Legislature(1999 - 2000)

04/07/1999 08:01 AM Senate FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE                                                                                                        
April 7, 1999                                                                                                                   
8:01 AM                                                                                                                         
SFC-99 #80, Side A & Side B                                                                                                     
CALL TO ORDER                                                                                                                   
Co-Chair John Torgerson convened the meeting at                                                                                 
approximately 8:01 A.M.                                                                                                         
Co-Chair Torgerson, Senators Dave Donley,  Loren Leman,  Al                                                                     
Adams and Lyda Green were present when the meeting was                                                                          
convened.  Senators Gary Wilken, Randy Phillips, Pete Kelly                                                                     
and Co-Chair Sean Parnell arrived shortly thereafter.                                                                           
Also Attending:                                                                                                                 
DWIGHT PERKINS, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Labor;                                                                       
JIM ROW, Director, Alaska Telephone Association (ATA),                                                                          
Anchorage; ALLISON ELGEE, Deputy Commissioner, Department                                                                       
of Administration.                                                                                                              
JUDY WARWICK, Regional Manager for External Affairs, GCI,                                                                       
Anchorage; TOM MEADE, Vice President of Regulatory                                                                              
Affaires, TEL ALASKA, Anchorage; JIMMY JACKSON, Regulatory                                                                      
Attorney, GCI, Anchorage; GREG BERBERICH, Vice President of                                                                     
Corporate Services, Matanuska Telephone Association (MTA),                                                                      
Mat-Su; KAY BURROWS, Director, Division of Senior Services,                                                                     
Department of Administration, Anchorage.                                                                                        
SUMMARY INFORMATION                                                                                                             
SB   8-SEXUAL PARITY IN PLUMBING FACILITIES                                                                                     
SB 8 was heard and rescheduled for Committee hearing for                                                                        
the evening of 4/07/99.  The bill was HELD in Committee.                                                                        
SB  52-LOCAL EXCHANGE TELEPHONE SERVICE                                                                                         
SB 52 was HEARD and HELD in Committee for further                                                                               
SB  57-CARE FOR VULNERABLE ADULTS                                                                                               
CS SB 57(FIN) was reported out of Committee with a "do                                                                          
pass" recommendation and with a fiscal note by the                                                                              
Department of Administration dated 4/02/99.                                                                                     
SENATE BILL NO. 8                                                                                                               
"An Act relating to the number of toilets in women's                                                                            
restrooms in certain facilities."                                                                                               
CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 8(STA)                                                                                                   
"An Act relating to the minimum plumbing fixtures                                                                               
required for females and males in the state plumbing                                                                            
code; and providing for an effective date."                                                                                     
Senator Donley explained SB 8 would amend the existing                                                                          
plumbing code in AS 18.60.705 to more closely resemble the                                                                      
national standard and increase the minimum number of                                                                            
women's and men's bathroom facilities in assembly places.                                                                       
He noted that SB 8 would allow women to attend large public                                                                     
events in buildings constructed after January, 2000 without                                                                     
enduring the line they have inevitable had to face, thus                                                                        
unfairly impacting their enjoyment of the event they are                                                                        
attending.  Through the bill, the ratio of women's to men's                                                                     
facilities would be increased, bringing fairness to the                                                                         
The current statute adopts the entire most recent Uniform                                                                       
Building Code, except table A-29-A, which is an older                                                                           
version of the code that provides fewer plumbing facilities                                                                     
for women. The bill would also amend current statute and                                                                        
specifically address the number of facilities provided for                                                                      
men and women in "assembly places".  The current table in                                                                       
statute does provide a slightly elevated number of                                                                              
facilities for women in comparison to those provided for                                                                        
men, but the ratio does not meet the demand.  He stated                                                                         
that SB 8 would amend table A-29-A currently in statute                                                                         
relating to females and include Table 4.1 from the 1997                                                                         
Uniform Building Code for men.                                                                                                  
Senator Donley concluded that SB 8 would correct a                                                                              
situation that has plagued women since indoor events have                                                                       
been held in the State of Alaska.  He believed that it                                                                          
would be a step in the right direction and would give women                                                                     
the opportunity to enjoy the event they are attending                                                                           
rather than spending the majority of their time in line for                                                                     
the bathroom.                                                                                                                   
Senator Green asked if Senator Donley would consider using                                                                      
the numbers in the Uniform Building Code.  Senator Donley                                                                       
agreed that would be a better than the current number of                                                                        
the facilities, however, pointed out that the need is even                                                                      
greater.  He stated that within current code, at an event                                                                       
with over four hundred participants, the difference would                                                                       
be that in current Uniform Building Code would provide for                                                                      
twelve facilities, whereas, SB 8 would provide for sixteen.                                                                     
Co-Chair Torgerson questioned Page 1, Line 6. "unless the                                                                       
department adopts by regulation a later edition of the                                                                          
following publication".  He suggested that a "later                                                                             
edition" might not include the intention of the bill.                                                                           
Senator Donley responded that he had been working with the                                                                      
Department on the legislation and never considered that the                                                                     
Department would go "backwards".  The Department does                                                                           
support increasing the number of the facilities.  The way                                                                       
the law is written provides that type of flexibility to                                                                         
either increase or decrease the number of facilities.  He                                                                       
reiterated that the Department is committed to increasing                                                                       
the facilities.                                                                                                                 
Senator Green recommended that the Department could adopt                                                                       
the Uniform Code or make the changes through statute.                                                                           
Senator Donley understood that the State had adopted only a                                                                     
portion of the code.                                                                                                            
Co-Chair Torgerson asked for clarification of the exempted                                                                      
assembly areas.  Senator Donley said the older code                                                                             
required fewer facilities.  A drafting was necessary to                                                                         
place the older system within the new law and still                                                                             
maintain the simplicity desired by the public.                                                                                  
DWIGHT PERKINS, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Labor,                                                                       
explained that the 1997 plumbing code Table 4.1 was                                                                             
included.  [Copy on File].  Last year, the Labor and                                                                            
Commerce Committee changed the language by deleting table                                                                       
4.1. and inserting the A-29 Code.  That table is less                                                                           
complex and easier to use.  Any future codes being adopted                                                                      
by regulation would still remain in statute and that the                                                                        
Legislature would have authority to change it.                                                                                  
Senator Leman asked about new construction, expansion and                                                                       
remodels.  He inquired if the new code would apply to                                                                           
increasing all facilities.  Mr. Perkins responded,                                                                              
providing two scenarios. If color schemes needed to be                                                                          
changed, there would be no increase in the number of                                                                            
restroom facilities.  However, if there were a change in                                                                        
the size of the assembly area, there would then have to be                                                                      
an increased number of facilities.  He advised that at                                                                          
present, the law addresses only the new facilities.                                                                             
Senator Wilken commented that the proposed bill was                                                                             
different from the one presented in the State Affairs                                                                           
Committee.  He requested to receive testimony from an                                                                           
architect regarding the increased costs.                                                                                        
Senator Donley commented that he had not seen any studies                                                                       
regarding that concern. From personal experience and feed                                                                       
back, he sensed that the addition of forty toilets to a new                                                                     
arena would not "make or break" costs.                                                                                          
Senator Wilken pointed out that the new law would add one                                                                       
hundred twenty-eight (128) toilets to a ten thousand-seat                                                                       
facility.  Senator Donley agreed that there were ways in                                                                        
which the matter could be resolved and that those options                                                                       
could be discussed later.                                                                                                       
Senator Leman commented, checking a quick calculation, it                                                                       
would cost approximately $500 thousand dollars more for the                                                                     
additional toilets.                                                                                                             
Senator Green explained that she did not understand the                                                                         
need to establish a higher standard than the one                                                                                
established in the current building codes.  She noted that                                                                      
she would not support the bill as written.  She proposed an                                                                     
amendment which would adopt the Uniform Building Codes.                                                                         
Senator Green MOVED to adopt Table 4.1 of the Uniform                                                                           
Building Code as a guideline for the number of water                                                                            
closets necessary per the number by occupancy.  Senator                                                                         
Donley OBJECTED.                                                                                                                
Senator Donley noted that the advantage would be lost with                                                                      
this simpler approach and that the motion would                                                                                 
significantly reduce the number of facilities provided.  He                                                                     
suggested a "better" alternative would be to modify Page 2,                                                                     
Line 16, to lower the standard.  He believed that action                                                                        
could modify having two additional water closets for each                                                                       
125 females.                                                                                                                    
Senator Green pointed out that for every four hundred                                                                           
women, presently, there are built eight water closets.  The                                                                     
bill would increase that number by six.  She questioned why                                                                     
Alaska was more unique than the rest of the states and                                                                          
needed to have more facilities.                                                                                                 
Senator Leman explained that he did not understand the                                                                          
proposed amendment.  He agreed that table 4.1 was not                                                                           
necessary and that A-29A should be kept in place.  Senator                                                                      
Green clarified that the intent of her motion was to adopt                                                                      
Table 4.1.  She pointed out that Table 4.1 had already been                                                                     
adopted regarding men's restroom concerns.  Therefore, she                                                                      
recommended that in order to make it consistent, Table 4.1                                                                      
should be adopted for both men and women.                                                                                       
Senator Donley reiterated that he proposed reducing the                                                                         
numbers on Page 2, Line 16, as the alternative.                                                                                 
A roll call vote was taken on the motion.                                                                                       
IN FAVOR:  Leman, P. Kelly, Green, Phillips                                                                                     
OPPOSED:  Donley, Torgerson, Parnell, Wilken, Adams                                                                             
The MOTION FAILED (4-5).                                                                                                        
Senator Donley MOVED to adopt Amendment #2.  He explained                                                                       
on Page 2, Line 16, delete "two" and insert "one" and                                                                           
delete "125" and insert "100".                                                                                                  
Senator Wilken recommended that the Committee seek further                                                                      
help and assistance regarding the ramifications of the                                                                          
bill.  Senator Wilken and Senator Green OBJECTED to                                                                             
Amendment #2.                                                                                                                   
Senator Wilken calculated that in a five thousand-seat                                                                          
arena, eighty-two water closets would be added.  He noted                                                                       
that Amendment #2 would add forty-one more.  That would be                                                                      
a significant change.                                                                                                           
A roll call vote was taken on the motion to adopt Amendment                                                                     
IN FAVOR: Torgerson, Parnell, Donley, Leman, Adams, P.                                                                          
Kelly, Phillips                                                                                                                 
OPPOSED:  Wilken, Green                                                                                                         
The MOTION PASSED (7-2).                                                                                                        
Co-Chair Torgerson questioned if the Department could                                                                           
answer technical questions of the Committee.  Mr. Perkins                                                                       
offered that the Department could have testimony available                                                                      
at a time specified.  Co-Chair Torgerson noted that the                                                                         
bill would be revisited at the evening meeting.                                                                                 
SB 8 was HELD in Committee for further consideration.                                                                           
SENATE BILL NO. 52                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to competition in the provision of                                                                             
local exchange telephone service; and providing for an                                                                          
effective date."                                                                                                                
CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 52(L&C)                                                                                                  
"An Act relating to competition in the provision of                                                                             
local exchange telephone service; and providing for an                                                                          
effective date."                                                                                                                
Senator P. Kelly explained that SB 52 would require the                                                                         
Alaska Public Utilities Commission (APUC) to adopt                                                                              
regulations permitting the local telephone competition in                                                                       
areas having 5,000 or more lines by July 1, 1999.  History                                                                      
has proven competition gives consumers lower costs,                                                                             
increased technology and more choices.                                                                                          
He continued, in 1996, Congress passed the                                                                                      
Telecommunications Act allowing and promoting local                                                                             
telephone competition nationwide.  The APUC exempted                                                                            
Fairbanks and Juneau from full local competition because of                                                                     
fears that competition might harm the existing phone                                                                            
monopoly (PTI).  PTI was purchased in 1997 by Century                                                                           
Telephone which has its headquarters in Louisiana.  The                                                                         
purchased of PTI made Century the 10th largest phone company                                                                    
in the United States.  Century has since sold its local                                                                         
telephone services to Alaska Communication Systems and                                                                          
affiliated companies (pending regulatory approval).                                                                             
Senator Kelly continued, the fears that promoted the APUC                                                                       
to delay full competition in Fairbanks and Juneau are the                                                                       
same fears that cause the APUC to delay long distance                                                                           
competition in Alaska for many years.  As we have all seen,                                                                     
those fears were unfounded and long distance competition                                                                        
produced better quality, new services and lower prices for                                                                      
consumers throughout the State.                                                                                                 
Co-Chair Torgerson questioned the use of "should" on Page                                                                       
2, Line #6.  He recommended it be changed to "shall".                                                                           
Senator P. Kelly replied that concern had been addressed in                                                                     
the intent language.                                                                                                            
Co-Chair Torgerson inquired if study areas would be                                                                             
established.  Senator P. Kelly noted that Mr. Jackson from                                                                      
GCI was available on teleconference to answer those                                                                             
Senator Adams stated that even without the present                                                                              
legislation, APUC would still be able to provide full focus                                                                     
on this matter.  He questioned the need for the                                                                                 
legislation.  Senator P. Kelly explained that APUC had not                                                                      
been able to make regulatory decisions and receive                                                                              
compensation until legislation had been passed in 1990.                                                                         
Senator Adams reiterated that the proposed legislation was                                                                      
not essential.                                                                                                                  
Senator Wilken referenced Page 2, Lines 13 through 16,                                                                          
questioning which portions of the State would be affected.                                                                      
Senator Kelly replied Juneau, Fairbanks, Mat-Su and a                                                                           
portion of Kenai.                                                                                                               
JUDY WARWICK, Regional Manager for External Affairs, GCI,                                                                       
Anchorage, testified via teleconference.  She noted that                                                                        
Senator Steve Frank introduced the original legislation.                                                                        
The State Regulatory Commission was assigned the                                                                                
responsibility to promote instate competition.  GCI applied                                                                     
every year and in 1991, long distance in State became a                                                                         
reality. Because of the success with in-State long                                                                              
distance, GCI assumed that there would be no "hurdles" with                                                                     
local competition.  With the exception of Anchorage, all                                                                        
local exchange carriers are designated rural exchange                                                                           
carriers.  The rural designation automatically exempts the                                                                      
incumbent carriers.  Congress and the FDC did find and                                                                          
established the criteria for terminating the rural                                                                              
Ms. Warwick stated that on September 10, 1997, GCI                                                                              
requested that APUC terminate the exemption for the local                                                                       
exchange carriers serving Fairbanks and Juneau.  On October                                                                     
23, 1997, APUC denied the request of termination.  They                                                                         
denied the request even though they did not find that the                                                                       
request was technically unfeasible or that it would result                                                                      
in economic injury beyond that associated with competitive                                                                      
TAPE SFC-99 #80, SIDE B                                                                                                         
Ms. Warwick continued.  She noted that the                                                                                      
Telecommunications Act was implemented to promote                                                                               
competition.  Only major markets have been available for                                                                        
competition in the State of Alaska.  Ms. Warwick stressed                                                                       
that the bill does not mandate competition.  She emphasized                                                                     
that the consumer will choose what is in their best                                                                             
interest.  Ms. Warwick stated that Jimmy Jackson, Corporate                                                                     
Council, GCI, was available in Anchorage via teleconference                                                                     
to answer any questions of the Committee.                                                                                       
Senator Adams referenced Page 2, Lines 29 and 30, and asked                                                                     
why GCI would want to change the timeline.  Ms. Warwick                                                                         
stated that nothing has occurred since the                                                                                      
Telecommunications Act was passed.  She recommended that                                                                        
the Committee speak with Mr. Jackson to better explain this                                                                     
Co-Chair Torgerson noted that question would be held until                                                                      
Mr. Jackson could testify.                                                                                                      
TOM MEADE, Vice President of Regulatory Affaires, TEL                                                                           
ALASKA, Anchorage, testified via teleconference from                                                                            
Anchorage.  Mr. Meade testified in opposition to SB 52.  He                                                                     
noted that his company provides local exchange telephone                                                                        
service in rural locations across the State.  He commented                                                                      
that Mr. Jackson, the attorney from GCI, would probably                                                                         
disagree as to the legality of the bill.                                                                                        
Mr. Meade stated that the bill goes contrary to the                                                                             
Telecommunications Act, in that it ignores the process that                                                                     
is required by the Act for rural exemption. He suggested                                                                        
that the legislation had been offered under false premises.                                                                     
He emphasized that the propaganda has suggested that                                                                            
service would be improved and that rates would be reduced.                                                                      
He stressed that it is misleading information to believe                                                                        
that toll rates will decrease.                                                                                                  
Mr. Meade questioned how large would the market need to be                                                                      
to support competition.  The year before GCI went into                                                                          
local competition in Anchorage, it had a net income of $7.5                                                                     
million dollars.  During local competition for two years,                                                                       
the current financial statement indicates that it lost $6.8                                                                     
million dollars.  He acknowledged that after GCI came into                                                                      
the market, toll rates did drop because most costs were                                                                         
shifted to the local exchanges.  He stated that if the bill                                                                     
does pass, it would be subject to court challenges, which                                                                       
would not be in the public's best interest.  Mr. Meade                                                                          
urged Committee members not to pass the legislation.                                                                            
Senator P. Kelly commented to the time frame, noting that                                                                       
most of the regulations were in place before the act was                                                                        
implemented.  He emphasized that there have been many                                                                           
delays on the bill.  Senator Adams stated that APUC does                                                                        
not have a time line even with the functions of the bill.                                                                       
He pointed out that APUC does not acknowledge that the bill                                                                     
is necessary.                                                                                                                   
JIMMY JACKSON, Regulatory Attorney, GCI, testified via                                                                          
teleconference from Anchorage.  He stated the study area is                                                                     
well defined by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC),                                                                     
and that it is a construct of that Commission.  In most                                                                         
cases, the study area is the same as the local utility                                                                          
service area.  However, there are a few companies in Alaska                                                                     
that have their service areas divided into more than one                                                                        
study area.  Mr. Jackson noted that the proposed bill would                                                                     
not change the procedures under Federal law.  In terms of                                                                       
what the bill does, the Attorney General testified before                                                                       
the Commission that there would not be a conflict.  The                                                                         
bill would bring in competition in order to keep prices                                                                         
down.  In those areas where there is only one carrier, that                                                                     
carrier would continue to be subject to the regulations of                                                                      
the APUC.                                                                                                                       
Senator Adams questioned if all telephone companies in                                                                          
Alaska receive Federal subsidy to help with upgrading and                                                                       
buying new equipment.  Mr. Jackson explained that all local                                                                     
phone companies in Alaska outside of Anchorage, receive                                                                         
universal service funds, which are paid based on their                                                                          
investment after the fact.                                                                                                      
Senator Adams noted that he was familiar with the telephone                                                                     
universal fund.  He asked if GCI received a Federal subsidy                                                                     
to help with competition.  Mr. Jackson responded that GCI                                                                       
did not get a subsidy from the Federal government.  There                                                                       
is a slight exception in the Life Line Program, where when                                                                      
GCI provides service in Anchorage to a welfare recipient,                                                                       
that request receives a monthly reduction to their phone                                                                        
bill.  He emphasized that is a very small program and that                                                                      
GCI gets no other federal subsidies.                                                                                            
GREG BERBERICH, Vice President of Corporate Services,                                                                           
Matanuska Telephone Association (MTA), Mat-Su, testified                                                                        
via teleconference from Mat-Su.  He said MTA was a member                                                                       
owned cooperative serving over 32,000 customers.  He spoke                                                                      
in opposition to SB 52.                                                                                                         
Mr. Berberich stated that the legislation was targeted at                                                                       
specific companies and communities and is not in compliance                                                                     
with the spirit or intent of the Telecommunications Act.                                                                        
The legislation would apply to MTA even though they are                                                                         
classified as rural.  He concluded that all Alaskans should                                                                     
have access to affordable telephone service which this bill                                                                     
would circumvent.  [Testimony on File].  He urged a no vote                                                                     
on passage of the legislation.                                                                                                  
JIM ROW, Director, Alaska Telephone Association (ATA),                                                                          
Anchorage, spoke in opposition to the legislation.  He                                                                          
stated that the term "rural exemption" makes it sound like                                                                      
any area conceived as rural is exempted from the                                                                                
opportunity of telecommunications competition.  Every area                                                                      
in the United States has the opportunity for competition                                                                        
under that Act.  That competition should bring benefit to                                                                       
the public.                                                                                                                     
Mr. Row noted that the concern is how competition works in                                                                      
rural areas.  He asked, would people in rural areas be able                                                                     
to have affordable access to telecommunications.  He                                                                            
explained the rural exemption language.  He warned that it                                                                      
is important to be careful in making this decision.                                                                             
Precautionary language should be added to  make sure that                                                                       
the public is going to benefit.  Mr. Row stressed that the                                                                      
intent is that individuals have access to affordable rates.                                                                     
Mr. Row urged Committee members to vote against passage of                                                                      
the proposed legislation.                                                                                                       
Senator Wilken inquired why this bill would negatively                                                                          
affect those living in rural Alaska.  Mr. Row replied that                                                                      
if an artificial number is added to the Federal Act, those                                                                      
below that number will receive the benefits of competition.                                                                     
If the APUC procedure is in place, the rates would still be                                                                     
affordable.  He spoke to the conflict within the Federal                                                                        
Senator P. Kelly commented that if the bill should pass,                                                                        
the  APCU would continue to be involved.  That Commission                                                                       
would determine regulations and whether they work.  They                                                                        
will no longer be responsible for making a policy call.                                                                         
The competition would be either "good" or "bad".  Senator                                                                       
P. Kelly reminded members that the bulk of the regulations                                                                      
are already adopted and that the people of Alaska will                                                                          
benefit from the competition.                                                                                                   
Co-Chair Torgerson stated that SB 52 would be HELD in                                                                           
Committee for further consideration.                                                                                            
SENATE BILL NO. 57                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to vulnerable adults; and providing                                                                            
for an effective date."                                                                                                         
CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 57(JUD)                                                                                                  
"An Act relating to vulnerable adults and to the                                                                                
functions of the office of the state long term care                                                                             
ombudsman on behalf of vulnerable adults and senior                                                                             
citizens; and providing for an effective date."                                                                                 
Senator Green MOVED to adopt Amendment #2, 1-LS0135\G.2,                                                                        
Lauterbach, 4/06/99.  [Copy on File].  Co-Chair Torgerson                                                                       
Senator Green explained that language had been added to the                                                                     
bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee for the movement of                                                                      
the long term care ombudsman. In looking more deeply at                                                                         
that change, there is concern about that language.  The                                                                         
Ombudsman Office has requested that the change be reversed.                                                                     
Co-Chair Torgerson WITHDREW  his OBJECTION to adoption of                                                                       
the amendment.  There being NO further OBJECTION, Amendment                                                                     
KAY BURROWS, Director, Division of Senior Services,                                                                             
Department of Administration, Anchorage, testified via                                                                          
teleconference from Anchorage.  She offered to answer                                                                           
questions of the Committee and voiced her support of the                                                                        
ALLISON ELGEE, Deputy Commissioner, Department of                                                                               
Administration, advised that the Department supported the                                                                       
Senator Wilken MOVED to report SB 57 out of Committee with                                                                      
individual recommendations and with the accompanying fiscal                                                                     
note.  There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered.                                                                             
CS SB 57 (FIN) was reported out of Committee with a "do                                                                         
pass" recommendation and with a fiscal note by the                                                                              
Department of Administration dated 4/02/99.                                                                                     
Co-Chair Torgerson recessed the SFC Committee at                                                                                
approximately 9:40 a.m.                                                                                                         
SFC-99 (12) 4/07/99 a.m.                                                                                                        

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