Legislature(2001 - 2002)

02/19/2002 08:09 AM CRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 289-MUNICIPAL MANAGER PLAN                                                                                                 
CO-CHAIR MEYER announced that the  first order of business before                                                               
the  committee would  be SPONSOR  SUBSTITUTE FOR  HOUSE BILL  NO.                                                               
289,  "An Act  relating  to  the effective  date  of a  municipal                                                               
manager plan that  has been adopted and to the  effective date of                                                               
the  repeal  of a  municipal  manager  plan,  and relating  to  a                                                               
special  election  for mayor  when  municipal  manager plans  are                                                               
adopted or repealed."                                                                                                           
Number 0120                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE   GARY   STEVENS,    Alaska   State   Legislature,                                                               
testifying  as  the  sponsor  of  SSHB 289,  began  by  posing  a                                                               
situation in  which the voters  don't know to what  position they                                                               
are  electing  candidates and  candidates  don't  know for  which                                                               
position they are  running.  He said that such  a situation [can]                                                               
occur  when  municipal  government  changes  from  a  manager  to                                                               
mayoral form of  government or vice versa.  In  such a situation,                                                               
at the  same time the voters  are choosing to change  the type of                                                               
government,   the   voters   are   also   electing   the   mayor.                                                               
Representative  Stevens   explained  that   a  mayoral   type  of                                                               
government  is often  referred  to  as a  strong  mayor and  that                                                               
person is  responsible for the administration  of the government.                                                               
In many cases, a mayoral position  is paid a salary.  The manager                                                               
form of government is one in  which the person is responsible for                                                               
the administration of the government,  and in this case the mayor                                                               
would be  in a ceremonial position  to run the meetings.   In the                                                               
manager form  of government, the  mayor's position wouldn't  be a                                                               
full-time job.                                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE STEVENS  returned to the  aforementioned situation                                                               
in which there  is an election to decide to  change from one form                                                               
of government  to another  at the  same time  there is  a mayoral                                                               
election.   In  such a  situation,  the voter  wouldn't know  for                                                               
which  position   the  person  is  running.     Furthermore,  the                                                               
candidate  wouldn't  know  whether  he/she   is  going  to  be  a                                                               
ceremonial  head   of  government   or  have  a   full-time  job.                                                               
Therefore, a great deal of  confusion is created, which this bill                                                               
would eliminate.   He noted  that there  is always the  option of                                                               
having a  special election.   This bill provides that  the person                                                               
elected in a  position would stay in that position  for a year in                                                               
order  to allow  a year  for the  community to  make the  change.                                                               
Representative Stevens noted  that at first it  was thought [that                                                               
the form of government] would  remain [unchanged] until the mayor                                                               
left office.   However, mayoral  terms are often three  years and                                                               
thus  the aforementioned  thought  would force  the community  to                                                               
have the old form of  government for three years.  Representative                                                               
Stevens felt that  the one-year transition presented  in SSHB 289                                                               
is a better approach.                                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE  STEVENS  reiterated  that SSHB  289  attempts  to                                                               
simplify  these situations  and  allow voters  to  know for  what                                                               
position they're  filling.  Furthermore,  SSHB 289 clears  up the                                                               
situation for the candidate in  regard to what position he/she is                                                               
running for.                                                                                                                    
Number 0631                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GUESS remarked that  she wasn't convinced that the                                                               
system proposed in SSHB 289 is  simpler.  She pointed out that in                                                               
a situation  in which the [form  of government] is changed  and a                                                               
mayor is  elected at the  same time, the [candidate  doesn't know                                                               
for  which position  he/she is  running]  because he/she  doesn't                                                               
know  whether the  position is  changing.   Furthermore, even  if                                                               
[the form of  government] changes, under SSHB 289  there would be                                                               
a one-year lag  and thus [a candidate] is being  asked to run for                                                               
a position that will change function  in the middle of the [three                                                               
year] term.  In the other situation,  a mayor is in place and the                                                               
[form of government] is changed.   Therefore, that mayor would've                                                               
been  elected  under  different  circumstances.    This  proposed                                                               
legislation seems confusing.                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE STEVENS returned to  the confusion created for the                                                               
candidates in these situations.                                                                                                 
Number 0850                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GUESS returned to the  situation in which the form                                                               
of government  and the [mayor]  were being  voted on at  the same                                                               
time.  In  such a situation, it's confusing now.   The bill would                                                               
change  it so  that if  the form  of government  did change,  the                                                               
change  wouldn't occur  for  a year.    Therefore, the  candidate                                                               
would have  a year to  adjust his/her life  or resign and  have a                                                               
special  election.   She indicated  her  understanding that  [the                                                               
form of government] would still change.                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  STEVENS  agreed  that the  [form  of  government]                                                               
would  still change.   He  felt  that the  year transition  would                                                               
provide  [a  candidate]  a  year  to adjust  his/her  life.    He                                                               
informed the  committee that an attorney  [from Legislative Legal                                                               
and Research  Services] suggested  that whoever is  elected would                                                               
continue  his/her term  of office.   However,  that results  in a                                                               
three-year  lag before  the change  [in the  form of  government]                                                               
occurs.   Representative  Stevens  related his  belief that  when                                                               
people  vote  [to change  the  form  of government]  that  should                                                               
happen in as reasonable time as  possible.  He reiterated that at                                                               
any time  there can be a  special election to determine  the form                                                               
of  government.    He  echoed  his  belief  that  [SSHB  289]  is                                                               
advantageous due to the one-year grace period.                                                                                  
Number 1054                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR MEYER inquired as to how often these situations occur.                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  STEVENS  answered  that such  a  situation  could                                                               
occur any time there is a  vote to change the form of government.                                                               
In  regard   to  how  often   such  situations   actually  occur,                                                               
Representative  Stevens couldn't  answer.   In these  situations,                                                               
the voter isn't  sure what position the election is  for, and the                                                               
candidate isn't sure to what position he/she will be elected.                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  KERTTULA remarked,  "But  doesn't everybody  know                                                               
that that's a possibility when they  run."  She asked whether the                                                               
vote always happens at the same  time or could there be a special                                                               
election [to change the form of government].                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  STEVENS replied  that  there could  be a  special                                                               
election,  which  he  indicated  to be  a  preferable  situation.                                                               
However, he  noted that there  is a  cost to a  special election.                                                               
This bill provides another option with the one-year lag.                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA  inquired as to  how many times  this has                                                               
happened.   She also inquired  as to  whether this bill  would be                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  STEVENS said  that he  couldn't specify  how many                                                               
times  these  situations occur.    He  answered that  [SSHB  289]                                                               
wouldn't be  retroactive.  In further  response to Representative                                                               
Kerttula,  Representative Stevens  affirmed  that  [SSHB 289]  is                                                               
Number 1323                                                                                                                     
PAT  CARLSON,  Manager,  Kodiak  Island  Borough,  testified  via                                                               
teleconference in  support of SSHB  289.  Mr. Carlson  recalled a                                                               
situation in  Kodiak in which the  form of government was  on the                                                               
ballot at the  same time the mayor was up  for reelection.  There                                                               
was a significant amount of confusion  for the voters, as well as                                                               
the candidates.   He related  his belief  that the votes  of many                                                               
voters were impacted  in relation to their belief of  the form of                                                               
government [a particular candidate] embodied.                                                                                   
MR.  CARLSON  informed  the  committee that  when  Kodiak  had  a                                                               
special election for  a change of government,  the Kodiak Borough                                                               
Assembly [decided  to have a  transition of] one-year.   Although                                                               
that was determined to be  illegal given the current statutes, it                                                               
was  the   appropriate  approach.    Mr.   Carlson  concluded  by                                                               
reiterating his support of SSHB 289.                                                                                            
Number 1474                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GUESS  agreed that [SSHB 289]  provides a smoother                                                               
way;  however,   she  questioned  whether  it's   really  a  less                                                               
confusing situation.                                                                                                            
MR. CARLSON explained that under  the current statute, the change                                                               
in the form of government is  in the assembly's control after the                                                               
vote takes  place.  Therefore,  the one-year window  provides the                                                               
opportunity to structure the  government appropriately and ensure                                                               
a smooth transition.                                                                                                            
Number 1596                                                                                                                     
KEVIN  RITCHIE,  Executive   Director,  Alaska  Municipal  League                                                               
(AML), informed  the committee that  although AML hasn't  taken a                                                               
formal position on  SSHB 289, the issue being  addressed is real.                                                               
If one year into a three-year  term there is a petition to change                                                               
the  form of  government without  addressing a  transition,   the                                                               
mayor may  be forced to quit  his/her job and the  voters may not                                                               
elect that  person to be the  full-time mayor.  Mr.  Ritchie felt                                                               
that a  one-year transition is a  good idea, which could  also be                                                               
addressed  in a  petition.    However, he  wasn't  sure how  this                                                               
proposal would be addressed in a petition.                                                                                      
MR. RITCHIE,  in response to Representative  Murkowski, clarified                                                               
that AML  hasn't gotten to  SSHB 289  yet.  The  local government                                                               
subcommittee is meeting today and will discuss SSHB 289.                                                                        
CO-CHAIR MEYER commented that the  bill makes sense.  He referred                                                               
to  page 2,  lines 5-9,  and asked  if the  logistics work  while                                                               
providing  a smooth  transition during  a change  in the  form of                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE STEVENS indicated agreement.                                                                                     
Number 1837                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GUESS  moved to report  SSHB 289 out  of committee                                                               
with individual recommendations and  the accompanying zero fiscal                                                               
note.  There  being no objection, SSHB 289 was  reported from the                                                               
House Community and Regional Affairs Standing Committee.                                                                        
The committee took an at-ease from 8:35 a.m. to 8:36 a.m.                                                                       

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