Legislature(2009 - 2010)
04/15/2009 05:17 PM JUD
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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SSHB 36 - INITIATIVES: CONTRIBUTIONS/PROCEDURES 5:17:33 PM CHAIR RAMRAS announced that the first order of business would be SPONSOR SUBSTITUTE FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 36, "An Act relating to ballot initiative proposal applications and to ballot initiatives." [SSHB 36 had been amended on 4/13/09; left pending from 4/13/09 were the motions to adopt Amendment 3, and to amend Amendment 3.] REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL withdrew Amendment 3, labeled 26- LS0197\E.5, Bullard, 4/10/09, which read: Page 7, lines 9 - 10: Delete "the sponsors shall hold public hearings concerning the proposed bill in at least 30 house districts" Insert "the lieutenant governor or a designee of the lieutenant governor shall hold at least two public hearings concerning the proposed bill in each judicial district of the state. Public hearings under this section shall be conducted in a manner that allows the initiative's sponsors, other affected and interested parties supporting or opposing the initiative, and citizens an opportunity to be heard" Page 7, line 11: Delete "sponsors" Insert "lieutenant governor or a designee of the lieutenant governor" Page 7, line 13: Delete "sponsors" Insert "lieutenant governor or a designee of the lieutenant governor" Page 7, line 15, through page 8, line 12: Delete all material. Renumber the following bill sections accordingly. 5:18:11 PM REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL made a motion to adopt Amendment 4, labeled 26-LS0197\E.8, Bullard, 4/14/09, which read: Page 7, lines 7 - 10: Delete all material and insert: "Sec. 15.45.195. Public hearings. (a) At least 30 days before the election at which an initiative is to appear on the ballot, the lieutenant governor or a designee of the lieutenant governor shall hold two or more public hearings concerning the initiative in each judicial district of the state. Each public hearing under this section shall include the testimony of one supporter and one opponent of the initiative." Page 7, line 11: Delete "sponsors" Insert "lieutenant governor" Page 7, line 13: Delete "sponsors" Insert "lieutenant governor" Page 7, line 15, through page 8, line 12: Delete all material. Renumber the following bill sections accordingly. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG objected for the purpose of discussion. He questioned what language would be best to use in order to address members' concerns [regarding when the public hearings would be held]. 5:19:56 PM JASON HOOLEY, Deputy Chief of Staff, Juneau Office, Office of the Lieutenant Governor, said that if the desire is to have the public hearings after the signature-gathering phase, then the proper language would be "after the petition has been properly filed". REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG indicated a preference for amending Amendment 4 to that effect. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL offered his belief that the language currently in Amendment 4 - "At least 30 days before the election" - allows discretion with regard to when the public- hearing phase could begin. 5:21:33 PM REPRESENTATIVE KYLE JOHANSEN, Alaska State Legislature, speaking as one of the joint prime sponsors of SSHB 36, offered his understanding that the lieutenant governor would like to have a specific timeframe in which to hold the public hearings, and that the language currently in Amendment 4 provides that timeframe. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG suggested amending Amendment 4 such that it would say in part, "No earlier than the date the petition has been properly filed and at least 30 days before the election at which an initiative is to appear on the ballot, ...". REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN surmised that everyone has the same intention. MR. HOOLEY offered his understanding that the language in Amendment 4 that says, "an initiative is to appear on the ballot" implies that the lieutenant governor's office has found that petition to be properly filed, since if it had not been, it would not be appearing on the ballot, but acknowledged that the suggested change to Amendment 4 would make it more explicit. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said he is merely attempting to insert a start date, that being the date that a petition has been properly filed, with the end date being 30 days before the election. He indicated that that would be his conceptual amendment to Amendment 4. CHAIR RAMRAS surmised that this would leave some latitude to the lieutenant governor. MR. HOOLEY concurred. 5:26:40 PM REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN concurred with Mr. Hooley that the current language of Amendment 4 is clear that the start date would be after the lieutenant governor has certified an initiative for placement on the ballot, with the end date being 30 days prior to the election, and opined that it would be proper for the lieutenant governor to be provided some latitude so that his/her resources and time could be properly managed. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG surmised, then, that no amendment to Amendment 4 is necessary to address that point. MR. HOOLEY, in response to a question, opined that the current language is clear enough for all future lieutenant governors to understand that the public hearings need to occur after the signature-gathering phase but at least 30 days before an election. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG removed his objection. REPRESENTATIVE HOLMES noted that Amendment 4 says in part, "Each public hearing under this section shall include the testimony of one supporter and one opponent of the initiative". She questioned whether this language would require people other than those in the lieutenant governor's office to get themselves to each one of the eight meetings. REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN said the intent is to give the public the opportunity to discuss, from both sides, what is in the ballot initiative, regardless of how they participate, either in person or via teleconference. "You could probably find one person in each meeting, for each of the judicial districts, to present the idea to the public," he added. REPRESENTATIVE HOLMES expressed concern that the word, "shall" might invalidate the whole meeting if all who come to it only speak to one side of the issue. REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN said that's not the intent, and indicated that he might be amenable to having the word, "shall" changed to the word, "may". 5:31:59 PM CHAIR RAMRAS offered his belief that written testimony could suffice to meet the proposed requirement. MR. HOOLEY relayed that for every initiative that goes on the ballot, the Division of Elections gathers statements in support and statements in opposition for the purpose of including a support statement and an opposition statement in the election pamphlet, and surmised that that existing process would simply be used as a starting point for the proposed public hearings. REPRESENTATIVE HOLMES pondered whether it might be better for the language to instead say something along the lines of, "Each public hearing under this section shall allow opportunity for the testimony of at least one supporter and one opponent of the initiative" - something to make it clear that the meeting won't be invalidated simply because only those on one side of the issue came to the meeting. REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN said he doesn't have any problem with having the language be passive, adding, "If they don't show up, that's ... really their own problem." REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL said he would have a problem with such a change because he believes that they should provide as much direction [to the lieutenant governor] as possible. In this case, making the lieutenant governor work to find someone with an opposing view would be more beneficial than giving the lieutenant governor so much latitude that a court case results due to a perception that he/she favored one side of an issue over the other. REPRESENTATIVE HOLMES expressed a preference, then, for changing the language to read in part, "shall include the testimony of at least one supporter and one opponent ...". She questioned whether such a change would be acceptable to the sponsor. REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN said it is his understanding that supporting and opposing views are compiled into one supporting statement and one opposing statement for purposes of including in the election pamphlet. He said his preference would be for the information about the initiative to flow impartially from the lieutenant governor's office, rather than having an eight- hour meeting, for example, at which 500 people talk about what they think is included in the initiative. He then expressed a preference for the language currently in Amendment 4. CHAIR RAMRAS expressed concern that Amendment 4 says that two "or more" public hearings would be held, questioning what result including the words "or more" would have should someone wish to contest the process, and whether including those words meets the intent. MR. HOOLEY said it would be the lieutenant governor's intention to hold two meetings per judicial district so as to absorb the costs of those meetings in his/her current budget. REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN indicated that he would be amenable to having the language specify just two meetings. CHAIR RAMRAS indicated that he would be offering an amendment to delete the words, "or more". REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL pointed out, though, that in the Fourth Judicial District, because of its tremendous size, [the committee] may want to allow for more than just two meetings. CHAIR RAMRAS questioned, however, whether including the words "or more" but then not holding more than two meetings could invite the argument that the lieutenant governor had not fulfilled his/her obligation. REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN characterized the comment regarding judicial district size as a valid point, and expressed a preference for giving the lieutenant governor's office the latitude to have more than two meetings. 5:41:25 PM MICHAEL BARNHILL, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Labor and State Affairs Section, Civil Division (Juneau), Department of Law (DOL), in response to a question, offered his belief that the phrase, "two or more" is synonymous with the phrase, "at least two", and that holding only two meetings would satisfy the proposed requirement. CHAIR RAMRAS indicated that they would therefore be leaving the words, "or more" in Amendment 4. REPRESENTATIVE HOLMES again expressed concern that the phrase, "shall include the testimony of one supporter and one opponent" might invalidate the whole meeting if only those on one side of the issue come to the meeting. She asked what would be the consequences of not complying with the requirements of Amendment 4. REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN indicated that he didn't think the language regarding testimony would create a problem, and opined that it would be an unwise political decision for the lieutenant governor to choose not to comply with the proposed public hearing requirements. REPRESENTATIVE HOLMES, to clarify, questioned what effect noncompliance with Amendment 4 would have on the initiative, adding that she doesn't want an initiative to be thrown out simply because of a loophole that someone takes advantage of. REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN said is not his intention for [noncompliance with Amendment 4] to have any effect on an initiative. CHAIR RAMRAS questioned whether they ought to insert the words, "written or public" into Amendment 4, before the word, "testimony". 5:45:43 PM MR. BARNHILL, characterizing that as a fine concept, indicated that such a change would clarify the type of testimony that would be acceptable. In response to an earlier question, he explained that the court system has a default position of providing as much access to the ballot as possible, and so any technical defects in the public hearing process would likely be overlooked by the court in order to secure access by the initiative sponsors to the ballot. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG pointed out that any such change should instead say "written or oral" instead of "written or public". CHAIR RAMRAS made a motion to amend Amendment 4 to include the words "written or oral" before the word "testimony". There being no objection, the amendment to Amendment 4 was adopted. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG sought clarification that in order to comply with the phrase, "testimony of one supporter and one opponent" the lieutenant governor would seek input from the initiative's sponsors and those opposed to the initiative so that they could have a hand in who's selected to [present their viewpoint]. MR. HOOLEY said that would be the case, adding that the lieutenant governor generally starts with the initiative's sponsors. CHAIR RAMRAS, after ascertaining that there were no further objections, announced that Amendment 4 [as amended] was adopted. 5:48:52 PM CHAIR RAMRAS made a motion to adopt Amendment 5, labeled 26- LS0197\E.9, Bullard, 4/15/09, which read: Page 5, following line 7: Insert a new bill section to read: "* Sec. 9. AS 15.45.080 is amended to read: Sec. 15.45.080. Bases of denial of certification. The lieutenant governor shall deny certification upon determining in writing that (1) the proposed bill to be initiated is not confined to one subject or is otherwise not in the required form; (2) the application is not substantially in the required form; or (3) there is an insufficient number of qualified sponsors." Renumber the following bill sections accordingly. REPRESENTATIVE HOLMES objected. CHAIR RAMRAS explained that Amendment 5 would preclude an initiative that addresses more than one subject from being placed on the ballot, and cited the ballot initiative regarding cruise ship taxation, regulation, and disclosure as an example of an initiative that was not confined to a single subject. REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN said he does not object to Amendment 5, but offered his belief that its concept is already addressed in Article II, Section 13, of the Alaska State Constitution. CHAIR RAMRAS acknowledged that point, but offered his belief that Amendment 5 would give the lieutenant governor a bit more latitude. REPRESENTATIVE HOLMES removed her objection. CHAIR RAMRAS announced that Amendment 5 was adopted. 5:51:10 PM REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG made a motion to adopt Amendment 6, labeled 26-LS0197\E.6, Bullard, 4/11/09, which read: Page 9, lines 4 - 6: Delete all material and insert: "APPLICABILITY. This Act applies only to an initiative, the application for which is filed with the lieutenant governor under AS 15.45.020 on or after the effective date of this Act." REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM objected. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG explained that Amendment 6 would clarify the applicability section. REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN said he has no objection to Amendment 6. REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM removed her objection. CHAIR RAMRAS announced that Amendment 6 was adopted. REPRESENTATIVE HOLMES said she is still nescient about the provisions of SSHB 36 that address contributions and disclosure, and would therefore probably be voting against [moving the bill from committee at this time]. REPRESENTATIVE LYNN said that although he likes some of the bill's disclosure provisions and he thinks the amendments have improved the bill, he has some serious problems with tinkering with the initiative process because he thinks doing so will have a chilling effect on the ability of folks to put forth initiatives. CHAIR RAMRAS said that although he is amenable to moving the bill from committee, he does not like the bill, and questions whether Section 1 is constitutional. He relayed that he is in favor of limiting contributions once a proposed ballot initiative has been certified, though that is contrary to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, because he is troubled that a corporation could influence an election simply by writing a large check. 5:59:26 PM REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG, remarking that he would like the title narrowed, made a motion to adopt Conceptual Amendment 7, to narrow the title of the bill to the subjects currently in it. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL objected, and suggested that a specific amendment to that effect be drafted instead. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG relayed, then, that if he still feels it's necessary, he would be offering such an amendment on the House floor, though he doesn't see a problem with adopting a conceptual amendment now and allowing the drafter come up with the appropriate language. REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN relayed that he would be willing to work on [the bill title] further before the bill gets to the House floor. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG withdrew Conceptual Amendment 7. 6:02:08 PM REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM moved to report SSHB 36, as amended, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying zero fiscal note. REPRESENTATIVE HOLMES objected. A roll call vote was taken. Representatives Dahlstrom, Coghill, Lynn, and Ramras voted in favor of reporting SSHB 36, as amended, from committee. Representatives Gruenberg and Holmes voted against it. Therefore, CSSSHB 36(JUD) was reported from the House Judiciary Standing Committee by a vote of 4-2.