Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/22/1996 09:43 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
MINUTES SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE 22 February 1996 9:43 A.M. TAPES SFC-96, #29, Sides 1 & 2 CALL TO ORDER Senator Rick Halford, Co-chair, convened the meeting at approximately 9:43 A.M. PRESENT In addition to Co-chairman Halford, Co-chairman Frank and Senators Phillips, Sharp, Donley, Rieger were present. Senator Zharoff arrived shortly thereafter Also Attending: Senator Drue Pearce; Representative Terry Martin and aide Tom Anderson; Diane Shriner, Division of Elections; Larry Campbell, University of Alaska testified by teleconference; Sherman Ernouf, aide to Senator Tim Kelly; Mike Greany, Director, Legislative Finance Division; and aides to committee members. SUMMARY INFORMATION SENATE BILL NO. 239 "An Act relating to telephone advertisements, solicitations, and directory listings." Testimony was given by the sponsor of the bill, Senator Steve Rieger. Amendment #1, submitted by the Senator was MOVED and FAILED ADOPTION. Amendment #2, submitted by the Senator was MOVED and ADOPTED. SCS CSSB 239(FIN) was REPORTED OUT with zero fiscal note from the Department of Law. SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 31 Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Alaska relating to voter ratification of legislative approval of amendments of the Alaska Statehood Act affecting an interest of the State of Alaska under that Act. Testimony was given by the sponsor of the bill, Senator Drue Pearce. The bill was HELD in committee for further discussion. HOUSE BILL NO. 42 "An Act relating to absentee voting, to electronic transmission of absentee ballot applications, and to delivery of ballots to absentee ballot applicants by electronic transmission, and enacting a definition of the term 'state election' for purposes of absentee voting." Testimony was given by the sponsor of the bill, Representative Terry Martin, as well as his aide, Tom Anderson; and Diane Shriner of the Division of Elections. It was MOVED by Senator Zharoff to add "immediate effective date" and APPROVED. Without objection SCS CSHB 42(FIN) was REPORTED OUT with a fiscal note from the Office of the Governor, Division of Elections, $37.6. SENATE BILL NO. 134 "An Act establishing an endowment for the Robert B. Atwood journalism chair at the University of Alaska Anchorage; and providing for an effective date." Testimony was given by Mr. Sherman Ernouf, aide to Senator Tim Kelly, sponsor of the bill. Mr. Larry Campbell from the University of Alaska testified via teleconference. Senator Phillips MOVED SB 134 and it was REPORTED OUT with Senate Finance Committee zero fiscal note. SENATE BILL NO. 239 "An Act relating to telephone advertisements, solicitations, and directory listings." Testimony was given by the sponsor of the bill, Senator Steve Rieger. He advised that the bill would allow a residential telephone subscriber to have a notation placed in a directory expressing a desire to not receive telephone solicitations. With reference to Amendment #1 the chairman of Labor and Commerce Committee requested the scope of the bill no longer include opinion polls. This would prohibit automated polling and interconnects with some Federal laws. Reference was made to Amendment #2 and the Alaska Telephone Association requested amendments put in by the House be offered here to keep the two bills the same. They felt they should not have out-of-pocket costs to do this notation in the directory. This should be submitted and approved by the APUC as an extra charge. Senator Phillips wanted to know what triggered the introduction of this bill. Senator Rieger said that there has been on-going low level complaints where everyone has been bothered by calls and would like to have flexibility to control their lives a little more and place that notice in the directory. It does not prohibit commercial solicitation but rather allows an individual to opt to prohibit solicitation to themselves. Senator Phillips inquired if this would extend to U.S. mail. Senator Frank noted that some people have "no soliciting" signs on their mailbox or house. Senator Rieger further explained that when the telephone rings one has no idea if it is an emergency call or something you do not want to answer. It is reasonable to be able to have some control because sometimes these calls are very inconvenient and frustrating. The unlisted number does not prevent solicitation because it is not always a case of using a phone book but rather a computer set of just telephone numbers provided in electronic format by the phone company to a solicitor. GCI requested an amendment that they be allowed to provide no solicitation information in the electronic format. Senator Frank asked about the penalties and the costs allowed to be deducted by APUC. Why would they have to have this specifically allowed to be deducted from their expenses? Senator Rieger said this was a specific request by the telephone association and explained how they interpreted it. The extent of the costs would be clear and not be spread as part of an overall residential rate. The cost would be borne by the one requesting the service. In regards to the penalties there is a section of the Alaska Statutes called Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection and this just adds to a long list of items already included. Senator Sharp commented that this is different than the mail wherein the mail is being paid for by the sender; the telephone is something an individual pays for and therefore this bill would give the customer some control over what they pay for and who has access to use it for their own commercial benefit. Senator Sharp elaborated as an example of the high number of calls one might receive between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. and that this is out of control. He did note that charitable organizations were excluded from this bill. Senator Phillips discussed the deletion of opinion polling and that it was also a form of solicitation. Senator Rieger informed the committee that there was an expressed permission in the Federal Law permitting computerized polling and also the Telecommunications Act of 1991. Co- chairman Halford wanted to know if this ruling under Federal Law would supercede any State law. Senator Frank said that if that was the case our law would just be invalidated. Senator Rieger MOVED amendment #1 and asked unanimous consent. Senator Frank asked who would enforce this amendment and felt that if it was contrary to Federal Law then they should be the ones to enforce it. Senator Phillips reiterated the fact that he opposes the amendment because if people do not want to be bothered then they should not be subject to any form of solicitation. Amendment #1 FAILED adoption. Senator Rieger MOVED amendment #2 and asked unanimous consent. Without objection amendment #2 was ADOPTED. Senator Rieger MOVED SCS CSSB 239(FIN) and without objection it was REPORTED OUT with individual recommendations and zero fiscal notes from the Department of Law and the Department of Commerce and Economic Development. SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 31 Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Alaska relating to voter ratification of legislative approval of amendments of the Alaska Statehood Act affecting an interest of the State of Alaska under that Act. Testimony was given by the sponsor of the resolution, Senator Drue Pearce. She referred to a close association with the Legislature last year in working on the ANWR issue in attempting to get Congress to make the right decision in opening the ANWR to oil and gas leasing. This constitutional amendment would attempt to answer any questions regarding what has to happen in order for Alaska to accept any amendment to the statehood compact. There has to be some way that the action can be amended either through the legislature by law or through a vote of the people. She referred to AS 01.10.110 and read it into the record. There is concern in the Legislature and people around the State that we should never allow just the Legislature to accept a change; it should always go to a vote of the people. SJR 31 would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot this November that would put in our constitution an order to accept a change to the Statehood Act. It would only become effective after the Legislature passed a resolution putting the question on the ballot and a majority of the people in the State had voted in the affirmative. She advised, after checking with the drafter of the resolution, the language "qualified voters" means voters who actually went to the polls and not a majority of all eligible voters in the State. Senator Phillips wanted to know if there was a better way to phrase this and Senator Pearce advised that this was the standard language. The key word is "qualified" which means that they came to the election and voted. Senator Phillips expressed concern this was a constitutional amendment and care must be taken. Senator Pearce suggested Mr. Chenoweth could be contacted to see if there was clearer language. Senator Rieger asked if there was discussion about the word "legislates" on page 1, line 9. Senator Pearce advised that this was language changed by the Judiciary Committee and the chairman of that committee would have to be asked if he discussed the matter with Mr. Chenoweth. Senator Rieger also asked about "affects an interest" and if that is different from "altering an interest". Senator Pearce said that the "affects" language was taken directly out of the statehood compact and mirrors the language in AS 01.10.110. Senator Frank said he is also concerned about the wording and asked that if the Legislature adopted a resolution and then it was ratified by a vote of the people, is that right? Senator Pearce said that it is the process set forth in this amendment. Senator Frank said that it should be reworded and the people of the State of Alaska should get to make the choice and then it could be followed up with a requirement that a resolution has to be forwarded to the people by the Legislature so that it is clear. If it was made more clear to the people it would be more well supported by them. Senator Pearce again said that Mr. Chenoweth could provide more comfortable language. The chairman of the Judiciary Committee had an interest in putting something on the ballot without the Legislature ever acting like it affirmed the action. But the Legislature will always have the responsibility to put the question on the ballot. If the Legislature does not then they have turned down an amendment without the people ever voting on it. People would be pleased that they had the opportunity to vote before a change could be accepted. Senator Donley said he did not know how the judiciary language would work. Senator Pearce said that the Legislature has to pass a resolution to put the question on the ballot. Discussion between Senator Pearce and Senator Donley followed regarding two-thirds and majority vote for passage of the joint resolution. Senator Pearce said that it was her intent that if the Legislature chose not to put the question on the ballot then the Legislature has not accepted the change. Senator Donley commented that if the question is put on the ballot it has to be in the form of the affirmative. The Legislature has to act to give its approval. Further discussion followed regarding what form could be used to put the amendment on the ballot. Senator Donley felt the question should be posed in a neutral manner. Senator Pearce further advised that she has been told by her caucus that Alaskans will never accept any change regarding the state compact act and Senator Phillips concurred. Senator Rieger asked if there would be a situation where there might be a ratification of a proposed change before there is a law enacted by Congress. Senator Pearce said no because the statehood compact is a Federal document. The State cannot amend it. Only Congress can. We want to be able to assert our right to deny their changes. There would be no question to put before the people if Congress acted on something before the Legislature passed it. The Legislature can always ask the Congress to do something they ask without the vote of people. Co-chairman Halford asked if there were a hurry to make something effective is the limitation to a general election something necessary? Senator Pearce said perhaps not and that leeway should be given to include a special election. Co-chairman Halford believed that "at the next general election" could be deleted and it would essentially then be a "general or special election" and would still require a majority of the registered voters voting on the question. Senator Zharoff wanted to know if this was consistent with other states and Senator Pearce said there may be other states that have had court suits over their statehood compacts. Senator Zharoff asked at what point does Federal law supercede State law? Senator Pearce said that Congress does not have the power to supercede our compact with the Federal government. The compact called for a vote of the people of Alaska before it was accepted. From the compact case whether or not the Feds can do something to us without our approval is the whole point. Congress said they have superceded in many cases and it's their law. She indicated she would be willing to work with those members and Mr. Chenoweth who have brought up questions regarding specific language and try to clarify them. Senator Phillips said that he generally agreed with the intent of this constitutional amendment. In 1958 the voters in the territory of Alaska approved the statehood compact act and it would take the voters to undo it, not us. In this case the voters have absolute jurisdiction. Co-chairman Halford will HOLD SJR 31 for further discussion and asked Senator Pearce for a proposed CS. HOUSE BILL NO. 42 "An Act relating to absentee voting, to electronic transmission of absentee ballot applications, and to delivery of ballots to absentee ballot applicants by electronic transmission, and enacting a definition of the term 'state election' for purposes of absentee voting." Testimony was given by Representative Terry Martin, sponsor of the bill. He stated the intent of his bill is to make use of modern technology in order to get people to vote. Alaska is the largest state in the union and has many travellers in a given day. Many of them may unexpectedly have to leave with the intent to vote on election day but at the last minute, due to some emergency some normal everyday unexpected things happen and one finds they want to vote. Approximately ten states participate in electronic voting. During the Gulf War Alaska accepted over 200 applications from Alascom personnel and military personnel. The U.S. Justice Department on behalf of the U.S. Defense Department upgraded the rules where military people could have access to voting by electronic means. Alascom, which are leaders in their field, helped work out the system nation-wide giving military people the right to vote. Before we were only talking about fax and now the Division of Elections wants other electronic means because it is all moving so fast with e-mail, cc mail and internet. It is so easy and so quick to get people the right to vote. Senator Phillips inquired as to how it would be enforced to keep people from cheating. Representative Martin indicated that it would now be more difficult for someone to cheat by electronic mail. They have to request to vote at least four days in advance; they have to be identified in the office before a ballot is even sent out to them. The Division of Election still worries about people walking into the local precincts who are not clearly identified all the time. There will be more screening on the individual now. Senator Phillips posed a hypothetical case for voting in April. Representative Martin said that this bill would allow a request to the city clerks' office for an absentee ballot within four days of the election. This can be done by mail, fax or e-mail. A ballot would be returned for where the individual is qualified for. It is all taken care of electronically. It began with fax but they did not want to limit it because now there are so many quicker ways; internet, e-mail, cc mail. Mr. Tom Anderson, aide to Representative Terry Martin, advised that one could use mail or electronic transmission at any stage as long as the seven-day rule for mail and the four-day rule for electronic transmission is abided by in terms of applying for the ballot. Senator Phillips asked if this could be done twice and Representative Terry Miller advised that this is very well scrutinized. All absentee ballots are kept in a separate area. There is always a cross reference. Absentees are checked out by voter registration number, precinct and district. They get only one vote. Senator Donley wanted to know how it was verified that the person who faxed or transmitted the vote in was the same person who was sent the absentee ballot. Representative Martin said that verification is first, by voter registration number. That is the same number that is sent out to you when you request the ballot. Second, that number is your code number to come back in. It could also be done by signature. The department if very conscientious. That is part of the reason for the fiscal note of $38,000 so an individual can be trained in electronic means and the method can be double-checked. There will be more scrutiny than walk-ins. Mr. Anderson stated the Division of Elections is still formulating at what level they will operate the electronically transmitted reception. There will be one person, hence the fiscal note, and they will be located in Juneau. They will adopt procedures that will allow transmission by fax only, by computer or a cc mail version. It will all be matched by code, voter ID and signature. Senator Donley asked about the two witnesses for absentee ballots and how would this work. Representative Martin advised that the same would still apply. Senator Zharoff stated that after faxing in ones tabulation the hard copy then could be mailed in. Representative Martin said that it could be done but at this time the most important thing is that the electronic ballot be in by election night. Mr. Anderson further advised that this is not a substitute for absentee voting nor is it a substitute for voting. Hopefully people could mail in a timely fashion however, there are numerous problems that could occur and this is merely an option. Diane Shriner, Division of Elections, was invited to join the committee. The Division does not stand in support or opposition to this bill. She explained that when the bill was first introduced electronic transmission was limited to fax. It was requested that the Department of Law clarify the term "electronic transmission". There is no problem requesting ballots by cc mail, electronic mail or other modern means, but the witnessing and certification of the ballot is important. It may not be possible at this point to provide that verification by cc mail. Co-chairman Halford asked if this was in regards to the actual voting and not in getting the ballot. Mrs. Shriner indicated that their understanding was that the vote would be made by fax machine. She also referred to the waiver of some secrecy but indicated they would still try to protect the voter. Senator Phillips related a hypothetical case. Mrs. Shriner advised that they would provide instructions on anything sent that could be returned by fax that the person should provide us with, information on how to reach them and the person should wait for and receive the notice of transmission. Senator Phillips asked what would happen in the case of a power outage. Mrs. Shriner said it could be checked with other states using this method and see how they were handling it. She will research the matter and provide a report back to the committee. Co-chairman Halford and Mrs. Shriner discussed regulatory authority to come up with a system designed to provide security using e-mail and other computer transmissions. At present the fax machine meets all security criteria. Senator Zharoff asked how it would be determined which ballot would be valid if a person voted more than one time. Mrs. Shriner advised that this matter was covered by statute and there is a process for dealing with duplicate ballots. Senator Zharoff discussed amending the bill to include an immediate effective date. Senator Donley would rather the department have enough time to set up proper procedures. Co-chairman Halford comments on regulations. Tom Anderson advised that Representative Martin's intent was to get this into effect as soon as possible. Senator Donley indicated that there was no specific time frame indicated and the division should be allowed some flexibility in case of any problems. Co-chairman Halford advised that if the bill is left without an effective date it will take effect ninety days after signature. That would still be in time for the primary election. Senator Zharoff felt that there would be less confusion if there were an effective date on the bill. Senator Zharoff MOVED to amend the bill to include an effective date. Mr. Anderson agreed to the amendment. Without objection the amendment to include an effective date was ADOPTED. Senator Sharp MOVED S CSHB 42(FIN) out of committee with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal note and without objection it was REPORTED OUT with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal note of $37.6 from the Division of Elections. SENATE BILL NO. 134 "An Act establishing an endowment for the Robert B. Atwood journalism chair at the University of Alaska Anchorage; and providing for an effective date." Testimony was given by Mr. Sherman Ernouf, aide to Senator Tim Kelly, sponsor of the bill. Bob Atwood's contribution to the State of Alaska and the community is immense. This legislation would honor him by establishing the Robert B. Atwood journalism chair at the University of Alaska Anchorage. This chair has been in existence for the past fifteen years through generous contributions by Mr. Atwood which total more than $1 million. Through this endowment a mechanism will be set up for both public and private entities to match contributions from Mr. Atwood to permanently fund the chair. Co-chairman Halford said that in prior discussions with the sponsor basically he wanted the bill to be considered to establish the chair regardless of whether or not any fiscal note were added. He noted that the University came back with a $2 million fiscal note. Testimony was given by Larry Campbell from the University of Alaska Anchorage via teleconference. He re-iterated that the chair was supported by Bob Atwood for the past fifteen years in the approximate amount of $1.5 million. It has been an advantage and benefit to communication students in the University of Alaska system. It has brought to Alaska prominent, nationally known, professional communicators from all over the lower '48. It is proposed that the State and Bob Atwood join in partnership with a final endowment from himself to establish this in perpetuity. This is an investment as well as an improvement in mass communications in the State of Alaska; journalism students, advertising students, public relations students and broadcast students have benefited from the visiting professors here in Anchorage. Senator Donley asked about authorization of the fiscal note from the University. Co-chairman Halford said the fiscal note would not be considered at this time. The passage of this bill will just allow the board of regents to establish the chair. Senator Phillips MOVED SB 134 without fiscal note. No objection being heard SB 134 was REPORTED OUT of committee with individual recommendations and Senate Finance zero fiscal note. ADJOURNMENT The meeting was adjourned at approximately 11:00 A.M.