Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/03/1996 02:05 PM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
MINUTES SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE 3 April 1996 2:05 P.M. TAPES SFC-96, #66, Side 2 SFC-96, #67, Side 1 CALL TO ORDER Senator Rick Halford, Co-chairman, convened the meeting at approximately 2:05 P.M. PRESENT Co-chairman Halford along with co-chairman Frank, Senators Phillips and Rieger were present when the meeting convened. Senator Donley arrived later. Also Attending: Senator John Torgerson; Deb Davidson, aide to Senator Torgerson; Lamar Cotten, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Community and Regional Affairs; Senator Robin Taylor; Geron Bruce, Legislative Liaison, Office of the Commissioner, Department of Fish & Game; Kevin Brooks, Director, Administrative Services, Department of Fish & Game; Sara Hannan, Alaska Environmental Lobby; Senator Mike Miller; Anthony Crupi, Alaska Environmental Lobby; Daniella Loper, aide to Representative Brian Porter; Chris Christensen, Staff Counsel, Alaska Court System; Jeff Bush, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Commerce and Economic Development; Deborah Behr, Legislation and Regulations Section, Civil Division, Department of Law; Virginia Stonkus, Fiscal Analyst, Division of Legislative Finance; and aides to committee members. SUMMARY INFORMATION CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 280(CRA) "An Act relating to the mandatory incorporation of certain boroughs in the unorganized borough." Continued testimony was given by Senator John Torgerson and his aide Deb Davidson. Senator Rieger testified to his amendment #2. Lamar Cotten, Community & Regional Affairs explained difference between detachment and section 2 of bill. Senator Torgerson asked that bill be held until tomorrow pending further consideration of amendment #2. Co- chairman Halford held the bill in committee. SENATE BILL NO. 247 "An Act relating to the fish and game fund; amending Rules 79(b) and 82(b)(2), Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure; and providing for an effective date." Senator Robin Taylor, sponsor, testified on behalf of SB 247. Geron Bruce and Kevin Brooks from Department of Fish and Game testified before the committee. Sarah Hannan, Alaska Environmental Lobby testified in opposition to the bill. Senator Frank moved work draft CSSB 247() and it was adopted for work purposes. Senator Frank moved CSSB 247(FIN) and without objection it was reported out with individual recommendations and zero fiscal note from Department of Public Safety; zero fiscal notes with fund source changes from Department of Fish and Game, Administrative Services, Wildlife Conservation and Sport Fish divisions. CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 262(RES) "An Act relating to management of game populations for maximum sustained yield for human harvest and providing for the replacement of areas closed to consumptive uses of game; relating to management of fish and game areas; and amending Rules 79(b) and 82(b)(2), Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure." Senator Mike Miller, sponsor, testified on behalf of SB 262. Geron Bruce, Department of Fish and Game said the department opposes this legislation. Anthony Crupi, Alaska Environmental Lobby stated their opposition to the bill. Senator Frank moved CSSB 262(RES) and without objection it was reported out with individual recommendations and zero fiscal note with fund source change from the Department of Fish and Game, Wildlife Division. CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 158(JUD) "An Act relating to civil actions; amending Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure 49, 68, and 95; amending Alaska Rule of Evidence 702; and providing for an effective date." Daniella Loper, aide to Representative Brian Porter summarized this bill. Chris Christensen, Alaska Court System said that under section 12, mandatory arbitration would also apply to small claims and they should consider the substantial cost of arbitration. Jeff Bush, Commerce & Economic Development testified that there was a problem with the statute of repose under section 9. Deborah Behr, Department of Law answered questions of committee members. Co-chairman Halford continued this matter until tomorrow 9:00 A.M. CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 280(CRA) "An Act relating to the mandatory incorporation of certain boroughs in the unorganized borough." Co-chairman Halford continued SB 280. Senator Torgerson was invited to join the committee. He referred to section 29.05.031 there is a prohibition against starting third- class boroughs. This amendment would basically delete that out of the statutes so the statute and SB 280 would not be contradictory. Senator Phillips moved amendment #3 and without objection it was adopted. Senator Rieger moved his re-drafted amendment #2 and said the changes were to change "3%" to "5%" and delete "250 residents or". He referred to proposed borough number three and said they were not part of the municipality of Ketchikan. If they were they would have to have a larger threshold. Co-chairman Halford said this posed a problem. Senator Rieger said a large enough percentage was wanted so the detachment petitions are not a dime a dozen; on the other hand it should be small enough to allow self-determination. He said eventually there would be a vote. Of the area that constituted the 5%+ at least 15% of the people within that area who voted in the last election must sign a petition to put it on the next ballot. Then residents of the area proposed for detachment were eligible to vote. Senator Torgerson said Senator Zharoff would have been better off with the 250 standard than in the 3% in his example. As Senator Rieger pointed out, annexation is not before the committee. Senator Frank felt the amendment was not germane to the issue. Getting into the detachment issue would cause a need for the committee to gather more information. That would need another bill and more discussion not just an attachment or amendment to this bill. He said he would support the bill as it came into the committee but that he was uncomfortable with the detachment issues. Senator Rieger explained why he thought the issue was germane. If mandatory corporations are going to be proposed they have to be balanced with self-determination abilities. Co-chairman Halford concurred. Senator Frank said he knew the issue was germane legally but did not feel it was germane from a political point of view. Senator Phillips concurred with Senator Rieger. He asked about the Lake Louise detachment. Lamar Cotten, Department of Community and Regional Affairs was invited to join the committee. He said the permanent residents of Lake Louise filed a petition to detach. They were not allowed to vote. He said that the LBC staff had not really gone through this but the commission does have broad authority. Senator Halford said in would require another education process to understand the detachment question. He asked what would happen if the detachment process in Senator Rieger's amendment were to be implemented. Mr. Cotten said this matter had not really been investigated. He explained there was a series of nine standards the LBC looked at when it comes to detachment in order to make a decision. There have been eleven petitions to detach that have been accepted. Six have actually been accepted. Co-chairman Halford asked if they could guarantee access by petition that would result in a vote based on some threshold. He referred to Eagle River and Anchorage in that they had been continuously turned down by the local boundary commission. The legislature passed, by a significant margin, legislation to specifically let the community separate. After the separation and after there was no vote available on the unification charter, the community was reunited by Court order because the legislation was special legislation and the Court said the boundary commission could have done this. That, in terms of population, was probably the biggest boundary issue since statehood. Mr. Cotten said that he and his staff would be willing to meet with committee members and go through this matter. Senator Rieger commented and said LBC could consider all petitions that are submitted and use their own judgment on what they allow or do not allow. A municipality may initiate a detachment on their own but that is through action of the local governing body which oftentimes is the problem. Mr. Cotten felt further review of the matter was necessary. Senator Torgerson said it would be better to hold the bill until tomorrow pending his further investigation. Co-chairman Halford said he would hold the bill in committee until tomorrow pending further investigation and receipt of new draft CS. SENATE BILL NO. 247 "An Act relating to the fish and game fund; amending Rules 79(b) and 82(b)(2), Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure; and providing for an effective date." Senator Robin Taylor was invited to join the committee and testified on behalf of the bill. He referred to CSSB 247() work draft and explained the amendments that it contained. He said these were significant changes but had assurances from Department of Fish and Game they would not oppose these amendments. Senator Frank asked that Senator Taylor reiterate his advocation of the "preservation" feature. Senator Taylor commented on his visit to the 4-H program being put on in conjunction with the local gun club to receive training and instruction on how to handle a firearm, clean it, how to walk with it and carry it. Over seventy youngsters showed up from the community with their families. They had commented on the difficulties of getting a rifle or pistol range constructed and then to make sure it was protected in the future. He said the drafters had suggested the use of the term "preservation". Senator Rieger referred to another phrase used by the sponsor "manipulation of habitat" and asked that it be described for the committee. Senator Taylor said the best example was the AWACS crash at Elmendorf. Because the Department of Fish and Game and the Anchorage Airport Authority failed to do anything about a significant known risk of geese to aircraft, and had refused to do any habitat manipulation at the end of the runway which had been recommended over fifteen years before by both FAA and pilots, when that flock of geese took off all those people were killed. Habitat manipulation could very easily have changed the make-up of that area immediately off the end of the runway by making it an area not preferred by water fowl. Habitat manipulation can be helpful for human beings and also the animals. Mr. Geron Bruce, Department of Fish and Game was invited to join the committee. He said it was important to understand the effect of this bill on wildlife in a whole. The Federal Aid and Wildlife Restoration Act, passed in 1937 formed the basis for all modern scientific fish and wildlife management that the states conduct. It is a federal program that collects money at the national level and then sends it back to the states on a formula basis. As a requirement for receiving that money the states have to dedicate their revenues from their hunting and fishing licenses. The primary motivation for this act was the wildlife in the country was in a very depressed state due to unregulated hunting and major habitat degradation. Therefore, the state dedication of the license fees had to go to support a management fish and wildlife agency. Two basic ideas behind this legislation were to provide a stable and continuous source of funding for fish and wildlife management, and to put fish and wildlife management on a scientific basis by setting up state agencies that were staffed by professionals in the field. This has had a major impact resulting in wildlife populations and sport fish populations that were depressed at the time. This bill would have a major impact on the way this act works. At this time budgets are built based on scientific training and programs which are in turn based on a multiple year goal. Each item would be a separate appropriation with constituents and legislators from different parts of the state competing for the particular programs they wanted to see funded out of the available monies. This would present many difficulties for maintaining any consistent long term program that was trying to achieve specific goals over a number of years. This also causes a concern with the consequence of the budgeting process. In addition there are major concerns about the particular fiscal impacts to this legislation. He referred briefly to the testimony presented before the House Resources committee. Kevin Brooks, Department of Fish and Game was invited to join the committee. He said he was testifying particularly on the impact to his division. It would seriously affect the ability to provide centralized services for personnel, accounting, budgeting and procurement. Another major item would be administering the licensing program. This legislation would not allow for the cost of administering the licensing program. There is approximately $1.3 million in fish and game funds of which over $700,000. is paid directly to the vendors for selling licenses. Since FY 92 the division's entire budget was general funds. Presently the division is one third fish and game funds, one third federal funds and one third general funds. The licensing program has been the most heavily affected. Rates for administrative costs of running the programs, getting people paid and paying the vendors are negotiated with the federal government. There are a number of federal programs and grants the division is involved with which are required by statute. He said these were indirect by nature and would be prohibited as the bill is currently written. The net effect would be just under $1 million in lost federal receipts that is collected and $1.3 million in lost fish and game funds. Senator Taylor asked which form of the bill was being referred to and Mr. Brooks advised it was the CS. Co- chairman Halford advised Senator Taylor to be thinking of either amendments that could be presented or possible conceptual amendments. Sarah Hannan, Alaska Environmental Lobby was invited to join the committee and testified in opposition to the bill. She said she was not opposed to hunting and fishing but asked that one should consider what is implied in the bill. A hunting or fishing license is not a user fee. It is a regulatory permission to harvest a resource that is collectively owned and belongs to all. There needs to be a more comprehensive measure for equitable distribution, including a series of user fees for non-consumptive users. The majority of Alaskans that appreciate fish and wildlife are not licensed sport fish/hunters. She said the sole reason for this bill was because the sponsor did not agree with management decisions made by the department of fish and game and therefore wanted to intimidate them. This is manipulative, short-sighted management that is bad public policy. The issue of wolf management and predator control comes in a variety of legislation this year and in all cases this is strongly opposed. Fish and game management should be based on science. She said this bill would only further increase animosity between the legislature and the department and encouraged the committee to not pass this bill out. Senator Taylor advised he would work with the department on an amendment if one is necessary and would present it on the floor. Senator Frank moved work draft CSSB 247() and it was adopted for work purposes. He then moved CSSB 247(FIN) and without objection it was reported out with individual recommendations and zero fiscal note from the Department of Public Safety, zero fiscal notes with fund sources changes from the Department of Fish and Game, Administrative Services, Wildlife Conservation and Sport Fish divisions. CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 262(RES) "An Act relating to management of game populations for maximum sustained yield for human harvest and providing for the replacement of areas closed to consumptive uses of game; relating to management of fish and game areas; and amending Rules 79(b) and 82(b)(2), Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure." Senator Mike Miller was invited to join the committee. He explained SB 262 and said the RES version was a combination of many concerned parties. The main thrust of the bill was to guarantee that the game populations in the state will be managed for maximum sustained yield for consumptive uses. The bill would require any areas closed to hunting for consumptive uses, with the exception of biological emergencies, a new area three times the size to be opened up in the state for those species that was closed in those particular areas. The state has set up a public trust for fish and game management areas. The monies used are generated through taxes, license fees and other fees paid by sportsmen. This trust would be breached if there was a restriction of public access into those areas where those monies are used, if there is a restriction of fishing, hunting and trapping activities in those areas and if those revenues generated from taxes, license fees and other fees paid by sportsmen, or federal funds from the sports fish or wildlife restoration fund in areas where consumptive uses would not be permitted or for management of non-game species. Another important aspect of the bill is the Senate RES version is a compromise put together by several consumptive user groups and the Tanana Chiefs Association in Fairbanks. It has been worked on by a wide range of groups and the Tanana Chiefs Association does support this particular bill. Geron Bruce, Department of Fish and Game was invited to join the committee. He said the department opposed the bill. Biologists do not believe specific levels of harvest can be sustained. The department uses the majority of the revenue generated through the Federal Aid and Wildlife Restoration Program and from the Fish and Game Fund for activities related to hunting. The federal aid authority is quite broad and it would be consistent to spend all license fees on other uses and not on hunting. In this state it is recognized that hunting is a very important activity however it is important to support a balanced program. The department felt the net effect of this bill would be to prevent closure of areas to consumptive uses, which would remove an important tool used by the Board of Game and the department for maintaining wildlife populations. He said this was a serious issue causing their concern with this legislation. Anthony Crupi, Alaska Environmental Lobby was invited to join the committee and testified in opposition to the bill. He said this bill was managing Alaska's game population solely on a biological basis and that consumptive use of game is the highest and best use of game. If Alaska's game population is being managed on a biological basis, why does this bill attempt to manage our game on an acreage an solely consumptive basis? This bill would not take into consideration the overall status of the eco-system in which these uses are imposed. Only a healthy eco-system can adequately sustain both consumptive and non-consumptive uses. He said the finance committee's responsibility should be to realize the magnitude of revenue that potentially would be lost. He said Alaskans and Alaskan resources deserve more thoughtful governing than SB 262. Senator Frank moved CSSB 262(RES) and without objection it was reported out with individual recommendations and zero fiscal note with fund source change from the Department of Fish and Game, Wildlife Division. CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 158(JUD) "An Act relating to civil actions; amending Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure 49, 68, and 95; amending Alaska Rule of Evidence 702; and providing for an effective date." Daniella Loper, aide to Representative Brian Porter was invited to join the committee and summarized the bill. She clarified statutory limitations and said there was a limited cap for certain specified injuries. She further said this bill would ask for an eight to ten year statute of repose. They have re-iterated the State of Alaska Supreme Court regarding the definition of punitive damages and a formula for making awards. The Court could also require posting of security on payments for mandatory insurance. Fault should be allocated to all parties. Any offer of judgement made within 5% of the judgment that is rendered the party declining the offer will have to pay the other parties' attorney fees and actual costs. A provision for civil liability for hospitals for non-employees has been included. Another provision has been included to help guard against lawsuits. She referred to a mandatory arbitration section and a mandatory insurance rate if the bill should pass. Co-chairman Halford posed a question on section 9 as it applied to the breakout of liabilities by percentages. No percentage could be allocated to any party or to the problem that is prohibited or protected by the statute of repose. He related a hypothetical case. Senator Frank said he would assume that portion that could not be assigned under the statute of repose would just go unassigned. (Miscellaneous conversation between committee members and Ms. Loper regarding hypothetical cases.) She said that Representative Porter does not support section 9 because it deletes a portion of the fault. But this was what the voters voted for. She further said if section 9 is implemented it would not change much to current law. Chris Christensen was invited to join the committee. He said the Court System did not support section 12, mandatory arbitration. He said the state will also have to pay for arbitration if the plaintiff is indigent. Jeff Bush, Commerce & Economic Development was invited to join the committee. He said there was a problem with the statute of repose under section 9. Deborah Behr, Department of Law was also invited to join the committee and testified regarding allocation of fault. She explained that in 1994 a Supreme Court ruling there was an apportionment of fault among all defendants. "All defendants" means "all persons joined in a legal action". If they are not joined, fault to that particular person cannot be allocated. Co-chairman Halford continued this matter until tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. ADJOURNMENT Co-chairman Halford adjourned the meeting at approximately 3:45 P.M. until tomorrow morning.