Legislature(2001 - 2002)
02/19/2002 08:09 AM CRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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of a municipal manager plan, and relating to a special election for mayor when municipal manager plans are adopted or repealed."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 retroactive. 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 prospective. 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 government. 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.