Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/13/1996 08:10 AM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 469 - INCREASE LAND GRANT TO UNIV. OF ALASKA CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN brought HB 469 before the committee and noted that Cliff Eames was on teleconference to testify. Number 0822 CLIFF EAMES, Alaska Center for the Environment (ACE), testified via teleconference from Anchorage, saying ACE, which had offices in Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley, opposed HB 469, as they had opposed similar bills over the years. "It's not a question of opposing adequate funding for higher and other education," Mr. Eames said. "In fact, I think it's fairly clear that conservationists as a group are very supportive of education. But it's a question of how do we fund the University of Alaska and other state services. Bills similar to this have been vetoed by two governors for very good reasons. We believe those reasons are still relevant." MR. EAMES believed HB 469 would likely result in an unconstitutional, dedicated fund. However, even if that were not so, the policy against dedicated funds was violated by this bill, he asserted. By transferring 500,000 acres, or another substantial amount, of potentially revenue-generating land to the University of Alaska, a tremendous amount of flexibility would be lost for allocating future state funding to other programs, services or facilities, Mr. Eames said. From a conservation or public use standpoint, the chance to use these public lands in a multiple-use fashion would also be lost. Instead, the lands would be entirely dedicated to revenue generation for the university. Mr. Eames concluded by saying he would submit written comments. Number 1003 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN apologized to the numerous people waiting to testify via teleconference. He stated his intention had been to take testimony that day only from one person unable to testify the following day. Co-Chairman Green asked that additional testifiers call again the next day at 1:00 p.m., when the hearing would reconvene. Number 1025 REPRESENTATIVE GENE THERRIAULT, sponsor of HB 469, stated that since similar legislation had been passed and vetoed last year, committee members were familiar with what the bill asked for. "Basically, what we're trying to do is follow through on making the University of Alaska a true land-grant college or university system," he said. "At the time of statehood, the university did have a pledge to receive lands from the federal government. However, when lands were given to the state, that pledge from the federal government was extinguished. Basically, the thought was that the state would follow through on the pledge for the land grant out of the state lands, that were given to the state." Representative Therriault explained that Governor Egan had not followed through on that. The land that the state received was managed by DNR, including the 100,000 acres that the university had selected at the time. Over the next 30 years, with DNR managing those lands, the income to the university was estimated to be around $590,000. "So, it's fairly clear that the state Department of Natural Resources was not very aggressive in managing those lands to derive a revenue stream for the benefit of the university, which is what you would want a ... land-grant university to do," Representative Therriault said. REPRESENTATIVE THERRIAULT continued, "House Bill 469 allows the University of Alaska now to select up to 500,000 acres over a 20- year period of time. And there are numerous things that have been worked out with the Administration and different coal miners in the state to try and alleviate some of their concerns." Representative Therriault noted that Ms. Redman from the University of Alaska was available for questions. He also indicated negotiations had continued as late as that morning to try to address concerns of the Administration and resource developers. Number 1188 CHARLIE BODDY, Representative, Resource Coalition, stated he representing a coalition including the Alaska Coal Association, the Alaska Miners Resource Development Council, and the Council of Alaska Producers, which had met via teleconference that week. Mr. Boddy said the resource community had concerns and that the coalition would submit a detailed list of concerns and additional comments, probably by week's end. MR. BODDY indicated the words "trusts lands" in the bill title was of concern. He referred to the Mental Health Trust lands, which had been acquired through the legislative, administrative and superior court processes. Mr. Boddy indicated 175 items were being challenged in that settlement, with briefs due April 20 in the supreme court, and with the possibility that the issues could continue on to the U.S. Supreme Court. MR. BODDY referred again to the Mental Health lands and said, "At one time, we had over 8 million acres hypothecated as part of that settlement. The bill currently has no over-selection or parameters built in around it about how much acreage could be set aside at this time, until such time as a half a million acres were rounded up. That's a major area that we'd like to have looked at." MR. BODDY referred to the land management issue, which he noted had been brought up the previous year in relation to where the management of those lands should lie. "Again, that would be a decision ... that this legislature is well equipped to deal with in setting up that trust," he concluded. Number 1341 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN referred to "checkerboarding" from state and Native selections, and now the university selections. He asked if the concern of the coalition was that, even after the finality of the Mental Health Trust lands, earlier selections could be impaired because of subsequent selections either blocking access or creating problems. MR. BODDY responded that could be an issue. CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if those were the types of concerns the coalition had, which would be on the list provided by the end of the week. MR. BODDY affirmed that and said they had identified issues but not yet fleshed them out. He indicated the all-inclusive list still needed to be sorted and put into a coherent form to provide to the committee. Number 1435 REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN commented that he had a conflict and could not attend the continuation of the hearing the next day. CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN stated he also had a conflict and would be late. He then recessed the House Resources Committee meeting at 10:07 a.m., noting the committee would reconvene the following afternoon.