Legislature(1995 - 1996)

04/29/1996 02:00 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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               
 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           
 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                
 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.                                                          

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