Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/23/2003 01:10 PM House JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 31-INITIATIVE/REFERENDUM PETITIONS                                                                                         
HJR 5-CONST AM: INITIATIVE/REFERENDUM PETITIONS                                                                               
Number 1612                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  McGUIRE  announced  the  that  the  committee  would  next                                                               
consider HOUSE  BILL NO. 31,  "An Act relating to  initiative and                                                               
referendum petitions;  and providing for an  effective date"; and                                                               
HOUSE  JOINT RESOLUTION  NO.  5, Proposing  an  amendment to  the                                                               
Constitution of  the State of  Alaska relating to  initiative and                                                               
referendum petitions.                                                                                                           
CHAIR McGUIRE  recalled good points  made by  Representative Gara                                                               
at the previous  hearing with respect to the  burden being placed                                                               
on the initiative process in  general and on the people gathering                                                               
signatures, as well  as the effect on costs "and  so forth."  She                                                               
also recalled  comments by  Representatives Samuels  and Anderson                                                               
about proportional  representation.  She  said that was  her line                                                               
of thinking  as well,  that there  is an effort  to heal  the so-                                                               
called urban-rural  divide in other  areas, and that  even though                                                               
it costs  more to  "reach out to  rural areas,"  [the legislature                                                               
still  does so];  thus perhaps  it should  be done  in this  area                                                               
also.   She mentioned previous  testimony via  teleconference and                                                               
reminded members that public testimony was still open.                                                                          
Number 1708                                                                                                                     
ALVIN  A.  ANDERS,  Chair,  Alaska  Libertarian  Party  (Juneau);                                                               
Secretary, Alaska Libertarian Party  (Statewide), referred to his                                                               
previous testimony and  said this bill should  be opposed because                                                               
it  is unnecessary  and doesn't  accomplish  what its  proponents                                                               
want  it to  do; the  initiative process  works fine,  helping to                                                               
increase turnout and voter registration  and allowing citizens to                                                               
decide  contentious issues.   If  the sponsors'  real goal  is to                                                               
include  more of  the state  in the  initiative process  - rather                                                               
than just having  the new requirements act as a  "veto" on issues                                                               
they don't want  to see on the ballot -  Mr. Anders asserted that                                                               
the legislation doesn't accomplish what the sponsors want.                                                                      
MR. ANDERS  suggested it would  be better to make  the initiative                                                               
one page so  that it could be posted on  the Internet, downloaded                                                               
as  an  Adobe  Acrobat  file, printed,  signed,  and  mailed  in.                                                               
Offering a copy  of an initiative petition used  in Anchorage and                                                               
other areas  in the state  as an example  of a one-page  form, he                                                               
assured  the  committee  that  it   works  fine,  that  citizens'                                                               
signatures  are still  checked for  voter registration,  and that                                                               
having one  page instead  of a  booklet will  make it  easier for                                                               
"folks  in the  hinterlands"  to  fill out  and  mail in  without                                                               
feeling that they have to get  150 signatures in order to turn in                                                               
their  petition booklet.    He  said that  reform  could be  done                                                               
without having to do a constitutional amendment.                                                                                
MR.  ANDERS said  he'd like  the  committee to  vote against  the                                                               
legislation.  He suggested that  the "very good reform" supported                                                               
by Ken Jacobus  and the Republican Party with  regard to instant-                                                               
runoff voting  failed in  the 2002  election because  voters were                                                               
already upset  with the  Republicans for  the closed  primary and                                                               
saw  the instant-runoff  voting as  another way  that Republicans                                                               
were trying  to seize  control of  the state.   Saying  it should                                                               
have passed, he said that type of reform is the way to go.                                                                      
CHAIR  McGUIRE asked  whether anyone  else wished  to testify  on                                                               
HB 31  or HJR  5; hearing  no  response, she  then closed  public                                                               
testimony on both.                                                                                                              
CHAIR  MCGUIRE  turned attention  specifically  to  HB 31.    She                                                               
requested a motion.                                                                                                             
Number 1890                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE OGG  moved [to  adopt the proposed  CS for  HB 31,                                                               
Version 23-LS0201\D, Kurtz, 4/7/03, as a work draft].                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE GARA objected.  Saying  he wouldn't talk about his                                                               
many substantive objections to the  bill, he noted, however, that                                                               
the constitution says all that is  required is a certain total of                                                               
signatures from voters who reside  in two-thirds of the districts                                                               
throughout the  state; the bill  makes the  signature requirement                                                               
much more difficult,  defeating the intent of  the [Alaska State]                                                               
Constitution's framers,  to his  belief.   He suggested  the bill                                                               
would be sent back as clearly being unconstitutional.                                                                           
CHAIR McGUIRE clarified that the  motion to adopt the proposed CS                                                               
was in error.  She requested a motion to rescind it.                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE OGG  [moved to rescind  his motion].   There being                                                               
no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                                
Number 1990                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE OGG [moved  to report HB 31 out  of committee with                                                               
individual  recommendations  and  the  accompanying  zero  fiscal                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  objected.   He requested that  Kathryn Kurtz                                                               
tell   the   committee  what   she   thinks   about  the   bill's                                                               
Number 2018                                                                                                                     
KATHRYN KURTZ,  Attorney, Legislative Legal  Counsel, Legislative                                                               
Legal   and  Research   Services,  Legislative   Affairs  Agency,                                                               
drafting  attorney for  HB 31,  offered her  sense that  the bill                                                               
adds  a requirement  for initiative  petitions  above and  beyond                                                               
what  is  specified  in  the  constitution;  she  suggested  that                                                               
without  a  constitutional  amendment, the  bill  is  potentially                                                               
vulnerable to legal challenge.                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE GARA asked  Ms. Kurtz, if she were  a judge ruling                                                               
on the  information she  has, whether  she would  say it  is more                                                               
likely than not that the bill would be unconstitutional.                                                                        
MS. KURTZ replied, "I would."                                                                                                   
CHAIR McGUIRE  pointed out  that HJR 5  proposes an  amendment to                                                               
the constitution for that reason.   She expressed appreciation to                                                               
Ms.  Kurtz for  her legal  memorandum  on the  subject, and  said                                                               
there is no  question that both the statute  and the constitution                                                               
need to be amended [if this law is to be changed].                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE GARA maintained his objection.                                                                                   
A roll call  vote was taken.   Representatives Samuels, Anderson,                                                               
Ogg, Holm,  and McGuire voted  in favor  of reporting HB  31 from                                                               
committee.   Representative  Gara voted  against it.   Therefore,                                                               
HB 31 was  reported from the  House Judiciary  Standing Committee                                                               
by a vote of 5-1.                                                                                                               
Number 2132                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE OGG moved  to report HJR 5 out  of committee [with                                                               
individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal note].                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE GARA objected.   He explained that  he'd heard all                                                               
the  points in  favor  of changing  the  initiative process,  but                                                               
disagreed.     First,   he  said,   this   will  limit   peoples'                                                               
constitutional rights,  which he believes should  only occur when                                                               
there is an incredibly compelling  reason to do it; however, he'd                                                               
heard no such compelling reason.   Furthermore, although it isn't                                                               
the  intention of  the sponsor  or  the committee,  he said  that                                                               
making  it more  burdensome to  collect signatures  will preserve                                                               
the initiative  process only for  the wealthiest people  who have                                                               
the staff to go to [30]  different districts to gain 500 or 1,000                                                               
signatures in each district.                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA offered  his belief  that perhaps  Alaskans'                                                               
most important  right with  regard to democracy  is the  right to                                                               
take a  matter into  their own  hands and put  it on  the ballot.                                                               
With  respect  to the  ability  of  people  who live  outside  of                                                               
Anchorage to have  initiatives placed on the ballot,  he said the                                                               
current system is fair because  no matter how many signatures are                                                               
obtained  from various  districts,  the question  is whether  the                                                               
majority of  Alaskans will vote  for an initiative at  the ballot                                                               
box.  He  said that is how democracy works,  and that he couldn't                                                               
support HJR 5.                                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM  offered his belief that  the preservation of                                                               
the rights of one  set of people at the expense  of another is in                                                               
jeopardy  without passage  of this  [legislation].   He suggested                                                               
that Alaska  is unique because  more than half of  the population                                                               
lives in  one area and thus  can pass laws that  adversely affect                                                               
rural residents all  over the state.  He asserted  that people in                                                               
this  country have  a representative  republic, not  a democracy.                                                               
He added,  "We try to make  sure that the majority  cannot act in                                                               
an  unruly  manner  to  subject   the  minority  to  its  whims."                                                               
Representative Holm said it isn't  unreasonable to require a seat                                                               
at  the  table  for  people  whose cultures  and  lives  will  be                                                               
affected  by  laws  or  initiatives.    He  suggested  that  this                                                               
[constitutional change] would  allow that seat at  the table, and                                                               
that it would be a grave injustice to do otherwise.                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE   OGG   concurred   with   Representative   Holm's                                                               
comments.   He also suggested  that the movement here  is towards                                                               
exercising  democracy in  its truest  form,  since [the  proposed                                                               
constitutional change] will be submitted to the voters.                                                                         
TAPE 03-42, SIDE B                                                                                                            
Number 2380                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE OGG concluded  by saying this is  a suggestion [to                                                               
voters] that this  is a good direction, and that  if they see fit                                                               
to pass it, they will.  If not, the people will have spoken.                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARA acknowledged  that as a fair  point, and said                                                               
although [HB 31] takes away  peoples' rights without asking their                                                               
permission,  HJR  5  asks  their   permission  before  doing  so.                                                               
Nevertheless, he said he thinks  [changing the initiative process                                                               
in  this  way] is  a  bad  policy  for  the reasons  he'd  stated                                                               
Number 2297                                                                                                                     
A  roll call  vote  was taken.    Representatives Anderson,  Ogg,                                                               
Holm,  Samuels, and  McGuire voted  in favor  of reporting  HJR 5                                                               
from   committee.     Representative  Gara   voted  against   it.                                                               
Therefore, HJR 5  was reported from the  House Judiciary Standing                                                               
Committee by a vote of 5-1.                                                                                                     
[HB 31 was reported from committee earlier by a vote of 5-1.]                                                                   

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