Legislature(2003 - 2004)

02/26/2003 03:21 PM L&C

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
                         JOINT MEETING                                                                                        
          HOUSE LABOR AND COMMERCE STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                         
          SENATE LABOR AND COMMERCE STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                        
                       February 26, 2003                                                                                        
                           3:21 p.m.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
HOUSE LABOR AND COMMERCE                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Representative Tom Anderson, Chair                                                                                              
Representative Bob Lynn, Vice Chair                                                                                             
Representative Nancy Dahlstrom                                                                                                  
Representative Carl Gatto                                                                                                       
Representative Norman Rokeberg                                                                                                  
Representative Harry Crawford                                                                                                   
Representative David Guttenberg                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATE LABOR AND COMMERCE                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Senator Con Bunde, Chair                                                                                                        
Senator Ralph Seekins, Vice Chair                                                                                               
Senator Gary Stevens                                                                                                            
Senator Bettye Davis                                                                                                            
Senator Hollis French                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
HOUSE LABOR AND COMMERCE                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATE LABOR AND COMMERCE                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CONFIRMATION HEARING                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Regulatory Commission of Alaska                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     Dave Harbour - Anchorage                                                                                                   
     Mark Johnson - Anchorage                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     - CONFIRMATION(S) ADVANCED                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
PREVIOUS ACTION                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
No previous action to record                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MARK JOHNSON, Appointee                                                                                                         
to the Regulatory Commission of Alaska                                                                                          
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified as an appointee to the RCA.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
DAVE HARBOUR, Commissioner, Chair                                                                                               
Regulatory Commission of Alaska                                                                                                 
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified as an appointed chair of the RCA.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
TAPE 03-14, SIDE A [HOUSE L&C TAPE]                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CON BUNDE  called the joint meeting of the  House and Senate                                                            
Labor  and Commerce  Standing  Committees to  order  at 3:21  p.m.                                                              
Representatives  Anderson, Lynn,  Dahlstrom, Gatto, Crawford,  and                                                              
Guttenberg  and  Senators  Bunde,  Stevens,  Seekins,  Davis,  and                                                              
French  were  present  at  the  call  to  order.    Representative                                                              
Rokeberg arrived as the meeting was in progress.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CONFIRMATION HEARING                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Regulatory Commission of Alaska                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR BUNDE  announced that  the only order  of business  would be                                                              
the confirmation  hearing of two new appointees  to the Regulatory                                                              
Commission of  Alaska (RCA):  Dave  Harbour and Mark Johnson.   He                                                              
noted  that the  committee members  should have  resumes from  the                                                              
two appointees.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
1.20                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MARK JOHNSON,  Appointee to the  Regulatory Commission  of Alaska,                                                              
began by  informing the committee that  he was born in  Alaska and                                                              
spent  most  of  his  life  in  Alaska.    He  also  informed  the                                                              
committee  that he  has  a degree  in  economics,  has worked  for                                                              
Congressman Don  Young, and  then attended law  school.   For much                                                              
of  the 1980s,  Mr. Johnson  said  that he  worked as  legislative                                                              
staff in  the Alaska State  Legislature.   In 1988, he  accepted a                                                              
position with  the Municipality of  Anchorage and worked  a series                                                              
of jobs.   Subsequently,  he worked  in the  Office of  Enterprise                                                              
Activities,  which  was  the  oversight  agency  for  all  of  the                                                              
municipally-owned utilities  in Anchorage.  In  the aforementioned                                                              
office,  he was  the  owners' representatives  as  related to  the                                                              
operation of  the utilities.   During that  time, 1982,  there was                                                              
an  effort to  privatize the  Anchorage  Telephone Utility  (ATU),                                                              
which  led  to phone  wars.   After  that  he  was involved  in  a                                                              
variety of  matters related  to ATU and  other agencies.   He then                                                              
worked  in  the mayor's  office.    Since  1996, Mr.  Johnson  has                                                              
worked for  United Utilities,  which is  the local phone  provider                                                              
for  much of  Western Alaska.    Mr. Johnson  said he  has a  good                                                              
background   in    some   of   the    inner   workings    of   the                                                              
Telecommunications Act  of 1996 as well as the  enormous volume of                                                              
material  generated relating  to the implementation  of that  Act.                                                              
Mr.  Johnson clarified  that  currently he  isn't  counsel to  the                                                              
utility in  many, if any, regulatory  matters, although he  is the                                                              
attorney for the  company and thus provides general  legal counsel                                                              
on corporate  matters.   Mr. Johnson  related  his belief  that he                                                              
has a  good background  to deal  with a great  many of  the issues                                                              
that  the RCA  deals  with  today  as well  as  an exposure  to  a                                                              
variety of  regulated utilities.  He  said he is honored  that the                                                              
governor nominated  him to this  position.  Mr. Johnson  concluded                                                              
by stating  that he looked forward  to serving and he  intended to                                                              
do the best he  could to listen to the facts and  apply the law in                                                              
order  to  make  the  best  possible  decisions  for  this  state.                                                              
Therefore, bringing  about a  regulated environment  that promotes                                                              
economic  development,  quality service,  and  an  eye toward  the                                                              
cost to the consumer.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
7.46                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  BUNDE  turned to  Mr.  Johnson's  work with  the  telephone                                                              
utilities  and  the  legislature,  and  asked if  he  foresaw  any                                                              
potential conflicts with the duties of the RCA.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. JOHNSON  related that the RCA  has adopted some  fairly strict                                                              
rules  relating  to  ex parte  contacts  by  parties  outside  the                                                              
hearing environment.   Mr.  Johnson said that  he was  prepared to                                                              
abide  by  those rules  and  apply  the  laws  as adopted  by  the                                                              
legislature.    He  answered  that  he  didn't  have  any  current                                                              
conflicts, although  there will  be a period  of time in  which he                                                              
won't be able to hear cases related to his former employer.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
9.39                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO  asked  if  Mr.  Johnson  believes  the  RCA                                                              
should exist.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. JOHNSON  opined that an agency  such as the RCA  is necessary.                                                              
All states  have some  sort of public  utility regulatory  agency.                                                              
The  RCA  was  established  because  of  the  need  [to  avoid  a]                                                              
monopoly provider.   He related  his belief  that there is  also a                                                              
need to  control the  rates and regulate  the quality  of service.                                                              
Furthermore,  there  is a  lot  of  minutia that  the  legislature                                                              
probably doesn't  want to tackle.   Although he acknowledged  that                                                              
there is  currently a trend to  deregulate, which is  expanding to                                                              
electric  power, there  is definitely  a need  for regulation  and                                                              
this agency,  he opined.   He mentioned  that this business  is an                                                              
area that's enormously contentious.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO posed a  situation in  which Mr.  Johnson is                                                              
part of the RCA  and the Alaska Communications Systems  (ACS) is a                                                              
major  provider.   Furthermore,  there are  some regulations  that                                                              
have  resulted in  ACS giving  up some  of its  business to  three                                                              
other  phone companies.   Representative  Gatto  surmised that  at                                                              
some point the  regulator would need to say that  competition does                                                              
exist.   At what point  does one  determine that competition  does                                                              
exist, he asked.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR.  JOHNSON  pointed  out  that  sections  251  and  252  of  the                                                              
Telecommunications  Act of  1996  establish the  rules upon  which                                                              
there  would  be  a  transition  to a  deregulated  market.    For                                                              
example, there  is an  exemption to the  reach of deregulation  as                                                              
it  relates to  utilities that  provide services  in rural  areas.                                                              
He  noted  that  the  Act  also   contains  some  exemptions  that                                                              
establish  the  pricing  and  thus   allow  people  to  engage  in                                                              
competition through  the resale  of some elements  of the  plan or                                                              
acquiring those  elements wholesale and  then selling them  to the                                                              
consumer.    The  rules  are  established  at  the  federal  level                                                              
through the  Federal Communications  Commission (FCC) and  the RCA                                                              
does  its best to  apply those  rules.   With regard  to how  well                                                              
that  framework is  working,  the legislature  is  free to  review                                                              
that.   Mr.  Johnson  commented  that  it's complicated  and  thus                                                              
there aren't quick and easy answers.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Number 14.48                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  CRAWFORD  asked if  Mr. Johnson  had  any bias  to                                                              
unbridled competition as opposed to regulated competition.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. JOHNSON  answered that he has  no preference.   Certainly, the                                                              
federal   legislation   has  established   a   preference   toward                                                              
deregulation  in  the provision  of  local telephone  services  if                                                              
certain  market  conditions  exist.    By  and  large,  the  state                                                              
commissions  have   been  left,   on  a  case-by-case   basis,  to                                                              
determine  whether  those  conditions   occur.    Personally,  Mr.                                                              
Johnson  said  that  competition   has  resulted  in  some  fairly                                                              
significant benefits  to consumers.  There are  probably a greater                                                              
array  of services  available today  than  five years  ago and  at                                                              
costs that  are significantly  cheaper than five  years ago.   The                                                              
aforementioned   competitive  environment   was   the  desire   of                                                              
Congress when  enacting the  Telecommunications Act  of 1996.   He                                                              
pointed  out that  the following  areas  have faced  deregulation:                                                              
long distance  traffic, cell phones,  and directories.   He opined                                                              
that  operator services  seem to  be  moving toward  deregulation.                                                              
Mr. Johnson stated  that there are services and  markets for which                                                              
competition is  appropriate and for  which he supports.   However,                                                              
one   has  to   recognize  that   competition   occurring  in   an                                                              
environment  that isn't  appropriate  for the  marketplace can  be                                                              
destructive and the RCA's job is try to balance that.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD  commented that  decisions of the  RCA can                                                              
sometimes result  in the  economic life or  death of  the entities                                                              
regulated by  the RCA.  He asked  how Mr. Johnson would  feel if a                                                              
company went out  of business if the conditions  mandated that the                                                              
company was no longer profitable.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR.  JOHNSON replied  that one  must  be concerned  that too  much                                                              
attention is  being given to  the result.   All the RCA can  do is                                                              
establish  rules  that make  sense.    How companies  operate  and                                                              
whether they're ultimately  profitable is their business.   At the                                                              
same time, Mr.  Johnson said that he didn't believe  the long-term                                                              
interests of  consumers would  be well  served by major  providers                                                              
leaving  the market  at this  time.   Competition  is present  and                                                              
[the RCA]  needs to  ensure that  the playing  field is  level, he                                                              
said.   Mr. Johnson said  that he didn't  want providers  to leave                                                              
the market  because he didn't believe  it would benefit  anyone in                                                              
Alaska.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
20.30                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN  remarked that as a legislator  and a consumer                                                              
he wants the phone  to work and be fixed without  hassle, and work                                                              
with the lowest  rates possible, all under a  level playing field.                                                              
He  inquired  as   to  Mr.  Johnson's  general   comments  on  the                                                              
aforementioned  subjects and  noted his support  of Mr.  Johnson's                                                              
appointment.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  ANDERSON informed  everyone  that yesterday  in the  Senate                                                              
Labor  and  Commerce  Standing  Committee  meeting  ACS  and  AT&T                                                              
Alascom  testified  that  the regulatory  policy  on  implementing                                                              
telephone competition  has resulted  in investment dollars  drying                                                              
up.   He asked if  Mr. Johnson viewed  this investment  problem as                                                              
serious  and if  so,  what  would he,  as  a commissioner,  do  to                                                              
prevent it.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.  JOHNSON  acknowledged that  telecommunications  providers  in                                                              
Alaska  are free to  discuss with  the legislature  their  view of                                                              
what   the   policy   in  terms   of   intrastate   provision   of                                                              
telecommunications service  should be.  Its up  to the legislature                                                              
to  determine policy  prospectively  with  regard  to whether  the                                                              
rules  should be  changed.   Personally, Mr.  Johnson related  his                                                              
belief  that regulated  utilities  are an  important component  of                                                              
the infrastructure  of this  state and there  is a need  to ensure                                                              
that  investment dollars  continue to  flow to  that component  in                                                              
the years  ahead.  As  a member of  the RCA,  he said it  would be                                                              
his job  to apply the  policy set forth  by the legislature.   Mr.                                                              
Johnson  commented  that he  is  sensitive  to the  argument,  but                                                              
specified that it would require a review of the facts.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
24.13                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR FRENCH highlighted  that one of the more  heated points of                                                              
the GCI ACS debate  hinges on the connection between  the home and                                                              
the power  pole outside.   He related that  ACS complains  that it                                                              
is forced  to provide  access at  far below  its cost whereas  GCI                                                              
points  out  that  the Telecommunications  Act  of  1996  requires                                                              
such.  He asked if Mr. Johnson could shed any light on that.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. JOHNSON related  his understanding that the  initial rates for                                                              
unbundled  local telecommunications  were  established through  an                                                              
arbitration   proceeding   between    ACS   and   GCI   in   1997.                                                              
Subsequently, there  have been a  series of proceedings  that have                                                              
ultimately  led  to issuance  of  orders  by  the RCA,  but  those                                                              
orders have  been appealed and are  pending in both the  state and                                                              
federal courts.   One way or another, he predicted  that the issue                                                              
would  come  before  the  RCA.    Mr.  Johnson  pointed  out  that                                                              
nationwide  there  is  enormous  debate  with regard  to  how  the                                                              
pricing  of  the  local  loop  should  take  place  and  what  the                                                              
economic  underpinnings  of  that  pricing methodology  are.    He                                                              
identified  the aforementioned  as the  core of  much of what  the                                                              
RCA does.  There is no easy answer, he said.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
27.14                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
DAVE  HARBOUR,  Commissioner,  Chair,   Regulatory  Commission  of                                                              
Alaska, informed  the committee  that he began  on the  payroll of                                                              
the  RCA   the  first  week   in  February,  pending   legislative                                                              
confirmation.   He commented  on the challenge  he has faced  as a                                                              
new commissioner and  how his life has changed.   For instance, he                                                              
no longer  has lunch with his  friends in the  regulated companies                                                              
because he believes  whether or not the situations  are legal, the                                                              
appearance  and questioning  would  occur from  competitors.   Mr.                                                              
Harbour said  he hopes the  legislature will  find in him  what he                                                              
has found in  those serving the RCA now:   unbelievable dedication                                                              
and  public service.    Having analyzed  the  situation for  three                                                              
weeks or so, he  felt confident saying that the RCA  is about nine                                                              
months  away  from being  at  critical  mass  with regard  to  its                                                              
cases.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. HARBOUR,  in response to the  question of whether he  is bias,                                                              
answered that he  is biased in favor of free  enterprise, freedom,                                                              
and  economic  competition.   He  noted  that  he has  always  had                                                              
concern  with  regard   to  too  much  regulation   and  too  much                                                              
government.     He  informed   the  committee   that  during   the                                                              
[interview]  for this  position he  told staff  that if there  was                                                              
the desire  for a particular  result for  a particular  company or                                                              
industry, then someone  else should be chosen.   He explained that                                                              
the only  way he could face  the challenge this  position embodies                                                              
is  to review  the record  and the  evidence  in order  to make  a                                                              
logical and  fair decision.  He  mentioned that he was  honored to                                                              
have  been appointed.   In  conclusion, Mr.  Harbour related  that                                                              
the homework  it takes to  do this job  will be reflective  of the                                                              
homework he has done with every job he has had.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
34.05                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  BUNDE asked  if the legislature  needs  to provide  the RCA                                                              
with more tools or guidance.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. HARBOUR  answered, "There may very  well be."  He  pointed out                                                              
that  legislative hearings  on various  issues  identify areas  of                                                              
possible improvement.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR. HARBOUR,  drawing on  his three weeks  of experience  with the                                                              
RCA,  related that  he has  no criticism  to offer.   Mr.  Harbour                                                              
opined  that  [the legislature]  is  appointing  private  citizens                                                              
with no more  than their reputation  to gain or lose to  listen to                                                              
all the  arguments and  render a  decision.   The reality  is that                                                              
there  are  many   types  of  industries  throughout   the  state,                                                              
although most conversations  related to the RCA  involve telephone                                                              
services,  and there is  no single  answer to  every utility.   He                                                              
mentioned  the  Public  Advocacy  Section  (PAS)  of  the  RCA,  a                                                              
separate part of  the RCA, which represents the public.   He noted                                                              
that PAS observes ex parte rules.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR BUNDE  surmised that Mr. Harbour  didn't want any  help from                                                              
the legislature at this time.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
38.57                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  ROKEBERG   asked  if  PAS  is  slowing   down  the                                                              
process.   He requested  that Mr. Harbour  discuss the  merits and                                                              
demerits of this section.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. HARBOUR  related his  observation that PAS  has a  full plate.                                                              
However, by  law, the  chair of  the RCA has  the ability  to make                                                              
assignments to PAS  in order to manage its workload.   There is no                                                              
reason  for  PAS,   which  is  aided  by   professional  attorneys                                                              
general, to  be involved in every  docket.  Therefore,  it becomes                                                              
a  management  decision with  regard  to  which dockets  they  are                                                              
involved in.   Technically, if a professional public  advocate was                                                              
assigned  to every  single docket,  the process  would be  slowed.                                                              
However, he  believes it has been  judiciously assigned.   He said                                                              
that  he  hasn't seen  any  cases  in  which  PAS has  slowed  the                                                              
decision-making.    However, he  has  seen  the parties  slow  the                                                              
process  by making  motions that  lengthen the  process, which  is                                                              
similar  to  what occurs  in  the  courtroom.   Although  it's  in                                                              
management's ability  to manage the workload of PAS,  it is not in                                                              
management's  ability to  manage the  position or  outcome of  the                                                              
work.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  ROKEBERG recollected  that in  the last couple  of                                                              
years about 19 new  staff members have been added to  the RCA.  He                                                              
asked  if Mr.  Harbour has  been  there long  enough to  determine                                                              
whether more help is necessary.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR.  HARBOUR mentioned  the  difficulties faced  by  the RCA  with                                                              
regard  to obtaining  and keeping  good employees.   He  suggested                                                              
that  perhaps  in the  future  the  legislature will  look  toward                                                              
classifying the  positions in  agencies such  as the RCA  in order                                                              
to  ensure  that continuity  with  staff  is  kept.   Mr.  Harbour                                                              
stressed  that   the  regulated  community   wants  knowledgeable,                                                              
unbiased people  who don't  have to spend  hours to catch  up with                                                              
their predecessor's knowledge of a case.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
44.21                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG  asked if Mr. Johnson has had  a chance to                                                              
review  the  FCC's  ruling,  which he  understood  to  grant  more                                                              
regulatory power  to the states, last  week.  If so, will  it have                                                              
a negative impact, he asked.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. JOHNSON related  his understanding, via a press  release, that                                                              
the FCC met in  public session.  To his knowledge,  the order that                                                              
was supposedly adopted  isn't out yet.  From  his experience, what                                                              
is in  the order is what  counts and until  the order is  out it's                                                              
unwise to  speculate.   However, he related  his belief  that this                                                              
commission  has sufficiently  dealt with  the issues addressed  in                                                              
the FCC's  order and thus it  won't impose an  unnecessary burden.                                                              
From the press release,  Mr. Johnson gathered that  it may be more                                                              
of a  clarification of where  the FCC thought the  decision-making                                                              
process  should  take  place.   Mr.  Johnson  echoed  his  earlier                                                              
testimony  regarding his  sensitivity to  the need for  investment                                                              
in  the  state's  regulated  utilities,   however,  based  on  his                                                              
efforts so  far he didn't believe  that the order approved  by the                                                              
FCC would result in a significant impact.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR BUNDE noted  that there has been discussion  of changing the                                                              
structure of the RCA by the addition of an executive director.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
TAPE 03-14, SIDE B [HOUSE L&C TAPE]                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR. HARBOUR acknowledged  that the agency had that  [structure] in                                                              
the  past.   The  way in  which  the  RCA works  now  is that  the                                                              
commissioners   function  as   fairly  independent   commissioners                                                              
within the  agency and use paralegals  and other staff  offices to                                                              
do  research, formulate  orders,  maintain  schedules, et  cetera.                                                              
Mr. Harbour suggested  that if the commissioners saw  the need for                                                              
a  chief  of  staff  to help  with  the  coordination  process  of                                                              
dealing with the  staff, the legislature would  be well-advised to                                                              
obtain that counsel  from the commissioners rather  than impose it                                                              
on the commission by law.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. JOHNSON  said that  he hasn't  had the  benefit of  working at                                                              
the RCA  and thus wouldn't know  how the current  situation works.                                                              
He  suggested moving  slowly and  noted  that he  was prepared  to                                                              
live in either environment.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
44.26                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR DAVIS recalled  that one of the appointees  mentioned that                                                              
the cases are assigned  by the chair of the [RCA].   She indicated                                                              
that such is  a new process.   In the past, she recalled  that the                                                              
person  chosen  [as  chair]  was  chosen by  the  members  of  the                                                              
commission   and   the   chair's   position   didn't   carry   the                                                              
responsibility  that  it  does  now.    She  inquired  as  to  the                                                              
thoughts of the appointees on this matter.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. HARBOUR recalled  that the governor used to  appoint the chair                                                              
of the RCA, but  the legislature changed it such  that the members                                                              
elect the chair on  an annual basis.  By statute,  the chair has a                                                              
lot of flexibility  in areas such  as assigning the dockets.   Mr.                                                              
Harbor  explained that  the  chair assigns  the  dockets and  with                                                              
five  commissioners  dealing  with  approximately  160  dockets  a                                                              
year,  [a  commissioner]  knows  that  he/she  will  be  a  docket                                                              
manager for  about a third  of those and  serve as a  panel member                                                              
for other dockets.   The panel itself isn't given  full credit for                                                              
all the work done because the commission acts as a whole.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. JOHNSON said that he doesn't know enough to comment.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR. HARBOUR  said he could see  why this organization would  be of                                                              
legislative interest.   He  remarked that as  a new person  he was                                                              
more concerned with understanding the issues.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
41.35                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   ROKEBERG  asked   if  there   is  any  room   for                                                              
electrical  deregulation  in Alaska.    He  also asked  if  either                                                              
appointee   knew    why   electrical   deregulation    worked   in                                                              
Pennsylvania but failed in California.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR.  HARBOUR  turned to  California  and  remarked that  some  say                                                              
partial deregulation  isn't deregulation.   He noted  that experts                                                              
have different  views on this based  on the level of  knowledge of                                                              
the situation.   Mr.  Harbour pointed  out that  he would  have to                                                              
become intimate  with the water  and sewer situation in  a village                                                              
in order to make a decision on a docket.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR.  JOHNSON,   with  regard   to  whether   there  is   room  for                                                              
deregulation of  electrical service  in Alaska, acknowledged  that                                                              
it's  a  hot  topic  in  the  Lower  48.    However,  he  said  he                                                              
understood  the  provision  of   power  in  the  Lower  48  to  be                                                              
fundamentally different  because the  grid is more  developed than                                                              
in Alaska.   The Lower  48 truly has a  grid whereas Alaska  has a                                                              
series  of  appendages.    He  characterized   electrical  service                                                              
deregulation  as the  next  wave.   As in  the  case of  telephone                                                              
service, [the  state] should be  alert to those  circumstances and                                                              
market places where  it makes sense to explore  deregulation.  The                                                              
only  thing   that  Mr.   Johnson  had   heard  about   electrical                                                              
deregulation  in California  was  that it  was done  in the  worst                                                              
possible way.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   ROKEBERG  noted  that   the  old  Alaska   Public                                                              
Utilities Commission  and the legislature commissioned  a study on                                                              
the issue  [of electric utility  deregulation].  He said  it would                                                              
be  worth  some  review.    Representative  Rokeberg  related  the                                                              
request from  the electrical utilities  to split the RCA  into two                                                              
separate entities,  one which would deal with  (indisc.) cases and                                                              
dockets  and  the  other  would handle  electrical  dockets.    He                                                              
inquired as to the opinions of the appointees.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. HARBOUR opined  that the legislature is well  served in having                                                              
an independent  agency to regulate  the details.   The job  of the                                                              
regulatory   agency  is   to  issue   a   certificate  of   public                                                              
convenience  and  necessity  based  on the  applicant  being  fit,                                                              
willing,  and able  to provide the  service and  regulate  it over                                                              
time.   If there  was complete  deregulation,  who would one  call                                                              
with a complaint,  he questioned.  The regulatory  agency tries to                                                              
protect  the interest  of the consumer  and ensure  that there  is                                                              
viable  competition  in the  marketplace.   Therefore,  one  hopes                                                              
that the person making the decisions is beyond influence.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. JOHNSON,  in regard  to splitting the  agency, said  that it's                                                              
the legislature's  call.   However, he said  he believes  it would                                                              
result  inefficiencies.     The  RCA  is  a   good  collection  of                                                              
professionals.     Although  the  telecommunications   issues  are                                                              
contentious,  he expressed his  hope that  it would produce  fewer                                                              
dockets  in the  years ahead.   He mentioned  that  is one of  his                                                              
goals is to  look at ways in  which rules can be established  in a                                                              
marketplace  such that  companies  will be  able  to move  forward                                                              
without  constantly  coming  to the  RCA.    He suggested  that  a                                                              
commission  that only  reviewed  telecommunications matters  would                                                              
be extremely narrow in focus and could create more work.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
31.13                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR BUNDE  reminded the  committee that  forwarding these  names                                                              
to the joint  session for confirmation doesn't  reflect the intent                                                              
of any member's  vote.  [Although there was no  formal motion, the                                                              
names of  Mark Johnson and Dave  Harbour were treated  as advanced                                                              
from   the  House   and  Senate   Labor   and  Commerce   Standing                                                              
Committees.]                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ADJOURNMENT                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
There being no further business, the joint meeting of the House                                                                 
and Senate Labor and Commerce Standing Committees was adjourned                                                                 
at 4:23 p.m.                                                                                                                    

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