House OKs Allowing Railroad to Sell Non-essential Land - Stoltze's HB 357
Stoltze’s HB 357 hopes to spur economic and industrial development
Thursday, April 7, 2010, Juneau, Alaska – The Alaska State House today passed House Bill 357, legislation allowing the Alaska Railroad Corporation to sell non-essential land. House Finance Committee Co-Chair Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak/Mat-Su, sponsored the bill, which passed by a vote of 34 to 3.
“The sale and relationship between public and private lands are vital to the economic development and growth of our state,” Stoltze said. “We’ve learned that some current railroad leaseholders are unhappy with the inability to purchase their leased properties from the railroad. Some of these companies are industrial anchors and have spent significant amounts of capital to improve their holdings, which can be wiped off the slate if the railroad or companies don’t choose to renew the lease. HB 357 allows the Railroad’s Board of Directors to vet prospective sales, and doesn’t impinge their ability to hold on to the lands.”
HB 357 adds a fourth clause to the existing statutes that lay out how the Railroad may dispose of land. The bill sets out qualifiers that must be met, including that the Board of Directors must decide whether the land is essential for railroad purposes and whether the sale is in the best interest of the stateThe railroad would also have to account for any sales separately in their annual report.
“Alaska’s growth and economic health is dependent upon diversification of land ownership, which increases the tax base of the state and encourages responsible development of Alaskan land,” Stoltze said. “The Railroad and private sector both stand to benefit from the bill. We heard from urban and rural communities along the Railbelt, from Seward and Whittier, to Nenana and Talkeetna; a diverse group of communities, businesses and local governments all served by the Alaska Railroad system.”HB 357 now heads to the Alaska State Senate for consideration.