Legislature(1999 - 2000)
04/10/2000 01:55 PM CRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 133-VOTER APPROVAL OF SERVICE AREA CHANGES MS. PATTY SWENSON, staff to Representative Con Bunde, made the following comments. SCS CSHB 133(STA) will strengthen local control of service areas. Article 10, section 1, of Alaska's constitution established a principle of maximum self-government. To achieve maximum self-government, Article 10, section 5, provides for the creation, alteration, and abolishment of service areas subject to provision of law. AS 29.35.450 codifies these constitutional provisions and establishes a mechanism by which service areas are created, altered, and abolished. A service area is one in which local residents assess themselves to provide for a particular service. Currently, there are over 250 service areas statewide. SCS CSHB 133(STA) amends AS 29.35.450 to support local control by prescribing a majority vote mechanism under three scenarios: abolishment of a service area; abolishment and replacement of a service area; and alteration of a service area or combining it with another service area. SCS CSHB 133(STA) will settle the debate about who is entitled to vote during the creation, alteration, or abolishment of a service area. REPRESENTATIVE CON BUNDE stated SCS CSHB 133(STA) allows for smaller local government and to operate less expensive communities. SENATOR MACKIE asked if there is any opposition to the bill. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE stated the Municipality of Anchorage (MOA) opposes it because it limits the MOA's capabilities pertaining to home rule. CHAIRMAN KELLY asked if the bill will primarily pertain to road service areas. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE stated it will apply mainly to road and fire service areas. SENATOR MACKIE asked if Fairbanks is concerned about the bill. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE stated yes, there are 180-190 limited road service areas in Fairbanks. They would like to consolidate some of those service areas and save administrative costs. This bill will allow them consolidation but a variation in taxation. MR. MIKE PRAX, Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly, expressed concern about trying to control the administrative expenses generated by the diversity of services that people enjoy. Mr. Prax stated support for SCS CSHB 133(STA). MR. GERSHON COHEN, representing himself, stated Haines is the only third class borough in Alaska. Mr. Cohen referred to a planning and zoning issue that occurred in Haines two years ago which caused the borough to change the planning and zoning service area boundaries. As a result, 97 percent of the planning and zoning service area was removed from the Mud Bay Land Use Service Area (MBLUSA) and that removed control for planning and zoning. Mr. Cohen stated support for SCS CSHB 133(STA). MR. ROB GOLDBERG, Chairman of MBLUSA, stated the borough assembly agreed to reduce the size of the service area and that gerrymandered the borough's power. Next month, MBLUSA is facing abolishment under a proposed ordinance, and the borough hasn't given a reason for that. Mr. Goldberg stated support for SCS CSHB 133(STA). CHAIRMAN KELLY asked if SCS CSHB 133(STA) authorizes planning and zoning service areas. MS. SWENSON stated she believes they are authorized. CHAIRMAN KELLY asked if it was Mr. Goldberg's intention to set up a planning and zoning service area. MR. GOLDBERG stated yes. In a third class borough, the only way citizens can get planning and zoning is through service areas and the only power they have is to collect taxes for education. The service area in Haines has been in place for 10 years. CHAIRMAN KELLY stated this bill incorporates road service areas, fire service areas and planning & zoning service areas. SENATOR PHILLIPS added parks & recreation service areas. MR. KEVIN RITCHIE, Alaska Municipal League (AML), stated the AML focused mainly on section 3 which requires a vote within the old and new service area. AML adopted a policy statement in November that opposes legislation to mandate fragmented service area votes in boroughs. Some boroughs now exercise this as a home rule power; it is a decision that can be made locally. The people in that community have the ability to work within that system to make changes. The issue that could arise if a vote is mandated is that if one service area exists with 150 people and a subdivision is added, the vote must be affirmative in both old and new service areas. AML believes voting is a choice that each municipality can make. AML does not oppose the section allowing the municipality to have differential rates within a service area. Mr. Ritchie stated opposition for the bill but support for section 3. MR. MIKE SCOTT, Mat-Su Borough Manager, stated SCS CSHB 133(STA) implies the State is stepping in and stopping local control in an area where there is an elected assembly. Every municipality has the ability to put a petition together to appear on the local ballot. SCS CSHB 133(STA) would limit local control in a second class borough. Local assembly laws should not be undermined by a mandatory State law. Mr. Scott stated opposition for SCS CSHB 133(STA). MR. JIM SWING, Public Works Manager for the Mat-Su Borough, stated the Mat-Su Borough has erosion control service areas, flood control service areas, and water & sewer service areas. In Talkeetna, water & sewer issues can only be served within the service area. The borough has received requests for services from people adjacent to the service area. Public works has no power outside the service area. If SCS CSHB 133(STA) passes, it would require a vote of people inside and outside that service area. If a borough is serving people outside a service area, then the service area should be expanded. Mr. Swing stated concern and opposition for SCS CSHB 133(STA). Number 382 MR. OCIE ADAMS, representing himself, stated general support for SCS CSHB 133(STA). MR. JIM NORCROSS, representing himself, referred to the Mat-Su Borough consolidation issue. Mr. Norcross asked Representative Bunde to explain section 4(b). REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE replied section 4(b) states that service areas that want to maintain two different levels of service and consolidate to save administrative costs can do so and maintain the original level of taxation. MR. NORCROSS asked if service area funds would be used to upgrade services for the service area that was annexed. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE stated no, not without a vote of the people who are effected. CHAIRMAN KELLY asked Mr. Scott if the Mat-Su Borough had proposed language for the bill. MR. SCOTT stated yes. The borough has concerns about the tax cap, home rule boroughs, and third class boroughs. He stated he would speak with Mr. Grenn in Chairman Kelly's office. Number 456 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE stated no municipality likes to see its power limited.