Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/14/1996 01:12 PM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 HB 469 - INCREASE LAND GRANT TO UNIV. OF ALASKA                             
                                                                               
 Number 1137                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR WILLIAMS announced the next order of business was HB 469.            
 He called on Joseph Henri to testify.                                         
                                                                               
 JOSEPH HENRI, Chair, Finance, Facilities and Land Management                  
 Committee, University of Alaska Board of Regents, explained that              
 committee had been pushing for a state land grant and said the bill           
 was much needed.  "We're a land grant university under the federal            
 statute, but we have no lands, substantively speaking," he said.              
 He indicated that while the university had 112,000 acres of land,             
 Alaska had 104,000,000 upland acres, plus an unspecified amount of            
 tideland and submerged acreage.                                               
                                                                               
 Number 1231                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. HENRI noted the university was asking for one-third of                    
 1percent of the land owned by the state.  Receiving 500,000 acres             
 would be a big step for the university, which would work hard to              
 induce development and to earn money on it, which was necessitated            
 by diminishing general fund money.  "I think we will offer the                
 mining world a good, sensible, reliable deal," he said.  "We will             
 not be arbitrary with them.  If we were, they wouldn't come to our            
 land.  And, of course, we have, in our university system, a school            
 of mineral engineering, graduates of whom are running some of these           
 companies this very day."                                                     
                                                                               
 Number 1436                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR WILLIAMS asked Sara Hannan of the Alaska Environmental               
 Lobby if she could wait until the following Monday to speak, to               
 which she agreed.                                                             
                                                                               
 HEATH HILYARD, Student Body Representative, University of                     
 Fairbanks, spoke on behalf of HB 469.  Tuition rates had risen                
 nearly 200 percent over the past decade, he said.  Meanwhile,                 
 general fund monies to the university had diminished enough that              
 tuition increases had not entirely offset the decline.  Mr. Hilyard           
 noted that the Board of Regents had just approved another tuition             
 increase.  "We're not even maintaining status quo at this point in            
 time," he said.  "We're just slowing the rate of regression in the            
 UA system.  This additional 500,000 acres would go a long way to              
 helping the university generate enough revenue to begin to at least           
 maintain status quo, if not possibly succeed and progress, as I was           
 presuming it was intended to do."  Mr. Hilyard said there were                
 serious technical and external issues that were not of great                  
 concern to the students.  However, they were concerned about                  
 tuition increases, coupled with unfunded faculty positions and                
 program closures.  As a result, the students firmly supported                 
 HB469.                                                                        
                                                                               
 Number 1580                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE DON LONG asked if Mr. Hilyard knew which lands were            
 being looked at.                                                              
                                                                               
 MR. HILYARD indicated he did not know.                                        
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR WILLIAMS informed people waiting on teleconference that              
 more public testimony would be taken Monday.  He asked for a motion           
 to accept CSHB 469, version F, as a work draft.                               
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT said, "So moved."  There being no objection, it           
 was so ordered.                                                               
                                                                               
 Number 1740                                                                   
 SUSAN FLENSBURG, Director, Bristol Bay Coastal Resource Service               
 Area (BBCRSA) Coastal Management Program, testified via                       
 teleconference, saying BBCRSA's coastal district encompassed 11               
 communities, including Dillingham.  The majority of land in the               
 coastal district was owned by the state.  There had been two state            
 management plans in effect for the area, including the Bristol Bay            
 Area Plan and the Nushagak/Mulchatna Rivers Recreation Management           
 Plan.  Ms. Flensburg said the latter was not only a land use plan             
 for the Department of Natural Resources but also a special coastal            
 management plan for the district.                                             
                                                                               
 MS. FLENSBURG said, "I support education.  I  think the university            
 needs increased funding.  We've got a small branch out here in                
 Dillingham, as well.  But my main concern with the bill, the way              
 it's presently crafted, is that it seems to totally by-pass any               
 kind of public review process."  She referred to Section 8(e), page           
 8, lines 17-20, and said the management plans had taken years to              
 develop, with a full-blown public review process upon which                   
 decisions were made.  She thought the bill threw all that out the             
 window.  "My understanding of the bill is that none of the existing           
 land use management plans would apply," she said.  "There would be            
 no best-interest finding determination, which is typically done for           
 land use decisions."  Ms. Flensburg asked why the bill was written            
 so that it precluded relying on the land use plans and the state's            
 best interest finding determination process for land selection.               
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR WILLIAMS deferred to Wendy Redman for a response.                    
                                                                               
 Number 1975                                                                   
                                                                               
 WENDY REDMAN, Vice President for University Relations, University             
 of Alaska Fairbanks, explained HB 469 included sections that                  
 expanded the university's current public process.  The university             
 had also passed new policies expanding on that process, she said.             
 She noted that prior to disposal of any lands, the Department of              
 Natural Resources (DNR) had to meet requirements addressing best              
 use determination.                                                            
                                                                               
 MS. REDMAN said, "This bill was specifically redrafted this year in           
 a way that gives, essentially, total control to the Department of             
 Natural Resources for them to determine even what lands would be              
 available for us to select from."   She indicated that was                    
 primarily in response to concerns raised by the environmental                 
 community and others, who wanted to make sure DNR would follow the            
 public processes with which Alaskans were comfortable.  "So, we               
 were comfortable with that, as well," she said.  "And so, this bill           
 really is a much more simplified way.  Essentially, it says DNR               
 gets to determine what lands are even available for selection,                
 based on their own best use determination."                                   
                                                                               
 Number 2100                                                                   
                                                                               
 MS. FLENSBURG stated she did not see that in the bill.  She                   
 referred to Section 8 (e), which began, "In conveying land to the             
 University of Alaska under this section, the commissioner of                  
 natural resources shall give public notice under AS 38.05.945(b)".            
 Ms. Flensburg noted that was the standard public notice provision             
 in Title 38.  She pointed out subsection (e) concluded by saying,             
 "but other provisions of AS 38.04 and AS 38.05 do not apply."  Ms.            
 Flensburg said those sections talked about the state's best                   
 interest planning determination process.  She said the bill removed           
 the state's ability to rely on existing land use plans to help                
 determine what those selections should be.  Although public notice            
 would be provided, there would be no public review process.                   
                                                                               
 [END OF TAPE]                                                                 
                                                                               
 TAPE 96-35, SIDE A                                                            
 Number 0005                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR WILLIAMS announced the teleconference would conclude at              
 2:45 p.m.  He informed Ms. Flensburg that Representative                      
 Therriault, sponsor of the bill, had an 800 number and offered to             
 call Ms. Flensburg to provide that number.                                    
                                                                               
 MS. FLENSBURG indicated she could call Representative Therriault's            
 office.  She concluded by saying she hoped the committee understood           
 how significant Section 8 (e) was.                                            
                                                                               
 Number 0088                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES pointed out to Ms. Flensburg that under                 
 Section 8, the land list had to be submitted to the legislature,              
 which should provide a public process.                                        
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR WILLIAMS announced that the public hearing would continue            
 Monday at 8:00 a.m.                                                           
                                                                               
 AN UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN, speaking via teleconference from the                   
 University of Alaska Anchorage, indicated numerous students were              
 waiting on teleconference to testify.  She said most of the                   
 students there opposed the bill.  She asked if the hearing could be           
 continued that day.                                                           
                                                                               
 Number 0197                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR WILLIAMS responded that although the committee members               
 would be willing, the teleconference was ending.  He apologized               
 that not everyone could be heard that day.  After the                         
 teleconference concluded, he offered to hear testimony from two               
 students in the audience, who declined, saying they were from                 
 Juneau and would return Monday.                                               

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