Legislature(2013 - 2014)CAPITOL 120

02/19/2014 01:00 PM JUDICIARY

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
--Delayed to 1:30 p.m. Today--
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSHB 47(JUD) Out of Committee
           HJR 18-CONST. AM: ELECTED ATTORNEY GENERAL                                                                       
2:06:11 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR KELLER announced  that the next order of  business would be                                                               
HOUSE  JOINT  RESOLUTION  NO. 18,  Proposing  amendments  to  the                                                               
Constitution of  the State  of Alaska relating  to the  office of                                                               
attorney general.                                                                                                               
CHAIR  KELLER announced  that HJR  18 will  be held  in committee                                                               
2:06:33 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE BILL  STOLTZE, Alaska State  Legislature, speaking                                                               
as the  sponsor of HJR 18,  advised that HJR 18  places the issue                                                               
of an elected  attorney general before the voters.   This measure                                                               
has been  before the  legislature multiple times  and has  been a                                                               
bi-partisan endeavor,  but the resolution  has never  been before                                                               
the  voters.    The  framers of  the  Alaska  State  Constitution                                                               
appropriately  made   amending  it  difficult  by   requiring  an                                                               
affirmative vote  by two-thirds  of each  house.   He highlighted                                                               
that  this  proposed change  can  only  be initiated  within  the                                                               
legislature.   Alaska  is only  one  of seven  states without  an                                                               
elected  attorney  general.     However,  Representative  Stoltze                                                               
opined  the  public would  embrace  the  proposed change  to  the                                                               
Alaska State  Constitution.  He emphasized  that HJR 18 is  not a                                                               
statement  of  inadequacy,  inappropriateness, or  disrespect  to                                                               
current or past attorneys general.                                                                                              
2:11:25 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR KELLER advised that as a  member of the House State Affairs                                                               
Standing Committee he agreed to  consider amendments wherein both                                                               
the lieutenant governor and governor are of the same party.                                                                     
2:12:08 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  STOLTZE  stated  that  as  HJR  18  is  currently                                                               
written [the  attorney general] is  a separate  elected position.                                                               
He acknowledged  there was  a suggestion  to make  the lieutenant                                                               
governor and  attorney general positions  more closely tied  to a                                                               
partisan position  so the [the governor  and lieutenant governor]                                                               
run on a  slate adding to the lieutenant  governor's position the                                                               
position  of attorney  general.   He advised  he did  not have  a                                                               
preference  and considered  such an  amendment a  compromise that                                                               
would not do damage to the resolution.                                                                                          
2:13:51 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR KELLER  recalled that in  the House State  Affairs Standing                                                               
Committee there  were questions as  to whether there should  be a                                                               
standard for  the removal of  an attorney general and  whether an                                                               
individual must meet the same qualifications as the governor.                                                                   
2:14:29 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX  pointed out that the  resolution specifies                                                               
that an individual seeking the  position of attorney general must                                                               
meet the  same qualifications  as a  superior court  judge rather                                                               
than governor.                                                                                                                  
2:14:41 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  STOLTZE advised  he was  following language  from                                                               
previous  iterations  and  had   no  strong  possession  of  that                                                               
section.      He  clarified   that   if   he  was   setting   the                                                               
qualifications, an  individual seeking  the position  of attorney                                                               
general would be a member of the bar in good standing.                                                                          
2:15:56 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX  expressed her  agreement with  the sponsor                                                               
that if the attorney general  position is elected, the individual                                                               
should not  be vetted  by the Alaska  Judicial Council  as he/she                                                               
will  be vetted  during  the election  process.   Therefore,  she                                                               
suggested the language be changed to  say "a member of the bar in                                                               
good standing."                                                                                                                 
2:16:42 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE    STOLTZE   interjected    his   preference    to                                                               
specifically  refer  "the  Alaska  Bar,"  although  the  attorney                                                               
general will  likely be  a member of  the Alaska  Bar Association                                                               
because  HJR  18  requires the  same  residency  and  citizenship                                                               
requirements for the attorney general  as the lieutenant governor                                                               
and  governor.   Representative Stoltze  indicated his  agreement                                                               
with  Representative LeDoux  as he  did  not want  to impose  the                                                               
Alaska Bar  Association process in determining  the qualification                                                               
for the attorney general.                                                                                                       
2:19:03 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX, noting  that she like the idea  of HJR 18,                                                               
inquired  as to  how  [the  process] works  in  states where  the                                                               
attorney general,  [lieutenant governor and governor]  do not run                                                               
as  a  slate,  and  therefore  could result  in  a  governor  and                                                               
lieutenant  governor from  one political  party  and an  attorney                                                               
general from another political party.                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE STOLTZE  conveyed that most commonly  the attorney                                                               
general  runs independently,  which can  result in  [the attorney                                                               
general]  being  from  a  different  political  party  than  [the                                                               
governor and lieutenant  governor].  He opined,  however, that to                                                               
say  our  Alaska's  attorneys  general are  not  political  is  a                                                               
misconception.    Representative  Stoltze  noted  for  historical                                                               
reference  that  the  average length  of  an  attorney  general's                                                               
tenure is  about 18 months.   However, in the early  1990s when a                                                               
sitting attorney  general was retained  by the  incoming governor                                                               
there  was some  contention  that the  attorney  general was  not                                                               
confirmed and  was a hold  over as has  been the case  with other                                                               
commissioners.     Alaska,  he  highlighted,  had   an  unelected                                                               
attorney general  serve for almost  a decade.   Therefore, Alaska                                                               
had an unelected  attorney general with the power to  make law on                                                               
the advice of an assistant attorney general for almost 10 years.                                                                
2:21:22 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX  reiterated her understanding that  in some                                                               
states  governors  and  lieutenant   governors  run  on  separate                                                               
tickets,  and  theoretically  could  be  elected  from  different                                                               
political  parties.    In  those   instances,  she  surmised  the                                                               
governor would never leave the state.                                                                                           
2:22:02 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  MILLETT  inquired  as  to the  reasoning  of  the                                                               
framers of  the Alaska State  Constitution regarding  choosing to                                                               
have  an appointed  rather than  elected attorney  general.   She                                                               
also  inquired  as   to  how  many  states   have  changed  their                                                               
constitution  from an  appointed attorney  general to  an elected                                                               
attorney  general.   Such information  would be  helpful for  the                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  STOLTZE indicated  those  are  questions he  will                                                               
investigate.  The  power, he opined, should rest  with the people                                                               
whether electing U.S.  Senators or a state attorney  general.  He                                                               
further  opined  that other  than  the  power of  succession,  an                                                               
attorney general on a day-to-day  basis is far more powerful than                                                               
a lieutenant governor.                                                                                                          
2:25:19 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  noted that HJR  18 states the  heads of                                                               
various departments  must be confirmed by  the legislature, which                                                               
is also the case in another  section of Article III, the heads of                                                               
independent  boards such  as  the Board  of  Fisheries, Board  of                                                               
Game,  and  State  Board  of  Education  and  Early  Development.                                                               
Although there is  no allowance for the legislature  to confirm a                                                               
deputy commissioner exists  or is included in  the resolution, he                                                               
suggested that  perhaps some of  the sub-cabinet position  with a                                                               
lot of power should go through a confirmation process.                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE  STOLTZE  recalled that  Representative  Gruenberg                                                               
might be speaking of the Bradner  decision.  The only change made                                                             
in this resolution is adding  the attorney general along with the                                                               
lieutenant governor and governor as an elected official.                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  then expressed the notion  that perhaps                                                               
the  powerful positions  of  the  head of  the  House and  Senate                                                               
Finance Committees should be elected as well.                                                                                   
2:29:08 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR KELLER opened public testimony.                                                                                           
2:29:00 PM                                                                                                                    
GEORGE PIERCE  stated all commissioners and  "everyone" should be                                                               
elected rather  than appointed as sometimes  governors "stack the                                                               
deck"  with   their  appointments  to  boards   and  commissions.                                                               
Alaskans recently  voted against a constitutional  convention and                                                               
he  yet it  seems that  every  other piece  of legislation  being                                                               
introduced is about changing or  amending the constitution.  Some                                                               
of the  legislation being introduced  to change the  Alaska State                                                               
Constitution is absurd,  he said.  Alaskans,  he reiterated, have                                                               
said they  don't want the  constitution amended.  He  opined that                                                               
the  proposed  amendments are  for  special  interest groups  not                                                               
2:30:46 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  KELLER  questioned  if  Mr.  Pierce is  in  favor  of  the                                                               
election  of  the attorney  general,  but  not for  amending  the                                                               
constitution to do so.                                                                                                          
MR. PIERCE answered  yes; it would be good  electing the attorney                                                               
general.    However,  he  reiterated  that  Alaskans  just  voted                                                               
against a constitutional convention.   Thus he encouraged members                                                               
to stop  picking and choosing  which aspects of the  Alaska State                                                               
Constitution to change.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  surmised that  Mr. Pierce's  meant that                                                               
once the legislature starts amending  the constitution it becomes                                                               
a  slippery  slope  and  becomes   easier  and  easier  to  amend                                                               
[provisions in] the constitution.                                                                                               
[Mr. Pierce was no longer online to respond.]                                                                                   
2:31:59 PM                                                                                                                    
STUART  THOMPSON  strongly  advised  that  legislators  carefully                                                               
review  the   materials  the  Alaska   Constitutional  Convention                                                               
members  studied  about  [this issue],  including  the  extensive                                                               
debate regarding unelected versus  elected attorneys general.  He                                                               
requested that  the wheel  not be  re-invented as  many questions                                                               
and queries that  are now being raised were covered  in 1955.  He                                                               
added  that confirmation  of appointments  by the  legislature is                                                               
worthy of consideration.                                                                                                        
2:33:54 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR KELLER,  upon determining  no one  else wished  to testify,                                                               
close public testimony.                                                                                                         
2:34:41 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  STOLTZE,  in  response to  Representative  LeDoux                                                               
advised  that similar  resolutions  were  introduced between  the                                                               
[24th]  and   27th  Alaska  State  Legislatures;   it  was  first                                                               
introduced  by  Senator  Fred  Dyson,  and  Representative  Harry                                                               
Crawford introduced the  legislation in the 25th  and 26th Alaska                                                               
State Legislatures, and most recently  by Senator Bettye Davis in                                                               
the  27th Alaska  State  Legislature.   He  added that  Tennessee                                                               
Senator  Mae Beavers  has introduced  a constitutional  amendment                                                               
such that the attorney general  would change from being appointed                                                               
to a  "hybrid" election.   In further response  to Representative                                                               
LeDoux,   Representative   Stoltze   recalled  that   a   similar                                                               
resolution  reached the  [House]  Rules  Standing Committee,  but                                                               
that no such  resolution has ever made it to  the floor of either                                                               
house in the 1990s.                                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE STOLTZE,  in responding to  Representative LeDoux,                                                               
advised he  did not believe  the Alaska legislation ever  made it                                                               
to the floor of either house in the 1990s.                                                                                      
2:38:38 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  MILLETT   stated  she  has   materials  available                                                               
regarding   discussions   during    the   Alaska   Constitutional                                                               
Convention and  believes that historical context  is important to                                                               
the committee's conversation.                                                                                                   
2:40:04 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR KELLER announced that HJR 18 would be set aside.                                                                          
2:40:23 PM                                                                                                                    
The committee took a brief at-ease.                                                                                             
[Chair Keller passed the gavel to Vice Chair Lynn.]                                                                             
2:41:18 PM                                                                                                                    

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HJR 18 Support Document~ AK Attorney General Past & Present.pdf HJUD 2/19/2014 1:00:00 PM
HJR 18
HJR 18 Support Document~ Current Governors & Attorney Generals.pdf HJUD 2/19/2014 1:00:00 PM
HJR 18
HJR 18 Support Document~2014 Statewide Elected Offices by State.pdf HJUD 2/19/2014 1:00:00 PM
HJR 18
HJR 18 Support Document~State by State Selection of Attorneys General.pdf HJUD 2/19/2014 1:00:00 PM
HJR 18
HJR 18 Testimony~Lynn Willis.pdf HJUD 2/19/2014 1:00:00 PM
HJR 18
HJR 1 Opposition Letter~Americans United for Separation of Church & State.pdf HJUD 2/19/2014 1:00:00 PM
HJR 1 Support Document~No AK Dollars to Oregon Colleges.pdf HJUD 2/19/2014 1:00:00 PM
HJR 1~Support-Opposition Letters.pdf HJUD 2/19/2014 1:00:00 PM
HJR 1 Support-Opposition Letters Part 2.pdf HJUD 2/19/2014 1:00:00 PM
HJR 1 Support-Opposition Letters Part 3.pdf HJUD 2/19/2014 1:00:00 PM
HB 47 Proposed Amendment N.1.pdf HJUD 2/19/2014 1:00:00 PM
HB 47
HB 47 Proposed Amendment N.2.pdf HJUD 2/19/2014 1:00:00 PM
HB 47
HB 47 Proposed Amendment N.5.pdf HJUD 2/19/2014 1:00:00 PM
HB 47
HB 47 Support Document~Leg. Legal Memo ver. N.pdf HJUD 2/19/2014 1:00:00 PM
HB 47
CSHB 47 ver. N Sectional Analysis.pdf HJUD 2/19/2014 1:00:00 PM
HB 47