Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/28/1996 08:15 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE STATE AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE March 28, 1996 8:15 a.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Representative Jeannette James, Chair Representative Scott Ogan, Vice Chair Representative Joe Green Representative Ivan Ivan Representative Brian Porter Representative Caren Robinson Representative Ed Willis MEMBERS ABSENT All members present. COMMITTEE CALENDAR * HOUSE BILL NO. 349 "An Act relating to elections; relating to the division of elections; relating to voter registration procedures; and providing for an effective date." - PASSED CSHB 349(STA) OUT OF COMMITTEE * HOUSE BILL NO. 198 "An Act relating to absences from the state and eligibility for permanent fund dividends; and providing for an effective date." - HEARD AND HELD * HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 34 Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Alaska relating to the duration of a regular session. - HEARD AND HELD * HOUSE BILL NO. 485 "An Act relating to interference with the distribution or reading of free newspapers or other free periodicals." - SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD * HOUSE BILL NO. 490 "An Act relating to grants and other financial assistance authorized or made by the Alaska Science and Technology Foundation for the BIDCO assistance program." - SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD (* First public hearing) PREVIOUS ACTION BILL: HB 349 SHORT TITLE: ELECTIONS ADMINISTRATION & VOTER REG'N SPONSOR(S): RULES BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 05/13/95 2174 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S) 05/13/95 2174 (H) STATE AFFAIRS, JUDICIARY, FINANCE 05/13/95 2174 (H) ZERO FISCAL NOTE (GOV) 05/13/95 2174 (H) GOVERNOR'S TRANSMITTAL LETTER 03/28/96 (H) STA AT 8:15 AM CAPITOL 102 BILL: HB 198 SHORT TITLE: PFD ALLOWABLE ABSENCES SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVE(S) ELTON, Robinson, Davies JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 02/27/95 487 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S) 02/27/95 487 (H) STATE AFFAIRS, JUDICIARY, FINANCE 03/28/96 (H) STA AT 8:15 AM CAPITOL 102 BILL: HJR 34 SHORT TITLE: LIMIT LEGISLATIVE SESSION TO 90 DAYS SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVE(S) SANDERS JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 03/08/95 641 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S) 03/08/95 641 (H) STATE AFFAIRS, JUDICIARY, FINANCE 03/28/96 (H) STA AT 8:15 AM CAPITOL 102 WITNESS REGISTER DIANE SHRINER, Elections Outreach Coordinator Division of Elections Office of the Lieutenant Governor P.O. Box 110017 Juneau, Alaska 99811-0017 Telephone: (907) 465-3051 POSITION STATEMENT: Presented HB 349. KATHLEEN STRASBAUGH, Assistant Attorney General Governmental Affairs Section Civil Division Department of Law P.O. Box 110300 Juneau, Alaska 99811-0300 Telephone: (907) 465-3600 POSITION STATEMENT: Provided testimony on HB 349. REPRESENTATIVE KIM ELTON Alaska State Legislature State Capitol, Room 112 Juneau, Alaska 99801-1182 Telephone: (907) 465-4947 POSITION STATEMENT: Sponsor of HB 198. NANCI A. JONES, Director Central Office Permanent Fund Dividend Division Department of Revenue P.O. Box 110460 Juneau, Alaska 99811-0460 Telephone: (907) 465-2323 POSITION STATEMENT: Provided testimony on HB 198. REPRESENTATIVE JERRY SANDERS Alaska State Legislature State Capitol, Room 414 Juneau, Alaska 99801-1182 Telephone: (907) 465-4945 POSITION STATEMENT: Sponsor of HJR 34. ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 96-42, SIDE A Number 0015 The House State Affairs Committee was called to order by Chair Jeannette James at 8:15 a.m. Members present at the call to order were Representatives Porter, Ivan, Green, Ogan, Willis and James. Member absent was Representative Robinson. HB 349 - ELECTIONS ADMINISTRATION & VOTER REG'N CHAIR JEANNETTE JAMES called on Diane Shriner, Office of the Lieutenant Governor, to present HB 349. Number 0054 DIANE SHRINER, Elections Outreach Coordinator, Division of Elections, Office of the Lieutenant Governor, thanked Walter Wilcox, Committee Aide, House State Affairs Committee, for his help on the committee substitute (9-GH0051/C). She announced Kathleen Strasbaugh, Department of Law, was also here to answer any questions regarding the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). She explained CSHB 349(STA) (9-GH0051/C) was primarily a housekeeping bill for the Division of Elections. The sections in the bill addressed things that the division already had the capability to do, or had begun to do already. For example, the division did not use paper ballots anymore but instead used ballot cards. The division also did not use magnet tapes and computer centers anymore but instead was on-line. The bill also allowed the concept of voting by FAX. Many of the sections also described the protection of ballot secrecy using a secrecy sleeve. Furthermore, the bill also contained two substantive sections recommended by the Election Transition Policy Team. The first recommended simplifying the role of the personal representative in helping an elderly or disabled person to vote (Sec. 20). The second recommended a pilot project for total by-mail elections where feasible (Sec. 40). She suggested eliminating line 21, page 14, "are located in a rural area of the state and that have no more than 200 registered voters," due to the fact that urban areas might be more conducive or amenable to a pilot project. She reiterated CSHB 349(STA) (9- GH0051/C) was a clean-up bill. She thanked the committee members. The record reflected the arrival of Representative Caren Robinson at 8:20 a.m. Number 0442 REPRESENTATIVE JOE GREEN asked Ms. Shriner what type of procedures would be taken to ensure that the ballot casted by-mail was from the correct person? Number 0468 MS. SHRINER replied the secrecy envelope would be inside an outer- envelope that would contain the voter's signature and identification. The outer-envelope would be checked first to ensure it was from the correct voter. The ballot would then be separated from the outer-envelope and counted separately. Number 0508 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said he appreciated that approach. He further wondered, however, what type of procedures would be taken to prevent multiple ballots being cast from the same voter? Number 0559 MS. SHRINER said there was a criminal penalty against voting more than once which would be well publicized. The best way was to check the by-mail ballot against the registered voter rolls to ensure that there was only one acknowledgement of a vote per person. Furthermore, the by-mail election was different than a by-FAX election in that the division would make sure that there was as much advanced notice of the registration deadline in a by-mail election. A ballot would then be mailed to each registered voter which would also help to avoid extra ballots floating around. Number 0646 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said in a rural setting there were more opportunities for fraud. A by-mail election would be on the honor system. He wondered again if there were further safeguards that could be taken. Number 0735 MS. SHRINER said she appreciated his concerns. She did not have all the answers, however. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN replied at least the department would be on guard for those types of fraudulent activities. Number 0751 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN IVAN explained the community of Akiak experienced disillusionment when it participated in a by-mail election. There was mass confusion. The first ballots were incorrect and not everyone received the second round of ballots. He called it a horrifying experience for the community. Consequently, the community did not have any faith in the system now. Furthermore, the division made the determination of the final results. The community, however, did not trust the results and asked for a second election. The division said that was not possible because everything was done according to the books. He explained the community was used to a central voting location. He reiterated the by-mail ballot was confusing to the members of the community. He said the English language was also a problem for many. He was not a fan of a by-mail ballot system. He was opposed to HB 349. He suggested deleting Sec. 40 altogether. He asked Ms. Shriner to further explain the secrecy process. Number 0989 MS. SHRINER apologized to Representative Ivan for the confusion in the Akiak election. A very serious error was made and it was not defensible. Moreover, she explained the secrecy process whereby a person would vote and place the ballot in an envelope. There were no marks of any kind on that envelope. That envelope was placed inside a larger envelope containing the voter's signature and one form of identification, such as, the voter registration number. The division, however, was looking at a way to ensure the privacy of the name on the outer-envelope. It was possible, now, for a person to place that envelope inside another envelope to ensure more privacy, however. When the envelope was received the voter identification was checked to make sure that person was an active registered voter. The ballot was then removed and placed with the rest of the ballots for counting. Furthermore, she reiterated the division did not want to force the pilot project onto any community that did not want to participate. Number 1145 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN asked if the definition of the term "rural" for the Division of Elections was 200 registered voters or less? Number 1153 MS. SHRINER replied that was just a further qualifier for the pilot program. It was not a definition per say of the division. She reiterated the division felt that qualifying line should be eliminated. Number 1174 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN wondered about the cost incurred for the pilot project. Number 1193 MS. SHRINER stated the Division of Elections submitted a $0 fiscal note. A by-mail election was considered more efficient because poll workers would not need to be hired, for example. She called it a negligible expense. However, she did believe a poll worker's income deserved some attention. Number 1227 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN said the rural communities were more comfortable with a central voting location where somebody could answer any questions and concerns of the voter. Number 1291 MS. SHRINER said she respected the position of Representative Ivan's community. She added, however, that even in a by-mail election, an official was designated and available for three weeks prior to the election. The division wanted to provide as much on- site assistance as possible. Number 1330 REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN PORTER was concerned about the substantive provisions in the bill. It was laudable to involve as many people in an election as possible. However, he felt most would find a way to corrupt the system. He said there were all sorts of opportunities in a by-mail election for corruption. He had a problem with the division mailing unsolicited ballots. The division would not even know if a voter was home, for example. Furthermore, the division would not have a way to verify those signatures. He said it was easy to access signatures in a family, and in the small communities in Alaska, elections were won or lost by a handful of votes. Number 1448 MS. SHRINER thanked Representative Porter for his concerns. The division would look into them further. Number 1463 REPRESENTATIVE ED WILLIS asked Ms. Shriner the reactions from the state of Oregon regarding their by-mail election? Number 1486 MS. SHRINER replied the response had been positive, but it was by the people that wanted the process to work. She was not sure if the criticisms were as quick to surface, however. She wanted to research the pros and cons of the election further before providing the results to the committee members. She explained the urban communities liked the election more because it cut down on parking problems, for example. She wanted to look at the concerns and provide an analysis to further ensure the Alaska by-mail election was even more safe and efficient. Number 1543 REPRESENTATIVE CAREN ROBINSON wondered about municipal elections. Number 1554 MS. SHRINER replied the Municipal Code was in a different section than state election law. The division did not mandate the Municipal Code, however, a municipality frequently followed the lead of the division. Number 1589 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON stated, for clarification, the pilot program would not be imposed on any community, it would have to be requested. Number 1597 MS. SHRINER replied, "yes, absolutely." The division would solicit interested communities followed by an education process. The division did not want to repeat the confusion in the Akiak community. Number 1637 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked Ms. Shriner what would be the deciding body in a community? Number 1650 MS. SHRINER replied, "I think that's an excellent question." She was not sure of the answer. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON wondered if the deciding body would be the municipality, a native corporation, or borough assembly, for example. There would need to be some level of authority to decide to participate in the pilot program. Number 1679 REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT OGAN thanked Ms. Shriner for her candor and honesty today. He found it refreshing. He announced he agreed with Representative Porter regarding the potential fraudulent opportunities that a by-mail election presented. He wondered if the ballots would be mailed to all the registered voters. Number 1706 MS. SHRINER replied currently the division mailed the ballots to all of the registered voters. Moreover, the division notified the community that the election was coming and encouraged registration before mailing the ballots. Number 1730 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN said he had serious problems with that system because of the large volume of returned mail from constituents in his district. The system provided plenty of opportunity for fraud. He quoted the saying, "vote early and vote often" applied to this issue. Number 1759 MS. SHRINER said she would ask the other states how they handled the issues raised today and report back to the House State Affairs Committee. Number 1770 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER announced he was about to move to delete Sec. 20 and Sec. 40 from the bill. He cited the fraudulent behaviors in the Chicago election of Mayor Daley. "If an opportunity for fraud is provided, it will be taken," he said. The bill needed to be looked at further. CHAIR JAMES called on Kathleen Strasbaugh, Department of Law. Number 1857 KATHLEEN STRASBAUGH, Assistant Attorney General, Governmental Affairs Section, Civil Division, Department of Law, explained a few years ago the legislature adopted the Motor Voter Act. She suggested eliminating the perception that the division purged the voter list too early. She explained voters were not purged but put on an inactive list. The period was perceived to be too short, however, because the ballot was questioned causing an impediment or discouragement from voting. She recommended expanding the time to two full election cycles of four years. Furthermore, the phrase "appear to vote" was vague, according to Jack Chenoweth, Attorney, Legislative Legal Counsel. It was further defined as "come to the polls, come to an absentee voting station, apply for a mailed ballot, or participate in a mailed election," but the vote must be counted to avoid being purged from the rolls. Moreover, the oath was removed and included a notification that if a voter lied he would be in violation of the criminal statutes. She reiterated the two issues that the division would need to work closely with the Justice Department for clarification were the maintenance of an inactive register list, and the crimes of moral turpitude provisions. She thought the department could persuade the Justice Department that those had never been employed or a problem in this state. She explained the changes in the bill would help the department proceed to the next step. Number 2102 CHAIR JAMES announced she was interested in the amendments Representative Porter mentioned earlier. She said pilot projects needed a parallel system to compare the old way with the new way. Furthermore, she was very excited about any opportunity to ensure a better voter turn out. She cited a mailing in her district last year whereby she sent 2,834 letters to those who did not vote. Of the 2,834, 1,422 were returned not received by the addressee. Therefore, according to the pilot project, 1,422 ballots would have been sent to no one. Moreover, 45 replied they were absent from town, 19 replied they had problems with absentee ballots, 13 replied they did not register on time, and 11 replied they had transportation problems. The responses both supported and questioned the effectiveness of a by-mail election. She was interested in a by-mail election process, but she was not ready to support it yet because of the diversified problems Alaska presented. Number 2255 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said he was still concerned about the language "appear to vote." He explained his experience as a member of the Board of Directors for Chugach Electric in Anchorage when it went to a mail-in ballot system. The number of ballots returned almost doubled. He called in a significant increase. The problem, however, was that no one followed up on the authenticity of the ballots. He reiterated his concern in the rural communities where there would be far greater access to multiple ballots. He would support the amendment to delete that section, not because it was bad, but because it was not yet controllable. Number 2317 CHAIR JAMES suggested a motion for an amendment or the formation of a subcommittee to work on a committee substitute. Number 2325 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER stated the house cleaning provisions in the bill were necessary. Therefore, he suggested deleting the provisions in questions to move the bill forward. CHAIR JAMES replied, "that's fine with me." Number 2337 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS asked if there were any witnesses via teleconference to testify? CHAIR JAMES replied, "no." Number 2344 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER moved to delete Sec. 20 and Sec. 40 from HB 349 (9-GH0051/C). Hearing no objection, they were so deleted. Number 2356 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said she supported the motion but hoped that the concept would move forward after further analysis. She handed out an explanation of a by-mail election in Oregon. CHAIR JAMES said it was important to look at other states but it was important to ensure that the design fit the geographic and demographic concerns of Alaska. She agreed with the direction of Sec. 40, but further work was needed. Number 2433 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN wondered if the first amendment should be rescinded because the committee forgot to adopt the committee substitute. CHAIR JAMES replied, "I think we can deal with that." She called for a motion to adopt it. REPRESENTATIVE OGAN moved to adopt CSHB 349(STA) (9-GH0051/C) for consideration. Hearing no objection, it was so adopted. Number 2464 MS. SHRINER thanked the committee members. She said the division would look into the concerns of the members further. Number 2470 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER moved that CSHB 349(STA) (9-GH0051/C) move from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal notes, as amended. Hearing no objection, it was so moved from the House State Affairs Committee. HB 198 - PFD ALLOWABLE ABSENCES TAPE 96-42, SIDE B Number 0035 The next order of business to come before the House State Affairs Committee was HB 198. CHAIR JAMES called on Representative Kim Elton, sponsor of HB 198. REPRESENTATIVE KIM ELTON said HB 198 provided for the exception of the 180 days of accumulative time limit for the purpose of caring for a terminally ill family member, and for the purpose of settling the estate of a deceased family member. "Family members" were defined as parent, spouse, sibling, child and stepchild. He called it a tight definition. He explained he introduced this bill after a constituent came to him who experienced a series of personal illnesses that required care outside of Alaska combined with a couple of situations where he and his wife provided hospice care for other family members outside of Alaska. As a result, he was denied the permanent fund dividend. Representative Elton stated that was unreasonable. Moreover, at the request of Representative James, the title was tightened and the effective date changed resulting in the committee substitute (9-LS0745/C). He said he would be available to answer any questions. Number 0133 CHAIR JAMES stated an excuse for being outside of the state beyond the 180 days currently allowed should be one that was beyond a person's control. The two reasons proposed in CSHB 198(STA) (9- LS0745/C) met that criteria. Number 0147 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked Representative Elton what was the attitude of the Permanent Fund Division regarding the bill? Number 0153 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON replied he did talk to the division to determine the associated problems ("heartburn") and the cost incurred. The division believed it would have a limited cost effect, a $0 fiscal note was attached. The division also believed it would not cause any problems or heartburn. Moreover, he explained the bill did not cover all the situations that it should. It would not cover, for example, a child that needed medical attention outside the state, unless he died. A definition of the term "illness" was needed before more exemptions were applied. The term "terminally ill" was already defined. He said he tried to broaden the bill to include other important family situations, and suggested the committee might want to consider that. Number 0225 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER said he would error on the side of being more loose. It appeared the seriousness was primafacie if someone spent that much time outside of Alaska in a hospital. He did not have a problem including a serious illness as an exemption. Number 0245 CHAIR JAMES said she agreed with Representative Porter. Furthermore, she called this an Alaskan issue. It was not the amount of the permanent fund dividend that was at issue here, it was the idea of not being considered an "Alaskan," if one spent more than 180 days outside of the state. She agreed the door should be opened a little to allow protected exemptions in statute. She further believed, it was more proper to put the exemptions into law rather than regulations. Number 0332 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON moved to adopt CSHB 198(STA) (9-LS0745/C) for consideration. Hearing no objection, it was so adopted. Number 0351 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON explained she was a cosponsor of the bill. Therefore, she believed in the direction of the bill. She announced she would be willing to work with Representative Elton and others to include serious illnesses as well as terminal illnesses. It many cases Alaskans needed to leave the state for medical treatment to stay alive. She wondered if the bill could be amended to take those situations into consideration. Number 0414 CHAIR JAMES said she wanted to hear from the committee members further before establishing a subcommittee. Number 0440 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON suggested language that addressed acceptable allowances for medical treatment outside of Alaska that were not available in the state, for example. Number 0457 CHAIR JAMES explained she asked Representative Elton to tighten to title of CSHB 198(STA) (9-LS0745/C) to prevent the "christmas tree" effect as it progressed through the system. Number 0480 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN stated he appreciated the intent of CSHB 198(STA) (9-LS0745/C). He wondered about a terminally ill patient that had to leave the state for several years. Many times doctors could not determine the length of time necessary for treatment. Number 0506 CHAIR JAMES replied that concern needed to be answered. Number 0517 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said most would make an exception for the terminally ill. He explained there was a distinction between an individual that needed to leave the state for medical reasons and an airline pilot, for example, that needed to leave the state because of his job due to downsizing. Number 0570 CHAIR JAMES reiterated it was not just the money. It was the fact that a resident felt he was being "slapped in the face" for not being an Alaskan. Number 0598 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN suggested adding to the language Representative Elton proposed to include "the intention to return to the state." He cited an example of a friend that was diagnosed with a brain tumor and moved to California to take advantage of the medicaid program there. He wondered where the line should be drawn. He reiterated there should be an intention to return to Alaska. Number 0669 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER said there were apparently two categories involved - an Alaskan resident that had to go outside accompanied by a resident for medical treatment, and an Alaskan resident that had to go outside to attend to an out-of-state resident. It was obvious the first category should apply as an exemption, but he was not so sure about the second category. Number 0718 CHAIR JAMES further added to the categories Representative Porter mentioned to include a child accompanied by an adult who turned 18 while out of the state. She suggested forming a subcommittee to work on the language further. She called on Representatives Porter and Robinson to participate. Number 0748 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS said he would assume that the subcommittee would run the committee substitute by the division and the legal department. CHAIR JAMES replied, "of course." That was part of the process. Number 0757 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON said this discussion showed why he had decided to open the door just a little. CHAIR JAMES announced this was a good piece of legislation. She would sign on as a cosponsor. REPRESENTATIVE ELTON replied, "thank you Madame Chair." CHAIR JAMES called on the first witness in Juneau, Nanci A. Jones, Department of Revenue. Number 0796 NANCI A. JONES, Director, Central Office, Permanent Fund Dividend Division, Department of Revenue, said it was always interesting to see how knowledgeable every one was with the program. She appreciated the discussion today. She explained, currently, a person could be allowably absent from the state if he was receiving continuous medical treatment. "Continuous" was defined as a minimum of a weekly visit to the doctor to avoid a person leaving the state for a "medical vacation," in Arizona for example. Furthermore, a person could accompany that person for medical treatment as well. In the regulations, however, that person had to be defined as disabled. The division was undergoing a regulation re-write to define the term "disabled." Therefore, currently, a person could accompany another person out of the state for more than the 180 days. She called CSHB 198(STA) a noble idea. However, the division was concerned about the christmas tree effect that Chair James mentioned as it proceeded through the system. She announced she was in the process of compiling statistics to show how many people were paid that were actually outside of Alaska. She passed to the committee members a handout titled, "1995 Dividend Payments to Eligible Applicants with Absences." A disparity existed between the categories. She cited a person that won a bid outside to work could not receive the dividend. The division recognized the Peace Corp, but did not recognize any other volunteer organizations. She said she could go on and on about the disparities that existed and cautioned the committee it would face that issue once it opened the door. She said she would like to work with the subcommittee to produce an equitable and easily administered piece of legislation. She voiced her concern regarding the two year return provision and the five year presumption provision. Those provisions backed-up the appeal process because it was hard to determine a person's intent. She was concerned this might occur with the two new provisions as well. She explained HB 4 was in the House Finance Committee. The bill separated the issue of state resident and allowable absences. She reiterated it was hard to work with the disparities present in the program. She reiterated CSHB 198(STA) was noble, but suggested taking more time and looking further at the disparities in general. Number 1159 CHAIR JAMES asked Ms. Jones how many of the allowable absences were in statute and how many were in regulations? Number 1179 MS. JONES replied AS 01.10.055 defined the allowable absences and AS 43.23.095(8) defined "state resident." She suggested two statutes to define a state resident and guidelines for allowable absences. CHAIR JAMES asked Ms. Jones if HB 4 addressed the state resident issue. MS. JONES replied, "yes." The bill addressed the separation of those two definitions. The regulations further defined the allowable absences according to the statutes. Number 1247 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER asked Ms. Jones if more categories were established under AS 01.10.055 (F), "other reasons which the commissioner may establish by regulation; (OR)?" MS. JONES replied, "no." The division, however, had expanded the allowances for the two year return rule and the five year presumption rule. She called subsection (F) a misnomer. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER replied he understood her concerns about subsection (F), but the division did have the statutory authority to do that. MS. JONES stated the subsection was included for room to grow. However, the division was very cautious about how it grew because it could not allow for every exemption. Number 1296 CHAIR JAMES shared a personal experience regarding the two year and the five year presumption provisions of a family returning to Alaska for only a few days to qualify for the dividend. It was a lot of money for a large family. CHAIR JAMES thanked Ms. Jones for her testimony today. MS. JONES thanked the Chair and the committee members. CHAIR JAMES announced she expected the subcommittee to report back shortly to move the bill forward. HJR 34 - LIMIT LEGISLATIVE SESSION TO 90 DAYS The next order of business to come before the House State Affairs Committee was HJR 34. CHAIR JAMES called on Representative Jerry Sander, sponsor of HJR 34. Number 1487 REPRESENTATIVE JERRY SANDERS said he would not read the sponsor statement because everyone here could read. He announced his wife, children and grandchildren really liked the resolution. He also believed the Governor would like it too. He explained the 120 day session had been in existence now for 10 years in Alaska. It had worked well. However, it was time to look at the issue again and consider reducing the session length to 90 days. He said it would not present a problem due to the advancement of computers, for example. It presented a significant savings of $1.5 million. He called it a conservative amount, and felt it would be a considerable amount more when the number of administrative operations that were moving to Anchorage were considered. Those members had to fly to Juneau for business of which the state paid for the trip. He said HJR 34 would be popular in his district. He also believed it would pass other districts as well. He said the public perceived that the oil companies paid for this government. He did not believe that, however, and the people would discover that soon. He predicted that in one year after passing a state income tax, the session would be reduced to 90 days anyway due to the change in the public's perception. The resolution asked for the people to vote on the issue. He asked the committee members to take an honest look at the resolution. Number 1729 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said he supported the concept of HJR 34. The resolution would send a clear message. He said if other states could do it, Alaska could. He reiterated he strongly supported HJR 34. Number 1782 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN said he felt the legislature could accomplish what it did in 120 days in 90 days. The side effects would be less bills and forced priorities. It would also create a tendency to "hit the ground running." He said it would create better government and better legislation. He supported the resolution. Number 1856 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said she initially voted against the 120 day session, and was glad others did not agree with her because she now believed it was good to have a time limit. She asked Representative Sanders if he looked at other options available, such as, one session being longer than another, for example? Number 1910 REPRESENTATIVE SANDERS replied, "yes." He would have written it for 90 days one year and 60 days the other year. However, he also believed in a one-step-at-a time approach. He suggested trying a 90 day session for a while before cutting one year to 60 days. Number 1937 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked Representative Sanders where the 90 days came from? Number 1955 REPRESENTATIVE SANDERS replied the House of Representatives passed a budget in 90 days which had always been a budget that the public supported. However, after that 90 day period, there were an additional 30 days "to go back and put all that money back in." Therefore, the state would be in better shape if it were limited to 90 days. Number 2004 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said she was tired of all the bills being pushed through the legislature. Furthermore, each bill and fiscal note had to be evaluated by a department. She also supported a two year budget cycle because the departments had to cater to the legislature for 120 days out of each year rather than conducting state business. She asked Representative Sanders what the extension provision was in the resolution? REPRESENTATIVE SANDERS replied it was the same. There was no change to the extension provision. Number 2135 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN explained the state of Texas only allowed legislation to be introduced on the alternative years, allowing one session to be dedicated to the budget. It was not fair to compare other states to Alaska due to its short statehood. A step in that direction was worthwhile, however. Number 2226 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER asked Representative Green if Texas did an annual budget? REPRESENTATIVE GREEN replied, "yes." There were states, however, that did biannual budgets. Number 2243 CHAIR JAMES said she supported HJR 34. She was concerned about comparing Alaska to other states, however, because Alaska did not have a steady revenue source. Moreover, she was also concerned about the number of bills introduced. She explained she was criticized for not hearing some bills this session, but there was only so much that the House State Affairs Committee could do, and do it right. Furthermore, the rules would have to change. She suggested that a bill could not pass unless it had been presented in the previous session to prevent unintended consequences of the political bickering. By presenting a piece of legislation one year, the interim period could be used for discussion with the public before action was taken. She said the legislators did not hear from the public while in Juneau. "We hear from a few dissenters and a few passionate supporters," a very small part of the public. TAPE 96-43, SIDE A Number 0000 CHAIR JAMES reiterated the rules could be determined given a length of time. The arguments against were just excuses. Number 0044 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN stated most of the states that had restricted time entertained public hearings throughout the session. Furthermore, although those states had a shorter session, they had a longer interim period. Moreover, most states were far more austere towards their compensation of their legislators. Number 0104 CHAIR JAMES said the legislature had made giant strides over the past four years reducing the amount of money spent on the legislature as-well-as the carry over amount. She announced Pam Varni, Executive Director, Legislative Affairs Agency, was here to answer any questions regarding the legislature. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN stated the legislature at the same time increased its per diem. CHAIR JAMES responded everybody focused on the increased per diem even though the legislature cut its staff and unrolled the carry over amount. Number 0182 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS said he was not sure how he would vote on HJR 34. He was concerned about how this would affect the balance of power between he executive and legislative branches. The Alaskan Governor was the strongest executive in the United States, and the counter balance to the executive branch in the state was the legislature. He felt the 120 day session was an excellent idea when it was changed years ago. He cautioned the committee members when considering shortening it even further to 90 days, however, for fear of a tip in the balance of powers. Number 0316 CHAIR JAMES explained regulations distressed the public. Based on her analysis of the problem, the legislature was not willing to take the time to include specifics in the bills creating more regulations on the part of the Administration. Therefore, she agreed with Representative Willis that the balance of powers needed to be looked at further. Number 0367 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER explained four years ago the legislature cut 79 positions. He felt the legislature never did receive full credit for that so every time he had to opportunity to state that he would. Furthermore, most of the business in other states was done at the municipal and county levels compared to Alaska. There was more money spent and issues addressed between King County and the City of Seattle in the state of Washington than Olympia, for example. Therefore, the Alaska State Legislature was in effect a borough assembly county seat of government for a large percentage of the area of Alaska addressing issues that other states would not. Number 0479 CHAIR JAMES announced HB 485 and HB 490 would not be heard today due to time constraints. They would be rescheduled for Saturday, March 30, 1996. Number 0496 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN said if the session was moved to Akiak, the expenses would be reduced as much as possible. He cited the diversity, the limited access, and the cultures of Alaska affected the government and how a state was governed compared to any other state. He was afraid to make a radical change right now. Number 0575 CHAIR JAMES explained due to redistricting every 10 years, a freshman legislature was almost inevitable. She said it was a steep learning curve for her as a freshman four years ago and that needed to also be considered when changing the system. She cited it was hard to even find the bathrooms for that freshman class. She complimented Representative Scott Ogan for his efforts as one of only a few freshmen legislators last year. Number 0642 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said she sympathized with other Representatives that had businesses outside of their work as a legislator. She believed in more interim types of work. She stated the issue needed to be looked at further. The entire way of doing business needed to be reconsidered. She did not think the legislature could get through in 90 days as it currently operated. She reiterated a more serious look was needed and provisions included to incorporate those changes. Number 717 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN said, for the record, he found the bathroom pretty fast when he arrived in Juneau as a freshman. REPRESENTATIVE OGAN moved that HJR 34 move from the committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal notes. Chair James objected. A roll call vote was not called for, however. CHAIR JAMES announced HJR 34 would be scheduled again for Saturday, March 30, 1996. Number 0786 ADJOURNMENT CHAIR JAMES adjourned the House State Affairs Committee meeting at 10:04 a.m.