Legislature(2001 - 2002)

05/03/2001 03:55 PM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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.                                                                             

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