JUNEAU (AP) -- Senate Republicans rejected most amendments Wednesday to a bill that could eventually force unorganized areas of Alaska into boroughs.
Sen. Gary Wilken, R-Fairbanks, is pushing Senate Bill 48 because he wants parts of the state that currently have no borough government to start paying local taxes for education.
The bill calls for the Department of Commerce and Economic Development to make a list each year of areas that satisfy the state's standards for incorporation or annexation. The standards include an assessment of whether an area has the resources to provide municipal services.
The Local Boundary Commission would then select areas from that list, hold hearings there and decide whether to proceed with incorporation. It would submit no more than two incorporation proposals a year to the Legislature for approval.
Some rural legislators object to the measure, in part because they say it could pose a hardship on rural residents with little income and could force small communities into boroughs controlled by urban areas.
Sen. Georgianna Lincoln, D-Rampart, tried to include language letting affected residents vote on whether they wanted to be included in a borough.
''Let the people vote,'' Lincoln said. ''If they so desire to have a borough, let the people vote.''
Wilken said the problem is that people will not voluntarily put themselves in a borough if it means they have to pay taxes.
''I suspect I'd vote 'no' in the privacy of the ballot box,'' Wilken said.
Most current boroughs were formed without voter approval by the Legislature in the 1960s. Local voters have created a few new boroughs since, some to take advantage of the opportunity to levy taxes on large commercial enterprises such as the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, some to prevent annexation by other boroughs.
Sen. Donny Olson, D-Nome, tried to change the bill to remove language that makes it mandatory that the state put together the list of incorporation prospects each year.
Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, tried to limit the number of incorporation proposals that could come to the Legislature each year to one, instead of two.
All but one of the proposed amendments failed along mostly party lines.
Majority senators did go along with an amendment that requires hearings to be held in communities of at least 200 people.
Previously the bill required hearings in areas of at least 400 people. Olson said that would have left out the majority of communities affected.
The Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill Thursday.
Peninsula Clarion ©2015. All Rights Reserved.