Legislature(2001 - 2002)
03/07/2001 01:37 PM CRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 88-METROPOLITAN PLANNING ORGANIZATIONS SENATOR PHILLIPS, bill sponsor, said that SB 88 would add one Senate member and one House member to the Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (AMATS) policy committee. There are currently 5 members of AMATS; one appointed by the mayor, two elected members from the assembly and one each appointed from Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Conservation. He feels that the policy committee would be more responsive to its constituents if there were two more elected officials present. The Federal Highway Administration has raised no objection to this change but the Anchorage Municipal Assembly has expressed opposition. KURT PARKAN, Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, said he had no prepared comments but the department doesn't support the legislation. Dave Eberle, central region regional director and DOT representative on the AMATS policy committee, was available to answer questions if needed. He acknowledged that there is frustration with the AMATS process but SB 88 doesn't represent a fix for the problems. CHAIRMAN TORGERSON expressed frustration that this legislation is brought up every year and DOT opposes it every time but doesn't offer solutions for a compromise. MR. PARKAN said Mr. Eberle could speak to the specific issues. SENATOR PHILLIPS said that the State of Hawaii has legislative representation on their version of the AMATS committee so this isn't unusual. The members, most of whom are not elected officials, make decisions and he must answer to his constituents for their unpopular decisions. It's frustrating to receive the blame and have no means to fix the problem. Adding the two Anchorage area legislators doesn't lessen any current member's power so he doesn't understand the opposition. There is a 5 to 10 percent local contribution to the matched federal funds so there is direct legislative responsibility to constituents for projects and there should be input from local legislators. Number 342 BILL CUMMINGS, Assistant Attorney General, Transportation Section, spoke to the constitutionality of SB 88. He said it violates the dual office holding provision of Article 2, section 5 of the state constitution. Because this is a second office under the state where policy and fiscal decisions are made about state programs, legislators could not be AMATS committee members. SENATOR PHILLIPS asked about the Postsecondary Education Commission that has two legislative members. MR. CUMMINGS said "that can be distinguished. We do have that example before us." SENATOR PHILLIPS asked how Hawaii was doing the same thing. MR. CUMMINGS said they have different provisions and that his research from last year indicated the city of Honolulu was in danger of losing federal highway dollars so they had to act quickly to garner as much support as possible and this method seemed expedient. It's his understanding that the city of Anchorage is changing its method of doing business so that AMATS may be dealt with differently. He thought it was best to give this new process a chance before taking "this obviously illegal approach." SENATOR PHILLIPS commented that it's not illegal until it's judged so in a court of law. CHAIRMAN TORGERSON said this is a municipal board, not a governor's board so the dual office restriction doesn't apply. MR. CUMMINGS was pleased that point was raised because "under existing practice, it is a municipal board. After the passage of this legislation, it would make it, sort of, an adjunct to the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities. This is a far cry from what we have now and it gets into local control." CHAIRMAN TORGERSON respectfully disagreed. He asked for the will of the committee. SENATOR PHILLIPS made a motion to move SB 88 with no changes to the next committee of referral. There were no objections.