Legislature(1997 - 1998)
03/10/1998 04:35 PM MLV
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 356 - JOINT TASK FORCE ON MILITARY BASES Number 1313 CHAIR MASEK announced the last order of business would be HB 356 "An Act establishing the Joint Committee on Military Bases in Alaska; and providing for an effective date," sponsored by Representative Mulder. Chair Masek noted there is a proposed committee substitute. Number 1330 REPRESENTATIVE FOSTER moved to adopt the proposed committee substitute dated 3/3/98. There being no objection, the committee substitute was adopted. Number 1355 TIM SULLIVAN, Legislative Assistant to Representative Eldon Mulder, Alaska State Legislature, came before the committee to explain the legislation. He informed the committee that there have been recent calls from the Pentagon, the Secretary of Defense and many others asking for another base realignment and closure committee process. He said the committee members have an article written about the acting secretary of the Air Force saying that if a new base realignment and closure (BRAC) committee does not occur, he will start shutting down bases on his own. Mr. Sullivan said for that reason, Representative Mulder introduced HB 356. He read from the sponsor statement: "House Bill 356 would establish a joint House and Senate Committee on Military Bases in Alaska. This committee would monitor the activities of a new BRAC Commission, work to strengthen the military presence in Alaska and, in the case of a reauthorized BRAC process, work with the military, the administration and the affected communities to protect our bases from closure. "This joint committee will have an existence longer than that called for in the Uniform Rules because of the reactivation of the federal BRAC Commission. Creating this joint committee for longer than the duration of the current Twentieth Legislature requires a change in statute, and cannot be done by means of a concurrent resolution, hence this bill. The joint committee would expire on the date the Twenty-Second Legislature convenes. This time frame corresponds with the activity period of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, which will again be reviewing all military facilities in North America for justification of their continued existence. "The attention by BRAC given to Alaska bases in the past presents a considerable challenge, and necessitates vigilance and a strong unified response from the legislature. The military establishment in Alaska accounts for approximately $1.7 billion throughout the Alaskan economy. In addition, the base closures experienced to date (Adak Naval Air Facility, Erickson Air Force Base, Galena Air Force Base, King Salmon Air Force Base and Fort Greely) have shown that the process requires considerable attention on the part of state government to monitor the economic impact and the reuse potential of such base closures. This joint committee would provide that critical focus." Number 1462 CHAIR MASEK asked Mr. Sullivan to explain the difference between the committee substitute and the original version of the bill. MR. SULLIVAN informed the committee there are two changes. The first is on page 1, line 14, which changes the number from $2.7 billion annually to $1.7 billion annually. He said this change was made to represent draw downs that have already occurred in Alaska. It also removed retirees that had been included in the earlier number. The number is based on current military personnel and their activities. Mr. Sullivan referred to Section 2, page 2, subsections (3), (4) and (5), and said it made the individuals who were to be appointed, individuals rather than members of the legislature. He said he believes those are the changes. Number 1491 REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA asked why the wording was changed to include individuals as opposed to a member of the legislature. MR. SULLIVAN said it is his understanding that there would be a better representation, across the state, of individuals who have some close workings with previous base realignment closure commissions and/or work in the military area. REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA asked how a public member from Juneau would have information on the closure of bases. Number 1549 REPRESENTATIVE MULDER responded that the possibility or specter of opportunity would come under subsection (5). He said, "An individual who is a state resident and appointed jointly by the president and speaker after consideration of the recommendation of the commissioner of Military and Veterans' Affairs, I think for the fiscal note they were trying to give it a broad perspective of what the options out there were to make sure that the fiscal note was adequately addressed." Representative Mulder said he doesn't know if there is anybody in Juneau that is concerned or interested or wants to be involved, but it recognizes that the possibility exists. He said he believes the more important point about the public members is the fact that there are a number of individuals who are retired from the military and they reside in Fairbanks, Anchorage and throughout the state who are tremendous resources and who would have the opportunity of being immense help to the interim committee. Number 1640 CHRIS NELSON, Legislative Staff to the Senate Majority, Alaska State Legislature, testified via teleconference from Anchorage. He said, "In 1995, I was the chief of staff to the legislature's Joint Task Force on Military Bases, that headed up our efforts to defend our bases from the 1995 BRAC. I would hope that the committee would consider the fact that we are not alone in having bases that are being threatened by future closure initiatives and that other jurisdictions, right now, are moving just as we are moving to get ready to defend their bases. In January, the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce retained R. Duffy Wall (ph), a lobbying firm in Washington, D.C., that was their 1995 BRAC team in Washington, to begin to prepare a defense strategy to save Fort Carson. The state of New York, each year, has a line item budget to support its military bases within the state that the state government appropriates. Each year, the state of New York will be spending $7.8 million for all of its bases. We expect a large portion of that will go to try to defend Fort Drum. The state of California, likewise, has an agency in the state government completely devoted to military bases, the reuse of closed bases and defending their current bases from future BRAC closures. So there are people that are already moving towards preparing their bases for defense in a BRAC 2001 and I think that HB 356 is a very prudent and careful measure that puts Alaska on an equal footing. It involves members of the legislature. It also, at this time, provides for public members that can bring a new perspective into this thing. I think that it provides for a broadly based organization that can start the process now so that we don't get caught flat footed." He said in 1994 and 1995, Alaska came into the game rather late. Mr. Nelson said he believes this is a great opportunity to be ahead of the curve for BRAC 2001 and to pull together a lot of the people who were involved in BRAC 1995, and keep our institutional memory going. Number 1774 TIM ROGERS, Legislative Program Coordinator, Municipality of Anchorage, came before the committee to testify in support of CSHB 356. He said the military is a very important and vital resource for the state of Alaska. It provides significant economic resources to the state. He said the municipality is concerned that there may be some threat to that resource in the future. Mr. Rogers pointed out that the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce has just recently formed their own BRAC Committee and the Municipality of Anchorage is working with the chamber on that committee. Mr. Rogers stated that if it weren't for the joint task force that was appointed in 1994, he is thoroughly certain that the negative impact on Anchorage would have been much more severe if nothing was done. He urged passage of the legislation. Number 1847 CHAIR MASEK said she would hold the HB 356 over until the next meeting as she wants to review the fiscal note.