Legislature(2001 - 2002)

04/24/2001 01:17 PM TRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                                    
     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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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.                                                                                        

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