Legislature(2015 - 2016)CAPITOL 106
03/24/2015 08:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS
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HJR 14-CALL FOR US COUNTERMAND CONVENTION HCR 4-US COUNTERMAND CONVENTION DELEGATES 9:17:03 AM VICE CHAIR KELLER announced that the final order of business was the combined hearing of: HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 14 Making application to the United States Congress to call a convention of the states to propose a countermand amendment to the Constitution of the United States as provided under art. V, Constitution of the United States; and urging the legislatures of the other 49 states to make the same application. HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 4 Relating to the duties of delegates selected by the legislature to attend a convention of the states called under art. V, Constitution of the United States, to consider a countermand amendment to the Constitution of the United States; establishing as a joint committee of the legislature the Delegate Credential Committee and relating to the duties of the committee; providing for an oath for delegates and alternates to a countermand amendment convention; providing for a chair and assistant chair of the state's countermand amendment delegation; providing for the duties of the chair and assistant chair; providing instructions for the selection of a convention president; and providing specific language for the countermand amendment on which the state's convention delegates are authorized by the legislature to vote to approve. [Before the committee, adopted on 3/19/15 as a work draft, was the proposed committee substitute (CS) for HJR 14, Version 29- LS0249\E, Gardner, 2/19/15.] 9:19:01 AM REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG moved to adopt the proposed committee substitute (CS) for HCR 4, Version 29-LS0250\E, Gardner, 3/20/15, as work draft. There being no objection, Version E was before the committee. 9:19:23 AM STUART KRUEGER, Staff, Representative Shelley Hughes, Alaska State Legislature, presented a sectional analysis to HCR 4 on behalf of Representative Hughes, prime sponsor. He said the first "BE IT RESOLVED", beginning on page 2, line 26, would authorize the legislature "to appoint and summon delegates for the amendment convention." He said the "FURTHER RESOLVED", beginning on page 2, line 29, would give the legislature authority "to decide the qualifications and total number of delegates to send to the Convention," and the "FURTHER RESOLVED", beginning on page 3, line 1, would give the legislature "the ability to add or remove delegates." MR. KRUEGER stated that the "FUTHER RESOLVED", beginning on page 3, line 6, would provide "parameters and instructions for state's delegates at the Convention." Further, he noted that it would prohibit delegates from voting for "any other amendments, outside of the countermand amendment, at the Convention." He said the "FURTHER RESOLVED", beginning on page 3, line 13, would reserve the countermand amendment as "the only amendment for consideration for ratification by the legislatures." He relayed that the "FURTHER RESOLVED", beginning on page 3, line 15, would - "upon a call for convention by 34 states" - call for "establishing of the Delegate Credential Committee within the Alaska Legislature, with duties listed in Section A." Further, the Speaker of the House would appoint three members from the House, one being a minority caucus member, and the President of the Senate would appoint three members of the Senate, one being a minority caucus member. MR. KRUEGER said the "FURTHER RESOLVED", beginning on page 3, line 24, would provide for a "replacement procedure for members of the Delegate Credential Committee." The "FURTHER RESOLVED", beginning on page 3, line 26, would allow for "selection of co- chairs of the Delegate Credential Committee," which would include one co-chair from the House, one from the Senate, and staff. The "FURTHER RESOLVED", beginning on page 3, line 30, would establish when the Delegate Credential Committee could meet, and the "FURTHER RESOLVED", beginning on page 4, line 1, would acknowledge that the Delegate Credential Committee would "continue until the first day of the Thirtieth Alaska State Legislature." 9:22:03 AM MR. KRUEGER stated that the "FURTHER RESOLVED", beginning on page 4, line 3, would request that the Delegate Credential Committee be considered for reestablishment during the Thirtieth Alaska Legislature. He pointed out that under Version E, language had been added such that future legislatures would not be bound by the concurrent resolution. MR. KRUEGER said the "FURTHER RESOLVED" language, beginning on page 4, line , provided for a "removal and replacement procedure for members of the Delegate Credential Committee"; they would be "removed or replaced by the presiding officer that appointed them." He directed attention to language within the next "FURTHER RESOLVED", beginning on page 4, line , which provided the duties of the Delegate Credential Committee to: decide matters by majority vote; function as the official facilitator for the legislature; appoint delegates and provide a committee report on selected delegates; appoint a chair and assistant chair; properly vet and confirm delegates; issue convention passes to delegates; notify the legislature of the financial needs at the Convention; administer an oath to the delegates, alternates, chair, and assistant chair; monitor activities of Alaska's delegation; submit quarterly reports to the legislature on events, progress, and recommendations for the Convention; and recommend removal of a delegate or alternate for approval by the legislature. MR. KRUEGER directed attention to language within the final "FURTHER RESOLVED", beginning on page 6, line , which would provide for the duties of the chair of Alaska's state delegation and the president of the Convention. The chair would be responsible for: communicating with other state delegations to open convention for business; identifying other legislatures that have approved a delegate resolution; building consensus with at least 26 state delegations to require that each state delegation at the Convention has only one vote; requiring a simple majority vote at all roll calls; nominating convention officials; requiring a quorum of 26 states to conduct business; building a consensus of at least 26 states to support sending the countermand amendment for ratification; working to conclude the Convention in 21 days or no longer than 180 days; and nominating a candidate for president of the Convention from Alaska's delegation or working to elect a president from a delegate resolution state. MR. KRUEGER further directed attention to language on page , line , which listed the type of support that would be established for the following duties of the president: securing a vote for this delegate resolution to be the rules of order at the Convention; focusing on the purpose of sending the countermand amendment for ratification by the states; requesting security measures as needed; overseeing installment of officers at the Convention; establishing convention agenda; providing equal time for floor discussion for all states; prohibiting introduction of any subject other than the countermand amendment; calling for a vote for sending a countermand amendment to the states; reporting to 50 state legislatures and the media on convention progress; providing formal requests, when needed, to states for money that will be needed to carry on business; opposing any effort to delay or modify the countermand amendment vote; and opposing any effort by states to offer amendments other than the countermand amendment. 9:26:56 AM MR. KRUEGER said language beginning on page 10, line , would address the duties and responsibilities of convention delegates, which would include: complying with directives in this resolution; following instructions of the chair and assistant chair of Alaska's delegation; being present to vote at all roll calls; attending all assigned sessions at the Convention; reporting to the delegation chair the number of states in favor of the countermand amendment; and recommending strategies to help join 26 states in favor of the countermand amendment. The language on page 11, line , would provide the text for the countermand amendment to the United States Constitution. VICE CHAIR KELLER noted that [HCR 4] would be heard also by the House Judiciary Standing Committee and the House Finance Committee. 9:28:56 AM REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG observed the committee had received letters from several different legislators, including one from a Senator in Louisiana and a Representative in New Mexico, in support of the legislation. He asked what the genesis of the proposed legislation was and whether it was supported by a particular group or organization. MR. KRUEGER indicated that [HCR 4 and HJR 14] were brought to the bill sponsor by a constituent, who was the president of the Alaska section of a national, grass-roots organization called Citizen Initiatives. The group had been traveling across the country to promote similar legislation in other states. He stated it was important to remember that the goal of the proposed legislation was to limit [the Convention] to a single issue. He said there are other states in the process of hearing similar legislation. He said the executive director of Citizen Initiatives, Charles Kacprowicz, had previously testified via teleconference, and he was currently traveling from state to state in a motor home. He said the concern of those involved in this grassroots effort was that the sovereignty of states had been "chipped away over time" and needed to be restored. VICE CHAIR KELLER said Mr. Coons was the director of the Alaska section of Citizen Initiatives and was available on line to testify. 9:32:15 AM REPRESENTATIVE SHELLEY HUGHES, Alaska State Legislature, as sponsor, addressed questions that had been asked. She explained that the aforementioned change made through Version E, regarding not binding future legislatures, was made in response to a concern raised by Representative Gruenberg at a previous meeting. She confirmed the comment of her staff that the legislation was backed by a grassroots effort, with neither big money nor big names associated with it. She said that was a unique factor. She said she had spoken with Representative Kreiss-Tomkins about the threshold of 30 states, and she related she had read an article from Gallop, which said there were more "blue" states than "red." She acknowledged that that could change, but indicated that the 30-state threshold was high, considering there was only an 18-month window. Finally, she said there had also been concern expressed about the possible unraveling of the U.S. Constitution; however, she said this effort was very specific to protect that from happening. 9:34:30 AM REPRESENTATIVE HUGHES, in response to Representative Gruenberg, reviewed that if the U.S. Constitution were amended with a countermand amendment, there would be an 18-month window for 30 states to agree on "a specific item that's not in their best interest." REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said one issue had been over the amount of time the states would have for ratification. He offered further details. REPRESENTATIVE HUGHES, in response, clarified that the window did not apply to ratification, but to "enacting the mechanism." She said the day before, State Senator Dan Sullivan had addressed the House floor regarding federal issues, and the minority leader brought up two issues she said she thought could be addressed through a convention: the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). 9:38:27 AM STUART THOMPSON testified in support of HJR 14 and HCR 4. He posited the only legitimate objection to calling for a countermand convention was that "its essence" already existed under the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States; however, he stated that those constitutional powers were "castrated by mismanagement of the slavery issue and the desperation of the Civil War." Further, he said the powers were "buried from view by anti-constitutional exaggeration of federal powers through unlimited interpretation" of the General Welfare and Do and Proper Clauses under Article II. He stated that holding a convention and passing a countermand amendment would restore the check and balance powers of the states over that of the federal government. MR. THOMPSON opined that the most serious problem in the U.S. today was the "lack of political will by the American people to benefit from our full, poetical heritage in seeking life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." He stated that most, if not all, of the country's present woes could be reduced or eliminated by applying that will, including the management of terrorism "without suffering bankruptcy from continuous war." He said, "This circumstance is directly traceable to encouraging citizen apathy by perverting civics education and increasingly using the methods of other forms of government to deal with things." Mr. Thompson said HB 30 and SCR 1 were "attempting to address this"; however, he urged immediate attention to "the senseless source of political apathy enforcement in this country." He warned that the U.S. was becoming "a has-been nation plunging into oblivion," and he indicated this was caused by federal overreach and bullying "arising from anti- constitutional centralization of power enabled by neglect of duty by the states." He said this issue was what the aim of the constitutional convention would be. MR. THOMPSON indicated that those against the proposed legislation would argue that "government of, for, and by the people" did not work in handling economic depression and protecting people from threats such as terrorism. He opined that Americans had been increasingly "buying this" for most of a century and had increasingly been suffering from "the very ills the mutating U.S. Government has promised to protect us from." He urged people to "be real human beings instead of animals begging for protection." 9:42:08 AM MR. THOMPSON concluded his testimony, as follows: As free human beings, we must face that we have to be eternally on guard against the temptation of giving government unsupervised trust. Our founders were very alive to this and constructed our form of government accordingly. We must defend their creation. I'm sorry to say no government in history ever really deserved even the trust that was given. Government always has been an imperfect invention of humanity. Cooperation between those in authority and those governed is the only hope we have, no matter how hard it is to do so. 9:43:11 AM MIKE COONS, National Director, Citizens Initiative, stated that his testimony was in response to testimony given [during the House State Affairs Standing Committee's 3/19/15 hearing on HJR 14 and HCR 4] by assistant attorney general Michael Schechter. VICE CHAIR KELLER noted that Mr. Schechter was available via teleconference for response. MR. COONS explained that Mr. Schechter had made comments that needed to be corrected. First, he said Mr. Schechter's repeated use of the term "constitutional convention" when referencing the states' use of Article V was incorrect. Mr. Coons emphasized that that use pertained to an "amendment convention." He said the continued use of the term constitutional convention in this matter was one of the reasons that the John Birch [Society] and the [Texas] Eagle Forum had been so vocal and effective over the last 30 years. He said the only constitutional convention was in 1787, when Article V was put into the Constitution "for purposes of amending the Constitution either by Congress or the states." MR. COONS said the second mistake Mr. Schechter made was in having stated that Congress had made use of Article V, 27 times. Mr. Coons said the actual number was closer to 100. He explained the significance of this was that the states rejected all but 27 proposed amendments, which was why [Citizens Initiative] put such an emphasis on "state legislature sovereignty in this process." Mr. Coons offered his understanding that Mr. Schechter's third mistake was in regard to limitation of the number of topics at a convention. He said, "He talked about concerns if states can limit to a single amendment. Article V is about the right of states to propose amendments; that means one or more." MR. COONS said Mr. Schechter had said this issue had never been acted upon by the courts or Congress and that the Department of Law did not know how the question of a convention would be received. Mr. Coons emphasized that the courts had nothing to do with the convening or running of the Convention. He said Congress had only three duties: to keep count of the applications per subject matter; to convene a convention upon the 34 states making the same application; and to receive and send the proposed amendment for ratification to the 50 states. He added, "The rest of it is state sovereignty and the states' rights under Article V." MR. COONS indicated that Mr. Schechter had put forth as an "equally valid theory" that once called, a convention created its own rules and could consider whatever amendments it may choose. He stated, "This is why the delegate resolution, HCR 4, is so important. When 26 or more states - a majority - pass this, along with the embedded countermand amendment language, there is no option for the several states at the Convention to create its own rules or to bring up other amendments." 9:47:00 AM MR. COONS opined that of the two resolutions before the committee, the most important was the one that would ensure the safety and efficiency of the Convention by requiring 26 or more states adopting the rules for the Convention prior to it being convened. 9:49:15 AM REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG asked Mr. Coons if he was familiar with the letter from Katherine Marshall [included in the committee packet]. He confirmed that it was an opposition letter. MR. COONS stated that he had read all the opposition letters. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG offered his understanding that the quotes included in the letter were of a fragment of statements made by a solicitor general and a U.S. Supreme Court justice, and he said he would like to see the rest of the quotes in order to put them into context. He explained that he thought the quotes pertained to things other than the proposed countermand amendment, but rather to the general philosophies of those who spoke them. REPRESENTATIVE HUGHES agreed to supply the contextual text from which the quotes were extracted. 9:52:25 AM REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG asked whether the sponsor had any more current opinions about the proposed legislation derived from legal scholars, for example, as opposed to lay people or politicians. He said he would like to focus on this in the next committee of referral. He said he would like to see the best legal thinking - pro and con - on the subject. REPRESENTATIVE HUGHES said her staff could do research; however, she reminded Representative Gruenberg that this effort had not begun until about last year, so there may not be much available specific to this legislation. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG asked if any states had passed similar measures. REPRESENTATIVE HUGHES offered her understanding that currently 17 states had sponsors, and 9 of those states introduced the legislation. 9:54:35 AM MR. KRUEGER, in response to Representative Gruenberg, said North Dakota had passed its legislation through the House, and he offered his understanding that it was currently being heard in its Senate. In response to a question, he said he was not aware of any specific countermand amendment law reviews. He deferred to Mr. Coons. He said he thought the majority of the opposition letters referred to prior efforts regarding a convention of states, a balanced budget, and an attempt to overturn the Citizens United decision. He explained, "They blanket legislatures whenever there are resolutions or bills regarding a constitutional or amendment convention being discussed, so a number of those are related to other efforts and just directed toward our legislature in response to these resolutions." REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG added further details to his aforementioned request for information. 9:56:40 AM VICE CHAIR KELLER noted that within the committee packet was a compendium legislative guide on the Constitution, written by Robert G. Natelson, whom he said he had met. He ventured that Mr. Natelson would agree with him that this issue was nonpartisan. 9:58:34 AM REPRESENTATIVE STUTES moved to report CSHCR 4, Version 29- LS0250\E, Gardner, 3/20/15, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSHCR 4(STA) was reported out of the House State Affairs Standing Committee. 9:59:14 AM REPRESENTATIVE STUTES moved to report CSHJR 14, Version 29- LS0249\E, Gardner, 2/19/15, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSHJR 14(STA) was reported out of the House State Affairs Standing Committee.