Legislature(2017 - 2018)HOUSE FINANCE 519
04/12/2017 01:30 PM FINANCE
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HOUSE BILL NO. 166 "An Act establishing a museum construction grant program in the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development." 2:37:16 PM REPRESENTATIVE JUSTIN PARISH, SPONSOR, explained that HB 166 created a matching grant program. He read the sponsor statement: House Bill 166 establishes a matching grant program in the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, for eligible museum construction, expansion or major renovation projects. Museums are eligible for this program if they are located in Alaska, entitled to receive state grants, and provide matching funds from other sources of at least 50 percent of the project costs. Alaska has more than 60 museums throughout the state that provide cultural, tourism, and educational programs. Alaska museums receive 380,993 annual visitors and they serve 29,469 school children each year. Alaskan communities are enriched with the art, history, and cultural language and education provided at the museums. The approval of this bill will enable museums to access and leverage funding so that they may improve, expand or upgrade as needed, when funds are appropriated. Included with the bill documents you will find twenty-three letters of support from nine different Alaskan museums, four regional or statewide museums organizations and Senator Bishop. The award is subject to appropriation and cannot exceed more than 50 percent of the total proposed project costs. HB 166 is a companion bill for SB 7, Sponsors: Stevens, Bishop, Stedman and Egan. Representative Parish was happy to answer any questions. Co-Chair Foster read the list of available testifiers. Vice-Chair Gara thought the bill was straightforward. He referred to Page 2, line 1 in subsection C. He thought the subsection read that the state could only grant an amount that was 50 percent of the grant amount. He suggested that it would be half of the grant amount rather than 50/50. He surmised that the maker of the amendment intended the amount to be up to 50 percent of the cost of the project. Representative Parish relayed that he had put grant project together. He thanked Vice-Chair Gara for his observation. He would be happy to work out a change. Vice-Chair Gara was happy to be corrected. Clarification could be provided at the next hearing. Representative Parish thought there was someone available who could clarify the language. Representative Wilson was aware of one [grant] for libraries. However, she did not believe it dealt with major renovation and construction. She thought it applied to a new library based on the community size. She asked if the library grant encompassed a major renovation and expansion. Representative Parish would field the question to someone more familiar with the program. He would leave his staff to answer any remaining questions. 2:42:50 PM KATHERINE ELDEMAR, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF COMMUNITY AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS, introduced herself. Representative Wilson suggested there was a similar program for libraries based on population. She was under the impression the program covered the cost of building a new library. She wondered if the bills were similar. Ms. Eldemar responded that she would have to research the statute. She offered that there was never any funding to the library program through other venues. She continued that no applications were funded through the library statute. Representative Wilson thought she was incorrect. She indicated that North Slope had a new library and it went through a program. She was uncertain of the details. Ms. Eldemar referred to two statutes. She referenced AS.14.56.355 pertaining to a public construction and major expansion matching grant program. She explained that there was not an appropriation from the legislature under the statute. She furthered that funding was granted under AS 37.05.315 - not through the library grant statute. Representative Wilson commented that was the project she thought was being funded. She asked about the definition for major renovation but did not see one for expansion. She wondered about the size of the expansion. Ms. Eldemar would get back to the committee with an answer. Representative Guttenberg wondered about a structure for establishing a systematic approach to prioritizing museum capital funding requests in the state. He did not see anything in the bill outlining prioritization except for major renovations. He was concerned with the definition of a major renovation. He did not see anything that prioritized one thing over another. He asked if the amendment was only setting up a fund. Ms. Eldemar pointed to HB 166 on Page 1, Line 10-11. She read from the bill: The department may not accept an application for a grant under this section unless the legislature makes an appropriation for the grant program. Ms. Eldemar explained that it was put in procedurally because previously there were many applications submitted to the division for the library program. They were scored and given a number. Typically, the grant was awarded based on the score. Unfortunately, there was no appropriation. The division had gone through the process of creating regulations and reviewing and scoring the applications. However, the grant was never funded. Subsequently, funding was provided through the other statute she cited. Representative Guttenberg remarked that the bill would establish a new section on museum construction, expansion, and major renovation. He did not see a reference to scoring or prioritization of grant applications. He asked if a scoring system like the previous one would be used. Ms. Eldemar replied that if the bill became law, the division would not accept applications until funding was in place. Then, the division would start the process of putting together regulations, which would take about a year. Once the regulations were in place, the division would begin processing applications. The division would not take any action until appropriations were made. Criteria and procedures would be established through regulations. 2:48:55 PM Representative Guttenberg referred to information provided in member packets. There was a variety of museums, including the Tanana Valley Railroad Association. Some of them were private, public, and non-profit. He asked which entities would qualify for a grant. He asked if the Museum of the North would qualify for a grant or if a privately funded aviation museum would qualify. Ms. Eldemar responded that if the bill became law, the division would start by creating regulations. She would have to wait to see an application to verify whether it was complete, whether it satisfied requirements, or whether it was deficient in some way. She would not know until she saw an application or started the process. Representative Guttenberg thought it was good that she was not getting too far ahead. However, he suggested that it would be nice to know in advance of passing legislation where the line stood. He wondered, for instance, if a mom and pop dime store museum on the corner, the downtown Anchorage museum, a city-owned museum, or a university museum would qualify. He could wait for an answer after the meeting. 2:50:56 PM Representative Kawasaki clarified that the division would not be creating regulations that would specify certain things until the legislation was passed and money was appropriated. Ms. Eldemar indicated that the details would come through regulations and that there would be opportunity for public comment. Representative Kawasaki wondered if the legislature needed to place the criteria and eligibility in the bill to narrow the scope. He wondered what kinds of museums the state wanted to support. He asked her to comment about museum funds being granted to places without museums versus places that already had large museums. He thought that communities without museums versus those that did would have priority. LISA WORL, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE JUSTIN PARISH, asked Representative Kawasaki to repeat his policy question. Representative Kawasaki asked about new museum construction and whether it should be imbedded within the eligibility criteria as laid out in statute. He wondered if places that did not have museums would be a priority over those communities that already had museums. He asked if it was a priority of the bill sponsor. Ms. Worl responded that Representative Parish had received 23 letters of support for a host of different types of museums already established that held many different public cultural items. She encouraged members to invite a person from the city museum who was involved in the bill drafting who could respond. 2:54:48 PM Representative Thompson wanted to clarify that the bill would set up a fund for the legislature to deposit money and entities could make application. He wondered if the legislature could make a direct grant to a museum that would not require a match. He mentioned an atmospheric control. Ms. Eldemar responded affirmatively. Representative Pruitt asked about the other programs already in place. He wondered why there was a proposal to institute a new program. He inquired whether the legislature should be getting rid of other programs. Ms. Worl responded that the last one was written specifically for libraries and the current one applied to museums. She continued that when the bill was drafted it took the form of the proposal brought to the representative. She could provide clarification as to the reason for a separate account. Representative Pruitt asked if it was an appropriate time to be discussing additional capital funds for museums. He mentioned the House of Representatives recently having a massive debate on the floor about taking the Permanent Fund. He thought it was more important for the state to maintain what it already had. Ms. Worl agreed with his comments about money being short. The point of the bill was to set the mechanism in place when there were funds available for museums. 2:58:41 PM Representative Tilton asked if there was a listing of current museums throughout the state. Ms. Worl indicated Patience Fredrickson was on the line from the Archives Library and Museum. She offered to get back with Representative Tilton with an answer if Ms. Frederickson was not online. Co-Chair Foster OPENED PUBLIC TESTIMONY on HB 166. SHEILA WYNE, SHEILA WYNE STUDIOS, ANCHORAGE (via teleconference), spoke in support of HB 166. She mentioned the success of her art studio. She had artwork in the permanent collections of four museums in the state. She opined that it was critical for businesses like hers that museum institutions had access to programs that allowed for construction, expansion, and major renovations to keep up with advances in technology, the tourist industry, and trade. These museum programs and collections were magnets that attracted new and repeating clients. The quality was critical to local economies. She provided a personal experience as a designer for a performance event at the Anchorage Museum. The budget for the event $185,000 of which $160,000 came from sources outside of Alaska. There were 5,000 attendees. Several businesses benefitted from the event. She thought museum institutions were critical to communities, artists, and businesses. The museum construction matching grants will help with their mission. She encouraged support for the bill. 3:02:54 PM EVA MALVICH, AVCP, BETHEL (via teleconference), spoke in favor of HB 166. She was the director and curator for the Yupiit Piciryarait Museum and a tribal member of the native village of Mekoryuk (A co-owner of the museum). She mentioned a fire that burned the museum in 1980. It took 14 years from the time it burned to open the cultural center and open the collection to the public. She reminded members that the museum had not been able to be filled until 1967, the 100th year anniversary of the sale of Alaska. The state matched $2500 supplied by the community of Bethel, which was used to purchase lumber. However, the money ran out for the project. She noted that it would soon be the 150th anniversary of the sale of Alaska. It had been a long time since the museum was given an opportunity to ask for funding. She provided more information about the museum and its benefits. She spoke of a grant that would provide the museum with a desperately needed HVAC system. There had been several missed opportunities to house exhibits due to a non-functioning HVAC system. She provided examples of exhibits that had been damaged due to environmental factors and spoke about the expense of replacing the system. HB 166 would help immensely. Co-Chair Foster noted that Patience Frederickson was available online. 3:10:02 PM BETHANY FOLLETT, CITY OF WASILLA/WASILLA MUSEUM AND VISITOR CENTER, WASILLA (via teleconference), reported increased interest in local and state history. She spoke about the community programs offered at the museum that infused history and culture into a learning experience. She also mentioned other activities housed there. She believed HB 166 was critical to the city's museum buildings and programming and provided details about the current museum structure. It was bursting at the seams. She advocated that the museum needed more space and an update to its technology. Many libraries and museums had different and specific needs for providing services to the public. She opined that HB 166 provided the framework for Alaskans to support state museums and to preserve Alaska's heritage. 3:12:58 PM PATRICIA RELAY, MUSEUMS OF ALASKA, VALDEZ (via teleconference), had heard her colleagues share about the needs of their museums. She clarified the definition of a museum. A museum was an institution, whether public or private or in partnership that conserved and preserved and interpreted the collection of artifacts and objects of artistic, cultural, historical, and scientific importance making them available to the public as permanent or temporary exhibits. Museums served the public by preserving cultural heritage. Museums were facing critical infrastructure issues (She read from a prepared statement): I am contacting you today to thank you for your support of HB166, establishing a museum construction grant program and companion bill SB7. Research shows that almost half of all museums in the state are either currently involved in a construction project or will be in the next five years. That is incredible. This bill provides the structure for establishing a systematic approach to prioritizing museum capital project funding requests in the state. Museums and cultural organizations in Alaska are a critical part of the educational and economic infrastructure, spurring tourism and partnering with schools to teach the local curriculum. They contribute to our economy and wellbeing by: • Employing over 260 Alaskans; • Spend over $23,553,294. annually in the State; • Host over 624,695 visitors annually; and • Server over 36,290 school children annually. Despite this vital role of museums, our facilities and collections are at risk through decreasing federal, local and charitable giving. As collections grow and visitation increases, the pressure on our aging infrastructure must be managed. The Valdez Museum & Historical Archive is no stranger to this dilemma. The Valdez Museum & Historical Archive has accomplished a lot within the past few years: incorporating a successful expanded range of public programming, major upgrades to several exhibits, increasing its visitation, and raising its standards of collection management. Despite these achievements, the institution is now at a point in which its progress is being hampered by limitations of space. In order to maintain and improve its standards of professionalism, and to preserve its vision for the future, the organization needs to move away from its current environment of shared-purpose space and move towards a facility with dedicated space designed for single use functionality. At the core of our mission is education. Over the years we have had numerous teachers share their gratitude for how the Valdez Museum supports their work. Recently, Sheri Beck, a 4th grade teacher with the Valdez City Schools shared with our Museum Educator, "I just returned from a National Social Studies Convention in New Orleans. I thought of you so many times and wished we could be brainstorming side by side! I was also reminded how fortunate we are in Valdez and in my partnership with you, to have our local museum available for help and support. Thankyou! Your recent lesson with my students using artifacts and primary sources was such a wonderful example of what we heard at the conference as stellar teaching." Without the proper care and housing or the Museum's collections we would not be able to offer robust education programs. Thank you for sponsoring HB 166 and supporting SB 7, establishing a museum construction grant program, so that museums throughout the state of Alaska may continue to serve their communities. Help us make these bills a reality and speak up for Alaska's museums! 3:18:24 PM ANGELA LINN, MUSEUMS OF ALASKA, FAIRBANKS (via teleconference), reported having worked in Alaska for over 22 years, 20 of which she was the Senior Collections Manager of Ethnology and History at the University of Alaska, Museum of the North in Fairbanks. According to the Alaska Travel Industry Association, over 2 million visitors were coming to Alaska every year generating over $100 million in state revenues and $83 million in municipal revenues through taxes and other fees. Alaska museums provided a major draw for visitors. According to the American Alliance of Museums, 76 percent of all leisure travelers participated in cultural or heritage activities such as visiting museums. These travelers spent 60 percent more on average than other leisure travelers. Fairbanks had museums that specialized in and featured the unique stories of the indigenous people. She reported that there was a museum that featured planes, trains, and automobiles that have helped in building Alaska in the modern period. Alaska also had a children's museum where kids engaged in hands-on learning. There were many others including a museum where they were undertaking world-class research on collections that spanned millions of years of biological diversity and thousands of years of cultural traditions in the North. In the current year, there was a significant increase in tourism from Asian countries. Those visitors connected with Alaska through its museums. She continued to discuss the advantages of Alaska museums. She emphasized the need for museum construction and renovations funding and encouraging members to support HB 166. Representative Guttenberg asked if Ms. Linn thought the Museum of the North would be eligible under the grant. Ms. Linn hoped so. She was uncertain about the university's budgeting process. Her museum was a member of Museums Alaska and a major part of the museum community. She hoped her museum would be eligible for the funding. Co-Chair Foster CLOSED Public Testimony on HB 166. Representative Guttenberg asked if Ms. Frederiksen was still online. 3:21:50 PM MS. PATIENCE FREDERIKSEN, DIRECTOR OF LIBRARIES, ARCHIVES, AND MUSEUMS, introduced herself. Representative Guttenberg asked about the definition of museums. He referred to Chapter 57 indicating that some of the definitions and functions were not aligned with the language of the bill. He thought the definitions needed to be strengthened. He asked if she had looked at the bill and whether it worked. Ms. Frederiksen responded that she had not looked carefully at the bill, as it was under a different department. She was happy to look at the bill, review the definition of museum, and provide feedback. Representative Guttenberg referred to Chapter 57 [A.S. 14.57] under designated cultural and historical depositories. He wanted to make sure there were not conflicts between what was in statute and the bill language regarding a museum and funding. He wanted to make sure things were aligned. Ms. Frederiksen asked if Representative Guttenberg wanted her to talk to the Division of Commerce. Representative Guttenberg responded, "Okay. Alright. Thank you." Co-Chair Foster announced amendments were due at 5:00 pm Thursday, April 18, 2017. Representative Wilson relayed that several questions had been asked during the meeting. She wanted those questions answered prior to having to submit amendments, as the answers would be pertinent to the bill. She queried about a timeframe. Co-Chair Foster would take a brief at ease to inquire about a timeline. 3:25:13 PM AT EASE 3:26:32 PM RECONVENED Co-Chair Foster would not set a deadline for amendments until he had a better idea of when answers might be provided. HB 166 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further consideration.