JUNEAU (AP) -- In a move that pleased Anchorage officials and irked the mayor of the Fairbanks North Star Borough, Gov. Tony Knowles vetoed a bill Friday that would have changed the laws governing local service areas that provide road maintenance, fire protection and other services.
Knowles objected to a part of the bill that would have given local voters more say in changes to service area boundaries, saying it violated the powers granted to municipalities in the state constitution.
''This legislation imposes unduly restrictive methods on boroughs in creating and managing their service areas,'' said Knowles, a former Anchorage mayor.
However, the bill would also have allowed different tax rates within the same service area -- a change eagerly sought by the Fairbanks North Star Borough to encourage consolidation of some of the 130 service areas within its borders.
The borough pays half the administrative costs of each district, and wants consolidation to cut down on those expenses.
''Probably we'll just continue to have to suffer with the huge administrative burden,'' Borough Mayor Hank Hove said. ''I'm just terribly disappointed.''
Current law forbids different tax rates. Hove said that discourages some service areas from joining adjacent areas with higher taxes.
In Anchorage, Municipal Attorney Mary Hughes welcomed the veto because of language that would have required multiple elections for each change to a service area.
''It took some powers away from us,'' Hughes said of House Bill 133, sponsored by Rep. Con Bunde, R-Anchorage. ''We're in the business of providing services.''
Under current law, a municipality such as Anchorage can combine or expand service areas with a vote of the assembly and a vote of all the people affected by the change.
Bunde's bill would have forced separate votes if two service areas were to be combined
Also, if a service area were expanded to include an area not covered by another area, two votes would also be required -- one from the residents of the service area, and one from residents of the uncovered area. That would have made it difficult for the municipality to force residents to accept additional taxes to pay for services.
''If the 800-pound gorilla wants to steal the bananas, they don't like anyone limiting their power,'' said Bunde, R-Anchorage, who represents the Hillside, an area that went through just such a fight with the municipality over the expansion of the police service area.
In his veto letter, Knowles also objected to a provision that would have effectively exempted the Fairbanks North Star Borough from the multiple-vote requirement. The exemption applies to second-class boroughs with populations between 50,000 and 80,000, a description that fits only Fairbanks.
''The exemption from the provisions of this bill provided to only one borough in the state may violate the constitutional prohibition against special and local legislation,'' Knowles wrote.
The bill passed the Legislature with more than enough support to override Knowles' veto, but lawmakers may not get a chance to vote before the November election alters the makeup of the House and Senate.
''I was really hoping we didn't have a special session,'' Bunde said. ''Now I hope we do.''
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.