Legislature(2005 - 2006)SENATE FINANCE 532
04/25/2005 09:00 AM FINANCE
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE BILL NO. 133 "An Act establishing the Aviation Advisory Board; and providing for an effective date." This was the first hearing for this bill in the Senate Finance Committee. NONA WILSON, Legislative Liaison, Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, informed the Committee that the Department has identified this legislation as being "critical to the State's aviation infrastructure as well as the aviation industry as a whole". It would allow for the continuance of the Aviation Advisory Board, which was created in 2003 and renewed in 2004, to occur "without the need for annual administrative renewals". A permanent Board would be "practical and necessary to the continued success and prudent operation" of the State's international airport hubs in Anchorage and in Fairbanks and its 258 Rural airports. Ms. Wilson stated that the Board also serves in an advisory capacity to the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT) and facilitates on-going "coordination between the State and aviation industry" on such things as aviation policy, safety, airport management and operations. Ms. Wilson noted that the composition of the Board, as detailed in Section 1, Sec. 44.42.230(a) on page two, lines six through 30, is "a broad cross-section" of the State's aviation industry and as such would provide well-balanced dialogue and expertise. Senator Olson asked whether the responsibilities of the new Board would differ from its predecessor. KIP KNUDSON, Deputy Commissioner of Aviation, Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, informed the Committee that the Board was originally formed to improve communication between aviation interest groups and DOT personnel responsible for the airport system. The Board has done a good job in providing that conduit. Senator Olson pointed out that a large portion of the Board member positions "are not necessarily aviation related", as exampled by Section 1, Sec. 44.42.230. Composition of the Board (a)(5), (6), and (7). (5) a member who is a community leader residing in the unorganized borough of the state; (6) a member who represents the mayor of the Municipality of Anchorage; (7) a member who jointly represents the mayors of the City of Fairbanks and the Fairbanks North Star Borough; Mr. Knudson explained that when Governor Frank Murkowski established the original Board by Administrative Order, it was thought best not to "predetermine" that Board members should have an aviation connection. However, "effectively they are all aviation people" in that in some form, they each have "some leg in the aviation industry or some aviation interest group". The people who have been appointed by the mayors of the City of Anchorage and the City of Fairbanks have had aviation backgrounds. Therefore, "it happens that they're all aviation interested". Co-Chair Green concluded therefore that it must be "assumed" that the appointees would have aviation industry backgrounds. Co-Chair Green asked whether the Board composition in this bill is similar to the makeup of the Board established by the Administrative Order. Mr. Knudson replied that this Board is identical to the original Board with the exception being that an at-large member was added "for tie breaks". Therefore this Board would have 11 members rather than ten. Co-Chair Green asked whether the Board has met consistently during the two years it has existed. Mr. Knudson communicated that the Board has had a busy schedule and has met nine times in the last two years. Co-Chair Green understood that the responsibilities of the Board would continue as before. Absent this legislation it could continue via the issuance of an Administrative Order. This legislation would serve to include the Board in State Statute and thereby make it subject to review by the Division of Legislative Budget & Audit. This would align the Board with other boards in the State. Senator Hoffman asked for examples of the types of "major issues" the Board has addressed and resolved. Mr. Knudson commented for general background that DOT oversees the operations of the Anchorage and Fairbanks airports. Other airports such as the ones ins Juneau and Ketchikan are locally governed. The Board has addressed the issue of airport governance by gathering information from around the country in order to determine the best, most cost effective method to manage airports. Other issues that have been addressed include the operation of airport towers such as the tower at King Salmon and a feasibility issue relating to how small of a community could support a ten million dollar airport. The Board has provided good advice to the Commissioner in regards to such things as the allocation of resources. Co-Chair Wilken voiced concern about the size of the Board; specifically that the budget and the Board's size and scope of responsibility do not appear to be "in alignment". Language in Section 1, Sec. 44.42.220. Meetings; hearings; records. does not appear to allow the Board to meet and make decisions by teleconference; therefore, he questioned how the 11-member Board could meet two or three times a year within the constraints of a $20,000 budget. To that point, he asked whether the Board could meet and make decisions via teleconference. Mr. Knudson communicated that, while the Board has held meetings by teleconference, they would prefer to meet as a group prior to issuing a resolution. Meetings have been held in Ketchikan, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau. Co-Chair Wilken asked whether the $20,000 annual Board budget would be sufficient. Mr. Knudson stated that while the budget might cause some "scrimping", it would be workable. Co-Chair Wilken questioned the language in Section 1, Sec. 44.42.230.(c), page three, lines two and three, that specifies that the Governor would name the Board chairman. He considered proposing an amendment to delete that language, as an 11-member Board, making such important decisions, would be qualified to choose their own chairman. It would also "keep peace in the family". The Chair being appointed by the Governor is an anomaly, as it is atypical of how other boards select their chairs. Mr. Knudson understood that this must "be a construct of some Boards". The chair being appointed by the Governor was, "oddly enough", recommended by the Board for inclusion in the Administrative Order. One Board member, Richard Williams, thought that "it would de-politicize the chair to a certain extent" in that the chair selection "would not be a popularity contest". Conceptual Amendment #1: This amendment deletes the language "The governor shall designate a member of the board to serve as chair of the board, or, at the governor's request," in Section 1, subsection (c), on page 3, lines two and three. The revised language would read as follows. (c) The board shall elect a chair from among its members who are not state officers or employees. Co-Chair Wilken moved to adopt Amendment #1. Co-Chair Green objected and stated that one of the upsides in having a chair appointed by a Governor is that there is no delay in the deliberations of the Board. In her experience with Boards, she has concluded that, oftentimes, this process would have been preferred as it would result in a more efficient use of time and the board would be ready to conduct business. Senator Olson asked the reason Co-Chair Wilken chose not to eliminate the language excluding State officers or employees from being able to chair the Board. He contended that numerous "State officers and employees are quite knowledgeable about the aviation industry" and would make excellent Board chairs. Co-Chair Wilken opined that State officers and employees should not be considered for the chair position as he viewed this board as "a citizens' commission". Co-Chair Wilken moved to withdraw Conceptual Amendment #1. There being no objection, the Amendment was WITHDRAWN. Senator Olson opined that, as the operator of two air taxi companies, this Advisory Board is an "asset to the aviation industry". He strongly supported the bill. The Bill was HELD in Committee. [NOTE: This bill was re-addressed later in the meeting.] SENATE BILL NO. 133 "An Act establishing the Aviation Advisory Board; and providing for an effective date." Co-Chair Green noted that the bill was again before the Committee. Co-Chair Wilken moved to report the bill from Committee with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, SB 133 was REPORTED from Committee with a new $20,000 Department of Transportation and Public Facilities fiscal note, dated April 25, 2005, and previous Department of Transportation and Public Facilities zero Fiscal Note #1, dated February 28, 2005.