Legislature(2015 - 2016)CAPITOL 106

02/05/2015 08:00 AM House STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved CSHB 35(STA) Out of Committee
Heard & Held
         HB 13-ELECTION PAMPHLETS AND ABSENTEE BALLOTS                                                                      
8:47:35 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LYNN announced  that the final order of  business was HOUSE                                                               
BILL NO. 13, "An Act requiring  notice of the postage required to                                                               
mail an absentee ballot on  the envelope provided by the division                                                               
of elections for returning an  absentee ballot; and repealing the                                                               
authority to include  certain material from a  political party in                                                               
the election pamphlet."                                                                                                         
8:47:54 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER moved to adopt  the proposed committee (CS)                                                               
substitute  Version  29-LS0091\E,  Bullard,  2/3/15,  as  a  work                                                               
8:48:10 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG objected for the purpose of discussion.                                                                
8:48:20 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  LES  GARA,  Alaska State  Legislature,  as  joint                                                               
prime sponsor,  presented HB 13.   He acknowledged Chair  Lynn as                                                               
the  other joint  prime  sponsor.   He  said  the state  election                                                               
pamphlet  allows each  political party  up  to two  pages in  the                                                               
election pamphlet, at  a cost of $600 per page,  which he said is                                                               
a nominal  fee that  covers the cost  of printing  and publishing                                                               
those pages.  Typically, those pages  have been used to state the                                                               
party's  position;  however,  in  the 2014  election,  an  attack                                                               
advertisement ("ad") was  placed for the first time.   He said he                                                               
thinks that  depending upon who  the chairs of  political parties                                                               
are  in the  future,  Alaska can  expect to  see  that course  of                                                               
conduct  on a  regular basis.   He  said this  is a  non-partisan                                                               
issue.  Representative  Gara said there are plenty  of attack ads                                                               
on television and  radio during the election season,  but he does                                                               
not think  they should  be funded  by the  state in  the election                                                               
pamphlet,  which  he characterized  as  "more  of an  information                                                               
8:50:11 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARA said  Version E would delete  language in law                                                               
that allows  parties to buy  two pages in the  election pamphlet.                                                               
He  said,   in  that  the   fee  goes  to  the   publication  and                                                               
distribution of  the pamphlets, the  Division of  Elections would                                                               
not lose money.   He said neither he nor Chair  Lynn want to make                                                               
this issue partisan.                                                                                                            
8:52:00 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  referred to  language [of  Section 1  of the                                                               
original bill  version], which would  have required  the division                                                               
to print how  much postage is necessary to mail  a ballot back to                                                               
the Division of  Elections on the return envelope.   He explained                                                               
that the cost  is often more than just one  stamp, and the United                                                               
States Post  Office (USPS) normally  delivers those  ballots, but                                                               
then the division  must pay for the underpaid  postage.  However,                                                               
he said  that part  of the  bill has been  dropped in  Version E,                                                               
because the  joint prime  sponsors feel that  the issue  could be                                                               
addressed within the division.                                                                                                  
8:53:59 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN  said he thinks  the proposed  legislation is                                                               
good.  He  stated his assumption that probably 95  percent of all                                                               
candidates purchase two  pages in the election  pamphlet on which                                                               
to publish their  biographies and political platform.   He called                                                               
this good  advertising, because  he opined  that people  pay more                                                               
attention to  the election  pamphlet than they  do to  junk mail.                                                               
He offered  his understanding  that a  candidate can  "say almost                                                               
8:55:24 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER said the bill  makes him uncomfortable.  He                                                               
said Representative  Gara implied  that the state  subsidized the                                                               
ads  from political  parties,  but  he said  that  the ad  states                                                               
clearly  which  party  has  paid   for  it.    He  asked  whether                                                               
Representative Gara was saying that  the disclaimers are a lie or                                                               
implying that  the value of  the ad was  "a whole lot  more" than                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE GARA clarified  what he had meant to  say was that                                                               
the cost of  the election pamphlet on the whole  is more than the                                                               
fees charged to  publish it; therefore, the state  loses a little                                                               
money.   He said Chair  Lynn is correct  that the voters  rely on                                                               
the  election  pamphlet  as an  informational  pamphlet  and  the                                                               
question is whether attack ads should be included.                                                                              
8:57:10 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  LYNN  interjected  that  he  does  not  see  the  proposed                                                               
legislation as prohibiting  attack ads, but as  prohibiting an ad                                                               
by a political  party, whether it is  an attack or not.   He said                                                               
an ad may be  seen as an attack in the eyes  of the beholder, but                                                               
not by someone else.                                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE GARA said  that is correct.  He  said the proposed                                                               
legislation  is not  intended to  define what  an attack  is, but                                                               
will take  out the section that  allows parties to pay  for those                                                               
two  pages, now  that  it has  been  seen how  they  can be  used                                                               
[negatively], perhaps by all parties.                                                                                           
8:58:00 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER opined that  debate and interaction between                                                               
the parties  are beneficial.   He asked  whether there  are other                                                               
publications  in the  state that  sell ads  because there  may be                                                               
further implications.   He stated that  he does not see  the real                                                               
advantage of avoiding conflict and interaction.                                                                                 
8:59:15 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA said  this  would not  be  a slippery  slope                                                               
because "this is the only publication  where we want this rule to                                                               
apply."   He  offered his  understanding that  there is  no other                                                               
state-funded publication that  is as relied upon  as the election                                                               
pamphlet,  and said  he  thinks  the public  has  a distaste  for                                                               
negative ads.                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE   KELLER  suggested   that  some   senior  centers                                                               
subsidized by  the state may  have fliers or newspapers  that are                                                               
9:00:00 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE STUTES cited  the bill title, which  read: "An Act                                                               
repealing  the  authority  to include  certain  material  from  a                                                               
political party  in the  election pamphlet."   She  asked whether                                                               
the  intent  of HB  13  was  to  exempt  all ads  from  political                                                               
parties, or just certain ads.                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  answered that  current law  allows political                                                               
parties to  purchase up  to two pages  in the  election pamphlet.                                                               
He noted  that the law  is contained  in the statutes  listed [on                                                               
page 1,  line 4, of  Version E].   Those three statutes  would be                                                               
removed  under  HB  13; therefore,  political  parties  would  be                                                               
barred from taking out ad space.   He added that candidates would                                                               
still  be allowed  to  advertise.   He  said  candidates are  not                                                               
allowed  to attack  their opponents  when they  issue a  personal                                                               
statement; that is a guideline from the division.                                                                               
9:01:24 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARA,  in response to Representative  Keller, said                                                               
no one else can buy an ad in  the pamphlet.  In response to Chair                                                               
Lynn, he said  a candidate cannot buy an ad;  he/she only can buy                                                               
space  for a  position  statement.   He  offered further  details                                                               
regarding   the   restrictions   on  the   candidates'   position                                                               
CHAIR  LYNN asked  for  confirmation  that what  he  puts in  the                                                               
election campaign to  further his own campaign  is not considered                                                               
to be an ad.                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  answered that that is  a statement regulated                                                               
by the Division of Elections; it  includes a statement of so many                                                               
words,  a photo,  a  biography, and  a web  site.   Further,  the                                                               
division allows a  "pro" and a "con" on the  propositions.  There                                                               
are no graphics or "ugly pictures of the other side" allowed.                                                                   
9:04:00 AM                                                                                                                    
PAMELA GOODE stated that she  agrees with the joint-prime sponsor                                                               
regarding the  ads in the back  [of the election pamphlet].   She                                                               
said  she noticed  that those  ads were  restricted to  political                                                               
parties; political  groups could not  utilize them.   She posited                                                               
that is a way the state  is subsidizing political parties and not                                                               
groups.   Further, she  said when  candidates participate  in the                                                               
pamphlet  they  are  clearly notified  that  they  cannot  attack                                                               
opponents; there are guidelines by which they must abide.                                                                       
9:05:27 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  directed  attention to  AS  15.58.060,                                                               
which sets  forth the charges,  and he observed that  the statute                                                               
was last  amended 18 years  ago.  He said  the amount it  costs a                                                               
state  representative  to  have  his/her name  published  in  the                                                               
pamphlet  is only  $100,  and  he would  like  to  know what  the                                                               
inflation has  been in that time,  and he suggested that  a small                                                               
increase in the amount charged may be in order.                                                                                 
9:07:00 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA said  the candidate  filing fee  is $100,  a                                                               
political  party is  charged $600  per page,  and there  are some                                                               
other non-legislative candidates that pay  $300.  He said he does                                                               
not  know  the  inflation  rate, but  reiterated  that  the  fees                                                               
collected  do  not  entirely  cover the  cost  of  producing  the                                                               
election pamphlet.                                                                                                              
9:08:09 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG mentioned  that most  races are  won in                                                               
the primary because  most districts are one-party  districts.  He                                                               
said,  unfortunately,  candidate pages  are  not  allowed in  the                                                               
primary election  pamphlet so the  public cannot learn  about the                                                               
candidate, only about the ballot propositions.                                                                                  
CHAIR   LYNN   asked   whether   Representative   Gruenberg   was                                                               
considering  an amendment  to the  bill because  the subject  was                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said he was considering one.                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA replied  that  although  he understands  the                                                               
idea, adding candidate information  to primary election pamphlets                                                               
would cost even  more money.  He  said he does not  think this is                                                               
the right year to introduce that idea given the budget deficit.                                                                 
CHAIR LYNN  indicated he did  not want  to bring that  topic into                                                               
9:10:12 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  asked Representative Gara whether  he knew                                                               
how much savings there would be with four less pages to print.                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  offered his understanding that  the $600 per                                                               
page  cost   roughly  equals  the   cost  of  the   printing  and                                                               
publication of those pages; therefore, "it's a wash."                                                                           
9:11:09 AM                                                                                                                    
GAIL  FENUMIAI, Director,  Division of  Elections, Office  of the                                                               
Lieutenant Governor, in  response to Chair Lynn,  stated that the                                                               
division  would  implement  the  statutes  at  the  will  of  the                                                               
committee.  She  said she was pleased that Section  1 was removed                                                               
from the original  bill version, resulting in  Version E, because                                                               
it would  have been  problematic for the  division.   She relayed                                                               
that the  division does  provide a  notice in  the packet  to the                                                               
voters identifying  how much  postage is  required to  return the                                                               
voter ballot  back to the division.   In response to  Chair Lynn,                                                               
she confirmed that the division  wants all ballots to be counted,                                                               
and  stated  that   the  USPS  does  not  return   a  ballot  for                                                               
insufficient postage  and the division  bears the cost,  but that                                                               
happens infrequently.  In response  to another question, she said                                                               
the  cost  to  the  division to  cover  insufficient  postage  is                                                               
9:13:02 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG asked  Ms.  Fenumiai what  the rate  of                                                               
inflation would have been since 1996.                                                                                           
MS.  FENUMIAI  answered  she  does  not know.    To  a  follow-up                                                               
question, she said she did not  have the cost of monies that were                                                               
received  from  the  2014  pamphlet,   but  could  look  up  that                                                               
information.   Nevertheless,  she  said, the  total  cost of  the                                                               
General Election  pamphlet for 2014 was  $256,090, which included                                                               
printing,  postage,  staff  travel,  and a  temporary  worker  to                                                               
assist with the publication of the pamphlet.                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said last  year the legislature passed a                                                               
law  that put  this biographical  information in  the primary  on                                                               
line, and asked whether that law had been implemented.                                                                          
MS. FENUMIAI  answered yes.   She said the division  provides any                                                               
candidate information  on the  division's web  site at  least two                                                               
weeks before the primary election.                                                                                              
9:14:47 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  LYNN asked  whether the  information  put on  line by  the                                                               
division includes the political party advertisements.                                                                           
MS. FENUMIAI  answered that the  entire pamphlet is  available on                                                               
9:15:01 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  questioned  whether  there  may  be  a                                                               
significant  number of  people  who  do not  have  access to  the                                                               
Internet and, thus, only have access to the printed document.                                                                   
MS. FENUMIAI said  she did not know.  In  response to a follow-up                                                               
question, she said  she did not know whether  that information is                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG, in  response  to Chair  Lynn, said  he                                                               
thinks his questions are germane to the subject matter.                                                                         
9:16:05 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  LYNN, after  ascertaining that  no one  further wished  to                                                               
testify, closed public testimony on HB 13.                                                                                      
9:16:51 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER requested that the  committee hold HB 13 in                                                               
order to  have the consideration  of several members  he observed                                                               
were missing.                                                                                                                   
9:17:13 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG removed his objection to the motion to                                                                 
adopt Version E.  [There being no further objection, Version E                                                                  
was before the committee.]                                                                                                      
9:17:39 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR LYNN announced that HB 13 was held over.                                                                                  

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
1 HB 35 Ver W.PDF HSTA 2/5/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 35
2 HB35 Sponsor Statement.pdf HSTA 2/5/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 35
3 HB35 Supporting Documents-Facts and Figures.pdf HSTA 2/5/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 35
4 HB35 Supporting Documents-Letter Chuck Volanti 1-26-2015.pdf HSTA 2/5/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 35
5 HB35 Supporting Documents-Letter Valdez Mayor.pdf HSTA 2/5/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 35
6 HB35 Supporting Documents-Letter Anchorage Mayor.pdf HSTA 2/5/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 35
7 HB35 Supporting Documents-Letter PCI.pdf HSTA 2/5/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 35
8 HB35 Fiscal Note.pdf HSTA 2/5/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 35
9 HB35 Supporting Documents-Letter AK SHSC.pdf HSTA 2/5/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 35
01 HB 13 ver H.pdf HSTA 2/5/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 13
01a HB 13 Draft Proposed Blank CS ver E.pdf HSTA 2/5/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 13
01b HB 13 Explanation of Changes in CS.pdf HSTA 2/5/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 13
02 HB 13 Sponsor Statement.pdf HSTA 2/5/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 13
03 HB 13 Sectional.pdf HSTA 2/5/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 13
04 HB 13 Supporting Documents Cost of OEP and Revenue from ads CORRECTED.pdf HSTA 2/5/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 13
04 HB 13 Supporting Documents Cost of OEP and Revenue from ads CORRECTED.pdf HSTA 2/5/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 13
06 HB 13 Supporting Documents Recent Election Postage.pdf HSTA 2/5/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 13
07 HB 13 Supporting Documents DOE Pays Insufficient Postage.pdf HSTA 2/5/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 13
08 HB13 fiscalNote.pdf HSTA 2/5/2015 8:00:00 AM
HB 13