Legislature(2017 - 2018)ADAMS ROOM 519
04/03/2018 10:00 AM FINANCE
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HOUSE BILL NO. 41 "An Act relating to joint prime sponsorship of bills." 10:25:36 AM REPRESENTATIVE LES GARA, SPONSOR, introduced the legislation. He explained that over the years the legislature had allowed legislators to become joint prime sponsors of legislation. The old rule only allowed legislators to become joint prime sponsors in the first five days of session. He discussed that some of the best relationships he had built in the building were with members across the aisle working as joint sponsors on legislation. The bill would reinstitute the practice of allowing joint sponsors on legislation and would allow it to happen any time during the year. He believed working across party lines was good - it built relationships and trust. He thought it was what the public expected. He believed it was better for a group of people, especially people across party lines, to stand together on an issue. He recalled working as a joint prime sponsor with the former mayor of Fairbanks [Representative Steve Thompson] and the former House Finance Committee co-chair from Haines [Representative Bill Thomas] and a number of other individuals. Vice-Chair Gara elaborated that based on his experience as a former Minority member, Minority bills move through the legislative process more slowly. He believed co-sponsorship across party lines helped solve the problem. He stated the bill was simple and followed the current legislative Uniform Rules. He explained that changing the Uniform Rules required a two-thirds vote, which he did not want to do. He explained that the bill would allow a group of legislators to agree to be joint prime sponsors. There would be one or two lead legislators sponsoring the bill. He elaborated that a legislator could always remove their name from a bill at any time it was in the house they belonged to. He had asked Doug Gardner, director of Legislative Legal Services if he could remember a case where someone had objected to another legislator removing their own name off a bill. As far as Mr. Gardner could recall, it had never happened. He acknowledged it was a possibility and a legislator would know that when they signed on. In that circumstance, he reasoned he would tell his constituents he no longer supported a piece legislation and would try to take his name off as soon as possible. Vice-Chair Gara summarized that the bill would get people to work together and especially encouraged newer, younger legislators to build relationships. He thought the bill was a small thing that was beneficial for the legislative process. 10:29:53 AM Co-Chair Seaton asked if one of six or so co-prime sponsors would be allowed to offer an amendment in committee. He asked if all co-prime sponsors would have equal ownership of the legislation. He noted that co-sponsors were different than the owner of the bill. Vice-Chair Gara believed the co-prime sponsors would have to come up with an agreement at the start of a piece of legislation. In the past, when he had been the lead co- prime sponsor, people had given him the discretion to make those calls and he had brought issues back to the other sponsors for them to decide whether they were amenable to the change. A group of sponsors could also agree in advance whether to accept any amendments or a co-prime sponsor would have to say in front of a committee they did not know whether the other co-prime sponsors accepted the amendment. He reasoned that when considering legislation, it was a committee's purview to decide whether or not to amend a bill. He noted he had never had the problem. In his experience, they had always trusted the lead prime sponsor to report back to other sponsors to determine whether the change was acceptable or if they should try to reverse it. He believed it was necessary to have an understanding between prime sponsors at the start of a piece of legislation. Co-Chair Seaton thought it was beneficial to put any potential pitfalls on the record during committee discussion. He noted that it was easy for a legislator to take their name off a piece of legislation as a co-sponsor, which included submitting a green slip or telling the clerks. He asked if the process would be the same for prime sponsors. Alternatively, he asked if a legislator had to stand on the [House or Senate] floor to make the request, which was typically the process when requesting to change the sponsor. 10:33:08 AM Vice-Chair Gara replied it was a good question. He referenced the late date and explained that he would support changing the Uniform Rules if he believed it could be done. The bill followed the current Uniform Rules requirement for a person to stand up [on the House or Senate floor] to request unanimous consent for the removal of their name from the bill. No one could recall that a person had ever objected to the removal of a name. He reiterated his earlier testimony that a person would enter into a co-prime sponsorship with the knowledge that it was a remote possibility. Representative Thompson recalled when he had first become a legislator there had been a yellow sheet that members could fill out to become a co-prime sponsor, but the first prime sponsor had to agree to add any co-prime sponsors. He thought there had been a deadline one to two weeks after the start of session to sign on as a co-prime sponsor on a bill. He asked if that was the case under the bill as well. Vice-Chair Gara replied that all prime sponsors had to agree to the other prime sponsors, which had never been a problem. In the past, it had only been possible to sign on as a co-prime sponsor within the first five days of the first year of a two-year legislative session. He thought the option should be available all year. He believed working together should occur all year and should not be limited to the first five days of session. Representative Thompson agreed. Representative Guttenberg would much prefer to have someone help him with a bill whether they were prime or co-prime sponsors, instead of a person merely adding their name as a co-sponsor. He did not object to the bill. He spoke to the preference for having legislators sign on who actively advocate for the legislation. He did not necessarily believe a person had to be on the co-prime or prime sponsor list to take that action. He noted that he had worked significantly with the sponsor of the previous bill and had become a co-sponsor earlier in the day. He spoke to the importance of getting things done as opposed to merely putting someone's name on a bill. He understood it was important for some people and the dynamics for everyone in the building were different. He thought it was possible to bring a group of people together who did not feel it was important to have their name on the legislation. He observed the dynamics differed by person, bill, and party. He noted that some issues had no party or regional lines, which worked very well. He imagined the co-prime sponsorship option was the best thing. He added the dynamics in the building took wild swings. 10:38:14 AM Representative Tilton asked how far along in the process a co-prime sponsor could be added. Vice-Chair Gara answered upon introduction of the bill. He elaborated there would be agreement prior to the introduction of a bill. He understood Representative Guttenberg's point and explained his preference to have co- prime sponsors who would contribute work to the bill. Additionally, if someone who wanted to co-prime had a good relationship with a legislator the prime sponsor did not, the co-prime sponsor could inform the person about the merits of the bill. He agreed with Representative Guttenberg about his preference to have co-prime sponsors who would work on the bill and help it along. He surmised that four people could do more work than one person. He believed it was nice to have ownership over a passed bill after two years of hard work. Representative Pruitt referenced language in Section 3 of the bill specifying that a bill could only be withdrawn with the agreement of all joint prime sponsors and in the manner prescribed in the Uniform Rules. He asked how the process would work. He wondered if a prime sponsor would make the motion to withdraw the bill on the floor or if co- prime sponsor signatures would need to be gathered prior to moving to withdraw the bill. Vice-Chair Gara answered that a person would stand up on the floor and ask for unanimous consent to withdraw the bill; if there were no objections, a co-prime sponsor's name would be removed. He referenced the last provision in the bill [Section 3 cited by Representative Pruitt] regarding an agreement of all joint prime sponsors and deferred to Legislative Legal Services. He was amenable to removing the sentence requiring agreement of all joint prime sponsors to withdraw the bill if it did not require a Uniform Rules change. He did not want a bill that would require a two-thirds vote in both bodies. DOUG GARDNER, DIRECTOR, LEGISLATIVE LEGAL SERVICES (via teleconference), referenced the conversation about the prior prime sponsorship for pre-filed bills that ended in the 29th Legislature. One of the concerns at the time had been about who had the authority to withdraw a bill. In response to the concern, the dilemma had been resolved in the current bill by requiring all joint prime sponsors to agree to the bill's withdrawal. In other words, everyone sponsoring the bill would be treated the same. Currently, only the sponsor of a bill had the authority to withdraw a bill. He believed the provision was a logical extension of the rule. 10:43:57 AM Vice-Chair Gara had misread the last sentence and believed the sentence made sense. He explained that if a person wanted to remove their name from a bill they could stand on the floor and make the request. Historically, there had been no objections. The second part of the sentence pertained to withdrawing a bill. He provided a scenario where a bill had four prime sponsors who supported it and one who no longer supported it. He explained that the person could decide to take their name off the bill. He did not want to prevent the remaining sponsors from trying to move the bill forward. Representative Pruitt believed there needed to be approval of all the joint sponsors. He was trying to determine the logistics of the process. He used a scenario with two co- prime sponsors who had a disagreement on the bill. He elaborated that one sponsor wanted to withdraw the bill, but the other did not. He contemplated what would take place if the member who supported the legislation was absent and the other member made a motion to withdraw the bill. He asked how there would be confirmation of agreement between all co-prime sponsors. He recalled there had been problems with the issue in the past, which had resulted in the elimination of the process. Mr. Gardner mentioned statute, floor practice, and precedent developed by the bodies. He likened the situation to a scenario where a bill was being waived from committee with the agreement of all committee members. He believed legislators were honorable on the floor and that individuals would communicate whether an agreement had been made. He referenced the scenario provided by Representative Pruitt where there were two co-prime sponsors of a bill. He believed one of the sponsors could stand up on the floor and relay that they had spoken to the other sponsor and they both agreed the bill should be withdrawn. He believed it was probably the same type of practice. If there was a dispute, the member who wanted the bill withdrawn could chose to remove their name from the legislation. Representative Pruitt asked if waiving a bill from committee was practice or fell under Uniform Rules. Mr. Gardner answered under Uniform Rules, the House Speaker or Senate President had to provide one committee of referral. The practice of waiving from committee allowed the speaker and president to satisfy that requirement. He believed it was a practice issue, where for efficiency, a bill could be waived at the end of session if a companion bill had been heard or if people wanted to move it to the floor. He concluded waiving a bill from committee was rule- based but was mostly a practice that had evolved in the legislature to move bills. 10:48:19 AM Representative Wilson MOVED conceptual Amendment 1 to delete Section 1, lines 3 through 5: Section 1. The uncodified law of the State of Alaska is amended by adding a new section to read: SHORT TITLE. This Act may be known as the Bipartisan Cooperation Act. Representative Wilson wanted to ensure independents were counted. She believed including the word "bipartisan" made the legislation more partisan. Representative Thompson asked Representative Wilson to repeat the amendment. Representative Wilson complied. There being NO OBJECTION, conceptual Amendment 1 was ADOPTED. Representative Wilson MOVED to ADOPT conceptual Amendment 2 on page 1, lines 13 and 14 to delete the words "up to four joint prime sponsors." She believed the number of individuals allowed to sign on to a piece of legislation should not be limited to four. Vice-Chair Gara was agreeable to the amendment and understood Representative Wilson's point. He posed a question about whether eight [joint prime sponsors] became unwieldly. He reasoned the group of individuals could decide how big or small they wanted to be. There being NO OBJECTION, conceptual Amendment 2 was ADOPTED. 10:50:12 AM Co-Chair Seaton pointed to the following language on line 15, page 1 through line 1, page 2: "All joint prime sponsors must agree to allow additional joint prime sponsors." He referenced an earlier statement that members could only sign on as joint prime sponsors at the introduction of a bill. He thought the language allowed joint prime sponsors to be added to a bill throughout the process. He asked Mr. Gardner for clarification. Mr. Gardner believed the sponsor [of HB 41] should be asked about his intent. He added that AS 24.08.060, which would be amended by the addition of subsection (c) applied to the introduction of bills. In the past, prime sponsorship had been done in the pre-file process. Once the bill had been introduced people could become co-sponsors. He believed the subsection was about the introduction of bills, not about later on in the process. He reiterated his belief that the sponsor should put his intent on the record. Co-Chair Seaton wanted to receive something in writing from Legislative Legal Services about their interpretation of the provision. He also wanted to hear from the sponsor. Vice-Chair Gara replied that the issue had been closely considered to ensure joint prime sponsors could only sign onto legislation upon introduction. He noted there were only two remaining sections in the bill. The first section specified a group of members may introduce a bill or resolution (for the introduction). For clarity, the same language had been added in Section 3, which specified a bill may be introduced by a group of members. He explained the bill clearly applied only to the introduction of legislation. 10:54:22 AM Co-Chair Seaton wanted to ensure it was clear on the record that the bill only applied to the introduction of legislation. He reasoned that when a bill had not been introduced there would be no co-prime sponsors at that time. He referred to the bill's language that all joint prime sponsors must agree to allow additional joint prime sponsors, which he believed indicated additional joint prime sponsors could be added. He wanted it to be clear that additional prime sponsors could not be added. He believed no one was a co-prime sponsor until after a bill was introduced. He explained a bill did not exist until it had been introduced. He asked if a change to the formatting was needed. Mr. Gardner replied that the bill addressed introduction of bills only and addressed a group of people working together on a bill. He did not believe the bill language needed further clarification. He stated that if a person wanted to be added after the introductory period, they would be added as co-sponsors, not prime sponsors. Prime sponsors could not be added under the specific statute after a bill had been introduced. One of the issues the bill resolved, was how Legislative Legal Services dealt with additional names being added to the bill. The statute specified that if an individual wanted to be a co-prime sponsor that other prime sponsors all had to agree. He explained it removed Legislative Legal Services from getting involved in the process. The issue would be up to prime sponsors to sort out. He underscored that the bill applied to an introduction statute, not an add-on-later statute. Based on the way the statute was drafted, Legislative Legal Services would not add co-primes after the introduction of a bill. He believed the statute was fairly clear. Co-Chair Seaton wanted to make sure it was clear on the record. He appreciated the explanation. 10:58:17 AM Representative Wilson asked for verification that the provision requiring all joint prime sponsors to agree to allow additional joint prime sponsors only pertained to the introduction portion of a bill. She surmised someone could not be added as a joint prime sponsor later on. Mr. Gardner agreed. He detailed HB 41 pertained only to the introduction process, and not to the period after a piece of legislation had been introduced. After the introduction period any individuals added to a bill would be co- sponsors. Co-Chair Foster OPENED and CLOSED public testimony. Co-Chair Seaton MOVED to REPORT CSHB 41(FIN) out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal note. CSHB 41(FIN) was REPORTED out of committee with a "do pass" recommendation and with one new zero fiscal note from the Legislative Affairs Agency. Co-Chair Foster reviewed the schedule for the following meeting.