Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/22/1995 01:37 PM CRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE COMMUNITY & REGIONAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE March 22, 1995 1:37 p.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Senator John Torgerson, Chairman Senator Randy Phillips, Vice Chairman Senator Tim Kelly Senator Fred Zharoff Senator Lyman Hoffman MEMBERS ABSENT All members present COMMITTEE CALENDAR SENATE BILL NO. 96 "An Act relating to municipal activities or services mandated by state statute." SENATE BILL NO. 107 "An Act relating to general grant land entitlements for the Denali Borough." SENATE BILL NO. 32 "An Act relating to a curriculum for Native language education; and providing for an effective date." PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION SB 96 - See Community & Regional Affairs minutes dated 3/8/95, 3/17/95. SB 107 - No previous action to record. SB 32 - No previous action to record. WITNESS REGISTER Josh Fink, Aide to Senator Kelly State Capitol Juneau, AK 99801-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Offered information on CSSB 96(CRA) Janet Kelly, Assistant Professor of Political Sceince & Public Administration Clemson University Clemson, South Carolina POSITION STATEMENT: CSSB 96(CRA) is excellent legislation Scott Brandt-Erichsen, Assistant Municipal Attorney Municipality of Anchorage P.O. Box 196650 Anchorage, AK 99519-6650 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of CSSB 96(CRA) Kevin Ritchie, Executive Director Alaska Municipal League 217 2nd St. Juneau, AK 99801 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports CSSB 96(CRA) Kim Metcalfe-Helmar, Special Assistant Department of Community & Regional Affairs P.O. Box 112100 Juneau, AK 99811-2100 POSITION STATEMENT: Questions on CSSB 96(CRA) Randy Welker, Legislative Auditor Legislative Audit Division P.O. Box 113300 Juneau, AK 99811-3300 POSITION STATEMENT: Offered information on CSSB 96(CRA) Senator Mike Miller State Capitol Juneau, AK 99801-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Prime Sponsor of SB 107 Mayor John Gonzales Denali Borough P.O. Box 480 Healy, AK 99743 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SB 107 Darrell Mueller, Chairman, Land Planning Committee Denali Borough P.O. Box 480 Healy, AK 99743 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of SB 107 Ron Swanson, Director Division of Land Department of Natural Resources 3601 C St., Suite 1122 Anchorage, AK 99503-5947 POSITION STATEMENT: Neutral on SB 107 Senator Georgianna Lincoln State Capitol Juneau, AK 99801-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Prime Sponsor of SB 32 David Cornberg Tanana Chiefs Conference Fairbanks AK POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SB 32 Vince Barry, Director, Education Program Support Anne Kessler, Education Program Support Department of Education 801 W. 10th St., Suite 200 Juneau, AK 99801-1894 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in opposition to SB 32 ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 95-8, SIDE A Number 001 SCRA - 3/22/95 SB 96 UNFUNDED MANDATES ON MUNICIPALITIES CHAIRMAN TORGERSON called the Senate Community & Regional Affairs Committee meeting to order at 1:37 p.m. He brought SB 96 , sponsored by Senate Kelly, before the committee as the first order of business. Number 010 JOSH FINK, aide to Senator Kelly, explained that just as the U.S. Congress is attempting to address the considerable financial hardships unfunded federal mandates place on state governments, many state legislatures are beginning to address the same financial hardships unfunded state mandates are placing on local governments. At present, 16 states have laws to try to limit or prohibit state government from imposing unfunded mandates on municipalities. Additionally, more than 20 other state legislatures are considering legislation much like SB 96. SB 96 was introduced by Senator Kelly to remedy the problem of unfunded state mandates in Alaska. The legislation is a high priority for the Alaska Municipal League, the Municipality of Anchorage, the Fairbanks North Star Borough, the Alaska Conference of Mayors, and the City of Unalaska, among others. Unfunded mandates cause cash-strapped cities to decrease basic municipal services in order to pay for the unfunded mandates. As these unfunded mandates increase for local governments, aid to municipalities has been cut more than 55 percent. As municipalities and local governments struggle to provide services mandated but not funded by the Legislature, increased property taxes and other local taxes have been used as funding vehicles as well as cuts in other services. Mr. Fink said the principal imperative of this legislation is that the state government should not require municipalities by statute, regulation or administrative action to implement any new programs, service or activity which significantly impacts that municipality's budget unless the legislature is willing to provide funding for that new mandate. SB 96 sets us a mechanism which will go a long way to preventing state government from imposing new mandates without funding them. However, the legislature is, ultimately, constitutionally capable of imposing such mandates if it desires. Number 070 SENATOR TORGERSON directed attention to a proposed committee substitute. SENATOR KELLY moved the adoption of CSSB 96(CRA) as a working document. Hearing no objection, it was so ordered. Number 080 JOSH FINK, in presenting a section-by-section analysis of CSSB 96(CRA), said Section 2 is the crux of the legislation. It adds a new section to Title 24 and provides that a bill enacted after January 1, 1996 that imposes new or increased costs to municipalities is not effective unless funds are appropriated at the time of enactment to fully fund these new or increased costs resulting from the new legislation. Further, unless sufficient funds continue to be appropriated each successive legislative session that the mandate is in effect, the mandate shall be revoked. Exceptions to this are: a bill passed by two-thirds of the members of each house; a mandate requested by the affected municipalities; a bill that affirms existing law as it has been construed by the courts or enacts federal law or regulation; and a bill that creates, eliminates, or changes a criminal offense as defined in Title 11. Number 190 JANET KELLY, Assistant Professor of Political Science & Public Administration at Clemson University in South Carolina, informed the committee she has been studying state mandates to localities for the last 10 years. Professor Kelly has discussed the legislation before the committee at some length with Kevin Ritchie of the Alaska Municipal League, as well as discussing some of the potential pitfalls of other states' experience with a statutory prohibition on unfunded mandates. She added that SB 96 avoids much of that pitfall and she believes it is an excellent bill. Professor Kelly said this sort of legislative attempt at self- limitation is very useful and that it heightens legislative awareness of the fiscal constraints of municipalities, but it also recognizes the state legislature's right and necessity to impose unfunded mandates in the event that there is an emergency, etc., where such a mandate is clearly indicated. Professor Kelly reiterated SB 96 is an excellent bill and she has no difficulties with it. Number 240 SCOTT BRANDT-ERICHSEN, Assistant Municipal Attorney, Municipality of Anchorage, testifying from Anchorage, voiced the municipality's support for CSSB 96(CRA), and stated he was available for questions. SENATOR TORGERSON said a question has come up concerning the exception in Section 2, (d)(2), "mandate requested by the affected municipalities," and asked if this language was too broad. SCOTT BRANDT-ERICHSEN answered that there is procedure which would help in identifying whether a municipality or whether all of the affected municipalities have requested a change. He suggested that section could be worded in a way that would provide a clearer distinction. Number 318 SENATOR KELLY noted that in her testimony, Professor Kelly referred to an "emergency." Professor KELLY said she was referring to a history of other states' experience with similar legislation in which legislatures have been able to, in the event of the emergency, quickly generate the two-thirds majority that they need in each house in order to enact an unfunded mandate. SENATOR KELLY commented that as a state that seems to stagger from natural disaster to natural disaster, we could probably anticipate some type of an emergency in the next several years, and he suggested adding an exception relating to bills passed in response to a state of emergency as proclaimed by the governor. He also suggested that maybe an approach on (d)(2) "mandate requested by the affected municipalities" could be changed to "mandate officially requested by the Alaska Municipal League" which would be relatively representative of the majority of communities throughout Alaska. SENATOR R. PHILLIPS pointed out that communities drop in and out of the League and there are different reasons that they may oppose a mandate and at what levels they may oppose it at. Number 360 KEVIN RITCHIE, Executive Director, Alaska Municipal League, noted that federal anti-mandates legislation had been signed by President Clinton earlier in the day, and he believes it will have a big effect on state/federal relations, as well as with municipalities. Mr. Ritchie said the Leagues believes that SB 96 is a real strong statement and more of a moral imperative and a discussion point than a law that's going to be enforced by the courts. He said there are ways to get around the bill, but the thing that makes it a moral imperative is the fact that it is written down and agreed to. It is a very strong, very supportable bill. Number 525 SENATOR HOFFMAN asked how many unfunded mandates have been passed on to the municipalities in the last two or three years and their costs. KEVIN RITCHIE responded that the state has been very conscientious in not creating additional statutory mandates, and the League feels the state restraint has been really good as budget pressures increase. He noted that the Legislative Research Agency created a report which includes all of the mandates from state government to local government, but there wasn't a breakdown on what Senator Hoffman was asking. However, probably the poignant example would be the senior citizen property tax. It was a bill that passed years ago, but the decision to underfund it has happened annually. SENATOR KELLY said he would have staff research the last four legislative sessions to see if any legislation that mandates was passed and that falls under the purview of this bill, as well as to look at some of the pieces of legislation that didn't pass. Number 575 SENATOR KELLY moved the following amendments to CSSB 96(CRA) Page 3, line 16: Delete "audit" and insert "finance" Page 3, after line 30: Insert a new paragraph to read as follows: "(1) bill passed in response to a disaster emergency declared by the governor under AS 26.23.020;" Renumber the following paragraphs accordingly. Page 4, line 1: Delete "the affected municipalities" and insert "resolution from the Alaska Municipal League" Hearing no objection, SENATOR TORGERSON stated the amendments were adopted. TAPE 94-5, SIDE B Number 010 KIM METCALFE-HELMAR, Special Assistant, Department of Community & Regional Affairs, stated the department had just received the new committee substitute and has not had an opportunity to take a close look the fiscal impacts of the new language on page 5, which requires the department to prepare an estimate of the increased costs if the adoption, amendment, or repeal of a regulation would require increased costs to municipalities. Also, it is unclear to the department how it would fit in with the findings that would be undertaken by the legislative finance division as outlined in subsection (b) on page 3. Number 035 RANDY WELKER, Legislative Auditor, Legislative Audit Division, said his initial concern with the original committee substitute was in the provision on page 3, line 16 that was just changed in Senator Kelly's amendment from the legislative audit division to the legislative finance division. Mr. Welker related that the zero fiscal note prepared by Legislative Audit was prepared based on the provisions of subsection (c) on page 3, which provides that if a municipality disputes the findings it can petition the audit division for review. He said if we are putting a good faith effort into the legislation, where the findings are well thought out, the only time where a municipality might dispute findings is if a finding is determined to not impact a municipality when, in fact, it clearly does. Number 070 SENATOR R. PHILLIPS voiced his concern on how legislators on the Budget and Audit Committee are going to know what is going on unless there is some of kind of reporting system to the committee itself. RANDY WELKER said there are a lot of requests that the audit division gets for quick turn-around type of things that they can do, and he would consider this in that regard. He added that if it was something that would significantly impact the division, he would then go to the committee and ask for prioritization. However, he thinks the primary emphasis is going to be on the definition of "sufficiently funded" which is outside of the findings and the role that he sees the audit division playing. But he not sure that the bill defines who will make the determination of whether or not a mandate is sufficiently funded. SENATOR Kelly agreed that is a weakness in the bill, and he thinks some work is going to have to be done on that particular section. Number 110 There being no further testimony on CSSB 96(CRA), SENATOR TORGERSON stated the bill would be held over for additional work and would be back before the committee at its next meeting. SCRA - 3/22/95 SB 107 LAND GRANT FOR DENALI BOROUGH SENATOR TORGERSON brought SB 107 before the committee as the next order of business. Number 125 SENATOR MIKE MILLER, prime sponsor of SB 107, said he introduced the legislation at the request of the Denali Borough Assembly. The purpose of SB 107 is to increase the land grant to the borough. Under the Municipal Land Entitlement Act, the borough would be getting approximately 51,000. However, the borough is going through a process of identifying their needs and they would like to have 71,000 acres of state land in order to build an economic base in their borough. Senator Miller said his position over the years has been that the closer government is to the people the better it is. There is a lot of land in state inventory and nothing will happen to a lot of that land, but if it is the hands of the local government, chances are much greater that it will be put into production and provide an economic base for the community. Number 208 SENATOR KELLY voiced his concern that in the past there have been boroughs that weren't able to get all of their land entitlements so they were given cash settlements instead. Number 215 JOHN GONZALES, Mayor of the Denali Borough testified from Healy in support of SB 107. He said the borough hired consultants and has been working the last two years to determine what the borough would need in order to support itself. The lands they are asking for are VUU (vacant, unappropriated, unreserved) lands inside the borough, and the 71,000 acres they have identified are needed in order to meet their goals. Number 245 DARREL MUELLER, Chairman of the Land Planning Committee in Healy, stated most of the land within their boundary is in federal control or restricted by state classifications, making them unselectable under the Municipal Entitlement Act. The Denali Borough not only needs land now for development, but they need it for future growth as well. They expect it will provide a tax base for providing services for borough residents, as well as visitors to the Denali area. He said they are involved in a community planning process and they are in the process of establishing their property management system. Number 290 SENATOR TORGERSON asked if the Denali Borough has selected its entitlement of 51,000 acres, as well as how much state land is within the boundaries of their borough. DARREL MUELLER answered that they are in the preliminary process right now and they've come up with approximately 25,000 acres that come under the VUU requirement for state land. There are approximately 510,000 acres of state land within their boundaries. Number 305 SENATOR R. PHILLIPS asked what the status was on the northeast part of the Mat-SU area annexing with the Denali Borough. DARREL MUELLER answered that the only requests that they have received have been from a Native corporation to annex part of their corporate land into the southern area of the borough. Number 315 SENATOR HOFFMAN asked if there was a breakdown on the lands they are contemplating selecting under the 51,000 limit and the lands they anticipate selecting under the 71,000 limit. DARREL MUELLER acknowledged that a breakdown could be prepared and forwarded to the committee. Number 325 RON SWANSON, Director, Division of Land, Department of Natural Resources, said he wasn't present to take a position on the bill, but to provide the committee with information so it could decide the direction it wants to take. Last year the same type of process was done with the Lake & Peninsula Borough and they ended up with an entitlement of 125,000 acres, which is quite a bit more than their 10 percent figure that they would have been otherwise entitled to. The division worked with the Lake & Peninsula Borough to look at particular maps of where their selections would be, the type of land they would get, and the purpose they would put them to. Mr. Swanson said in the case of the Denali Borough, they have not yet been certified for their original entitlement. Within two years and a half years from incorporation, the Department of Natural Resources must certify what their entitlement would be and that is due in December of this year. Within one year of the date of certification, the municipalities must make their selections. Mr. Swanson related that within the Denali Borough there is a little over 2 million acres of state land. About 500,000 of that is considered VUU land and the borough's entitlement would be 10 percent of that. Mr. Swanson said the department wants the borough to become self sufficient, but they need to have a better sense for where these selections would be, for what purposes, and any pitfalls that they might see that might be out there. Number 375 SENATOR TORGERSON asked Mr. Swanson when he thought everyone could get together and try to figure this out. RON SWANSON answered that the sooner the borough can get the department maps to look at, the sooner he could give an answer on that. He pointed out that they haven't completed their process for the 51,000 acres and, yet, they are asking for an additional entitlement. MAYOR GONZALES said one of the reasons they have come with the 71,000 acre figure is because they would like to do this process all at once instead of having to spend more money to go through a process again. Number 400 SENATOR ZHAROFF requested that information be provided to the committee on how the formula works for these land selections. There being no other witnesses wishing to testify on SB 107, SENATOR TORGERSON stated the bill would be held over. SCRA - 3/22/95 SB 32 NATIVE LANGUAGE EDUCATION Number 415 SENATOR TORGERSON introduced SB 32 as the final order of business. SENATOR GEORGIANNA LINCOLN, prime sponsor of SB 32, told the committee that while campaigning five years ago, she went to a rather large, predominantly Native village and found that the students there were learning the Russian language through a television set. Through the Star Program they had a choice of Russian, Spanish or Japanese languages. She asked how many of the students would have chose their Native language if that were an option, and all hands, regardless of their ethic background, were raised. She asked the same question, not only in her district, but all over the state, and, without hesitation, the youths would raise their hands unanimously in their desire to have the Native language taught. Senator Lincoln directed attention to backup from the University of Alaska that shows that by the year 2030 most of the languages, other than Central and Siberian Yupik, will become extinct. She noted that there are very few anymore that all speak the Native language. It has been pointed out that students actually do much better in their classes and in basic reading, writing and arithmetic if they have the background of their Native language. Number 495 DAVID CORNBERG, an independent consultant, testified from Fairbanks. He informed the committee he has a Ph.D. in education with specialization in cross-cultural education, and he has been on contract with Tanana Chiefs Conference for over two years as the primary planner for their new tribal college. The college serves villages of the Interior which are primarily Athabascan Indian. Part of the curriculum mandate for the tribal college from the people of the Interior is keeping Athabascan language a culture. Therefore, they are very eager to see a coherent language and culture program in Natives languages from Head Start all the way through 12th grade. Mr. Cornberg said there is very good evidence that young people who are competently taught in a Native or indigenous language, along with a mainstream language such as English, do better academically. In the long run, the bill will save money for the state, because those same people gain better self respect, better self esteem and a higher ability to tolerate differences around, and, therefore, they become less likely to act out in socially negative ways. Mr. Cornberg said the fiscal note on the bill may be a little high, but there are teacher aides in many schools in Alaska who would be able to step into the position of advisory board to teachers without any additional cost to the state. There are also thousands of pages of useable curriculum in the closets and the shelves of school districts and local school all over Alaska that are quite literally waiting for this legislation. Number 590 VINCE BARRY, Education Program, Department of Education, stated the department is in agreement with the general tenor of SB 32. They are extremely interested in bilingual education, dealing with youngsters in the state that speak 102 different languages. However, the department is in opposition to the bill because it outlines what is already happening in about half of the districts, and those districts chose to undertake these kinds of activities. Mr. Barry said SB 32 would be duplicative and the issues in the bill may be done now by any district that so chooses. There are bilingual programs in 50 districts, and the state foundation represents a cost of close to $20 million a year. Mr. Barry, in discussing the fiscal note, said the bill itself would not create any further costs to the department, but it would to the state foundation program. Number 650 SENATOR LINCOLN commented that this is not a bilingual bill. Presently, the bilingual teachers in the communities are teaching words and phrases, but they are not teaching the language as language like they do with Russian, Spanish and Japanese. TAPE 95-9, SIDE A Number 005 SENATOR LINCOLN reiterated that SB 32 is not a bilingual bill, and she pointed out that it provides for local advisory boards, where it is predominately Native, to make the determination of the affordability and establishment of a Native language curriculum for a school. Number 010 ANNE KESSLER, Education Program Support, Department of Education, said the use of the word "bilingual" education is one that creates a lot of confusion. The department's viewpoint of bilingual education programs, as they are currently funded in the state, is that Native language is one of several other languages within the bilingual program. Ms. Kessler said districts who choose to submit a bilingual plan of service, work with their school boards, work with parent and local advisory boards, to make the selection as far as what type of program to offer. Number 056 SENATOR HOFFMAN questioned why, if there are all of these programs going on, there are statistics saying that many of these Native languages are going to die by the year 2030. ANNE KESSLER answered that there has been 20 years of bilingual education programs. There are other social and economic factors that have created at least a one-generation gap in the students who are now parents, because of not having access to those programs for various reasons. She agreed that the statistics are probably accurate, but she thinks some of the languages have a very good chance of surviving. Number 145 DAVID CORNBERG added that what needs to be considered is that while the bilingual programs are effective to some extent, they are not the programs that are going to reverse the decline of the language. The emersion programs will reverse the decline of the languages. He added that is being shown all over the world, it is not just an Alaskan experience. ANNE KESSLER agreed that research has shown the emersion programs to be very effective, and she said any district that wants to start an emersion program can do so within the provisions of the LOESL program (language other than english as a second language program). The department is supportive of these programs and will work with districts to implement them within the realm of the bilingual education regulations. Number 188 SENATOR TORGERSON stated he agreed with an observation made earlier by Senator Hoffman that if they were doing a good job with their bilingual program, there wouldn't be a need for SB 32. There being no further witnesses to testify, SENATOR TORGERSON asked for the will of the committee on SB 32. SENATOR HOFFMAN moved that SB 32, along with a new zero fiscal note, be passed out of committee with individual recommendations. Hearing no objection, it was so ordered. There being no further business to come before the committee, the meetin g was adjourned at 3:25 p.m.