The House Resources Committee is considering two bills which would add members of the House and Senate to the board of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. as non-voting members.
Senate Bill 125, by Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, passed the Senate March 23. House Bill 282, by House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, had its first hearing at the March 30 House Resources meeting.
House Resources co-Chair Dave Talerico, R-Healy, said at the conclusion of the March 30 meeting that a committee substitute would be prepared using both bills. The committee substitute had not yet been introduced when Petroleum News went to press with this issue.
The bills have in common the addition of two non-voting members to the AGDC board, one House member appointed by the House speaker and one Senate member appointed by the Senate president.
Chenault’s bill would also change the criteria the governor would use for future public member appointments to the board.
Costello said the purpose of the bill was to facilitate communication and teamwork between the AGDC board and legislators. Chenault said having legislators as non-voting board members would provide an understanding of the type of budget decisions needed to advance a project and would also provide legislators with a better understanding of the issues facing the AGDC board.
Current membersThe board has five public members, appointed by the governor, and two commissioners. The commissioners of the departments of Natural Resources and Revenue are excluded from the board by statute.
Present board members include Commissioner Heidi Drygas of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Commissioner Marc Luiken of the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, and public members Dave Cruz of Palmer, Rick Halford of Eagle River, Luke Hopkins of Fairbanks, Joey Merrick of Eagle River and Hugh Short of Girdwood.
Cruz was appointed by former Gov. Sean Parnell and re-appointed by Gov. Bill Walker. All other board members were appointed by Walker.
Separation of powersIn response to a question from Costello, legislative Legal Services provided a memorandum which said adding legislators to the AGDC board “likely raises a separation of powers issue.”
The memo said a member of the Legislature serving on the board “likely violates the constitutional separation of powers doctrine.”
The Legal Services memo said that the Alaska Department of Law “has consistently argued that appointments of legislators to executive branch boards are unconstitutional.” The Department of Law has indicated it “may be permissible for legislators to hold a position on a purely advisory committee, but the AGDC board is not a purely advisory committee.”
While the issue may be resolved by making the legislative members non-voting, the memo said that might not resolve the problem.
In both bills the legislators would be non-voting members of the board.
Costello told House Resources that legislators already serve on more than a dozen boards and commissions, and said that if there really is a separation of powers issue that issue should be resolved by the judicial branch.
Changes in qualificationsChenault’s proposal, HB 282, also amends state statute to require the governor to appoint four of the five AGDC public members based on experience and expertise in natural gas pipeline construction, operation and marketing; finance; large project management; or other expertise and experience relevant to the purpose, powers and duties of AGDC.
Chenault said in a sponsor statement that the original intent of the AGDC board, in HB 369, HB 4, HB 9 and SB 138, was a board free of political influence, but that has changed with recent appointments.
He said that while he respects the current board members, most do not have the qualifications of previous board members, nor the expertise sought under SB 138.