Legislature(2009 - 2010)

04/14/2009 02:56 PM House TRA

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 148-LIABILITY FOR TRIBAL ROAD CONSTRUCTION                                                                                 
2:57:03 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR WILSON announced that the  first order of business would be                                                               
CS FOR SENATE  BILL NO. 148(JUD), "An Act  relating to limitation                                                               
of  state  liability on  certain  federal  highway programs;  and                                                               
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
2:57:14 PM                                                                                                                    
DOROTHY  SHOCKLEY, Staff,  Senator Albert  Kookesh, Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature,  stated  that SB  148  would  resolve the  issue  of                                                               
liability to the state or  employees of the state when partnering                                                               
with federally  recognized tribes  under the  Indian Reservations                                                               
Road  Program.   This bill  will assist  by leading  to long-term                                                               
improvements    in    the    state's    overall    transportation                                                               
infrastructure.     As  DOT&PF  prepares   for  the   next  State                                                               
Transportation  Improvement  Plan  (STIP),  for  the  first  time                                                               
Indian  tribes can  bring forth  matching and  maintenance funds.                                                               
She  referred  to  packet  materials  including  two  lists,  one                                                               
showing allocation, and  the other detailing the  shares per mile                                                               
and  per  population.    She  related  that  DOT&PF  prepared  an                                                               
overview of funding  and road inventory funding.   She noted that                                                               
the  roads  in  question  are   owned  by  the  state  and  local                                                               
governments.  She  highlighted the IRR funding  for Alaska tribes                                                               
and stipulations for  IRR funding, which allows up  to 25 percent                                                               
for   road   maintenance,   matching  funds,   and   design   and                                                               
construction.   She explained that the  economic stimulus funding                                                               
is estimated at  $35 million.  She concluded by  stating that the                                                               
bill will resolve the state's liability issue.                                                                                  
3:00:41 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR WILSON recapped that SB  148 is basically to address Indian                                                               
tribe  road  issues.    She  stated that  this  could  allow  for                                                               
additional  jobs  on  DOT&PF projects,  and  limits  the  state's                                                               
3:01:34 PM                                                                                                                    
MARY  SIROKY, Legislative  Liaison, Office  of the  Commissioner,                                                               
Department  of  Transportation   &  Public  Facilities  (DOT&PF),                                                               
explained  that   the  Department  of  Transportation   &  Public                                                               
Facilities supports the bill.   She related that the DOT&PF asked                                                               
Senator Kookesh to  carry the bill.  The bill  will assist DOT&PF                                                               
to partner  with tribes and will  make it much easier  for tribal                                                               
personnel to build technical skills to maintain their own roads.                                                                
3:02:25 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  WILSON, after  first  determining no  one  else wished  to                                                               
testify, closed public testimony on SB 148.                                                                                     
3:02:43 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  JOHNSON asked  whether  the bill  will waive  the                                                               
state's liability if someone is working on the roads.                                                                           
MS.  SIROKY  answered that  SB  148  clearly identifies  when  an                                                               
Indian tribe is  working on a road using  Indian Reservation Road                                                               
(IRR) funds, the state remains  liable for the underlying design.                                                               
Thus, if  a vehicle  has an  accident due to  a design  flaw, the                                                               
state is still liable.                                                                                                          
3:03:42 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  JOHNSON asked  whether the  state is  compensated                                                               
for the design work for the federal government.                                                                                 
MS. SIROKY  offered an example in  which a road was  built and an                                                               
accident  occurred   while  the   Indian  tribe   was  performing                                                               
maintenance.   If a lawsuit was  filed due to the  curb being too                                                               
sharp, the  state would be  held liable.   However, in  the event                                                               
that  the road  is not  properly  maintained and  an accident  is                                                               
caused due to icy roads, the Indian tribe would be held liable.                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON asked how SB 148 would benefit the state.                                                                
MS. SIROKY  answered this bill  would allow the DOT&PF  to access                                                               
millions  of federal  dollars  specifically  allocated to  Indian                                                               
tribes.  She  related that $38 million has been  allocated in the                                                               
economic stimulus funds  alone.  She offered that  the goal would                                                               
be   for   Indian  tribes   to   take   over  road   maintenance.                                                               
Additionally,  the DOT&PF  would  have  opportunities to  partner                                                               
with  Indian  tribes   on  projects  using  IRR   funding.    She                                                               
reiterated that  SB 148 will  offer opportunities for  the DOT&PF                                                               
to partner on projects.                                                                                                         
3:06:03 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  related  his  understanding  that  the                                                               
state's  liability  is  governed by  existing  statutes  already.                                                               
This  bill would  not affect  those statutes  nor will  it affect                                                               
people's ability  to seek compensation  for negligence  caused by                                                               
the Indian  tribe.  In  those instances the person  would proceed                                                               
under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).                                                                                       
MS.  SIROKY  agreed.   She  noted  that  the DOT&PF  attorney  is                                                               
available for more details.                                                                                                     
3:07:07 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ  related her  understanding that  the DOT&PF                                                               
is currently  working on  a Memorandum  of Understanding  for the                                                               
Indian  tribes   to  determine   the  responsibilities   and  any                                                               
opportunities to partner.                                                                                                       
MS. SIROKY  agreed.  She  stated the state's liability  issue was                                                               
always  the biggest  hindrance.    She opined  that  SB 148  will                                                               
resolve the matter in statute.                                                                                                  
3:07:47 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ made a motion  to adopt Amendment 1, labeled                                                               
26-G-1, (4/8/2009),  (1:27 PM), which read  [original punctuation                                                               
     Page 1, line 14:                                                                                                           
          Delete "due to"                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE   MUNOZ  explained   the   language  deletion   in                                                               
Amendment  1 was  brought to  her attention  by Senator  Kookesh.                                                               
She related  that with  the amendment  the sentence  flows better                                                               
and ambiguity is reduced.                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN objected.                                                                                               
3:08:56 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  SHOCKLEY  advised  members  that  Senator  Kookesh  supports                                                               
Amendment 1.                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN removed his objection.                                                                                  
There being no further objection, Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                      
3:09:14 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  MUNOZ   moved  to  report  the   House  committee                                                               
substitute  (HCS) CSSB  148(JUD),  as amended,  out of  committee                                                               
with individual recommendations and  the accompanying zero fiscal                                                               
note.  There  being no objection, HCS  CSSB 148(TRA) was reported                                                               
from the House Transportation Standing Committee.                                                                               
3:09:58 PM                                                                                                                    

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