Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/21/1995 01:05 PM CRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE COMMUNITY AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE March 21, 1995 1:05 p.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Representative Ivan Ivan, Co-Chair Representative Alan Austerman, Co-Chair Representative Kim Elton Representative Al Vezey Representative Pete Kott MEMBERS ABSENT Representative Jerry Mackie Representative Irene Nicholia COMMITTEE CALENDAR *HB 247: "An Act relating to election of municipal governing bodies and municipal school boards." HEARD AND HELD *HB 248: "An Act relating to application of the Public Employment Relations Act to municipalities and other political subdivisions." PASSED OUT OF COMMITTEE HB 185: "An Act relating to an exemption from municipal property taxes for certain primary residences; and providing for an effective date." PASSED OUT OF COMMITTEE (* First public hearing) WITNESS REGISTER DAVID KOIVUNIEMI, Acting Director Division of Elections Office of the Lieutenant Governor P.O. Box 110017 Juneau, AK 99811 Telephone: (907) 465-4611 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on HB 247 TOM WRIGHT, Committee Aide House Community and Regional Affairs Committee Alaska State Legislature State Capitol Building, Room 503 Juneau, AK 99801 Telephone: (907) 465-4942 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on teleconference schedule for HB 247. Gave statement for HB 185. WILLIE ANDERSON, Field Staff National Education Association (NEA) 114 Second Street Juneau, AK 99801 Telephone: (907) 586-3090 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified against HB 248 DON VALESKO, Business Manager Public Employees Local 71 2510 Arctic Boulevard Anchorage, AK 99503 Telephone: (907) 276-7211 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified against HB 248 BRUCE LUDWIG, Business Manager Alaska Public Employees Association (APEA) Alaska Federation of Teachers (AFT) 211 Fourth Street, Suite 306 Juneau, AK 99801 Telephone: (907) 586-2334 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified against HB 248 CLAUDIA DOUGLAS, President National Education Association (NEA) 114 Second Street Juneau, AK 99801 Telephone: (907) 586-3090 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified against HB 248 KARLA FEELEY, Assistant Executive Director National Education Association (NEA) 114 Second Street Juneau, AK 99801 Telephone: (907) 586-3090 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified against HB 248 CLARENCE BOLDEN, Field Staff National Education Association (NEA) 114 Second Street Juneau, AK 99801 Telephone: (907) 586-3090 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified against HB 248 ED FLANAGAN, Assistant Commissioner Department of Labor P.O. Box 21149 Juneau, AK 99802-1149 Telephone: (907) 465-2700 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified against HB 248 PREVIOUS ACTION BILL: HB 247 SHORT TITLE: MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVE(S) VEZEY JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 03/09/95 677 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S) 03/09/95 678 (H) CRA, HES, STATE AFFAIRS 03/21/95 (H) CRA AT 01:00 PM CAPITOL 124 BILL: HB 248 SHORT TITLE: LOCAL EXEMPTION FROM PERA SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVE(S) VEZEY JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 03/10/95 701 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S) 03/10/95 701 (H) CRA, STATE AFFAIRS, FINANCE 03/17/95 791 (H) STATE AFFAIRS REPLACED WITH L&C 03/21/95 (H) CRA AT 01:00 PM CAPITOL 124 BILL: HB 185 SHORT TITLE: MUNICIPAL PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTIONS SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVE(S) IVAN JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 02/20/95 418 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S) 02/20/95 418 (H) COMMUNITY & REGIONAL AFFAIRS, FINANCE 03/09/95 (H) CRA AT 01:00 PM CAPITOL 124 03/09/95 (H) MINUTES(CRA) 03/16/95 (H) CRA AT 01:00 PM CAPITOL 124 03/16/95 (H) MINUTES(CRA) 03/21/95 (H) CRA AT 01:00 PM CAPITOL 124 ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 95-9, SIDE A Number 000 CO-CHAIR IVAN IVAN called the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee meeting to order at 1:05 p.m. He noted the members present were Representatives Kim Elton, Alan Austerman and Al Vezey. Members absent were Representatives Jerry Mackie and Irene Nicholia. The day's agenda included HB 247, HB 248 and time permitting HB 185. HCRA - 03/21/95 HB 247 - MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS CO-CHAIR IVAN invited Representative Al Vezey to give the sponsor statement for HB 247. Number 027 REPRESENTATIVE AL VEZEY explained the current Title 29 statutes were enacted in 1972 in response to the 1965 Voter's Rights Act. He noted there had not been any substantial changes in the statutes since then. The Voters' Rights Act have been amended on four occasions and a lot of new laws regarding voter's rights have been established by the Supreme Court. The purpose of the bill is to mandate that municipalities elect their governing body out of districts with no more than one member per district. He said it basically is the law of the land and just good democracy. Representative Vezey referred to a 1970s court case where the Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against a complaint of a violation of the Voters Rights Act and Justice Bright dissented from the Circuit Courts opinion. The Supreme Court then heard the case on appeal, overturned the Circuit Court and adopted Justice Bright's decision. The dissenting opinion became the Supreme Court's opinion ruling in favor of single member districts. Justice Bright spelled out ten reasons relating to his opinion which were quite scholarly on the fundamental principals of what democracy is. The purpose of the bill is to mandate that our municipalities follow the same procedures of every state in the union, currently required in terms of its legislature, and its elected officials be elected from single member districts. Number 103 CO-CHAIR IVAN noted, for the record, the attendance of Representative Pete Kott. He welcomed comments or questions from committee members. Number 108 REPRESENTATIVE KIM ELTON stated he didn't have a fiscal note even though he thought the sponsor made reference to one. Number 112 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said that there was one prepared even though it is a null fiscal note. He said he wasn't aware of any impact this would have on the state. Number 119 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON said it would have a fiscal implication for local municipalities, especially this close to the time to the last reapportionment. Number 122 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY replied that HB 247's fiscal notes don't address political subdivisions. It would have no impact on the state. The cost on local governments would be the cost of enacting an ordinance. The local governments could decide whether or not to hire consultants to do this work. This is nothing that couldn't be done with existing resources. He said the expense would result if the party became involved in litigation or a Voter Rights Act violation. Number 137 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON said one of his concerns with the bill is it mandates the reapportionment process which would incur some cost but it also provides an open door for potential litigation allowing citizens to challenge the municipal process. This would also have a cost to the municipality. Number 150 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY disagreed with Representative Elton's characterization. He stated one could put as many resources into a reapportionment effort that one wanted. This bill doesn't give citizens any rights that they don't currently have under law. Rather than going through the expense of having an election to ratify an reapportionment plan, we would do away with that election. This statute merely clarifies this is the process, the remedy is available to all citizens. Number 171 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON asked if the sponsor was aware of any situations in which a citizen has gone to court protesting existing municipal elections and municipal reapportionment of seats on their local assemblies or councils. Number 177 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY answered that he knew of only two Supreme Court decisions involving a representation on county seats and both outside the state of Alaska. Number 180 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON asked whether or not there has been an expressed need for change by citizens in Alaska or if changes have been expressed through a court suit. Number 187 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY replied that he's personally aware of someone that has considered challenging the electoral system in court. He stated that he's also aware that there was at least one municipality where there was an active movement to effect a portion of a municipality. These are issues that are related to representation. He stated one of the reasons for moving this legislation forward is due to the movement to force a change through some other legal means. Number 202 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON asked if there was anything that precludes a municipality from making the change on their own rather than having it mandated by the state. Number 211 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY replied it can be done under existing laws. It's not illegal to do it but there are some mechanical loops that have to be gone through. Number 214 CO-CHAIR ALAN AUSTERMAN asked about Title 29. He wanted to clarify whether this bill dealt basically with schools and school boards or if the bill deals with all government bodies. Number 222 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY answered that it deals with all government bodies. Number 224 CO-CHAIR AUSTERMAN asked how it would affect those communities that have a difficult time getting someone to run for a service district. Number 236 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY replied that this bill didn't address what would happen if no one ran for an office. Legally, a vacancy would occur and the statutes, or ordinance, regarding how a vacancy was filled would take effect. Number 242 CO-CHAIR AUSTERMAN pointed out that someone could be appointed who wasn't necessarily interested in the vacant seat. He referred to the open school board on Kodiak Island where everyone runs that's interested. Upon the implementation of districting in Kodiak, for example, uninterested representation from the villages on the school board may occur. Co-Chair Austerman had not perceived this problem. Number 255 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said service districts weren't an appropriate analogy because there was no population basis for a service district but one of common political interest. If you go to a system that's different from what you currently have, there is a transition period during which people have difficulty in perceiving the change. Number 278 CO-CHAIR AUSTERMAN noted that districting Kodiak Island would create additional costs if each village became its own district because of the necessary cost of flying the representatives into Kodiak for school board meetings. He stated this bill would have some financial impact through the separate districts. Number 294 CO-CHAIR IVAN stated that he had a proposed amendment for HB 247. He commented on his small communities mentioning one village with a population of 35 people. CO-CHAIR IVAN said his amendment would exclude second class cities, including towns such as Bethel and Kotzebue, and several communities within his own district. He moved his amendment for adoption by the committee. Number 313 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY expressed his appreciation for the work done by Co-Chair Ivan concerning the amendment. He stated it might not be an appropriate amendment because a second class city form of government has no bearing on the size of the municipality. There is some size barrier with single member districts where it would not be practical to move toward the process of democracy. Number 326 CO-CHAIR IVAN agreed to this and stated that he would discuss it later. Number 328 CO-CHAIR AUSTERMAN again referred to the villages on Kodiak Island, some with a population of 250, and stated that the number wasn't very different from the population of 35 in Co-Chair Ivan's district. He questioned determining the districts affected by the bill, by basis of population, because the makeup of the rural communities is different from that of the urban areas. Number 340 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said he wasn't sure of the size limit of a first class city but looking at population wasn't the right mechanics to address the problem. He agreed to further discuss this problem. REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY stated that he had his own amendment suggesting referral to a population limit. He stated that it wasn't in the original bill because he thought the committee members would want to decide amongst themselves at what level to impose this requirement for this level of representation. People's rights, under democracy, can be deminimized by at-large voting. Number 368 CO-CHAIR IVAN stated that he would like to work with Representative Vezey to come up with a compromise concerning the proposed amendment. He wants to accommodate the small rural areas that might have problems under HB 247. Number 377 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY wanted to hear opinions from the other committee members concerning where the line should be drawn. His only suggestion was to determine it by population. Number 383 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON stated current action would be to take a philosophical approach and only apply it in certain areas. His preference, he noted for the record as being facetious, would be at 500,000 because the bill wouldn't mandate to any community. In his opinion, this bill would be telling communities what to do and what's good for them. Representative Elton stated he didn't know of a rational way to apply a number. He would be more compelled to try to come up with a number if he thought there was a problem the communities were facing and unable to solve for themselves. Number 412 CO-CHAIR AUSTERMAN agreed with Representative Elton's remarks. He also thought it difficult to come up with a number at which to draw the line. Co-Chair Austerman stated he wasn't totally in favor of this bill and questioned how it would affect school districts. Number 426 REPRESENTATIVE PETE KOTT agreed that this bill was complex. He suggested that if you looked further into the population base for some of the incorporated cities, you could come up with a reasonable number. Number 435 CO-CHAIR IVAN invited Mr. David Koivuniemi from the Division of Elections to testify. Number 438 DAVID KOIVUNIEMI, Acting Director, Division of Elections, Office of the Lt. Governor, said he was of the opinion this bill would have a fiscal impact on the Division of Elections. He is concerned about small communities with very few registered voters. Upon reduction of districts, a single household could be established as the voting area for a district. MR. KOIVUNIEMI mentioned a concern of the Division of Elections pertaining to Title 15.07.064, under which voter registration is allowed for small communities that are a single precinct without having them give a physical resident address. This bill would require a community be divided into several districts and the community itself would have to be able to identify actual address locations. He stated that within the state of Alaska, many rural areas lack street and/or post office box addresses and physical location is quite general. Administratively, the registration system currently in use is the Geographic Information Files (GIF) and is based on the physical description of a piece of property. These GIFs determine districts where a voter is registered. Currently, over 17,000 GIFs exist and with this bill, each GIF would be opened to determine districts, creating an intensive work load for the Division of Elections. Number 504 CO-CHAIR IVAN commented that this problem was similar to that faced within his community of Akiak. He stated that voter registration was done based on post office boxes. His community tried to come up with a central geographical location such as the school where addresses are listed in reference to distance from the school. He again asked members if they had comments or questions. Number 516 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON asked when a fiscal note could be made available to committee members. Number 518 MR. KOIVUNIEMI wasn't sure and he stated that he didn't want to come up with a fiscal note and say this project would be just like reapportionment. This bill does have many reapportionment aspects due to the fact that the GIFs would have to be manipulated. This adheres even to Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau, where the Division of Elections would have to set up minor subdivisions for everyone in the state. Some areas would take three different additions such as Fairbanks which would include the borough subdivision, the city subdivision, the subdivisions within the borough subdivision within the city government and subdivisions within the school district. Mr. Koivuniemi said to try to come up with an estimate pertaining to the number of work hours necessary to make GIF corrections makes it difficult to come up with a fiscal note for the bill. Number 537 CO-CHAIR IVAN asked for any other questions or comments from committee members. Number 540 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY noted the REAA's are impacted by the bill. In regard to the concerns expressed by the Division of Elections, he stated there is a point in trying to calculate how much break down is going to have to be done in the voter tabulating system. He stated the GIFs were synonymous to Census Blocks. It's pointless to break down a census block because you lose any legal basis you have for trying to subdivide the fundamental building block of census populations. These blocks vary considerably in size and it's difficult to justify breaking a census block for any purpose of calculating the equality in terms of voting. Number 567 CO-CHAIR IVAN said that he'd withdraw the amendment and work on merging the population version and his proposal. Number 571 CO-CHAIR AUSTERMAN commented that this type of discussion was held in Kodiak and the discussion didn't amount to anything because if Kodiak Island Borough was districted, the Island's six villages with no population base would have only one representative per district, whereas Kodiak City would have five. The same thing would happen to school districts where the six villages would have six representatives, and the five schools in Kodiak City would have five representatives. Kodiak Island Borough never believed they would get districting passed by a vote of the people. He asked why teleconferencing wasn't scheduled for this meeting. Number 593 TOM WRIGHT, Committee Aide, House Community and Regional Affairs Committee, Alaska State Legislature, said there were no requests for teleconferencing in time to get people on line. Number 596 CO-CHAIR IVAN stated that he would hold this bill over for further discussion. Number 598 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY referred to Co-Chair Austerman's comment in request to how villages would be treated. If it is possible to get an accuracy of one more person, the Supreme Court just about mandates that you do. For state legislatures, there is a much looser standard. This is normally a variation of 8 to 10 percent and justification has been considered for more. State level has a considerable variance. A limited number of local reapportionment cases before the Supreme Court indicate they would look upon an even wider population variance because of the nature of the small communities. If you have seven people in the borough assembly, you have 2000 people per assembly position. You would think they would have to be combined with another population center to select someone. He asked if this wouldn't maximize their representation on the assembly and the representative would be accountable to the village people, no matter where the representative lived? Representative Vezey said this was the essence of the value of single member districts as Judge Bright outlined 20 years ago. Number 628 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON suggested that the bill sponsor send out a sectional analysis, as well as a copy of the new drafted committee substitute for HB 247, to all the communities that would be affected by this bill to give them the opportunity to respond to this legislation. He thought it would be important because if the committee is going to mandate from the state level the way that something has to be done, those affected should be aware of what was happening. Number 641 CO-CHAIR IVAN stated this was his intent also and he didn't want to pass legislation without involvement from the communities. He again stated he would hold the bill over until further notice. HCRA - 03/21/95 HB 248 - LOCAL EXEMPTIONS FROM PERA CO-CHAIR IVAN invited Representative Al Vezey to give the sponsor statement for HB 248. Number 654 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said this bill's purpose is when the Public Employment Relations Act (PERA) was established, a means was provided by which municipalities could, by democratic ways, select to opt out of being in PERA. Approximately 15 communities did not opt out, and 2 other communities that tried to opt out were informed by the courts that they no longer had the option of opting out according to the requirements of PERA. This bill clarifies that there is a democratic process by which communities can either opt in or out of PERA. The reason behind the bill is just one of fundamental fairness because the state of Alaska is currently imposing a mandate on how municipal management and labor relations, between municipal employees, will be managed for a small number of communities in the state. The other communities are totally free to structure their own system of managing their labor and management relations. Number 679 CO-CHAIR AUSTERMAN asked about the communities that did not opt out of PERA. Number 681 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY directed the members to look at the list in their bill packet and listed the names of the communities still covered under PERA: Bristol Bay, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Haines, Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Kodiak Island Borough, the City of Bethel, the City of Cordova, the City of Dillingham, the City of Fairbanks, the City of Hoonah, Nome, Petersburg, the City of Seldovia, Unalaska, the City of Whittier and the Thomas Bay Power Authority. He listed four examples of those that are no longer under PERA: Juneau, Anchorage, and the Mat-Su and North Pole boroughs. Most of the population of the state have opted out of PERA, but the communities that didn't no longer have that option according to the courts. Number 694 CO-CHAIR IVAN asked for any other questions or comments from the committee. He invited Willie Anderson to testify on HB 248. TAPE 95-9, SIDE B Number 000 WILLIE ANDERSON, Field Staff, National Education Association (NEA), stated he wanted to suggest an addition to the sponsor statement. In 1992, the Alaska State Legislature passed SB 16 which decrees mandatory participation for every school in the state to be in PERA. Every community in the state is covered by PERA as it relates to school districts employees. Every REAA would have to have an election to opt into PERA and this would have major disruptions to the districts around the state. It is a policy statement for the state of Alaska to cover labor relations, especially as it relates to school district employees where the state funds 70 percent of most district funding and up to 100 percent of some districts' funding. It is an issue for the state to make that policy call. NEA opposes this bill for several reasons. First of all, it causes major disruption to what has worked in this state in an experimental basis until 1992, and on a permanent basis from 1992. NEA asks the committee not to pass this bill and to consider the disruption that would happen in the state as it relates to having every community vote on whether they are going to be covered by PERA. Mr. Anderson believed there would be a fiscal impact to the state and REAAs with those elections. He stated that this bill was like an unending circle because you could opt in then out and then back in to PERA. Number 066 CO-CHAIR IVAN asked if the committee members had any questions for Mr. Willie Anderson. Number 068 CO-CHAIR AUSTERMAN wanted to clarify comments made by Mr. Anderson concerning his phrase, `major disruption.' Co-Chair Austerman stated that most communities have elections every year, on an on- going basis, during which the PERA elections could be included in the already existing structure. Number 074 MR. ANDERSON explained the disruption he referred to is that you a volatile issue would come up in the community that would divide the community between the those that support the right of PERA against those who oppose PERA. Number 092 CO-CHAIR IVAN asked for comments from the committee. He then invited Mr. Don Valesko to testify. Number 100 DON VALESKO, Business Manager, Public Employees Local 71, said Local 71 employs about 2,300 people that work in the public sector throughout the state of Alaska. Some members work only for the state of Alaska but some of them do work for the Anchorage School District, the municipality of Anchorage, the Borough of Haines, the City of Dillingham and the Mat-Su Borough School District. He opposed HB 248 because it's regressive and not a progressive piece of legislation. In the early 1970s, the Alaska State Legislature enacted PERA. He said he was an employee of the state of Alaska at that time and believed that he'd moved up in stature from a second class citizen to a first class citizen of the state. He stated that this bill would politicize a system of communication that has been working well for the past few years. They would put the option to opt out of collective bargaining systems before the voters but then where would the contracts that the employees have end up? They have to go through the political arena because they can no longer talk to their employers. Going back prior to collective bargaining with the state of Alaska, you had a system of employees collectively begging the legislature to have the government decide each of their issues. Then you might get a cycle of people that are pro-collective bargaining and they put out a vote for the citizens and encourage the voters to go back to the system of collective bargaining. A system has been worked out that allows for communication between the employer, the Administration and the employees which has worked quite well. Mr. Valesko urged the committee not to pass the bill. Number 180 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON asked Mr. Valesko for an analysis on what happened to a collective bargaining process whereby two parties try to come to a reasonable agreement. He was curious as to what happened to that process when, in effect, the ultimate hammer may be the local legislative body pushing for an agreement and getting none, putting it up for vote by the public. Number 190 MR. VALESKO responded that it takes away the employees' ability to communicate effectively with their employers on their concerns. He stated that employees that find it difficult to speak out now might find their right to speak out lost in the future. A system becomes poorer and less effective and repressing. Number 206 CO-CHAIR IVAN invited Mr. Bruce Ludwig to testify. Number 211 BRUCE LUDWIG, Business Manager, Alaska Public Employees Association (APEA), Alaska Federation of Teachers (AFT), opposed HB 248. He stated that he thought it was bad public policy. Upon entering a position where you are going to have elections deciding the rights of employees to bargain collectively, you are going to enter a situation where contracts are signed for one term and no contracts for another. The local subdivision would not be able to budget properly and there are going to be changes for the supervisors to maintain. APEA/AFT is against HB 248. Number 228 CO-CHAIR IVAN invited Claudia Douglas from NEA to come forward. Number 233 CLAUDIA DOUGLAS, President, NEA, said NEA opposes HB 248. Since the early 1970s, state policy extended the statutory right to bargain to public employees. School employees have struggled for over ten years to establish their rights under PERA. The schools and school employees have developed a successful pattern of bargaining under PERA for nearly six years. MS. DOUGLAS also said that bargaining provides public employees a good participatory way to influence decisions that affect the work place. At the bargaining table, public employees share in the decision making process affecting wages and working conditions. They have become more responsive and better able to exchange ideas and information on school operations with their administrators. Successful businesses are moving to management models designed to involve employees in a meaningful participatory role. Studies have shown that successful school reform occurs in school districts where mature bargaining relationships exist. MS. DOUGLAS stated that if HB 248 were to become law, labor relations between school districts and school employees would be disrupted. Good faith bargaining would give way to politics. Management and school boards would have great latitude to delay and forestall the bargaining process. Some school districts could submit the question of continuance, under PERA, to voters annually or during each round of bargaining. In effect, local governments could use this bill to become "right to work" employers. School, municipal, borough or state employees will lose. Inconsistencies between units and school districts would occur. The bargaining process would be weakened and, in some instances, destroyed. She said the bill calls for a vote of the people. Who pays for the election? Will the election activate adversarial clashes between the special anti-labor groups with agendas opposed to working people? MS. DOUGLAS' last statement was that we live in a republic where representatives are elected to make decisions for their constituency in view of the public good. HB 248 proposes a poor approach to their decision making. The issue of inclusion of school employees, under PERA, has been debated on the state level. A majority of the legislature, after weighing carefully the facts and information, decided it is good policy. In its declaration of policy, Section 23.40.070, "The legislature finds that joint decision making is the modern way of administering government." Number 277 CO-CHAIR IVAN asked Karla Feeley to come forward and testify. Number 285 KARLA FEELEY, Assistant Executive Director, NEA, directed the attention of the committee members to the opening section of the Public Employees Relation's Act. She stated this act was adopted because the legislature felt it was good public policy. This act would ensure labor peace and better service to Alaska's customers, the citizens and students of the state, because it would allow a voice for those in the front serving customers. Upon reviewing recent literature pertaining to private sector management, there is a consensus that companied work best when front line employees are included in decisions. This is what bargaining does and what applies to the private sector also applies to the public sector in this instance. The bargaining law was good public policy when passed and Ms. Feeley urged the committee members not to adopt HB 248. Number 303 CO-CHAIR IVAN asked for questions or comments and then invited Clarence Bolden to testify on HB 248. Number 307 CLARENCE BOLDEN, Field Staff, NEA, stated his experience in working with districts not primarily on the roadway system, and that the communities are accustomed to the calm way negotiations carried out primarily because of PERA. There is a clear understanding now that PERA has been in the state for some time on how this process works. He stated that he fears what would happen if the committee adopted the bill and that communities' calmness would be destroyed. Number 321 CO-CHAIR IVAN asked for comments or questions from the committee. He didn't see any other witnesses signed up to testify on HB 248. Number 328 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT asked if a member from the Department of Labor would be willing to answer questions regarding the department's position on this matter. Number 336 MR. ED FLANAGAN, Assistant Commissioner, Department of Labor (DOL), said the department has a position but currently there is no coordinated administrative position because there hasn't been any chance for affected departments to get together. The Department of Labor is opposed to this legislation. He said the DOL sees the bill as "union busting." This would have the effect of taking employees that have had collective bargaining rights for 23 years and removing the security in those rights. PERA fosters and promotes the welfare of wage-earners around the state of which public employees are a large portion. Number 358 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT questioned the department's opposition even though the developing change should ultimately reduce the work load. Number 363 MR. FLANAGAN said it is possible that there would be a period of very intense increased work load depending on who had the jurisdiction over the numerous unfair labor practice charges that would result. These may go straight to the courts rather than to the agency. The Department of Labor would not have quite so much work if the government repealed all the statutes. Number 372 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY questioned Mr. Flanagan's referral to the bill as a union busting bill. He asked whether the Department of Labor was in the business of promoting unions. Number 375 MR. FLANAGAN replied that the department was in the business of promoting the welfare of the wage-earners in the state. The department feels that the right to collectively bargain is deserved by everyone in the free world. Number 381 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked if Mr. Flanagan was aware that the City and Borough of Juneau is not covered by PERA. Number 383 MR. FLANAGAN said that he was aware. All those areas not covered have statutes that are similar to PERA, and incorporated with other municipalities that bargain, you are faced with the vast majority of state public employees. Number 390 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked whether Mr. Flanagan questioned the fact that the Municipality of Anchorage is free to determine the structure of how it constructs its labor relations. The municipality isn't bound to a state statute. Number 394 MR. FLANAGAN replied that it is not and some believed that was the intent of the Koslosky Amendment, to allow municipalities to develop their own system of labor relations. The effect in those communities that do opt out is that their system of labor relations means no labor relations. They ignore efforts by the employees to organize. Number 401 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY questioned a previous comment made about an ordinance very similar to PERA. Number 406 MR. FLANAGAN stated that some of the municipalities that have opted out have not formed an ordinance similar to PERA, and others have and it all depended upon the opt out of their municipality. Number 415 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY referred to the change in the statutes, in 1992, that brought school districts under PERA. Number 417 MR. FLANAGAN confirmed this and said they were changed and renewed in 1992. He also said that school teachers were probably represented by a union and very few school classified employees were. These latter employees were excluded from any rights that teachers had until 1988, when they got the full rights. The rights these classified employees had before did not have finality, meaning they didn't have a right to strike or binding arbitration. The rights were really a diminished form of collective bargaining with no finality to the process. Number 432 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON commented on the City and Borough of Juneau and their decision to opt out but they did have a collective bargaining process which they have opted into with more than one union. Even though they opted out of PERA, they didn't opt out of collective bargaining. Number 440 CO-CHAIR AUSTERMAN asked Mr. Flanagan if the Department of Labor believed that all municipalities and school districts ought to be part of PERA and have collective bargaining mandated by state law. Number 446 MR. FLANAGAN stated that it wasn't the issue but in past legislatures there were efforts to go the other way from the current legislation and to remove the Koslosky Amendment. The Department of Labor would support a bill like that but is not expecting to see one. He said this bill does two things as far as opting under PERA, any municipality can currently do this and the city of Fairbanks did so back in 1989. Number 457 CO-CHAIR IVAN asked for questions or comments from committee members. He welcomed the testimony from anyone else in the audience. Then he asked the desire of the committee concerning HB 248. Number 464 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY suggested that the bill be held until a teleconference could be scheduled for a future meeting to see if there was more testimony from the public. Number 470 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT stated that there were additional committees of referral and the next committee referral was the Labor and Commerce Committee which be the most appropriate committee for HB 248. Number 276 CO-CHAIR IVAN again questioned the desire of the committee concerning the bill. Number 477 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT made a motion to move HB 248 out of the Community and Regional Affairs Committee, with individual recommendations, and the accompanying fiscal note. Number 479 CO-CHAIR IVAN asked if there were objections. REPRESENTATIVE ELTON objected. CO-CHAIR IVAN asked the committee secretary to call a role vote. A roll call vote was taken and Representatives Austerman, Ivan, Vezey and Kott voted to move HB 248 out of the committee. Representative Elton voted against moving the bill out of the committee. The motion passed on a vote of 4 to 1. HCRA - 03/21/95 HB 185 - MUNICIPAL PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTIONS CO-CHAIR IVAN invited Tom Wright to discuss HB 185 and entertained a motion to adopt the committee substitute for HB 185. Number 500 TOM WRIGHT, legislative aide to Representative Ivan, stated that the committee substitute incorporates two changes that were adopted at the last committee hearing. He referred to page 1, line 14, where the words 'after 1) up to $150,000', meaning that as far as the local funding for schools, that the local school districts would not be penalized and would keep the status quo. The second change was on page 3, line 1, concerning the amendment that was adopted. The wording "approved by the voters" was deleted, so a municipality may by ordinance exempt from taxation the assessed value of real property without going before the voters. This can be achieved by ordinance. In conversation with Steve Van Sant, the state assessor, Mr. Wright said the property exempted in Section 1 is up to $150,000. This amount isn't added on to the original $75,000. Property is exempted only up to $150,000. Number 520 CO-CHAIR IVAN asked if the committee members had any questions. Number 522 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON asked if it was the intent of the co-chair to move the bill out of the committee during this meeting. Number 523 CO-CHAIR IVAN replied that this was his intent. He said that the committee had spent a lot of time going over the bill and revising it and he stated that it was time to move the bill on the next committee. He asked what the wish of the committee was concerning HB 185. Number 529 TOM WRIGHT asked the chairman if he was aware of anyone wishing to testify on HB 185. Number 531 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT noted that this bill had been heard a number of times and looked at from many angles and new language to the bill had been added. He said he was comfortable with the bill in it's current state as it was the work of a lot of compromise. He moved and asked unanimous consent to pass HB 185 out of the committee, with individual recommendations. Number 540 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON objected. Number 542 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON briefly stated that he appreciated the work gone in to revising and amending HB 185. He said there had been a movement by all parties, but he had a philosophical objection to the process and direction of HB 185. His first objection was that this bill was just piece-mealing an approach referring to one small portion of people being exempted from property taxes. He also stated that the bill is not addressing a lot of the other people that are paying property taxes. He said that this legislature, acting as an assembly for the unorganized borough, has been kind of weak. The state has many Alaskans that are exempted from property taxes but CRA isn't addressing those people. His second objection concerned exempted senior citizens that are different from many other Alaskans. These people have paid income taxes and with the revenue crunch affecting the state, the legislature is turning to those that have paid their share and leaving alone those that haven't ever paid income taxes. He is of the opinion that this bill is sending the wrong message to some of the more responsible Alaskans across the state. He stated he would belabor the bill should it make it to the floor. Number 573 CO-CHAIR IVAN commented that the committee process system is open as bills move through the various committees with lots of opportunities to make changes. He stated that it was not his intent to target the senior citizens but the bill is trying to reduce some of the mandates that communities have. He said municipalities can deal with this more because they are more closely aware of their constituent concerns. Number 586 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON agreed with Co-Chair Ivan and again expressed his appreciation over the willingness of the chair and the committee to work with the different groups to make this bill as good as possible. Number 592 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked if Representative Elton was in favor or opposed to HB 185 to which Representative Elton responded that he was opposed. Number 595 CO-CHAIR IVAN asked the committee secretary to call the vote in regards to passing HB 185 out of the committee. Representatives Ivan, Austerman, Vezey and Kott were in favor of passing HB 185 out of committee. Representative Elton was opposed. The bill passed out with a vote of four to one. CO-CHAIR IVAN reviewed the next meeting's agenda. ADJOURNMENT CO-CHAIR IVAN adjourned the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee meeting at 2:28 p.m.