Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

02/18/2010 09:00 AM Senate STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved SB 260 Out of Committee
Moved SB 261 Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
        SB 260-ELECTRIC & TELEPHONE COOPERATIVES' VOTING                                                                    
9:01:52 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MENARD announced  that the first order of  business to come                                                               
before the  committee was SB  260. She  turned the gavel  over to                                                               
Vice-Chair Meyer.                                                                                                               
SENATOR MENARD,  sponsor of SB  260, said SB 260  gives telephone                                                               
and electric cooperatives the option  of allowing members to vote                                                               
by  electronic transmission.  Currently, co-op  members may  only                                                               
vote in person  or by mail. These methods are  outdated and could                                                               
be  having   a  negative  impact   on  member   participation  in                                                               
elections. She  noted that the  fiscal note  for SB 260  is zero.                                                               
The Matanuska  Telephone Association  (MTA) members  have already                                                               
voted  to  adopt a  new  bylaw  allowing electronic  transmission                                                               
voting. MTA, and other co-ops,  now need the Legislature to amend                                                               
the statutes to allow electronic transmission voting.                                                                           
9:04:40 AM                                                                                                                    
PHIL  STEYER,  Director  of Government  Relations  and  Corporate                                                               
Communications,  Chugach   Electric  Association,   said  Chugach                                                               
Electric   is   an  Anchorage-based,   member-owned   cooperative                                                               
providing electric service and is  strongly supportive of SB 260.                                                               
He stated that electronic transmission  voting would be optional,                                                               
not mandatory, and  co-op members would also need  to amend their                                                               
bylaws to  enact it. Chugach  has already amended its  own bylaws                                                               
to  enable electronic  transmission  voting if  state statute  is                                                               
SENATOR FRENCH asked if co-ops are going to electronic voting.                                                                  
MR.  STEYER replied  that co-ops  in the  Lower 48  are going  to                                                               
electronic voting. He said Chugach  Electric has spoken with some                                                               
firms  who   provide  this  service  elsewhere   about  providing                                                               
electronic voting in Alaska.                                                                                                    
SENATOR FRENCH asked if SB 260 has had any opposition.                                                                          
MR. STEYER  replied no, not  that he knows of.  He said a  lot of                                                               
work  has been  done to  put the  idea of  electronic voting  out                                                               
there  and  take input  from  different  cooperatives during  the                                                               
resolutions process in the Alaska  Power Association.  Any issues                                                               
have been resolved to get to  SB 260 today. He explained that the                                                               
real key  for co-ops  is that electronic  voting is  optional and                                                               
would only  be taken  up by  co-ops whose  members vote  to amend                                                               
their bylaws.                                                                                                                   
9:08:05 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR FRENCH  asked if the implementation  of electronic voting                                                               
would cost the coops money or save them money.                                                                                  
MR. STEYER  replied that, for  Chugach Electric, he  believes the                                                               
costs  would  increase initially  but  would  decrease later  on.                                                               
Setting  up and  processing  electronic voting  would cost  money                                                               
initially.  He explained  that members  would still  be mailed  a                                                               
ballot packet,  with the option  for electronic  voting included,                                                               
for at  least the first  few years. Eventually, the  system could                                                               
change so  that members who  prefer to vote  electronically would                                                               
notify the  co-op and not be  sent a packet. Money  will be saved                                                               
in the long-term.                                                                                                               
VICE-CHAIR MEYER asked if a  paper trail will be available should                                                               
the validity of the electronic voting be challenged.                                                                            
MR. STEYER replied  that the method used  to implement electronic                                                               
voting would  determine if a  paper trail would be  kept; Chugach                                                               
Electric has not  decided on the method. He said  Chugach, or any                                                               
co-op, should not engage in  electronic voting unless an election                                                               
would be fair, secure and able to withstand any challenge.                                                                      
SENATOR MENARD  said different companies  that set  up electronic                                                               
voting would have securities in place.                                                                                          
9:12:05 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MEYER noted that other  states use electronic voting with                                                               
RICHARD   GAZAWAY,  Advisory   Section  Manager,   Department  of                                                               
Commerce,  Community  &  Economic Development  (DCCED),  said  he                                                               
prepared the fiscal note and is available for questions.                                                                        
GREG BERBERICH, CEO, Matanuska  Telephone Association (MTA), said                                                               
MTA  is   a  member-owned  cooperative  providing   local,  long-                                                               
distance,  wireless  broadband  internet  and  DTV  services.  He                                                               
stated his support  for SB 260 and said the  Internet has changed                                                               
communication and  business. In 2007, MTA  members overwhelmingly                                                               
voted  to  adopt a  change  in  its  bylaws to  allow  electronic                                                               
voting.  He  said  electronic  voting will  be  faster  and  more                                                               
efficient, save printing costs,  make counting more efficient and                                                               
reduce wasted paper.                                                                                                            
9:15:08 AM                                                                                                                    
He noted that MTA's bylaw  includes provisions that if electronic                                                               
voting is  conducted, members  will have  three options  to vote:                                                               
electronically, in person or by mail upon request.                                                                              
SENATOR MEYER  asked if  MTA has an  auditor during  elections to                                                               
verify  that  someone is  not  voting  in  person, on  paper  and                                                               
MR.  BERBERICH replied  yes  and said  that  an independent  firm                                                               
conducts the elections.                                                                                                         
9:16:15 AM                                                                                                                    
VICE-CHAIR MEYER closed public testimony.                                                                                       
SENATOR  FRENCH  moved  to  report SB  260  from  committee  with                                                               
individual  recommendations and  attached  fiscal note(s).  There                                                               
being no objection, the motion carried.                                                                                         

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