Legislature(2003 - 2004)
05/06/2004 09:15 AM House CRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 260-METROPOLITAN PLANNING ORGANIZATIONS/AREAS CHAIR MORGAN announced that the first order of business would be CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 260(TRA) am, "An Act relating to metropolitan planning organizations and to the policy board of the metropolitan planning organization for the Anchorage metropolitan area; relating to transportation planning in federally recognized metropolitan planning areas; and providing for an effective date." Number 0145 SENATOR BEN STEVENS, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor of SB 260, explained that this legislation suggests changing the makeup of the policy board of the metropolitan planning organization (MPO). He explained that HCS CSSB 260(TRA) would increase the current membership of the Anchorage MPO policy committee from five to nine members. The increased membership consists of two members of the legislature as ex officio members and two public members, one of which would be appointed by the mayor and one by the governor. The aforementioned attempt to include more public input is probably the most controversial. He noted that the policy board of the MPO has spending oversight over federal and state dollars within the MPO of Anchorage. The MPO has oversight over approximately $50 million of expenditures a year. Senator Ben Stevens pointed out that the legislation also provides authority to the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) "to approve a transportation improvement plan made up of the policy board." He noted that this is the third time this subject has been before the legislature. The committee took an at-ease from 9:17 a.m. to 9:18 a.m. CHAIR MORGAN noted that he had to attend a Senate Community and Regional Affairs Standing Committee meeting, and therefore passed the gavel to Vice Chair Wolf. Number 0493 DEANNA ESSERT informed the committee that she has attended Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation Solutions (AMATS) meetings since 1997 and is thoroughly frustrated with the policies and process. She related that one summer she attended numerous work sessions to improve the process. Although the process is now touted as "Anchorage on the move, the solution to public involvement", the process doesn't provide any opportunity for public involvement, save attending AMATS meetings and providing comments when there is the opportunity to do so. Ms. Essert related that this year she has learned that AMATS has instituted new processes, outside the legal statutory limits of AMATS, that are influencing the process without the necessary and required statutory protection. One of those processes, stakeholder interviews, doesn't include the public at-large, rather just select "movers and shakers" in the community. Furthermore, the round-table process includes many of the same individuals who have advocated for controversial projects that have consumed millions of dollars and who now suggest spending 15 percent of Anchorage's road allocation on enhancements. Some balance on AMATS is necessary, she said. Ms. Essert explained that she supported SB 260 in its original form, which would've included legislators in a voting capacity. Legislators are elected officials who are responsible to the electorate. In its current form, AMATS is a political animal that isn't responsive to the public's needs. Although Ms. Essert said that she would accept legislators as non-voting members, she expressed hope they would be included in the process. She expressed frustration with the mayor spending taxpayers' dollars to lobby the legislature for specific projects when the mayor could have individuals who are intimately involved in the process of choosing the projects that should be approved sit on the policy committee. Ms. Essert concluded by emphasizing that she preferred the original legislation because it was simpler, less involved, and provided the taxpayers representation. However, she noted her support of placing legislators on the AMATS policy committee in any capacity. Number 0780 CRAIG LYON, AMATS Coordinator, Municipality of Anchorage, informed the committee that the Municipality of Anchorage supports the idea of opening up the process to improve communication and public participation. Currently, there are two citizen committees that support AMATS with public participation, notwithstanding what is offered during the meetings. The Planning & Zoning Commission serves as the federally required citizens advisory group [as does the] AMATS Air Quality Advisory Group. Mr. Lyon highlighted that there is a new mayor, a new coordinator, and a new DOT&PF director for the central region all of which are committed to improving the public process. Steps are being taken to improve the public process, which is a continual process. Therefore, there is flexibility in meeting schedules and quarterly meetings with the Federation of Community Councils are held to brief them on projects and processes in order to open the process. Mr. Lyon related that at this time the Begich Administration doesn't support adding members to the policy committee and doesn't support doing so unilaterally, which is inconsistent with the intent of federal rules for MPOs such as AMATS. REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON informed the committee that Mr. Lyon worked as legislative staff for many years, and noted that he is glad Mr. Lyon holds the position of Coordinator of AMATS. He also noted that he served on the round-table committee of AMATS with Mr. Lyon, who he said is knowledgeable. He mentioned that he appreciated Mr. Lyon's efforts. Number 0913 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT moved to report HCS CSSB 260(TRA) out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA objected. She informed the committee that she has received an enormous amount of mail relating the need for separation of state and local government on this matter. SENATOR BEN STEVENS related that throughout the evolution of this legislation, legislative involvement in an MPO was a topic of discussion. He said that he and supporters of the legislation believe that legislative involvement in MPOs is a good thing because legislators are elected from local areas and answer to the people in their district. Senator Ben Stevens explained that his involvement in this issue began because his constituents had nowhere else to go; no one on the MPO, the Anchorage Assembly, or Anchorage's city hall would listen to them. Therefore, he introduced the proposal to place legislators on the MPO. He noted that although he believes the legislative members should be voting members of the MPO, he compromised in the House Transportation Standing Committee by agreeing to an amendment that made legislators non-voting members of the MPO. At that time, Mr. Lyon testified that in Oahu, Hawaii there was an MPO that consisted of a large number of legislators. Senator Ben Stevens recalled that Mr. Lyon testified that the aforementioned Hawaiian MPO with legislators was operating so ineffectively that the legislators were removed. MR. LYON recalled that he had testified that legislators were members of the Oahu MPO and that because Oahu's system and its priorities had become so politicized, members of Anchorage's MPO were asked to go to Oahu and help fix the system, which they did. He related his understanding that at this time no legislators are members of the Oahu MPO. Number 1152 SENATOR BEN STEVENS informed the committee that there is a letter from the director of the Oahu MPO saying that the number of legislators on the MPO was reduced, although the legislators constitute a majority of the Oahu MPO. Senator Ben Stevens stressed that this is the third time that the Municipality of Anchorage has testified with inaccurate information regarding the makeup of MPOs throughout the nation. He further stressed that he has attempted to work with the Municipality of Anchorage and it's administration within the Anchorage Assembly to develop a compromise, but those groups won't come to the table or compromise. Furthermore, [the Municipality of Anchorage and it's administration] have supplied disinformation, he said. MR. LYON disagreed. SENATOR BEN STEVENS reminded the committee that there is a motion to report HCS CSSB 260(TRA) from committee. He encouraged the committee to do so in order that "we can hash this out at the next level." Number 1236 REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA informed the committee that she has attended a large percentage of all of the public transportation meetings in Anchorage for the past six to eight years. She said that she hasn't had the experience [related by Senator Ben Stevens] nor is it the experience others have related to her. SENATOR BEN STEVENS acknowledged that on a regular basis there are numerous planning meetings that take place throughout the community and during which the public can testify. This legislation provides the public with the opportunity to be involved in the voting, that is through the selection and prioritization of the projects. The aforementioned doesn't exist under the current makeup, which he characterized as a controlled distribution system. Senator Ben Stevens reiterated that he is merely trying to bring in more public involvement through representatives of other elected officials or through the addition of two public members. In response to Representative Samuels, Senator Ben Stevens specified that the legislators would be ex officio members while the public members would be voting members. REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS recalled his tenure as the head of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce and related that people hated AMATS. To follow the AMATS process is a full-time job regardless of the mayor or the governor. To be an individual citizen on AMATS is "almost an impossibility," he said. Representative Samuels stated that he didn't see any harm having a legislator be an ex officio member. REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA pointed out that assembly members and the mayor are also elected, with the sole responsibility of the municipality. However, a legislator is charged with being responsible for the entire state. Representative Cissna opined that the elected officials are already on the [policy committee]. SENATOR BEN STEVENS highlighted that AMATS doesn't spend local money but rather federal and state money. REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON surmised that Senator Ben Stevens meant that [municipal and state] funding is integrated. VICE CHAIR WOLF reminded the committee that there was a motion before it, and therefore he requested a roll call vote. A roll call vote was taken. Representatives Wolf, Kott, Anderson, and Samuels voted in favor of reporting HCS CSSB 260(TRA) out of committee. Representatives Cissna and Kookesh voted against it. Therefore, HCS CSSB 260(TRA) was reported out of the House Community and Regional Affairs Standing Committee by a vote of 4-2.