Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 211

02/10/2009 03:30 PM Senate COMMUNITY & REGIONAL AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved CSSB 48(CRA) Out of Committee
Heard & Held
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
          SB  48-MEETINGS OF ROAD SERVICE AREA BOARDS                                                                       
CHAIR OLSON announced consideration of SB 48.                                                                                   
3:33:48 PM                                                                                                                    
GENE  THERRIAULT,  Senator,  Alaska State  Legislature,  said  he                                                               
became interested in  the language in SB 48 after  reading a News                                                               
Miner editorial on September 3,  2008, regarding service areas in                                                               
the  Fairbanks  North Star  Borough.  They  were have  difficulty                                                               
meeting  requirements   of  the  Open  Meetings   Act  [in  state                                                               
statutes] regarding simple  decisions, like if the  snow was deep                                                               
enough to call out the  plows. Service areas have citizens within                                                               
their boundaries  who volunteer their  time to make  decisions on                                                               
road maintenance.                                                                                                               
SENATOR THERRIAULT  originally told  the bill drafters  he'd like                                                               
to allow service  areas to respond quickly to  heavy snowfall and                                                               
such. After introducing  his original bill, he  talked to borough                                                               
attorneys to  better understand  the problem.  Based on  that, he                                                               
drafted  a CS  [committee  substitute], version  R. It  basically                                                               
does the same thing but in a little different technical way.                                                                    
SENATOR  THOMAS moved  to  adopt the  CS to  SB  48, labeled  26-                                                               
LS0293\R,  as  a  working document.  There  being  no  objection,                                                               
Version R was before the committee.                                                                                             
3:36:55 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR THERRIAULT directed  attention to page 2,  line 15, which                                                               
refers  to  the  type  of   meeting  that  a  road  service  area                                                               
commissioner can  engage in without  following the  Open Meetings                                                               
Act. He said requirements for  noticing a meeting for the borough                                                               
assembly were  less restrictive than  for the service  areas. The                                                               
assembly sets  the budget  for road maintenance,  but there  is a                                                               
director who decides  to call for plows or fix  a pothole, and he                                                               
or she  wouldn't have to notice  a meeting but just  do it within                                                               
the constraints  of the budget.  Senator Therriault is  trying to                                                               
give the  service areas  that same authority.  They will  have to                                                               
publicly notice a yearly meeting  to set policies, millage rates,                                                               
and budgets, but  when the time comes to  administer that policy,                                                               
a meeting won't be necessary.                                                                                                   
SENATOR THERRIAULT  said the end of  page 2 of the  CS deals with                                                               
the  number  of  members  at  the meetings.  He  found  that  the                                                               
requirements  for  service  areas  are more  restrictive  -  even                                                               
though  they were  just performing  an administrative  function -                                                               
than  a  body that  was  actually  setting policy.  The  original                                                               
language required that if two  service area workers were going to                                                               
talk  about  a billing  or  the  replacement  of a  culvert,  for                                                               
example,  that was  deemed  to be  a  "prearranged" meeting.  "It                                                               
seems like  they should  have no  more restrictive  language than                                                               
the policy-setting body,  like the borough assembly.  And so what                                                               
we did  is just repeat  the same language that  the policy-making                                                               
body has and  place the same restrictions  on the administrative.                                                               
Before, it was more restrictive  for the administrative function;                                                               
now, it's the same level of restriction."                                                                                       
3:40:50 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR OLSON  asked about  the title  change in the  CS and  if it                                                               
broadens it to  the point where edits can be  made that might not                                                               
be favorable to the service areas.                                                                                              
SENATOR THERRIAULT  said the  original bill  title spoke  to just                                                               
harsh weather conditions, like heavy  snowfall. The CS intends to                                                               
give [service  areas] a little  more latitude  for administrative                                                               
functions.  They  have a  budget  that  gets  set in  a  publicly                                                               
noticed meeting, and they then  "just go about spending the money                                                               
that was budgeted for snow removal, for road repairs."                                                                          
CHAIR OLSON asked how one person  would be aware of the budget to                                                               
be able to  call out heavy equipment in the  middle of the night.                                                               
He asked about budget overruns.                                                                                                 
SENATOR THERRIAULT answered  that if there were  cost overruns or                                                               
funds shifted  to different  needs, it  would probably  require a                                                               
noticed meeting, because that would represent a policy change.                                                                  
3:43:05 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR THOMAS asked  what problems arose that  caused this bill.                                                               
He assumes  the road  commissioner already  has the  authority to                                                               
make those decisions without calling a special meeting.                                                                         
SENATOR THERRIAULT said  these are all volunteers,  and there are                                                               
fewer  commissioners than  originally  intended.  Many times  the                                                               
chair of a  commission doesn't want all of  the responsibility of                                                               
the  decisions, so  decisions  and  responsibilities are  shared.                                                               
They touch base  with each other before they  make the decisions.                                                               
A municipality may  have a director of road  maintenance that has                                                               
all  of  that authority,  but  service  area members  share  that                                                               
responsibility and talk amongst themselves.                                                                                     
SENATOR THOMAS  asked what  is lacking  in current  language that                                                               
doesn't already allow it.                                                                                                       
SENATOR THERRIAULT said  that the Open Meetings  Act requires any                                                               
"arranged" meeting  to be noticed by  5 days and be  public, even                                                               
if  it was  a series  of  phone calls.  Consequently, they  can't                                                               
respond quickly to a situation.                                                                                                 
3:45:57 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR THOMAS  asked if the language  in (B), "to add  more than                                                               
three  members of  a majority  …"  is to  accommodate that  phone                                                               
SENATOR THERRIAULT  said, "To  make it  no more  restrictive than                                                               
the language that applies to policy-making bodies."                                                                             
SENATOR MENARD said  she was speaking to an  assembly person from                                                               
Talkeetna,  and he  was grateful  that this  was being  addressed                                                               
because it  is a big concern  to his area by  Trapper Creek. They                                                               
have to get  work done and they can't talk  to each other because                                                               
of the open meeting laws.                                                                                                       
3:47:09 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR THERRIAULT said the new  language on Page 2, lines 30-31,                                                               
is copied from lines 25-26. The drafter suggested that.                                                                         
CHAIR OLSON asked if there is opposition.                                                                                       
SENATOR THERRIAULT said he is not aware of any.                                                                                 
SENATOR  THOMAS asked  why municipal  boards  and committees  are                                                               
added. Do they have the same concerns?                                                                                          
SENATOR THERRIAULT said yes, the  bill adds the municipal boards,                                                               
commissions,  and other  similar  bodies that  are performing  an                                                               
administrative  or managerial  function. On  lines 25-26  and 28,                                                               
the bill  speaks to the three  members of a government  body that                                                               
have  the  authority  to  establish   policies,  "so  that's  the                                                               
language that the  borough assembly falls under,"  and (B) refers                                                               
to those  entities that  have no  authority to  establish policy.                                                               
"We're placing  the same level  of restriction  on them -  on the                                                               
administrative  board -  that the  policy-making  board had."  It                                                               
didn't  make  sense  that  the   administrative  board  was  more                                                               
restrictive   when  all   they   are  doing   is  performing   an                                                               
administrative function. They are not establishing policy.                                                                      
SENATOR THOMAS  said the words "administrative"  and "managerial"                                                               
are general, and  no telling where it may end  up. His concern is                                                               
if those  entities will  expend money properly  and at  the right                                                               
time,  "so  I  guess  we'll  just  have  to  live  with  whatever                                                               
decisions are made there."                                                                                                      
3:50:15 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR OLSON asked for testimony.                                                                                                
3:50:31 PM                                                                                                                    
RENE  BROKER, Attorney,  Fairbanks North  Star Borough,  spoke in                                                               
favor of the  CS because it fixes two  unintended consequences of                                                               
the Open Meetings Act without  affecting its important goals. "We                                                               
don't want  to diminish, really,  what that  act tries to  do for                                                               
the public."  The Open Meetings  Act already recognizes  that day                                                               
to  day  administrative  functions  can be  conducted  and  still                                                               
comply with  the act.  That is why  it already  exempts municipal                                                               
employees. The bill  just extends that very  narrow exception for                                                               
very narrow functions to volunteer  boards and commissions, since                                                               
they are  performing the same  function that would  ordinarily be                                                               
performed  by a  municipal  employee. The  second  fix removes  a                                                               
bazaar  anomaly by  clarifying that  the same  numerical standard                                                               
that  applies to  policy-making bodies  also applies  to advisory                                                               
boards.  These two  fixes will  strengthen the  act by  making it                                                               
more practical and workable.                                                                                                    
3:52:34 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR THOMAS asked for examples  that brought attention to this                                                               
issue. He is aware of one.                                                                                                      
3:53:04 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. BROKER said it has been  a long festering issue with road and                                                               
fire service  area commissioners.  They are prevented  from doing                                                               
their  job effectively  by the  five-day notice.  It is  not just                                                               
snow removal, there  are potholes and brush  issues. Fire service                                                               
is dealing  with similar issues  in a different context.  She has                                                               
been hearing  complaints for  years. They  can't comply  with the                                                               
law without meaningfully impacting the service they provide.                                                                    
SENATOR THOMAS asked if there is any opposition.                                                                                
3:54:29 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. BROKER said there is always  discontent but not on this issue                                                               
that  she  has heard  of.  It  has  been through  several  public                                                               
processes because it started with  a resolution, and the assembly                                                               
heard public comment and acted on  that. There has been plenty of                                                               
opportunity to take issue with it, and she has heard none.                                                                      
CHAIR OLSON asked why it wasn't changed before.                                                                                 
MS. BROKER said there is  important policy in the public meetings                                                               
act, and she didn't want to do  any violence to that. It has just                                                               
been  an ongoing  communication facilitated  by the  service area                                                               
committee. They  came up with  a means to preserve  public notice                                                               
and  input  for important  functions  like  policy decisions  and                                                               
provide flexibility to run the service area.                                                                                    
3:56:36 PM                                                                                                                    
LUKE  HOPKINS, Member,  Fairbanks  North  Star Borough  Assembly,                                                               
spoke in  support of the  CS. Some  assembly members can  meet to                                                               
discuss  administrative actions  but two  members of  an advisory                                                               
body can't. They  have a standard. People just  accepted the law,                                                               
but finally they decided that something  needs to be done, so the                                                               
assembly decided  to move it  forward as a  legislative priority.                                                               
He is a  member of the board of the  Alaska Municipal League, and                                                               
this  issue  has  been  discussed.   He  has  spoken  with  other                                                               
municipalities and  all agree that  it would  be a good  thing to                                                               
clear this up without undoing the Open Meetings Act.                                                                            
3:58:46 PM                                                                                                                    
TIM  BECK, Chair,  Road Service  Area Committee,  Fairbanks North                                                               
Star  Borough  Assembly,  thanked Senator  Therriault  and  Chair                                                               
Olson  for  bringing  this  forward.   It  came  up  because  two                                                               
commissioners  had a  contract with  road construction  personnel                                                               
and  they couldn't  stop and  meet with  the contractor  together                                                               
because it violated the act.                                                                                                    
3:59:57 PM                                                                                                                    
SHAWN  KITTLE, Alternate  Commissioner, Chena  Spur Road  Service                                                               
Area,  Fairbanks,  said  his  service   area  has  a  chair,  two                                                               
commissioners,   and  an   alternate.   The   chair  can't   even                                                               
communicate with  commissioners regarding  a convenient  date and                                                               
time for  a meeting.  So the  meetings just  get noticed  and the                                                               
commissioners try to make their schedule  work. If there is a lot                                                               
of snow,  one person has  the task  of calling for  road service,                                                               
"but none  of us know  what the other person  is doing or  if its                                                               
been done."  He urges  support of  SB 48  because it  would solve                                                               
some of  the headaches they face.  Also, if a member  goes out of                                                               
town, he  or she can't let  others know what needs  to be handled                                                               
while that person  is out of town. It really  hampers the day-to-                                                               
day operations. He urged the support of Senator Thomas.                                                                         
4:02:46 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR THERRIAULT  said he  has worked with  Ms. Broker  on this                                                               
language.  Other areas  of the  state  face the  same burden.  He                                                               
reiterated the  example of  two commissioners  not being  able to                                                               
talk to  a contractor on  the road. "That certainly  doesn't make                                                               
sense when you've  got people volunteering their  time." The snow                                                               
is packed  down on Interior roads,  and as the weather  warms up,                                                               
"you want to have  the plow out there at just  the right time ...                                                               
[when]  it's soft  enough to  actually loosen  from the  road." A                                                               
five-day  notice for  a meeting  can't work.  Service areas  will                                                               
still  need to  notice meetings  for setting  policy. Ms.  Broker                                                               
said  it   is  not   unlike  a   municipal  employee   who  makes                                                               
administrative decisions and has an exemption.                                                                                  
4:05:40 PM                                                                                                                    
The committee took an at-ease.                                                                                                  
4:05:57 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR THOMAS moved  the CS to SB 48,  labeled 26-LS0293\R, from                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations  and attached  fiscal                                                               
note(s).  There being  no objection,  CSSB 48(CRA)  moved out  of                                                               
4:06:24 PM                                                                                                                    
The committee took an at-ease.                                                                                                  
4:07:18 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR FRENCH joined the meeting.                                                                                              

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
CSSB48 Sectional Analysis.pdf SCRA 2/10/2009 3:30:00 PM
SB 48
CSSB48 Work Draft.pdf SCRA 2/10/2009 3:30:00 PM
SB 48
SB48 Sponsor Statement.pdf SCRA 2/10/2009 3:30:00 PM
SB 48
SB48 Fact Sheet.pdf SCRA 2/10/2009 3:30:00 PM
SB 48
SB48 FBks NSB Request for Legislation.pdf SCRA 2/10/2009 3:30:00 PM
SB 48
SB48 Fbks NSB Resolution 2008-34.pdf SCRA 2/10/2009 3:30:00 PM
SB 48
SB48 Expected Testimony List.pdf SCRA 2/10/2009 3:30:00 PM
SB 48
SB48 Fiscal Note DCCED.pdf SCRA 2/10/2009 3:30:00 PM
SB 48
SB93 FEDC Study.pdf SCRA 2/10/2009 3:30:00 PM
SB 93
SB93 Fbks NSB Letter.pdf SCRA 2/10/2009 3:30:00 PM
SB 93
SB93 AML Letter.pdf SCRA 2/10/2009 3:30:00 PM
SB 93
SB93 Fiscal Note DCCED.pdf SCRA 2/10/2009 3:30:00 PM
SB 93
SB93 Particulate Matter.pdf SCRA 2/10/2009 3:30:00 PM
SB 93
SB93 PM2.5.pdf SCRA 2/10/2009 3:30:00 PM
SB 93
SB93 Q&A.pdf SCRA 2/10/2009 3:30:00 PM
SB 93
SB93 Sponsor Statement.pdf SCRA 2/10/2009 3:30:00 PM
SB 93