Legislature(2001 - 2002)
03/09/2001 01:20 PM RLS
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 84 - PUBLIC UTILITY JOINT ACTION AGENCIES [Contains discussion of HB 119, the companion bill.] CHAIR KOTT announced the final item of business, CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 84(FIN), "An Act exempting certain joint action agencies from regulation by the state or municipalities; relating to the relationship between certain joint action agencies and the public utilities that form the joint action agencies; relating to powers and immunities of certain joint action agencies; requiring filing of certain joint action agency agreements; relating to the financial affairs of certain joint action agencies; declaring certain joint action agencies to be political subdivisions for certain purposes; relating to liability and indemnification of officers, employees, and agents of certain joint action agencies; and defining 'agency agreement' and 'parties to the agency agreement' as used with reference to certain joint action agencies." CHAIR KOTT invited Senator Taylor and Representative Wilson to the witness table. He noted that the companion bill [HB 119, sponsored by Representative Wilson] was heard in two House committees [the House Labor and Commerce Standing Committee and the House Judiciary Standing Committee]. Number 0584 SENATOR ROBIN TAYLOR, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor of SB 84, thanked the committee for hearing the bill expeditiously. He reminded members that the previous year, legislation provided for the future endowment of the power cost equalization (PCE) program. It also provided for the transfer of assets from the State of Alaska to what is now called a joint action agency (JAA), to operate the Four Dam Pool assets; the hope was that sometime in the future - after the debt to the state for purchase of those assets was paid off - those assets would be transferred to the communities receiving the electrical generation. It isn't known how that transition may occur, or when. SENATOR TAYLOR explained that because of the hurried passage of that legislation, not all details were addressed. During the interim, the "power management committee," AIDEA [Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority], the governor's office, and the affected communities began working diligently on how to transfer these assets. Many questions arose, including whether rights-of-way were needed for power lines, who owns the land under those, and what the liability would be of individual council members and communities. Some of those questions had not been resolved when the legislation passed. SENATOR TAYLOR noted that although he and Representative Wilson had worked with the people involved, neither authored the legislation; he considers the attorney general's office, AIDEA, the affected communities, and their attorneys, who brought the legislation [to the sponsors], to be as much the authors as anyone. Number 0802 SENATOR TAYLOR explained the reason for expediting the bill. Agreements have to be signed by [representatives of] the communities, after their attorneys look at [the agreements]. Before that, however, the property transactions and liability aspects must be addressed. "Until they sign, the money doesn't flow that endows PCE," he told members. "And PCE's going to impact your budget pretty significantly this year." He indicated everyone is in agreement about the version that passed the Senate, and emphasized the need to get this done soon. Number 0873 REPRESENTATIVE PEGGY WILSON, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor of companion bill HB 119, stated that all sides are happy about it now, and everything is in place, including legal issues. REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ asked whether the changes made in the House version are incorporated into the Senate version. REPRESENTATIVE WILSON answered affirmatively. REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ asked whether they are identical documents but with different titles. SENATOR TAYLOR replied, "The one that came out of [the House Judiciary Standing Committee] on your side." He commented that this has been a 15-year struggle, then said, "We're going to pay $70-plus million dollars to get these assets conveyed to communities. I think it's a good deal for the communities. I think it's a good deal for the state." Number 0936 REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING remarked that he has struggled with the concept of setting up an endowment for PCE, and has never been totally convinced that it needs to be subsidized. However, this at least takes it out of the "general fund picture." He thanked the sponsors for their efforts, and said he hopes it works well for communities. SENATOR TAYLOR explained that in the long run, if [the state] doesn't endow PCE and give some incentives, which this will provide, it will still be subsidizing and endowing 25 or 30 years from now. He concluded: I really believe this is the greatest opportunity we have, as a state, to develop the interties that we need. We've got federal funding now available, for $420 million in interties in Southeast alone. Some of those will go to communities like Craig, Kake, and ... Angoon, that are some of the biggest users of PCE power right now. The minute we get an intertie to them, they're no longer on that system, and they're at a much reduced rate. And the same thing needs to happen up North, every place we can either extend an intertie or get a gas well going or a coal-fired generator going - those are the things that we need to do. But without this money, I don't think that would occur. ... I think in the long run it really works to the benefit of all of us. Number 1016 REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING made a motion to move CSSB 84(FIN) from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note(s). There being no objection, CSSB 84(FIN) was moved from the House Rules Standing Committee.