Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/09/2003 02:10 PM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                  HOUSE FINANCE COMMITTEE                                                                                       
                        May 09, 2003                                                                                            
                          2:10 PM                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
TAPE HFC 03 - 86, Side A                                                                                                        
TAPE HFC 03 - 86, Side B                                                                                                        
TAPE HFC 03 - 87, Side A                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CALL TO ORDER                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Williams called the House  Finance Committee meeting                                                                   
to order at 2:10 PM.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Representative John Harris, Co-Chair                                                                                            
Representative Bill Williams, Co-Chair                                                                                          
Representative Kevin Meyer, Vice-Chair                                                                                          
Representative Ethan Berkowitz                                                                                                  
Representative Mike Chenault                                                                                                    
Representative Richard Foster                                                                                                   
Representative Mike Hawker                                                                                                      
Representative Beth Kerttula                                                                                                    
Representative Carl Moses                                                                                                       
Representative Bill Stoltze                                                                                                     
Representative Jim Whitaker                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Representative Eric Croft                                                                                                       
Representative Reggie Joule                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
ALSO PRESENT                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Gene  Therriault;  Representative  Nancy  Dahlstrom;                                                                   
Representative Vic Kohring; Gary  Carlson, Marathon Oil; John                                                                   
Greely,  Staff,  Representative   Reggie  Joule;  Ben  Brown,                                                                   
Alaska  State  Chamber  of  Commerce;  Rex  Shattuck,  Staff,                                                                   
Representative   Nancy  Dahlstrom;   Zach  Warmwick,   Staff,                                                                   
Senator Gene Therriault;  Ben Brown, Alaska State  Chamber of                                                                   
Commerce;  Robert  Briggs,  Staff  Attorney,  Disability  Law                                                                   
Center, Juneau.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
PRESENT VIA TELECONFERENCE                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Mark Meyers,  Director, Division  of Oil and Gas,  Department                                                                   
of  Natural  Resources;  Chris  Kennedy,  Assistant  Attorney                                                                   
General,  Department  of  Law;   Eugene  Rutland,  Mechanical                                                                   
Contractors, Fairbanks; Colin  Maynard, APDC, Anchorage; Tadd                                                                   
Owens,  Resource  Development;  Dorin  Hawxhurst,  Anchorage;                                                                   
Steve  Borrell, Alaska  Miners  Association, Anchorage;  Karl                                                                   
Hanneman,  Fairbanks Chamber  of  Commerce, Fairbanks;  Chris                                                                   
Kennedy, Assistant Attorney General, Department of Law.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SUMMARY                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
HB 145    "An Act  relating to public interest  litigants and                                                                   
          to  attorney  fees; and  amending  Rule 82,  Alaska                                                                   
          Rules of Civil Procedure."                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
          CS  HB 145 (FIN)  was heard  and HELD in  Committee                                                                   
          for further consideration.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
HB 269    "An  Act establishing the  Safety Code  Task Force;                                                                   
          and providing for an effective date."                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
          CSHB 269 (FIN) was REPORTED out of Committee with                                                                     
          individual  recommendations and  three zero  fiscal                                                                   
          notes:    #1  from   Department  of  Community  and                                                                   
          Economic  Development,  and  two  new  zero  fiscal                                                                   
          notes, one  from the Department of  the Legislature                                                                   
          and one from the Department of Public Safety.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
HCR 5     Establishing a task force to make recommendations                                                                     
          regarding  a new  design for  the official  seal of                                                                   
          the State of Alaska.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
          CS HCR  5 (FIN) was REPORTED out of  Committee with                                                                   
          a "do pass" recommendation  and one, amended fiscal                                                                   
          note from the Department of Legislature.                                                                              
HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 5                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     Establishing a task force to make recommendations                                                                          
     regarding a new design for the official seal of the                                                                        
     State of Alaska.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
JOHN  GREELY,  STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE  REGGIE  JOULE  provided                                                                   
information  on  the bill.    He  explained that  the  oldest                                                                   
symbol in the state of Alaska  was the official seal, created                                                                   
in 1910, before  the state legislature was in  existence.  He                                                                   
referred  to  written  testimony  written  by  Representative                                                                   
Joule, outlining  the history of the seal's  creation and its                                                                   
symbolism.  He  noted that twelve other sponsors,  along with                                                                   
Representative  Joule,  sponsored the  bill.    A task  force                                                                   
would  be  formed  to  create   a  new  design,  which  would                                                                   
ultimately be voted upon by the  legislature.  He pointed out                                                                   
that this  was the second  seal of the  state of  Alaska, the                                                                   
first  one included  native and  natural  symbols, which  was                                                                   
then supplanted  by the  one created in  1910.  He  discussed                                                                   
cities and industries that are  part of modern Alaska and not                                                                   
included in  the seal.   He pointed  out that Governor  Clark                                                                   
had  dropped  Alaska Natives  from  the  seal  in 1910.    He                                                                   
suggested that  the seal provided a learning  opportunity for                                                                   
people of all ages, as well as  symbolizing our dream for the                                                                   
future of the state of Alaska.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair   Williams  noted   discussions  regarding   seeking                                                                   
funding for the  $52 thousand fiscal note.   Mr. Greely noted                                                                   
that  Representative   Joule  had   contacted  a   number  of                                                                   
businesses to seek financial contributions  for the cost of a                                                                   
task force, and  noted that they had received  good feedback.                                                                   
He pointed out that investors  were hesitant until the wishes                                                                   
of the  legislature are  known.  He  explained that  the task                                                                   
force  would   be  a  body   of  the  legislature,   although                                                                   
administered by the  Office of the Lieutenant  Governor.  The                                                                   
task  force   includes  members  of  the   Alaska  Historical                                                                   
Commission,  as the Lieutenant  Governor  is the Chairman  of                                                                   
this Commission.   He concluded that the cost  of the process                                                                   
might be offset,  but maintained that the  legislature should                                                                   
demonstrate their commitment to the project.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Berkowitz referred  to the Alaska  Humanities                                                                   
Forum  and asked  why  they were  no  longer  included.   Mr.                                                                   
Greely noted that the Forum had  asked to be excused from the                                                                   
actual  task force  due  to  other commitments,  but  offered                                                                   
ideas for grants to support the project.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Harris observed  that the task  force included  two                                                                   
members   from  the   Department  of   Education  and   Early                                                                   
Development.  Mr.  Greely confirmed, in addition  to two from                                                                   
the  Alaska Historical  Commission  and two  from the  Alaska                                                                   
Heritage Center, there would be  two from DEED.  He explained                                                                   
that the Department of Education  and Early Development would                                                                   
be brought into  the process due to its potential  benefit to                                                                   
school children.  He pointed out  the opportunity  to involve                                                                   
children  in the  process, and  to educate  them on  Alaska's                                                                   
history.  He suggested a web site  that children could access                                                                   
and  submit  their  ideas.    They  believe  the  educational                                                                   
process is a vital component.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Harris  asked if the  Pioneers of Alaska  could take                                                                   
the  two positions  vacated  by the  Humanities  Forum.   Mr.                                                                   
Greely responded  that this  was a  possibility if  they were                                                                   
interested in participating.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Representative Chenault  pointed out an inconsistency  in the                                                                   
language  of the  fiscal  note, referring  to  the number  of                                                                   
members on  the task  force.  Mr.  Greely explained  that the                                                                   
task force  had six members,  without the two  positions from                                                                   
the Humanities Forum.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Williams  suggested that  seeking sponsorship  might                                                                   
lower the  fiscal note,  while the  state should retain  some                                                                   
responsibility.   Co-Chair Harris  observed that some  of the                                                                   
fiscal  note pertained  to staff  and travel.   He  suggested                                                                   
that  they change  the Range  21  position to  Range 18,  and                                                                   
change the term to three months.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair   Williams   noted    that   in   discussions   with                                                                   
Representative  Joule, the  Sponsor had  stated he'd  like to                                                                   
achieve  the entire $52  thousand.   Mr. Greely  acknowledged                                                                   
that  lowering the  fiscal note  would set  a parameter,  and                                                                   
that $33 thousand might be achievable.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Representative Hawker  expressed his respect for  the Sponsor                                                                   
and intention  of the bill.   He also noted his  concern over                                                                   
adding even a small expenditure  in a time when services were                                                                   
being cut.   He suggested  that finding an alternate  funding                                                                   
mechanism  would  increase  his  support  of the  bill.    He                                                                   
suggested that since  it was an opportunity  to recognize the                                                                   
Native community,  regional corporations might  be approached                                                                   
for funding.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Greely   confirmed  that  a  major   Native  corporation                                                                   
expressed  an interest  in helping,  and  the First  Alaskans                                                                   
Institute had committed  help.  The question is  how much and                                                                   
when.   He  suggested that  if the  legislature approved  the                                                                   
project  with  a minimum  start  up  funding, it  could  more                                                                   
easily garner private funds.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Williams reiterated that  the fiscal note might read                                                                   
$33  thousand  in  general funds,  and  then  specify  "other                                                                   
funds" to meet the total.  Mr.  Greely noted that in order to                                                                   
pass the bill, Legislative Council  staff time was added over                                                                   
and above the budget.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Harris recommended  that  in order  to  acknowledge                                                                   
private funding the fiscal note be reconfigured.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Williams stated he'd  like to lower the general fund                                                                   
commitment  to  $33 thousand,  with  $20 thousand  of  "other                                                                   
funding", and work  with the Department to adjust  the fiscal                                                                   
note accordingly before taking action on the bill.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Representative Berkowitz  MOVED to Amend  the bill  to delete                                                                   
the Alaska Humanities  Forum.  There being NO  OBJECTION, the                                                                   
Amendment was ADOPTED.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Harris  MOVED to Amend  to add One Position  for the                                                                   
Pioneers  of  Alaska  to  the  task  force.  There  being  NO                                                                   
OBJECTION, the Amendment PASSED.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Representative Foster  MOVED to report CS HCR 5  (FIN) out of                                                                   
Committee  with the  accompanying  AMENDED CONCEPTUAL  fiscal                                                                   
note.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CS  HCR 5  (FIN) was  REPORTED out  of Committee  with a  "do                                                                   
pass" recommendation  and one,  amended fiscal note  from the                                                                   
Department of Legislature.                                                                                                      
HOUSE BILL NO. 269                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     "An  Act establishing  the Safety  Code Task Force;  and                                                                   
     providing for an effective date."                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY DAHLSTROM, SPONSOR provided information                                                                    
about the bill.  She read from the sponsor statement as                                                                         
follows:                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     There  are  five  primary   safety  codes  dealing  with                                                                   
     construction  in  Alaska, all  of  which  are under  the                                                                   
     jurisdiction  of two different  Departments.   The Fire,                                                                   
     Building   and   Mechanical    Codes   are   under   the                                                                   
     jurisdiction of  the Fire Marshall at the  Department of                                                                   
     Public Safety.   The Plumbing  and Electrical  Codes are                                                                   
     governed by  the Department  of Labor.  Each  department                                                                   
     is  responsible  for adopting  a  family  of codes  that                                                                   
     bring  uniformity and  consistency  to the  construction                                                                   
     industry.  However, the current  delegation of authority                                                                   
     to  the  respective  departments  has caused  a  set  of                                                                   
     conflicts and discrepancies.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     The mission of the Safety  Code Task Force is to suggest                                                                   
     options  for consolidation  of  our code  administration                                                                   
     function.     The  Task  Force  will  be   charged  with                                                                   
     presenting  recommendations  to the  legislature by  the                                                                   
     first day of  the Second Regular Session  of the Twenty-                                                                   
     Third Alaska State Legislature.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     The Safety  Code Task  force will  consist of  9 members                                                                   
     representing parties affected  by the adoption of Safety                                                                   
     Codes in the state.  The  makeup of the task force is as                                                                   
     follows:                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
          A Senator (Co-Chair) appointed by the Senate                                                                          
          President,                                                                                                            
          A Representative (Co-Chair) appointed by the                                                                          
          Speaker of the House                                                                                                  
          A member of administration appointed by the                                                                           
          Governor                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
     The  following members  are to be  appointed jointly  by                                                                   
     the Senate President and the Speaker of the House:                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
          Representative    of   the   construction    design                                                                   
          community                                                                                                             
          Representative of the construction engineering                                                                        
          community                                                                                                             
          Representative for general contractors                                                                                
          Representative for mechanical contractors                                                                             
          Representative for electrical contractors                                                                             
          Representative for plumbing contractors                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     Additionally,  the  Governor  will appoint  an  advisory                                                                   
     panel.     The  makeup   of  the   panel  will   include                                                                   
     individuals    from   industry,    organizations,    and                                                                   
     Government.  The purpose of this group is to advise the                                                                    
     Task Force on the effect of any changes in code to                                                                         
     their respective community.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Representative Dahlstrom pointed  out that the advisory panel                                                                   
would  include representation  from  various state  agencies.                                                                   
She  maintained that  it  was her  intention  to represent  a                                                                   
broad coalition.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Foster observed  that the representatives  on                                                                   
the task  force did not include  someone from the  Bush area.                                                                   
He  explained   that  this  area  had  different   needs  and                                                                   
timeframes  than  urban  areas.     Representative  Dahlstrom                                                                   
maintained  that  the  task  force   would  be  charged  with                                                                   
developing  the uniform  codes, and  not actually  performing                                                                   
the inspections.   Representative Foster reiterated  that the                                                                   
codes needed  to be adapted for  the entire state.   Co-Chair                                                                   
Williams  maintained that  the task force  would address  the                                                                   
kinds of problems raised by Representative Foster.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
ZACH WARWICK,  STAFF, SENATOR GENE THERIAULT,  stated that an                                                                   
intention for  the Task Force  was achieving consistent  code                                                                   
requirements.  He noted that the  transition from the uniform                                                                   
to the international code was  not yet completed.  He pointed                                                                   
out that statute specified that  an inspector must be trained                                                                   
in  the uniform  code,  yet  contractors  are being  told  to                                                                   
operate under international  code.  He noted  that there were                                                                   
a  variety  of  problems  regarding  administering  codes  in                                                                   
statute and  that a goal for the  task force was to  devise a                                                                   
working document to address those problems.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Representative Berkowitz  asked if, given  existing statutory                                                                   
confusion, the Task  Force would then identify  the points of                                                                   
inconsistency  in  statute  and  communicate  this  with  the                                                                   
legislature.  Mr. Warwick confirmed  that this was one of the                                                                   
three goals, in addition to suggesting  a set of common codes                                                                   
to   adopt,   and   a   method    for   administering   them.                                                                   
Representative  Berkowitz suggested  that legal research  was                                                                   
needed rather  than a task force  and that this  might reduce                                                                   
the cost  of the project.   Mr.  Warwick speculated  that the                                                                   
statutory  conflicts were  so extensive  as to require  legal                                                                   
advice.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Representative Stoltze  voiced concern with cost  issues.  He                                                                   
observed that many of the representatives  had existing state                                                                   
travel budgets, and that others  have financial interest in a                                                                   
solution.   He suggested  that private  citizens be  asked to                                                                   
pay for  their own  expenses to  participate, rather  than be                                                                   
subsidized by the legislature.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Williams  noted that  Co-Chair Harris was  reviewing                                                                   
the fiscal notes for possible revisions.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Hawker asked  whether this  was an  essential                                                                   
service and a way to recover the  investment.  Representative                                                                   
Dahlstrom  stated that  she would entertain  an amendment  to                                                                   
the fiscal note  allowing those parties to finance  their own                                                                   
travel costs.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Vice-Chair Meyer asked if Section  (h), page 3, would need to                                                                   
be amended,  if the fiscal note  were changed to  zero, since                                                                   
it states that  task force members were entitled  to per diem                                                                   
and travel expenses.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Representative    Kerttula   noted    that   some    of   the                                                                   
municipalities  believe   that  there  should   be  municipal                                                                   
members on  the task force,  in particular a  fire prevention                                                                   
official.  She asked if this might be acceptable.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Representative   Dahlstrom   noted   that  there   had   been                                                                   
discussion on that  concern and that it would  be acceptable.                                                                   
The fire official  would need to be specified as  a fire code                                                                   
official.   She also noted  that having a municipal  building                                                                   
inspector would be a good addition.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Harris  commented  that under  the  advisory  panel                                                                   
there were a  number of individuals, including  fire code and                                                                   
building inspectors,  who would suggest recommendations.   He                                                                   
noted   that  he   had  carried   this   bill  during   other                                                                   
legislatures, and  observed that it  was a difficult  task to                                                                   
resolve.   He pointed out  that both Anchorage  and Fairbanks                                                                   
had  voted to  accept particular  codes,  and emphasized  the                                                                   
confusion over how to implement the various codes.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Stoltze  referred   to  Title  29  and  asked                                                                   
whether the term "municipal" was  too restricting, preventing                                                                   
smaller areas  from using  this tool.   He recommended  using                                                                   
the term "local" government instead.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Representative Dahlstrom  commented that representation  from                                                                   
around  the State  was  vital, and  concurred  that the  term                                                                   
"municipality" might be restrictive.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
HB 269 was HEARD and HELD for further consideration.                                                                            
HOUSE BILL NO. 145                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
          "An Act relating to public interest litigants and                                                                     
          to attorney fees; and amending Rule 82, Alaska                                                                        
          Rules of Civil Procedure."                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  GENE  THERRIAULT,  SPONSOR   discussed  the  changes                                                                   
contained  in the Committee  Substitute.   He noted  that his                                                                   
staff  worked to  change language  in  response to  testimony                                                                   
heard  in the  Senate  Resources  Committee.   The  testimony                                                                   
indicated that  in some cases,  the reforms suggested  by the                                                                   
bill were  too broad.   The Committee Substitute  effectively                                                                   
nullifies current  doctrine, and  recreates it in  statute in                                                                   
areas supported by public testimony.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Harris  MOVED  to ADOPT  Committee  Substitute  23-                                                                   
GH1064\H,  Luckhaupt,  5/8/03  as  the version  of  the  bill                                                                   
before the  Committee. Representative Berkowitz  OBJECTED for                                                                   
the purpose of discussion.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Therriault  referred  to Section  1,  pertaining  to                                                                   
Alaska court cases, which had  lead to the establishment of a                                                                   
doctrine.  He noted that Section  2, (b) amends the language,                                                                   
not allowing  the court  to discriminate  in the awarding  of                                                                   
attorney  fees "except  as  otherwise provided  by  statute".                                                                   
Subsection (c)  allows for some  differentiation to  be made,                                                                   
allowing  the   doctrine  to   remain  in  force,   in  cases                                                                   
"concerning the establishment,  protection, or enforcement of                                                                   
a  right   under  the  United   State  Constitution   or  the                                                                   
Constitution  of the  state of  Alaska".   He explained  that                                                                   
Subsections (d) and (e) outline the award process.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Senator Therriault  added that  Section 3 (c)  clarified that                                                                   
litigants  may  not be  excused  for stays  or  interlocutory                                                                   
relief.   He  observed that  the language  in Subsection  (h)                                                                   
clearly delineated  what issue  can and  cannot be  placed in                                                                   
public  interest  litigant  status.   He  noted  that  public                                                                   
interest  doctrine  was  not   listed  anywhere  in  adopted,                                                                   
printed  court rulings.   He stated  that the  Administration                                                                   
supports the language changes.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Berkowitz emphasized  that the new  Committee                                                                   
Substitute had been brought forward  late [in the legislative                                                                   
session] and  wondered why there  had not been  prior notice,                                                                   
since  the new  version contained  such substantive  changes.                                                                   
Senator  Therriault   responded  that   the  work   had  been                                                                   
finalized  in  the early  morning  hours  and that  time  was                                                                   
limited.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Berkowitz  WITHDREW  his  OBJECTION.    There                                                                   
being   NO  OBJECTION,   Committee  Substitute   23-GH1064\H,                                                                   
Luckhaupt, 5/8/03, was ADOPTED.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Harris asked  if a public  interest litigant  would                                                                   
liable for  the legal fees on  both sides of the  case should                                                                   
they lose a case. Senator Therriault  observed that currently                                                                   
litigants could  enter suit in  the hope that even  a portion                                                                   
of the suit would  be found valid, and have  the potential of                                                                   
having attorneys  fees paid. He maintained that  there was no                                                                   
"down side".   He asserted that  people use the  court system                                                                   
as a  potential means  of raising  revenue.   He stated  that                                                                   
other types of cases bore other risks.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Representative Berkowitz referred  to legislative research on                                                                   
public  interest litigation  in Alaska.   He emphasized  that                                                                   
there  was no  personal gain  to be  arrived at  by a  public                                                                   
interest litigant.  He asked for  the Sponsor's definition of                                                                   
public interest litigant.  Senator  Therriault responded that                                                                   
it  was a  class  of litigants  recognized  by  the court  as                                                                   
receiving   special   provisions   that   provide   for   the                                                                   
possibility of  having attorney fees  covered if the  case is                                                                   
successful.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Berkowitz observed that  in order  to achieve                                                                   
that status,  a litigant  must satisfy certain  requirements.                                                                   
Senator Therriault  noted that the bill proposed  to restrict                                                                   
those criteria to constitutional issues.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Kerttula  asked  for clarification  on  which                                                                   
cases  would   no  longer   be  considered  public   interest                                                                   
litigation.    Senator  Therriault observed  that  any  cases                                                                   
involving  the denial  of  due process  could  apply for  and                                                                   
receive  public interest  litigant status,  since this  was a                                                                   
constitutional   right.  In   response  to   a  question   by                                                                   
Representative  Kerttula, Senator  Therriault explained  that                                                                   
cases that  made no constitutional  claim could no  longer be                                                                   
considered for public interest litigant status.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Representative Berkowitz asked  about the types of cases that                                                                   
would be disallowed.   Senator Therriault stated  that a list                                                                   
of specific cases had not been compiled.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
TAPE HFC 03 - 86, Side B                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Berkowitz asked  for a list  of the  kinds of                                                                   
cases that might be included or disallowed under the bill.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CS HB 145 (FIN)  was heard and HELD in Committee  for further                                                                   
consideration.                                                                                                                  
HOUSE BILL NO. 269                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     "An Act establishing the Safety Code Task Force; and                                                                       
     providing for an effective date."                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
EUGENE RUTLAND, MECHANICAL CONTRACTORS,  FAIRBANKS, testified                                                                   
via teleconference  in support  of the  bill.  He  maintained                                                                   
that  regulations needed  to  be reviewed  and  revised.   He                                                                   
suggested   that   the   task   force   would   ensure   that                                                                   
recommendations and the code adoption  process would have the                                                                   
broad support of the construction community.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
COLIN MAYNARD, APDC, ANCHORAGE,  testified via teleconference                                                                   
in  support of  the bill.   He  reviewed the  history of  the                                                                   
current national  building codes, which were  written in 1991                                                                   
and  resulted in  a uniform  code.   He noted  that in  2000,                                                                   
international codes  were adopted.   He pointed out  that the                                                                   
mechanical   contractors  organization   jointly  wrote   the                                                                   
uniform  mechanical code,  and continue  to write this  code.                                                                   
In 2000,  the state  fire marshal  adopted the building  fire                                                                   
mechanical code.  The mechanical  contractors would prefer to                                                                   
have   the  uniform   mechanical   code   written  by   their                                                                   
organization  and  have  been  trying to  overturn  the  fire                                                                   
marshal's  decision.   They  have  joined  forces   with  the                                                                   
national  fire protection  association  to  write a  building                                                                   
code to compete with the international  codes, for a total of                                                                   
two national  codes.   He concluded that  the reason  for the                                                                   
task force  was to examine these  two codes and  decide which                                                                   
aspects are  most appropriate  for the state  of Alaska.   He                                                                   
noted that Anchorage  and Fairbanks adopted the  same code to                                                                   
align with  the state  of Alaska.   He  pointed out  that the                                                                   
makeup  of the  task force  had  changed from  what had  been                                                                   
recommended.    He  maintained  that not  having  a  building                                                                   
official on the task force did  not provide enough compliance                                                                   
information, since contractors  did not have the oversight of                                                                   
the code.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Harris asked  if  there needed  to  be a  municipal                                                                   
official or if it could simply  be a licensed inspector.  Mr.                                                                   
Maynard maintained  that an inspector  would not  provide the                                                                   
needed perspective.   He contended that a  municipal building                                                                   
official was needed.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Harris asked  if these officials would  have a bias.                                                                   
Mr. Maynard conceded that this might be the case.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
ZACH  WARMWICK, STAFF,  SENATOR GENE  THERRIAULT, noted  that                                                                   
municipal  building inspectors  were  part of  the body  that                                                                   
created  the  international code.    He  noted that  the  six                                                                   
member task force would be appointed  by the Senate President                                                                   
and  the Speaker  of  the House,  and  pointed  out that  the                                                                   
effort was to create a task force  which was as non biased as                                                                   
possible.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Kerttula  observed that  if  there were  only                                                                   
eight people in the state that  filled the criteria for being                                                                   
a municipal  building  inspector, and  asked if  it could  be                                                                   
differently    termed,   since    some    areas   were    not                                                                   
municipalities.   Mr.  Maynard  pointed out  that only  eight                                                                   
areas  performed  the  planning that  designated  a  building                                                                   
official.    He  noted  that smaller  areas  were  under  the                                                                   
jurisdiction of the state fire marshal's office.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Public Testimony concluded.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Representative Kerttula MOVED Amendment #1.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     Page 1, after line 6:                                                                                                      
          Delete "nine"                                                                                                         
          Insert "eleven"                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     Page 2, line 3:                                                                                                            
          Delete "and"                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     Page 2, line 4:                                                                                                            
          Delete "."                                                                                                            
          Insert ","                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     Page 2, after line 4:                                                                                                      
          Insert"(G) a municipal building official; and                                                                         
                 (H) a municipal fire prevention official."                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     Page 2, lines 18 & 19:                                                                                                     
          Delete all text                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Harris OBJECTED.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Representative Kerttula  MOVED TO AMEND the  language: change                                                                   
"municipal" to "local".                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Harris  OBJECTED, and  MOVED to Amend  the AMENDMENT                                                                   
to  read "local  building  inspector"  and "local  fire  code                                                                   
official".                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Kerttula agreed that  this language  might be                                                                   
more specific.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Vice-Chair  Meyer questioned  whether or  not to enlarge  the                                                                   
task  force.   Representative Dahlstrom  confirmed that  they                                                                   
originally  included this  number and  stated that she  would                                                                   
like the list to remain the same.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Representative Stoltze  raised concern about  the restrictive                                                                   
nature of  the language  in the  amendment.  Co-Chair  Harris                                                                   
pointed out that he was not in favor of the amendment.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Kerttula   disagreed  with   Co-Chair  Harris                                                                   
amendment   to  the  amendment   regarding  "local   building                                                                   
inspector", based on earlier testimony.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Harris WITHDREW "local  building inspector" from his                                                                   
amendment to the amendment.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Williams OBJECTED to Amendment #1, as amended.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Representative Whitaker expressed  support for the amendment.                                                                   
He referenced  his experience on the Fairbanks  City Council.                                                                   
He  noted   it  was  cumbersome   not  to  have   significant                                                                   
cooperation  between  two sides  of  an issue.  He  expressed                                                                   
concern  that future problems  would occur  by not  including                                                                   
all parties on the task force.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Kerttula   acknowledged  that  it   would  be                                                                   
helpful to involve building officials in the process.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Representative   Dahlstrom  reiterated   that   it  was   her                                                                   
preference to  keep the  original wording in  the bill.   She                                                                   
stated, however, that they could work with the amendment.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Williams  spoke about  his experience with  the Fish                                                                   
Task Force,  and noted that eleven  members was a  large task                                                                   
force.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Whitaker proposed that  the question  was not                                                                   
the number of  members, but who was included.   He maintained                                                                   
that the building  officials were the ones who  would have to                                                                   
implement  the results  of  the task  force  ultimately.   He                                                                   
suggested  that membership  might  be restricted  to nine  if                                                                   
they included the building officials.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Williams  asked where one might remove  two members.                                                                   
Co-Chair   Harris   suggested   that  the   list   would   be                                                                   
overbalanced.    He noted  that  an  official who  had  legal                                                                   
authority would  offset the  balance of the  task force.   He                                                                   
pointed out  that the  task force  was not creating  statute,                                                                   
but proposing solutions. He noted  that the legislature would                                                                   
ultimately create the law, advised by the task force.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Stoltze   proposed  that  the   amendment  be                                                                   
withdrawn  since  it  had  been   amended  extensively.    He                                                                   
suggested that another amendment be created.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
There being NO  OBJECTION, to the amendment  to the amendment                                                                   
it was so ordered.  A roll call  vote was taken on the motion                                                                   
to adopt the amendment as adopted.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
IN FAVOR: Berkowitz; Moses; Whitaker; Kerttula                                                                                  
OPPOSED:  Hawker;    Meyer;   Stoltze;   Chenault;    Foster;                                                                   
          Williams; Harris                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
The MOTION FAILED (4-8).                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Harris referred  to the  three fiscal  notes.   Co-                                                                   
Chair  Harris MOVED  to  zero  out Fiscal  Note  #3 from  the                                                                   
Department  of Public Safety.   He  also MOVED that  language                                                                   
allowing  funding  for task  force  travel  and per  diem  be                                                                   
AMENDED on Page 3, lines 11-13.  There being NO OBJECTION, it                                                                   
was so ordered.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Representative Foster MOVED to  report CS HB 269 (FIN) out of                                                                   
Committee with the accompanying amended fiscal notes.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Berkowitz asked whether  it was necessary  to                                                                   
point out  that members of the  task force were  not eligible                                                                   
for compensation.   After some  discussion, it  was clarified                                                                   
that it  was not necessary  to delete the section  previously                                                                   
referenced.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Harris clarified  his AMENDMENT on the  bill to only                                                                   
remove the language "but are entitled  to per diem and travel                                                                   
. . . .AS.39.20.180".                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
After further discussion from  Representative Meyer regarding                                                                   
state  compensation,  Co-Chair  Harris  once again  MOVED  to                                                                   
delete lines 11  to 13 on page 3.  There  being NO OBJECTION,                                                                   
it was so ordered.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Representative Foster  MOVED to report CSHB 269  (FIN) out of                                                                   
Committee   with    individual   recommendations    and   the                                                                   
accompanying fiscal notes.  There  being NO OBJECTION, it was                                                                   
so ordered.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CSHB 269 (FIN) was REPORTED out  of Committee with individual                                                                   
recommendations  and  three  zero  fiscal  notes:    #1  from                                                                   
Department  of Community  and Economic  Development, and  two                                                                   
new fiscal notes,  one from the Legislature and  one from the                                                                   
Department of Public Safety.                                                                                                    
HOUSE BILL NO. 145                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
          "An Act relating to public interest litigants and                                                                     
          to attorney fees; and amending Rule 82, Alaska                                                                        
          Rules of Civil Procedure."                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
TADD  OWENS,  RESOURCE  DEVELOPMENT  COUNCIL,  testified  via                                                                   
teleconference  in support of  the bill.   He explained  that                                                                   
his  group is  a  non-profit trade  association  representing                                                                   
individuals  and  companies from  the  oil and  gas,  timber,                                                                   
mining,  tourism and  fisheries  industries.  He pointed  out                                                                   
that  Alaska   must  provide  a  business   environment  that                                                                   
encourages investment  and suggested that the  bill addressed                                                                   
the  risk   associated  with  potential   litigation  against                                                                   
companies.   He  maintained  that  Alaska did  not  currently                                                                   
provide a  level playing  field in this  area as  compared to                                                                   
other  states.     He  suggested   that  the   bill  prevents                                                                   
discrimination  in awarding  fees, and  prevents courts  from                                                                   
waiving  the bond requirements  when an  individual seeks  to                                                                   
stop a  development project.   He noted  that the  bill still                                                                   
supports   public  interest   litigation  in   constitutional                                                                   
matters.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Representative Berkowitz cited  changing circumstances as the                                                                   
reason for enacting  lasting court rules.  He  suggested that                                                                   
the ability to  change rules was actually more  supportive of                                                                   
development, and  asked if the  bill inhibits the  ability of                                                                   
groups to try  to change public rules.  Mr.  Owens maintained                                                                   
that  the  legislation  does  not amend  a  court  rule,  and                                                                   
suggested that the legislature  was the proper place to enact                                                                   
public policy changes.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Representative Berkowitz proposed  that the true problem from                                                                   
the private perspective  was the prohibitive  costs of delays                                                                   
in litigation.   He asked if expedited hearings  might better                                                                   
serve both  parties.  Mr. Owens  concurred that there  may be                                                                   
additional  ways  to  continue  reform of  the  process,  but                                                                   
reiterated  that the  legislation  drew what  they viewed  as                                                                   
appropriate distinctions.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Berkowitz persisted  that it  was the  delays                                                                   
resulting  from  court  cases  that  were  prohibitive.    He                                                                   
reiterated that  the best approach  was an expedited  hearing                                                                   
process.   Mr. Owens observed  that the bill did  not prevent                                                                   
litigants from bringing suits,  but only changed the economic                                                                   
circumstances and possibility of state support.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
DORIN HAWXHURST,  ANCHORAGE testified  via teleconference  in                                                                   
opposition  to the  bill.   She  described  a situation  that                                                                   
occurred   during  her  experience   with  Cordova   District                                                                   
Fisherman United  (CDFU), during which she  participated with                                                                   
public  interest  litigants  in  the  Prince  Williams  Sound                                                                   
Tanker Plan  appeal.  She stated  that the issue  was whether                                                                   
the Department of Environmental  Conservation had implemented                                                                   
the law that  the legislature enacted after  the Exxon Valdez                                                                   
oil spill.  She  noted that the law required  oil shippers to                                                                   
have additional equipment to ensure  that oil spills like the                                                                   
Exxon Valdez  spill would  not occur  again.  She  maintained                                                                   
that  CDFU  entered  the  process  since  the  Department  of                                                                   
Environmental  Conservation  ignored  HB 567  under  pressure                                                                   
from the oil shippers. She discussed  the difficult nature of                                                                   
these proceedings,  and noted that the  administrative appeal                                                                   
was prohibitively  expensive  to continue.   She stated  that                                                                   
the city of Cordova could no longer  participate in what they                                                                   
termed "an unbearably expensive  process", and that later the                                                                   
Department of  Environmental Conservation held  hearings that                                                                   
were heavily  attended by fishers.   She urged  the Committee                                                                   
to closely  examine the case as  a reason to  continue public                                                                   
litigant proceedings  in the state of Alaska.   She explained                                                                   
that the individuals who brought  these litigations could not                                                                   
afford lengthy legal processes.   She asked the Committee not                                                                   
to pass the bill in protection of individuals.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
TAPE HFC 03 - 87, Side A                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
STEVE   BORRELL,   ALASKA   MINERS   ASSOCIATION,   ANCHORAGE                                                                   
testified in  support of the bill.   He stated that  the bill                                                                   
provided needed  streamlining of the permitting  process.  He                                                                   
maintained that it was essential  to ensure that when permits                                                                   
were issued,  there was no  longer a financial  incentive for                                                                   
third parties to challenge permits.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Berkowitz asked how  much attention  had been                                                                   
given to find a  way to expedite the process in  order to cut                                                                   
costs incurred  while  waiting for disputes  to be  resolved.                                                                   
Mr. Borrell maintained that Alaska  had a reputation as a bad                                                                   
place  to do  business and  suggested  that this  legislation                                                                   
made the state more attractive to investors.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Representative   Berkowitz   contended  that   private   suit                                                                   
litigation  was  not  really   the  culprit  in  discouraging                                                                   
business, but rather  the length of the hearing  process.  He                                                                   
suggested that the  best thing to attract business  to Alaska                                                                   
was to streamline the litigation process.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
KARL  HANNEMAN,  FAIRBANKS  CHAMBER  OF  COMMERCE,  FAIRBANKS                                                                   
testified  via teleconference  in support  of the  bill.   He                                                                   
noted that many  organizations had helped craft  the language                                                                   
of  the  bill.     He  pointed  out  that  the  language  was                                                                   
supported by the  Administration.  He noted  the significance                                                                   
of the legislation  to the Northern Interior,  where projects                                                                   
had been  delayed due  to litigation,  affecting the  overall                                                                   
economy of Fairbanks.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHRIS KENNEDY, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY  GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF LAW                                                                   
testified via  teleconference and provided  information about                                                                   
the  bill.     He  explained   that  the  current   Committee                                                                   
Substitute   was  an   integral   part   of  the   Governor's                                                                   
legislative package to streamline  the permitting process for                                                                   
resource  development.     He   noted  that  it   limits  the                                                                   
application  of  a  court  doctrine in  areas  where  it  has                                                                   
encouraged exceptive  and speculative litigation.   He stated                                                                   
that  the  bill  addressed  public   interest  litigants,  as                                                                   
defined by the  Supreme Court, as one who:  1) defined public                                                                   
policy; 2) effect  numerous people; 3) could  only be brought                                                                   
by a  private party;  and 4)  could not  be a self  appointed                                                                   
public  advocate.  He  pointed out  that currently  litigants                                                                   
could  have their  attorney's  fees paid  even  if they  lost                                                                   
their case, if the changes they  advocate are adopted by some                                                                   
other means.   He maintained that a public  interest law firm                                                                   
could make  money if they won  and gave such an example.   He                                                                   
contended  that the  current statute  provided an  unintended                                                                   
subsidy for public interest litigants.   He stated that those                                                                   
seeking  to  challenge  or  obstruct  tort  development  were                                                                   
different  from  ordinary  litigants,   since  they  have  an                                                                   
incentive  to  take the  chance  on  doubtful claims  as  the                                                                   
downside risk is removed and the potential reward enhanced.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Kennedy gave  an example  of misuse  of public  interest                                                                   
litigation  in a  five-year suit  against  the Department  of                                                                   
Environmental   Conservation   regarding  the   1995   Prince                                                                   
Williams  Sound Tanker  Contingency plan.   He recounted  the                                                                   
story from  earlier testimony  from a different  perspective,                                                                   
and noted  that changes occurred  during the lengthy  hearing                                                                   
process  to address fishers'  concerns.   He emphasized  that                                                                   
CDFU   was  accommodated   without   litigation.     However,                                                                   
following the process, an individual  from Washington who was                                                                   
not satisfied  led a  massive court  challenge containing  85                                                                   
separate  issues.  Ultimately  54 issues  were abandoned,  31                                                                   
were briefed,  and none prevailed.   The case cost  the State                                                                   
$154  thousand  dollars,  with  a possibly  greater  cost  to                                                                   
private  parties.     The  individual  who   brought  the  85                                                                   
unsuccessful challenges  was immune  from paying any  Rule 82                                                                   
fee awards  to either  the State  or shippers.   He  conceded                                                                   
that HB  145 would not do  away with that type  of litigation                                                                   
entirely.  However, it will abolish  public interest litigant                                                                   
doctrine in certain  areas and, by evening out  the risks and                                                                   
benefits  of bringing  claims, will force  people opposed  to                                                                   
permits  or plans  to more  carefully  evaluate whether  they                                                                   
pursue more speculative challenges.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
BEN BROWN,  ALASKA STATE  CHAMBER OF  COMMERCE, testified  in                                                                   
support of  the legislation.   He  stated that their  members                                                                   
want  to  promote  Alaska's  healthy  economy  by  preventing                                                                   
misuse of  the State's  instrumentalities to impede  resource                                                                   
development.   He recommended  the approach contained  in the                                                                   
                                               th                                                                               
Committee Substitute.  He clarified  that the 4  party of the                                                                   
existing doctrine  did not require  that the public  interest                                                                   
litigant  have  no  economic incentive,  but  only  that  the                                                                   
economic incentive  be less than the non-economic  incentive.                                                                   
He also  speculated that, regarding  the Cordova  case, given                                                                   
the  requirement   in  the  current   doctrine  for   a  non-                                                                   
governmental  entity,  the  litigants   might  have  actually                                                                   
benefited  from  the city  of  Cordova withdrawing  from  the                                                                   
case.   He explained  that the previous  version of  the bill                                                                   
addressed  three  specific  State  Departments,  whereas  the                                                                   
current bill version  examines the nature of  the claim being                                                                   
brought.  He suggested that this  was the most germane issue,                                                                   
given the importance of the claims.   He suggested that under                                                                   
the legislation, important claims  would still be brought, as                                                                   
well as lesser claims.  He pointed  out that Alaska still has                                                                   
Rule 82  that allows  for parties  to recover  some, but  not                                                                   
all,  of  their  legal  fees from  another  party  when  they                                                                   
prevail.   He  referred  members  to a  study  of the  Alaska                                                                   
Judicial Council  from 1995 giving the history  of this Rule.                                                                   
He maintained that, because of  Rule 82, the courthouse doors                                                                   
would not  be "closed", but  pointed out that  litigants will                                                                   
still  have to  face  the risk  of having  to  pay the  other                                                                   
party's fees if they do not prevail.   He concluded that this                                                                   
creates  a  "level  playing  field" in  the  area  of  public                                                                   
interest litigation.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
LARRY   HOULE,  THE   SUPPORT   INDUSTRY  ALLIANCE,   JUNEAU,                                                                   
testified  in support  of the  bill.  He  read from  prepared                                                                   
testimony  (copy on  file).   He  explained that  they are  a                                                                   
statewide   trade   association   of  union   and   non-union                                                                   
contractors.   He  read from  prepared testimony,  discussing                                                                   
the history of  Alaska Civil Procedure allowances  to allow a                                                                   
prevailing party in  a civil lawsuit to recover  a portion of                                                                   
their  attorney's  fees.  He  differentiated  this  from  the                                                                   
Alaska  Supreme  Court  Public   Interest  Litigant  Doctrine                                                                   
enacted in  1968, which allows  a prevailing public  interest                                                                   
litigant  to  recover  all  of   its  attorney's  fees.    He                                                                   
contrasted  this to  oil, logging  or  trucking companies  or                                                                   
labor  unions that  are consistently  denied public  interest                                                                   
litigation  status on  the ground that  they had  "sufficient                                                                   
economic incentive  to bring a  lawsuit".  He  concluded that                                                                   
the  current doctrine  results  in certain  groups  receiving                                                                   
preferential  treatment  in  the  courts,  which  he  claimed                                                                   
reflected a "very marked and distinct  anti-development, pro-                                                                   
preservationist  political slant".   He  maintained that  the                                                                   
bill would eliminate  special treatment, and  noted that Rule                                                                   
82  of the  civil rules  of procedure  would  still permit  a                                                                   
trial judge  to adjust awards  of attorney's fees based  on a                                                                   
variety of factors for all litigants.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
RICH  HEIG, GREENS  CREEK, AND  COUNCIL  OF ALASKA  PRODUCERS                                                                   
testified in support  of the Committee Substitute.   He noted                                                                   
that  the Council  was  an organization  representing  mining                                                                   
companies in  Alaska.  He  noted that his industry  underwent                                                                   
extensive permitting  processes with  the state,  federal and                                                                   
local  governments.    He noted  that  the  process  included                                                                   
public   hearing    and   comment   opportunities    and   an                                                                   
administrative  review process.   He  noted that the  process                                                                   
could take  several years  to complete  and pointed  out that                                                                   
the process  could be  extended by  legal challenges  against                                                                   
the permits.   He confirmed  that a large  part of  the issue                                                                   
was  the delay  in  the process.  He stated  that  challenges                                                                   
could come  from well-funded  organizations, which  were well                                                                   
versed in the permitting processes.   He maintained that fees                                                                   
could be recovered from the organizations,  especially if the                                                                   
litigation    was    successful.   He    acknowledged    that                                                                   
Representative Berkowitz's  comments regarding the  length of                                                                   
the hearing process were correct,  but pointed out that these                                                                   
issues  were   already  being   addressed  by  the   resource                                                                   
industry.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
ROBERT BRIGGS, STAFF ATTORNEY,  DISABILITY LAW CENTER, JUNEAU                                                                   
testified  in opposition  to the  Committee  Substitute.   He                                                                   
noted that  every state receives  federal monies in  order to                                                                   
set  up   advocacy  programs   for  the  disabled   that  are                                                                   
independent from  the State. He pointed out  that many states                                                                   
followed  the   Alaskan  model,   which  uses  a   non-profit                                                                   
organization  to address  litigation  for the  disabled.   He                                                                   
explained  that  his  organization   served  exclusively  the                                                                   
disabled in Alaska.  He noted  that many of these individuals                                                                   
had suffered  a range  of abuses  and neglect, and  explained                                                                   
that  the  ultimate  way  for  a  citizen  to  address  these                                                                   
complaints was  to file suit.   He stated that many  of these                                                                   
individuals were  very impoverished  due to their  conditions                                                                   
and thus were not  able to pay for litigation.   He described                                                                   
his  history  of law  practice  both  in private  and  public                                                                   
practice and observed the power of the State.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Briggs  stated that  the  Committee  Substitute  greatly                                                                   
expanded the impact of the bill,  and pointed out that he did                                                                   
not testify  against the original  bill.  He  emphasized that                                                                   
any challenge  brought  by a citizen  against any  government                                                                   
action was  now contained in this  bill, and stated  that the                                                                   
bill  prevented  the  State  from  applying  public  interest                                                                   
litigation doctrine  to any  of these cases.    He  urged the                                                                   
Committee not  to pass  the bill, and  to consider  its broad                                                                   
impact  on public  interest doctrine  and  on the  applicable                                                                   
Court Rule.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Briggs expressed  his  opinion  that the  Supreme  Court                                                                   
could issue  a decision by  any of three  means:   a codified                                                                   
rule, a  Supreme Court  Order, or  announcing a rule  through                                                                   
judicial  opinion.     He  explained  that   public  interest                                                                   
doctrine  is comprised  of a  series  of court  rulings.   He                                                                   
noted his successful experience  in representing the disabled                                                                   
in  litigation, and  noted that  the rates  of disability  in                                                                   
Alaska was high due to the nature  of Alaskan industries.  He                                                                   
speculated  that the bill  would drive  plaintiffs in  public                                                                   
interest litigation  into federal  court.  He  emphasized the                                                                   
negative  effect on  private individuals  who  stand to  lose                                                                   
their  entire  life  savings if  they  lose  public  interest                                                                   
suits.   He noted  that the Juneau  School District  employed                                                                   
the most expensive  attorneys available, putting  families at                                                                   
a disadvantage.   He  maintained that  the legislation  would                                                                   
prevent individuals from filing suit in state courts.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Briggs  referred  to Senate  Concurrent  Resolution  #4,                                                                   
                    th                                                                                                          
passed during the 18  Legislature,  urging the Alaska Supreme                                                                   
Court to  reexamine the wisdom  of Civil  Rule 82.   He noted                                                                   
that  the  Alaska  Supreme  Court   issued  a  ruling,  which                                                                   
included  an extensive  study  of the  Rule.   He noted  that                                                                   
nowhere in the study was the conclusion  that the Rule had an                                                                   
unfair effect.   He  pointed out that  the majority  of those                                                                   
benefiting  from public  interest litigations  were not  from                                                                   
environmental  groups.   He  noted  that the  past  testimony                                                                   
would indicate otherwise,  in its emphasis on  the effects of                                                                   
public interest doctrine on development  of natural resources                                                                   
in  the State.    He clarified  that  roughly  16 percent  of                                                                   
awards  in  state  litigation   have  gone  to  environmental                                                                   
groups.  He suggested that there  was not a basis to overturn                                                                   
the  Rule, which  he maintained  was  the net  effect of  the                                                                   
bill.  He noted that this was  in relation to awarded monies,                                                                   
which were  legitimate claims.   He suggested that  an entire                                                                   
doctrine should not  be thrown out as a result  of 16 percent                                                                   
of the litigation.  He proposed that the original  bill was a                                                                   
more defendable  doctrine and suggested that  the legislature                                                                   
consider this as an interpretation of a court rule.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Briggs read  from a  United States  Supreme Court  Case,                                                                   
Legal Services  Corporation vs. Velaskes,  "Interpretation of                                                                   
the law  and the Constitution  is the primary mission  of the                                                                   
judiciary when it acts within  the sphere of its authority to                                                                   
resolve  a  case of  controversy.  An  informed,  independent                                                                   
judiciary presumes  an informed  independent bar.   Simply to                                                                   
prohibit  the  analysis  of  certain  legal  issues,  and  to                                                                   
truncate  presentation to  the courts,  prohibits speech,  an                                                                   
expression upon which  the courts must depend  for the proper                                                                   
exercise of  judicial power.   Congress cannot wrest  the law                                                                   
from  the  Constitution  which  is its  source."    He  urged                                                                   
Members to adopt the original form of the bill as having                                                                        
fewer legal defects than the Committee Substitute.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Vice Chair Meyer clarified that the Disability Law Center                                                                       
preferred the Senate Judiciary version of the Bill.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Public Testimony on HB 145 was concluded.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CSHB 145 (FIN) was heard and HELD in Committee for further                                                                      
consideration.                                                                                                                  
ADJOURNMENT                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
The meeting was adjourned at 4:42 PM                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                

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