Legislature(2001 - 2002)
04/24/2001 01:17 PM TRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 88-METROPOLITAN PLANNING ORGANIZATIONS CHAIR KOHRING announced that the next order of business would be SENATE BILL NO. 88, "An Act relating to metropolitan planning organizations and to establishment of a metropolitan planning organization for the Anchorage metropolitan area; and providing for an effective date." SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS, Alaska State Legislature, came forth as sponsor of SB 88. He explained that this bill adds one member from the House and one member from the Senate, both from the Anchorage area, to the AMATS (Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation Study) policy committee. The policy committee sets up the priorities for various projects to be funded with both state and federal funds. The rationale behind having two members is that legislators should be at the table in setting up these priorities, rather than having two non-elected officials and three locally elected officials. REPRESENTATIVE SCALZI stated that from previous testimony he came to the understanding that the AMATS board has the ability to appoint other members if it chooses to do so. He asked whether [AMATS] has been contacted by anyone in the legislature requesting the addition of legislators to the board. SENATOR PHILLIPS answered that [AMATS] has been pretty resistant to [the legislation]. He added that [SB 88] is the formal request. Number 0981 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK referred to a resolution in the committee packets indicating the municipal assembly opposes this bill. She asked how this would affect areas such as Fairbanks. SENATOR PHILLIPS responded that Fairbanks doesn't have [a board structure like this] yet. He remarked that he doesn't know how this would affect Fairbanks. REPRESENTATIVE MASEK asked Senator Phillips why he is introducing the bill. She said it looks as though he wants more local control; however, the mayor of Anchorage and two assembly members are already on the board. She mentioned the legislative process for appropriating money to the DOT&PF (Department of Transportation & Public Facilities) to take care of road construction projects. She also noted that whenever a new mayor is elected, it is by the majority of the [voters]. She asked Senator Phillips why he doesn't think legislators have control over these types of issues that fund DOT&PF to do the job. SENATOR PHILLIPS first offered his understanding that Mayor Wuerch of Anchorage supports [SB 88]. He then stated: The reason for it, Representative Masek, is that you as a legislator right now represent the [Matanuska- Susitna] area and deal directly with [DOT&PF]. ... My particular situation is, when they change that priority list, ... you call the commissioner [and] the commissioner says you [have] got to go back to AMATS. ... And frankly, there's no recourse. ... What happens at the end of this process ... [is that] you come up with a list of things, and all they say is, "Cut me a check; it's all or nothing." There's no ability to change the priorities, at least [not] directly. ... What I'm trying to do is get direct representation from the state legislature on this policy board so that our constituents can be heard. And if the policy committee wants to make any changes in the priority list, which they have numerous times, ... at least I'm totally responsible to my constituents at that point in time. Number 1304 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK referred to the resolution from the Anchorage Municipal Assembly [in the committee packets], lines 28 to 30, and she read: WHEREAS, the action to change the AMATS process entered into unilaterally by the State of Alaska could endanger federal highway funding for Anchorage, which is intended to be handled cooperatively between the Municipality and the State; REPRESENTATIVE MASEK asked Senator Phillips to comment on that. SENATOR PHILLIPS responded that in the committee packets there should be a letter from the Federal Highway Administration affirming that state legislators are allowed on the policy committee. The State of Hawaii has a very similar process. There have been arguments made against this because of the dual- office shift by a House or Senate member. He noted that one example of this in [Alaska] is the student loan commission. REPRESENTATIVE MASEK remarked that if this were to become law, another concern would be how the legislators would have the ability to participate while working in [Juneau]. SENATOR PHILLIPS replied that he doesn't think time and place are that difficult to rearrange. Number 1447 REPRESENTATIVE WILSON asked Senator Phillips whether his constituents want one thing, but the people who are doing the planning for Anchorage don't agree with those constituents. In addition, she asked whether he wants to be on the board in order to have some leverage. SENATOR PHILLIPS responded: There is a technical committee that makes recommendations to the policy committee, just like our bureaucracy makes recommendations to us. ... What I'm saying is that sometimes they make these decisions in switching the projects and delaying the projects [and] it's too late. ... Having a legislator who is affected by this can bring a different perspective. If we're going to appropriate the dollars, I want to at least be held accountable for the actions. Right now, we're not held accountable for the actions because there's nothing to be accountable [for], other than giving the money. So, the policy [committee] makes a decision on a particular project, constituents get mad, they beat up the legislator that they think should be responsible, yet I have no ability. ... We get to appropriate the dollars in this legislation; I think we ought to have some say about it. ... My primary concern is not to tell them what to do. it's a complement to them or added feature that they may not see. Number 1628 REPRESENTATIVE KOOKESH remarked that he is uncomfortable with the bill. He asked Senator Phillips what would happen if the governor appointed two people the Senator did not like. Furthermore, he asked whether two new people would be added the following year. SENATOR PHILLIPS responded that right now the legislator is not even "on the table" and yet [the legislature] has to appropriate. REPRESENTATIVE KOOKESH concurred and said he thinks that is the job [of the legislature]. REPRESENTATIVE SCALZI asked Senator Phillips whether he had been to any of the meetings. SENATOR PHILLIPS answered that he has participated, but since he has a job during the interim, he always has his staff person attend. He noted that he has gone when the meeting has been canceled or moved. REPRESENTATIVE SCALZI asked Senator Phillips whether, when he'd attended, he thought the process was productive and the citizens were being represented. Number 1730 SENATOR PHILLIPS responded that overall he did. REPRESENTATIVE SCALZI pointed out that being a participant is currently an option. SENATOR PHILLIPS replied that the dynamics really change when there is a standing member of the House and the Senate sitting on the policy committee. REPRESENTATIVE SCALZI asked whether that is to the benefit of the citizens of the municipality or to the legislature. SENATOR PHILLIPS answered that it benefits the citizens. He pointed out that he is not seeking to be on the policy committee. Number 1791 REPRESENTATIVE WILSON asked where the other Anchorage Representatives and Senators stand on this. SENATOR PHILLIPS responded that of the nine state Senators from the Anchorage area, eight voted for the bill. Obviously, he said, there is some dissatisfaction on the process itself. CHAIR KOHRING said he would like to get some direction from the committee on whether they would like to pass the bill out. REPRESENTATIVE SCALZI remarked that he would feel comfortable moving the bill out of committee; however, he would not recommend its passage because he has reservations about several things. One is the makeup of the design, which says the body has to be the one to appoint new members. The other is that legislators already have the ability to attend those meetings and get input from citizens. CHAIR KOHRING noted that the bill had a subsequent committee referral, the House Community and Regional Affairs Standing Committee. REPRESENTATIVE WILSON remarked that she had some reservations, but believed it should move out. Number 1925 REPRESENTATIVE WILSON moved to report SB 88 out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying zero fiscal note. There being no objection, SB 88 was reported from the House Transportation Standing Committee.