Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/29/1996 02:00 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CSSSSB 52(JUD) - ADVISORY VOTE ON CAPITAL PUNISHMENT Number 1030 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE made a motion to bring up, for reconsideration, the committee's failure to adopt SB 52. REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN referred to the 24-hour rule on noticing a bill to be heard and questioned how the meeting was noticed. CHAIRMAN PORTER said in anticipating that something like this was a possibility, he checked with Legislative Legal. This kind of thing has occurred repeatedly and to their knowledge, there is no rule that precludes a motion to rescind from being considered any time the committee is actively open for business. REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN said he wouldn't disagree with that. He said if that motion was successful, the next motion is the one that (indisc.) assume we would have to know the (indisc.). CHAIRMAN PORTER indicated Legislative Legal informed him that the motion to rescind automatically brings that motion back before the committee. Even without the 24-hour rule, it is not a requirement to notice it. Number 1119 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN said in the sense of good government and open meetings, it seems to him that the committee ought to notice the bill because at the previous hearing on the measure, the room was completely full and there was a lot of testimony via teleconference. He said many people in the state would be very interested and the committee should give a 24-hour notice. CHAIRMAN PORTER said he believes the rules provide that once the motion is made he doesn't have any basis for not acting on it. It does bring the other motion before the committee. Chairman Porter said he acknowledges that is an option that the committee could consider, but he doesn't think the motion is a great surprise to the public. He said he read about it in two papers and really doesn't think it is great surprise. REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN said the principle behind this is to let people know what is going on with government. This would become the 24-second rule. CHAIRMAN PORTER indicated he was told that the motion would not be a violation of the rules. Number 1209 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said Representative Finkelstein's point is well taken and he wouldn't make an attempt to circumvent good government or previous notification. He said if he had thought that this would have been open for additional testimony, he would be supporting Representative Finkelstein's position of noticing the bill, but he doesn't anticipate there will be additional testimony. Representative Bunde said he doesn't see a great purpose is served by waiting 24 hours. CHAIRMAN PORTER said during the public hearing, everyone wishing testify did testify. He said he will presume there is an objection to the motion to rescind and asked for a roll call vote on the motion to rescind. He noted a "yes" vote will bring the vote on moving SB 52 back before the committee. Number 1239 A roll call vote was taken. Representatives Bunde, Vezey, Green and Porter voted in favor of the motion. Representatives Toohey, B. Davis and Finkelstein voted against the motion. So SB 52 was back before the House Judiciary Committee. CHAIRMAN PORTER said the motion in front of the committee is the motion to move, with individual recommendations, SB 52. REPRESENTATIVE BETTYE DAVIS objected. Number 1320 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN appealed to Representative Bunde to hold off on the motion until the following day or until another meeting is held. He said he feels like there is a public process issue that would be better served so that people are aware that there is a decision to be made regarding the bill to be up for reconsideration. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE stated the scheduling of meetings is the chairman's prerogative. He said he would restate his previous comments that there wouldn't be additional testimony taken and he doesn't see the public process being inhibited. Number 1357 REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY said she would like to state her reasons for opposing the bill. She referred to putting a referendum or an advisory vote the ballot saying every child shall have a pony, and questioned what the outcome of that would be. The outcome would be of cost. Nobody is telling you what the pony will cost to feed, where it will be housed, how the veterinarian bill will be paid that comes with this pony. Representative Toohey said to put a question like this on the ballot is absolutely irresponsible because everybody is going to say, "Yes, I believe in the death penalty." But when it costs anywhere from $5 million to $15 million for the appeals of these death penalties, this state can't afford that. She said she thinks this is the wrong approach and she is totally opposed to having this advisory vote. Number 1417 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN concurred with Representative Toohey's comments. He said another example is if you favor increasing the dividends to $1,500 from what they currently are, how will people vote on that. He said these issues are more complicated. You'd have to say, "Would you favor increasing the dividend to $1,500 or making the following cuts in education or making the following changes..." Representative Finkelstein said that is not what this is. This has one alternative there as it doesn't explain the implications of the alternative and is doesn't present the other alternatives as well. Number 1455 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said he is very much still opposed to the death penalty. He said Representatives Toohey and Finkelstein have indicated at least one of the reasons why he is opposed to it. The cost differential is, in itself, enough to veto it if people are aware of it. Representative Green said it has been shown in other states that it is not a deterrent to violent crime. There is always the possibility of executing the wrong person. He said he has very strong moral opposition to this. He indicated he has heard that there is an opportunity that juries may not find somebody on trial guilty if the prosecution is seeking the death penalty because of a deep seeded moral objection to that. So it is possible that a guilty person may go free. He said he is torn between that and the fact that he swore an oath that he would, to the best of his ability, represent the people in District 10. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said he did a survey of those people in District 10 and found it was very similar to the state survey. He said the question was, "Do you support the death penalty?" In District 10, 66 percent of the people said, "Yes." Representative Green said those people were then asked the question, "Are you aware that it is two and a half times more expensive to put someone on death row with all the appeals that are available as it is to incarcerate that person for life without possibility of parole?" He said 11 percent changed their mind. That still left 55 percent of District 10 in favor of the death penalty and 25 percent very opposed to the death penalty. If you add that 11 percent, it would make it 36 percent. There was about 8 percent of the people who just didn't want to make the decision. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said his problem is that being torn between his moral values and his very justifiable reasons opposing the death penalty and his obligation to support the views of his constituents, he feels that voting against moving the bill from committee is in effect a veto. Representative Green said he is opposed to putting anybody to death, other than in self defense or in the defense of another person or as an act of war to defend your country. He said he certainly separates the advisory vote on whether or not there should be a death penalty with a jury that the person would be tried by, whether or not he would be tried under the death penalty, and then the opportunity for appeal as opposed to putting to death an unborn child who has no opportunity to appeal. He said while he doesn't like death of any kind, he certainly sees that there is a difference there. Representative Green stated that if this bill does pass out of the House Judiciary Committee, he will vote "No" on the House floor and will try to educate people that he does not like the death penalty. He said he would suggest that anyone, including the governor, who is ever put in this position of a veto would seriously consider what the will of the people is since we live in a democracy. Number 1709 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY explained that what the committee is voting on is an advisory vote as to whether it should go before the people. He said that is the main reason he is unequivocally supporting it. The committee has heard testimony that the opponents of the death penalty are not well financed and they have difficulty advertising their side of the picture to the public. By putting this on the ballot, it will become part of the debate that is the electorial process. It will give this subject a forum on talk radio, the press, etc. He said he believes we are doing society a favor by bringing this out in the public forum, largely at public expense, for discussion. Representative Vezey said people who are working to oppose the implementation of the death penalty simply don't have the resources to spread their message out to the public. Representative Vezey said for that reason, he is going to support the bill in committee and on the floor. Number 1766 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said his concerns were echoed earlier and he would like the entire House to have an opportunity to vote on this issue. He explained that in his mind, there is a vast difference between a vote in the committee and on the House floor and the institution of a death penalty. He said there is certainly concern about innocent people being subjected to the death penalty, but it always comes back to him that virtually 100 percent of the victims are innocent while the percentage may not always be as great for the perpetrators. Number 1822 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS said she believes that the committee shouldn't be taking the bill up at this time. She said she will definitely vote against it. Sometimes the committee members have to make a hard decision as to how they will vote based on what constituents might have said or what the members think is in the best interest of the state. She referred to her colleague that said he is going to base his vote strictly on the fact that he did a survey the results were that 55 percent said they'd support it. She said that it is not necessarily a reason to vote to move the bill from the committee. Representative Davis said, "I know if it gets on the ballot, it is an advisory vote, but what I see is happening here this is an election year, they know they couldn't get the bill through so we come out with an advisory vote putting something on the ballot to make people think that they're gunna get something that they're not gunna get in the first place. What all seven of us know here - that's not gunna happen. And so what we're doing is fooling the public and regardless of how we look at it, that's all it amount to - that we are doing this because it is an election year and we want to fool the public that we are doing their business." Representative Davis stated that as an elected official, the legislature has to make those kinds of choices also. Every time someone says they want something, it might not be in the best interest to have it. She said she knows there are the votes to move the bill from committee so she isn't going to try to stop anybody from changing their minds because she doesn't have the power to do that. She said the bill is wrong and if it is brought to the floor for a vote, she hopes there are the votes to vote it down. Representative Davis it is a waste of time to bring it to the floor. Number 1966 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN said he doesn't think the committee is going to solve the problems society has with violence by using more violence. He discussed a comment made regarding and advisory vote during an Anchorage caucus. Number 2016 CHAIRMAN PORTER said he was asked when they were hearing both of the bills against the implementation of the death penalty why he would vote for SB 52 and not HB 481. He said he is currently opposed to the death penalty because he recognizes, having been in the business, that there are so many dollars that are going to be available to be spent for criminal justice. There is debate but not much disagreement that there is a heck of a lot of cost associated with the death penalty from the beginning to the execution of sentence. He said it is usually about ten years and it costs more than it does to put people away for the rest of their lives. He said he thinks that is the reason that the death penalty cannot show itself as any kind of a deterrent. By the time it is put into effect, most everyone except perhaps the family of the victims, have forgotten what the crime was. Chairman Porter said it may be time to look at a public vote based on the fact that Congress has passed a bill that limits the amount of appeals at the federal level that people on death row have. Hopefully, the constitutionality of those provisions will be determined within the next year and by that time, we could take a look at whether or not there is some applicability to those principles at a state level. He said maybe we could get down to a point of not spending twice as much money and have a provision that has a chance of being effective and being a deterrent and actually doing what it is that those kinds of severe sentences are supposed to do which is to be a ultimate deterrent to crime. Number 2161 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked for a roll call vote in moving CSSSSB 52(JUD) out of committee. Representatives Toohey, Davis and Finkelstein voted against moving the bill. Representatives Vezey, Green, Bunde and Porter voted in favor of moving the bill. So CSSSSB 52(JUD) moved out of the House Judiciary Committee.