Legislature(1995 - 1996)

02/22/1996 09:43 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
       SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 31                                          
       Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State                 
  of   Alaska relating  to voter  ratification of  legislative                 
  approval  of  amendments   of  the   Alaska  Statehood   Act                 
  affecting an   interest of  the State of  Alaska under  that                 
  Testimony  was  given  by  the  sponsor of  the  resolution,                 
  Senator Drue Pearce.   She referred  to a close  association                 
  with the Legislature last year in  working on the ANWR issue                 
  in attempting to get Congress to  make the right decision in                 
  opening   the   ANWR  to   oil  and   gas  leasing.     This                 
  constitutional  amendment   would  attempt  to   answer  any                 
  questions regarding what  has to happen in order  for Alaska                 
  to accept any amendment to the statehood compact.  There has                 
  to be some way that the action can be amended either through                 
  the legislature by law or through a vote of the people.  She                 
  referred to AS 01.10.110 and read it into the record.  There                 
  is concern  in the Legislature  and people around  the State                 
  that we should never allow just  the Legislature to accept a                 
  change; it should always go to a vote of the people.  SJR 31                 
  would  put  a constitutional  amendment  on the  ballot this                 
  November  that would  put in  our  constitution an  order to                 
  accept a  change to the Statehood Act.  It would only become                 
  effective after the Legislature  passed a resolution putting                 
  the question on  the ballot and a majority of  the people in                 
  the State had voted in the  affirmative.  She advised, after                 
  checking with the  drafter of  the resolution, the  language                 
  "qualified voters"  means voters  who actually  went to  the                 
  polls  and  not a  majority of  all  eligible voters  in the                 
  State.    Senator  Phillips wanted  to know  if there  was a                 
  better  way to phrase  this and Senator  Pearce advised that                 
  this was the standard language.  The key word is "qualified"                 
  which  means  that they  came  to  the election  and  voted.                 
  Senator Phillips expressed concern this was a constitutional                 
  amendment and care must be taken.  Senator Pearce  suggested                 
  Mr. Chenoweth could be contacted to see if there was clearer                 
  Senator Rieger asked if there was discussion about  the word                 
  "legislates" on page 1, line 9.  Senator Pearce advised that                 
  this was language changed by the Judiciary Committee and the                 
  chairman of  that committee  would have  to be  asked if  he                 
  discussed the  matter with  Mr. Chenoweth.   Senator  Rieger                 
  also  asked about  "affects  an  interest"  and if  that  is                 
  different from "altering an interest".   Senator Pearce said                 
  that the  "affects" language was  taken directly out  of the                 
  statehood compact and mirrors the language in AS 01.10.110.                  
  Senator  Frank said he  is also concerned  about the wording                 
  and  asked that if the  Legislature adopted a resolution and                 
  then it was ratified by a vote of the people, is that right?                 
  Senator Pearce said that it is the process set forth in this                 
  amendment.  Senator  Frank said that  it should be  reworded                 
  and the people of the State of Alaska should get to make the                 
  choice and then it  could be followed up with  a requirement                 
  that  a resolution has to be forwarded  to the people by the                 
  Legislature so that  it is clear.  If it was made more clear                 
  to  the  people it  would be  more  well supported  by them.                 
  Senator Pearce again  said that Mr. Chenoweth  could provide                 
  more comfortable language.   The  chairman of the  Judiciary                 
  Committee had an interest in putting something on the ballot                 
  without the  Legislature ever  acting like  it affirmed  the                 
  action.    But   the  Legislature   will  always  have   the                 
  responsibility to put  the question on  the ballot.  If  the                 
  Legislature does not then they have turned down an amendment                 
  without  the  people ever  voting on  it.   People  would be                 
  pleased that  they  had the  opportunity  to vote  before  a                 
  change could be accepted.                                                    
  Senator  Donley  said  he  did not  know  how  the judiciary                 
  language  would  work.     Senator  Pearce  said   that  the                 
  Legislature has to pass a resolution  to put the question on                 
  the ballot.   Discussion between Senator Pearce  and Senator                 
  Donley followed regarding  two-thirds and majority  vote for                 
  passage  of the joint resolution.   Senator Pearce said that                 
  it was her  intent that if the Legislature  chose not to put                 
  the  question on  the ballot  then the  Legislature  has not                 
  accepted the change.   Senator Donley commented  that if the                 
  question  is put on the ballot  it has to be  in the form of                 
  the affirmative.   The Legislature  has to act  to give  its                 
  approval.  Further  discussion followed regarding  what form                 
  could be used to  put the amendment on the  ballot.  Senator                 
  Donley  felt  the  question should  be  posed  in a  neutral                 
  manner.   Senator Pearce further  advised that she  has been                 
  told by  her  caucus that  Alaskans  will never  accept  any                 
  change regarding the state compact  act and Senator Phillips                 
  Senator  Rieger asked  if there would  be a  situation where                 
  there might  be a ratification  of a proposed  change before                 
  there is a law enacted by Congress.   Senator Pearce said no                 
  because the statehood  compact is a  Federal document.   The                 
  State cannot amend  it.  Only Congress  can.  We want  to be                 
  able to assert our right to deny their changes.  There would                 
  be no question to put before the people if Congress acted on                 
  something before the Legislature passed it.  The Legislature                 
  can always ask the Congress to do something they ask without                 
  the vote of people.                                                          
  Co-chairman  Halford asked  if there  were a  hurry to  make                 
  something effective is the limitation  to a general election                 
  something necessary?   Senator Pearce  said perhaps not  and                 
  that leeway should  be given to include a  special election.                 
  Co-chairman  Halford  believed  that "at  the  next  general                 
  election" could be deleted and  it would essentially then be                 
  a  "general or special  election" and would  still require a                 
  majority of the registered voters voting on the question.                    
  Senator Zharoff wanted  to know if this  was consistent with                 
  other  states  and Senator  Pearce said  there may  be other                 
  states  that  have  had  court  suits over  their  statehood                 
  compacts.   Senator Zharoff asked at what point does Federal                 
  law supercede State  law?  Senator Pearce said that Congress                 
  does not have  the power to  supercede our compact with  the                 
  Federal government.   The compact called  for a vote of  the                 
  people of Alaska before  it was accepted.  From  the compact                 
  case whether or not the Feds can  do something to us without                 
  our approval is  the whole point.   Congress said they  have                 
  superceded in many cases and it's  their law.  She indicated                 
  she would  be willing  to work  with those  members and  Mr.                 
  Chenoweth who have  brought up questions  regarding specific                 
  language and  try to  clarify them.   Senator Phillips  said                 
  that  he   generally  agreed   with  the   intent  of   this                 
  constitutional  amendment.    In  1958  the  voters  in  the                 
  territory of Alaska  approved the statehood compact  act and                 
  it would take the  voters to undo it, not us.   In this case                 
  the voters have absolute jurisdiction.                                       
  Co-chairman    Halford  will    HOLD  SJR  31   for  further                 
  discussion and asked Senator Pearce for a proposed CS.                       

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