader would be able to get all the information that they need by reading the add in the paper. Ms. Behr replied that a professional person would probably get all pertinent information mailed to them. Representative Berkowitz appreciated that could be true if that person lived in a place that was connected by wire. There are large parts of the State that are not wired and do not have computer access. For those rural parts of the State, it is important to retain the legal notice that is available in newspapers. He emphasized that the newspaper requirement gets information to those people living in rural Alaska. Keeping the notice in the newspaper retains the ability to inform the public about what is happening with government. The amendment would provide a transitional measure. Representative Stoltze asked Representative Foster and Representative Moses if their constituents read newspapers. Representative Foster replied that in his 27 villages, most of them do not get newspapers. Representative Berkowitz asked if all those villages had Internet. Representative Foster responded that most of the villagers live day to day and that he doubted that few had access to the Internet or computers. Co-Chair Williams argued that there are other means for disseminating information. He questioned how information is relayed in the rural communities. Ms. Behr commented that the on line public notice was a major mode of information dissemination and that the federal registry was a great way to get information. The federal government is moving more toward computer information. Representative Kerttula pointed out that Section 11 would omit newspaper publication completely. She agreed that some of the listings in Section 11 were pretty specific however, to omit all newspaper publications, particularly when dealing with oil and gas leases would not be good. She asked if the Department of Natural Resources had an opinion regarding the concern. Ms. Behr recommended consulting a representative from Department of Natural Resources to discuss that concern. She emphasized that extensive leasing process under Title 38 would not be diminished. Each leasing policy is separate and distinct and each should be a policy call made by the Legislature. Representative Kerttula noted that Section 16 related to the Regulatory Commission of Alaska (RCA) and asked if they had input regarding elimination of their newspaper information. Ms. Behr noted that the drafting attorney had checked in with the RCA to determine if it was appropriate to include that language. The legislation only addresses the regulations. Representative Berkowitz advised that there was an administrative order from the Governor that if any agency wanted to exceed the minimal amount of public notice required by law, they would need to get approval from the Governor's office. A roll call vote was taken on the motion to adopt Amendment #1. IN FAVOR: Moses, Berkowitz, Kerttula OPPOSED: Stoltze, Chenault, Foster, Hawker, Meyer, Williams Co-Chair Harris and Representative Whitaker were not present for the vote. The MOTION FAILED (3-6). Representative Kerttula MOVED to DELETE Sections 11 and 16. Co-Chair Williams OBJECTED noting that he would not accept the motion, as it was the same as Amendment #1. Representative Kerttula stated that she would speak with representatives from the Department of Natural Resources and offer the amendment on the House Floor. Representative Foster MOVED to report CS HB 295 (STA) out of Committee with individual recommendations and with the accompanying fiscal notes. Representative Berkowitz OBJECTED. Representative Berkowitz noted that he does not like it when the government does away with public notice requirements. He stated that it goes against the direction and that the public should know what is occurring with government. Representative Stoltze noted that he would support the bill. Vice-Chair Meyer commented that the bill was a step in the right direction in getting the State to use Internet services more extensively. Representative Berkowitz countered that the State of Alaska has won awards for being on the cutting edge of technology. The State is not behind in the area of technology. Representative Kerttula pointed out that four years ago, her first piece of legislation was the Internet notice. Nevertheless, for the areas that do not have computer access, this legislation will be detrimental. A roll call vote was taken on the motion. IN FAVOR: Stoltze, Chenault, Foster, Hawker, Meyer, Moses, Williams OPPOSED: Berkowitz, Kerttula Co-Chair Harris and Representative Whitaker were not present for the vote. The MOTION PASSED (7-2). CS HB 295 (STA) was reported out of Committee with "individual recommendations" and with indeterminate note #1 by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and fiscal note #2 by the Office of Management and Budget.