Legislature(2001 - 2002)

02/20/2001 01:34 PM TRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Number 1725                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
             SB 88-METROPOLITAN PLANNING ORGANIZATIONS                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR RANDY  PHILLIPS, sponsor of SB 88, said SB  88 just adds two                                                            
voting members  to the  Anchorage Metropolitan  Area Transportation                                                             
Study (AMATS).   One  of the new  members would  be a member  of the                                                            
senate who resides  in Anchorage and the other would  be a member of                                                            
the house of representatives who also resides in Anchorage.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  PHILLIPS  said there  was  a two-tier  step  for the  AMATS                                                            
process.   AMATS  consists of  a policy  committee  and a  technical                                                            
committee.   The technical  committee goes  to the community,  takes                                                            
input,  and then  makes  recommendations  to the  policy  committee.                                                            
There are  five members on  the policy committee.   Two members  are                                                            
appointed  by  the  governor  -  commissioner  or  designee  of  the                                                            
Department  of Environmental Conservation  (DEC), and designee  from                                                            
the Department  of  Transportation  and Public  Facilities  (DOTPF),                                                            
there are two  elected officials who  are assembly members,  and the                                                            
Anchorage mayor.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR PHILLIPS  said the legislature  was expected to put  five to                                                            
ten percent  of  the monies  into AMATS  without any  say about  the                                                            
process.  He  said it was frustrating  to have a project  make it up                                                            
the AMATS process  and the next year see the project  go back to the                                                            
bottom.   Senator  Phillips felt  that having  elected officials  on                                                            
AMATS would give the legislature  some say in how the priorities are                                                            
set and how the money is spent.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Number 1545                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR ELTON said it may  be easier for people to "grab the sleeves                                                            
of their local  government person rather than to grab  the sleeve of                                                            
a state legislator."   He said it also seems that  a system is being                                                            
created  whereby a legislator  from  the house and  from the  senate                                                            
have "two bites  at the apple."  They have the legislative  bite and                                                            
then they have the local government bite.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 1443                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR PHILLIPS  said the legislature  does approve AMATS  projects                                                            
but it has  no say in the priorities.   AMATS is a federal  program,                                                            
through regulation,  that was set  up between the state and  federal                                                            
government,  but legislators are the  ones who get beat up  by their                                                            
constituents if a project  is not there.  The AMATS policy committee                                                            
prioritizes the projects without accountability.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Number 1321                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR ELTON said this  was not a unique problem, other legislators                                                            
have  the  same  frustration   with  the  Statewide  Transportation                                                             
Improvement    Program   (STIP).      He   said   the   fundamental                                                             
misunderstanding might  be that the pressure Senator Phillips has to                                                            
not  make  changes  is coming  from  the  municipality  -  the  only                                                            
constraint  is that he might  not want to  go against the wishes  of                                                            
the municipality, although he has every right to do so.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  PHILLIPS  said  wishes  could  be  conveyed  to  the  AMATS                                                            
committee but that does not mean they would be heard.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR ELTON  said this  is also the case  with anything that  goes                                                            
before the finance committee.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR PHILLIPS  said he  would agree if  the legislature  were not                                                            
paying anything  into AMATS.   He said a park  and ride program  was                                                            
installed  next to the  landfill at  Eagle River.   No one from  his                                                            
community  requested this  program and  yet it  passed over  another                                                            
project that had been requested.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  ELTON  commented  that  the argument  being  used  to  have                                                            
legislative  representation  on  spending  could  also be  used  for                                                            
municipal  assistance   revenue  sharing  or  safe  community.    He                                                            
wondered why this would be different than other problems.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR PHILLIPS said no one else in the state has this problem.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR ELTON said other  communities felt the same frustration with                                                            
the STIP.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 1156                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR TAYLOR  said he applauds Senator Phillips  for trying to get                                                            
some rationality back into the process.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN COWDERY  asked if there had  been any thought of  replacing                                                            
the two non-elected members.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR PHILLIPS  said the two state  members could not be  replaced                                                            
because  of federal regulation.   He  said he liked  the make  up of                                                            
AMATS but believed it needs legislative representation.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Number 900                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR.  DENNIS  POSHARD,   Department  Of  Transportation   and  Public                                                            
Facilities (DOTPF), noted  that DOTPF and the Anchorage municipality                                                            
realize  there  is  a high  sense  of  frustration  with  the  AMATS                                                            
planning   process,   and  DOTPF   understands   Senator   Phillips'                                                            
frustration.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. POSHARD said the Anchorage  municipality sought a grant from the                                                            
federal  government  specifically  for  the  purposes  of  reviewing                                                            
transportation  planning  in  the Anchorage  area  and recommending                                                             
changes to the  AMATS public and planning process.   Mr. Poshard had                                                            
just  received  a draft  of  this study  and  that the  study  would                                                            
recommend ways to change the AMATS process.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. POSHARD commented that  it is by design that the legislature not                                                            
have  much say  on AMATS'  projects.   When the  Intermodal  Surface                                                            
Transportation  Efficiency  Act (ISTEA)  formed  municipal  planning                                                            
organizations  it was a negotiated  position on how to divvy  up the                                                            
federal funding.  Because  the federal government did not want to be                                                            
involved with  this process, it came up with the Municipal  Planning                                                            
Organization (MPO).   The MPO would be responsible  for planning and                                                            
devising a  process on how to spend  federal transportation  dollars                                                            
within a municipality.   The funds would still have  to flow through                                                            
the state for  programming in the  STIP, but there would  be control                                                            
on how the  funds were spent.   This is  why the legislature  is not                                                            
heavily  involved but  there  is nothing  preventing  it from  being                                                            
involved.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. POCHARD  said in the past, staff  has dealt with changes  in the                                                            
program and this has been  cause for frustration.  New rules require                                                            
that changes  now go before  either the technical  committee  or the                                                            
policy committee.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR. POSHARD  said the administration  does not support SB  88 mainly                                                            
because it feels this is  a local issue and should be solved at that                                                            
level.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Number 584                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  WARD said  tax  dollars are  being  taken out  of  peoples'                                                            
pockets to  fund projects that are  not following a public  process.                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Number 168                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  ELTON  asked if  the  study had  recommended  changing  the                                                            
membership of the AMATS board.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. POSHARD  said he had  not had time to  read the study  in detail                                                            
but  it  did  not  appear  to  have  a  recommendation   for  adding                                                            
legislators.   The study  was focused on  communication efforts  and                                                            
the public and planning processes of AMATS.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  ELTON   said  SB  88  is  the  second  iteration   of  this                                                            
legislation,  and in the  past the municipality  has opposed  adding                                                            
legislators.  Senator Elton  asked if the new assembly and new mayor                                                            
had been asked for their position on this.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR.  POSHARD   said   he  has   heard  nothing   from  the   current                                                            
administration or the current assembly.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
TAPE 01-5, Side A                                                                                                             
Number 001                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR TAYLOR asked how much money is allocated to AMATS.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. BRIGHAM said  about $30 million in the Community  Transportation                                                            
Program  (CTP)  and about  $6  million in  Trails  and Recreational                                                             
Access for Alaskans (TRAAK).                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR TAYLOR  said that means $36 million is allocated  every year                                                            
by the legislature to the Anchorage area.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR.  BRIGHAM  said  that  was correct  in  terms  of  the  community                                                            
transportation and TRAAK  projects.  There are also national highway                                                            
system projects  that go beyond that  amount.  Some years  there are                                                            
no projects and other years there are several.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR TAYLOR asked if  the projects, when completed, belong to the                                                            
state or to Anchorage.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. BRIGHAM  said it  depends on the  road.   There are state  roads                                                            
that  function as  local  roads, but  are state  owned.   There  are                                                            
national  highway system routes,  such as  the Seward Highway,  that                                                            
are state owned,  and there are municipal  roadways - all  three are                                                            
funded by the AMATS process.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR TAYLOR  said that Anchorage  gets its local roads  paved and                                                            
rebuilt with federal money and the state pays the match.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR.  BRIGHAM  said that  was  correct, but  this  is also  done  for                                                            
projects outside  of AMATS.  DOTPF  funds approximately $45  million                                                            
of locally  owned streets  and roads  each year.   It also pays  the                                                            
match unless  the local government  has proposed to pay some  of the                                                            
match as a way of getting its project elevated in the process.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Number 248                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR PHILLIPS  said there are no "local, local"  roads that AMATS                                                            
has taken over.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR TAYLOR  asked if part of the  federally allocated  money was                                                            
for mass transit.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR. BRIGHAM  said that mass transit  could be funded as part  of the                                                            
service transportation program.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  ELTON asked  if the AMATS  money comes  from the  community                                                            
transportation program.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. BRIGHAM responded yes, both CTP and TRAAK.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR ELTON  said that  half of the CTP  funds are being  reserved                                                            
for AMATS projects or for very large municipalities.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Number 782                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. BRIGHAM  said  SB 59  would not  require local  match, it  would                                                            
prioritize,  giving communities an  advantage in the scoring  if the                                                            
local government provided local match.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR ELTON  asked if  the prioritization  could take $20  million                                                            
out of the CTP.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. BRIGHAM  said that large municipalities  with the capability  to                                                            
do the engineering  would have an  advantage - Anchorage  could do a                                                            
federal  aid project.   SB 59 would  be a way  for Anchorage  to get                                                            
more of the CTP money.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Number 850                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. WILLIAM CUMMINGS, Assistant  Attorney General, Department of Law                                                            
(DOL), noted  that DOL had  two observations  to make concerning  SB                                                            
88.  First,  SB 88 takes AMATS, which  is a municipal organization,                                                             
and turns it  into something more  akin to "Big Brother"  - with the                                                            
state taking  over a local  function.  This  is a policy call  to be                                                            
made, but  it is a profound  thing to do to  a local way of  dealing                                                            
with a  problem.  Second,  there are constitutional  concerns  about                                                            
the appointment  of  legislators to  this board.   There are  strong                                                            
provisions in the constitution  prohibiting dual office holding.  SB                                                            
88 very likely  would violate this provision, which  could result in                                                            
a member  of the legislature,  who took a  seat on the AMATS  board,                                                            
losing his or her seat in the legislature.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. CUMMINGS  said  DOL cautions  the legislature  on  SB 88, and  a                                                            
review would certainly  say that these two provisions do violate the                                                            
state constitution.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR WARD said  he would like to obtain a written  legal opinion.                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  TAYLOR  moved  SB  88  out  of committee   with  individual                                                            
recommendations.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR ELTON  objected and  a roll call vote  was taken.   Senators                                                            
Taylor,  Wilken, Ward  and Chairman  Cowdery voted  "yea."   Senator                                                            
Elton voted  "nay."   The motion carried,  and SB  88 passed  out of                                                            
committee.                                                                                                                      

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