Legislature(2015 - 2016)BUTROVICH 205

03/17/2016 09:00 AM Senate STATE AFFAIRS

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Audio Topic
08:59:06 AM Start
08:59:29 AM SB144
09:22:07 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Time Change --
<Bill Hearing Canceled>
<Bill Hearing Canceled>
<Bill Hearing Canceled>
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled: TELECONFERENCED
        SB 144-RELOCATION ASSISTANCE FOR FED. PROJ/PROG                                                                     
8:59:29 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STOLTZE announced the consideration of SB 144.                                                                            
9:00:03 AM                                                                                                                    
STEVE   HATTER,  Deputy   Commissioner,   Alaska  Department   of                                                               
Transportation  and  Public  Facilities  (DOT),  Juneau,  Alaska,                                                               
explained  that the  purpose  of  SB 144  was  to bring  Alaska's                                                               
right-of-way statute in compliance with  new federal law. He said                                                               
when  right-of-ways   are  acquired  for   public  transportation                                                               
purposes,  federal  law  requires the  department  to  compensate                                                               
property  owners: value  of  the property  as  well as  providing                                                               
appropriate   relocation   benefits    to   displaced   families,                                                               
businesses, and farms.                                                                                                          
He  set forth  that SB  144 was  about relocation  assistance. He                                                               
revealed  that  under the  federal  initiative  known as  "Moving                                                               
Ahead for Progress in the  21st Century Act" (MAP-21), qualifying                                                               
for  reimbursement would  be easier  and  the maximum  relocation                                                               
assistance  available for  affected parties  increased. He  noted                                                               
that MAP-21 was passed by the federal government in 2012.                                                                       
He  summarized  that  SB  114 would  provide  greater  equity  to                                                               
Alaskans impacted  by relocation, bring the  department into full                                                               
compliance   with   MAP-21,   and  clarified   the   department's                                                               
relocation  assistance for  DOT project  teams, contractors,  and                                                               
9:01:40 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STOLTZE asked  that Mr. Hatter address  projects that might                                                               
be impacted by SB 144.                                                                                                          
MR.  HATTER answered  that SB  144 would  have applied  to a  few                                                               
projects from the  past. He explained that DOT  tries to minimize                                                               
relocating people.  He said DOT  project designers  and engineers                                                               
try very hard not to impact people's lives.                                                                                     
CHAIR STOLTZE asked that a  specific project involving relocation                                                               
be addressed.                                                                                                                   
9:02:55 AM                                                                                                                    
HEATHER  FAIR, State  Right-of-Way  Chief,  Alaska Department  of                                                               
Transportation  and Public  Facilities,  Juneau, Alaska,  replied                                                               
that she cannot think of a  project that occurred in the past two                                                               
years. She  reiterated that DOT  tries not to  relocate families,                                                               
businesses, or farms.                                                                                                           
CHAIR STOLTZE  pointed out  that challenges  had occurred  in the                                                               
past on making  property owners whole. He remarked  that he found                                                               
it hard  to believe that with  all of the projects  the state had                                                               
done  in the  past that  DOT representatives  could not  identify                                                               
projects  with  challenges.  He  noted  that  the  committee  was                                                               
pushing through the legislation as a DOT priority.                                                                              
MR. HATTER specified that SB  144 would allow for compliance with                                                               
higher federal limits  and provide DOT with an  opportunity to be                                                               
fairer to Alaskans within the federal statute.                                                                                  
CHAIR STOLTZE asked if there  had been situations where the state                                                               
treasury  made  people  more  whole  through  the  general  fund,                                                               
appropriations, or DOT appropriations.                                                                                          
MR. HATTER answered that he was not aware of any cases.                                                                         
9:05:20 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  FAIR detailed  that incidences  had  occurred where  general                                                               
funds were used to pay  for "administrative settlements" in order                                                               
to minimize legal costs for  acquisition or relocation cases that                                                               
went beyond fair market value.                                                                                                  
CHAIR  STOLTZE noted  that  the Briggs  Bridge  built over  Eagle                                                               
River  in  1992  had  right-of-way  acquisitions  that  displaced                                                               
people  during an  economic  downturn. He  remarked  that SB  144                                                               
would  provide  DOT  with  more   leverage  for  relocation,  but                                                               
inquired  if  consideration  was  given  to  relocation  projects                                                               
during a downturn in the economy.                                                                                               
9:07:07 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MCGUIRE joined the committee meeting.                                                                                   
SENATOR   HUGGINS  noted   that   the  time   frame  for   making                                                               
displacement payments  was reduced from  180 days to 90  days. He                                                               
asked that Mr. Hatter address the change.                                                                                       
MR. HATTER answered  that the time change was a  result of MAP-21                                                               
and DOT's intent to comply with federal law.                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGGINS asked that Ms.  Fair address sections in the bill                                                               
that  referenced mortgage  and expense  payments for  a displaced                                                               
9:09:16 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. FAIR  explained that  the federal  code set  forth assistance                                                               
for mortgage and  expense payments based upon a  person that owns                                                               
versus a tenant that rents.                                                                                                     
SENATOR  HUGGINS asked  Ms. Fair  to verify  that the  provisions                                                               
would provide aid to the property owner.                                                                                        
MS.  FAIR answered  correct. She  specified  that the  provisions                                                               
were designed to allow more people to qualify for benefits.                                                                     
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI noted  that there was a zero  fiscal note in                                                               
the operating budget,  but Ms. Fair mentioned  that the increased                                                               
relocation costs  would be absorbed  within the  existing capital                                                               
program funding and the bill  was retroactive to October 1, 2014.                                                               
He asked how  much the state would be paying  out from 2014 until                                                               
the present.                                                                                                                    
MS. FAIR answered that the amount was estimated to be $12,000.                                                                  
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if Mr. Hatter  had a sense of what the                                                               
annual cost would be.                                                                                                           
9:10:58 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  HATTER   answered  that  estimating   for  the   future  was                                                               
difficult. He  reiterated that project designers  would work very                                                               
hard not to relocate people.                                                                                                    
CHAIR STOLTZE noted that Section  3 and Section 4 deleted expense                                                               
limits  of  $10,000  and  $22,500.  He  asked  what  the  state's                                                               
exposure would be due to the limit deletion.                                                                                    
MR.  HATTER  answered  that  limitations  were  dictated  by  the                                                               
federal   limits  and   changes  would   occur  through   federal                                                               
legislation.  He specified  that the  deletion would  not require                                                               
DOT to  come back  and update legislation  each time  the federal                                                               
limits are changed.                                                                                                             
9:13:04 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  STOLTZE noted  that  local  governments had  administrated                                                               
some road projects in the past.  He asked if DOT intended to have                                                               
the legislation apply to entirely state-funded projects as well.                                                                
MS. FAIR answered yes. She asserted  that the intent was to treat                                                               
everyone fairly for both state and federal projects.                                                                            
CHAIR STOLTZE asked if possible  litigation costs would fall into                                                               
a relocation expense.                                                                                                           
MR. HATTER explained that the  relocation expense was specific to                                                               
moving and litigation was a separate piece.                                                                                     
CHAIR STOLTZE  asked if an  activity like raising livestock  on a                                                               
farm would have an impact on  whether a project moves forward due                                                               
to relocation issues.                                                                                                           
9:15:39 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR COGHILL  noted that  Section 2 in  the bill  would repeal                                                               
and reenact  fixed payments  for moving  expenses. He  asked that                                                               
Ms. Fair explain Section 2.                                                                                                     
MS.  FAIR answered  that  Section 2  simplified  the language  in                                                               
reference  to  federal code.  She  said  the change  lessens  the                                                               
opportunity for  misinterpretation or duplication of  errors. She                                                               
detailed that  the same provisions  were still in place,  but the                                                               
federal government increased the  amount that someone can receive                                                               
in terms  of actual moving  expenses in a  onetime-fixed payment.                                                               
She specified that SB 144 allows DOT  to not have to come back to                                                               
the Legislature when changes were made to the federal code.                                                                     
9:17:28 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR COGHILL  asked what would  happen if the code  number was                                                               
MR. HATTER  explained that  DOT worked  closely with  the Federal                                                               
Highway  Administration  to  make  sure the  state  complied.  He                                                               
reiterated that the intent was to  update the statute so that DOT                                                               
was in compliance  and did not have to come  back year after year                                                               
as things change.                                                                                                               
SENATOR  COGHILL noted  that he  feared linking  to federal  code                                                               
because sometimes the state finds itself in awkward positions.                                                                  
9:19:05 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  STOLTZE  asked  that  DOT return  to  a  future  committee                                                               
meeting  to address  historical relocation  issues. He  specified                                                               
that the  committee wants  to know what  the potential  costs and                                                               
obligations are for the state.                                                                                                  
MR. HATTER  replied that  DOT would  comply with  Chair Stoltze's                                                               
9:21:29 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STOLTZE announced that SB 144 would be held in committee.                                                                 

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