Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 211
02/26/2009 09:00 AM Senate STATE AFFAIRS
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 29-NAMING THOMAS B. STEWART LEG. OFFICE BLDG CHAIR MENARD announced the consideration of SB 29. 9:01:15 AM KIM ELTON, Senator, Alaska State Legislature, said he is the prime sponsor of SB 29, which names the capitol annex after Tom Stewart and recognizes his contributions to Alaska. Tom was a life-long Alaskan. Before Senator Elton votes on anything he thinks about what Bishop Kennedy and Judge Tom Stewart would do and how he would explain his actions to them. It has kept him out of trouble. Judge Stewart was a decorated war veteran. He was an army captain in World War II. He was in the Tenth Mountain Division ski troops, using expertise that he developed in Alaska. Judge Stewart earned both bronze and silver stars, which are uncommon medals. He served as assistant attorney general and in the territorial House of Representatives. That is where he "put together the recipe for how we were going to move forward on statehood and get a good state constitution." He traveled around the country on his own dime working with experts from other states to learn what would make a good constitution. He served as a state legislator and a superior court judge. He was known and respected for his character, wisdom, and leadership. The governor supports the bill. Senator Elton read the email that he received from former governor Steve Cowper: Tom Stewart was sui generis, a legal term that means one-of-a-kind. Born in Juneau and coming of age as he did, he personified the history of Alaska from the 1920s until his death last year. He participated in most of that history and influenced events in a way that called up our better nature. Fortunately the rest of us got to benefit from his wisdom and decency. We'll not see his like again. 9:05:42 AM SENATOR KOOKESH asked if other names have been submitted. SENATOR ELTON said this is the only name that he is aware of [for the building]. He struggled with this because there are so many Alaskans, but for him, he can't think of a better person. Committee rooms in the legislature are named for people. He doesn't want to denigrate the contributions of others. SENATOR KOOKESH said he is supportive. 9:06:55 AM A five-minute video of Tom Stewart was shown, but the audio was unclear. 9:13:03 AM SENATOR ELTON said the video showed images of the people who got the state going. In a very large way it was because of the preparatory work of Judge Stewart and a few others that created Alaska's constitution that is still guiding Alaskan lives. VIC FISCHER, Alaska Constitutional Convention delegate, former Alaska state senator, Anchorage, said he strongly supports the bill. Yesterday, he spoke to a university class on leadership and the constitution where he emphasized the phenomenal job that Tom Stewart did. He laid the basis for the constitutional convention. Mr. Fischer wrote a book about it. Mr. Stewart was dedicated to making the state and the world better places. Anyone who has any question about Tom Stewart's contribution to Alaska should look at his memorial service last April. It provided a wonderful overview of his life. 9:17:19 AM CHAIR MENARD said she is aware of the phenomenal job Mr. Fischer did in the constitutional convention as well. 9:18:00 AM BRUCE BOTELHO, Mayor, City and Borough of Juneau, said he supports SB 29 as mayor and as a private citizen. Mr. Stewart was a war hero serving in the Aleutian and Italian campaigns. He is even unique in Alaska's history because he is one of a very few individuals who served with distinction in all three branches of the government. He began as an assistant attorney general; he served in the 1955 territorial house and the first state senate; he was a superior court judge; and he was the first state court administrator before he was appointed to the judgeship in Juneau and became the presiding judge for the first judicial district. But his role in the constitutional convention is the most significant. A predominant theme of the 1954 elections was statehood, and candidates supporting statehood were elected. When the majority caucus gathered they decided that a constitutional convention would be their top priority. They turned to Tom Stewart as a freshman legislator to carry the ball. He resigned his position as assistant attorney general and travelled for the next seven weeks to visit other states and learn how to organize a constitutional convention. 9:21:11 AM MAYOR BOTELHO said when the legislature convened in 1955, Mr. Stewart was named to chair the House Statehood and Federal Affairs committee. Bill Egan was his counterpart in the Senate. They met as a joint committee, and Mr. Stewart was the chair. House Bill 1 passed which became the session laws that called for the convention and a nonpartisan special election of delegates. It was to represent large and small areas, and that was in contrast to how the major cities dominated the territorial legislature. The convention was held in College, Alaska, and was limited to 75 days. There was an appropriation of $300,000 for the convention, which was a large sum at that time. Mr. Stewart assumed the executive directorship of the statehood committee and was responsible for all the preconvention studies and expenditures. He spent the next several months informing Alaskans about how conventions operated and getting a sense of what the people wanted. He wrote numerous articles that were published around the state. He dealt with the convention logistics. MAYOR BOTELHO said it was no surprise that Mr. Stewart was elected as convention secretary. He was responsible for record keeping and journals; tracking all of the proposals; and managing the consultants. Delegates got their job done in the allotted time, and the constitution was ratified two months later in April of 1956. It took two more years to gain congressional approval. There are other heroes of the convention, but Mr. Stewart's painstaking efforts made sure that Alaska would be poised to have the kind of convention and constitution that continues to be a model of modern governments. Alaska owes that to his background efforts and brilliant mind. Naming the capitol annex after Tom Stewart is very appropriate. 9:25:59 AM MARIE DARLIN, Juneau, said she supports the bill. Judge Stewart was just "Tom" to all of us who grew up in Juneau. He was a friend that everyone valued. The historical society always knew they could call Tom for help with almost anything or anyone. He always had the latest address for people because he kept in touch with everyone. The Pioneer Book committee considered him their historical consultant. "My call for help or confirmation of a fact or date always ended up with a wonderful conversation describing everything I needed to know or that I should have remembered plus a few humorous comments." The state of Alaska and Juneau have benefitted from his lifetime contributions. "We miss him and his smile and will always remember him." It will be nice that Judge Diamond [Diamond Courthouse] and Judge Stewart [Capitol Annex] will be across the street from each other. 9:28:05 AM CALEB STEWART, son of Tom Stewart, Juneau, said he is speaking for himself and his family. He said a Private in Judge Stewart's company sent him a letter after reuniting with him at a Tenth Mountain reunion. The man said he hated officers, but they became good friends. He sent a letter to Judge Stewart about a planned memorial for veterans. "I fail to see what all the fuss is about," the letter said. "These people have been memorialized along with all the rest of our fatalities in plaster and bronze and print and word of mouth ... Let us understand ... these memorials, as with funerals, have nothing to do with the dead. Alas, they cannot be reached. We employ them to make the living more comfy. Enough already, Tom." MR. STEWART said that is important. "Dad isn't here, obviously, but we are, and a lot of what we do with these things is for us and future generations." Today he heard a young staffer ask who Thomas B. Stewart was. Naming a building after someone may give a person a chance to reflect on what that person did. He would hope that people won't just walk by a building with someone's name on it. We are losing the generation of people who made the state, and these efforts can help future generations remember who people were and what they did. 9:31:26 AM CHAIR MENARD said when a building is named after a great Alaskan, it is a history lesson. Schools are often named after people and she likes having that kind of history lesson. She hopes to honor Judge Stewart in this way. NANCY DECHERNEY, Director, Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, said she supports SB 29 for all that Tom Stewart and his family did to support the arts and statehood. MICHELLE SIDEMAN, Juneau, said she is a long-time admirer of Judge Stewart. There are some people who are simply an honor to know. He set the gold standard for goodness and human decency. He was a public servant in the deepest sense of the word. Judge Stewart devoted his life to serving his country, state, community, family, and his extraordinarily large circle of friends. She doubts there is a complete list of the boards and organizations he served on or contributed to, or a list of individuals to whom he personally lent a hand. He was a generous and highly principled person and a consummate gentleman. It is fitting to name the capitol annex after a founding father of the state. It will be a small and daily reminder of Judge Stewart's great contributions to a state he truly loved. 9:34:23 AM JENNY DAWSON, Juneau, said she had the privilege of living next door to Tom Stewart for the last 15 years. He was the most decent human being she has ever known. SENATOR MEYER moved to report SB 29 from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note(s). There being no objection, SB 29 moved out of committee.