Legislature(1993 - 1994)
01/21/1994 01:50 PM Senate JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATOR TAYLOR introduced SENATE CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 101(L&C) (NATIONAL ELECTRICAL CODE) sponsored by the House Labor and Commerce Committee and asked for someone to testify on the bill. Number 046 DONALD G. STUDY, Director of Labor Standards and Safety for the Department of Labor, spoke in support of the bill, explaining it had passed the House last session 37 to 3. He also explained it would allow the Department of Labor to adopt the most recent version of the National Electrical Code and the National Electrical Safety Code, saying these codes had been adopted regularly since 1969. Because the state had not adopted the most current code, MR. STUDY described a problem with state oversight with the ALYESKA Pipeline. He said the Department of Labor had been criticized by Congress for not having proper oversight of the pipeline and not having the most current electrical code to enforce the electrical work on ALYESKA. SENATOR DONLEY asked, "So what? Is it all of a sudden unsafe?" MR. STORY claimed there have been approximately 40,000 electrical violations. SENATOR DONLEY contended it had nothing to do with the codes. MR. STORY agreed, but he said part of the criticism his department had received was their lack of enforcement. He explained the criticism could have been because they were enforcing the 1990 code rather than the 1993 code. SENATOR TAYLOR asked how the pipeline had gotten involved in the code, and MR. STORY explained it was part of the oversight of the pipeline over the past year plus the electrical problems that had appeared. SENATOR TAYLOR asked MR. STORY if he was aware of any changes in the 1993 code from any of the previous codes, that would mandate, for example, the 40,000 repairs needed on the pipeline. He also asked if the new code would require that repairs should be made differently in the new code. MR. STORY explained the new code would allow the use of new technology, which did not exist in the older codes. They agreed there would, also, be an effect because of the newer materials used to do the repairs. MR. STORY said it gave more latitude on the materials used in the repairs. Number 092 SENATOR LITTLE approved of the manner in which the code was being updated without specific action by the legislature. She thought the code change should be made for the public safety, but she questioned the three votes against the action in the House. SENATOR DONLEY expressed his opposition to HB 101, because he thought it is the role of the legislature to adopt these standards, which he said would give the public adequate protection from an over-zealous administration. SENATOR DONLEY explained the codes in HB 101 were national codes, might not be applicable to Alaska, and he cited a battle over the use of plastic pipe, which was resisted by the trades-people in Alaska. Later the national standards eliminated the plastic pipe, because it was a poor idea, and communities all over the United States were paying millions of dollars to replace the inadequate pipe. SENATOR DONLEY claimed the present Executive Branch has too much power, and he did not approve of the delegation of additional power to them. He thought the codes should be subject to approval by the legislature. However, SENATOR DONLEY did indicate his support for the 1993 standard of the National Electrical Code and the National Electrical Safety Code, but he wanted to see the power preserved to the legislative branch of government for the final approval. SENATOR DONLEY complained the administration has been unresponsive to his efforts over the years to adopt some controls over their adoption of regulations. He said there was no adherence to the checks and balances of the committee process or the public notices for adopting regulations which have the effect of law. SENATOR DONLEY suggested the three people in the House felt as he does on his complaint. He explained it was his eighth year of opposing regulations presented in this manner since he didn't trust them - Republican or Democrat. SENATOR DONLEY said he would vote to adopt the 1993 electrical code if it was supported by the professional electrical representatives. SENATOR LITTLE said if there was a problem with a specific provision of the code relating to Alaska, the legislators would know about it, and would be able to make corrective amendments. SENATOR LITTLE empathized with SENATOR DONLEY'S concern for the balance of power, but she thought, to not adopt the electrical code in a timely manner, could endanger the public or not serve them as well. MR. STORY assured the committee that all regulations, which are adopted, go through a public hearing process. Number 141 SENATOR DONLEY outlined the problems he saw with the public hearing process, and he accused the administration of ignoring the suggestions from the public. He said it was nothing compared to the legislative process of public hearings, and he considered it an outrage. SENATOR TAYLOR questioned the proposed Senate Judiciary committee substitute. MR. STORY explained "shall" had been changed to "may" on line 8 on page 1, and the word "immediately" was added to the effective date on line 7, page 2. SENATOR TAYLOR questioned whether this went from being a mandated requirement on the department to being discretionary. MR. STORY referred to a letter from an attorney, who questioned the constitutionality of forcing the department to automatically adopt the standard from a national third party. SENATOR TAYLOR indicated this was part of SENATOR DONLEY'S concern. MR. STORY agreed, and explained that some directives from the national administration won't work in Alaska, and he thought there needed to be public and professional oversight to catch and correct problems. SENATOR DONLEY paraphrased MR. STORY'S comments to signify the administration was "jealously guarding their constitutional authority to adopt regulations." He criticized the actions of the attorney general as to the use of the word, may, instead of shall, which he said was related to his earlier argument critical of the power used by the administration to pass regulations. Number 192 MR. STORY requested to read a letter received from PETER GINDER, an attorney for the firm of KEMPPEL, HUFFMAN, AND GINDER, (255 E. Fireweed, #200. Anchorage, AK 99503), which in part said: "I have reviewed HB 101 as currently introduced and I have significant reservations about the constitutionality of this legislation as proposed. Basically the word, shall, at line 8 of HB 101 mandated the adoption of future editions of SC. (Safety Code) This could be seen as creating an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority to a non-governmental agency. I believe this type of effort to more or less automatically adopt future editions of the code has been attempted in the past, and has met with adverse attorney general's opinions. Generally, the utilities are in agreement that new editions of the code should be adopted, but I do not think it is in anyone's interest ... utilities of the State of Alaska that the adoption be subject to challenges as unconstitutional." SENATOR TAYLOR and SENATOR DONLEY agreed the argument runs both ways, and SENATOR TAYLOR cited examples of this. MR. STORY explained it was his idea to change "shall" to "may," because he said it was done automatically every three years. SENATOR TAYLOR expressed understanding for both MR. STORY'S point of view, and SENATOR DONLEY'S concerns. He thought the word, may, provided him with enough wiggle room to feel more comfortable about it, and he recalled a previous discussion a year ago when the bill was first heard. There being no further testimony on HB 101, the meeting was adjourned at 2:09 p.m. by SENATOR TAYLOR.