Legislature(2001 - 2002)
02/20/2001 01:34 PM TRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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.