Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/13/1996 08:10 AM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 HB 469 - INCREASE LAND GRANT TO UNIV. OF ALASKA                             
 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN brought HB 469 before the committee and noted               
 that Cliff Eames was on teleconference to testify.                            
 Number 0822                                                                   
 CLIFF EAMES, Alaska Center for the Environment (ACE), testified via           
 teleconference from Anchorage, saying ACE, which had offices in               
 Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley, opposed HB 469, as they had                  
 opposed similar bills over the years.  "It's not a question of                
 opposing adequate funding for higher and other education," Mr.                
 Eames said.  "In fact, I think it's fairly clear that                         
 conservationists as a group are very supportive of education.  But            
 it's a question of how do we fund the University of Alaska and                
 other state services.  Bills similar to this have been vetoed by              
 two governors for very good reasons.  We believe those reasons are            
 still relevant."                                                              
 MR. EAMES believed HB 469 would likely result in an                           
 unconstitutional, dedicated fund.  However, even if that were not             
 so, the policy against dedicated funds was violated by this bill,             
 he asserted.  By transferring 500,000 acres, or another substantial           
 amount, of potentially revenue-generating land to the University of           
 Alaska, a tremendous amount of flexibility would be lost for                  
 allocating future state funding to other programs, services or                
 facilities, Mr. Eames said.  From a conservation or public use                
 standpoint, the chance to use these public lands in a multiple-use            
 fashion would also be lost.  Instead, the lands would be entirely             
 dedicated to revenue generation for the university.  Mr. Eames                
 concluded by saying he would submit written comments.                         
 Number 1003                                                                   
 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN apologized to the numerous people waiting to                
 testify via teleconference.  He stated his intention had been to              
 take testimony that day only from one person unable to testify the            
 following day.  Co-Chairman Green asked that additional testifiers            
 call again the next day at 1:00 p.m., when the hearing would                  
 Number 1025                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE GENE THERRIAULT, sponsor of HB 469, stated that                
 since similar legislation had been passed and vetoed last year,               
 committee members were familiar with what the bill asked for.                 
 "Basically, what we're trying to do is follow through on making the           
 University of Alaska a true land-grant college or university                  
 system," he said.  "At the time of statehood, the university did              
 have a pledge to receive lands from the federal government.                   
 However, when lands were given to the state, that pledge from the             
 federal government was extinguished.  Basically, the thought was              
 that the state would follow through on the pledge for the land                
 grant out of the state lands, that were given to the state."                  
 Representative Therriault explained that Governor Egan had not                
 followed through on that.  The land that the state received was               
 managed by DNR, including the 100,000 acres that the university had           
 selected at the time.  Over the next 30 years, with DNR managing              
 those lands, the income to the university was estimated to be                 
 around $590,000.  "So, it's fairly clear that the state Department            
 of Natural Resources was not very aggressive in managing those                
 lands to derive a revenue stream for the benefit of the university,           
 which is what you would want a ... land-grant university to do,"              
 Representative Therriault said.                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE THERRIAULT continued, "House Bill 469 allows the               
 University of Alaska now to select up to 500,000 acres over a 20-             
 year period of time.  And there are numerous things that have been            
 worked out with the Administration and different coal miners in the           
 state to try and alleviate some of their concerns."  Representative           
 Therriault noted that Ms. Redman from the University of Alaska was            
 available for questions.  He also indicated negotiations had                  
 continued as late as that morning to try to address concerns of the           
 Administration and resource developers.                                       
 Number 1188                                                                   
 CHARLIE BODDY, Representative, Resource Coalition, stated he                  
 representing a coalition including the Alaska Coal Association, the           
 Alaska Miners Resource Development Council, and the Council of                
 Alaska Producers, which had met via teleconference that week.  Mr.            
 Boddy said the resource community had concerns and that the                   
 coalition would submit a detailed list of concerns and additional             
 comments, probably by week's end.                                             
 MR. BODDY indicated the words "trusts lands" in the bill title was            
 of concern.  He referred to the Mental Health Trust lands, which              
 had been acquired through the legislative, administrative and                 
 superior court processes.  Mr. Boddy indicated 175 items were being           
 challenged in that settlement, with briefs due April 20 in the                
 supreme court, and with the possibility that the issues could                 
 continue on to the U.S. Supreme Court.                                        
 MR. BODDY referred again to the Mental Health lands and said, "At             
 one time, we had over 8 million acres hypothecated as part of that            
 settlement.  The bill currently has no over-selection or parameters           
 built in around it about how much acreage could be set aside at               
 this time, until such time as a half a million acres were rounded             
 up.  That's a major area that we'd like to have looked at."                   
 MR. BODDY referred to the land management issue, which he noted had           
 been brought up the previous year in relation to where the                    
 management of those lands should lie.  "Again, that would be a                
 decision ... that this legislature is well equipped to deal with in           
 setting up that trust," he concluded.                                         
 Number 1341                                                                   
 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN referred to "checkerboarding" from state and                
 Native selections, and now the university selections.  He asked if            
 the concern of the coalition was that, even after the finality of             
 the Mental Health Trust lands, earlier selections could be impaired           
 because of subsequent selections either blocking access or creating           
 MR. BODDY responded that could be an issue.                                   
 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if those were the types of concerns the               
 coalition had, which would be on the list provided by the end of              
 the week.                                                                     
 MR. BODDY affirmed that and said they had identified issues but not           
 yet fleshed them out.  He indicated the all-inclusive list still              
 needed to be sorted and put into a coherent form to provide to the            
 Number 1435                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN commented that he had a conflict and could           
 not attend the continuation of the hearing the next day.                      
 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN stated he also had a conflict and would be late.            
 He then recessed the House Resources Committee meeting at 10:07               
 a.m., noting the committee would reconvene the following afternoon.           

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