My turn: Legislature rebuffs Local Boundary Commission

Posted: Friday, June 02, 2006

By near unaminous votes, the state House and Senate poked a stick in the eye of the Local Boundary Commission. In a slick maneuver, and from out of nowhere, House Bill 133 was suddenly scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Community and Regional Affairs Committee on May 2 and the State Affairs Committee on May 4. The bill had passed handily in the House by a vote of 35-1 in the first session, and the Senate voted 19-0 in the final hours of the 24th legislative session.

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Caught off guard and flat-footed, Local Boundary Commission Chairman Darrel Hargraves fired off a statement to the Senate Community and Regional Affairs Committee, asking for time to "meet and address this particular version of the bill." Hargraves said he asked the Department of Commerce and Economic Development to provide a fiscal note to cover the "additional cost of hearings required under this bill." Hargraves also stressed that the Local Boundary Commission unanimously opposed an earlier version of this bill.

Hargraves' maneuvers to delay action on the House bill, thus killing it in committee, failed. The State Affairs Committee zeroed out the fiscal note. A valid fiscal note would have stalled the bill with a mandatory referral to the Senate Finance Committee. The version of the bill heard in the community and regional affairs committee was essentially the same as the version passed in the last session.

As passed, the House bill eliminated the Local Boundary Commission's ability to amend petitions or impose conditions on petitions approved by a vote of the people. Article 10, section 12 of the state constitution provides that the Local Boundary Commission "may consider any proposed local boundary change." The new law requires the commission to consider the proposal and vote it up or down.

This means, for instance, that the boundary commission could not amend a petition to incorporate to force conformation to model borough boundaries.

Proposals submitted to the Legislature for approval are now required to have two public hearings in the area of the proposed action and voter approval in the proposed area.

Annexation actions now require two separate votes and both elections must be approved by a majority of the voters. One election is a vote of the people to be annexed, and the other is a vote of the people in the existing municipality.

The new law has an applicability clause that directs all existing applications before the commission that were not finalized prior to enactment of the bill, to be processed under the conditions of the new law.

The new law also contains an effective date clause that states the legislation is effective immediately upon being signed into law.

• Glen Marunde is a resident of Tok, Alaska.

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