Legislature(1999 - 2000)

05/16/1999 11:37 AM RLS

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 171-FISHERY DATA; LAND REC'D BY STATE                                                                                        
CHAIRMAN COWDERY announced that the first order of business before                                                              
the committee would be SENATE BILL NO. 171 am, "An Act relating to                                                              
the release of certain records and reports required by the                                                                      
Department of Fish and Game regarding fish, shellfish, or fishery                                                               
products and reports of fish buyers and processors; relating to the                                                             
transfer of land to the state; and providing for an effective                                                                   
Number 0087                                                                                                                     
MARCO PIGNALBERI, Legislative Assistant for Representative Cowdery,                                                             
Alaska State Legislature, said that he would explain the amendments                                                             
requested by the Senate to HCS SB 171.  Basically, two new sections                                                             
were added to the HCS SB 171(RES), Sections 4 and 5.  He explained                                                              
that the new Section 4 inserts new language to the chapter on the                                                               
Alaska Railroad Corporation.  The new language is in subparagraph                                                               
5 which reads as follows:  "(5) apply for or accept a grant of                                                                  
federal land within a municipality; before approving an action                                                                  
under this paragraph, the legislature must determine that the                                                                   
federal land is required for essential railroad purposes."  Section                                                             
5 is simply a conforming amendment which allows the railroad to                                                                 
submit and accept federal land.  The language in Section 5 says                                                                 
that can be done, except for the new provision in Section 4.                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ inquired as to the effect this legislation                                                             
would have on the ability of the railroad and the City of Whittier                                                              
to enter into that dock agreement.                                                                                              
MR. PIGNALBERI said, "My understanding of this amendment would be                                                               
that before the railroad could accept the DeLong dock, they would                                                               
have to come to the legislature and seek prior approval."                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ inquired as to why the legislature would                                                               
want to interfere with that.                                                                                                    
MR. PIGNALBERI commented that is a policy call.  He informed the                                                                
committee that in previous hearings, it was brought out that the                                                                
railroad has much land that is excess to the needs of the railroad                                                              
operations making the railroad more of a real estate company than                                                               
a railroad operating company.  This amendment would make the                                                                    
legislature the arbiter of whether surplus land should go to                                                                    
municipal operations or railroad operations.                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS asked if the language in this was in                                                                    
conflict with Title 29 and the supremacy of the local governmental                                                              
entity to make these decisions versus the state when local lands                                                                
are at stake.                                                                                                                   
MR. PIGNALBERI said that he did not have that information, but                                                                  
suggested that Legislative Legal and Research Services could be                                                                 
contacted on that point.  He noted that the committee packet should                                                             
contain a letter from a railroad official, Mr Kubitz, who is also                                                               
standing by via telephone if he is needed.  With regards to the                                                                 
Title 29 question, Legislative Legal and Research Services did not                                                              
note any title conflict.                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS requested that Legislative Legal and                                                                    
Research Services be contacted on that point.                                                                                   
Number 0431                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN COWDERY commented that there is concern that the railroad                                                              
is expanding beyond the scope of transportation and moving into the                                                             
real estate business.  Furthermore, some think that the communities                                                             
experiencing a down turn in funding should be involved to help with                                                             
the community's budget stream.                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ said that he would be curious to know                                                                  
Representative Harris' position on this since Whittier is in his                                                                
MR. PIGNALBERI pointed out that this language is not specific to                                                                
any district.                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ stated that the consequences clearly                                                                   
impact Whittier.  He inquired as to the other areas that would be                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS noted that the new hotel project in                                                                     
Fairbanks would probably fall under this as well.  She suggested                                                                
that Mr. Kubitz be contacted with regards to these questions.                                                                   
CHAIRMAN COWDERY noted that there is an ongoing project between                                                                 
Anchorage and Wasilla with regard to an exchange with the military.                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ commented that if this is such important                                                               
legislation, then it could stand alone.                                                                                         
Number 0641                                                                                                                     
JAMES KUBITZ, Vice President, Real Estate and Project Planning,                                                                 
Alaska Railroad Corporation, testified via telephone from                                                                       
Anchorage.  He expressed concern with the projects that are                                                                     
currently underway which involve federal transfer of land.  The                                                                 
most significant project is the line changes that the railroad has                                                              
been working on to find a new route through Elmendorf and Fort                                                                  
Richardson.  Due to the curvature, those tracks are currently very                                                              
slow.  The railroad has been working with the military for about a                                                              
year and three alternative sites have been selected.  Mr. Kubitz                                                                
anticipated that land transfer to happen shortly.  The railroad has                                                             
received the initial funding from the federal government to start                                                               
this approximately $30 million project which the Department of                                                                  
Defense is very interested in occurring.  Therefore, having to                                                                  
return to the legislature for approval, depending upon the timing,                                                              
could slow the project.  He also mentioned that there is a plan for                                                             
a multi-modal depot in Fairbanks that is partially funded and would                                                             
require a small land trade with the state.  There is also a new                                                                 
dock planned in Seward which may necessitate acquiring some tide                                                                
lands for a new freight dock.  Mr. Kubitz stressed that there is a                                                              
desire to have legislative oversight.  He suggested the possibility                                                             
of exempting the current projects from that legislative oversight                                                               
while providing a mechanism such as Legislative Council for                                                                     
legislative approval during the interim.  He reiterated that the                                                                
timing is crucial.                                                                                                              
CHAIRMAN COWDERY understood that the DeLong dock is still in                                                                    
legislation in Washington, D.C.                                                                                                 
Number 0900                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS asked if Mr. Kubitz had seen the proposed                                                               
Rules CS.                                                                                                                       
MR. KUBITZ indicated that he reviewed it yesterday.                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS directed Mr. Kubitz to page 4, Section 4,                                                               
the language that reads, "Unless the legislature approves the                                                                   
action by law, the corporation may not ... (3) extend railroad                                                                  
lines; this paragraph does not apply to a spur, industrial, team,                                                               
switching, or side track;".  She asked if the work being done on                                                                
the military bases would be included in the definitions of spur,                                                                
industrial, team, switching, and side track.                                                                                    
MR. KUBITZ clarified that the project on the military bases would                                                               
be a main line change not a switch, spur, or siding.                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS inquired as to how far that project has                                                                 
MR. KUBITZ informed the committee that about $5 million worth of                                                                
funding has been received to perform the engineering and the                                                                    
environmental aspects.  Three alternative sites have been                                                                       
identified and the site is expected to be selected by summer.                                                                   
Congressional approval is expected before the Congressional members                                                             
leave Congress.                                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS inquired as to when the work is anticipated                                                             
to begin.                                                                                                                       
MR. KUBITZ explained that the federal portion cannot begin until                                                                
the land is received.  He said that would be started in the spring.                                                             
He informed the committee that there is a project north of the                                                                  
base, Birchwood and Eklutna and Eagle River, which does not involve                                                             
federal land.  However, that project does include a land trade with                                                             
Eklutna, Incorporated.  He noted that there is also a land trade                                                                
with the Municipality of Anchorage on HLD land.                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS asked if there is a specific name for the                                                               
project being discussed.  She clarified that she was referring to                                                               
what can be started this summer and what has to wait for the                                                                    
federal land.                                                                                                                   
MR. KUBITZ said it is called the Anchorage-Wasilla line change                                                                  
project which involves land through the military bases, Eagle                                                                   
River, Eklutna, and Birchwood.                                                                                                  
Number 1059                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS suggested that there should be an exemption                                                             
for that project.                                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ noted that the effective date could be                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER read the following from statute, "Unless the                                                              
legislature approves, the corporation may not exchange, donate,                                                                 
sell, or otherwise convey its entire interest in land."  Therefore,                                                             
he surmised that the legislature would currently have to approve                                                                
the railroad's land swaps.                                                                                                      
MR. KUBITZ said he believed that to be correct.                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER commented then that this may do the railroad                                                              
a favor by allowing Legislative Council to act on these land swaps                                                              
during the interim.                                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ read that statute to mean that the                                                                     
railroad cannot sell its entire land interest without the                                                                       
legislature's approval.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER asked if Representative Berkowitz meant the                                                               
railroad divesting itself of its entire portfolio.                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ replied yes.                                                                                           
CHAIRMAN COWDERY and REPRESENTATIVE PORTER did not agree with that                                                              
MR. KUBITZ interjected that generally land is not sold, but rather                                                              
acquired.  This is a new area for the corporation.                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER asked if the $30 million from the federal                                                                 
government that facilitated this project, had to be appropriated                                                                
through the legislature.                                                                                                        
MR. KUBITZ replied no.  He clarified that the money is going to the                                                             
Department of Defense.  This is a defense project not an Alaska                                                                 
railroad project.                                                                                                               
Number 1218                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ asked if all the areas Mr. Kubitz                                                                      
mentioned were necessary for railroad operations either directly or                                                             
for intermodal use.                                                                                                             
MR. KUBITZ replied yes.  In further response to Representative                                                                  
Berkowitz, Mr. Kubitz said that these land holdings are not                                                                     
speculative land holdings.                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS asked if the Fairbanks hotel is a                                                                       
speculative land holding and has nothing to do with the railroad.                                                               
MR. KUBITZ explained that the Chena Landing where the Comfort Inn                                                               
is located is part of railroad property.  Initially, a depot was to                                                             
be built next to the hotel.  Fairbanks is in desperate need of a                                                                
new depot due to the length of the train and the amount of people                                                               
utilizing the train there now.  That was the original plan and was                                                              
why the hotel is located there.  Mr. Kubitz stated that the site                                                                
next to the Comfort Inn is still a potential site for the new                                                                   
depot.  He clarified that part of the Comfort Inn was going to be                                                               
utilized as a depot staging area.                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS asked if any of the land in the Fairbanks                                                               
plan is planned for anything other than strictly railroad                                                                       
transportation purposes.                                                                                                        
MR. KUBITZ replied no.  He explained that the Fairbanks plan is                                                                 
merely an expansion of the yard or freight and the multi-modal                                                                  
Number 1325                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS reiterated her prior suggestion to include                                                              
an exemption for the Anchorage-Wasilla line change project.                                                                     
CHAIRMAN COWDERY indicated that such an exemption could be                                                                      
addressed through an effective date.                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER recommended crafting language to allow                                                                    
Legislative Council to take action during the interim.                                                                          
CHAIRMAN COWDERY announced then that SB 171 would be held to                                                                    
address those issues.                                                                                                           
[The meeting was recessed to the call of the chair and SB 171 was                                                               
taken up again on this date.]                                                                                                   
SB 171-FISHERY DATA; LAND REC'D BY STATE                                                                                        
[This is the continuation of the meeting held on March 16, 1999                                                                 
which was recessed to the call of the chair.  The meeting was                                                                   
reconvened at 1:34 p.m.  At the time of reconvening,                                                                            
Representatives Cowdery, Porter, Green, Kott and Berkowitz were                                                                 
present.  Representative Phillips arrived at 1:37 p.m.                                                                          
Representative Joule was not present.]                                                                                          
CHAIRMAN COWDERY announced that back before the committee is SENATE                                                             
BILL NO. 171 am, "An Act relating to the release of certain records                                                             
and reports required by the Department of Fish and Game regarding                                                               
fish, shellfish, or fishery products and reports of fish buyers and                                                             
processors; relating to the transfer of land to the state; and                                                                  
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
Number 1475                                                                                                                     
MR. PIGNALBERI informed the committee that it had before it a new                                                               
proposed CS, Version LS0957\K, Utermohle, 5/16/99.  He directed the                                                             
committee to page 4, lines 18-22 which now has new language                                                                     
exempting two ongoing projects from the requirement of legislative                                                              
approval before acceptance of federal land.  Those projects are the                                                             
Anchorage-Wasilla line change project and the Fairbanks intermodal                                                              
rail yard expansion project.                                                                                                    
MR. PIGNALBERI pointed out that the other change in the proposed CS                                                             
is the effective date.  The sponsor of the original bill requested                                                              
that the immediate effective date be kept in tact.  Therefore,                                                                  
Section 6 is drafted such that Sections 1-3 will have an immediate                                                              
effective date.  The remaining sections that do not have a                                                                      
specified effective date will automatically become effective after                                                              
90 days.  Mr. Pignalberi said that Mr. Kubitz was agreeable to                                                                  
these changes.                                                                                                                  
Number 1751                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ inquired as to why the exemption only                                                                  
applied to the Anchorage-Wasilla line change project and the                                                                    
Fairbanks intermodal rail yard expansion project.  Why are the                                                                  
Cordova and Whittier projects not exempted?                                                                                     
MR. PIGNALBERI stated that those are the two projects the railroad                                                              
suggested be exempted.                                                                                                          
CHAIRMAN COWDERY pointed out that the Whittier project is still                                                                 
being worked on in Washington, D.C.                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ commented that he was having difficulties                                                              
with the attempts to block the Whittier transfer.                                                                               
CHAIRMAN COWDERY said that he did not believe that to be the case.                                                              
MR. PIGNALBERI reiterated the earlier comments that the City of                                                                 
Whittier is in desperate need of land and access to dock space in                                                               
order to perform its municipal functions.  He indicated that the                                                                
City of Whittier would like to have a neutral arbiter to determine,                                                             
as federal surplus land becomes available, whether such land in                                                                 
Whittier should go to the city or the railroad.  The City of                                                                    
Whittier hopes that by this measure the legislature will be the                                                                 
Number 1907                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ suggested then, if that is the concern,                                                                
the City of Whittier should be the ultimate determinate of whether                                                              
the city or the railroad receives the land.  If this is an area of                                                              
local concern, the local government should make the decision.                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER pointed out that there needs to be an arbiter                                                             
between the state agency and the city agency.                                                                                   
CHAIRMAN COWDERY added that much time and effort has been spent to                                                              
accomplish what is attempted in this legislation.                                                                               
Number 2449                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE PORTER moved that the committee adopt and report the                                                             
proposed HCSSB 171, Version LS0957\K, Utermohle, 5/16/99, out of                                                                
committee with individual recommendations.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ objected.                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS indicated that there was a report back from                                                             
Legislative Legal and Research Services that there is not a                                                                     
conflict with Title 29.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ understood that Legislative Council would                                                              
not have the ability to intercede during the interim.                                                                           
Upon a roll call vote, Representatives Kott, Porter, Green,                                                                     
Cowdery, and Phillips voted in favor of the motion to adopt and                                                                 
report the proposed HCSSB 171 out of committee.  Representative                                                                 
Berkowitz voted against the motion to adopt and report the proposed                                                             
HCSSB 171 out of committee.  Therefore, HCSSB 171(RLS) was adopted                                                              
and reported out of committee.                                                                                                  

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