Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205

03/09/2006 01:30 PM TRANSPORTATION

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSSB 261(TRA) Out of Committee
Moved SB 271 Out of Committee
Moved SB 300 Out of Committee
Moved SB 304 Out of Committee
           SB 271-AUTHORIZE HWY PROGRAM PARTICIPATION                                                                       
CHAIR HUGGINS announced SB 271 to be up for discussion.                                                                         
MIKE  BARTON,  Commissioner,  Department  of  Transportation  and                                                               
Public Facilities  (DOTPF), emphasized  the importance of  SB 271                                                               
that   gives   the  state   the   ability   to  assume   National                                                               
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)  responsibilities for the Federal                                                               
Highway Administration.   This is  a pilot project that  is being                                                               
offered to  only four or  five other  states and probably  the 45                                                               
other states  would like to have  it.  It rounds  out the state's                                                               
roll  in  NEPA  and  is  akin to  the  state  assuming  fisheries                                                               
He  said  that  Department of  Environmental  Conservation  (DEC)                                                               
would assume  management of  National Pollutant  Discharge System                                                               
(NPDS)  permits. The  fiscal  note was  on the  order  of half  a                                                               
million dollars, but  he felt that it would be  more expensive to                                                               
not  do it  and  felt  that Alaska  would  be  better served  and                                                               
perhaps even get some projects out a little sooner.                                                                             
1:40:30 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGGINS said Alaska is one  of five states that are part of                                                               
the pilot  program - California,  Oklahoma, Ohio, and  Texas, are                                                               
the others. The program expires on  August 10, 2011, and he asked                                                               
if he thought it would be self-perpetuating.                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER BARTON responded that 2011  is when the next highway                                                               
reauthorization would occur  and he thought all  states would get                                                               
this opportunity at that time.                                                                                                  
CHAIR  HUGGINS said  the  state may  not  submit its  application                                                               
until  rule-making   is  complete   and  that   has  yet   to  be                                                               
COMMISSIONER BARTON  replied that  was correct.  Federal Highways                                                               
was given nine months to put the rules together.                                                                                
1:42:00 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KOOKESH asked how far behind they are.                                                                                  
COMMISSIONER  BARTON said  that  Federal  Highways anticipates  a                                                               
July/August timeframe.                                                                                                          
CHAIR HUGGINS  said he thought  it would be reasonable  to assume                                                               
that would bite into the pilot time.                                                                                            
SENATOR FRENCH  asked if  the state would  take over  all federal                                                               
highway projects during the pilot program.                                                                                      
COMMISSIONER BARTON answered that the  program is structured so a                                                               
state  could choose  to  apply  it selectively,  but  it was  his                                                               
intent to assume it for everything.                                                                                             
1:42:59 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  FRENCH  asked   for  a  legal  opinion   as  to  whether                                                               
Section 1, on  page 1, line  7, should  be read as  "must" rather                                                               
than  "may"   in  reference  to  the   Attorney  General  waiving                                                               
immunity.  He thought  the  state  had to  waive  immunity if  it                                                               
assumed a project.                                                                                                              
PETER PUTZIER, Senior  Assistant Attorney General, Transportation                                                               
Section, Civil  Division, Department of Law,  answered that there                                                               
is  a  potential   separation-of-powers  issue.  The  Legislature                                                               
couldn't direct  the Attorney General  to waive  immunity. Before                                                               
the  state  can  assume  duties, by  subsequent  memorandum,  the                                                               
Attorney General  would have  to weigh  in on  a project-specific                                                               
1:44:40 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  FRENCH  asked  if  this  is part  of  a  six-year  pilot                                                               
COMMISSIONER  BARTON  replied yes  and  part  of it  has  already                                                               
SENATOR  FRENCH asked  if worse  comes  to worse  and it  doesn't                                                               
work, is there a mechanism by which  the state can go back to the                                                               
way it was before.                                                                                                              
COMMISSIONER BARTON replied that  he didn't anticipate this being                                                               
a train wreck; rather he thought  it was a golden opportunity for                                                               
the state. He was sure there  was some escape mechanism if it was                                                               
really needed.                                                                                                                  
SENATOR  FRENCH opined  that the  state could  at least  consider                                                               
finishing its ongoing projects and just not take over any more.                                                                 
COMMISSIONER BARTON agreed that was one escape mechanism.                                                                       
1:45:45 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGGINS said  this really allows the state  to take control                                                               
of its own destiny.                                                                                                             
COMMISSIONER BARTON concurred.                                                                                                  
1:46:09 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  FRENCH  moved  to  report SB  271  from  committee  with                                                               
individual  recommendations.    Without  objection,  SB  271  was                                                               
reported from the Senate Transportation Standing Committee.                                                                     

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