Regulatory body nears expiration date

Posted: Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A bill that made its way to the House Finance Committee last week would extend the life of the Regulatory Commission of Alaska.

Rep. Kurt Olson, R-Soldotna, proposed the bill before the state legislature convened in January.

Today, the committee will take public testimony on that bill and nearly a dozen others at 1:30 p.m.

The commission is the body charged with overseeing how public utilities in Alaska carry out their business.

The commission must approve electric rate changes and oversee natural gas pipelines. Essentially, it is expected to help watch out for the public's interest in regard to various services: water, electricity, heat and more. Even phone service and internet are under its purview.

But come June 30, the commission is set to expire.

Olson's bill, HB 24, made it to the House finance committee last Friday, after Olson and a handful of colleagues on the House Labor and Commerce Committee signed off on an amendment that extends the commission's life until 2019.

Olson described the bill as a procedural deal, just part of keeping the state running.

The RCA isn't alone with its expiration date. Alaska's alcohol overseer, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, also expires June 30.

Olson said the legislature is looking at bills to extend each of the expiring boards. At one point, they considered lumping them all together, but that didn't come together.

By Alaska statute, all boards and commissions expire on a regular basis.

Olson said that the expiration date is meant to bring the bodies back to the legislature for review on a regular review.

When renewed, it can't be for a term longer than eight years, but most current bodies are scheduled to expire in a shorter time frame. Online, all are listed as expiring by June 30, 2014.

The RCA getting the full eight years means its doing pretty good, Olson said. If there were any problems, the legislature could choose to renew it for a shorter time frame.

The statute specifies that after a board or commission expires, it has one more year to conclude its work. In the case of the RCA, "the commission shall continue to exercise all its powers and perform its duties and responsibilities," the statute reads.

The commission last expired in 2007, and was extended to 2011.

Molly Dischner can be reached at molly.dischner@peninsulaclarion.com.



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