Legislature(1995 - 1996)

04/23/1996 01:05 PM CRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 SB 256 - SECOND CLASS CITY MAYOR                                            
                                                                               
 Number 0037                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR IVAN noted that committee packets for SB 256 contained a             
 copy of the bill, a zero fiscal note from the Department of                   
 Community and Regional Affairs (DCRA), sponsor statements, support            
 materials, and the latest statutes.  He called upon Marla Berg to             
 present the bill on behalf of the sponsor.                                    
                                                                               
 Number 0075                                                                   
                                                                               
 MARLA BERG, Legislative Assistant to Senator Al Adams, sponsor of             
 SB 256, explained that the bill would give voters in second class             
 cities the option of directly electing their mayor.  Under current            
 law, the mayor is elected by and from the city council members, she           
 said.  The bill did not change the powers, duties or qualifications           
 of the mayor.                                                                 
                                                                               
 MS. BERG referred to page 1, line 10, and said DCRA had recommended           
 that be changed from 30 days to 45 days in case there was a run-off           
 election between city council members.  "And we think that's                  
 probably a good idea," Ms. Berg said.  She concluded, "Nobody would           
 have to exercise this option but it would give them the option to             
 do that if they want to."                                                     
                                                                               
 Number 0163                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE AL VEZEY asked:  "Why do we want to do this?"                  
                                                                               
 MS. BERG explained, "The issue was brought to us by the City of               
 Savoonga.  And it doesn't seem like there's really been a problem             
 there.  They've elected the same mayor for most of the last 30                
 years.  But the people there really wanted a chance to vote for               
 their mayor."  She noted there were approximately 600 people in               
 Savoonga.  Seven council members were elected, who then decided who           
 would be mayor.  This would allow the people to vote for the mayor,           
 instead.                                                                      
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN noted that Representative Kott had joined the              
 meeting.                                                                      
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ALAN AUSTERMAN asked, "Does this just give the                 
 option, so that the council can still appoint their mayor?"                   
                                                                               
 MS. BERG replied, "If the city approved an ordinance to let the               
 people vote, then they would go ... this way.  But otherwise, it              
 doesn't demand [that] second class cities do anything other than              
 what they're doing right now.  It gives them an option."                      
                                                                               
 Number 0281                                                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR IVAN stated his understanding that currently, the mayor              
 was elected from among the council members.  This bill would                  
 authorize one or more council members to run for the office of                
 mayor, with election being done by the community.                             
                                                                               
 MS. BERG responded, "Right.  Whoever on the council wants to run              
 for mayor."                                                                   
                                                                               
 Number 0372                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said although he had no strong opposition to             
 SB 256, neither did he favor it.  "We see in the parliamentary                
 system form of government the strength and weaknesses of electing             
 the chief executive from the body which they preside over," he                
 stated.  "And it ... has a lot of advantages in terms of making               
 that body pull together and work, whereas if you elect a mayor                
 outside of that body, ... the cohesive process, that coming to a              
 consensus and electing one of yourselves as your presiding officer,           
 is lost."                                                                     
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY suggested the process of electing one's own              
 officers created a much closer-working committee than did the                 
 bicameral system.  He commented that it was not easy being on a               
 city council for 600 people, saying "everybody expects you to vote            
 the way they want you to vote."  He concluded the bill was creating           
 a separation of powers and he questioned whether that was conducive           
 to good local government.                                                     
                                                                               
 Number 0521                                                                   
                                                                               
 MS. BERG reiterated that this provided an option, which they did              
 not expect many communities to take.  "But we were very careful not           
 to change the qualifications, the duties, the powers of the mayor,"           
 she added.                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY understood the bill to add one person to the             
 city council.  There was a separate position on the ballot for                
 mayor, and, as he read it, that person did not have to be a member            
 of the council.                                                               
                                                                               
 MS. BERG reiterated that in order to run for mayor, a person had to           
 be a city council member.                                                     
                                                                               
 Number 0688                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY denied that the bill said that.  After the               
 mayor pro tem was chosen, there would be a special election for               
 mayor.  He said the bill did not restrict how those candidates were           
 selected.  He suggested the courts would not interpret the proposed           
 statute as prohibiting anybody from being on the ballot for mayor.            
 "Special election tells you, right off the bat, that we're not                
 talking about an elected body gathering together, making their own            
 rules, and electing their presiding officer," he said.  "A special            
 election is you're throwing it out to the electorate."                        
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN suggested that with the prior sections of            
 Title 29, it might fall into place.                                           
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR IVAN noted that Representative Nicholia had joined the               
 meeting.                                                                      
                                                                               
 Number 0828                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON referred to subsection (b), referenced at the            
 beginning of Section 1 (d), where it said, "Notwithstanding (b) of            
 this section".  He said, "(b) of this section provided that the               
 mayor of a second class city is elected by and from the council."             
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY responded, "And `notwithstanding' means that             
 regardless of what is said in section (b), they may do it this way            
 by ordinance.  And then, it calls for a special election."                    
                                                                               
 MS. BERG read from, AS 29.20.240, which said, "A member of the city           
 council is eligible to hold the office of mayor in a second class             
 city."  She emphasized they had not changed these qualifications,             
 nor given the mayor veto power.                                               
                                                                               
 Number 0910                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said, "If you had incorporated that into this,           
 I would agree with you.  But I really believe that since this                 
 statute actually precedes the one you just read, and since it is              
 calling for a special election, personally, if I was a judge, I               
 would be inclined to say ... this is superseding that requirement.            
 It's passed after the other one was passed.  It is before that one            
 in the statutes.  We have the `notwithstanding.'... If you amended            
 .240, then ... I'd agree with you.  But you didn't."                          
                                                                               
 MS. BERG emphasized that they had not wanted to amend AS 29.20.240.           
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN referred to page 1, lines 10-11, and                 
 suggested adding language so it would read something like, "Within            
 30 days after certification of a regular election, a special                  
 election shall be held from the newly elected council for the                 
 permanent mayor."                                                             
                                                                               
 Number 1002                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said although he did not disagree with                   
 Representative Austerman's wording, he thought perhaps AS 29.20.240           
 should somehow be incorporated.                                               
                                                                               
 MS. BERG said Tam Cook, Legal Services Division, was of the opinion           
 that "if we didn't want to change the qualifications, duties, or              
 term of the mayor, what we should do is amend this section, leaving           
 the other sections as they are."  She said the City of Savoonga               
 only wanted to change how they elected their mayor.                           
                                                                               
 Number 1100                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON referred to line 6 and suggested                         
 Representative Vezey's concern would be addressed by adding                   
 language so it read, "provides that the mayor is elected, from the            
 council, by the voters rather than by the council."                           
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY agreed it clarified it.  He asked if all                 
 council members would be on the ballot as candidates for mayor.               
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON said it allowed the council to make a decision           
 and broadened its choices.  He guessed the council would say that             
 members wanting to run for mayor would have to file.  Either way,             
 it would be outlined in the city ordinance.                                   
                                                                               
 Number 1208                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said, "If we allow the council to select the             
 slate of candidates, they could very easily put one person on the             
 ballot. ... And if you put everybody on the ballot, you won't get             
 a majority."  He asked what the bill wanted to accomplish.                    
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR IVAN responded, "First of all, we've already got the                 
 council members elected by the voters in the community.  And the              
 current statutes allow the council members to choose or elect one             
 of them from among themselves in the office of mayor.  This                   
 provision is trying to add another section, which is, if by                   
 ordinance, if the council or the community would go through this              
 route, the candidates from the elected council could be all seven,            
 unless by ordinance they decide ... the maximum number of                     
 candidates...."                                                               
                                                                               
 Number 1298                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON acknowledged it was hard to second-guess.                
 However, he imagined the ordinance Savoonga would adopt would                 
 establish procedures whereby council members who wished to be                 
 candidates for mayor would file for the office.  He thought having            
 seven people file would be unusual.                                           
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR IVAN said he could understand that the mayor of Savoonga             
 might want to provide the opportunity for other people to run for             
 office.                                                                       
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked what was to prevent the people of                  
 Savoonga, if they were truly interested in electing their mayor,              
 from petitioning to become a first class city.                                
                                                                               
 Number 1394                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE IRENE NICHOLIA expressed that it was good that                 
 Savoonga wanted the people to elect their mayor.  "I think it's far           
 better when you have the support of the community and that they're            
 involved in something like this," she said.  "It gives them the               
 opportunity to talk to the people that are running and find out               
 what their goals are, rather than having it so closed, with just              
 the council...."                                                              
                                                                               
 Number 1777                                                                   
                                                                               
 DORIS BENDER testified that as a resident of Whittier, she lived in           
 a second class city.  "And I can see a lot of good in this if the             
 community wants it," she said.  She recalled there was a mayor who            
 had been elected by and from the body, resulting in a "tangle for             
 11 months".  Ms. Bender did not envision every council member                 
 wanting to be mayor at one time and thought candidates should sign            
 up.  She concluded by describing herself as a "champion nit-                  
 picker".                                                                      
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN offered a written amendment, which he                
 called Amendment 1.  It read:                                                 
                                                                               
      Page 1, line 10, following "Within":                                     
           Delete "30"                                                         
           Insert "45"                                                         
                                                                               
 Number 1574                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT objected for discussion and asked for the                 
 rationale.                                                                    
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR IVAN explained that it was an expansion recommended by               
 DCRA to allow time during run-off elections.                                  
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT withdrew the objection.                                   
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR IVAN noted that, there being no further objection,                   
 Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                      
                                                                               
 Number 1623                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN offered a verbal amendment, Amendment2,              
 to page 1, line 6, adding after the word "elected", the phrase                
 ",from the council," and leaving the rest as-is.  He stated it                
 would read, "Notwithstanding (b) of this section, a second class              
 city may by ordinance provide that the mayor is elected, from the             
 council, by the voters rather than [by] the council."                         
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR IVAN asked if there was any objection to Amendment 2.                
 There being no objection, Amendment 2 was adopted.                            
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT stated he had thought the last amendment was              
 unnecessary.  However, since it has already passed, it was fine               
 with him.                                                                     
                                                                               
 Number 1394                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA said she thought SB 256 was a good bill for           
 people in second class cities.  She made a motion that SB 256, as             
 amended, move from committee with individual recommendations and              
 attached zero fiscal note.                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN objected and stated, "I'm not totally sold           
 on this bill yet.  I think at least one of my communities on Kodiak           
 has had a little bit of a problem with it.  ... Moving it out of              
 committee does not necessarily mean that I'll vote for it on the              
 floor."  He withdrew his objection.                                           
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said although he did not object to the bill              
 passing out of committee, he was not sold on it, either.  "I think            
 we're going from a situation where we already have a city council             
 who every member of the city gets to vote for," he said.  "And                
 these are not in districts.  It's an at-large election.  I just               
 don't think that we're improving the process of government at all             
 by throwing in this extra election process."  He suggested instead            
 of having a mayor elected by consensus of the governing body, there           
 might now be a mayor, elected by a plurality of the people, who may           
 not be the person best suited to working with the body.                       
                                                                               
 Number 1756                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON said he agreed with Representative Nicholia              
 that it was an opportunity to expand the options available to                 
 people in second class cities.  He said he also appreciated                   
 Representative Vezey's comments.  "Sometimes, I will vote for                 
 somebody because they are a real - I think Doris [Bender] used this           
 term - a nit-picker, because I think ... there should be nit-                 
 pickers on the assembly.  I'm not sure I'd want one as a mayor,               
 though. ... And this allows the people to determine whether or not            
 they want a nit-picker for the mayor as well as somebody on the               
 assembly."                                                                    
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIR IVAN asked if there were further objections.  There being            
 none, SB 256, as amended, moved from the House Community and                  
 Regional Affairs committee.                                                   

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