Legislature(2009 - 2010)BUTROVICH 205

04/13/2010 09:15 AM Senate JUDICIARY

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09:56:25 AM Start
09:56:52 AM HB36
10:45:30 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
         HB  36-INITIATIVES: CONTRIBUTIONS/ PROCEDURES                                                                      
CHAIR  FRENCH  announced  the consideration  of  HB  36.  [CSSSHB
36(FIN) AM was before the committee.]                                                                                           
9:56:52 AM                                                                                                                    
KYLE  JOHANSEN, a  prime sponsor  of HB  36, explained  that this                                                               
legislation   addresses  disclosure   and   information  in   the                                                               
initiative process.  It would require  disclosure once  more than                                                               
$500 is  spend on  an initiative proposal,  and it  would require                                                               
that at least  two public hearings per judicial  district be held                                                               
on  a proposed  ballot  initiative. These  public hearings  would                                                               
provide a  formal process by  which voters could learn  about the                                                               
impacts of the proposed ballot initiatives.                                                                                     
CHAIR FRENCH  asked for an  explanation of  the pre-certification                                                               
phase of the initiative process.                                                                                                
SONIA  CHRISTENSEN,   Staff  to  Representative   Kyle  Johansen,                                                               
explained   that  initiative   proposals   require  three   prime                                                               
sponsors, signatures from 100 registered  Alaskan voters, and the                                                               
initiative language, all of which  is submitted to the lieutenant                                                               
governor. If  the topic and  language pass  constitutional muster                                                               
and once  the initial signatures  are verified, the  sponsors are                                                               
approved to collect signatures statewide.                                                                                       
10:02:34 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR COGHILL joined the committee.                                                                                           
CHAIR  FRENCH  observed  that  once   the  signatures  have  been                                                               
gathered  one  or  more  parties  push  the  measure  during  the                                                               
election phase.                                                                                                                 
MS. CHRISTENSEN agreed  and added that that's the  phase when the                                                               
initiative is  approved for the  ballot. This  includes verifying                                                               
the signatures that are sorted by House district.                                                                               
CHAIR FRENCH  suggested that  for the  purpose of  discussing the                                                               
bill  that  they  refer  to   the  pre-certification  phase,  the                                                               
signature  phase,  and the  election  phase.  He then  asked  Ms.                                                               
Christensen to briefly review the 16 sections of the bill.                                                                      
MS. CHRISTENSEN provided the following sectional analysis:                                                                      
   · Section 1 changes the reporting requirement for initiatives                                                                
     to  capture the  timeframe from  the first  application with                                                               
     the Division  of Elections up until  the lieutenant governor                                                               
     certifies the bill It states  that every individual, person,                                                               
     nongroup entity, or group that  has contributed $500 or more                                                               
     to  a  group   organized  for  the  purpose   of  filing  an                                                               
     initiative  proposal  application  or   that  has  filed  an                                                               
     initiative proposal application would  be required to report                                                               
     their contributions.                                                                                                       
10:05:18 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR FRENCH asked if it would  be a reportable expenditure if he                                                               
hired a lawyer to help draft language for a ballot initiative.                                                                  
MS. CHRISTENSEN  replied it's  a non-reportable  expenditure. She                                                               
continued the sectional analysis.                                                                                               
   · Section 2 adds language [to AS 15.13.050(a)] and requires                                                                  
     groups  to register  [with APOC  before making  expenditures                                                               
     supporting  or  opposing  an initiative  proposal  that  was                                                               
     filed  with  the  lieutenant   governor.]  This  covers  the                                                               
     signature-gathering phase.                                                                                                 
   · Section 3 requires a group that intends to spend more than                                                                 
     50  percent of  their funds  to support  or oppose  a ballot                                                               
     initiative to  include the  title of  the initiative  in the                                                               
     name of the group.                                                                                                         
CHAIR FRENCH said  he'll ask APOC about using  the word "intends"                                                               
as it  applies to a  group and if it  might not be  preferable to                                                               
impose the  requirement once the  group does spend a  majority of                                                               
its funds.                                                                                                                      
MS. CHRISTENSEN continued the sectional analysis.                                                                               
   · Section 4 [expands the meaning of "proposition" under AS                                                                   
     15.13.065(c) to  include an initiative  proposal application                                                               
     filed with the lieutenant governor.]  This is to include the                                                               
     signature-gathering phase.                                                                                                 
   · Section 5 removes the reference to "an initiative" from AS                                                                 
     15.13.110(e) so that the special  disclosures can be applied                                                               
     to  initiatives in  the  early phases  of  the process.  The                                                               
     notion is  that referendums and  recalls aren't as  great an                                                               
     issue as statewide ballot measures.                                                                                        
   · Section 6 [adds a new subsection AS 15.13.110(g)]                                                                          
     addressing  disclosures   for  initiatives.   Disclosure  is                                                               
     required  once  the  $500  threshold is  met  and  then  the                                                               
     reports must be submitted quarterly.                                                                                       
10:08:57 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR FRENCH  asked her  interpretation of  the last  sentence in                                                               
Section 6.                                                                                                                      
MS.  CHRISTENSEN  offered  her understanding  that  the  language                                                               
mirrors what is  already in statute and deferred to  APOC for any                                                               
further explanation.                                                                                                            
   · Section 7 expands the definition of "contribution" to                                                                      
     include  payments  rendered during  the  signature-gathering                                                               
   · Section  8  expands  the  definition  of  "expenditures"  to                                                               
    include those made during the signature-gathering phase.                                                                    
   ·  Section  9 changes  the definition  of a  group to  include                                                               
     those organized to file an initiative proposal application.                                                                
     This was suggested by APOC.                                                                                                
   · Section 10  echoes the existing [AS  15.45.040] and confines                                                               
     an initiative to a single subject.                                                                                         
   · Section  11 requires  signature  gatherers to  carry a  full                                                               
     copy of the initiative, not just a summary.                                                                                
10:11:15 AM                                                                                                                   
   · Section  12 requires  the lieutenant  governor  to hold  two                                                               
     reasonably   noticed  public   hearings  in   each  judicial                                                               
     district. A schedule  is provided, testimony may  be oral or                                                               
     written,  and  participants do  not  need  to be  physically                                                               
CHAIR FRENCH noted that Alpheus  Bullard, who is with Legislative                                                               
Legal, wrote a memo specifically  pointing out that this language                                                               
presents no First Amendment infringement whatsoever.                                                                            
MS. CHRISTENSEN  added that the House  Judiciary Committee worked                                                               
hard on the language.                                                                                                           
CHAIR FRENCH  asked about the  possibility of  transmitting these                                                               
hearings by webcam to the Internet.                                                                                             
10:14:00 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN  noted that the energy  committee meeting                                                               
that was held in Bethel was live streamed to over 30 villages.                                                                  
MS. CHRISTENSEN continued the sectional analysis.                                                                               
   · Section 13  adds "special election"  to AS  15.58.010, which                                                               
     requires an election pamphlet to be sent to each household                                                                 
    prior to each state general and state primary election.                                                                     
   · Section  14  adds  "special election"  to  AS  15.58.020(b),                                                               
     which relates to information in primary election pamphlets.                                                                
CHAIR FRENCH  mused about constitutional  changes and  who really                                                               
is best  served by initiatives  being on the primary  ballot when                                                               
in fact few voters go to the polls for primary elections.                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE  JOHANSEN agreed  that it's  an interesting  issue                                                               
and   commented   that   he'd   be  happy   to   co-sponsor   the                                                               
constitutional  amendment if  Senator French  would do  the heavy                                                               
MS. CHRISTENSEN continued the sectional analysis.                                                                               
   · Section 15 requires a legislative standing committee to                                                                    
     review initiatives that the lieutenant governor certifies                                                                  
     for placement on the ballot. This is another opportunity                                                                   
     for a public hearing.                                                                                                      
   · Section 16 is the effective date clause.                                                                                   
10:17:04 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR COGHILL  suggested using  the word "hearing"  rather than                                                               
"review"  because  it's  not  clear what  "review"  means  for  a                                                               
CHAIR FRENCH said  he'd also like to know who  would decide which                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  JOHANSEN   said  his   vision  was  to   use  the                                                               
jurisdiction  of the  Uniform Rules  to determine  the particular                                                               
committee. With respect to the  terminology, he said he's open to                                                               
suggestions  to make  it  more specific.  He  clarified that  the                                                               
intent is that the Legislature would  in no way be able to tinker                                                               
with  a citizen  initiative,  but  that it  could  hear from  the                                                               
affected department about the potential impact.                                                                                 
10:19:37 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR FRENCH asked  who would make the assignment  to ensure that                                                               
this takes place.                                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN replied he didn't have a solution.                                                                      
CHAIR FRENCH said, "We'll think of something."                                                                                  
LORNA  SHAW,  Executive  Director, Council  of  Alaska  Producers                                                               
(CAP),  said she  is testifying  in support  of HB  36. CAP  is a                                                               
mining trade association whose 13  members were the target of the                                                               
2008  ballot initiative  that was  officially  titled the  "Clean                                                               
Water  Initiative." CAP  preferred  to term  it the  "Anti-Mining                                                               
She highlighted  that three different versions  of the initiative                                                               
were submitted  to the lieutenant  governor for approval  and two                                                               
were  approved for  signature gathering.  CAP  wasn't sure  which                                                               
version  would be  on the  ballot until  six weeks  prior to  the                                                               
election.   People  were   approached   by  signature   gatherers                                                               
statewide and  asked to  "sign here to  stop Pebble"  even though                                                               
the word  "Pebble" didn't appear in  either version. Furthermore,                                                               
signature  gatherers  appeared  to  be unable  and  unwilling  to                                                               
engage in  discussion about details  and rarely if ever  did they                                                               
have a copy of the initiative itself.                                                                                           
10:22:32 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. SHAW said a major flaw  in the initiative process is the lack                                                               
of vetting, and  opined that it's critical that  voters are given                                                               
the information to  understand what the initiative  does and does                                                               
not do  and not what  the backers intended  for it to  do. Noting                                                               
that APOC  essentially gagged DNR  on ballot measure 4,  she said                                                               
the legislative  hearings and state  agency input required  in HB
36 can only  help voters. These public hearings will  be far more                                                               
helpful than forums  hosted by groups with an  agenda relative to                                                               
the  initiative.  HB  36  also   provides  for  more  and  better                                                               
financial  disclosure, she  said. With  ballot measure  4 it  was                                                               
expected  and clearly  reported  that the  mining companies  were                                                               
defending  themselves, but  it  was unclear  who  was paying  for                                                               
other side. HB 36 will provide earlier answers.                                                                                 
MS. SHAW said the initiative  process in Alaska is important, but                                                               
it's also important to ensure  that voters have information about                                                               
who is  behind an initiative, who  is paying for it,  the effects                                                               
and meaning, and the unintended  consequences. HB 36 will improve                                                               
the initiative process, she concluded.                                                                                          
10:24:48 AM                                                                                                                   
CHIP   THOMA,  Responsible   Cruising   in   Alaska,  said   this                                                               
organization   brought   the   successful  statewide   head   tax                                                               
initiative in 2006. He reported the following statistics:                                                                       
   · 73 percent of all initiatives filed with the lieutenant                                                                    
     governor never appear on a ballot.                                                                                         
   · Of the remaining 27 percent, 15 percent fail at the ballot                                                                 
     and 12 percent pass.                                                                                                       
   · In the last 15 years just 8 of the approximately 75                                                                        
     initiatives have passed the ballot.                                                                                        
        · Two related to term limits.                                                                                           
        · Two related to campaign disclosure reform.                                                                            
        · Two related to game management.                                                                                       
        · One related to medical marijuana.                                                                                     
        · One related to the head tax.                                                                                          
MR. THOMA  opined that HB  36 is dramatically  better legislation                                                               
thanks  to Senator  Coghill's efforts  when he  sat on  the House                                                               
Judiciary  Committee, and  suggested that  a further  improvement                                                               
would  be to  include  the phrase  "or  opposing" throughout  the                                                               
legislation. This  will level  the playing  field because  in the                                                               
initiative process  the opposition outspends the  proponents by a                                                               
five to one  margin. For example, the  organizations that opposed                                                               
the "Pebble  Initiative" spent more  than $9 million.  He further                                                               
suggested  that  the  committee   specify  the  penalties  for  a                                                               
violation of the public hearings  section on page 7 and expressed                                                               
agreement  with  Senator  Coghill  that  the  standing  committee                                                               
should conduct hearings rather than reviews.                                                                                    
10:29:42 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  WIELECHOWSKI noted  that  Section 1  talks about  groups                                                               
that are formed  for the purpose of influencing the  outcome of a                                                               
proposition, which would apply to both pro and con.                                                                             
MR. THOMA suggested  it would be clearer to  insert "or opposing"                                                               
after "filing" on page 1, line 10.                                                                                              
CHAIR  FRENCH  noted  parenthetically that  the  Citizens  United                                                               
decision  changed the  landscape in  terms  of who  will play  in                                                               
these  matters  and that  a  separate  piece of  legislation  was                                                               
introduced that uses  the group term "person" in an  effort to be                                                               
more inclusive.                                                                                                                 
JASON  BRUNE, Executive  Director,  Resource Development  Council                                                               
(RDC), stated that HB 36 is  one of RDC's top priorities. He said                                                               
that although  the RDC may  question the appropriateness  and the                                                               
role of the  initiative process as a means of  governing, the RDC                                                               
appreciates  the democratic  rights of  Alaskans to  change state                                                               
law  through the  initiative process.  Over the  last few  years,                                                               
however,  a  number of  proposed  initiatives  have been  brought                                                               
forward that have not had the  best interests of the state or its                                                               
citizens  in mind.  Furthermore, the  sponsors have  used tactics                                                               
during the  signature-gathering phase  to mislead the  public and                                                               
misconstrue the issues.                                                                                                         
MR. BRUNE  said the RDC  believes that openness  and transparency                                                               
must be at the forefront of  good government and that the framers                                                               
of the  state constitution  were wise  to include  the initiative                                                               
process. It's interesting,  however, that constitutional delegate                                                               
Vic Fischer voted against the  article on the initiative, arguing                                                               
that it  is a device that  lends itself most to  special interest                                                               
groups. He opined that Mr.  Fisher was prophetic because citizens                                                               
have witnessed  these special interests embracing  the initiative                                                               
process over  the last decade.  In fact,  in the last  five years                                                               
the Alaska  business community  has been  the target  of numerous                                                               
punitive   ballot  initiatives   pushed   by  anti-business   and                                                               
environmental interest  groups unable  to accomplish  their goals                                                               
through the legislative process.                                                                                                
10:33:29 AM                                                                                                                   
MR. BRUNE pointed  out that legislators are  required to disclose                                                               
how they raise  and spend money and questioned why  those who are                                                               
attempting  to change  state law  through the  initiative process                                                               
shouldn't  be   subject  to  that   same  standard.   He  further                                                               
questioned why  they shouldn't also  be required to  disclose the                                                               
source of  their funding during the  signature-gathering phase of                                                               
the  initiative  process.  Such openness  and  transparency  will                                                               
bring to light the agendas of initiative sponsors, he stated.                                                                   
HB  36   will  require  public   and  legislative   hearings  for                                                               
initiatives and that's a good  idea. The process that legislators                                                               
go   through  to   pass  laws   is   very  thorough.   Unintended                                                               
consequences  of  a  piece  of  legislation  are  usually  vetted                                                               
through committee  hearings, public testimony, and  floor debates                                                               
that a bill requires.                                                                                                           
MR. BRUNE  stated agreement with  Senator French with  respect to                                                               
the use of  "intends" as it applies  to a group in  Section 3 and                                                               
the use  of webcams  during the public  hearing process.  He said                                                               
Senator  Coghill made  a  good point  about  holding hearings  as                                                               
opposed to reviews  and that the bill should  clarify who assigns                                                               
the hearings. Finally,  he said he doesn't object  to Mr. Thoma's                                                               
suggestion that  those who  oppose an  initiative should  also be                                                               
required to  disclose. More disclosure  is better for  Alaska and                                                               
results in a more candid process, he concluded.                                                                                 
10:35:13 AM                                                                                                                   
HOLLY HILL, Executive Director,  Alaska Public Offices Commission                                                               
(APOC), stated that APOC has taken no position on HB 36.                                                                        
CHAIR FRENCH asked what HB 36  adds that will ensure that Alaskan                                                               
voters  will know  who is  spending  money to  advance or  oppose                                                               
ballot initiatives.                                                                                                             
MS. HILL answered with an example.  Under current law, if a bunch                                                               
of  people  get  together  purely  for  the  purpose  of  raising                                                               
signatures and  then cease to exist  at the time that  the ballot                                                               
is  certified, they  aren't a  group under  the law  so APOC  has                                                               
nothing to  do with them.  "The definition of  a group is  two or                                                               
more  people  formed for  the  purpose  of influencing  a  ballot                                                               
proposition," she said.                                                                                                         
CHAIR  FRENCH observed  that  current law  pertains  only to  the                                                               
election phase and not the signature-gathering phase.                                                                           
MS.  HILL said  that's correct  except that  if expenditures  are                                                               
made by a group that is  formed for the purpose of influencing an                                                               
election,   those    expenditures   are   reported    after   the                                                               
certification. She understands that  HB 36 captures the timeframe                                                               
from  the first  application with  the Division  of Elections  up                                                               
until the lieutenant governor certifies the bill.                                                                               
10:38:01 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR FRENCH  asked if during that  signature-gathering phase you                                                               
could  have TV  ads  running  that advocate  for  or against  the                                                               
underlying  initiative   in  the   guise  of  trying   to  gather                                                               
signatures or not to sign the initiative petition.                                                                              
MS. HILL  said yes;  money that's  spent encouraging  citizens to                                                               
sign a ballot initiative petition isn't an issue for APOC.                                                                      
CHAIR  FRENCH  expressed  surprise  that it's  not  a  reportable                                                               
MS.  HILL added  that money  spent to  influence the  election is                                                               
CHAIR  FRENCH  clarified that  money  spent  during the  election                                                               
phase is reportable.                                                                                                            
MS.  HILL agreed.  She added  that HB  36 amends  the meaning  of                                                               
"ballot   proposition"   to   include  an   initiative   proposal                                                               
application.  She noted  that Mr.  Thoma said  that AS  15.13.050                                                               
says  you must  register before  expending money  to influence  a                                                               
ballot  proposition. Under  this  legislation,  the term  "ballot                                                               
proposition" now includes the application.                                                                                      
10:40:10 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI  asked if someone  who wants to  spend money                                                               
on a TV  campaign to influence a piece of  legislation before the                                                               
Legislature would have to file with APOC.                                                                                       
MS. HILL clarified that that  is part of the legislative process;                                                               
it isn't  an election.  She explained  that if  three individuals                                                               
filed with  the Division  of Elections  to sponsor  an initiative                                                               
and  then disappeared  and  if  a separate  bunch  of people  got                                                               
together  purely   to  gather  signatures  with   the  intent  to                                                               
disappear  the   moment  it  was   certified,  APOC   would  have                                                               
absolutely  nothing to  do with  that  under current  law. HB  36                                                               
would change that.                                                                                                              
SENATOR  WIELECHOWSKI commented  that  this seems  to create  two                                                               
separate  classes. It  puts requirements  on people  who file  an                                                               
initiative  or referendum  whereas people  who want  to influence                                                               
the Legislature don't have to report.                                                                                           
10:42:44 AM                                                                                                                   
MS. HILL  reiterated that under  the current  campaign disclosure                                                               
rules, expenditures  are not reportable until  the election phase                                                               
of the initiative process.                                                                                                      
SENATOR  WIELECHOWSKI  offered  the  view  that  money  spent  to                                                               
influence legislation  should be  treated the  same way  as money                                                               
spent to influence an election.                                                                                                 
CHAIR  FRENCH asked  Mr. Dosik  if he  would like  to add  to Ms.                                                               
Hill's testimony.                                                                                                               
THOMAS DOSIK,  Assistant Attorney General, Civil  Division, Labor                                                               
and State Affairs Section, Department  of Law (DOL), related that                                                               
APOC exists to enforce laws  on campaign finance and lobbying. If                                                               
there  isn't  an  active  campaign or  if  the  activity  doesn't                                                               
qualify  as lobbying,  then APOC  doesn't regulate  the activity.                                                               
If, for  example, somebody wanted to  buy TV ads to  influence HB
36, APOC  wouldn't have jurisdiction  or concern about  that. The                                                               
caveat  is that  existing  groups such  as  political parties  or                                                               
other  groups that  maintain  a long-term  existence  do have  to                                                               
regularly report all their contributions and expenditures.                                                                      
10:45:30 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR FRENCH  cited the subsistence  wars and  recalled full-page                                                               
ads singling  out individual  legislators and  encouraging voters                                                               
to  tell  their legislator  to  let  the subsistence  measure  go                                                               
forward.  He   observed  that   Senator  Wielechowski   makes  an                                                               
interesting point because that activity  is separate and not part                                                               
of any reporting scheme.                                                                                                        
MR. DOSIK confirmed that that's correct.                                                                                        
SENATOR  COGHILL   questioned  whether  the  "intends   to  make"                                                               
language  in  Section  3  should  be  replaced  with  the  phrase                                                               
"intends to support."                                                                                                           
CHAIR  FRENCH  acknowledged the  suggestion  and  held HB  36  in                                                               

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