Legislature(1995 - 1996)

04/24/1995 01:36 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
          HJR  5 LIMITING TERMS OF STATE LEGISLATORS                          
 REPRESENTATIVE GENE THERRIAULT, sponsor of HJR 5, asked about the            
 change in the Senate Judiciary Committee substitute which requires            
 a person to wait three consecutive sessions before running for                
 office again on page 1, line 12.                                              
 SENATOR TAYLOR stated that was changed for no particular reason.              
 REPRESENTATIVE THERRIAULT questioned how the committee substitute             
 would impact elected municipal officials who already have term                
 limits, most of which are shorter.  After discussion,                         
 REPRESENTATIVE THERRIAULT clarified the committee substitute                  
 prevents a municipality from setting a term limit longer than what            
 is established in the bill.                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE THERRIAULT stated his preference for the original              
 language in the bill.  He asked if the Senate Judiciary Committee             
 would prepare a fiscal note of $2200 to accompany the measure to              
 cover the cost of placing the question on the ballot.                         
 SENATOR TAYLOR stated the committee would, and added the Finance              
 Committee should review the bill.                                             
 SENATOR MILLER moved adoption of SCS CSHJR 5 (JUD) (4/22/95, Cook,            
 Version D).  SENATOR ADAMS objected for the purpose of hearing                
 testimony from the Court System.                                              
 Number 066                                                                    
 CHRIS CHRISTENSEN, general counsel to the Judicial branch,                    
 testified in opposition to the section of HJR 5 that relates to               
 term limits for judicial officers.  The court believes the drafters           
 of Alaska's Constitution designed a judicial appointment and                  
 retention system which is considered a model and has been copied by           
 a number of other states.  The court system does not believe that             
 model will be improved by the changes made in HJR 5.  The court               
 takes no position on term limits for others contained in the bill.            
 MR. CHRISTENSEN noted that arguments made against term limits for             
 legislators are equally applicable to judicial officers.  The                 
 retention election serves as the ultimate term limit for judicial             
 officers.  Also, judicial officers who have served 15 years have              
 valuable experience.  He responded to three specific reasons cited            
 in the sponsor statement to limit terms.  Regarding public support            
 in both opinion polls and electoral results, there is no                      
 groundswell of public support for term limits for judges,                     
 especially in light of the fact the idea came into being only three           
 days ago.  Second, the sponsor states term limits will provide a              
 flow of new legislators with new ideas.  The public wants judges              
 who enforce laws as written, not judges with new ideas.  Third, the           
 sponsor believes term limits will level the playing field for                 
 challenges to entrenched incumbents.  Leveling the playing field              
 only applies to contested elections; judicial officers have                   
 retention elections.  A fourth reason in support of term limits is            
 that it will force people to sit out for three years and get back             
 in touch with their communities.  That argument does not apply to             
 judges since they live and work where they serve.                             
 MR. CHRISTENSEN discussed negative results that could occur if term           
 limits were imposed on judicial officers.  First, the judicial                
 retirement system would cost more to the state because judges would           
 be removed at the point in time they become vested.  Over the long            
 run, more people would be drawing money out of the judicial                   
 retirement system.  Second, unlike legislators, most of whom have             
 an outside career, judges are required by the rules of judicial               
 conduct to completely give up the practice of law when they become            
 judges.  At the end of their 15 year term, judges will have to                
 start a new career. This may serve as a disincentive to successful            
 lawyers, to take a pay cut to become a judge, and then have to                
 begin a new legal career at the age of 50.                                    
 TAPE 95-26, SIDE A                                                            
 SENATOR ADAMS removed his objection to the adoption of SCS CSHJR 5            
 SENATOR MILLER moved SCS CSHJR 5(JUD) out of committee with                   
 individual recommendations.  SENATOR ADAMS objected.  The motion              
 passed with Senators Green, Miller and Taylor voting "Yea," and               
 Senators Ellis and Adams voting "Nay."                                        

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