Legislature(2015 - 2016)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)
04/07/2016 01:30 PM LABOR & COMMERCE
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SB 118-DNR LAND DISPOSAL SURVEYS; PEER REVIEW 2:38:40 PM CHAIR COSTELLO announced the consideration of SB 118. She noted that this is the first hearing. WESTON EILER, Staff, Senate Labor and Commerce Standing Committee, introduced the bill on behalf of the sponsor, speaking to the following sponsor statement: Senate Bill 118 creates a peer review alternative to the Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) review of survey work submitted to the State of Alaska. The bill amends state law to allow the administration facilitate a peer review process of survey work through a subcommittee of the State Board of Registration of Architects, Engineers, and Land Surveyors. During the past several years, the State of Alaska has worked to address a substantial back-log in processing permit applications. While funds appropriated in the budget have helped alleviate some systemic issues, more work is needed and limited funds are available for additional reforms. Land surveyors are licensed professional, are held to high standards by the State of Alaska, and can play a role in enhancing the state's permitting process. Senate Bill 118 proposes utilizing technical expertise in the private sector as part of permit review. Under the bill, permit applicants submitting survey work to the state would have the option of going through the traditional departmental review, or have their submissions analyzed by a subcommittee of three land surveyors. The subcommittee would be organized by the board, funded with program receipts, and be comprised of professional surveyors who do not have a financial interest in the project. DNR retains final decision making authority on permitting but is held to a two week timeline after receiving peer reviewed work. Senate Bill 118 provides an expedient alternative for permit applicants that could help advance development projects, while also easing workloads for the department. MR. EILER said the sponsor's office has been working with stakeholders to refine the mechanics of peer review. A committee substitute is anticipated that retains the use of peer review, but keeps it within DNR's purview. The department and the administration have drafted language that will change the fiscal note. 2:43:24 PM CHAIR COSTELLO asked him to walk through this version of the bill. MR. EILER said Section 1 enhances the authority of the State Board of Registration for Architects, Engineers, and Land Surveyors allowing the board to set and collect fees. Section 2 clarifies that the peer review process would be proprietary and would not fall under public records requests. Section 3 discusses criteria for professional land surveyors, not employed by DNR, who sit on a peer review subcommittee. Section 4 outlines the timeline envisioned for the peer review. It also gives a notice period and provides standards or criteria for the peer review. It states that the department retains the authority to render a final decision on a survey. Section 5 is primarily existing text, but also adds the peer review process to the powers of the commissioner. Section 6 is transition language to enact and establish this process. Section 7 provides the immediate effective date for Section 6. Section 8 provides an effective date of January 1, 2017, for all but Section 6. 2:48:35 PM SENATOR STEVENS said it makes sense to solve the backlog first. He asked if there is an appeal process. MR. EILER said that would probably be addressed through existing regulation by the department. Peer review surveys are primarily to check for accuracy, but not to approve the final permit. SENATOR STEVENS summarized that after a peer review, the department would provide a review and final determination. MR. EILER agreed the final decision resides with the department. The peer review is designed to facilitate the process. SENATOR STEVENS asked if the peer review can deny a project. MR. EILER said the department would set that criteria in regulation. Technical lapses could be addressed by the subcommittee. SENATOR STEVENS asked for assurance that there is an appeal process and the first review by peers wouldn't kill a project. CHAIR COSTELLO advised that the department will attend the second hearing of SB 118 and could address those issues. 2:52:06 PM SENATOR MEYER asked if other states follow this process. MR. EILER said he would find out. He noted that the Municipality of Anchorage uses peer review. SENATOR MEYER asked how subcommittee members would be selected. MR. EILER said the licensing entity would select the subcommittees. He said he is working to refine that aspect of the bill and it will be addressed differently in the forthcoming CS. CHAIR COSTELLO opened public testimony. 2:53:54 PM JOHN KERR, representing himself, raised concerns with SB 118. He said he is a licensed surveyor and appreciates any efforts to expedite any process. However, the bill seems to have the potential to provide substandard reviews. It creates a path for the survey to bypass the expertise in DNR. The two-week timeline doesn't take larger projects into consideration. He listed examples, such as the Susitna Hydroelectric Project, the Knik Arm Bridge, the Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline, and almost any road project. He concluded that SB 118 is cumbersome legislation that doesn't provide protection to the public. 2:57:05 PM CHAIR COSTELLO said she will consider his testimony and he is welcome to provide written comments to her office. 2:57:29 PM CHAIR COSTELLO held SB 118 in committee for further review.