Legislature(1993 - 1994)

03/22/1993 09:12 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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                 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.                   

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