Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/29/1996 02:00 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CSSJR 31(FIN) - AK STATEHOOD ACT AMENDMENTS Number 075 CHAIRMAN PORTER announced the first order of business would be CSSJR 31(FIN), "Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Alaska relating to voter approval of amendments of the Alaska Statehood Act affecting an interest of the State of Alaska under that Act," sponsored by Senator Drue Pearce Number 122 STEPHANIE SZYMANSKI, Administrative Assistant to Senator Pearce, came before the committee. She explained Senator Pearce has been closely associated with the efforts of the legislature in attempting to get Congress to open the Arctic National Wildlife refuge (ANWR) for responsible oil and gas exploration and development. As part of that debate a question has come forward, which they are attempting to answer by this constitutional amendment. When Congress passed the statehood compact and the people of the state of Alaska voted to accept statehood, there was an open question of what has to happen for Alaska to accept any amendment to the statehood compact. Obviously, there has to be some action taken to accept the amendment whether it is at the legislative level, by law or by taking to a vote of the people, since it took a vote of the people to accept this statehood compact. A previous legislature, back in the early 1970s attempted to answer the question by passing a law AS 01.10.110, which reads, "No amendment which affects an interest of the state under the Alaska Statehood Action is effective as to the state unless approved by law enacted by the legislature or the people of the state." MS. SZYMANSKI explained that the 1976 legislature did attempt to answer the question; however, it has been mentioned by legislators and people of the state concerned that we should have never have just let the legislature alone accept the change to the compact, instead it should always go to the vote of the people. She said SJR 31 proposes to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot, this November, which would add language to our constitution a requirement that in order to accept a change of the statehood compact, that act would only become effective after the legislature passed a resolution putting a question on the ballot, a majority of the registered voters in Alaska voted in the affirmative. SJR 31 is intended to lay out a clear method which will direct future legislatures as to the proper method to make any decision concerning the change to the statehood compact. Number 302 CHAIRMAN PORTER said, "Would it be correct that the question under this bill if it were law, that we could ask would be specifically the issue that was discussed in the sponsor statement. For example, the 90 percent return to Alaska versus the 50/50 at ANWR. Would we be able to put that specific question as relates only to ANWR on the ballot as opposed to having to change the entire 90 percent to 50/50 statewide?" MS. SZYMANSKI explained it is the intent of the sponsor that this November, the question would be to amend the constitution requiring that later if you would like to amend the statehood compact, that would go before the people on that issue or any other issue. It is not the sponsor's intent that language of that nature be added this November. Number 378 CHAIRMAN PORTER said he understands that, but his question is, "If ultimately that question were formed in a resolution to go on to the ballot in a few years, could we frame it so that it would only apply to ANWR - the geographic boundaries of ANWR as opposed to having to change the 90 percent relation - the 90 percent return in other areas of the state?" MS. SZYMANSKI said "yes." She said she believes that there is a resolution in the Senate, sponsored by Senator Adams, that deals with that specifically. Number 432 REPRESENTATIVE CON BUNDE made a motion to move CSSJR 31(FIN) out of the House Judiciary Committee with individual recommendations. REPRESENTATIVE AL VEZEY objected to the motion. He said he speaks in objection to this proposed constitutional amendment because a ballot initiative is not a good forum for debate for political intercourse. It is up or down, it is worded one way, it passes, it fails. Representative Vezey said he believes that if you're going to change a contract between two parties that there is a negotiation process that must occur and the ballot initiative does not allow that process to occur. He said he thinks that the elected officials of the state of Alaska are perfectly capable of responding to the wish and will of the people of the state of Alaska and their best interest without putting a measure directly to them for a vote. He said he doesn't support the resolution although he doesn't have an objection to it being moved out of committee. Number 523 REPRESENTATIVE DAVID FINKELSTEIN indicated he also has mixed feelings, but he thinks the reason the resolution is necessary is because the concept is that you have to have a change in the constitution if it is changed in the statehood compact as that is where it incorporated into state law. He said you can't have a constitutional amendment without a vote of the people. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said he understands the concern and it is a well taken point, but this is multiple step process. First, we have to have the resolution from the legislature and that would certainly be an area that (indisc.) debate in the process and the negotiating. Once you have arrived at the negotiating, it is his view that this would simply be a ratification of whatever was achieved at the legislative level. If it were something of less magnitude than changing the statehood compact, he would say, "Just let us do it." When it gets to that level, perhaps the public needs to be more directly involved. Number 622 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY withdrew his objection. CHAIRMAN PORTER asked if there was any other objection to moving the bill. Hearing none, CSSJR 31(FIN) was moved out of the House Judiciary Committee.