Legislature(2001 - 2002)
05/03/2001 03:55 PM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 189-REPEAL TERM LIMITS/TERM LIMITS PLEDGES REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBURG, bill sponsor, described the bill as a simple bill that needs caution because it is repealing a citizen's initiative that was passed by voters several years ago. On February 28, 2001, in Cook v. Gralike, the United States Supreme Court found that the scarlet letter or gold star type term limit pledges placed next to candidates names were unconstitutional as it related to members of the United States Congress and Senate and based on the election clause theory. The court did not specifically take up freedom of speech in terms of this type of pledge being unconstitutional but the concurring opinion of Justices Rehnquist and O'Connor did bring that issue forward indicating they believe any term limit pledge would be an abridgement of freedom of speech. "Since the Alaska Statutes are so similar to those of Cook v. Gralike, this United States Supreme Court ruling suggests that our statutes are unconstitutional. This bill will repeal these unconstitutional statutes." SENATOR PHILLIPS asked whether the Supreme Court strikes down the state provision. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBURG said it just spoke to the congressional provisions. It didn't take up freedom of speech but the concurring opinion did. The Idaho Supreme Court and a federal district court in South Dakota both found these labels affect free speech. There is a supporting letter from former Attorney General John Havelock in the committee packets. He has been asked to challenge this on a state level but he would prefer to have the legislature enact the bill. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT said the third page of the legislative counsel memo talks about severability. The application of the Supreme Court case probably renders half of the sections in the Alaska Statutes moot. It's now a question of whether a state challenge would affect the rest. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBURG agreed that the legal theory, as expressed in Gralike and other case law, would strongly support that position. SENATOR PHILLIPS gave a recap. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT said certainly the Supreme Court has ruled on the congressional delegation but the question is still out on the state portion. SENATOR PHILLIPS said he doesn't believe in term limits but this was a citizen's initiative that was approved by the voters and he's reluctant to go against their wishes unless the state supreme court rules under the Cook v. Gralike ruling. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBURG pointed out the Idaho Supreme Court ruling. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT confirmed that was a state supreme court ruling on a state statute. SENATOR PHILLIPS asked whether the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was now challenging it. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBURG responded they were planning to but would rather have the bill pass then there wouldn't be the need for the challenge. Because of the specific way the Alaska statute is drafted and the type of term limit pledge that must be taken, it makes a very strong case against it because if you deviate from the drafters' proposal you are breaking the term limit pledge. If he supports an eight year term limit in one body and a four year term in another that's a total of 12 years. State statute says eight years within a period of 16 years and he doesn't agree with that. Putting a scarlet letter next to his name on the ballot is an abridgement of his free speech; it's also compromising the fundamental right of voting. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT said he supported the language proposing a term limit and for him "it's a close call." He understands Senator Phillips reluctance to change a voter initiative but the constitution specifically says the legislature may modify a voter initiative within two years. It is also bothersome because this is electioneering at the polling place. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBURG stated the Idaho case said this effectively grants the candidate a state endorsement. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT commented it would be nice if there were a clear decision from the Alaska Supreme Court. He asked for further testimony. No one came forward. There was no prepared CS and no amendments from committee members. There was a zero fiscal note. He asked for the will of the committee. SENATOR DAVIS moved HB 189 and zero fiscal note from committee with individual recommendations. There was no objection.