Bill gives more say to small communities

Legislation designed to prevent a larger town from annexing area against will of its residents

Posted: Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Alaska House passed a bill Monday that would require a public vote for residents of a community to annex nearby land as well as one from the people living in the area to be annexed.

Rep. John Coghill, R-North Pole, said current regulations by the state's Local Boundary Commission allow for a vote from both sets of residents. But both sets of votes are tallied in the same pool for a final determination on whether to annex.

"That meant that a large area could almost certainly annex small areas without the consent of the people in that area," Coghill said.

Coghill's bill would require majority approval from both sets of residents, which would be tallied separately, and would allow residents of either community to kill an annexation proposal.

The boundary commission regulation conflicts with current state law, which requires approval from residents in the area to be annexed, Coghill said.

Rep. Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks, said without the bill communities could saddle their neighbors with debt.

"The ability to annex a community into a community with a huge unfunded liability would be a little bit like making your sister have to marry me just so she can take over my $50,000 worth of credit card debt," Ramras said.

Coghill's bill also prevents the boundary commission from amending petitions for communities applying to form boroughs. The boundary commission also may not impose any conditions on incorporation efforts under the bill.

The measure was approved 35-1 by the House and now heads to the Senate for consideration.

The House on Monday also approved a bill directing the state to erect signs encouraging motorists to use seat belts at or near an area where someone not wearing their seat belt was killed in a motor vehicle accident. The bill now heads to the governor's desk for approval.

The bills are Senate Bill 63 and House Bill 133.

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