Legislature(1997 - 1998)

03/05/1998 08:02 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 362 - AIRPORT MILITARY LOUNGES                                              
Number 0624                                                                    
CHAIR JAMES announced the next order of business is, HB 362, "An               
Act relating to the use of space for military lounges in state-                
owned or state-controlled airports."                                           
Number 0628                                                                    
DONALD STOLWORTHY, Legislative Administrative Assistant to                     
Representative Beverly Masek came before the committee.  He stated             
HB 362 is designed to codify the situation that is currently going             
on in the Anchorage International Airport.  It provides the                    
opportunity in other state-controlled or owned airports for the                
airport directors to offer, if they have space available, rent-free            
space for military lounges if those lounges are operated by non-               
profit organizations.  Around the country, this is generally done              
by the USO [United Service Organization].  In the state of Alaska,             
the one lounge we have is operated by the Anchorage Armed Services,            
YMCA [Young Men Christian Association].                                        
MR. STOLWORTHY said, "The current situation is they don't pay rent,            
they pay $10 a year in a lease, but the airport director doesn't               
have any authority to do that.  What he does is he creates this                
lease - the FAA is happy that it's not a rent-free space, and then             
he divides that cost among all the other tenants.  What this                   
strives to do is to make sure that relationship can continue and he            
has statutory authority to answer the FAA, if they ever bring it               
up, or if there is change in the Administration.  There's a zero               
fiscal note provided by the Department of Administration, they said            
it will have no fiscal impact.  And the Department of                          
Transportation [and Public Facilities], when they did testify                  
before the Military [and Veterans' Affairs] Committee, stated that             
their understanding is, the committee's understanding as well, that            
if the space is available, it's not mandated that the airport                  
director kicks somebody out - a revenue paying entity out to                   
provide a lounge."                                                             
Number 0650                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked why do we need this.  He indicated there            
is a USO lounge in Fairbanks.                                                  
MR. STOLWORTHY replied Anchorage and Fairbanks are the two major               
destinations for military personnel traveling.  He reiterated FAA              
requires the airport directors to maximize revenues at the airports            
and they do not have statutory authority to provide rent-free                  
space.  The reason it is needed is to provide the airport directors            
with justification for what they have been doing so far.  If the               
FAA decided to push the issue and say, "You're going to have to                
generate revenue with this space."  Last year the airport lounge in            
Anchorage had 22,000 visitors.  The lounge is all run by volunteers            
and doesn't cost the state anything.                                           
REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY indicated it was his understanding that all               
the other tenants are basically sharing in the cost for providing              
this space, they also share in the cost of providing public                    
restrooms.  He asked why is it a problem today.  He could not image            
the FAA or anybody else telling the USO to get out.                            
REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said, "Not that I'm opposed to what you're                
trying to do here, but this hasn't been a problem until today, not             
that it's a problem today, but why?"                                           
Number 0680                                                                    
MR. STOLWORTHY replied Representative Vezey is right, there is not             
a problem.  He said the [Military and Veteran's Affairs] committee             
was contacted by the Anchorage Armed Services YMCA and                         
Representative Martin.  They were concerned that if there was a                
shift in the FAA management style that it could become an issue and            
they wanted to basically head it off at the pass.                              
CHAIR JAMES asked if that had anything to do with budget-cutting               
everywhere.  She also asked what triggered their fear.                         
MR. STOLWORTHY responded that he did not know.                                 
REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked if the USOs were being threatened in the            
rest of the country.  He said he could not conceive of anybody                 
making a political decision to kick the USOs out of our airports.              
MR. STOLWORTHY replied, "We haven't heard anything about any of the            
lounges being in danger."                                                      
Number 0697                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE HODGINS stated it is sometimes difficult to justify             
some of this when you have the people of the state of Alaska                   
supplying a service that they themselves cannot use.  He recognized            
the need for helping the military and armed forces.  He indicated              
he was prepared to make a motion.                                              
CHAIR JAMES noted people were waiting on teleconference.                       
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON said oftentimes we have (Indisc. - coughing)              
acceptable practices that skate near the edge of being unauthorized            
and periodically we need to go back and bring our regulations,                 
codes, and statutes into line with what is generally accepted                  
practice.  He mentioned, "Representative Ivan superintended the                
Community and Regional Affairs meeting, I believe yesterday, where             
we in fact made it..."                                                         
TAPE 98-31, SIDE A                                                             
Number 001                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON continued, "...thing to be doing.  I think                
that, as I understand this bill, it doesn't solve the (Indisc. -               
paper rustling) problem, it heads off a potential future problem               
and I can certainly say that we in Anchorage have had a long                   
standing love affair with the military there.  Probably the most               
integrated military civilian population I've ever run into in North            
America, and doing everything we can to make that a comfortable                
transition and a welcome place for military folks is high on the               
list of priorities for the community and chamber of commerce and               
the visitors' association.  I see that this bill just furthers two             
things, sending a message that military are not only welcome but               
inordinately important in what has been a bastion and bulwark                  
against those who would take away our freedoms, and it may again               
within our life times be so.  And brings the statutes into line                
with practice."                                                                
Number 0040                                                                    
TOM MORGAN, Executive, Director, Armed Services, Young Men                     
Christian Association, testified via teleconference.  He mentioned             
the Armed Services YMCA has been serving the traveling military                
through the military courtesy lounge at the Anchorage International            
Airport.  He said, "A safe and secure place has been dedicated to              
the armed forces at no expense to the state or the military.                   
Reaching over 23,000 visitors in 1997, squadron booster clubs                  
provide volunteers to staff this lounge 365 days a year, meeting               
the needs of domestic and international traveling military members             
and their families.  Alaska continues to be a strategic importance             
in the training of our military and defense of the nation.  The                
military has always been there for us.  We should not shuck our                
duties to them."                                                               
MR. MORGAN continued, "The existing statute does not allow the                 
Armed Services YMCA to provide these services without a rental                 
charge.  So that we may continue to meet the needs of the traveling            
military in Alaska, the Armed Services YMCA supports HB 362.  This             
change will allow us to continue our work, and at the same time                
authorize the Anchorage International Airport to offer the space               
MR. MORGAN mentioned this arrangement would be consistent with                 
other military lounge airport programs that are run by the Armed               
Services YMCAs and USOs throughout the other states.  Other groups,            
school classes, boy scouts, visitors from outside have asked and               
been granted the use of these facilities.                                      
Number 0084                                                                    
DENNIS POSHARD, Legislative Liaison, Office of the Commissioner,               
Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, provided                   
information on HB 362.  He said, "The department is supportive of              
this piece of legislation, however, as you note in the fiscal note,            
it's a zero fiscal note and we put in a zero fiscal note based on              
some basic assumptions that any space that is currently generating             
revenue from a tenant we would not terminate a lease in order to               
put in a military lounge.  We would continue to lease to tenants               
that exist.  Nor would we - space that was available because a                 
certain tenant just left, if there was someone waiting to take that            
over we would not put in a military lounge because we're required,             
by FAA, to maximize our lease revenues.  However, at any location              
where space is available, we will be more than happy to make it                
available for the purposes of the military lounge.  We only have               
one currently in Alaska and that's in the Anchorage International              
Airport.  As of this time we've had no other requests, to my                   
knowledge, to put in a military lounge, but certainly any requests             
that we receive we'll try every way we can to accommodate those                
REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said he has a tendency to question why you fix            
something that is not broken.  He said, "This does concern me in               
that this is applying to every airport facility in the state and it            
says that we shall permit without rental charges the rent-free                 
facilities.  That's mandatory language, we're addressing a problem             
that doesn't seem to be broken.  The relationship that me and my               
constituents have with airport leasing is far from harmonious and              
friendly.  Why do we want to go in here and create a new source of             
friction between my constituents and the DOT/PF airport leasing?"              
MR. POSHARD indicated he was not sure that we are creating some                
source of conflict.  He believed DOT/PF would view HB 362 requiring            
them to provide space, free of charge, in any state-owned or                   
controlled airport.  He said, "I don't think that I read in the                
bill that it would require us to bump any current tenants or                   
anything of that nature. ... It's hard for me to speak to whether              
or not this is creating some source of conflict between the                    
department and potential tenants.  I guess we see it as a positive             
Number 0168                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said the bill says, "use of state land and                
buildings shall be permitted without charge."  He noted it is broad            
in whom we are bringing into this.  It includes the Alaska State               
Militia.  Representative Vezey asked for the definition of the                 
"state militia."                                                               
MR. POSHARD said he was not prepared to answer that question. He               
deferred the question to the sponsor.                                          
REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY believed it could be found in Title 1, Chapter            
05.  He said, "It is extremely broad definition, it's anybody the              
governor says is in the malitia, is in the malitia.  I think                   
between the age of 18 and 55."  He indicated he has a number of                
concerns and reiterated, we are trying to fix something that is not            
broken and the mandatory wording "shall," -- potentially what we               
are getting is that we just want it to be permissible, but HB 362              
says it is mandatory and has a very broad definition of whom we are            
mandated to provide this service to.                                           
Number 0197                                                                    
CHAIR JAMES stated she agrees with Representative Vezey.  She said,            
"You testified that you would not move somebody out of any space,              
so you'd only do it as a space available.  It doesn't say that in              
here.  ...  It just tells about for it and setting up an (Indisc.)             
and this is all the existing language, and then it says however,               
'use of land and buildings by the Alaska Wings Civil Air Patrol and            
this squadron shall be permitted without rental charges.'  And then            
they slipped in that, 'the use of the spaces, state-owned and                  
state-controlled airports as lounges for members of the United                 
States Armed Forces, the Alaska National Guard, the Naval Militia,             
or the Alaska State Militia' which is not defined, here anyway.  If            
the lounges are operated by persons exempt from taxation shall be              
permitted without rental charges, it doesn't sound to me like you              
have an option."                                                               
MR. POSHARD said he could see that maybe the language needs some               
work.  He said, "I think our interpretation, the word 'permitted               
without rental charges,' that phrase..."                                       
CHAIR JAMES interjected, "The permit undoes the shall."                        
MR. POSHARD replied not that it undoes it, but that it refers to               
the rental charges in that we shall not permit it by charging any              
fee for the space.  He said, "I don't think that we've interpreted             
that we have to make the space available.  I think we've                       
interpreted that we cannot charge a fee for that space."                       
CHAIR JAMES indicated she is in favor of this legislation, but she             
would like to get a legal opinion.                                             
Number 0227                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE ELTON said, "I think all we're trying to do is                  
codify what we are already doing.  There's noting wrong with that.             
Speaking as a Vet., temporarily here, I think this is very                     
important, but speaking as an Alaskan who also is interested in                
economic development, the services provided get these people out of            
the airports often times and into our communities where they can               
see and appreciate our communities and where they can spend some               
money too.  This also has an economic development component."                  
CHAIR JAMES indicated that HB 362 would be held for further review.            

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