Legislature(2001 - 2002)

03/22/2002 01:22 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SJR 24 - AMEND CONSTITUTIONAL BUDGET RESERVE FUND                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Number 0043                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR ROKEBERG  announced that the  first order of  business would                                                              
be  CS  FOR   SENATE  JOINT  RESOLUTION  NO.   24(RLS),  Proposing                                                              
amendments  to the Constitution  of the  State of Alaska  relating                                                              
to the  budget reserve fund.   He noted  that at a  prior hearing,                                                              
the  administration's representative  had  raised  four points  in                                                              
opposition to SJR 24.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Number 0073                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
DEB  DAVIDSON,  Staff  to  Senator  Dave  Donley,  Senate  Finance                                                              
Committee,  Alaska  State Legislature,  on  behalf  of the  Senate                                                              
Finance Committee,  sponsor, confirmed that those  points had been                                                              
raised  at  the prior  hearing,  and  mentioned that  in  members'                                                              
packets is  a letter of response  to those issues.   To elaborate,                                                              
on the point  that SJR 24 is  a policy change, she  concurred that                                                              
it is, and  noted that this is  intentional.  Under SJR  24, funds                                                              
could be  withdrawn from the  constitutional budget  reserve (CBR)                                                              
fund  with  a majority  vote,  provided  that  they are  used  for                                                              
appropriations from  the general fund (GF).   Currently funds from                                                              
the  CBR can  be used  to  fund any  shortfall  [in] any  program,                                                              
although there is  a three-fourths vote requirement.   With SJR 24                                                              
in effect, for  example, a majority vote could  withdraw CBR funds                                                              
in order to pay  for a shortfall in education funding,  which is a                                                              
GF  program;  however,  in order  pay  to  for  a shortfall  in  a                                                              
program  that  is   funded  entirely  by  program   receipts,  for                                                              
example, CBR  funds could only  be withdrawn with  a three-fourths                                                              
vote.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MS.  DAVIDSON,  on  the  point  regarding  the  use  of  the  term                                                              
"unrestricted  general funds",  said that  staff had checked  with                                                              
the  Legal and  Research  Services Division,  Legislative  Affairs                                                              
Agency, and had  been told that there would not be  a problem with                                                              
using that term and  that its use was merely a  policy choice.  On                                                              
the  point regarding  the  possibility  that deleting  the  "sweep                                                              
provision"  without first  eliminating  the liability  to the  CBR                                                              
would cause a problem  with the bond market, she  noted that there                                                              
is  no straight  answer to  this  complex issue.   Basically,  she                                                              
explained,  the debt  owed  to the  CBR  is a  debt  that "we  owe                                                              
ourselves";  therefore,   legally,  getting   rid  of   the  sweep                                                              
provision automatically  gets rid of  the liability.  So  while it                                                              
appears from  an accounting viewpoint,  on paper, as  though there                                                              
is a  liability, it is  merely money that  the state  owes itself.                                                              
She opined  that getting  rid of  the sweep  provision should  not                                                              
cause  any  problem   because  it  would  also  get   rid  of  the                                                              
liability.  She  noted that if, in the future,  any questions were                                                              
raised  by  the bond  market  or  "Wall Street,"  the  legislature                                                              
would  have   several  options   with  which   to  address   those                                                              
questions.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS.  DAVIDSON, on  the  point of  whether SJR  24  would have  any                                                              
effect should  the CBR become  empty in  two years, said  that the                                                              
sponsor  contends  that getting  rid  of  the sweep  provision  is                                                              
still an important  and necessary change because,  otherwise, that                                                              
provision would  still apply regardless  of whether there  was any                                                              
money  in the  CBR.   In response  to questions,  she pointed  out                                                              
that  under  [subsection]  (b),  page  1,  lines  13-16,  "amounts                                                              
available for  appropriation or  appropriated from federal  funds,                                                              
income  of the permanent  fund,  or this budget  reserve fund  may                                                              
not  be considered".    She  said that  the  main  intent of  this                                                              
language is to  ensure that "these same funds  are either included                                                              
or  excluded from  the  amount  available for  appropriation,  and                                                              
appropriated, to make  sure that the comparison was  based on this                                                              
same..."                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 0583                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JAMES interjected  that she  was a  member of  the                                                              
legislature  during  the  implementation   of  the  constitutional                                                              
budget reserve  [fund] and, according  to her recollection  of the                                                              
debate at that  time, the court decision regarding  implementation                                                              
was  different  than  how  the   CBR  was  intended  to  work  and                                                              
different than  what she had in mind  when she voted for  it.  She                                                              
opined  that  there has  been  a  problem  ever since  that  court                                                              
decision  was made.   One  of the  issues  that the  court had  to                                                              
decide was, at what  level of appeal does resulting  money go into                                                              
the CBR;  she noted that  she did not  have any problems  with the                                                              
[decision]  on that  issue.   Another issue,  she explained,  that                                                              
the court  had to decide revolved  around "what was  available for                                                              
appropriations, based  on what last year's budget was,  so that if                                                              
your  current  year's  budget  was  more  than  your  last  year's                                                              
budget, if  you didn't have  enough money  to cover it,  you could                                                              
take  the money  out with a  majority  vote."  She  said that  the                                                              
court determined  that when "you're measuring in  the first place,                                                              
if  you have  enough  money  to cover  the  budget,  they did  not                                                              
include  the  permanent  fund;   and  yet  they  did  include  the                                                              
permanent fund, so  you never would ever get there  as long as you                                                              
had any  money in  the permanent  fund."   However, she  added, at                                                              
the end,  because that money  had to be  paid back  and everything                                                              
was "swept,"  then  the earnings  of the permanent  fund were  not                                                              
included.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE    JAMES   opined   that    that   was    a   gross                                                              
[misinterpretation]  of  the  language   in  the  original  ballot                                                              
measure.  "It either  should be counted at one end  and the other,                                                              
or at neither end,"  she added.  She said that  another problem is                                                              
"the payback,"  which is the sweep  provision.  "As we  go forward                                                              
we do need a budget  control or ... slush fund ...;  we need to be                                                              
able to build up  a budget surplus because we never  know what the                                                              
conditions are going  to be," she said.  But the  rules of the CBR                                                              
are so restrictive,  that it is  not going to be the  best vehicle                                                              
for  surpluses  unless  some  changes are  made.    She  remarked,                                                              
however,  that she  is not  convinced that  [SJR 24]  is going  to                                                              
"solve the  problem; it seems  to me like  if we wish to  take the                                                              
money  from  the CBR  rather  than  the  earnings reserve  of  the                                                              
permanent fund, then,  as far as I'm concerned,  we'll always have                                                              
a  [three-fourths] vote."   She  opined  that there  are only  two                                                              
solutions:   "one is to fix  it so we  don't have to pay  it back,                                                              
which ...  solves part of  the problem, ...  and this is  all that                                                              
you've done here."                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Number 0787                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS.  DAVIDSON  argued that  in  addition  to repealing  the  sweep                                                              
provision, SJR  24 changes "the phrasing  in how the funds  can be                                                              
withdrawn  with  a  majority  vote,   to  clarify  when  that  may                                                              
happen."   She offered  that the phrasing  in Section  1 specifies                                                              
that  the  federal  funds,  the  permanent  fund,  or  the  budget                                                              
reserve  fund  cannot  be  considered   when  calculating  amounts                                                              
available  for  appropriation  or the  amounts  appropriated,  the                                                              
comparison has been  made level on both sides.   She surmised that                                                              
part of  the problem,  initially, was  that amounts available  for                                                              
appropriation  and amounts actually  appropriated were  defined in                                                              
statute, and the  court found that this was inconsistent  with the                                                              
[Alaska   State]  Constitution.     By  placing   "this"   in  the                                                              
constitution,  she opined,  it  would squarely  set  out what  the                                                              
comparison is.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES  asked whether SJR  24 would be  removing the                                                              
stipulations  pertaining to the  prior year's  budget and,  if so,                                                              
whether that  meant that  the budget  could be  raised and  just a                                                              
majority vote would be needed to access the CBR.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MS. DAVIDSON said not entirely, no.  She elaborated:                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     What  this says  is, ...  if  the amount  that you  were                                                                   
     appropriating   this  year   is  more   than  you   have                                                                   
     available  to appropriate, you  may withdraw funds  from                                                                   
     the CBR up  to the total that was appropriated  the year                                                                   
     before with  a majority vote  - anything more  than that                                                                   
     will  require   the  [three-fourths]  vote  -   and  the                                                                   
     difference  in   that  amount  may  only  be   used  for                                                                   
     appropriations from  the unrestricted general  fund.  As                                                                   
     I said,  for funding  education, if  you needed to  make                                                                   
     up that  difference, you  would be able  to do it  up to                                                                   
     the last  year's level  with the general  fund.   If you                                                                   
     were funding  a shortfall from another funding  source -                                                                   
     something    funded   by    [Alaska   Housing    Finance                                                                   
     Corporation] AHFC  receipts, something like that  - that                                                                   
     would require  a [three-fourths] vote.  So  it restricts                                                                   
      more than the current does [with regard to] what may                                                                      
     be withdrawn....                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JAMES remarked that  although she understands  the                                                              
sponsor's intent, if  the public were to be asked  "this question,                                                              
they'd say  no."  She  acknowledged that  there are  some problems                                                              
with "the CBR,"  but opined that [SJR 24] is not  going to resolve                                                              
them.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Number 0982                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  BERKOWITZ  asked whether  the  "exceptions to  the                                                              
amount of appropriations  made in the current year  apply to those                                                              
made  in previous  years?"   That  is, if  the  permanent fund  or                                                              
federal  funds had  been used  -  appropriated -  in prior  years,                                                              
does that impact how this mechanism would work?                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MS.  DAVIDSON said  that  she didn't  believe  so  because of  the                                                              
addition   of  the  phrase,   "For  purposes   of  applying   this                                                              
subsection,  amounts available for  appropriation or  appropriated                                                              
from federal funds,  income of the permanent fund,  or this budget                                                              
reserve  fund may  not be  considered."   She opined  that if  the                                                              
funds  were appropriated  in the  prior  year, they  would not  be                                                              
considered  in what  was calculated  for the  current year  or for                                                              
the current year's appropriations.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  BERKOWITZ asked:   "If you  had appropriations  of                                                              
federal  funds in  a  prior year,  and you  needed  to reach  that                                                              
aggregate funding  level, ... what  would the mechanism be  to get                                                              
into the CBR in the current year?"                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MS.  DAVIDSON  replied  that that  would  be  the  [three-fourths]                                                              
vote.    The  section in  the  [Alaska  State]  Constitution  that                                                              
allows  appropriations from  the  CBR to  be made  for any  public                                                              
purpose with  a [three-fourths] vote  remains there; that  has not                                                              
changed at all.   "So, if you wanted to use funds  from the CBR to                                                              
make up a  loss of federal funds  or to get to a total,  you could                                                              
do  that;  it  would,  however,  require  a  [three-fourths]  vote                                                              
rather than a majority vote," she said.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  BERKOWITZ referred  to the  phrase, "For  purposes                                                              
of this subsection,  'unrestricted general fund'  shall be defined                                                              
by law".   He asked  whether the sponsor  had any ideas  regarding                                                              
how "unrestricted general fund" might be defined.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MS. DAVIDSON  said that she did  not know whether the  sponsor had                                                              
any specific  definition in  mind regarding "unrestricted  general                                                              
fund".   She  mentioned that  although  currently there  is not  a                                                              
specific  definition  of what  constitutes  "unrestricted  general                                                              
funds", that  phrase is  used in several  statutes.   Referring to                                                              
members' packets,  she pointed  out an example  of a statute  - AS                                                              
37.05.146  - which  specifies items  that "are  not made from  the                                                              
unrestricted general  fund".  She said that it is  her belief that                                                              
"when the  definition came through,  there would  be consideration                                                              
of that, as well as other things."                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   JAMES  opined  that   the  [lack  of   a  current                                                              
definition]  seems to  "give  us a  little  trap here  as to  what                                                              
that's going to  be."  She mentioned that she  considers dividends                                                              
from Alaska Industrial  Development and Export  Authority (AIDEA),                                                              
for  example, to  be  general funds  "when  they  come over,"  but                                                              
acknowledged that they are not counted as such.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Number 1227                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS. DAVIDSON  remarked that  if funding is  needed for any  of the                                                              
program  receipts listed  in  AS 37.05.146(b),  a  [three-fourths]                                                              
vote  would be  required to  access  the CBR  because the  statute                                                              
specifically  says that  appropriations  for those  items are  not                                                              
made from the unrestricted  general fund.  She said  that the best                                                              
example  of what  unrestricted general  funds  are currently  used                                                              
for  is  "partially  doing  the  education  funding,"  adding  her                                                              
belief  that revenue  sharing  also  comes from  the  unrestricted                                                              
general  fund.   Thus, although  there  is no  definition of  what                                                              
unrestricted  general funds  are, there  is a  definition of  what                                                              
they are not.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES  indicated that she thought  that funds which                                                              
are  appropriated  would  still  be  general  funds  until  spent,                                                              
although  they  would be  considered  restricted  [funds]  because                                                              
they'd already been appropriated.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR ROKEBERG,  mentioning that  he had concerns  about drafting,                                                              
referred  to  the  phrase  on  lines  13-15:    "For  purposes  of                                                              
applying this subsection,  amounts available for  appropriation or                                                              
appropriated  from  federal  funds".    He  asked,  "Why  is  that                                                              
disjunctive there?"                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MS.  DAVIDSON offered  that it  is because  of how  lines 5-6  are                                                              
drafted:    "If  the amount  available  for  appropriation  for  a                                                              
fiscal  year   is  not  sufficient   to  fully  fund   the  amount                                                              
appropriated".                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR ROKEBERG mentioned  that he does not understand  lines 13-15                                                              
the  way  they  are  drafted;  they  appear  to  essentially  say,                                                              
"amounts available for appropriation may not be considered."                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JAMES  agreed that  the  language  on lines  13-15                                                              
doesn't make sense.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Number 1394                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS. DAVIDSON said  that in her mind, she translated  that language                                                              
to:    "For  applying  this  subsection,   amounts  available  for                                                              
appropriation  [pause] or amounts  appropriated from  [pause] then                                                              
federal  funds,  income  of  the permanent  fund,  or  the  budget                                                              
reserve fund may not be considered."                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR ROKEBERG  remarked that  according to  the way Ms.  Davidson                                                              
spoke regarding her  interpretation of lines 13-15,  it sounded as                                                              
though  there was  a long  pause before  the word  "or", in  which                                                              
case perhaps  some form of punctuation  is needed in  that phrase.                                                              
He said:                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     To  translate what  I think  the meaning  should be,  it                                                                   
     should  be   that  ...  when  you're   defining  amounts                                                                   
     available  for  appropriations,  you  may  not  consider                                                                   
     federal funds,  income of the permanent fund,  or budget                                                                   
     reserve funds.  Is that what it means?                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS. DAVIDSON replied:                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     Not  only for  when  considering amounts  available  for                                                                   
     appropriation,   but  also   when  considering   amounts                                                                   
     appropriated, because  we compare amounts  available for                                                                   
     appropriation  with amounts  actually appropriated,  and                                                                   
     when you're  considering either one of these  two items,                                                                   
     you  may not  consider federal  funds,  income from  the                                                                   
     permanent fund, or the budget reserve fund.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR ROKEBERG mentioned that "it's not real clear."                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said:                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     I see  the comparison  now, when I  read lines 5  and 6,                                                                   
     because   there's  two  things   there:    there's   the                                                                   
     "available   for   appropriation"    and   "the   amount                                                                   
     appropriated".   So,  I think  that's  what they  meant,                                                                   
     that  for  purposes  of this  subsection,  when  they're                                                                   
     talking  about  - at  the  beginning  of (b)  -  amounts                                                                   
        available for appropriation or appropriated from                                                                        
         federal funds, ... there is an "available for                                                                          
     appropriation" and "amount appropriated".                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR ROKEBERG asked:                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     Would it  be fair to say  that it could be  redrafted to                                                                   
     say,   "For  purposes  of   applying  this   subsection,                                                                   
     amounts  available  for  appropriation  or  appropriated                                                                   
     from  federal  funds  do not  include  income  from  the                                                                   
     permanent fund or this budget reserve"?                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Number 1512                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES  said she did  not see any connection  at all                                                              
between "that  and federal funds."   "Federal funds are  one thing                                                              
and these other things are something else," she added.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  ROKEBERG   said,  "You're  right."    He   asked  what  the                                                              
distinction is between "appropriated" and "appropriation".                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JAMES   offered  that  perhaps  the   language  is                                                              
attempting to  address, in one fell  swoop, both of  those amounts                                                              
in that  first sentence, and  that by doing  so, it is  leading to                                                              
confusion.   She mentioned that  there are two measurements:   one                                                              
is, "available for  appropriation", and the other  is, "the amount                                                              
appropriated".    And  they're  saying  that from  either  one  of                                                              
those,  it doesn't  include income  of the permanent  fund  or the                                                              
budget reserve fund," she surmised.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR ROKEBERG said  he assumes that [amounts]  "appropriated from                                                              
federal funds" should also be excluded.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES  acknowledged that it should be,  and thus it                                                              
is the  wrong "conjunctive."   She pointed  out, however,  that it                                                              
is  still  necessary  to  say,  "available  for  appropriation  or                                                              
appropriated",  and stop  there, and  then say,  "income from  the                                                              
permanent fund,  or the  budget reserve,  or federal funds  should                                                              
not be considered."                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  ROKEBERG  suggested  that  putting a  colon  "there"  would                                                              
work,  although "it's  not  real  good language."    He asked  Ms.                                                              
Davidson whether  he and  Representative James  were on  the right                                                              
track with regard to the meaning of subsection (b).                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MS. DAVIDSON  said that they  were.  She  suggested that  it might                                                              
help  to say,  "For  the  purposes  of applying  this  subsection,                                                              
amounts available  for appropriation  or amounts appropriated  may                                                              
not consider  federal funds,  income from  the permanent  fund, or                                                              
the budget reserve fund".                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR ROKEBERG remarked  that if [SJR 24] goes out  to the general                                                              
public,  and the  general public  cannot understand  it, they  are                                                              
not going to vote for it.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 1620                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  BERKOWITZ asked:   Shouldn't the  "or" on  line 15                                                              
be an "and"?                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR ROKEBERG  said:  "I  would think  so, also....   That's what                                                              
I'm  worried about:   it's  either so  poorly drafted  or I  don't                                                              
understand what they're getting at here."                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES  opined that  that sentence [on  lines 13-15]                                                              
needs  to  be  rewritten.    She also  opined  that  it  might  be                                                              
difficult to get "it" into one sentence.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS. DAVIDSON continued  with her suggested change.   It would say,                                                              
"amounts available  for appropriation or amounts  appropriated may                                                              
not  consider federal  funds,  income of  the  permanent fund,  or                                                              
this budget reserve fund."                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JAMES offered  that "does  not consider"  would be                                                              
better than "may not consider".                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  ROKEBERG surmised  that because  [the language]  is in  the                                                              
negative, that is why "or" is used rather than "and".                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ  remarked that from a  legal perspective,                                                              
"or" usually means:  any one of these and all of them.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR ROKEBERG surmised, then, that using "or" would be alright.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Number 1696                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  ROKEBERG made  a motion  to adopt  Conceptual Amendment  1,                                                              
which would, on  line 14, add the word "amounts"  between "or" and                                                              
"appropriated";  add the  words  "should not  consider" after  the                                                              
word "appropriated";  striking "from"; and  then going on  to read                                                              
"federal funds,  income of the  permanent, or this  budget reserve                                                              
fund."   There  being  no objection,  Conceptual  Amendment 1  was                                                              
adopted.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 1786                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MEYER  moved to report  CSSJR 24(RLS),  as amended,                                                              
out  of   committee  with   individual  recommendations   and  the                                                              
accompanying fiscal notes.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 1790                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ objected.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JAMES requested  confirmation  that repealing  the                                                              
"sweep  provision"   [of  the   Alaska  State  Constitution],   as                                                              
proposed by Section 2, would also "do away with the debt."                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS. DAVIDSON confirmed that it would.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ, speaking to his objection, commented:                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     The  premise  that the  sponsor  repeats over  and  over                                                                   
     again is that  the CBR has somehow led to  leveraging of                                                                   
     the budget,  and I brought  with me our budget  requests                                                                   
     that  we negotiated  with the  majority last  year.   It                                                                   
     came  to a  grand total  of  $9,571,000.   Now, I  don't                                                                   
     know  whether the  majority  helped leverage  it up  the                                                                   
     other  $140  million  -  it   may  well  be  -  but  our                                                                   
     contribution and  use of the CBR is  clearly overstated,                                                                   
     and  to  use  that  as  a  premise  for  advancing  this                                                                   
     constitutional  amendment  seems  a  little flawed.    I                                                                   
     also   have   a  little   difficulty   reconciling   the                                                                   
     sponsor's other  proposed amendment with this.   In that                                                                   
     other   constitutional   amendment,    he   requires   a                                                                   
     supermajority to  get to increased funds, on  the theory                                                                   
     that  if  you  require  a  supermajority,  it  makes  it                                                                   
     harder to  spend more.   And here,  he seems to  suggest                                                                   
     that  if  we have  a  simple  majority, you  can  access                                                                   
     funds and  that will decrease  the budget, and  it seems                                                                   
     that those  are somewhat discordant  notions of  how the                                                                   
     budget works.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR ROKEBERG  remarked that  in drawing  on his own  experience,                                                              
with few exceptions,  he does not find Representative  Berkowitz's                                                              
analysis of the situation to be accurate.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  BERKOWITZ  asked  Chair Rokeberg  whether  he  had                                                              
information  to  the  contrary   regarding  how  much  [the  House                                                              
minority]  negotiated,  which  he   recalled  to  be  roughly  $10                                                              
million.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 1924                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JAMES said  that  according to  her evaluation  of                                                              
SJR 24  it is very likely  that there would  never be a  time when                                                              
they  could access  the CBR  with  a majority  vote unless  "we're                                                              
going to do a real ramp-down of spending."                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR ROKEBERG argued  that [SJR 24] is "supposed  to encourage it                                                              
more often," since just a majority vote would be required.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JAMES pointed  out,  however,  that accessing  the                                                              
CBR could only  be done "if the  money that you have  is less than                                                              
last year's  budget, and that's  all the  further you can  go with                                                              
it," otherwise a [three-fourths] vote would be required.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  BERKOWITZ   remarked  that  from   the  minority's                                                              
perspective,  or   at  lease  from  his  perspective,   "this"  is                                                              
somewhat of  a mute argument because  the CBR is going  to be gone                                                              
in  two  years  anyway.    He  reiterated  that  he  is  having  a                                                              
difficult  time  reconciling  SJR  24  with  the  sponsor's  other                                                              
amendment.  He continued:                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     I also  have concerns with  the language here:   there's                                                                   
     loose terms  - we don't know what "unrestricted  general                                                                   
     fund" is.   It's unclear how the mechanism  works.  And,                                                                   
     in the  [Alaska State] Constitution,  I thought  we were                                                                   
     striving   for   clarity  and   simplicity,   and   this                                                                   
     amendment doesn't move us in that direction.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  ROKEBERG remarked  that in  terms of  clarity, Amendment  1                                                              
has certainly  helped a little bit.   He acknowledged that  in the                                                              
last couple  of years,  with regard  to the [three-fourths]  vote,                                                              
there has  been less difficulty  in working towards  common goals.                                                              
He  noted,  however,   that  he  does  not   share  Representative                                                              
Berkowitz's thoughts  regarding the elimination of the  CBR in two                                                              
years.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ  asked for an explanation of  why, on the                                                              
one  hand,  a  [simple]  majority  vote  on  the  CBR  would  help                                                              
diminish  spending  while,  on the  other  hand,  a  supermajority                                                              
[vote] on a spending cap is also supposed to diminish spending.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES,  returning to  the motion regarding  SJR 24,                                                              
opined that  the language  in the  resolution is complicated,  and                                                              
therefore she  is sure that the  public will vote "no"  because it                                                              
is not easily  understood.  She  offered that the only  way to fix                                                              
the  CBR is  to repeal  it  and start  over,  making the  language                                                              
specifically  clear  with  regard  to  what  is  intended.    "The                                                              
language in the  original CBR was so strange  and so misunderstood                                                              
[because] of  the way it  was drafted - as  I understand it,  on a                                                              
napkin in the middle  of the night - that that's  what we got, and                                                              
this sounds  like they're trying  to fix something  that's already                                                              
so flawed it can't be fixed," she added.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 2108                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
A  roll call  vote  was taken.   Representatives  James,  Coghill,                                                              
Meyer, and  Rokeberg voted  to report  CSSJR 24(RLS),  as amended,                                                              
out of  committee.   Representatives Berkowitz  and Kookesh  voted                                                              
against  it.  Therefore,  HCS CSSJR  24(JUD)  was reported  out of                                                              
the House Judiciary Standing Committee by a vote of 4-2.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                

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