Legislature(2001 - 2002)

04/25/2002 04:30 PM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                                                                                                                                
                  HB 289-MUNICIPAL MANAGER PLAN                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARY STEVENS, sponsor  of HB 289, said there can be                                                              
confusion when  an election  takes place to  change the form  of a                                                              
municipal government  at the  same time as  an election  is taking                                                              
place for  the mayor's position.   HB 289 attempts to  protect the                                                              
voters'  right to  change  the form  of  government  and give  the                                                              
community some options.   He said the bill would  make it clear to                                                              
the voter  to what position they  are electing the candidate.   It                                                              
would also make  it clear to the candidate what  position they are                                                              
running for.  He said HB 289 would  not take away the right of the                                                              
public to change the form of government.   They can do this at any                                                              
time  by  having  a  special  election  separate  from  a  mayoral                                                              
election.  HB 289  would allow the addition of a  year between the                                                              
change of  government and  the change  of the mayor.   He  said it                                                              
would also  allow a special  election for  the new mayor  when the                                                              
change of government occurred during the current mayor's term.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
He  said  current  regulations  require   the  assembly  to  enact                                                              
provisions within 60 days of the  adoption of a change in the form                                                              
of government.   Having been through  that process, he  knows that                                                              
two months  is a very  short period of time  to change all  of the                                                              
borough  codes to  comply with  the new  form of  government.   He                                                              
noted  that under  current regulations,  a  candidate running  for                                                              
mayor will not  know until after the election which  type of mayor                                                              
they are going to be.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE STEVENS  said HB 289  was written with  three major                                                              
objectives in mind; first, to protect  the rights of the voters to                                                              
change the  government;  second, to reduce  confusion amongst  the                                                              
voters  as  to  what  position  they  are  electing  someone;  and                                                              
finally,  to ensure  that a candidate  was aware  of the  position                                                              
they were running for and may be elected to.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HALFORD  said often a person  is running for mayor  at the                                                              
same time  that the management  question is on  the ballot.   If a                                                              
person  elected as  mayor  wished to  be a  strong  mayor and  the                                                              
voters had approved that form of  government, the way he reads the                                                              
bill, that strong  mayor form of government would  not take effect                                                              
for one year.   In this situation, the manager  would be protected                                                              
for another year.   He noted that the manager is  often the person                                                              
that people are mad at, especially in a small community.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE STEVENS  said HB 289  would give the  community and                                                              
the assembly  the option to take  an additional year to  enact the                                                              
change in form  of government.  It is possible  that the candidate                                                              
wishing  for a  strong mayor  position  would be  elected but  the                                                              
voters  would decide  to stay with  the ceremonial  mayor form  of                                                              
government or vice versa.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HALFORD said it appeared  that this situation could happen                                                              
in either  direction.  A  candidate wishing  to be a  strong mayor                                                              
could have to wait a year to get  the position they wanted or vice                                                              
versa.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  STEVENS  noted there  was also  an  option in  the                                                              
bill.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HALFORD asked how the option worked.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  STEVENS noted  the following  language on  page 1,                                                              
lines 7-12:                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     The  manager plan  takes effect  on the  earlier of  the                                                                   
     following: (1)  the day after  the last day of  the term                                                                   
     of the mayor  in office on the date the  plan is adopted                                                                   
     by the  governing body; or (2)  one year after  the date                                                                   
     the plan is adopted by the governing body.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  STEVENS said  this language  allows the voters  to                                                              
make the decision to take an additional year to make the change.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  said after an election, the  current mayor is                                                              
usually only in  office for a couple of weeks  before the swearing                                                              
in of the new  mayor.  He asked if the change  would take place at                                                              
that time.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE STEVENS  said state  law requires that  the borough                                                              
codes be  revised to match  the new form  of government  within 60                                                              
days.   This change cannot take  place immediately because  it's a                                                              
lengthy process.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT   presented  the   following  scenario.     A                                                              
candidate  runs for  mayor  wishing to  be  a strong  mayor.   The                                                              
voters approve  a strong-mayor  form of  government.  The  current                                                              
mayor,  a ceremonial  mayor, is  at the  end of their  term.   The                                                              
change would  take place when  the ceremonial mayor's  term ended.                                                              
This would be a short time after the election.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE STEVENS said that was correct.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  asked if they decided after  the election how                                                              
long was going to be allowed to make the change.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HALFORD  said the problem  was that it wasn't  clear until                                                              
after the  election which  form of government  was going to  be in                                                              
place.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  asked if the  information regarding  the form                                                              
of government  and when  the change  would take  place was  on the                                                              
ballot.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENATIVE STEVENS said it should be.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  HALFORD said  the  following scenario  could  happen.   A                                                              
strong mayor is  elected and a strong mayor form  of government is                                                              
approved.   The  assembly would  then have  60 days  to adopt  the                                                              
plan, but the plan  doesn't take effect for one year  or until the                                                              
term  of that  mayor expires.   The  assembly could  call for  the                                                              
ending of the term  of the mayor that was just  elected and have a                                                              
special  election  for   a  new  mayor  under  the   new  form  of                                                              
government.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE STEVENS said the term  of office to which the mayor                                                              
had been elected must be respected.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HALFORD  quoted the following  language from page  2, line                                                              
11:                                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     Notwithstanding  AS  29.20.230,  a municipality  may  by                                                                   
     ordinance  provide  that,  when  a  manager  plan  takes                                                                   
     effect under  AS 29.20.480(a)(2)  or when a repeal  of a                                                                   
     manager  plan takes  effect under  AS 29.20.520(2),  the                                                                   
     term of office of the incumbent mayor ends.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
He said this  appeared to end the  term of the mayor,  even if the                                                              
mayor had  just been elected.   Perhaps there is somebody  who can                                                              
explain how this works to the committee.   He is concerned because                                                              
the factions in  some of the small communities  don't change their                                                              
minds all  at once.  There  can be differences of  opinion between                                                              
the assembly  members.   The community can  be divided on  the two                                                              
candidates for mayor and the form of government they want.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  said he was thinking of a  different scenario                                                              
in which somebody  running for mayor intending to  be a ceremonial                                                              
mayor  now finds  himself or  herself with  a full  time job.   He                                                              
noted that  an election  for a  change in  the form of  government                                                              
could also happen halfway through the mayor's term of office.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENATIVE STEVENS said this could  happen by special election.                                                              
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HALFORD  asked if  there was somebody  from the  State who                                                              
could explain this.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  STEVENS said  somebody from  the Alaska  Municipal                                                              
League had been there but they had to leave.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
There was no further testimony.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SSHB 289am was held in committee.                                                                                               

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