Legislature(2015 - 2016)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

04/04/2016 01:30 PM Senate JUDICIARY

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           SJR 12-CONST. AM: ELECTED ATTORNEY GENERAL                                                                       
1:33:54 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MCGUIRE announced the consideration of SJR 12. She asked                                                                  
Senator Stoltze to introduce his legislation.                                                                                   
1:34:07 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BILL  STOLTZE, Alaska State Legislature,  Juneau, Alaska,                                                               
sponsor of SJR  12, said this legislation is based  on the belief                                                               
that  the attorney  general should  be an  elected position.  The                                                               
office should serve the people of  Alaska, not a body politic. He                                                               
clarified  this is  not a  reflection  on any  past, present,  or                                                               
future attorney general. It is  a systemic change he believes the                                                               
people will  embrace, given the  opportunity to  vote on it  in a                                                               
general election.  He noted  that three  members heard  this bill                                                               
very recently in the Senate State Affairs Committee.                                                                            
SENATOR STOLTZE said he agrees  with former Governor William Egan                                                               
who said during  the Constitutional Convention: "I'm  in favor of                                                               
a strong executive branch of  government in order that the people                                                               
might ever be able to  place the finger of responsibility without                                                               
buck passing.  One office, I  feel, should most  certainly remain                                                               
elective is that of the state  attorney general. It would seem to                                                               
me that  this would  provide a safeguard  against a  strong chief                                                               
executive usurping the powers of the office."                                                                                   
SENATOR STOLTZE  opined that the  constitution is good  but would                                                               
be  stronger  and the  people  better  served  if the  chief  law                                                               
enforcement  officer  works for  the  people.  It is  within  the                                                               
governor's  power   to  obtain  his/her  own   legal  advice  and                                                               
representation. He said that is  an opinion he believes is shared                                                               
by  many.  He summarized  that  SJR  12  calls for  amending  the                                                               
Constitution of the State of  Alaska to make the attorney general                                                               
an elected position.  This would need to go before  the voters in                                                               
a general election and he believes a majority would support it.                                                                 
1:44:04 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  MCGUIRE noted  the chart  in the  packets showing  current                                                               
governors  and the  method of  selecting their  attorney general.                                                               
She highlighted that  just seven states have  an attorney general                                                               
that  is not  elected by  the people.  She noted  that in  six of                                                               
seven instances the governor and  the attorney general are of the                                                               
same  party. Alaska  is  the  exception. She  opined  that is  no                                                               
accident which indicates that the  office is already politicized.                                                               
She agreed  with the sponsor that  the governor has the  power to                                                               
obtain his/her own legal counsel.  She expressed concern that, at                                                               
some point,  there will not  be enough ethical space  between the                                                               
two offices.                                                                                                                    
She expressed her desire to move the bill today.                                                                                
1:47:43 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR COSTELLO asked  the sponsor to discuss  the concerns that                                                               
have been raised.                                                                                                               
SENATOR  STOLTZE said  some of  the  comments have  been: if  the                                                               
constitution isn't  broken don't  fix it,  the constitution  is a                                                               
perfect document,  and it would  politicize the process.  He said                                                               
he  believes he  has responded  to those  concerns, but  he can't                                                               
respond to the philosophical concerns.                                                                                          
SENATOR COSTELLO  asked if  he sees  any problem  associated with                                                               
the attorney  general trying  to raise money  for an  election at                                                               
the same  time people are  trying to  influence the outcome  of a                                                               
particular issue.                                                                                                               
SENATOR  STOLTZE said  he  thinks there  already  is a  political                                                               
process  at  work  under  the current  system.  He  commented  on                                                               
previous  attorneys  general,  some  of  whom  he  believes  were                                                               
SENATOR  COSTELLO  asked, of  the  states  that have  an  elected                                                               
attorney  general, was  that  process  in place  at  the time  of                                                               
SENATOR  STOLTZE  said he  doesn't  recall,  but the  history  is                                                               
primarily elected offices in the U.S.                                                                                           
1:51:48 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR COSTELLO  asked if he  would prefer the  attorney general                                                               
to be elected if he were governor.                                                                                              
SENATOR STOLTZE answered yes.                                                                                                   
1:52:43 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI  asked if the  attorney general should  be a                                                               
nonpartisan position.                                                                                                           
SENATOR  STOLTZE replied  it's a  policy consideration.  He added                                                               
that in  the past he's  proposed making the person  ineligible to                                                               
run for a statewide office for a few years after serving.                                                                       
SENATOR COSTELLO  asked if the  attorney general  currently takes                                                               
an oath.                                                                                                                        
SENATOR STOLTZE replied  all cabinet positions take  an oath, but                                                               
they  also  have  strong  cannons of  ethics  for  serving  their                                                               
clients.  He assumes  the constitutional  oath is  the overriding                                                               
one, but he doesn't know.                                                                                                       
CHAIR MCGUIRE assumed  that an elected attorney  general would be                                                               
subject to the Executive Ethics Act.                                                                                            
1:54:51 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  COGHILL  opined  there  probably  would  be  diminishing                                                               
authority for the governor if  the attorney general were elected.                                                               
He  encouraged the  members to  read  Federalist Number  10 as  a                                                               
reminder that  faction is a danger.  He asked the sponsor  how he                                                               
contemplates the people's attorney on the administration of law.                                                                
SENATOR STOLTZE  pointed out that  the attorney  general's office                                                               
has been reticent to put out  legal written opinions on the crime                                                               
bill, and he believes that  is a responsibility of the Department                                                               
of  Law. He  opined that  if the  attorney general  were elected,                                                               
they would have open public  discussions. In the area of consumer                                                               
protection he  believes an  elected attorney  general would  be a                                                               
more vigorous advocate. An elected  office removes the temptation                                                               
to protect the governor first  and perhaps overlook indiscretion.                                                               
He also mentioned initiatives that  the Department of Law doesn't                                                               
get involved in even though there  is a strong public interest to                                                               
SENATOR COGHILL offered his belief  that the attorney general has                                                               
become the  governor's attorney which strengthens  the governor's                                                               
SENATOR  STOLTZE  added that  one  attorney  general opinion  can                                                               
accomplish  something  that  takes the  legislature  many  steps.                                                               
That's a strong  power for the governor's  "legal handmaiden," he                                                               
SENATOR COGHILL said that point  was argued in the Constitutional                                                               
Convention and the attorney general's  opinion has become ex post                                                               
facto law.                                                                                                                      
2:01:33 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  WIELECHOWSKI   asked  if  he  envisions   this  position                                                               
residing  in  the executive  branch  and  sitting in  on  cabinet                                                               
meetings. He commented  that this seems to set  up another branch                                                               
of government.                                                                                                                  
SENATOR STOLTZE  said it creates  a third  constitutional officer                                                               
and  whether  or not  the  person  is  invited into  the  cabinet                                                               
meetings will be up to the  governor. He said he wouldn't call it                                                               
another  branch  of  government  any  more  than  the  lieutenant                                                               
governor is identified as such.                                                                                                 
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if he  envisions both the governor and                                                               
the attorney  general being able  to file suits if  they disagree                                                               
on a legal matter.                                                                                                              
SENATOR STOLTZE said the attorney  general would be the chief law                                                               
enforcement officer but it doesn't  diminish the governor's legal                                                               
ability. He would, however, need to  use his own attorney or seek                                                               
outside counsel. He advised that  many of these questions will be                                                               
resolved through enabling statutes.                                                                                             
2:04:53 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MICCICHE joined the meeting.                                                                                            
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI  asked if he envisions  an additional fiscal                                                               
note because it seems that there would be a substantial cost.                                                                   
SENATOR STOLTZE replied the division  has said it will absorb the                                                               
cost of  a constitutional amendment.  He can  envision additional                                                               
costs but it's difficult to foresee  what they would be. It would                                                               
depend on the governor and the counsel he desires.                                                                              
SENATOR  WIELECHOWSKI reviewed  the  requirements and  questioned                                                               
whether there should  be a requirement for some  experience as an                                                               
attorney before becoming attorney general.                                                                                      
SENATOR   STOLTZE   replied   those  are   virtually   the   same                                                               
requirements  as for  other constitutional  officers, except  for                                                               
the requirement to be a member  of the Alaska Bar. He opined that                                                               
the voters will look at the qualifications.                                                                                     
CHAIR MCGUIRE asked the circumstances  that Hollis French did not                                                               
meet the requirements.                                                                                                          
SENATOR STOLTZE  said the Judicial  Council ruled  him ineligible                                                               
because he  had not been out  of state legislative service  for a                                                               
SENATOR  WIELECHOWSKI  added  that  he let  his  law  license  go                                                               
inactive  and the  Judicial Council  ruled  he had  to have  been                                                               
actively practicing law for a year prior to application.                                                                        
SENATOR  STOLTZE said  the  people  should be  able  to make  the                                                               
decision about qualifications.                                                                                                  
2:10:06 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  COGHILL commented  on the  current vetting  process that                                                               
gives deference to  the governor to the extent  possible. With an                                                               
elected position, the  vetting would be with the  people and thus                                                               
much broader.                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  MICCICHE  asked how  many  states  elect their  attorney                                                               
general and how many states have an appointment process.                                                                        
SENATOR STOLTZE  said 43 states  elect their attorney  general, 2                                                               
have  an alternative  selection  process, and  5  states have  an                                                               
attorney general appointed by the chief executive.                                                                              
CHAIR MCGUIRE asked if there were any amendments.                                                                               
2:12:41 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI  moved Conceptual  Amendment 1 to  elect the                                                               
attorney general through a nonpartisan election.                                                                                
SENATOR COGHILL  objected. He opined that  a nonpartisan election                                                               
won't take  the philosophical  discussion out  of the  debate. He                                                               
said it's appropriate to give  people the opportunity to identify                                                               
with a  particular group, just  as other  constitutional officers                                                               
do.  He added  that  it  is important  to  have  an alignment  of                                                               
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI said  he believes people are  tired of party                                                               
politics and everything  possible should be done  to remove party                                                               
politics   from  elections.   Should  this   pass,  this   is  an                                                               
opportunity to  create a  new position  in the  constitution that                                                               
isn't affiliated with a political party.  "If the idea is to make                                                               
this less political, let's make it  less political by having it a                                                               
nonpartisan position. That makes common sense," he said.                                                                        
SENATOR COGHILL clarified that he did  not say party; he said you                                                               
could pick the label you want to run under.                                                                                     
SENATOR  MICCICHE  asked Senator  Wielechowski  his  vision of  a                                                               
nonpartisan election.                                                                                                           
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI said  there would be no  primary; anyone who                                                               
wanted  to run  would automatically  go on  the general  election                                                               
ballot  and  individuals  wouldn't  be  identified  by  political                                                               
party.  This would  give the  voters an  opportunity to  discover                                                               
what the  individuals intend  to do if  elected. It's  a powerful                                                               
position and shouldn't be based on a political party.                                                                           
SENATOR  MICCICHE   expressed  agreement  with  the   idea  of  a                                                               
nonpartisan  election   and  concern   about  the   mechanics  of                                                               
accomplishing it.                                                                                                               
2:18:04 PM                                                                                                                    
At ease                                                                                                                         
2:20:15 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MCGUIRE reconvened the meeting  and recapped the discussion                                                               
on Conceptual Amendment 1 for SJR 12.                                                                                           
SENATOR COGHILL requested the amendment in writing.                                                                             
SENATOR STOLTZE concurred.                                                                                                      
CHAIR  MCGUIRE asked  Senator Wielechowski  if he  would withdraw                                                               
the amendment.                                                                                                                  
2:21:21 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI withdrew Amendment 1.                                                                                      
2:21:36 PM                                                                                                                    
LAURA BONNER,  representing herself,  testified in  opposition to                                                               
SJR 12.  She said Alaskans already  have a voice; they  elect the                                                               
governor who  appoints the attorney  general. Alaskans  also have                                                               
the opportunity  to contact  legislators during  the confirmation                                                               
process if they don't agree  with the governor's appointment. She                                                               
opined  that  it   was  the  intent  of  the   delegates  of  the                                                               
Constitutional Convention that the  attorney general would be the                                                               
governor's counsel  and therefore  compatible with  the governor.                                                               
She  questioned what  branch of  government the  attorney general                                                               
would belong to and how would he/she be removed if needed.                                                                      
2:24:15 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MCGUIRE held SJR 12 in committee.                                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 108 ACLI Statement on Alaska Securities Law Amendments 2016-SB 108 HB 194 as amended.pdf SJUD 4/4/2016 1:30:00 PM
HB 194
SB 108
SB108 Fiscal Note-DCCED-DBS-1-25-16.pdf SJUD 4/4/2016 1:30:00 PM
SB 108
SB108 Hearing Request.pdf SJUD 4/4/2016 1:30:00 PM
SB 108
SB108 Summary of Changes.pdf SJUD 4/4/2016 1:30:00 PM
SB 108
SB108 Transmittal Letter.pdf SJUD 4/4/2016 1:30:00 PM
SB 108
SB108 Version W Sectional Analysis.pdf SJUD 4/4/2016 1:30:00 PM
SB 108
SB108 Version W.PDF SJUD 4/4/2016 1:30:00 PM
SB 108
SB 164 Version H.pdf SJUD 4/4/2016 1:30:00 PM
SB 164
SB164 - Sectional Analysis.pdf SJUD 4/4/2016 1:30:00 PM
SB 164
SB164 ADFG Hearing Request Letter Senate Judiciary 3-7-16.pdf SJUD 4/4/2016 1:30:00 PM
SB 164
SB164 Sponsor Statement - Governor's Transmittal letter.pdf SJUD 4/4/2016 1:30:00 PM
SB 164
SB164 ver A.pdf SJUD 4/4/2016 1:30:00 PM
SB 164
SB164-F&G-CO-2-2-16.pdf SJUD 4/4/2016 1:30:00 PM
SB 164
SJR 12 Fiscal Note #1 - LEG-SESS 3-30-16.pdf SJUD 4/4/2016 1:30:00 PM
SJR 12
SJR 12 Fiscal Note #2 - OOG 3-30-16.pdf SJUD 4/4/2016 1:30:00 PM
SJR 12
SJR 12 Support Document - AK Constitutional Convention Minutes on Electing AG.pdf SJUD 4/4/2016 1:30:00 PM
SJR 12
SJR 12 version W (Initial Version).PDF SJUD 4/4/2016 1:30:00 PM
SJR 12
SB 164 Changes to Version H.pdf SJUD 4/4/2016 1:30:00 PM
SB 164
SB 108 Ver W Whitepaper.pdf SJUD 4/4/2016 1:30:00 PM
SB 108