Legislature(2001 - 2002)
04/25/2002 04:30 PM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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.