Legislature(1995 - 1996)

04/29/1996 02:00 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 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.                                   

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