Legislature(1993 - 1994)
01/25/1993 09:06 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE January 25, 1993 9:06 a.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Senator Loren Leman, Chairman Senator Mike Miller, Vice Chairman Senator Robin Taylor Senator Jim Duncan MEMBERS ABSENT Senator Johnny Ellis COMMITTEE CALENDAR SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 6 Proposing amendments to the Constitution of the State of Alaska authorizing the use of the initiative to amend the Constitution of the State of Alaska by approval of two-thirds of the votes cast on the proposed amendment. PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION SJR 6 - No previous action to record. WITNESS REGISTER Senator Rick Halford State Capitol Juneau, Alaska 99801-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Sponsor of SJR 6. Chip Thoma Juneau, Alaska 99801 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of SJR 6. ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 93-4, SIDE A Number 001 Chairman Leman called the Senate State Affairs Committee meeting to order at 9:06 a.m. Number 016 The only order of business to come before the committee was SJR 6 (USE OF INITIATIVE TO AMEND CONSTITUTION). SENATOR HALFORD, sponsor of SJR 6, explained that the resolution allows some access to the constitution by the people. He said that Alaska's constitution is inaccessible to the people, except for every ten years. Senator Halford indicated that he doesn't think that the constitution should be amendable as easily as a statute. He doesn't believe there should be constitutional debate on every divisive issue that people want to argue about and get enough votes to place it on the ballot. SJR 6 requires a super majority and it tries to be consistent in a different way with what the intent of the original constitutional convention was in requiring two-thirds of the legislature to put a question on the ballot. Senator Halford explained that if an issue goes to the ballot by the initiative process, it then requires two-thirds of those voting on the question. He said it builds a safety valve without taking away all the protections for minorities. Number 063 SENATOR TAYLOR asked Senator Halford if he has applied the two-thirds vote question to other states that can change their constitution by initiative. Senator Halford explained that California is probably the worst example of the use of an initiative process and most of their initiatives don't pass. He said it takes a certain amount of dollars to pay people to collect the signatures. The result is the group that opposes the initiative gets a counter initiative on the ballot. He noted most of the time both initiatives fail. Senator Halford continued to discuss the process in California. CHAIRMAN LEMAN indicated that he is a co-sponsor of the legislation and he believes that the bill is a good step in the right direction. He asked if research is available as to how many of the initiatives have passed that have been on the ballot, in Alaska, since statehood. Senator Halford continued to read information which would have passed including changes to the Commission on Judicial Conduct, the veteran's housing, resident hiring preference, change of name to Lieutenant Governor, right to privacy, voting on constitutional amendments in general elections, limited entry fisheries, etc. He noted that there is one state that allows initiative access to the constitution only in the area of limitations on government. Senator Halford concluded that there is a need for public access to the constitution. Chairman Leman explained that in Alaska, it is relatively easy to get issues on the ballot and to have a number of issues on the ballot may clutter the ballot. They may not get the two-thirds vote, but they would be there. He said it might be just that much more for people to wade through when they are voting. He asked if it would be better to make it more difficult to get the issue on the ballot and for it to pass once it reached the ballot. SENATOR HALFORD said he believes that making it more difficult to get an issue on the ballot probably has more merit than making it easier to pass once it is on the ballot. Number 175 SENATOR DUNCAN asked if there is information as to how many states allow amending their constitution through initiative. He also asked if a lot of states are leaning toward the initiative direction. Senator Halford indicated he would get the information. CHIP THOMA, representing himself, testified in support of SJR 6. He said it allows valid access, by the people, for the purposes of recall. He discussed his dealings with the recall of the governor and lieutenant governor over the last year and a half. He explained in the research of the constitutional records and the subsequent statutes, which have been implemented by the legislature dealing with recall, it is very obvious that the elected officials and those who wanted to be elected officials at the constitutional convention, threw up impediments to recall elected officials. Mr. Thoma explained that it now takes thirty-five percent of those who voted in the previous election to sign petitions for a recall to get on the ballot. However, for Ross Perot to get on the ballot, it took only one percent. He discussed eliminating judicial review of the grounds for recall and lowering the petition gathering to five percent. Mr. Thoma continued to give testimony in favor of the resolution. CHAIRMAN LEMAN indicated that he would like to hold the legislation until the next meeting. Number 275 There being no further business to come before the committee, Chairman Leman adjourned the meeting at 9:24 a.m.