Legislature(1999 - 2000)
02/08/2000 08:11 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE STATE AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE February 8, 2000 8:11 a.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Representative Jeannette James, Chair Representative Jim Whitaker Representative Bill Hudson Representative Beth Kerttula Representative Hal Smalley Representative Scott Ogan MEMBERS ABSENT Representative Joe Green OTHER HOUSE MEMBERS PRESENT Representative Con Bunde COMMITTEE CALENDAR HOUSE BILL NO. 236 "An Act relating to credited service in the teachers' retirement system for part-time employment." - MOVED HB 236 OUT OF COMMITTEE HOUSE BILL NO. 291 "An Act relating to the use of electronic format for certain state agency notices." - MOVED CSHB 291(STA) OUT OF COMMITTEE HOUSE BILL NO. 163 "An Act relating to qualifications of voters; relating to the registration of voters; relating to election districts and officials; relating to election procedures and ballots; relating to special procedures for elections; relating to nomination of candidates; relating to national elections; relating to special elections and appointments; relating to constitutional amendments; relating to election offenses and corrupt practices; relating to election pamphlets; relating to the deferral of jury service for certain election officials; relating to an exemption from the State Procurement Code regarding election ballots; relating to the provision and use of mailing addresses on permanent fund dividend applications for election purposes; relating to the inclusion of voter registration forms with permanent fund dividend applications; making conforming amendments in references to 'election district' and 'chairman'; and providing for an effective date." - MOVED CSHB 163(STA) OUT OF COMMITTEE PREVIOUS ACTION BILL: HB 236 SHORT TITLE: CREDITED PART-TIME SERVICE TRS Jrn-Date Jrn-Page Action 5/14/99 1409 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S) 5/14/99 1409 (H) STA, HES, FIN 1/21/00 1976 (H) COSPONSOR(S): KERTTULA 2/08/00 (H) STA AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 102 BILL: HB 291 SHORT TITLE: ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURE NOTICES Jrn-Date Jrn-Page Action 1/18/00 1937 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS 1/18/00 1937 (H) STA, FIN 1/18/00 1937 (H) REFERRED TO STATE AFFAIRS 2/08/00 (H) STA AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 102 BILL: HB 163 SHORT TITLE: DIVISION OF ELECTIONS Jrn-Date Jrn-Page Action 3/26/99 583 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S) 3/26/99 584 (H) STA, JUD, FIN 2/08/00 (H) STA AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 102 WITNESS REGISTER PATRICIA SWENSON, Legislative Assistant to Representative Bunde Alaska State Legislature Capitol Building, Room 501 Juneau, Alaska 99801 POSITION STATEMENT: Presented sponsor statement for HB 236. GUY BELL, Director Division of Retirement & Benefits Department of Administration PO Box 110203 Juneau, Alaska 99811-0203 POSITION STATEMENT: Answered questions regarding HB 236. JOHN CYR, President NEA-Alaska 114 Second Street Juneau, Alaska 99801 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in favor of HB 236. RICHARD SCHMITZ, Legislative Secretary to Representative James Alaska State Legislature Capitol Building, Room 102 Juneau, Alaska 99801 POSITION STATEMENT: Presented sponsor statement for HB 163. GAIL FENUMIAI, Election Program Specialist Division of Elections Office of the Lieutenant Governor PO Box 110015 Juneau, Alaska 99811-0015 POSITION STATEMENT: Provided division's position and answered questions regarding HB 163. ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 00-5, SIDE A Number 0001 CHAIR JEANNETTE JAMES called the House State Affairs Standing Committee meeting to order at 8:11 a.m. Members present at the call to order were Representatives James, Whitaker, Kerttula, Smalley and Ogan. Representative Hudson arrived as the meeting was in progress. HB 236-CREDITED PART-TIME SERVICE TRS Number 0082 CHAIR JAMES announced the first order of business is HOUSE BILL NO. 236, "An Act relating to credited service in the teachers' retirement system for part-time employment." Number 0098 PATRICIA SWENSON, Legislative Assistant to Representative Bunde, Alaska State Legislature, read the following sponsor statement: The purpose of HB 236 is to correct an inequity in the teachers retirement system (TRS). Under the current system teachers working more than 50 percent of the time, but less than full time, receive only one-half service credit for time worked. In other words, teachers in this group contribute more retirement dollars, but do not get a retirement benefit consistent with their contribution. House Bill 236 will correct the inequity in the TRS by giving teachers, who work more than 50 percent of the time, but less than full time, retirement service credit based on time worked. MS. SWENSON said 250 teachers are affected by HB 236. Number 0214 REPRESENTATIVE SMALLEY said he understood that the retirement benefit had already been paid by the part-time teachers. MS. SWENSON affirmed that, adding that the fiscal note is zero. Number 0269 CHAIR JAMES voiced her understanding that part-time teachers have already contributed to the TRS fund. She explained that HB 236 is a fairness issue that will allow part-time teachers to be credited with the amount they have paid to TRS. Number 0385 GUY BELL, Director, Division of Retirement & Benefits, Department of Administration, said he agrees with Representative Bunde that HB 236 is an equity issue. House Bill 236 gives equivalent credit to part-time teachers for the time they teach each year. Each teacher is paying at his/her own rate into the TRS. The fiscal note shows a .01 percent increase in employer rates, recognizing that there is a negligible cost to HB 236. He noted that TRS has a 12 percent employer rate, which can easily absorb the minimal increase caused by HB 236. He further stated that HB 236 will not have an impact on future employer rates for TRS. Number 0548 JOHN CYR, President, NEA-Alaska [Affiliated with the National Education Association], testified in favor of HB 236. He said HB 236 is a matter of equity and will allow about 250 teachers to receive what they already had paid into TRS. Number 0624 REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON made a motion to move HB 236 out of committee with individual recommendations and the attached zero fiscal note. There being no objection, HB 236 moved from the House State Affairs Standing Committee. HB 291-ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURE NOTICES Number 0733 CHAIR JAMES announced the second order of business is HOUSE BILL NO. 291, "An Act relating to the use of electronic format for certain state agency notices." Number 0755 REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON made a motion to adopt the proposed CS for HB 291, version 1-LS1244\H, Bannister, 2/7/00, as a work draft. There being no objection, proposed CSHB 291, Version H, was before the committee. Number 0769 REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA explained that HB 291 was a very modest effort to move the legislature toward the electronic age. She acknowledged that there is a constant stream of regulatory action that flows into committee offices. Therefore, in an effort to trim legislative costs, she had proposed that the legislature try to use electronic format to receive regulatory paperwork. REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA directed attention to page 1, line 14, where it read "furnished." She explained that the use of this word is to make the proposed CS technically sound, thereby making it legal to deliver [electronic] notices to legislative offices instead of using the current mandatory mailing procedure. The proposed CS would consistently change the word "mailed" to "furnished" so that agencies could provide an electronic copy of regulatory notices to legislators. REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA indicated a second change in the proposed CS is on page 2, lines 11-16, number 6. She acknowledged that some small agencies or boards might not have the technological capability to send e-mails. In that case, the proposed CS allows that agency to provide regulatory notices to legislators by other means. However, if an agency does have technological capability to send e-mails, then e-mail notice is required. She said that a legislator can request regulatory notices be mailed if that is the preferred method of notice for a particular legislator. Number 0989 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN commented that he had noticed that "cost saving measures" always seemed to be accompanied with a zero fiscal note rather than a negative fiscal note. He wondered why the committee does not start showing some real cost savings in the fiscal notes. Number 1023 REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA said the proposed amendment to the proposed CS might actually show a real cost saving. REPRESENTATIVE OGAN commented that maybe there is no negative fiscal note because the agency does not want their budget cut. REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA said she did not know if that was the reason. Number 1078 CHAIR JAMES announced that there was an amendment for the proposed CS before the committee. Amendment 1, 1-LS1244\H.1, Bannister, 2/7/00, read: Page 1, line 3: Delete "AS 44.62.190(a) is amended to read:" Insert "AS 44.62.190 is amended to read: Sec. 44.62.190. Notice of proposed action." Page 2, lines 16 - 25: Delete "; (7) furnished to the standing committee of each house of the legislature having legislative jurisdiction over the subject matter treated by the regulation under the Uniform Rules of the Alaska State Legislature, together with a copy of the proposed regulation, amendment, or order of repeal for the committee's use in conducting the review authorized by AS 24.05.182; (8) furnished to the staff of the Administrative Regulation Review Committee, together with a copy of the proposed regulation, amendment, or order of repeal and, if preparation of an appropriation increase estimate is required by AS 44.62.195, a copy of the estimate" Insert "[(7) FURNISHED TO THE STANDING COMMITTEE OF EACH HOUSE OF THE LEGISLATURE HAVING LEGISLATIVE JURISDICTION OVER THE SUBJECT MATTER TREATED BY THE REGULATION UNDER THE UNIFORM RULES OF THE ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE, TOGETHER WITH A COPY OF THE PROPOSED REGULATION, AMENDMENT, OR ORDER OF REPEAL FOR THE COMMITTEE'S USE IN CONDUCTING THE REVIEW AUTHORIZED BY AS 24.05.182; (8) FURNISHED TO THE STAFF OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE REGULATION REVIEW COMMITTEE, TOGETHER WITH A COPY OF THE PROPOSED REGULATION, AMENDMENT, OR ORDER OF REPEAL AND, IF PREPARATION OF AN APPROPRIATION INCREASE ESTIMATE IS REQUIRED BY AS 44.62.195, A COPY OF THE ESTIMATE]" Page 2, line 26: Delete all material. Page 3, line 1: Delete all material. Page 3, following line 4: Insert a new subsection to read: "(d) Along with a notice furnished under (a)(2), (4)(A), or (6) [, (7), OR (8)] of this section, the state agency shall include the reason for the proposed action, the initial cost to the state agency of implementation, the estimated annual costs to the state agency of implementation, the name of the contact person for the state agency, and the origin of the proposed action." Page 3, line 5: Delete "Sec. 4." Insert "Sec. 2." [End of Amendment 1] Number 1096 REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA explained that she had left Amendment 1 in amendment form because working with two proposed committee substitutes is too confusing. Amendment 1 takes the legislature another step forward in receiving electronic notices by relieving an agency of notifying each standing committee member or administrative regulation review committee staff member. Her inclination is to move all the way forward in electronic notice capability. However, she recognizes that it is a policy call to be decided upon by the committee. CHAIR JAMES agreed that Amendment 1 is a step forward because regulatory notices are available on electronic media. Number 1178 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN asked if agency regulatory notices are going to be e-mailed or just be available. Number 1199 REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA answered that if the committee adopts the proposed CS, legislators will receive an electronic notice in their offices. She emphasized that only the legislator would receive the electronic notice, not committee members just because they are assigned to a committee. As to whether the electronic notice would be an e-mail, she said yes. Number 1265 CHAIR JAMES pointed out that every committee member is also a legislator, so the regulatory notices will be available to all of them. She envisioned that much paperwork will be eliminated if the legislature moves forward with the electronic technology available. Number 1340 REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA agreed with Chair James that ever- changing technology advances make for an exciting perspective of paperless offices in the future. CHAIR JAMES emphasized that there will be postage cost savings if the legislature moves into the use of electronic technology possibilities. Number 1370 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN expressed his belief that there will be a problem if standing committee members are not advised of regulatory notices because some legislators are not full time or in their offices every day checking e-mail messages. He suggested that maybe some legislators did not want their staff to check the legislators' e-mail messages. He suggested it would be appropriate to at least e-mail the legislator's committee aide regarding issues relevant to that committee. Number 1451 CHAIR JAMES said she cannot imagine why a part-time legislator would not want a legislative aide to read the e-mails. Her own aides sort through e-mails, eliminate those that are not relevant to the business at hand, and forward the important ones to her home. Number 1520 REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA mentioned that all a legislator has to do is notify an agency that information is to be mailed directly to that legislator's staff person. CHAIR JAMES emphasized that the computer age has arrived, so it would behoove legislators to become technologically literate. She would even like to have computers placed at desks in the House chambers so that legislators can see amendments immediately as they are being discussed. She suggested that being in the forefront of using computer technology is an advantage for legislators. Number 1659 REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON reminded members that every newspaper has pages full of legal notices that cost thousands of dollars to publish, and yet hardly anyone reads them. Those notices are there because they were mandated by antiquated government regulation. He said he wishes HB 291 went further than just addressing government action notices. He said it would be convenient to get all public notices published in electronic format in order to allow easier access for the public and to reduce publishing costs. CHAIR JAMES said she is pleased with Amendment 1 because it repeals legislation, and repealing unnecessary legislation was one of her purposes for filing for a legislative seat. Number 1762 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN asked how Amendment 1 affects the average citizen. Could people without computers in their homes request to be included on a mailing list? REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA said Amendment 1 is just for the legislature and does not affect any public notice requirements that are already in effect. As it stands now, public notice requirements, including expensive newspaper notices, are quite complicated and detailed. She believes there has to be an easier way to get regulatory notices published. Amendment 1 to the proposed CS is just the first step toward a simpler process. Number 1860 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN made a motion to adopt Amendment 1. There being no objection, it was so ordered and Amendment 1 was adopted. Number 1889 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN made a motion to move CSHB 291, version 1- LS1244\H, Bannister, 2/7/00, as amended, out of committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note. There being no objection, CSHB 291(STA) moved from the House State Affairs Standing Committee. HB 163-DIVISION OF ELECTIONS Number 1919 CHAIR JAMES announced the next order of business is HOUSE BILL NO. 163, "An Act relating to qualifications of voters; relating to the registration of voters; relating to election districts and officials; relating to election procedures and ballots; relating to special procedures for elections; relating to nomination of candidates; relating to national elections; relating to special elections and appointments; relating to constitutional amendments; relating to election offenses and corrupt practices; relating to election pamphlets; relating to the deferral of jury service for certain election officials; relating to an exemption from the State Procurement Code regarding election ballots; relating to the provision and use of mailing addresses on permanent fund dividend applications for election purposes; relating to the inclusion of voter registration forms with permanent fund dividend applications; making conforming amendments in references to 'election district' and 'chairman'; and providing for an effective date." Number 1960 REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON made a motion to adopt the proposed CS for HB 163, version 1-LS0769\D, Kurtz, 2/2/00, as a work draft. There being no objection, proposed CSHB 163, Version D, was before the committee. Number 1970 RICHARD SCHMITZ, Staff Legislative Secretary to Representative James, read the sponsor statement for HB 163 as follows: House Bill 163 is primarily a housekeeping bill that will update current election law to conform with the optical scanning ballot tabulation system. The goal of HB 163 is to make the electoral process more efficient while continuing to maintain the integrity of the process. In addition to housekeeping measures which are outlines in an accompanying sectional analysis, HB 163 contains three policy changes which will help make the election process more efficient for both the electorate and the Division of Elections. Write-in Candidates It became apparent after the 1998 gubernatorial election that the state needs clear procedures for the qualification of write-in candidates and for the counting of votes. HB 163 will prohibit the use of stickers by write-in candidates. Write-in stickers cannot be used with the state's optical scan ballot tabulation system. The Division has been advised by the manufacturer, Global Elections Systems, that stickers could damage the Accu-Vote machines. Revision of Absentee by Personal Representative Process The current statutory process is too cumbersome and the resulting mistakes by people attempting to assist other voters have resulted in the disqualification of many ballots. Current law requires the personal representative to deliver an application to the voter, return the application to an election official, pick up the ballot and voting material, deliver the material to the voter and then return the voted ballot and material to an election official, and multiple signatures on a complex form. The new process would allow the personal representative to deliver an application and voting material at one time and then return the voted ballot and material to an election official. The same checks and balances remain in lace to protect the integrity of the electoral process. Change to the Absentee In-Person Voting Process Early voting would apply to absentee voting in the regional election office absentee voting stations. Voters registered in a house district in which the regional election office has jurisdiction would no longer be required to complete an absentee oath and affidavit envelope. This will significantly reduce the number of absentee ballots requiring review by the division of elections. If a voter's residence address information is different from that which appears on the division's records at the time of voting, the voter will be required to complete an oath and affidavit envelope. MR. SCHMITZ explained that the proposed CS is a fix-it bill as a result of the November 1998 gubernatorial election, which seemed to have caused some confusion. The proposed CS attempts to mitigate confusion regarding write-in candidates and the absentee voting process. Number 2070 GAIL FENUMIAI, Election Program Specialist, Division of Elections, Office of the Lieutenant Governor, provided the division's position and answered questions regarding the proposed CS for HB 163. She started by explaining three major areas of change. First, the state's new computerized voting system becomes jammed if voters use stickers for write-in candidates; therefore, Section 40 on page 15 repeals the use of stickers under AS 15.15.361. MS. FENUMIAI discussed the second issue regarding write-in candidates and directed committee members to follow along on page 23, Section 58. This is a new section that the Division of Elections is proposing in an effort to establish guidelines for write-in candidates. Apparently the 1998 election for governor had caused confusion as to how a person could have his/her name written in on the ballot. A question had arisen regarding whether a write-in candidate for governor who did not have a running mate could even be elected. Therefore, the Division of Elections desired to establish some guidelines. Under the proposed CS, a write-in candidate must file a declaration of candidacy five days prior to the general election, which would give the Division of Elections time to advise the public about the write-in candidate. MS. FENUMIAI referred tp page 15, lines 8-19. She explained that this section shows voters how to write in the candidate and how to fill in the ovals on the voting form. Number 2291 REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON asked if the machine counts the votes. CHAIR JAMES answered that the machine counts the ovals that are filled in correctly. MS. FENUMIAI mentioned that every candidate who does run for office must file a declaration of candidacy with the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC). She drew attention to Section 48, page 18, lines 10-24, which deals with early voting. She said this section is being proposed as a matter of efficiency to speed the process of counting absentee ballots. The early-voting section discussed here only applies to the four regional absentee voting stations of Juneau, Anchorage, Fairbanks and Nome. Each of those four voting stations is online with the Division of Elections' voter registration system. Instead of filling out an "oath and affidavit envelope" as is currently required, an absentee voter could simply vote and put the ballot into the ballot tabulator. This would decrease the number of absentee voter envelopes that each voting station had to review. Ms. Fenumiai noted that there were over 13,000 absentee votes cast in the 1998 general election. She envisions under the proposed CS that staff time spent opening envelopes would be reduced considerably. Number 2445 CHAIR JAMES asked what happens if proof regarding the absentee voter's place of residence does not match voter registration information. MS. FENUMIAI answered that then the absentee voter must fill out an "oath and affidavit envelope." REPRESENTATIVE OGAN noted that Section 49, regarding special needs voting, does not appear to address people who are not mentally cognizant, such as those who suffer from Alzheimer's disease. He is concerned about unscrupulous manipulation to obtain votes from people suffering some degree of dementia, he explained. He objects to the fact that there do not seem to be safeguards to prevent abuse of the absentee voter system. Number 2527 MS. FENUMIAI answered that a law which precluded a person of unsound mind from voting was repealed in the 1990s. She noted that when a special needs ballot envelope is received by a voting station, it is reviewed by a regional absentee review board. If the information on the disabled person's ballot envelope does not match the voter registration, then the ballot is disqualified. Personally, she has not observed any voter fraud under circumstances described by Representative Ogan. REPRESENTATIVE OGAN emphasized his belief that just because the Division of Elections is not aware of a fraud problem does not mean that such a problem does not exist. He said there seems to be room for possible exploitation on the part of people who may have access to confidential personal information about people who suffer from dementia. Number 2652 MS. FENUMIAI noted that there are election misconduct statutes. If a person coerced another person about voting or pretended to be the other person, the perpetrator would face election misconduct charges. Regional election supervisors act as guards for the integrity of the absentee voting system by finding volunteer groups - such as the League of Women Voters - who will serve as personal representatives for disabled persons. Generally, it is family members who request special needs ballots. CHAIR JAMES said as far as she understands, the disabled person actually votes; it is not someone else voting for the disabled person. The personal representative picks up the ballot at a voting station and delivers it to the disabled person. Number 2725 MS. FENUMIAI affirmed that. She explained that the Division of Elections also maintains a log of personal representatives who pick up ballots for disabled persons. Anything of a suspicious nature is investigated by the Division of Elections. REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON asked committee members to review page 18, beginning at line 26, all the way through to the bottom of page 19. He noted that this section thoroughly describes the subject of absentee voting for someone else. He mentioned that page 19, line 26, addresses "unlawful interference with voting," which he felt should put Representative Ogan's fears to rest regarding fraud. Number 2777 REPRESENTATIVE SMALLEY agreed with Representative Hudson that page 19, lines 23-27, seemed to cover the fraud question. However, there might be a problem for visually impaired people since they cannot see where to mark the ballot. MS. FENUMIAI answered that the personal representative is authorized to direct the disabled person where to mark the ballot. Presently, a visually impaired person requests a personal representative to accompany the voter into the voting booth to assist in voting. Ms. Fenumiai reminded the committee that the personal representative has taken an oath to follow the voter's direction and not divulge the vote. The Division of Elections' goal in presenting the proposed CS is to reduce the number of trips that a personal representative makes under the current statute. Under the proposed CS, the personal representative could take the absentee voter application and the voting packet at the same time to the special needs voter. She explained that the Division of Elections is trying to make it easier for the voter to participate in the election process. MS. FENUMIAI informed the committee that other changes to statute outlined in the proposed CS are simply to bring existing language into compliance with the new election-related scanning equipment. Number 2915 REPRESENTATIVE WHITAKER said he is concerned with the notion that a running mate is now required for a write-in gubernatorial candidate. That has not been a requirement in the past. CHAIR JAMES answered that the present political system in a primary election requires a lieutenant governor position to accompany the governor position. Accordingly, a write-in candidate for governor should also have a running mate. TAPE 00-4, SIDE B Number 2990 MS. FENUMIAI expanded by saying that the Division of Elections wanted to level the playing field by requiring that a write-in candidate name a running mate. REPRESENTATIVE WHITAKER said he had brought up the question because there are people in Alaska who object to further regulations and rules being placed on current regulations. Number 2951 REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON made a motion to move CSHB 163, version 1- LS0769\D, Kurtz, 2/2/00, from committee with individual recommendations and the attached fiscal note. There being no objection, CSHB 163(STA) moved from the House State Affairs Standing Committee. ADJOURNMENT There being no further business before the committee, the House State Affairs Standing Committee meeting was adjourned at 9:00 a.m.