Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/15/1996 01:30 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 191 ELECTION CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM SENATOR TIM KELLY, prime sponsor of SB 191, stated 33,000 Alaskans signed an initiative to put a campaign finance reform vote on the ballot in November if the legislature does not pass similar legislation. Three legal opinions on SB 191 have been solicited; all raise constitutional questions. In his opinion, if the legislature attempts to fix all of the constitutional questions, a disservice will be done to the 33,000 Alaskans who voted for campaign finance reform, and the legislation will not be substantially similar to the initiative. U.S. Representative Don Young is conducting his annual benchmark poll at this time. At Senator Kelly's request, the poll contains a question about campaign finance reform. So far 80.4 percent of those polled favor reform. He recommended the committee work on version M of SB 191. Number 051 JACK CHENOWETH, Division of Legal Services, described a draft committee substitute (version M) of SB 191. Version M accommodates changes made by the Senate State Affairs, House State Affairs, and House Judiciary Committees. The starting point for SB 191 was the initiative that appeared on the ballot. Version M addresses questions that came up in the committee process, and was directed by a working group comprised of Senator Kelly, Representatives James and Finkelstein, and APOC members. The changes in version M are as follows. The initiative included an indexing feature so that at five-year intervals the dollar amounts would be recalculated to account for inflation: that feature was deleted. The provision in the initiative requiring individuals to register before making campaign contributions was also deleted. The cash contribution limit of $100 was reduced to $25 in the initiative, but restored to $100 in version M. The prohibition on honoraria payments during the course of a campaign was changed to allow a limited payment comparable to honoraria based upon services actually provided by a candidate. Campaign funds may not be raised in years in which there is no election. If running for election or re-election for Governor, funds may be raised during the period beginning January 1 of the election year. Candidates for legislative offices may raise funds beginning June 1 of the year in which re-election is sought. For other offices (state special elections and municipal elections) there is a five month window period before the date of the election. The initiative allows candidates to accept and expend loans from family members. That provision is not included in version M. Technical changes were made to the APOC report filing procedure. The use of surplus campaign funds was expanded to allow return of contributions to contributors, to allow a carry-forward, or to allow a portion of a contribution to a legislative office allowance. Felony criminal penalty provisions were removed so that all violations are misdemeanor offenses. The "paid for by" requirements were loosened in light of a U.S. Supreme Court decision within the last year. The bill includes definitions for terms used within the initiative such as "publically funded entities." The use of charitable gaming, with the exception of raffles and lotteries, for the support of political activities, would be banned. The ban on contributions from out-of-state sources was modified to allow a limited contribution. The maximum amounts that can be contributed to campaigns was increased and altered depending upon the nature of the campaign. The procedures for placing questions on campaign practices before APOC and the Superior Court were amended. The small campaign exemption in which disclosure is not necessary was raised from $1,000 to $2,500. The severability provision, which appears in the initiative, was included. The bill has an immediate effective date, and requires the Lt. Governor to place the initiative on the ballot if this legislation is not found to be substantially similar to the initiative. Number 186 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR commented the legislation is an attempt to mirror the initiative, however most people who signed the initiative did not understand its contents. He asked if the legislation contains provisions that are patently unconstitutional. MR. CHENOWETH replied there are provisions in the initiative that were carried forward to the legislation that are constitutionally questionable. The law in this area is changing as the Supreme Court wrestles with various issues and has made only a few key decisions to date. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR questioned whether the legislature has the responsibility to review the initiative and craft a bill that is constitutional, to rubber stamp the legislation, or let the initiative appear on the ballot for a vote, knowing full well there are provisions within it that are unconstitutional. He believed that would be fraud on the public since the average voter will not understand the constitutional ramifications of the initiative. MR. CHENOWETH responded the alternative to passing legislation is to allow the initiative to go forward as presented. It appears the Attorney General's Office is prepared to defend the provisions within the initiative. The Division of Legal Services has attempted, in response to opinions from Av Gross and Mike Frank, to pick up the most troublesome features in the initiative and address them to reduce or eliminate the possibility that those provisions will be found unconstitutional as a violation of the First Amendment. He could not guarantee version M will succeed, but believed the constitutional questions that remain are no worse than what came to the legislature in the form of the initiative. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR felt if the legislature knows that something is patently unconstitutional, it has an obligation to remove it, no matter how many people signed the initiative. Most of the people who signed the initiative are most likely unaware that it will forfeit a good portion of one's constitutional rights. SENATOR ADAMS arrived at 1:52 p.m. There being no one else wishing to testify on SB 191, CHAIRMAN TAYLOR announced the bill would be held until Friday to enable more work to be done on the measure.