JUNEAU — The House Rules Committee on Tuesday advanced legislation that would allow out-of-state residents to serve on the board of directors of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp.
The committee introduced HB383 at the request of House Speaker Mike Chenault, who was a lead sponsor of a measure passed last year that set up the organization, power and governance of the corporation, known as the AGDC.
Chenault, R-Nikiski, said it was an oversight to have not specifically exempted the AGDC from a state law requiring that individuals appointed to boards or commissions of state government be registered Alaska voters. He said testimony and legal guidance at the time the bill establishing the AGDC, HB4, was being considered was that language in HB4 allowed for Alaska residents and nonresidents alike to serve as part of an effort to ensure the most qualified people are on the board.
The AGDC could play a key role in the major liquefied natural gas project being pursued in Alaska. Critics of an AGDC exemption to the law regarding residency of board members say Alaskans should be making policy calls affecting Alaskans, and that nothing would prevent the AGDC from hiring an out-of-state resident as a consultant.
The residency issue came to the fore with the appointment of Richard Rabinow, a pipeline industry consultant and former president of ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. who is from Texas. Gov. Sean Parnell appointed Rabinow to the board in September and has defended the pick as falling within his discretion. Under the state constitution, when a board or commission is at the head of a principal department or a regulatory or quasi-judicial agency, the only residency requirement is that the person be a citizen of the United States. Parnell spokeswoman Sharon Leighow has said the AGDC appointment would fall under a board at the head of a principal department.
Rabinow, in a letter to Parnell last month, said he would resign if the Legislature before adjourning does not expressly permit out-of-state residents to serve on that board.
A joint session for the Legislature to consider appointments was pushed back from Friday to April 17, at the request of the House.
The provision of HB383 that would allow public members of the AGDC board to be out-of-state residents would be retroactive to Sept. 1, 2013, encompassing Rabinow’s appointment.
House Rules further amended the bill, at the request of Rep. Max Gruenberg, D-Anchorage, to require that the governor provide a written statement explaining any future appointments of out-of-state residents to the board.
There is precedent for allowing nonresidents on boards of directors: The boards of both the Alaska Railroad Corp. and the Alaska Aerospace Corp. allow for certain members to be nonresidents.