Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/03/2004 08:05 AM Senate JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
             HB  31-INITIATIVE/REFERENDUM PETITIONS                                                                         
        HJR  5-CONST AM: INITIATIVE/REFERENDUM PETITIONS                                                                    
9:13 a.m.                                                                                                                       
MR. TIM  BARRY, staff to  Representative Williams, sponsor  of HB
31 and HJR 5, reminded members  that at the last hearing, Senator                                                               
Ogan  asked about  limiting  the scope  of  HJR 5  and  HB 31  to                                                               
wildlife  initiatives.   He  told  members   that  Representative                                                               
Williams has been working on  this legislation for six years now,                                                               
during  which  time  various  suggestions  have  been  made.  The                                                               
current  version  has  developed  statewide  support  and  he  is                                                               
reluctant to make any changes at this time.                                                                                     
SENATOR  FRENCH asked  how  the two  pieces  of legislation  work                                                               
MR. BARRY explained that the  Constitution sets out the procedure                                                               
to put a question on  the ballot. In addition, statutory language                                                               
also addresses that  process. In order to make  this change, both                                                               
the  Constitution  and  statute  will have  to  be  amended.  The                                                               
statutory   change   is   contingent    upon   passage   of   the                                                               
constitutional amendment by the voters.                                                                                         
SENATOR  FRENCH said  he understands  that people  from Anchorage                                                               
drive  the initiative  process  while rural  folks  don't get  to                                                               
participate, with the exception of  one voter from a district. He                                                               
asked  Mr. Barry  to elaborate  on the  sponsor's concerns  about                                                               
wildlife initiatives.                                                                                                           
CHAIR  SEEKINS interjected  that a  good illustration  is on  the                                                               
charts  of district  participation in  initiative petitions,  and                                                               
the concern  is that the  primary movers of initiatives  that get                                                               
on the  ballot are  from the  urban areas;  there is  very little                                                               
inclusion of the rural folks in  the initial question. He said he                                                               
agrees  with the  premise that  expanding the  requirements to  a                                                               
broader cross section of the  community that includes rural folks                                                               
is more equitable.                                                                                                              
MR. BARRY agreed and said  Representative Williams has heard from                                                               
many people  who are concerned  about what could happen,  such as                                                               
in  California where  the  legislature's hands  are  tied by  the                                                               
initiative  process.  In addition,  he  has  heard many  concerns                                                               
about  out-of-state  organizations  that  create  an  issue  over                                                               
wildlife  management that  is not  of concern  to many  Alaskans.                                                               
When  these  bills  were  debated   on  the  House  floor,  rural                                                               
legislators  discussed the  English-only initiative  that was  on                                                               
the ballot a few years ago.                                                                                                     
CHAIR  SEEKINS  announced  that  with  no  further  participants,                                                               
public testimony was closed.                                                                                                    
SENATOR THERRIAULT moved  HJR 5 from committee  with its attached                                                               
fiscal notes.                                                                                                                   
SENATOR OGAN  stated that some  will claim this legislation  is a                                                               
legislative power grab  in an attempt to end run  the will of the                                                               
voters. He said  he believes this legislation goes a  long way to                                                               
change  the perception  of rural  Alaskans that  the will  of the                                                               
urban areas  is being  foisted on  them. This  will not  undo the                                                               
will of  the voters  at all  because the  voters will  cast their                                                               
vote on the measures. He  said this accurately takes into account                                                               
the shift in demographics toward  the urban areas and will better                                                               
reflect the will of people throughout the state.                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS agreed  and  said it  is an  attempt  to make  the                                                               
political process more inclusive. He  then announced that with no                                                               
objection, HJR 5 moved from committee.                                                                                          
SENATOR  THERRIAULT moved  HB 31  and its  attached fiscal  notes                                                               
with individual recommendations from committee.                                                                                 
CHAIR  SEEKINS  announced  that  without  objection,  the  motion                                                               

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