Legislature(1999 - 2000)
02/03/1999 03:05 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 7-INCREASE LAND GRANT TO UNIV. OF ALASKA CHAIRMAN HALFORD called the Senate Resources Committee meeting to order at 3:05 p.m. and announced SB 7 to be up for consideration. MS. MEL KROGSENG, staff to Senator Taylor, sponsor of SB 7, noted the proposed committee substitute was LS0072\H, Luckhaupt, 2/3/99. She explained that this bill would give to the University of Alaska 250,000 acres of state land to help fulfill the idea of a land grant college. She passed around maps and little dots which represented just a little more than the proposed acreage. She noted that some of the changes proposed by the Division of Lands have been incorporated into the bill. SENATOR TAYLOR moved to adopt the committee substitute to SB 7. There were no objections and it was so ordered. MR. LUCKHAUPT, Legislative Counsel, explained that section 5 on page 4 is new and deals with how the land is selected. He explained that the legislature has to approve the list of selections during the next regular session or it automatically goes into effect. The provisions about what land cannot be selected by the University have not changed - those that are subject to an existing mineral or oil and gas lease, permit, prospective sight, or any of those things cannot be selected. After the date of selection by the University, before the University would actually receive patent title to the lands, the State can still issue mining and oil and gas leases (mineral extraction) and the revenue from those leases goes to the State until the University actually receives title. In prior years there was an inconsistency with how those revenues were to be treated - specifically with regards to leases that were entered into after the date of selection and before the University received conveyance of the lands. Originally, there were to be no leases issued after a selection to resolve the issue of who the revenue went to. That was felt to unduly bind both interests in getting these lands into production. These changes are in 365 (a) and (d). Another section regarding oil and gas that's different provides that the University doesn't receive any oil and gas revenues for five years after the effective date of this act. The University could select lands that are subject to other leases and sales; for example, timber sales. The State would continue to get the revenues because they are the ones who issued the lease and were managing the land. SENATOR TAYLOR congratulated Mr. Luckhaupt on doing a good job of rewriting the bill and correcting a lot of problems that were in the previous legislation. He said the format flows and makes some sense. It also complies with a lot of requests they have received from the Department of Natural Resources. Number 200 SENATOR PARNELL asked what other kinds of leases could the land be subject to and the University still be able to select it. MS. KROGSENG suggested grazing leases. MR. LUCKHAUPT suggested recreational sights, non-profits, easements, and rights-of-way. He didn't think the University would want to select lands that were subject to encumbrances like those, however. On page 10, line 6 the bill deals with encumbrances. During the term of the lease the University doesn't get management of the land. MS. KROGSENG explained that the new draft tries to be more consistent with general principals of land management. MR. LUCKHAUPT explained that he tried to come up with a process where the revenues went with whomever was managing the land. Number 350 MR. ROSS COEN, student at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, opposed SB 7. As a student he recognizes the importance of adequate funding for the University, but he is vehemently opposed to this short-sighted funding plan and backhanded assault on the environment. The University is not a land management agency and should not be placed in the position of harvesting natural resources simply in order to survive. It excludes the public from participating in the process and might irrevocably harm the environment. He used the Yakutaga clear cut as an example. This bill will close or restrict access to 250,000 acres for hunting, fishing, skiing, etc. The University requires more funding; however, he supports it coming from the appropriations process, not short-sighted land give-aways. CHAIRMAN HALFORD asked how long he was a resident of the Fairbanks area. MR. COEN answered for approximately three years and he was a resident of Alaska for two years before becoming a student. MS. JANE ANGVIK, Department of Natural Resources, said she appreciated the efforts to address some of their concerns; however the administration is still opposed to this legislation and believes that the University must be able to acquire income. She has been advised that Senator Murkowski and Secretary Babbit have had some communication with respect to the Governor's proposal for a portion of the federal receipts from the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska (NPRA)to be provided to the University of Alaska. So there may be hope on the federal front. She said they hadn't had time to go through the committee substitute, but would provide them with a revised fiscal note. MS. WENDY REDMAN, Vice President for the University Statewide System, said she appreciated Mr. Luckhaupt's work on this bill over the years. She wanted to correct and clarify in response to some comments that the University didn't use local hire in its Yakutaga timber sale. In fact, all of the University's land contracts require local hire. They also provide, at their own expense, local training for people within the community if they want to be hired by the project. She said the destruction by the timber harvest at Cape Yakutaga was absolutely incorrect and continuing with that kind of misinformation doesn't help at all. She emphasized that the University has not ever been charged with any kind of environmental destruction. SENATOR TAYLOR compared the amount of acreage to the McNeil River Bear Refuge which has a little over 200,000 acres. He thought our children should have at least the same amount of land as the bears have. He said that comments that the revenues derived from lands would not be supplemented are completely false. This legislature has always supported the University and will continue to do so, but they want the University to have the land grant basis that it was supposed to have had at inception. He added, but for a couple of small changes that happened at statehood, our University would have had a million acres. Instead, the State acquired it with the assumption that we would do something with that acreage to support the University. Instead we are supporting the general fund. Frankly, SENATOR TAYLOR said, he would like to eliminate the entire selection process and do it much like the federal government did, which is to say every 16 and 32nd section within a township went to education. That's how most of the western states acquired their education lands which they manage to help support their school systems. He said Texas now has such valuable lands in education that they are not only paying for all their university costs, but they are paying a portion of the k through 12 costs, also. Whether Senator Murkowski is successful or not in his efforts to get the additional 500,000 acres out of the federal domain, this bill would grant the University the right to select 250,000 acres. The two bills are compatible and he has worked with Senator Murkowski's staff on his bill which will be submitted soon. However, the bills are not dependent on each other. SENATOR TAYLOR moved to pass CSSB 7 with individual recommendations. There were no objections and it was so ordered.