Legislature(1997 - 1998)

04/23/1998 08:20 AM House FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL NO. 408                                                             
"An Act establishing the Alaska Seismic Hazards Safety                         
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN DAVIES noted that Alaska needs to                          
establish a Seismic Hazards Safety Commission to address a                     
need it provide a consistent policy framework and a means                      
for ongoing coordination of programs and public safety                         
practices related to seismic hazards.  Currently, the need                     
is not being addressed by any State organization.  The                         
Seismic Hazards Safety Commission would encourage long-term                    
progress toward mitigating the effects of earthquakes.                         
Representative J. Davies continued, Alaska is on the edge                      
of the Pacific Plate, which acts like a relentless conveyor                    
belt, moving about six centimeters a year.  It is                              
inevitable that there will be large earthquakes.  The only                     
question is when will it occur, not if it will.  Although,                     
the State has made great improvements in disaster                              
preparedness, there has been little corresponding                              
improvement in measures to reduce dependence on disaster                       
relief.  Creating a seismic commission patterned after                         
those in California, Oregon, Washington and other states on                    
major fault lines will help address the issue.                                 
Representative J. Davies pointed out that the scientific                       
community is working hard on earthquake predication, but is                    
not yet a reality, except in the most general sense.                           
Alaska needs to mitigate possible effects of earthquakes by                    
encouraging appropriate land use and building design which                     
can reduce loss of life and property, as well as the costs                     
of recovery when earthquakes occur.  He stressed that it                       
costs a lot of money to rebuild after a large earthquake                       
and, of course, there is no way to replace lost lives.  It                     
is clearly worth spending some time and money before an                        
earthquake occurs.  The Commission would help the State be                     
better prepared.                                                               
Representative J. Davies distributed a map showing the top                     
ten quakes in the world between 1904 and 1992.  [Copy on                       
File].  Of the ten largest earthquakes, three of them have                     
occurred in Alaska.  He stressed that this is earthquake                       
country.  Most other states have seismic safety commissions                    
except Alaska.  [Copy on File].                                                
Representative Kelly asked how this information would be                       
gathered.  Representative J. Davies replied that the group                     
would try to assemble and assess information that is                           
relevant to earthquake regions.                                                
Representative Martin questioned what more information is                      
available besides the expertise already existing.                              
Representative J. Davies explained that the question is, do                    
cost-effective measures exist which could reduce the                           
effects of quakes on the population.  At this time, Alaska                     
does not know what research is available and should be                         
considered.  The proposed commission could facilitate that                     
information and transfer it to municipal building codes and                    
land use plans.  He summarized that there needs to be a                        
bridging between the research realms and the building                          
Co-Chair Therriault voiced concern with the proposed size                      
of the commission.  He MOVED an amendment to reduce the                        
size from "11" to "9" members, 4 of which would be from the                    
general public and with 6 members constituting a quorum.                       
The rotation of seats would also need to be shifted, so                        
that 3 seats would be two years, 3 seats would be four                         
years, and the others would fall into the normal three-year                    
pattern shift.  There being NO OBJECTION, the change was                       
Representative G. Davis asked how often the group would                        
meet.  Representative J. Davies replied they would meet 4                      
times a year as specified in the fiscal note.                                  
Representative G. Davis noted that he had a philosophical                      
problem with forming another commission and believed that a                    
group meeting that many times a year was excessive.  Co-                       
Chair Therriault pointed out that there was a sunset and                       
that the commission would need to make progress on                             
establishing these codes and measures.  Representative J.                      
Davies advised that two of the scheduled meetings would be                     
by teleconferencing.                                                           
Representative Kelly agreed that this was an important                         
matter and he supported the concern.                                           
Co-Chair Therriault advised that the fiscal note would need                    
to be recalculated in order to reflect the two less members                    
on the commission.  Representative J. Davies stated that                       
there should only be one fiscal note originating from the                      
Office of the Governor.                                                        
Representative Mulder MOVED to report CS HB 408 (FIN) out                      
of Committee with individual recommendations and with the                      
revised fiscal note.  There being NO OBJECTION, it was so                      
CS HB 408 (FIN) was reported out of Committee with a "do                       
pass" recommendation and with a fiscal note by the Office                      
of the Governor.                                                               
(Tape Change HFC 98- 121, Side 2).                                             

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