Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/24/1995 01:36 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 (JUD). 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."