Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/18/1996 08:08 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 546 - G.O. BONDS: SCHOOLS & UNIV. The first order of business to come before the House State Affairs Committee was HB 546. CHAIR JAMES announced she did not have any new information regarding HB 546. She wanted to share and to hear from the committee members one more time before putting this issue "to bed" how to establish an equitable distribution of the funds. She explained rural schools were owned by the state, and urban schools were owned by the school district. Therefore, there was the possibility to divide the program into two different programs to service the entire state. The general obligation bonds would apply only to the state owned facilities, while the facilities owned by the school districts would establish their own bonds with a 70 percent contribution from the state, for example. CHAIR JAMES further explained the bill was dead. It was not a priority amongst the majority leadership. Consequently, today was the last hearing on this bill. She was prepared to deal with it again next year, however. Number 0398 REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN PORTER congratulated Chair James for taking on the issue. However, given the remaining time left in the session, he agreed it would not move forward in the legislative process. He said the committee had discussed the issue thoroughly. He would be interested in reviewing it further during the interim. Number 0448 CHAIR JAMES said she was interested in reviewing it further during the interim also. She particularly wanted to review the priority application process. The current system was flawed. It was based on legislative priority and not need. Number 0485 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER suggested a task force approach combining the efforts of the House State Affairs Committee and the House Health, Education and Social Services Committee. CHAIR JAMES agreed that was a good idea. Number 0516 REPRESENTATIVE CAREN ROBINSON said she did not want to see the bill die. The idea was long over due. She agreed with the concept of an interim task force. She suggested including members on the task force from the private industry and school boards as well. Number 0575 CHAIR JAMES said this was a very important issue to her. She suggested dedicating the tobacco tax to a fund for school construction and rehabilitation. She cited the tax would bring in about $40 million to $50 million a year. Number 0637 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER said it was a great thought. He was not sure if the tobacco tax could be dedicated, however. Number 0646 CHAIR JAMES replied the Legislative Legal Department said it would not be a problem. There was not an Attorney General opinion, however. There was evidence from the Alaska State Constitutional Convention that the tax could not be changed or the use of the fund could not be changed. The tax could be increased or decreased, however. Number 0706 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER asked if it was a tobacco tax that originally funded school construction and rehabilitation? CHAIR JAMES replied, "yes." Currently, 5 cents of the tobacco tax went to a dedicated fund. Number 0753 REPRESENTATIVE ED WILLIS said he hoped that children would not smoke more to get a better school. Number 0770 CHAIR JAMES reiterated this was a very important issue that needed to be addressed somehow. Number 0786 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN IVAN invited the interim committee to look at the hub centers, such as Dillingham, Bethel or Nome. CHAIR JAMES said she would discuss his suggestion with the Speaker of the House, Gail Phillips, to determine if that was possible. Number 0827 REPRESENTATIVE JOE GREEN said he would also like to be a part of an interim committee to address this issue further. Number 0844 REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT OGAN said he would also like to be a part of an interim committee to address this issue further. CHAIR JAMES said it was exciting to see all the committee members supportive of this issue.