Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/22/1993 09:12 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE March 22, 1993 9:12 a.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Senator Loren Leman, Chairman Senator Robin Taylor Senator Jim Duncan MEMBERS ABSENT Senator Mike Miller, Vice Chairman Senator Johnny Ellis COMMITTEE CALENDAR SENATE BILL NO. 168 "An Act relating to newspapers of general circulation." SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 23 Proposing amendments to the Constitution of the State of Alaska relating to the powers and duties of the legislative auditor. PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION SB 168 - No previous action to record. SJR 23 - See State Affairs minutes dated 3/17/93. WITNESS REGISTER Jerry Burnett, Staff to Senator Randy Phillips State Capitol Juneau, AK 99801-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Offered information on SJR 23 Virginia Ragle, Assistant Attorney General Department of Law P.O. Box 110300 Juneau, AK 99811-0300 POSITION STATEMENT: Offered information on SB 168 Gerald Greeley Anchorage Daily News Anchorage, AK POSITION STATEMENT: Oppposed to SB 168 Bob Gould Alaska Journal of Commerce 900 W. 5th Ave. Anchorage, AK POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of SB 168 Art Snowden, Administrative Director Alaska Court System 303 K St. Anchorage, AK 99501-2084 POSITION STATEMENT: Offered information on SB 168 Terry Bannister, Legislative Legal Counsel Division of Legal Services Legislative Affairs Agency 130 Seward St., Suite 409 Juneau, AK 99801 POSITION STATEMENT: Offered information on SB 168 John McKay, Attorney representing the Anchorage Daily News Anchorage, AK POSITION STATEMENT: Opposes SB 168 ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 93-21, SIDE A Number 001 Chairman Leman called the Senate State Affairs Committee meeting to order at 9:12 a.m. SENATOR LEMAN brought SJR 23 (LEGISLATIVE AUDITOR'S POWERS) before the committee as the first order of business. Number 015 JERRY BURNETT, aide to Senator Randy Phillips, outlined changes made in a proposed State Affairs committee substitute. Concern was expressed at a previous hearing that too much power was being given to one person. The first change would allow the impoundment of money upon approval by a majority of the members of the committee of the legislature designated by law. The second change would allow the reversal of an impoundment by a majority of the committee that approved the impoundment order. Number 038 SENATOR LEMAN asked for the pleasure of the committee. Hearing no motion, he stated SJR 23 would be held in committee for future consideration. Number 050 SENATOR LEMAN introduced SB 168 (NEWSPAPER OF GENERAL CIRCULATION DEFINED) as the next order of business. He stated Gerald Greeley of the Anchorage Daily News and John McKay, an attorney representing the Anchorage Daily News would be testifying from Anchorage via the teleconference network. However, Mr. Greely said they would hold off on their comments until after hearing some of the testimony on the legislation. Number 100 BOB GOULD, Alaska Journal of Commerce, said the purpose of SB 168 is to promote both competition and flexibility for the purpose of publishing legal notices as required by various state laws. He said Alaska is unique compared to most other jurisdictions in the country in that those types of notices are published in metropolitan daily newspapers such as the Juneau Empire, the Anchorage Daily News, the Fairbanks News-Miner. In most other jurisdictions, that function is served by specialized publications that cater to the readership that most likely have interest in and benefit from publication of those notices. Mr. Gould said the history of requesting legislation as embodied in SB 168 comes after an attempt to accomplish the same effort within the private sector. Title companies are cautious by nature and are hesitant to change their status quo without some type of further legislative specificity to ensure that publication will not be challenged or, if challenged, will probably bear minimal risk of success. Mr. Gould said Alaska law is extremely vague on where notice is required. It speaks to simply publication of general circulation without further specificity. SB 168 attempts to define that specificity, and the implication, once defined, would be that title companies and others requiring legal notice would have the certainty that they now lack to know that alternative venues for publication are available. He pointed out that this in no way disenfranchises any of the current venues that publish these notices. Number 185 SENATOR DUNCAN asked what other publications, other than the Alaska Journal of Commerce, would fall under the new definition. BOB GOULD answered it would include such publications as the Eagle River Star and The Frontiersman. Number 208 SENATOR LEMAN asked if providing this definition and a circulation of at least 2,500 subscribers would disqualify any of the smaller newspapers in the state that may be providing legal notices right now. BOB GOULD responded that to his knowledge, it won't as far as the main body of legal notices are concerned, which are the real estate default notices. He added that there are some other types of notices that do not necessarily require publication in a paper of general circulation, but simply require publication in a newspaper. SENATOR TAYLOR voiced his concern about the 2,500 bona fide subscribers because The Wrangell Sentinel or The Petersburg Pilot probably don't have that amount of subscribers. BOB GOULD said the 2,500 number is totally subjective and was based on a survey nationwide of what the appropriate number would be. Number 340 SENATOR LEMAN asked Mr. Gould to explain the second class mailing permit and the two year requirement for continuous publication. BOB GOULD said most of these papers in other jurisdictions are not independently audited, however, the large metro dailies are. The post office requirements to get a second class permit require an annual post office audit that verifies what a newspaper's circulation is, make sure that it is paid to at least 50 percent of the total printing cost, etc., so it was really designed to provide a level of independent verification as to how a newspaper complies with the requirements of the statute. Concerning the two-year requirement, it verifies from between one year and two years of continuous publication before a newspaper would be eligible to qualify. The intent is to ensure that the following that such papers build up will know where to find these types of notices. Number 372 ART SNOWDEN, Administrative Director, Alaska Court System, noted that Judge Johnstone in the Third Judicial District has authorized the Alaska Journal of Commerce to be a paper of publication on a rotating basis. When no signifies a specific paper, then one would go to the Anchorage Daily News and the next one would go the Alaska Journal of Commerce. Mr. Snowden said there is a lot of research on what courts have done around the country and what they look at as a paper of general jurisdiction. Obviously, if there was a statute saying what a paper of general jurisdiction for legal notices were, the court would follow that because that's a legislative determination, he said. Number 390 SENATOR TAYLOR asked Mr. Snowden if he was aware of other states where they have specific publications that are for that purpose. ART SNOWDEN answered that there are a number of them on the East Coast and that California has a number of legal types of papers as well. Number 410 SENATOR TAYLOR asked Ms. Bannister if, in her opinion, this legislation comports with the intent of the legal requirements currently existing in the Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure. TERRY BANNISTER, Legislative Legal Counsel, answered that this by itself doesn't change the court rules; it just changes the statutes. The court system doesn't use this term in the court rules, so it wouldn't be pulled in that way. Number 435 SENATOR LEMAN asked Ms. Bannister to comment on the two-year circulation requirement and the 2,500 bona fide subscribers. TERRY BANNISTER answered that in each of these cases there would have to be established some definite rationale on why those particular provisions are being included, and some reasons why two years is better than one year. Number 470 BOB GOULD commented that getting competition into the marketplace would, in his view, result in cost savings in some fashion. Number 485 JOHN MCKAY, testifying from Anchorage on behalf of The Anchorage Daily News, questioned the need for the legislation if it is simply restating the current law. He said he thinks everybody universally recognizes that the Moore Decision makes it clear that all these papers are newspapers of general circulation. What the legislation seems to do is to change what exists now, which is a marketplace decision, he said Mr. McKay said he thought the legislation would have the effect of disenfranchising a number of smaller newspapers because their circulation is less than 2,500. Mr. McKay said the purpose of public notice advertising is to get notice to the public, which is a pretty fundamental thing. He suggested that, ideally, if the statute is going to be changed, the notices should be published in a way that maximizes the chances of getting notice to the people that are affected. He added that most states and most jurisdictions will rely on their daily papers that service most of the people and most people read, rather than specialized publications like the Alaska Journal of Commerce and legal publications. TAPE 93-21, SIDE B Number 001 Mr. McKay said it is virtually certain that over 95 percent of the readership of the smaller publication is going to be duplicated, so you are reaching not only the bankers and the lawyers in the specialized publication, but also all the other people who have an interest. You reach all the bankers and all the lawyers with a larger publication and you reach the common people who may have their property being proposed on, or their neighbor's property, etc. Number 075 SENATOR LEMAN asked if the Anchorage Daily News has ever done a study on how many people read the legal notices in their newspaper and how it compares with a percentage of readers for a more specialized paper. JOHN MCKAY answered that he is not aware that the Daily News or any of the specialized papers have those figures available. Number 112 VIRGINIA RAGLE, Department of Law, said Mr. Gould had indicated that perhaps foreclosure notices comprise the greatest volume of public notices that must be published. However, the department has found that there are more than 80 statutes that contain references to newspapers of general circulation, that require publication of various notices by agencies, by individuals and by organizations. Some of the statutes require that the notice be in a publication of general circulation in the state, and some refer to the relevant areas that this proposed legislation defines. Ms. Ragle said an issue for some of the agencies that the Department of Law represents will be not so much the disenfranchisement of small newspapers as potentially the disenfranchisement of the public in areas where local newspapers provide their source of information. Ms. Ragle also said the 2,500 paid circulation requirement could be a problem for a number of newspapers and for the public served by those newspapers in the state. Also, the requirement that the publication be at least once a week for fifty weeks out of the year could make publications such as the Senior Voice, the Copper River Country Journal, the Skagway News and the Arctic Sounder not eligible. Ms. Ragle said the department has not had time to go through all the 80 statutes that make reference to newspapers of general circulation to find out which ones of them might result in a local constituency not getting notice that should be targeted. However, the department is willing to make that kind of search and inform the committee on what the possible impact will be as far as their agency clients are concerned. Number 150 BOB GOULD emphasized that until there is statutory specificity, there are very certain specific interested parties controlling the bulk of legal advertising that are unwilling to upset the status quo. The Alaska Journal of Commerce in favor of opening up the market and letting the advertisers out there make their own decisions. Number 200 SENATOR LEMAN asked Mr. McKay why, if this is already being done, is there a problem with clarifying it in statute. JOHN MCKAY answered there is always some concern about what else the legislation is trying to do. He said there hasn't been any testimony on language such as "relevant area," "insignificant circulation," etc. There is a general concern about what is being done when there is no apparent need for it, he said. Number 275 There being no other witnesses to testify on SB 168, SENATOR LEMAN stated the legislation would be held in committee for further work. He then adjourned the meeting at 10:27 a.m.