Legislature(1997 - 1998)

04/08/1997 03:33 PM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                  SENATE STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE                               
                           April 8, 1997                                       
                             3:33 p.m.                                         
 MEMBERS PRESENT                                                               
 Senator Lyda Green, Chairman                                                  
 Senator Jerry Ward, Vice-Chairman                                             
 Senator Jerry Mackie                                                          
 Senator Mike Miller                                                           
 Senator Jim Duncan                                                            
 MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                
 All members present                                                           
 COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                            
 CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 20(FIN)                                                 
 "An Act relating to dog mushers' contests."                                   
      - MOVED CSHB 20(FIN) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                    
 CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 112(FIN)                                                
 "An Act amending the definition of `political party' except as the            
 definition of the term applies to the regulation of contributions             
 and expenditures in state and municipal election campaigns, an                
 amendment that also has the effect of changing the definition of              
 `political organization' as applied to the regulation of games of             
 chance and contests of skill."                                                
      - MOVED CSHB 112(FIN) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                   
 HOUSE BILL NO. 86                                                             
 "An Act relating to the payments in lieu of taxes program for                 
 cities in the unorganized borough; and providing for an effective             
      - MOVED HB 86 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                           
 SENATE BILL NO. 147                                                           
 "An Act relating to a retirement benefit for the surviving widow or           
 widower or surviving divorced spouse of a governor or lieutenant              
 governor of the state; and providing for an effective date."                  
      - CSSB 147(STA) HELD IN COMMITTEE                                        
 PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION                                              
 HB  20 - No previous action to record.                                        
 HB 112 - No previous action to record.                                        
 HB  86 - No previous action to record.                                        
 SB 147 - No previous action to record.                                        
 WITNESS REGISTER                                                              
 Representative Ivan Ivan                                                      
 State Capitol                                                                 
 Juneau, AK 99801-1182                                                         
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Prime Sponsor of HB 20 & HB 86                           
 Representative Al Vezey                                                       
 State Capitol                                                                 
 Juneau, AK 99801-1182                                                         
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Prime Sponsor of HB 112                                  
 Jim Baldwin, Assistant Attorney General                                       
 Department of Law                                                             
 P.O. Box 110300                                                               
 Juneau, AK 99811-0300                                                         
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in opposition to HB 112                        
 Kevin Ritchie, Executive Director                                             
 Alaska Municipal League                                                       
 217 2nd St.                                                                   
 Juneau, AK 99801                                                              
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 86                            
 Joe Ambrose, Staff to Senator Robin Taylor                                    
 State Capitol                                                                 
 Juneau, AK 99801-1182                                                         
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Offered information on SB 147                            
 Elton Engstrom                                                                
 734 Goldbelt Ave.                                                             
 Juneau, AK 99801                                                              
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of SB 147                           
 Bill Church, Retirement Supervisor                                            
 Division of Retirement & Benefits                                             
 Department of Administration                                                  
 P.O. Box 110203                                                               
 Juneau, AK 99811-0203                                                         
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Responded to questions on SB 147                         
 ACTION NARRATIVE                                                              
 TAPE 97-19, SIDE A                                                            
 Number 001                                                                    
                 CSHB 20(FIN) DOG MUSHING CONTESTS                             
 CHAIRMAN GREEN called the Senate State Affairs Committee to order             
 at 3:33 p.m. and brought up CSHB 20(FIN) as the first order of                
 business before the committee.                                                
 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN IVAN, prime sponsor of HB 20, said dog mushing            
 contests are historically important activities to many Alaskans and           
 communities across the state, and the legislation would authorize             
 dog musher associations, which run races recognized by the Division           
 of Charitable Gaming, to conduct statewide games of chance.  The              
 division recognizes those associations which have been in existence           
 for at least three years, have at least 25 Alaskan members and be             
 a not-for-profit organization.  The prizes of money will be awarded           
 for the closest guesses of at least three elements of uncertainty             
 about a sled dog race that cannot be determined before the start of           
 the race.  The intent is to provide a mechanism to assist race                
 organizing committees to become financially self-sufficient.                  
 Representative Ivan pointed out that throughout the years high                
 profile protesting by animal rights groups has caused important               
 corporate sponsors to withdraw financial support.  He said CSHB
 20(FIN) would create a sweepstakes similar to one passed by the               
 previous Legislature for the Iditarod Race Committee and,                     
 hopefully, allow sled dog races which do not have strong financial            
 backing to continue.                                                          
 Representative Ivan clarified the legislation would allow                     
 contestants to purchase tickets on which the contestant would guess           
 the checkpoints and finish line arrival times, the temperature when           
 a particular team crosses the finish line, the total number of dogs           
 that finish the race, etc.  The dog mushers' associations will                
 administer the mushers' contests in conjunction with the state                
 regulatory authority.  He added the legislation is an attempt to              
 start up a mechanism to keep dog mushing activities continuing                
 throughout the state.                                                         
 Number 070                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN GREEN inquired if the legislation applies to dog mushing             
 contests in general, and REPRESENTATIVE IVAN acknowledged that it             
 applies to any dog mushing group that is recognized by the Division           
 of Charitable Gaming.                                                         
 There being no further testimony on CSHB 20(FIN), CHAIRMAN GREEN              
 asked for the will of the committee.                                          
 SENATOR WARD moved CSHB 20(FIN) and the accompanying zero fiscal              
 notes be passed out of committee with individual recommendations.             
 Hearing no objection, it was so ordered.                                      
        CSHB 112(FIN) AMEND DEFINITION OF "POLITICAL PARTY"                    
 CHAIRMAN GREEN brought CSHB 112(FIN) before the committee as the              
 next order of business.                                                       
 REPRESENTATIVE AL VEZEY, prime sponsor of HB 112, said recognizing            
 that since 1970 the state of Alaska has not elected a governor by             
 a majority vote, he introduced the legislation as a means of                  
 modifying the state's election law in the smallest way possible               
 which might produce a result that might reduce the number of                  
 candidates that appear on the ballot and might increase Alaska's              
 chance of electing a governor by a majority vote.                             
 Representative Vezey said Alaska's election law is well established           
 and has withstood constitutional challenge, and the approach in HB
 112 is to not restrict or further restrict access to the ballot,              
 but to expand the means by which a group of people can organize and           
 get recognition as a political party.  It sets a standard that in             
 addition to qualifying for the ballot by getting 3 percent of the             
 vote, that if a party has registered voters equal to 3 percent of             
 the vote cast in the last gubernatorial election, which would be              
 6,500 registered voters under a party affiliation, it would qualify           
 a party for recognition as a political status.  He added that this            
 may or may not have any affect on the number of candidates that               
 appear on a ballot, but it might provide a major party an                     
 opportunity to maintain its party status and not run a candidate              
 when it isn't serious about winning an election.                              
 Number 140                                                                    
 SENATOR DUNCAN asked if under this new definition the Republican              
 Party, Democratic Party and the Alaska Independent Party could                
 retain party status without getting 3 percent of the vote in each             
 gubernatorial election year because of the number of registered               
 voters that they have.  REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY responded that it is             
 his understanding that if this bill becomes law, those  three                 
 parties would have the option of how they wanted to maintain their            
 political status.                                                             
 SENATOR DUNCAN asked if for any other party the only option would             
 be to have a gubernatorial candidate every four years and get at              
 least 3 percent of vote if they didn't have at least 10,000                   
 registered voters.  REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY answered that was not                
 correct.  Right now groups of people that want to qualify as a                
 party have to run a candidate and garner 3 percent of the vote.  If           
 this bill becomes law, an option would be that they could go out              
 and register voters equivalent to the same number.                            
 Number 180                                                                    
 SENATOR MACKIE observed that this change makes it easier for                  
 someone to get on a gubernatorial ballot.  REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY               
 agreed, and said this is expanding the options available.                     
 Number 200                                                                    
 JIM BALDWIN, Assistant Attorney General, Department of Law, stated            
 the legal issues brought up in this bill are substantial.  He said            
 he suspects that if it becomes law it will provoke a lawsuit by one           
 of the major minor parties because of the differential treatment.             
 The Green Party, for example, is a recognized political party, and            
 the way the 3 percent works, they would not get the same treatment            
 as the Alaska Independent Party.  They would not be able to sit out           
 the next gubernatorial election; they would have to run a candidate           
 in order to keep their recognized status in tact.                             
 He said in order to sustain a differential treatment, the state is            
 going to be held to a very high standard of showing a governmental            
 interest, and he doesn't think that there has been a sufficient               
 record developed in the hearings that he has attended thus far                
 before the Legislature to support that kind of a governmental                 
 Mr. Baldwin said the legislation appears to allow easier access to            
 the gubernatorial ballot, but its the manner in which the access is           
 granted that may raise some problems.  For example, he is counsel             
 to the state on a case currently pending in the U.S. Supreme Court            
 having to do with the open primary.  One of the issues raised is              
 does the state's open primary statute violate the freedom of                  
 association under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution for            
 particularly a political party that wants to close its primary.  He           
 noted the state has argued that political parties really don't mean           
 that much in Alaska because of the way our election laws are                  
 established, and he thinks that if this law were to be enacted, it            
 would further bolster the state's arguments because the ability to            
 become recognized as a political party would be lessened.                     
 Number 290                                                                    
 SENATOR MILLER commented that Mr. Baldwin had said that the only              
 option the Green Party would have was to run a candidate, but he              
 pointed out that they would have the second option of putting on a            
 massive registration drive and get the 3 percent.  MR. BALDWIN                
 agreed, but he added that he thinks that presents another problem.            
 By using that as a second prong of the test to become a major                 
 political party, what you are saying to the adherents of that                 
 political party is that the only way you are going to be recognized           
 as a party is for you to declare openly your affiliation.  He                 
 thinks that if members of a political party could in court allege             
 by doing that they are being laid open to threats or intimidation             
 or coercion, the state will not be able to sustain that kind of a             
 requirement either.                                                           
 Number 321                                                                    
 SENATOR MACKIE asked if the bill became law, an election was held,            
 and then there was a lawsuit and the state lost, does that mean the           
 whole election has to be voided.  MR. BALDWIN replied that it would           
 be highly unlikely there would be a situation where a election                
 would be invalidated.  The courts usually bend over backwards to              
 avoid that kind of result from happening, but it tends to lead to             
 a lot of uncertainty for the Division of Elections and a potential            
 for further problems with the electoral process.                              
 SENATOR MACKIE inquired if Mr. Baldwin sees a solution that would             
 satisfy his legal concerns with this legislation.  MR. BALDWIN                
 responded that there were some amendments that were proposed on the           
 House floor and in House Finance that would ameliorate a lot of               
 problems such as taking it down to 1 percent.  He also said the               
 state has taken the strong position that it favors the open                   
 primarily, and he thinks that what is done here as far as what                
 defines political party affects that case, and he suggested that              
 should be kept in mind.                                                       
 There being no further testimony on CSHB 112(FIN), CHAIRMAN GREEN             
 stated the bill would be set aside.                                           
             HB 86 CITIES:  PAYMENTS IN LIEU OF TAXES                          
 CHAIRMAN GREEN brought HB 86 before the committee as the next order           
 of business.                                                                  
 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN IVAN, prime sponsor of HB 86, stated he                   
 introduced the legislation because it will have a positive economic           
 impact on communities in rural Alaska that are in unorganized areas           
 of the state.  The bill establishes the payment in lieu of taxes              
 program within the Department of Community & Regional Affairs for             
 home rule and general law cities located in the unorganized borough           
 within federally designed areas of the Alaska.                                
 He related the program will be financed by funds the states                   
 receives annually from the federal government under 31 U.S.C. 6901            
 - 31 U.S|.C. 6902.  Senator Ted Steven sponsored an amendment to              
 the Omnibus Parks and Public Lands Management Act which allows                
 cities in the unorganized borough to receive payment.                         
 Representative Ivan explained the legislation will provide a method           
 for the Department of Community & Regional Affairs to distribute              
 the annual funding and to establish criteria to determine whether             
 a city is eligible to receive payment under the program as intended           
 by federal law.  The amount of money to be distributed to each                
 eligible home rule or general law city will be based upon the                 
 population of the city as certified by the commissioner of the                
 DCRA.  The funds received by the cities under this program can be             
 used for any general purpose for which the city is authorized under           
 federal, state or local law.                                                  
 In conclusion, Representative Ivan said these funds will supplement           
 rather than replace current funding provided to the cities by the             
 state.  He said it will improve the financial health of the cities            
 and, hopefully, will enhance and encourage cities to remain                   
 incorporated instead of dissolving.                                           
 Number 430                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN GREEN asked Representative Ivan if the cities in the areas           
 that will impacted by the legislation are in favor of it, and he              
 acknowledged that they are.                                                   
 Number 440                                                                    
 KEVIN RITCHIE, Executive Director, Alaska Municipal League, voiced            
 the Alaska Municipal League's support for HB 86.                              
 Mr. Ritchie noted that before the federal legislation was passed              
 last year the only part of the United States that was not receiving           
 payment in lieu taxes funding was the unorganized boroughs, and               
 this legislation simply includes the unorganized borough with all             
 of the other boroughs in Alaska and the rest of the United States.            
 There being no further testimony on HB 86, CHAIRMAN GREEN asked for           
 the will of the committee.                                                    
 SENATOR MACKIE moved HB 86 and the accompanying zero fiscal note be           
 passed out of committee with individual recommendations.  Hearing             
 no objection, it was so ordered.                                              
 Number 470                                                                    
          SB 147 PERS:GOV/LT GOV'S SURVIVING SPOUSE OR EX                      
 CHAIRMAN GREEN introduced SB 147 as the next order of business                
 before the committee.  She then directed attention to a proposed              
 committee substitute.                                                         
 SENATOR WARD moved the adoption of CSSB 147(STA).  Hearing no                 
 objection, CHAIRMAN GREEN stated the committee substitute was                 
 before the committee for its consideration.                                   
 JOE AMBROSE, staff to Senator Robin Taylor, read into the record              
 the following sponsor statement:                                              
 "Senate Bill 147 was introduced at the request of Alaskans                    
 concerned about the ability of the spouses of our elected statewide           
 leaders to sustain themselves in their senior years.                          
 Because of the fact that the few individuals who might possibly               
 benefit from the legislation have been women, this sponsor                    
 statement will refer to these individuals as our former "First                
 Ladies".  It should be pointed out, however, that the provisions of           
 this bill would apply equally to any qualified spouse, regardless             
 of gender.                                                                    
 Although our First Ladies are not elected, they do serve an                   
 important role in any administration.  This legislation is intended           
 to acknowledge that role and provide a small benefit under limited            
 conditions to recognize that service.                                         
 SB 147 would provide a benefit of $1,000 per month to the surviving           
 widow or widower or the former spouse of a governor or lieutenant             
 governor.  The spouse would have had to have been married to the              
 governor or lieutenant governor during their term in office.                  
 The benefit is further restricted to an individual who is at least            
 60 years of age, unmarried at the time of collecting the benefit              
 and not employed in a position covered by a state retirement                  
 system.  Eligibility for the benefit would terminate with the death           
 of the individual or if they remarry or become eligible for a                 
 benefit under the state retirement system.                                    
 We would like to assume that Alaska's former First Ladies are                 
 provided for in their senior years.  That may not always be the               
 case and SB 147 will provide a small safety net as a way of                   
 acknowledging their service to the state of Alaska."                          
 Mr. Ambrose related that Senator Taylor has no objection to                   
 deleting references to the lieutenant governor in this legislation            
 so that it just applies to widows or widowers of former governors.            
 Number 495                                                                    
 SENATOR DUNCAN asked the differences between the original bill and            
 the committee substitute.  MR. AMBROSE explained the original bill            
 makes reference to the surviving divorced spouse and the committee            
 substitute changes that to the former spouse.  He also explained              
 the suggestion to delete references to the lieutenant governor is             
 being proposed because of the potential fiscal impact, as well as             
 the role of the spouse of the lieutenant governor is not on the               
 same level as the role of the spouse of the governor.                         
 Number 512                                                                    
 ELTON ENGSTROM of Juneau, the requestor of the legislation, said              
 the wife of the governor is the only person in this state who does            
 as much work, in some ways, as her husband.  He related that                  
 approximately five or six months before he was contacted by a                 
 former first lady asking for his help as she had been kicked out of           
 the Glory Hole,which is a shelter for homeless persons.  He noted             
 this is somewhat like something that happened 100 years ago.                  
 Another First Lady, Mary Lincoln, had a few mental problems and was           
 having a difficult time, and in 1873 Congress passed an annual                
 pension for her.  Likewise, this legislation is for a former spouse           
 of a governor who is in desperate straights and could use some                
 acknowledgment for the time that she and others have worked for the           
 state of Alaska.                                                              
 Number 547                                                                    
 SENATOR MILLER expressed concern with including divorced spouses in           
 the legislation because he thinks it might be stretching beyond the           
 concept that the requestor is trying to achieve.  MR. ENGSTROM                
 responded that this is dealing with such a limited group, and, to             
 him, it is a recognition of the service performed by these                    
 Number 562                                                                    
 SENATOR WARD also expressed concern with putting this provision               
 into statute because it appears this is creating a piece of                   
 legislation for one individual and he wasn't sure that was good               
 public policy.                                                                
 TAPE 96-19, SIDE B                                                            
 Number 015                                                                    
 SENATOR MILLER offered an amendment to delete all references to the           
 lieutenant governor which would limit the scope of the legislation.           
 Hearing no objection, the Chairman stated Amendment No. 1 was                 
 Number 025                                                                    
 BILL CHURCH, Retirement Supervisor, Division of Retirement &                  
 Benefits, Department of Administration, stated he was present to              
 respond to questions from the committee.                                      
 SENATOR WARD inquired if former first ladies are eligible for                 
 survivor benefits under their spouses retirement plan.  MR. CHURCH            
 acknowledged they would have survivor benefits available if the               
 former governor was a vested member of the retirement system and if           
 the former governor, upon retirement, elected to provide survivor             
 benefits to the spouse.  He also clarified to Senator Ward that               
 common law marriages are not recognized in the state for benefit              
 SENATOR WARD asked if a governor was to serve only four years and             
 did not become vested under the state retirement system, under this           
 proposal would his spouse still qualify for this benefit.  MR.                
 CHURCH acknowledged that the spouse would.  SENATOR WARD commented            
 that could be unconstitutional.                                               
 There being no further testimony on CSSB 147(STA), CHAIRMAN GREEN             
 stated the bill would be held in committee.                                   
 Number 069                                                                    
        CSHB 112(FIN) AMEND DEFINITION OF "POLITICAL PARTY"                    
 CHAIRMAN GREEN brought CSHB 112(FIN) back before the committee and            
 requested a motion on the legislation.                                        
 SENATOR MACKIE said he thinks the Department of Law has raised some           
 serious questions on this legislation that should be looked into by           
 the Attorney General.                                                         
 SENATOR MILLER said he understands Senator Mackie's concern;                  
 however, he does not believe the constitutional challenge is as               
 much a concern as Mr. Baldwin expressed it to be.  He said it is              
 still the 3 percent, and nothing in the bill limits the party from            
 going out and doing an active registration drive so that they don't           
 have to run a candidate, or, if they want to continue to run a                
 candidate, they can do so.                                                    
 SENATOR DUNCAN noted that the House Judiciary Committee had not               
 looked at this legislation, and he recommended that a Senate                  
 Judiciary Committee referral be considered in addition to the                 
 Senate Finance Committee.  SENATOR MILLER related that after the              
 bill was passed out of the Sate Affairs Committee, he would get               
 together with Senator Taylor to discuss referring it to the Senate            
 Judiciary Committee.                                                          
 Number 102                                                                    
 SENATOR MILLER moved CSHB 112(FIN) be passed out of committee with            
 individual recommendations.  SENATOR DUNCAN objected.  The roll was           
 taken with the following result:  Senators Mackie, Ward, Miller and           
 Green voted "Yea" and  Senator Duncan voted "Nay."  The Chairman              
 stated the motion to move CSHB 112(FIN) out of committee carried.             
 There being no further business to come before the committee,                 
 CHAIRMAN GREEN adjourned the meeting at 4:31 p.m.                             

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