Legislature(1995 - 1996)

01/16/1996 08:00 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 HB 71 - LEGISLATIVE SESSIONS TO BE IN ANCHORAGE                             
                                                                               
 Number 1470                                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES announced the next item on the agenda was HB 71.  She             
 called on Representative Joe Green to present his sponsor                     
 statement.                                                                    
                                                                               
 Number 1480                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE JOE GREEN read the following sponsor statement.                
                                                                               
 "HB 71 directs the legislature to meet in the Municipality of                 
 Anchorage beginning in January 1998.  HB 71 does not, and I                   
 repeat, does not, propose to move the capitol.                                
                                                                               
 "A recent statewide survey, and the results of the 1994 ballot                
 initiative, both indicated that there is considerable statewide               
 support, and majority support in southcentral Alaskan area, for               
 the legislature to meet in Anchorage.  HB 71 directs the                      
 legislative council to arrange for an appropriate meeting place.              
 Since the dimensions of the House chambers, the largest meeting               
 body that we have in the legislature, are 60 feet by 52 feet, it              
 is not anticipated that arranging for an appropriate meeting                  
 place would present much of a problem.                                        
                                                                               
 "While credit should be given to the Alaska Committee for their               
 efforts to make Juneau a better host to legislators and staff,                
 their efforts can not overcome Juneau's remote geographical                   
 location.  Navigational improvements at the airport,                          
 telecommunications infrastructure, and more available housing                 
 units will all make Juneau a better capitol city.  However, none              
 of these improvements will get the majority of legislators                    
 together in a majority with the voters."                                      
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asserted the setting today was biased.  He               
 suggested a meeting was in order in the Anchorage Bowl.  In                   
 comparison to the capital move, he said, the legislative move did             
 not impact the existing departments.  He cited two of the larger              
 departments which had more personnel in Anchorage than in Juneau.             
 He stated the commissioners, the Governor, and others in the                  
 Administration were in Anchorage frequently.  Representative                  
 Green described the alleged problems of separating the                        
 legislative session from the administrative session as a "red                 
 herring."  He further stated while the strides in                             
 telecommunications media were great, it still behooved the                    
 legislature to associate more closely with the majority of the                
 citizens of Alaska we enact laws for.   Lastly, he informed the               
 committee HB 71 was not a new bill as it was prefiled in 1995.                
 The bill was not pushed, he asserted, due to deference of the                 
 Senate that tried to move a like bill last year.                              
                                                                               
 Number 1688                                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES asked if there were further questions or comments for             
 the sponsor.                                                                  
                                                                               
 Number 1695                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN IVAN referred to the fiscal notes from the                
 Legislative Affairs Agency and the Governor's office.  He                     
 questioned the $136,000 expenditure found on page 3 of the fiscal             
 note addressing the cost of moving Juneau state agencies.                     
                                                                               
 Number 1725                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN responded the fiscal note Representative                 
 Ivan referred to was inflated.  If there were to be an error, he              
 stated, it would be an error on the higher side.  He said, the                
 need to move the agencies was overstated.  The renovation of the              
 capitol building and the cost of buying space in Anchorage were               
 the two issues that inflated the cost of the bill.  There was a               
 one time cost, of renovation in Anchorage he explained, but that              
 did not consider the relocation of legislators and the per diem               
 expense.  He said perhaps the per diem and personal irritations               
 costs were inflated.                                                          
                                                                               
 Number 1790                                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES asked if Representative Green had calculated a fair               
 fiscal note himself.                                                          
                                                                               
 Number 1798                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN responded he had but was not justified to                
 present it because he was not an expert.  His fiscal note would               
 reflect the obvious expenditure savings, he stated.  He further               
 stated he anticipated a savings in the long run if the                        
 legislative session was moved to Anchorage.                                   
                                                                               
 Number 1815                                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES asked if there were further questions or comments.                
                                                                               
 Number 1816                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said Representative Green alluded there               
 would not be any per diem for legislators if the session was in               
 Anchorage.  She stated legislators would get per diem in                      
 Anchorage as well as in Juneau.                                               
                                                                               
 Number 1842                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN responded the per diem would be                          
 significantly less for those living within driving distance of                
 the session.  He said, it was hard to justify per diem for                    
 legislators living in the same community.  He informed the                    
 committee this issue was being addressed in another bill.  The                
 per diem would be significantly reduced for half of the                       
 legislators and not reduced for the other half.                               
                                                                               
 Number 1870                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said, we were talking about $9.00.  She               
 commented it was not substantial.                                             
                                                                               
 Number 1879                                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES questioned the $9.00 comment by Representative                    
 Robinson.                                                                     
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON stated it was about a $9.00 difference.               
                                                                               
 Number 1879                                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES said Juneau Legislators got 75 percent of the current             
 per diem of $148.  Therefore, 25 percent of $148 was the                      
 difference.  The total difference would be all of the legislators             
 from the Anchorage Bowl if the legislative session was in                     
 Anchorage.  Therefore, based on the current structure, the                    
 difference would be substantial.                                              
                                                                               
 Number 1914                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN commented on the importance of the                        
 legislative aides and their families.  They were not paid for                 
 relocation expenses creating a hardship.  He curiously asked if a             
 study had been done looking at the divorce rate amongst                       
 legislators and their aides.  Representative Ogan said he brought             
 his family to Juneau each session and was thankful for the                    
 stability it provided.  He alluded the stability ultimately made              
 him a better legislator so the fewer legislators and their                    
 families that had to relocate would create better government.                 
                                                                               
 Number 1980                                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES asked if there were further questions or comments.                
 She called on the first witness for HB 71, Dennis Egan, Mayor,                
 City and Borough of Juneau.                                                   
                                                                               
 Number 2015                                                                   
                                                                               
 DENNIS EGAN, Mayor, City and Borough of Juneau, said Juneau was               
 being faced with an issue that would cause divisiveness and had a             
 serious impact on the financial and social well being of the                  
 city.  The move of the legislative session, he asserted, was                  
 tantamount to a capital move.  Juneau, he stated, had faced this              
 issue statewide eight times since statehood.  Mayor Egan said                 
 this issue was debated in the Senate last year and was voted in               
 favor of Juneau.  He asserted, the main reason there was a                    
 critical housing shortage in Juneau, was due to the capital move              
 "cloud" that had been hanging over the citizens for the past                  
 number of years.  During the last capital move fight housing                  
 starts in Juneau were at a standstill.  However, once the capital             
 move was put to a rest, the community broke loose and housing                 
 unit starts skyrocketed.  The threat of another capital move                  
 could do damage to the life of the community depending on how                 
 long this issue would stay at the forefront in the legislature.               
 He further asserted the community's strides accomplished last                 
 year would be put on hold.  Mayor Egan said the city of Juneau                
 was working hard to make it a better capital city.  He cited over             
 $3,000,000 in projects that had been expended that directly                   
 related to making Juneau a better capital city.  For example,                 
 $500,000 for legislative housing, $200,000 for increased access               
 to the legislative process, $50,000 for a video bridge for video              
 teleconferencing, $50,000 in increased readings at Juneau                     
 International Airport, and $15,000 for parking permits, had been              
 expended.  He further cited an attitudinal survey of Alaskans to              
 determine their opinions on the capital city.  The survey found               
 73 percent of Alaskans agreed with improving other areas in the               
 state over moving the capital.  He further said Representative                
 Green's sponsor statement referred to "capitol" rather than                   
 "capital."  Mayor Egan reassured the committee this issue was not             
 about a building, but about the lives of your fellow Alaskans.                
 In conclusion, he reminded the committee an issue such as HB 71               
 had the potential to devastate a city of 30,000 people, and                   
 enough was enough.                                                            
                                                                               
 Number 2202                                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES thanked Mayor Egan and called on Jamie Parsons,                   
 Chair, Alaska Committee.                                                      
                                                                               
 Number 2235                                                                   
                                                                               
 JAMIE PARSONS, Chair, Alaska Committee, a non-profit, private                 
 organization, said the committee turned proactive last year                   
 producing a mission statement to enhance Juneau as Alaska's                   
 capital city and to help make government work better for all                  
 Alaskans.  The sole purpose, he stated, was to bring Alaskans                 
 closer to state government and government closer to Alaskans.  He             
 cited some of the committee's efforts, for example, five video                
 teleconference sites in Juneau.  Mr. Parsons further informed the             
 goal of the committee was to make sure every community throughout             
 the state had a video teleconference site in the future.  This                
 year, the Gavel to Gavel plan gave the opportunity to bring the               
 legislative process to the classrooms, offices and homes of every             
 citizen in the state.  The City and Borough of Juneau committed               
 $200,000 to underwrite the Gavel to Gavel program and also                    
 committed to two additional years of funding.  The Alaska                     
 Committee was also working with the Administration to create an               
 800 Alaska help center telephone number to create a government                
 information and referral system.  Mr. Parsons further informed                
 the committee, the City and Borough of Juneau had spent $50,000               
 to install wind reading equipment to enable the Global                        
 Positioning System (GPS) program to move forward.  The Alaska                 
 Committee was also working closely with Alaska Airlines to                    
 improve flight scheduling during the legislative session.  Mr.                
 Parsons further said the Alaska Committee was looking at                      
 improving surface access to Juneau.  Locally, they were working               
 on the housing issue by recommending the elimination of red tape              
 and the building permit inspection process by working with the                
 City and Borough Assembly.  The Assembly, he cited, recently                  
 spent $500,000 towards meeting seasonal and legislative housing               
 needs.  He lastly called on everybody to work together and make               
 the existing infrastructure more effective, and collectively find             
 ways to make all Alaskans feel they have some ownership in the                
 legislative process.                                                          
                                                                               
 TAPE 96-01, SIDE B                                                            
 Number 0000                                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES called on Chuck Achberger, Executive Director, Juneau             
 Chamber of Commerce.                                                          
                                                                               
 CHUCK ACHBERGER, Executive Director, Juneau Chamber of Commerce               
 addressed the issue of the alleged biased environment by                      
 Representative Green.  He asserted a motivated constituency would             
 take advantage of the teleconference system.  He cited examples               
 of lengthy tort reform and resource testimony from constituents               
 in Anchorage and other areas of Alaska using the teleconference               
 system to get their views heard.  The Anchorage constituents were             
 not as motivated as Representatives Green and Porter believed, he             
 said, otherwise they would have called in via teleconference                  
 today.  He further stated the fiscal estimates were not on the                
 low side.  A move would be very expensive, he stated.  Mr.                    
 Achberger lastly asserted the commute was not favorable to many               
 people even living in the Anchorage Bowl.  In conclusion he said              
 Juneau had made a lot of progress and if given a few more years               
 the city could make it even more comfortable.                                 
                                                                               
 Number 0169                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN thanked Mr. Achberger for his testimony.  He              
 further said Juneau was a wonderful place to live.  However, the              
 real issue was access by the people to their legislators, he                  
 stated. Representative Ogan asserted face-to-face testimony was               
 more affective and agreed video teleconference would be a big                 
 step forward.  He asked the cameras to pan the room to show the               
 audience the crowded room and the interest in the issues.                     
                                                                               
 Number 0269                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. ACHBERGER said, he agreed with Representative Ogan.  However,             
 he stated, constituents would find their representatives when                 
 they needed to.  The vocal minority would always find access, he              
 said. In conclusion, Mr. Achberger commented the real access the              
 people had was through voting.                                                
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES called Senator Randy Phillips to the table.                       
                                                                               
 Number 0359                                                                   
                                                                               
 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS said this issue would not go away.                     
 Contrary to testimony on housing and personal issues, the main                
 problem was access.  We were elected to represent the people.                 
 Senator Phillips said, if the legislature were to move to                     
 Anchorage the people would respond.  He cited the Anchorage                   
 Caucus meeting drew 300-400 people each meeting addressing their              
 concerns.  Furthermore, the families in his district complained               
 their children could not see the legislative process in action.               
 He asserted direct exposure was important for the young people of             
 Alaska.  Physical access created a better understanding of the                
 institution, he alleged, fundamentally resulting in more                      
 confidence and respect the institution deserved.  Senator                     
 Phillips stated he had better response when he talked to people               
 directly than when the people relied on the media for filtered                
 information.  The access issue was a big problem and there were               
 only a few ways to get to Juneau, he said.  He concluded by again             
 reiterating the shame it was that the majority of the children of             
 Alaska could not see the legislative process in action, and it                
 was just a matter of time before the legislature would move.                  
                                                                               
 Number 0548                                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES thanked Senator Phillips and asked if there were                  
 further questions or comments.                                                
                                                                               
 Number 0560                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said she was proud of the citizens of                 
 Juneau for addressing the issue.  She asked if other communities              
 in Alaska would respond the same way.  Representative Robinson                
 further addressed the issue of access to other areas of Alaska                
 and not just Anchorage.  Alaska was a very large state, she said,             
 that would require teleconference access no matter where the                  
 capital was located.  She agreed with Senator Phillips and his                
 concern that the young people of Alaska should have better access             
 to the legislative process.  She cited the Gavel to Gavel program             
 brought the legislature to the classrooms.  Representative                    
 Robinson also questioned why the Close-Up Program was eliminated              
 last year in the budget.  Once again, however, the citizens of                
 Juneau responded and the Southeast Regional Resource Center was               
 still going to do a Close-Up Program.  She recognized the                     
 difficulties incurred when relocating, but no matter where the                
 capital was citizens would be misplaced.  She concluded by asking             
 everyone to work together and to make sure every citizen of this              
 state had access to the capital.                                              
                                                                               
 Number 0710                                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES said she moved to Alaska when the capital move issue              
 was at its highest.  She said when she looked at a map of the                 
 state she was surprised to see the capital was so far south.  She             
 further stated one-half of the people in the state lived in the               
 Anchorage Bowl.  Therefore, one-half of the people were                       
 displaced.  Chair James declared the people of Juneau loved their             
 capital and they would do everything within their power to keep               
 the capital here.  It was unreasonable to think, she said, this               
 would change right now given the current sentiment.  She said,                
 she enjoyed coming to Juneau and it was a wonderful place.  She               
 remarked she was not sure what would happen if the legislators                
 were spread out over the city of Anchorage, but she cited Salem,              
 Oregon and Sacramento, California were bigger cities than                     
 Anchorage, and they managed to come together.  Chair James                    
 further stated telecommunication was needed no matter where the               
 capital was located due to the rural districts.  She asserted she             
 was not taking a position on this issue, however, she commented,              
 the city of Juneau would be better served if they would spend                 
 their time and efforts concentrating on what kind of city Juneau              
 would be when the capital was gone rather than trying to keep the             
 capital here.  She applauded the cohesiveness of the community in             
 their efforts, but believed the capital would move eventually due             
 to the geographical differences between the Panhandle and the                 
 rest of the state.  Chair James declared the issue would not go               
 away, but it would not pass the legislature this year either.                 
 She asked if there were further questions or comments.                        
 Number 0935                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN commented it was an access and location                  
 issue.  He said he continued to hear today interchange between                
 the capital move and the legislative move.  He believed one did               
 not follow the other.  Representative Green said he was pleased               
 with Juneau, when you could get there, and the people were top                
 notch.  The problem, however, was he represented his constituency             
 in Anchorage and Anchorage represented a much larger percentage               
 of the people in the state.  He further said, 57 legislators                  
 relocated to Juneau each session while in Anchorage it would be               
 around 30.  The shear weight of numbers, he commented, suggested              
 a move towards the center of the population.  He cited Carson                 
 City, Nevada as a capital that was not located in the center of               
 the population.  However, he said, there was not a commuting                  
 problem due to more favorable commuting conditions.                           
 Representative Green declared when the capital moved failed the               
 rent skyrocketed, and furthermore, the legislators were evicted               
 when the session was extended and the tourists arrived.  He cited             
 for 30 years the capital had been in Juneau and there had always              
 been a housing problem.  He alleged the potential threat to move              
 the capital or the legislature kept the fire going and the issues             
 in the forefront.  Representative Green applauded the increased               
 telecommunication networks.  He believed it was the answer to                 
 access in the remote areas, but the issue was still the access                
 from the constituency to the legislator.  He took issue with the              
 fiscal cost and said we must act responsibly.  He further stated,             
 having direct access to the legislative process was far better                
 than any electronic media could provide.  He remarked one-half of             
 the children located in Anchorage would have access to the                    
 legislative process which was far better than only 10 percent                 
 currently.  He further stated the Close-Up Program was a cost                 
 benefit ratio issue.  He asserted we must serve the people the                
 best way possible.  Representative Green suggested a survey to                
 determine the percentage of people who would want to keep the                 
 capital in Juneau but move the legislature to Anchorage where the             
 participation turnout would be higher.  He disclosed, if there                
 was a way to satisfy his constituents and not move the capital he             
 would be for it.  He further commented he was concerned about the             
 cost involved.  He said he was amazed at the energy of the Juneau             
 people and suggested they turn that energy towards a constructive             
 Southeast issue such as opening the AJ Mine.  Representative                  
 Green moved that HB 71 move from the House State Affairs                      
 committee with the attached fiscal notes with individual                      
 recommendations.                                                              
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON objected.                                             
                                                                               
 Number 1408                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ED WILLIS suggested a technical amendment on page              
 1, line 8, to read "Tuesday" instead of "Monday" referring to the             
 convening of the legislature on a holiday, Martin Luther King                 
 Day.                                                                          
                                                                               
 Number 1448                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN responded the convening of the legislature                
 was a constitutional issue.                                                   
                                                                               
 Number 1470                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said it was an argumentative issue.  He was              
 aware of one legal opinion that said it was not a constitutional              
 issue, but he agreed, it was not a good idea to convene on a                  
 holiday.                                                                      
                                                                               
 Number 1478                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS said he wanted to bring that up for                     
 consideration.                                                                
                                                                               
 Number 1484                                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES said HB 71 would next go to the Judiciary Committee               
 where the issue could be addressed.                                           
                                                                               
 Number 1499                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN suggested the above recommendation move with             
 the bill to the Judiciary Committee.  There might be other                    
 judicial issues discovered as well.                                           
                                                                               
 Number 1518                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER said he would not have a problem addressing             
 those issues as chair of the Judicial Committee.                              
                                                                               
 Number 1538                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON informed the committee members that                   
 Representative Bettye Davis had a bill to change the date when                
 the legislature convenes.  She reiterated her objection to the                
 motion.                                                                       
                                                                               
 Number 1555                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN thanked the testifiers today and applauded                
 the Gavel to Gavel coverage brought about by their efforts.  He               
 said, it took money to access democracy especially in a state the             
 size of Alaska.  His district would be against a move such as                 
 this due to the cost factor.  He commended the Mayor and the City             
 and Borough of Juneau for trying to make things comfortable for               
 the legislators.  The bottom line, however, was access.                       
 Number 1675                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS said, he would vote "yes" on HB 71 and said             
 this was a question of access.  Last November, he stated, the                 
 people in his district voted 69 percent in favor of a capital                 
 move.  Therefore, he must reflect their feelings, and vote                    
 accordingly.                                                                  
                                                                               
 Number 1750                                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES said her conservative district did not vote in favor              
 of moving the capital due to the fiscal restraints.  She felt                 
 they would favor the capital closer in proximity to them but did              
 not want to pay for the relocation expenses.                                  
                                                                               
 Number 1799                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN moved that HB 71 move from the House State               
 Affairs Committee with individual recommendations and attached                
 fiscal notes.  There was an objection, so a roll call vote was                
 taken.  Representatives James, Ogan, Green, Ivan, Porter and                  
 Willis voted in favor of moving the bill.  Representative                     
 Robinson voted against moving the bill.  So, HB 71 moved from the             
 committee.                                                                    

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