Legislature(1999 - 2000)

01/21/2000 01:37 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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          SJR 27-CONST. AM: REVISIONS OF CONSTITUTION                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR DONLEY explained that SJR 27 is an attempt to return the                                                                
meaning of the state constitution to what it was before the Supreme                                                             
Court ruled in Bess vs Ulmer.  Bess vs Ulmer brought a challenge                                                                
against three proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
The court argued because the amendments were presented as a package                                                             
and because they caused such significant changes, they constituted                                                              
a "revision" and not an amendment.  There had never been a                                                                      
definition of "revision," and Bess vs Ulmer made the distinction by                                                             
saying a "revision," as defined by the court, cannot be proposed to                                                             
the people through the amendment  process.  Therefore, the people                                                               
of Alaska cannot amend their own constitution.  The Alaska                                                                      
Constitution placed the power to create the wording for a                                                                       
constitutional amendment with  the elected legislature.    No where                                                             
does it imply that the Supreme Court should be able  to manipulate                                                              
the wording of a proposition put before the people.  The court                                                                  
struck one sentence of one of the proposed amendments, causing the                                                              
entire balance to disappear from the constitution.  This subject                                                                
was not briefed, it was not well studied, and there was no                                                                      
precedent presented.  This decision calls into question past                                                                    
amendments that have been approved.  Senator Donley sees no way                                                                 
that people can defend the right to privacy, as amended into the                                                                
constitution--under the court's criteria.   Future proposals would                                                              
also be impacted because of the decision.  The decision gives the                                                               
courts tremendous leeway and vague authority over the people of                                                                 
Alaska, rather than the people having control over the system.  SJR                                                             
27 would restore the people's constitutional right to amend their                                                               
own constitution.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Number 780                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN TAYLOR echoed Senator Donley's concerns and agreed the                                                                 
legislation was worthwhile.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR DONLEY moved SJR 27 out of committee with individual                                                                    
recommendations.  There being no objection, the motion carried.                                                                 

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