Gov. Tony Knowles has signed into law a bill that would prevent local governments from changing the boundaries of road and fire service areas without a vote of the people within them.
Knowles had vetoed a similar bill last year, but said House Bill 13 corrects some of the problems he had with the previous legislation. The measure passed by a large enough margin that legislators could have overridden a veto.
Service areas are areas within a borough in which residents pay taxes for a particular service, such as road maintenance, snow plowing or firefighting. Under current law, a borough assembly can change their boundaries.
House Bill 13, sponsored by Rep. Con Bunde, an Anchorage Republican, changes that.
The bill requires a majority of residents in each area affected by a proposed boundary change to vote in favor of it.
If service areas are combined, the bill lets residents in the new service area continue to pay different tax rates based on the area they were in before.
Bunde has said the measure will let residents of service areas control their own fates. He said his constituents are happy with the service they receive through their road service areas and fear if they were forced into a merger, they could wind up paying more taxes for less service.
Voter approval would not be required for boundary changes in fire service areas that would increase the number of parcels of land by no more than 6 percent or increase the number of residents by no more than 1,000 residents.
Knowles' spokeswoman Claire Richardson said the measure no longer exempts some boroughs from the voting requirement. Knowles had said that provision in the previous bill might have violated a constitutional prohibition against special or local legislation.
The Department of Community and Economic Development had opposed the bill. The department and other opponents said the measure would take power away from local governments, could lead to inefficiencies and might be unconstitutional.