Legislature(2009 - 2010)CAPITOL 120

03/12/2010 01:00 PM House JUDICIARY

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved Out of Committee
Heard & Held
Moved CSHJR 38(STA) Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
       HJR 38 - CONST. AM: INCREASE NUMBER OF LEGISLATORS                                                                   
1:52:59 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR RAMRAS announced  that the next order of  business would be                                                               
HOUSE  JOINT  RESOLUTION  NO. 38,  Proposing  amendments  to  the                                                               
Constitution of  the State of  Alaska relating to  and increasing                                                               
the number of  members of the house of  representatives to forty-                                                               
eight and  the number  of members of  the senate  to twenty-four.                                                               
[Before the committee was CSHJR 38(STA).]                                                                                       
1:53:40 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   PEGGY   WILSON,    Alaska   State   Legislature,                                                               
paraphrased   from  the   following  written   sponsor  statement                                                               
[original punctuation provided]:                                                                                                
     HJR 38  will put a constitutional  amendment before the                                                                    
     voters  in   the  2010  general  election   that  would                                                                    
     increase   the   size   of  the   legislature   to   44                                                                    
     representatives and  22 senators. Upon  voter approval,                                                                    
     the measure  would apply to  the 2012  determination of                                                                    
     new    boundary's    for   the    election    district.                                                                    
     In  the first  50 years  of statehood,  Alaska has  not                                                                    
     changed the  20 senator, 40 representative  size of its                                                                    
     legislative  body, the  smallest bicameral  legislature                                                                    
     in the  nation. In  this time  span, the  population of                                                                    
     the state  has more  than tripled.  Most significantly,                                                                    
     the population  increase is  disproportionate, strongly                                                                    
     favoring  large  urban  areas   over  rural  and  small                                                                    
     community  areas.   The  task  then  of   applying  the                                                                    
     proscriptions    of    Article     VI,    above,    has                                                                    
     correspondingly become more  difficult and contentious.                                                                    
     Except  for the  1960  reapportionment, all  subsequent                                                                    
     reapportionments    have    faced   successful    legal                                                                    
     challenges,  requiring  boundary   adjustments  and  on                                                                    
     several   occasions,   a    court   constructed   plan.                                                                    
     Federal  protections of  the U.S.  Voter Rights  Act of                                                                    
     1965   for   large  minority   concentrations   further                                                                    
     complicate  Alaska's  reapportionment process.  Indeed,                                                                    
     they  can act  to counter  the Section  6 requirements.                                                                    
     Rural election district distortions  are evident in the                                                                    
     current  plan.  There is  a  probability  that the  new                                                                    
     population  distribution  of  the  2010  census  cannot                                                                    
     reconcile Section  6 and the  Voter Rights  Act without                                                                    
     increasing    the    size     of    the    legislature.                                                                    
     Between 1960 and 2006, twenty  nine states have changed                                                                    
     the  size  of  their  legislative body.  For  the  nine                                                                    
     states  with   small  populations  similar   to  Alaska                                                                    
     (509,000  to  1,429,000),  the average  size  of  their                                                                    
     legislative      bodies       is      134      members.                                                                    
     Another  measure of  the effect  of the  state's growth                                                                    
     and complexity  on the work  of the legislature  is its                                                                    
     budget  responsibilities. Legislative  expenditures for                                                                    
     government  programs  and  projects has  risen  from  a                                                                    
     figure of  $104 million  in FY 61  to somewhere  in the                                                                    
     neighborhood  of  $7  billion  currently.  This  is  an                                                                    
     increase from $2700 per capita  in 1961 nominal dollars                                                                    
     to        $10,000        per       capita        today.                                                                    
     For these  reasons, putting a proposal  to increase the                                                                    
     size  of the  legislature before  the voters  is timely                                                                    
     and merited.                                                                                                               
[Chair Ramras passed the gavel to Vice Chair Dahlstrom.]                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON then remarked  that HJR 38 would provide                                                               
Alaskans that  reside in expanding rural  districts better access                                                               
to their legislators.   Although rural residents  will never have                                                               
the ease  of access  urban residents  experience, an  increase in                                                               
the size of  the legislature may maintain access  similar to what                                                               
currently    exists.       For   the    aforementioned   reasons,                                                               
Representative Wilson  requested the committee forward  HJR 38 so                                                               
that the initiative can be placed before voters in 2010.                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON, in response  to comments and questions,                                                               
directed the  committee's attention to  a map entitled  "State of                                                               
Alaska - Amended Final Redistricting  Plan" which highlights just                                                               
one Senate  district.  She opined  that the large and  spread out                                                               
district  illustrates  how  difficult  it  has  become  for  some                                                               
legislators to represent  and know the people  in their district.                                                               
If nothing  is done,  the highlighted  district will  become much                                                               
larger, and  the remaining districts  will become  more condensed                                                               
in the  urban areas.   Representative P. Wilson  characterized it                                                               
as a fairness issue to the  legislator and the constituents.  She                                                               
informed the committee  that the district illustrated  on the map                                                               
is the largest district in the United States.                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  HERRON  questioned  why an  individual  would  be                                                               
concerned about the size of a  state since the 1965 Voting Rights                                                               
Act changed  [national representation] to be  based on population                                                               
rather  than  area.   Therefore,  he  inquired  as to  who  would                                                               
advocate  for the  ballot measure  in rural  areas besides  rural                                                               
2:02:28 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG offered  his  belief that  HJR 38  will                                                               
benefit  [urban  districts].   For  example,  he  represents  the                                                               
distinct   socio-economic  area   of  Mountain   View  and   this                                                               
resolution  would allow  the district  to be  small and  cohesive                                                               
much  like  in  rural  districts that  have  the  same  heritage,                                                               
language, and economy.                                                                                                          
[Vice Chair Dahlstrom returned the gavel to Chair Ramras.]                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  opined that  to get  HJR 38  passed and                                                               
before the  voters it will  be essential for urban  supporters of                                                               
the  resolution to  join  with rural  supporters.   Although  the                                                               
resolution  may  allow rural  districts  to  retain a  couple  of                                                               
seats, the main accomplishment of  the resolution will be to keep                                                               
districts   small.      In    further   response   to   comments,                                                               
Representative  Gruenberg said  that he  wouldn't have  a problem                                                               
advocating for the proposed ballot measure.                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE HERRON said he supports HJR 38.                                                                                  
CHAIR RAMRAS  related a  discussion he had  regarding HJR  38 and                                                               
keeping the Senate at 20 members  and increasing the House to 60.                                                               
Although  the aforementioned  would make  the House  the People's                                                               
House, the fiscal note would be large.                                                                                          
2:08:32 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO   pointed  out  that  under   HJR  38,  the                                                               
representation doesn't  change as  every resident  would continue                                                               
to have one  representative and one senator.  With  regard to the                                                               
large district  referenced earlier,  the resolution  would reduce                                                               
its size  but it would  remain large.   Furthermore, constituents                                                               
aren't happy  with [government], and therefore  he questioned why                                                               
anyone would vote to increase the number of legislators.                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG surmised  that  if  the resolution  and                                                               
subsequent  ballot  measure is  approved,  it  would have  to  be                                                               
precleared by the U.S. Department of  Justice.  He inquired as to                                                               
when the preclearance occurs.                                                                                                   
2:11:28 PM                                                                                                                    
MARGARET  PATON  WALSH,  Assistant Attorney  General,  Labor  and                                                               
State Affairs  Section, Department  of Law (DOL),  explained that                                                               
the  preclearance  would  occur   after  the  ballot  measure  is                                                               
approved.  However, the preclearance  paperwork could be prepared                                                               
ahead of  time so  that if  the ballot  measure is  approved, the                                                               
paperwork  could  be  then  filed with  the  U.S.  Department  of                                                               
Justice (DOJ)  the next  [business] day.   She  further explained                                                               
that the DOJ  has a 60-day turnaround time during  which it could                                                               
ask for  more information, approve,  or disapprove of  the ballot                                                               
measure.    If  the  U.S. Department  of  Justice  requests  more                                                               
information, then another 60-day period  begins.  Ms. Paton Walsh                                                               
said  that  although the  timing  would  be  tight, it  could  be                                                               
achieved, particularly if the DOJ was amenable to the amendment.                                                                
2:12:38 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  surmised,  then,   that  it  would  be                                                               
possible to implement for the election in 2012.                                                                                 
MS.  PATON  WALSH related  that  the  redistricting process  will                                                               
begin in  early 2011 and  each state's  data will be  issued from                                                               
mid January  through April.   Although she  said she  didn't know                                                               
when  Alaska will  receive its  data, last  time the  states were                                                               
provided the data in alphabetic  order of the states.  Therefore,                                                               
DOL is  planning to be prepared  for an early January  date.  Ms.                                                               
Paton  Walsh  explained that  if  the  data  is received  in  mid                                                               
January,  then the  [redistricting]  board would  be provided  30                                                               
days to develop  plans and another 60 days of  hearings for those                                                               
plans in order to have adopted a  plan by April.  By the time the                                                               
[redistricting] board starts its work,  DOL will want to know how                                                               
many districts are going to be  created.  She reviewed a scenario                                                               
in which it would be early  January, which would be just prior to                                                               
receipt of data from the U.S. Census  Bureau.  As long as the DOJ                                                               
preclears  within  the  60-day   timeframe,  the  process  should                                                               
proceed fine.                                                                                                                   
2:14:15 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  asked whether Ms. Paton  Walsh is aware                                                               
of any other issue in Alaska that will need to be precleared.                                                                   
MS. PATON  WALSH responded  no, not other  than the  plan itself.                                                               
Although she noted  that the Division of Elections  may have some                                                               
changes  that   would  require  preclearance,   the  preclearance                                                               
requests  are independent.   Therefore,  she didn't  believe that                                                               
any other  preclearance issues  for the  state would  impact this                                                               
2:15:52 PM                                                                                                                    
BRUCE BOTELHO, after  mentioning that although he's  the mayor of                                                               
the  City &  Borough  of  Juneau, he's  speaking  in his  private                                                               
capacity.   He then mentioned  he has served as  attorney general                                                               
and  deputy attorney  general  for the  state  and was  intensely                                                               
involved with  reapportionment for  the 1990  plus plan  that was                                                               
finally adopted  in 1994 and  in 2002.   Mr. Botelho  related his                                                               
support  for  HJR 38.    In  response  to earlier  questions  and                                                               
comments, Mr. Botelho explained  that since the U.S. Constitution                                                               
has been  interpreted to mean one  person one vote, that  will be                                                               
the case regardless of the size  of the legislature.  With regard                                                               
to why,  then, it should  be changed and  who will speak  for the                                                               
ballot measure,  Mr. Botelho opined that  people intuitively know                                                               
that a  person who represents  a more compact district  will have                                                               
an  easier time  communicating with  his/her constituents  than a                                                               
person with  a larger district.   Without  a change to  the state                                                               
constitution,  the challenge  to the  next reapportionment  board                                                               
will be  great and  will exacerbate  the geographic  disparity in                                                               
the  state.     In  conclusion,   Mr.  Botelho   recommended  the                                                               
resolution as it was originally proposed  with a House body of 48                                                               
as it would  minimize the increase of the footprint  of any given                                                               
district  while  preserving  the symmetry  in  the  constitution,                                                               
particularly with regard to super  majority votes whether they be                                                               
two-thirds or three-quarters votes.                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO opined  that although  there is  an optimum                                                               
number,  he doubted  that it's  48 and  suggested that  it's more                                                               
likely that  we should reflect New  Hampshire.  He asked  why Mr.                                                               
Botelho chose 48.                                                                                                               
MR. BOTELHO answered that 48  most nearly represents districts in                                                               
geographic  size  as   they  are  today,  that   is  the  largest                                                               
districts.   He remarked that there  is no optimum number  as one                                                               
must consider  the expense, the  space, and the  functionality of                                                               
the  body versus  the ability  to provide  better access  between                                                               
representatives and their constituents.                                                                                         
2:21:23 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG asked  if Mr.  Botelho knows  how other                                                               
local governments feel about this proposal.                                                                                     
MR. BOTELHO  related his  understanding that  the only  body that                                                               
has extensively debated the issue  is the Conference of Southeast                                                               
Mayors, which has adopted a resolution in support.                                                                              
2:22:09 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO, referring  to  the fiscal  note, asked  if                                                               
there is  any part of  analysis of  this proposal that  will cost                                                               
the state money that isn't included in the fiscal note.                                                                         
2:22:53 PM                                                                                                                    
KARLA   SCHOFIELD,  Deputy   Director,  Accounting,   Legislative                                                               
Administrative  Services,  Legislative Affairs  Agency,  answered                                                               
not that  she is aware of,  although she said the  fiscal note is                                                               
the best  judgment of  what to  expect.   In further  response to                                                               
Representative Gatto,  Ms. Schofield  pointed out that  there are                                                               
funds  in the  contractual line  item for  an increase  in office                                                               
space  rent.   However,  until after  redistricting  it won't  be                                                               
apparent  whether the  Anchorage  Legislative Information  Office                                                               
(LIO)  or  the  smaller  LIOs will  require  increased  space  or                                                               
whether there  would be the  need for an  LIO in a  new location.                                                               
There is also  funding for a position for  part-time LIO officers                                                               
for session only.   She pointed out that the  funding is included                                                               
in the personal  services line item and is outlined  on page 2 of                                                               
the fiscal note.  The  $1.9 million in personal services includes                                                               
salaries  and benefits  for the  legislators and  their staff  as                                                               
well as  additional LAA staff, including  an additional attorney,                                                               
two LIO officers, and one enroller  or Help Desk technician.  She                                                               
then  pointed  out  that  the  office rent  is  included  in  the                                                               
contractual  line item,  which includes  an increased  amount for                                                               
allowance  accounts for  the additional  legislators  as well  as                                                               
connectivity costs and an increase in office space rent.                                                                        
2:25:31 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR RAMRAS,  upon ascertaining no  one else wished  to testify,                                                               
closed public testimony on HJR 38.                                                                                              
2:25:43 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  HERRON  moved  to  report CSHJR  38(STA)  out  of                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations and  the accompanying                                                               
fiscal  notes.   There  being  no  objection, CSHJR  38(STA)  was                                                               
reported from the House Judiciary Standing Committee.                                                                           

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
01 HJR38 Sponsor Statement.pdf HJUD 3/12/2010 1:00:00 PM
03 HJR38 CS(STA)-LEG-COU-2-18-10.pdf HJUD 3/12/2010 1:00:00 PM
04 HJR38 -OOG-DOE-2-1-10.pdf HJUD 3/12/2010 1:00:00 PM
05 HJR38 District Numbers.pdf HJUD 3/12/2010 1:00:00 PM
06 HJR38 Article re two redistrictings possible.pdf HJUD 3/12/2010 1:00:00 PM
02 HJR38 Bill HSTA CS v. R.pdf HJUD 3/12/2010 1:00:00 PM
01 HB253 Sponsor Statement.pdf HJUD 3/12/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 253
02 HB253 ver A.pdf HJUD 3/12/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 253
03 HB253 Fiscal Note-CED-COM-2-26-10.pdf HJUD 3/12/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 253
04 HB253 Letters of Support.pdf HJUD 3/12/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 253
01 HB408 Sponsor Statement.pdf HJUD 3/12/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 408
02 HB408 Bill v. A.pdf HJUD 3/12/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 408
03 HB408-LAW-CRIM-03-08-10.pdf HJUD 3/12/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 408
04 HB408 NRA Background information.pdf HJUD 3/12/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 408
05 HB408 Leg. Legal opinion 2.16.10.pdf HJUD 3/12/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 408
06 HB408 Caron v. US.pdf HJUD 3/12/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 408
07 HB408 Gabrielle v. DPS.pdf HJUD 3/12/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 408
08 HB408 Support.pdf HJUD 3/12/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 408
HB408 AS11.61.20011_05_08.pdf HJUD 3/12/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 408