Legislature(1995 - 1996)

02/05/1996 01:30 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
       SJR 31 VOTER APPROVAL:AK STATEHOOD ACT AMENDMENT                       
 SENATOR DRUE PEARCE, sponsor of SJR 31, gave the following history           
 and synopsis of the legislation.  The statehood compact, as entered           
 into by the people of the State of Alaska, is an agreement that               
 outlines our relationship with the federal government.  The                   
 provisions within the agreement were designed to assure Alaskans              
 that their rights under statehood are protected.  Constituent                 
 concern about the state's role in amending the statehood compact              
 has been expressed.  Currently there is no constitutional guidance            
 as to the proper process Alaskans should use to amend the compace.            
 The Legislature passed AS 01.10.110 which allows, by statute, the             
 Legislature to amend the Compact unilaterally, without bringing any           
 proposed changes to a vote of the people.  This issue has become              
 very sensitive as the debate about opening ANWR to oil and gas                
 development continues before Congress.  The congressional                     
 legislation would give the State 50 percent of the mineral                    
 royalties.  The question as to what royalty share Alaskans will               
 accept should be decided on its merits, and should be taken to the            
 people of the state.  It would be more appropriate to answer the              
 fundamental question of how changes should be addressed, by placing           
 the question on the November ballot.  A mechanism needs to be                 
 created by which Alaskans can accept changes to the statehood                 
 compact because other issues will arise in the future.  SJR 31 is             
 offered as a solution to the problem.  She materials contained in             
 committee members' packets which include Charles Cole's article in            
 the Wall Street Journal regarding the lawsuit filed in 1993 against           
 the federal government for breach of the Alaska statehood compact,            
 a legislative update by Attorney General Botelho (#22).  She noted            
 the final brief was filed by the United States in November, and               
 oral arguments should begin soon.                                             
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR questioned whether the wording of the amendment                
 would require the legislature to affirmatively act on something               
 before the people would be asked to ratify that action.  He asked             
 if the question of whether to split the royalties 50-50 or 90-10              
 would be up to the people themselves, and whether the legislature             
 would merely be supplying the vehicle for public action.  SENATOR             
 PEARCE replied that providing the vehicle means the Legislature has           
 to affirmatively pass a resolution to put the question on the                 
 ballot, which is the only way to get to the ballot.                           
                                                                               
 Number 238                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR thought SJR 31 might go beyond that because the                
 phrase, "A law, enacted by the legislature, giving the approval of            
 the State to an amendment of the Act...," would mean that the                 
 Legislature has voted affirmatively to approve, in this example,              
 the 50-50 split.  That split would then be ratified by the people.            
 He suggested having the legislature pose the question of approval             
 to the people.  SENATOR PEARCE felt any legislature that puts a               
 compact question on the ballot would do so only if the majority of            
 legislators approve of it, however she would not be opposed to                
 changing that language.  She stated her goal is to get the question           
 to the people.                                                                
                                                                               
 Number 343                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR ADAMS disagreed with Senator Taylor's opinion of the                  
 language.  Under changes made in 1976 legislation, any legislature            
 is permitted to take action on an activity that involves the                  
 royalty split of 50-50 versus 90-10.  SENATOR ADAMS felt the                  
 committee should review the legal opinion, since the 50-50                    
 provision in the NPRA was not challenged by any Alaskan.  He added            
 that SB 200 provides for legislative action on ANWR, however is               
 only germane to ANWR.                                                         
                                                                               
 SENATOR PEARCE commented she is personally uncomfortable placing              
 the ANWR split before the people on the ballot until Congress has             
 taken action.  SJR 31 was drafted to fit the statutes so that it              
 follows the same legislative approval process and adds voter                  
 ratification.  AS 01.10.110 could be changed at a later date if the           
 ballot passes.                                                                
                                                                               
 Number 369                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR felt the question to be the vehicle by which the               
 change occurs: either through the legislative process or through              
 the legislature calling upon the people for approval.  In the 1976            
 legislative vote the legislature assumed it had this power unto               
 itself.                                                                       
                                                                               
 SENATOR ADAMS asked if there are any other amendments being                   
 considered to the statehood compact at this time.  No one was aware           
 of any.                                                                       
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR asked if the provision under discussion is part of             
 the Mineral Leasing Act.  SENATOR PEARCE replied affirmatively, and           
 explained the statehood compact provided that all laws of Congress            
 would effect Alaska as they did other states.  Under the Mineral              
 Leasing Act other western states get 50 percent of the royalties              
 and an additional 40 percent is placed in a fund under the                    
 Reclamation Act for distribution to states for reclamation                    
 projects.                                                                     
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR stated it is his sense from the outset of this issue           
 that the appropriate way to find authority for the type of                    
 amendment being contemplated is to return to the people who gave              
 their consent to be governed in this fashion originally.  There was           
 a significant debate on the issue of statehood itself and because             
 the issues debated were of such magnitude it is important they be             
 revisited.  One of those serious provisions is being changed in               
 Congress unilaterally at this time.  The Governor's decision to not           
 sue on behalf of the people for the violation of the statehood                
 compact was disturbing since the Governor put himself in the                  
 position of being sued for failing to protect Alaska's                        
 Constitution.  Senator Taylor urged the Governor to bring the issue           
 to the people for decision, and was informed by the Attorney                  
 General of the 1976 legislation giving that power to the                      
 legislature alone.  Senator Taylor believes, if challenged, that              
 argument would fail, on the same basis that the legislature's                 
 attempts to further define and amend the constitutional budget                
 reserve by legislative action failed before the court because the             
 legislature does not have the power to redefine a constitutional              
 amendment.  He repeated his concern about the manner in which the             
 vehicle created in SJR 31 brings a vote to the people.  The true              
 debate is whether the legislature will make the decisions about               
 amending the statehood compact, or whether those decisions will be            
 placed before the people that consented to be governed in this way            
 in the first place.                                                           
                                                                               
 Number 425                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR PEARCE explained that there is a basic misunderstanding in            
 Washington, D.C. about the compact lawsuit before the court.  The             
 state has already sued on 90-10.  The Governor has said that if               
 Congress passed 50-50, he would drop that portion of the lawsuit.             
 To date, the Administration has not done so.  She added that                  
 conversely, Alaskans may want to change the compact themselves, at            
 some point in time.  In such a case, Alaska would move first and              
 then ask Congress to approve the action.  She did not foresee the             
 legislature taking a position on an Act and placing it before the             
 voters.                                                                       
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR stated to get it from us to them, some would argue             
 that the legislature would unilaterally be able to speak for the              
 people.  Conversely, it is conceivable that the state could tell              
 Congress it wants a 95-5 split.  SENATOR PEARCE felt that requiring           
 both legislative approval and voter ratification would eliminate              
 that problem.  SENATOR TAYLOR stated the committee will have to               
 take a serious look at the attorney generals' opinions that have              
 been rendered over the last several years, as well as the 1976 law.           
                                                                               
 SENATOR PEARCE commented that the actions taken on NPRA are the               
 weak link in the statehood compact lawsuit, if one exists.                    
                                                                               
 DAVID BATTENBERG, representing the Northern Alaska Environmental              
 Center in Fairbanks, testified in support of voter ratification of            
 amendments to the statehood compact, regardless of whether the                
 amendment pertains to ANWR.  He commended Senator Pearce for her              
 work on SJR 31.                                                               
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR announced the committee would hold a worksession on            
 SJR 31 next week, and hopefully move it from committee at that                
 time.                                                                         
                                                                               
 SENATOR ADAMS asked that the committee request a legal opinion on             
 the legislation passed in 1976 in regard to the statehood compact.            
 SENATOR TAYLOR agreed to do so.                                               

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