Legislature(2001 - 2002)
04/11/2001 08:52 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 103(FIN) "An Act relating to election campaigns and legislative ethics." Mr. Tibbles noted that members were provided with a proposed committee substitute, work draft 22-LS0148\H. He noted that three sections were modified or deleted by the proposed committee substitute. He discussed the changes. Section 1 of the Judiciary version was deleted. Section 1 would have required the Commission to develop a single form for financial disclosure statements. The requirement was removed because the statute referenced two separate disclosure laws: one applied to the legislature and one applied to all public officials. The laws are distinct and different. The issue is still being reviewed. Section 5 was also deleted. Section 5 allowed the use of office account funds to influence the outcome of an election concerning a ballot proposition if the use was permitted under the ethics law. Mr. Tibbles noted that testimony by Brook Miles, Executive Director, Alaska Public Officers Commission indicated that deletion of the section would not prevent the practice. The intent is to clarify that public money could not be used other than to perform the usual and customary duties of one's job. Members can support of oppose ballot propositions and send mailings. Members could not operate a campaign or influence a campaign out of their office. Section 6, subsection 4(a)(ii): use by a political party was deleted. Mr. Tibbles explained that the provision was confusing. Under current law, a union or corporation could mail to their shareholders or members and families only if it is a regular communication, such as a newsletter. Special bulletins would not be allowed. It would be limited to $500 dollars. Representative Croft agreed with the elimination of subsection 4(a)(ii) and pointed out that there is a constitutional right to associate with people that want to form a group to communicate on issues. Representative John Davies MOVED to ADOPT Amendment 1: A campaign that receives $500, or goods or services of a value of $500, may file a contributor's statement as required under this section on behalf of the contributor. Co-Chair Mulder noted that the amendment had been discussed in the previous meeting. The amendment would allow the 15.5 reports to be filed by the campaign with the Alaska Public Officers Commission. There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered. Representative John Davies MOVED to ADOPT Amendment 2: Section 19.25.105 is amended by adding: (a) (7) Political campaign signs no larger than 4 feet by 8 feet may be within the right of way within 45 days of an election in which a candidate or ballot issue or constitutional amendment is to be decided, and those signs must removed within 10 days after that election. Section 19.25.150 is amended by adding: A sign in violation of AS 95.25.105 (a) (7) may be removed immediately by the department, and returned to the candidate or campaign for upon receipt of a $100 handling fee per sign. Representative John Davies explained that the amendment would address the use of political campaign signs. He observed that there is confusion regarding the law. The amendment would allow the use of signs within 45 days of an election. Signs would have to be removed within 10 days after an election. The amendment would also clarify the penalty. The department would be able to immediately remove signs that are in violation of the law. Signs would be returned to the campaign with a $100 handling fee. He noted that his intent is to clarify the law and even the playing field. Representative Hudson expressed support for the amendment. He noted that the department must currently give a 30-day notice before signs can be removed. He maintained that there are violations under the current law. He noted that signs could not be placed near election sites and would not affect billboard laws. The amendment would legalize the status quo. Co-Chair Mulder spoke in support of the amendment. He observed that current law has been inconsistently applied from location to location and campaign to campaign. In response to a question by Representative Whitaker, Representative John Davies explained that the state version of the 1966 federal act was adopted by initiative. State law disallows billboards along state maintained roads. The Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has made a distinction between rural roads. During the last election, the Northern Region of the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities enforced the law on all state maintained road in Fairbanks. He observed that there was a lot of confusion regarding the use of signs. The department's interpretation was viewed as onerous, although it was the correct interpretation of the law. The amendment would clarify the law and draw a bright line as to the use of campaign signs. Representative Lancaster questioned if the amendment would be self-serving. SENATOR GENE THERRIAULT expressed concern that a specific allowance would be carved out. He noted that the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is protective of the right away. He added that signs are not allowed if they are visible from a state maintained road on private property. He expressed concern that the amendment would set the Legislature up for criticism. Representative John Davies responded that the exemption would be handled in the same way as other exemptions. He stressed that a large number of people are putting up signs. The amendment would specify what is allowed and what is not. He acknowledged that the 30-day rule makes sense for most business uses, but argued that the 30-day rule invites people to place signs 29 days before the election in violation of the law. The amendment would clarify the rules. Representative Croft acknowledged that it creates an exception that other businesses won't have but stressed that it would confirm the current practice. He pointed out that there would not be further opportunity to debate the issue, since it is the final committee assignment on a senate bill. He acknowledged the need to review the issue, but suggested that it should be taken up in other legislation. Representative Whitaker spoke against the amendment. He observed that the public approved of the limitations placed on the signs in the Northern Region. Representative Harris questioned if there is any provision to allow the department to designate areas allowing signs. Senator Therriault clarified that the department does not allow signs in the road right-of-way. He noted that the bill was scheduled for floor action that day and that there would be little time to review the amendment. A roll call vote was taken on the motion. IN FAVOR: Davies, Hudson, Mulder OPPOSED: Croft, Harris, Lancaster, Whitaker, Williams Representatives Foster, Moses and Bunde were absent from the meeting. In response to a question by Senator Therriault, Co-Chair Mulder restated the intent of Amendment 1. He emphasized the intent of diminishing the "hassle factor" for individual donors. Senator Therriault reviewed statute requirements for contributions. He noted that the contributor must state that they are not prohibited by law from making the contribution. He questioned if a campaign could fill out a form for the candidate. He questioned if the language had been reviewed by the Department of Law. Representative John Davies pointed out that the amendment is permissive and states that they "may". He stressed that regulation would allow the intent to fit with the statute. Senator Therriault did not have problems with the intent, but expressed concern that he was not sure how the drafter would interpret the language. Co-Chair Mulder observed that the Division of Legal Services was reviewing the amendment. He noted that it was not his intent to diminish or threaten the bill. He noted that if the result is adversarial that the amendment could be withdrawn. Co-Chair Mulder MOVED to report HCS SB 103 (FIN) out of Committee with the accompanying fiscal note. HCS SB 103 (FIN) was REPORTED out of Committee with a "do pass" recommendation and with a previous published fiscal impact note (#2) by the Department of Administration.