Legislature(2003 - 2004)

02/18/2004 01:34 PM CRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
        SB 227-MUNI INITIATIVE AND REFERENDUM ELECTIONS                                                                     
                                                                                                                              
CHAIR BERT STEDMAN announced SB 227 to be up for consideration                                                                  
and asked Senator Gary Stevens to introduce his bill.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GARY STEVENS paraphrased the sponsor statement:                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     SB  227  was  introduced  specifically  to  help  local                                                                    
     governments avoid  costly special  initiative elections                                                                    
     and  referendums brought  forward  by  voters. In  many                                                                    
     cases,  these measures  are not  so pressing  in nature                                                                    
     that  they could  not wait  for  the regular  municipal                                                                    
     election.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
     Special elections are costly  and generally result in a                                                                    
     lower   voter  turnout   than  the   regular  election.                                                                    
     Recently, the Fairbanks North Star  Borough had over 46                                                                    
     petitions  filed  in a  period  of  4 months.  Although                                                                    
     these petitions  resulted in only one  special election                                                                    
     - at  a cost of  $35,000 -,  there was a  potential for                                                                    
     many  more  special  elections at  great  cost  to  the                                                                    
     municipality.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
     This   bill   could   result   in   cost   savings   to                                                                    
     municipalities  that could  choose  to  wait until  the                                                                    
     next  regular   election,  typically  in   October,  to                                                                    
     consider  an issue.  This  legislation  would give  the                                                                    
     municipal  governing  body  the  option  of  calling  a                                                                    
     special election  if the council or  assembly wished to                                                                    
     have  the initiative  and  referendum  considered in  a                                                                    
     more timely manner.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     The Alaska  Municipal League, the Fairbanks  North Star                                                                    
     Borough, the  Kenai Peninsula  Borough, and  the Alaska                                                                    
     Association of Municipal Clerks support this bill.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  KIM ELTON  said  he read  the bill  and  didn't see  the                                                               
provision that gave  municipalities the option to  hold a special                                                               
election and  wondered whether  that is  in another  provision of                                                               
law that isn't covered in the bill.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GARY STEVENS said that  is correct, they already have the                                                               
option  to  hold a  special  election  and  this allows  them  to                                                               
postpone the election if they believe that is prudent.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  GEORGIANNA LINCOLN  reviewed the  letters in  support of                                                               
the issue and asked whether Anchorage had responded.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  GARY STEVENS  said they  didn't solicit  a comment  from                                                               
Anchorage and didn't receive one.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  LINCOLN   asked  if  they  solicited   a  response  from                                                               
Fairbanks.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  GARY STEVENS  conceded they  had not.  The request  came                                                               
from the  clerk's association  and they  received the  letters of                                                               
support without solicitation.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR STEDMAN opened the hearing to public participation.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
LINDA  MURPHY, clerk  of the  Kenai Peninsula  Borough, testified                                                               
via teleconference  and advised  that she has  administered local                                                               
elections for  more than 20  years. To address  Senator Lincoln's                                                               
question, she explained  that in Title 29 this  provision isn't a                                                               
home rule  limitation so Anchorage  wouldn't be  affected because                                                               
it is a home rule municipality.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
With   increasing   competition   for  decreasing   funds,   many                                                               
municipalities are facing grave  financial difficulties and can't                                                               
afford  unbudgeted   special  elections,   she  said.   The  most                                                               
important  point  is  that special  elections  attract  very  few                                                               
voters, which increases the likelihood  that the election results                                                               
won't  reflect the  true will  of the  community. She  encouraged                                                               
members to pass the bill.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  GARY STEVENS  asked her  to respond  to Senator  Elton's                                                               
question about municipalities' ability  to call special elections                                                               
if they choose to do so.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS.  MURPHY  explained  that Alaska  Statutes  provide  that  the                                                               
governing body  may call  special elections any  time as  long as                                                               
they  properly notice  the election.  She saw  nothing in  SB 227                                                               
that would affect that ability.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR STEDMAN noted there was  no further testimony. He asked for                                                               
a motion.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR THOMAS  WAGONER motioned  to pass  SB 227  from committee                                                               
with individual  recommendations and  attached zero  fiscal note.                                                               
There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                    

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