Legislature(2009 - 2010)CAPITOL 106

02/04/2010 08:00 AM House STATE AFFAIRS

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08:07:41 AM Start
08:07:58 AM HB76
08:49:05 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved CSHB 76(STA) Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
          HB  76-LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL & LB&A MEMBERSHIP                                                                      
8:07:58 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LYNN  announced that the  only order of business  was HOUSE                                                               
BILL NO.  76, "An Act  relating to  the membership of  the Alaska                                                               
Legislative Council and the membership  of the Legislative Budget                                                               
and Audit Committee."                                                                                                           
[Before the  committee was the  committee substitute (CS)  for HB
76, Version 26-LS0335\S, Chenoweth/Cook, 3/3/09.]                                                                               
[Contains brief discussion of HB 288.]                                                                                          
8:08:58 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  reviewed that the  proposed legislation                                                               
would provide for  at least one member of the  minority to sit on                                                               
the  Legislative  Budget  and  Audit  Committee  and  the  Alaska                                                               
Legislative Council, provided  that the minority has  at least 25                                                               
percent of the total House membership.   He said this is a matter                                                               
of fairness.   He reminded the committee that 22  years ago, when                                                               
the  Republican  Party  was  a   minority  in  the  Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, it requested proportional  representation on all the                                                               
standing  committees,  and  the  Democrats  complied.    The  two                                                               
committees not included at that  time were the Legislative Budget                                                               
and Audit  Committee and the  Alaska Legislative Council.   Still                                                               
not  included  would  be  the  Armed  Services  Committee,  which                                                               
Representative Gruenberg  said he does  not think works  the same                                                               
as  other  committees; however,  he  said  he  would not  have  a                                                               
problem if the  House State Affairs Standing  Committee wanted to                                                               
add that  committee to the bill.   In response to  Chair Lynn, he                                                               
said the standing committees act  independently in each House and                                                               
are  under the  Uniform  Rules, while  the  joint committees  are                                                               
statutory.   Representative Gruenberg opined that  as a practical                                                               
matter,  this  change  would  not make  much  difference  on  the                                                               
Legislative  Budget and  Audit  Committee, but  it  would on  the                                                               
Alaska  Legislative  Council, by  giving  the  minority one  more                                                               
seat.   He  indicated  that the  bill would  take  effect in  the                                                               
[Twenty Seventh Alaska  State Legislature].  He added  that it is                                                               
nice to  have two members on  the council in the  Minority, since                                                               
sometimes  it is  difficult  for one  person to  get  to all  the                                                               
8:11:21 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   P.   WILSON   said  she   is   considering   the                                                               
consequences  of  the bill.    She  cautioned  that it  would  be                                                               
possible under HB 76 for one party to fill all the seats.                                                                       
8:12:12 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG responded by  offering an example of the                                                               
Senate as follows:                                                                                                              
     The  minority seat  would be  from  the party,  because                                                                    
     they're Republicans.  Theoretically,  I suppose, if the                                                                    
     members  of  the majority  who  wanted  to be  on  that                                                                    
     committee were  only Republicans that could  occur, but                                                                    
     it would  be the will  of the majority.   The Democrats                                                                    
     would be putting the Republicans  on that committee and                                                                    
     would have  agreed to it.   Because, in this  case, ...                                                                    
     if the minority  were of one party - 4  [members] - and                                                                    
     there  were 10  Republicans in  the Senate,  that would                                                                    
     mean  of the  16-member  majority, the  members of  the                                                                    
     Republicans -  only six  - would  be outweighed  by the                                                                    
     Democrats 10.  And if the  Democrats put all six of the                                                                    
     Republicans  on  that  committee, ...  they'd  have  to                                                                    
     have, pretty much, the unanimous  vote of the Democrats                                                                    
     to do that.                                                                                                                
8:13:27 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON said  that  was his  concern  at the  last                                                               
hearing, and  the answer is found  in the language of  Version S,                                                               
beginning on page 1, line 14,  through page 2, line 8, which read                                                               
as follows:                                                                                                                     
          (b) The membership from each house must include                                                                       
     at  least  one  member  from  each  of  the  two  major                                                                    
     political  parties.   The  membership  from each  house                                                                    
     must also  include the number of  minority members that                                                                    
     is proportional  to the number  of minority  members in                                                                    
     the house compared to the  total house membership or to                                                                    
     one  seat, whichever  is greater.   In  calculating the                                                                    
     number  of seats  to which  the  minority is  entitled,                                                                    
     fractional   numbers   that  represent   the   minority                                                                    
     proportional entitlement  to a  seat shall  be ignored.                                                                    
     For  purposes of  this subsection,  "minority" means  a                                                                    
     group  of  members who  have  organized  and elected  a                                                                    
     minority leader and who constitute  at least 25 percent                                                                    
     of the total house membership.                                                                                             
8:14:13 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO expressed  concern  that there  could be  a                                                               
situation in which there are  two major political parties, but no                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said the  term "major political parties"                                                               
refers to Democrats and Republicans,  and if one of those parties                                                               
ever  dies out,  there would  be  a new  major party.   Title  15                                                               
addresses getting minor parties on the ballot, he noted.                                                                        
8:16:40 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  indicated that  the inclusion of  at least                                                               
one member from each of the  two major parties is in existing law                                                               
that "is  being moved to  Section 2"; therefore, if  the language                                                               
is  problematic  in  the  bill, it  is  problematic  in  existing                                                               
statute.  He  said the organization of the  legislature and party                                                               
affiliation has changed, and there  are majorities and minorities                                                               
that are "mixed"  in both houses.   He said even if  there was an                                                               
even split of  all Republicans in the majority  and all Democrats                                                               
in the  minority, HB  76 would not  complicate the  situation for                                                               
appointment of members.                                                                                                         
8:17:19 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  indicated that  he  thinks  [HB 76]  came                                                               
about  because both  the  make-up of  the  legislature and  party                                                               
affiliations  have changed  somewhat,  and he  said  he does  not                                                               
think the  proposed legislation  would complicate  "the situation                                                               
for appointment of members based on party."                                                                                     
8:18:57 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  LYNN said  he  had  hoped the  chairs  of the  Legislative                                                               
Budget  &  Audit Committee  and  the  Alaska Legislative  Council                                                               
would  have testified.   He  suggested  that the  members of  the                                                               
House State  Affairs Standing Committee  who serve on  either one                                                               
of those two  entities [Representatives Gatto and  P. Wilson] may                                                               
have some insight to offer.                                                                                                     
8:19:38 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON  offered his  understanding that  the bill                                                               
sponsor is also sponsoring HB  288, which proposes that any party                                                               
with  2,500 registered  members would  become a  political party.                                                               
Hypothetically,  he  asked, "When  it  passes,  that means  2,500                                                               
people can sign  up for a party, someone gets  elected from three                                                               
or four different  parties and to a different  district, ... what                                                               
would they be in terms of minority party?"                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  answered, "They would not  qualify here                                                               
... unless  they elected enough  people to  be 25 percent  of the                                                               
body."   He directed  attention to  page 2,  lines 6-8  [the last                                                               
sentence of  previously provided text],  and he noted  that there                                                               
is similar  language related  to the  Legislative Budget  & Audit                                                               
Committee, on  page 3, lines 8-10.   He stated, "It  would be the                                                               
same situation  as the Republican  minority in the ...  Senate is                                                               
currently - they only have four."                                                                                               
8:21:10 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG, in  response to  Representative Gatto,                                                               
said if there  were three parties in the House,  numbering 26, 7,                                                               
and 7,  then neither of the  7-member parties would qualify  as a                                                               
minority; each  of them would  qualify as "having  entitlement to                                                               
one," which  Representative Gruenberg said  would be the  same as                                                               
if they  were a single  minority party.   He explained that  on a                                                               
seven-member committee, there could  be two minority members, but                                                               
they would each be from a different minority party.                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO reiterated  that existing language specifies                                                               
two major political parties.                                                                                                    
8:22:21 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  BETH  KERTTULA,  Alaska State  Legislature,  told                                                               
Representative Gatto that by definition,  the two major political                                                               
parties  are Republican  and Democrat,  but under  statute as  it                                                               
would be changed, unless there was  25 percent, there would be no                                                               
representation.  She  stated, "So, ... under 26, 7,  and 7, you'd                                                               
still  have a  Democrat  and Republican;  you  wouldn't have  the                                                               
third party, because they haven't hit 25 percent yet."                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON added,  "Unless they  organized together."                                                               
He said organizing  together as a minority is  done regardless of                                                               
party, but then "the status of  which of those two seven would be                                                               
identified as  the majority party  would probably be  a statutory                                                               
fight at the time."                                                                                                             
8:24:03 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  remarked that as  Representative Seaton                                                               
said before,  there would be no  change to that current  law.  He                                                               
said the  people who  drafted that law  probably did  not imagine                                                               
this scenario,  and he  said he  does not think  it is  likely to                                                               
occur "in  our lifetime."   He said if  there was a  situation in                                                               
which there  were 26, 7,  and 7, the two  groups of 7  would band                                                               
together as  a minority, as Representative  Seaton had described,                                                               
in order to each be entitled to one of two seats [under HB 76].                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON suggested another  scenario in which one of                                                               
the aforementioned  groups of 7 could  join in the majority.   He                                                               
said he  does not think  the committee can solve  questions based                                                               
on what configurations may take place in the future.                                                                            
8:25:44 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG, in  response to  Representative Gatto,                                                               
said he does  not believe that statute refers  to Republicans and                                                               
Democrats as the major political parties.                                                                                       
CHAIR LYNN concurred.                                                                                                           
8:26:27 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KERTTULA talked  about the  difficulty of  having                                                               
been the sole  minority member of the Legislative  Budget & Audit                                                               
Committee, which she  noted is a large committee  comprised of 10                                                               
members.    She  indicated  that the  value  of  having  minority                                                               
representation stems from the heart  of democracy.  She mentioned                                                               
the coalitions  that have formed,  which she characterized  as an                                                               
Alaskan way  to show that  people are more concerned  with issues                                                               
than with  partisan politics.   Nevertheless, she said  "the shoe                                                               
is always going  to be on the  other foot at some  point," and HB
76   brings   the  legislature   closer   to   a  true   minority                                                               
representation - to  what is fair.  She  expressed her commitment                                                               
to uphold the intent of  this legislation if the Democrats should                                                               
once  again be  the  majority party  in the  future.   She  asked                                                               
committee members  to think about  times when they may  have been                                                               
the only  person in a room  with a particular point  of view, and                                                               
to consider that HB 76 is a small step in the right direction.                                                                  
8:28:52 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  PETERSEN  directed  attention to  language  [that                                                               
would be deleted] from page 1, lines 9-10, which read:                                                                          
       [INCLUDE AT LEAST ONE MEMBER FROM EACH OF THE TWO                                                                        
     MAJOR POLITICAL PARTIES].                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE PETERSEN asked  if it would be  helpful to include                                                               
at least one member from each of the two caucuses.                                                                              
CHAIR LYNN said he does not  think that would be helpful, because                                                               
"caucuses are more fluid typically than parties are."                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE  P. WILSON  related that  an incident  occurred in                                                               
the Alaska  Legislative Council in  the past, which  the majority                                                               
of those on the council thought  was wrong; however, the chair of                                                               
the  council, who  was a  minority  member, would  not allow  the                                                               
council members to come back together  to work on the issue.  She                                                               
emphasized that she wants to avoid that happening again.                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE   SEATON   recalled   the   situation   to   which                                                               
Representative Wilson referred, and  corrected that the chair was                                                               
a member of the majority, but  it was a situation that involved a                                                               
8:31:52 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG, in  response to Representative Johnson,                                                               
confirmed that  HB 76  would in no  way make  standing committees                                                               
statutory.   He added  that he  has no  idea why  the Legislative                                                               
Budget & Audit  Committee and the Alaska  Legislative Council are                                                               
8:33:37 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   KERTTULA,   in   response  to   questions   from                                                               
Representative  Johnson, explained  that both  the party  and the                                                               
coalitions will be  at play.  She explained, "You've  got to have                                                               
one member of the majority party,  so you'd always be assured one                                                               
Democrat or  one Republican -  whichever - and then  the figuring                                                               
goes into  whether or not there's  a coalition.  ...  Whether you                                                               
have 25 percent of that minority is what becomes important."                                                                    
8:34:26 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO asked if there  is a difference between "the                                                               
majority" and "the majority party".                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  KERTTULA  responded  that  the  terms  are  being                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  related his belief  that "we don't  want to                                                               
mix majority and majority party."                                                                                               
8:35:45 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   GRUENBERG    interjected   that    the   current                                                               
requirement is  that there be  at least  one member from  each of                                                               
the  two major  political parties.   The  internal makeup  of the                                                               
group is  a result  of how  the appointments  are made,  which is                                                               
typically from "the  majority."  That majority  currently has the                                                               
right to appoint as many minority  members as it wishes, and will                                                               
continue to  have the  right under  HB 76  to determine  who they                                                               
elect to  the council.   The  only difference  would be  that the                                                               
minimum number  of members appointed  from the minority  would be                                                               
two instead of one.                                                                                                             
8:37:11 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON concurred  with Representative  Gatto that                                                               
the discussion  should not be  about majority  political parties.                                                               
He said  HB 76  does not address  majority political  parties; it                                                               
addresses major  political parties  and "majority  and minorities                                                               
regardless of  political parties," regarding the  organization of                                                               
the House and Senate.                                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA  concluded that the  proposed legislation                                                               
is   an  effort   to  reach   fairness.     She  concurred   with                                                               
Representative  Seaton  regarding  "the  breakdown  in  terms  of                                                               
majority political party versus members  of a group that makes 25                                                               
percent or more."                                                                                                               
8:38:28 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  said he hopes the  committee allows the                                                               
bill to advance.  He said  he has not thought of any circumstance                                                               
under which the  proposed legislation would be  unfair to anyone.                                                               
The concept  is already in  play on all the  standing committees.                                                               
Expanding it to include the  Legislative Budget & Audit Committee                                                               
and the  Alaska Legislative  Council, he  opined, would  show the                                                               
fair-mindedness of  the members of the  Twenty-Sixth Alaska State                                                               
Legislature  and the  ability of  the political  parties to  work                                                               
together  for the  good of  the  state.   He said  he thinks  the                                                               
public  wants politicians  who  can work  together  and "not  get                                                               
stuck in gridlock."                                                                                                             
8:40:10 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LYNN asked if there was anyone else who wished to testify.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG related  that Representative Harris said                                                               
he supports HB 76.                                                                                                              
8:40:52 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   JOHNSON    expressed   discomfort    in   having                                                               
Representative  Gruenberg  speak for  the  chair  of [the  Alaska                                                               
Legislative Council].                                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG retracted his statement.                                                                               
8:41:45 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LYNN closed public testimony.                                                                                             
8:42:16 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON said  he does not intend to  slow down the                                                               
proposed legislation.  He offered  his understanding of the make-                                                               
up of  the Legislative  Budget & Audit  Committee and  the Alaska                                                               
Legislative Council.                                                                                                            
8:45:07 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  LYNN,  in  response  to  a  question  from  Representative                                                               
Petersen,  offered  his  understanding that  the  alternates  who                                                               
serve  on the  Legislative Budget  & Audit  Committee are  called                                                               
into play when a member of the committee is absent for a vote.                                                                  
8:45:57 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said there was  a time when he served on                                                               
the Legislative  Ethics Committee, when his  alternate stepped in                                                               
to  vote,  because Representative  Gruenberg  had  a conflict  of                                                               
8:46:27 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON said Representative  Gruenberg had, at one                                                               
time,  stated that  one cannot  determine how  someone will  vote                                                               
based  upon his/her  party,  and  he said  he  concurs with  that                                                               
statement.  He said  it is also true that a  majority member in a                                                               
committee would not necessarily vote  with the majority if it was                                                               
not the right thing to do.                                                                                                      
8:46:59 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  LYNN commented  that he  has had  personal experience  not                                                               
voting with his party.                                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG echoed that remark.                                                                                    
8:47:08 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  PETERSEN moved  to  report CSHB  76, Version  26-                                                               
LS0335\S,   Chenoweth/Cook,  3/3/09,   out   of  committee   with                                                               
individual  recommendations and  the  accompanying fiscal  notes.                                                               
There being  no objection, CSHB  76(STA) was reported out  of the                                                               
House State Affairs Standing Committee.                                                                                         

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