Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/14/1996 01:12 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 469 - INCREASE LAND GRANT TO UNIV. OF ALASKA Number 1137 CO-CHAIR WILLIAMS announced the next order of business was HB 469. He called on Joseph Henri to testify. JOSEPH HENRI, Chair, Finance, Facilities and Land Management Committee, University of Alaska Board of Regents, explained that committee had been pushing for a state land grant and said the bill was much needed. "We're a land grant university under the federal statute, but we have no lands, substantively speaking," he said. He indicated that while the university had 112,000 acres of land, Alaska had 104,000,000 upland acres, plus an unspecified amount of tideland and submerged acreage. Number 1231 MR. HENRI noted the university was asking for one-third of 1percent of the land owned by the state. Receiving 500,000 acres would be a big step for the university, which would work hard to induce development and to earn money on it, which was necessitated by diminishing general fund money. "I think we will offer the mining world a good, sensible, reliable deal," he said. "We will not be arbitrary with them. If we were, they wouldn't come to our land. And, of course, we have, in our university system, a school of mineral engineering, graduates of whom are running some of these companies this very day." Number 1436 CO-CHAIR WILLIAMS asked Sara Hannan of the Alaska Environmental Lobby if she could wait until the following Monday to speak, to which she agreed. HEATH HILYARD, Student Body Representative, University of Fairbanks, spoke on behalf of HB 469. Tuition rates had risen nearly 200 percent over the past decade, he said. Meanwhile, general fund monies to the university had diminished enough that tuition increases had not entirely offset the decline. Mr. Hilyard noted that the Board of Regents had just approved another tuition increase. "We're not even maintaining status quo at this point in time," he said. "We're just slowing the rate of regression in the UA system. This additional 500,000 acres would go a long way to helping the university generate enough revenue to begin to at least maintain status quo, if not possibly succeed and progress, as I was presuming it was intended to do." Mr. Hilyard said there were serious technical and external issues that were not of great concern to the students. However, they were concerned about tuition increases, coupled with unfunded faculty positions and program closures. As a result, the students firmly supported HB469. Number 1580 REPRESENTATIVE DON LONG asked if Mr. Hilyard knew which lands were being looked at. MR. HILYARD indicated he did not know. CO-CHAIR WILLIAMS informed people waiting on teleconference that more public testimony would be taken Monday. He asked for a motion to accept CSHB 469, version F, as a work draft. REPRESENTATIVE KOTT said, "So moved." There being no objection, it was so ordered. Number 1740 SUSAN FLENSBURG, Director, Bristol Bay Coastal Resource Service Area (BBCRSA) Coastal Management Program, testified via teleconference, saying BBCRSA's coastal district encompassed 11 communities, including Dillingham. The majority of land in the coastal district was owned by the state. There had been two state management plans in effect for the area, including the Bristol Bay Area Plan and the Nushagak/Mulchatna Rivers Recreation Management Plan. Ms. Flensburg said the latter was not only a land use plan for the Department of Natural Resources but also a special coastal management plan for the district. MS. FLENSBURG said, "I support education. I think the university needs increased funding. We've got a small branch out here in Dillingham, as well. But my main concern with the bill, the way it's presently crafted, is that it seems to totally by-pass any kind of public review process." She referred to Section 8(e), page 8, lines 17-20, and said the management plans had taken years to develop, with a full-blown public review process upon which decisions were made. She thought the bill threw all that out the window. "My understanding of the bill is that none of the existing land use management plans would apply," she said. "There would be no best-interest finding determination, which is typically done for land use decisions." Ms. Flensburg asked why the bill was written so that it precluded relying on the land use plans and the state's best interest finding determination process for land selection. CO-CHAIR WILLIAMS deferred to Wendy Redman for a response. Number 1975 WENDY REDMAN, Vice President for University Relations, University of Alaska Fairbanks, explained HB 469 included sections that expanded the university's current public process. The university had also passed new policies expanding on that process, she said. She noted that prior to disposal of any lands, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had to meet requirements addressing best use determination. MS. REDMAN said, "This bill was specifically redrafted this year in a way that gives, essentially, total control to the Department of Natural Resources for them to determine even what lands would be available for us to select from." She indicated that was primarily in response to concerns raised by the environmental community and others, who wanted to make sure DNR would follow the public processes with which Alaskans were comfortable. "So, we were comfortable with that, as well," she said. "And so, this bill really is a much more simplified way. Essentially, it says DNR gets to determine what lands are even available for selection, based on their own best use determination." Number 2100 MS. FLENSBURG stated she did not see that in the bill. She referred to Section 8 (e), which began, "In conveying land to the University of Alaska under this section, the commissioner of natural resources shall give public notice under AS 38.05.945(b)". Ms. Flensburg noted that was the standard public notice provision in Title 38. She pointed out subsection (e) concluded by saying, "but other provisions of AS 38.04 and AS 38.05 do not apply." Ms. Flensburg said those sections talked about the state's best interest planning determination process. She said the bill removed the state's ability to rely on existing land use plans to help determine what those selections should be. Although public notice would be provided, there would be no public review process. [END OF TAPE] TAPE 96-35, SIDE A Number 0005 CO-CHAIR WILLIAMS announced the teleconference would conclude at 2:45 p.m. He informed Ms. Flensburg that Representative Therriault, sponsor of the bill, had an 800 number and offered to call Ms. Flensburg to provide that number. MS. FLENSBURG indicated she could call Representative Therriault's office. She concluded by saying she hoped the committee understood how significant Section 8 (e) was. Number 0088 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES pointed out to Ms. Flensburg that under Section 8, the land list had to be submitted to the legislature, which should provide a public process. CO-CHAIR WILLIAMS announced that the public hearing would continue Monday at 8:00 a.m. AN UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN, speaking via teleconference from the University of Alaska Anchorage, indicated numerous students were waiting on teleconference to testify. She said most of the students there opposed the bill. She asked if the hearing could be continued that day. Number 0197 CO-CHAIR WILLIAMS responded that although the committee members would be willing, the teleconference was ending. He apologized that not everyone could be heard that day. After the teleconference concluded, he offered to hear testimony from two students in the audience, who declined, saying they were from Juneau and would return Monday.