Legislature(1997 - 1998)

02/17/1998 03:35 PM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
            SENATE STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE                                     
                  February 17, 1998                                            
                      3:35 p.m.                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                
Senator Lyda Green, Chairman                                                   
Senator Jerry Ward, Vice-Chairman                                              
Senator Jerry Mackie                                                           
Senator Mike Miller                                                            
Senator Jim Duncan                                                             
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                             
SENATE BILL NO. 244                                                            
"An Act relating to polygraph or other lie-detecting testing for               
certain correctional officers."                                                
     - MOVED SB 244 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                           
SENATE BILL NO. 185                                                            
"An Act relating to the maintenance of voter lists and to the                  
inactivation and cancellation of voter registration; and providing             
for an effective date."                                                        
     - MOVED SB 185 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                           
SENATE BILL NO. 183                                                            
"An Act relating to voter qualification, disqualification, and                 
registration; to voter registration officials; to election notices;            
to mail elections; to certain voting procedures; to the                        
transportation of ballots; and to the official election pamphlet               
and certain immunity from liability regarding claims arising from              
publication of the official election pamphlet."                                
     - HEARD AND HELD                                                          
CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 275(STA)                                                
"An Act specifying time periods for making, soliciting, or                     
accepting campaign contributions to candidates for state office;               
and providing for an effective date."                                          
     - MOVED CSSB 275(STA) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                    
PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION                                               
WITNESS REGISTER                                                               
Ms. Portia Parker                                                              
Staff to Senator Mike Miller                                                   
State Capitol                                                                  
Juneau, Ak 99801-1182                                                          
   POSITION STATEMENT: Presented SB 275                                        
Mr. Jim Sourant                                                                
Staff to Representative Porter                                                 
State Capitol                                                                  
Juneau, Ak 99801-1182                                                          
   POSITION STATEMENT: Presented HCR 26                                        
Mr. Joe Pichler                                                                
People First of Alaska                                                         
2201 Ramig Place                                                               
Anchorage, Ak 99508                                                            
   POSITION STATEMENT: Supported HCR 26                                        
Ms. Beverly Tallman                                                            
University of Alaska, Anchorage                                                
2230 Nichols Street                                                            
Anchorage, Ak 99508                                                            
   POSITION STATEMENT: Supported HCR 26                                        
Ms. Gail Fenumiai                                                              
Division of Elections                                                          
PO Box 110017                                                                  
Juneau, Ak 99811-0017                                                          
   POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 183 and SB 185                             
Ms. Kathleen Strasbaugh                                                        
Division of Elections                                                          
PO Box 110017                                                                  
Juneau, Ak 99811-0017                                                          
   POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 183 and SB 185                             
Ms. Wilda Hudson                                                               
League of Women Voters                                                         
1542 E 27th Avenue                                                             
Anchorage, Ak 99508                                                            
   POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 183 and SB 185                          
Ms. Carol Dickason                                                             
League of Women Voters                                                         
2481 Belmont Drive                                                             
Anchorage, Ak 99517                                                            
   POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 183 and SB 185                          
Ms. Nancy Sonafrank                                                            
League of Women Voters                                                         
PO Box 71974                                                                   
Fairbanks, Ak 99707                                                            
   POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 183 and SB 185                          
Mr. Dwight Perkins                                                             
Department of Labor                                                            
PO Box 21149                                                                   
Juneau, Ak 99802-1149                                                          
   POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 183                                     
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                               
TAPE 98-6, SIDE A                                                              
Number 001                                                                     
CHAIRMAN GREEN called the Senate State Affairs Committee to order              
at 3:35 p.m. and noted the presence of SENATOR WARD and SENATOR                
MILLER. CHAIRMAN GREEN said SB 275 would be taken up first.                    
       SB 275 - FUND RAISING: GOV; LT. GOV; & CANDIDATES                       
SENATOR MILLER moved the adoption of CSSB 275(STA) as the working              
document. Without objection, it was so ordered.                                
MS. PORTIA PARKER, staff to Senator Miller, said the only change in            
the new draft was the title. She explained the new draft was                   
further clarified to apply specifically to only one aspect of                  
campaign finance.                                                              
CHAIRMAN GREEN believed the committee had discussed all the other              
aspects of the bill and SENATOR WARD moved CSSB 275(STA) out of                
committee with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal              
notes. Without objection, the bill was moved from committee.                   
      HCR 26 - 1998 INTERNATIONAL PEOPLE FIRST CONFERENCE                      
MR. JIM SOURANT, staff to Representative Brian Porter, presented               
HCR 26 which urges support for the 1998 International People First             
Conference. He observed the conference is widely supported and will            
be held two months from now in Anchorage. MR. SOURANT explained the            
conference will link about 1,000 people from 41 countries in the               
world as a means to develop leadership skills and independence for             
developmentally disabled individuals. MR. SOURANT claimed the                  
passage of this resolution will be of great assistance to the                  
conference's co-chairs, who will be testifying on the bill.                    
MR. JOE PICHLER, Co-Chair and Treasurer of the People First                    
Conference, asked the committee for support for this conference he             
has been working on for eight years. He mentioned the conference               
will bring many people into Alaska and be a wonderful opportunity              
to show them the beauty of our state.                                          
MS. BEVERLY TALLMAN stated she had been working with Joe on this               
project for two years and is amazed at the progress that has been              
made. She indicated there will be over 50 workshops at the                     
conference, entirely planned by and for people with disabilities.              
She expressed appreciation for the support they have received and              
hoped they could also obtain some financial support from the                   
SENATOR WARD moved HCR 26 out of committee with individual                     
recommendations and accompanying fiscal notes. Without objection,              
it was so ordered.                                                             
         SB 244 - POLYGRAPHS FOR CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS                         
SENATOR WARD, sponsor of SB 244 presented the bill, which he says              
allows for the administration of polygraph tests to correctional               
officers. He pointed out this is the same standard used for police             
officers and this bill was requested by the correctional officers              
themselves. He said it will be used as a policing and recruiting               
mechanism and  remarked that the Alaska Peace Officers Association             
also endorses the bill.                                                        
SENATOR WARD moved SB 244 out of committee with individual                     
recommendations and a zero fiscal note. Without objection, it was              
so ordered.                                                                    
           SB 185 - VOTER LISTS & VOTER REGISTRATION                           
CHAIRMAN GREEN welcomed the arrival of SENATOR MACKIE.                         
MS. GAIL FENUMIAI, Election Program Specialist from the Division of            
Elections, came forward to present SB 185. She explained the bill              
is an attempt to comply with the federal "motor voter" law of 1993.            
MS. FENUMIAI remarked that the State of Alaska has not been able to            
maintain or purge its voter lists since 1993 due to federal law.               
The last time legislation was passed to address this problem, it               
was found in violation of the federal law and a suit was brought               
against the state by the U.S. Department of Justice.                           
MS. FENUMIAI commented that the new process set out in the bill                
would initially require an address verification card be mailed to              
all voters on the rolls. Those who return their cards would have               
their address updated or be removed from the rolls, whichever they             
indicated on the returned card. Cards that are returned with new               
mailing addresses and those that come back "undeliverable" would               
need to be sent an additional notice, according to the federal law.            
Those voters would then have 45 days to respond to that second                 
notice. If they did not do so, they would be placed on an inactive             
list. If the division does not hear from them through the next two             
federal general elections they would be removed from the rolls.                
CHAIRMAN GREEN asked when the first mailing would be if this bill              
passed in a timely fashion.  MS. FENUMIAI believed it would begin              
January 1999.                                                                  
MS. KATHLEEN STRASBAUGH, representing the Department of Law, agreed            
with that date. She believed if it could be pre-cleared, the                   
mailing could go out immediately after the bills passage. She said             
pre-clearance is mandated by the Voting Rights Act. She mentioned              
it is somewhat unlikely everything will fall into place, but it is             
technically possible.                                                          
SENATOR MILLER expressed his personal opinion that sending three               
notices to every voter is overkill, and asked how it would be                  
possible to purge the names of those 39,000 people who do not                  
respond and yet remain on the rolls, according to the chart                    
provided by the division.                                                      
MS. FENUMIAI said there are other methods of removing people from              
the list. The division is in contact with vital statistics as well             
as checking the paper for obituaries. SENATOR MILLER remarked it               
just seemed they were going backwards. He repeated his question                
about purging those 39,000 names who remain.                                   
MS. FENUMIAI replied that the federal law does not allow removal of            
these voters except by established procedures.                                 
CHAIRMAN GREEN said it was her understanding that the division had             
no other option than to send its initial mailing to every voter.               
MS. FENUMIAI replied that was correct, the federal law prohibits               
targeting people for non-voting.                                               
SENATOR MACKIE expressed concern that money might be saved by                  
identifying active voters and not mailing to them, but he had                  
previously received the same information in response to an inquiry.            
SENATOR WARD added that he had received mail from the state and he             
wanted to know how to prevent the mailing from carrying a picture              
of the Governor or Lt. Governor. MS. FENUMIAI responded that the               
draft proposal did not contain pictures. SENATOR WARD countered                
that he was not referring to the draft but to the law itself and               
wanted to know if this could be prevented. MS. FENUMIAI noted that             
the majority of the publications of the division do not carry                  
pictures and SENATOR WARD argued he was not talking about the                  
majority of publications but this particular one. MS. FENUMIAI                 
replied that the names nor the pictures appear on the forms at this            
time and it is her assumption that they would not.                             
SENATOR WARD asked if that provision could be included in the bill             
and MS. FENUMIAI said if that was the will of the committee they               
would follow the law. MS. STRASBAUGH added that this is a policy               
SENATOR WARD agreed and said he wanted it done.                                
SENATOR MACKIE voiced his support for the bill. He said he had                 
recently viewed the divisions new ballot counter and was impressed.            
He said his attention was grabbed by the fact that there are more              
people registered to vote than actually living in the state.                   
GAIL FENUMIAI informed the committee that the numbers she has                  
received from the Department of Labor record 414,000 age-eligible              
people in the state. MS. FENUMIAI said there are currently 440,000             
people on the rolls of the division of elections.                              
SENATOR MACKIE clarified that if every single person eligible to               
vote were registered that number would equal 414,000 people. MS.               
FENUMIAI said that was correct.                                                
SENATOR MACKIE mentioned that there is a significant cost                      
associated with candidate mail outs that candidates incur when the             
list is inaccurate. He said he is also concerned that the list                 
creates the perception of a low voter turnout.                                 
MS. STRASBAUGH commented  it is important not to prohibit the                  
responsible official from signing the transmittal document or                  
SENATOR MILLER agreed with SENATOR MACKIE's comment that many                  
states have had their numbers thrown off by the "motor voter" law              
and he hopes eventually Congress will give states more flexibility             
to clean up their lists. He indicated SENATOR WARD was likely                  
referring to color pictures and not a simple signature. He said it             
is important that it stay a state document and not become a                    
campaign document for anybody.                                                 
SENATOR WARD said he has no problem with the Director of the                   
Division of Elections signing the document or even being pictured              
on it. MS. FENUMIAI repeated that whatever the law is, the director            
will carry it out. SENATOR WARD understood this, but surmised that             
the director is also appointed by the Governor and Lt. Governor and            
will follow their instructions.                                                
SENATOR MACKIE said he had some concern with the fiscal note but               
was confident it reflected the true cost of the project and would              
be further scrutinized by the finance committee.                               
CHAIRMAN GREEN asked for clarification of the time line. She asked             
if the first mailing, before the 1998 general Election, would go to            
everyone. MS. STRASBAUGH said it would and the division would send             
second notices to those people with whom they have had no contact              
in two calendar years. She specified contact could take the form of            
voting, calling the division, applying for an absentee ballot, or              
signing an initiative petition.                                                
CHAIRMAN GREEN inquired if the cancellation came after two general             
elections and MS. STRASBAUGH said that is correct. CHAIRMAN GREEN              
imagined then the process would be concluded within three years and            
MS. STRASBAUGH said that is also correct.                                      
MS. FENUMIAI mentioned the federal law requires the state bear the             
cost of all postage mailed to and returned from voters, and this,              
along with printing, represents the majority of the fiscal note.               
CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if there would be any way to gather                       
information at the general election and MS. FENUMIAI responded that            
might not follow the federal law. KATHLEEN STRASBAUGH remarked this            
might be viewed as targeting.                                                  
SENATOR MACKIE asked, more generally, if the Division of Elections             
will do everything in the most cost effective way possible to meet             
federal law. MS. FENUMIAI replied they would.                                  
SENATOR MILLER suggested the division might want to research                   
options before the bill reaches the finance committee and again MS.            
FENUMIAI replied they would.                                                   
MS. WILDA HUDSON testified via teleconference from Anchorage on                
behalf of the League of Women Voters. Generally, she supported both            
SB 183 and SB 185. She appreciated being able to speak on these                
MS. CAROL DICKASON, also from the League of Women Voters, also                 
testified via teleconference from Anchorage. She pointed out the               
possibility that section 3 of SB 185 conflicts with section 9 of SB
183. She expressed concern that the definition of "contact" might              
prove to be cumbersome for the Division of Elections. She also                 
noted that the bills have different effective dates and wondered if            
that might be a problem.                                                       
KATHLEEN STRASBAUGH explained that the bills are drafted to stand              
alone. She said any inconsistencies between the two bills, if                  
passed, would be remedied by the Revisor of Statutes.                          
GAIL FENUMIAI addressed the question brought up by MS. DICKASON,               
saying it would not be a burden to allow initiative signatures to              
be processed in order to qualify as "contacts". MS. STRASBAUGH                 
added that having numerous methods of contacting the division                  
reduces the risk of being charged with targeting certain voters.               
SENATOR WARD asked if the concern regarding the effective date had             
been addressed and CHAIRMAN GREEN explained the effective date                 
would be automatically triggered in 90 days in the absence of a                
specific date. MS. STRASBAUGH said the bills were designed this                
way; it would be more convenient if they both passed together but              
at this point cleaning up the rolls was more of a priority.                    
SENATOR WARD mentioned he would follow up on his concern about                 
pictures on the mailings. He then moved SB 185 out of committee                
with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal note.              
Without objection, it was so ordered.                                          
                  SB 183 - VOTING & ELECTIONS                                  
GAIL FENUMIAI presented this bill as a comprehensive clean up of               
various election issues. She commented that a large part of the                
bill was occupied with changing the term "questioned ballot" to                
"special review ballot". She said some voters are irritated by the             
term "questioned" and the new term better represents the true                  
nature of the ballots. She proposed to extend the deadline for                 
absentee voting by fax to 5:00 p.m. the day prior to the election.             
She said the bill also exempts the division from checking three                
bids for transportation of ballots; this results from the fact that            
there is only one carrier who can correctly transport the ballots.             
She added the bill also clarifies what portion of a ballot will be             
counted in a case where a person moves within the 30 days before               
the election. She informed the committee that this simply codifies             
the current policy in place. KATHLEEN STRASBAUGH said this last                
change is in line with a court decision and makes the current                  
policy crystal clear.                                                          
TAPE 98-6, SIDE B                                                              
Number 001                                                                     
CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if the last change meant if you moved you can             
only vote on the seats that still apply to your new residence and              
MS.  FENUMIAI replied that was correct.                                        
GAIL FENUMIAI explained that sections 1, 32, and 39 give the                   
division the authority to conduct Regional Educational Attendance              
Area (REAA) and Coastal Resource Service Area (CRSA) elections, by             
mail, in unincorporated areas that do not have municipal elections.            
CHAIRMAN GREEN asked what happens in those districts now and GAIL              
FENUMIAI replied the division now pays for in-person elections,                
which are expensive.                                                           
CHAIRMAN GREEN asked when this would be instituted and MS.                     
FENUMIAI responded it would be after the effective date. CHAIRMAN              
GREEN expressed concern that this would be done before any purge               
occurs. GAIL FENUMIAI said the division currently does elections               
totally by mail for things such as a local liquor option,                      
incorporation or dissolution.                                                  
SENATOR MACKIE clarified that these things were already happening              
and this bill will just put them in statute. He cited the fact that            
mail-in elections often have a higher turn out and MS.  FENUMIAI               
CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if the wording of the bill was specific enough            
to withstand challenges from people in other districts. KATHLEEN               
STRASBAUGH  replied that the statute would have to be much further             
changed for that to happen. She said also this only applies to                 
elections run by the division of elections, not those run by local             
MS.  FENUMIAI continued, explaining sections 34 through 37 make                
minor changes concerning the official election pamphlet, basically             
clarifying that some material printed is both provided and paid for            
by the candidate. These sections also extend the deadline for                  
receipt of  information from presidential candidates. They do not              
currently receive this information on time and would like to have              
the statute conform with common practice.                                      
CHAIRMAN GREEN asked why the "provided and paid for" change was                
necessary and MS.  FENUMIAI explained there was a problem in 1996              
with the inclusion of some remarks perceived as derogatory printed             
in the election pamphlet and blamed on the division of elections.              
SENATOR MACKIE proposed an amendment to section 37 of the bill                 
regarding immunity. He said it is not fair for the department to be            
sued for what a candidate writes, however, his concern was that                
this section would provide blanket immunity for everyone. He said              
his amendment merely allows suit if an employee inserts false                  
statements into the election pamphlet. He said the division has no             
problem with it and they crafted the language. He moved this                   
amendment as amendment #1 (Mackie). CHAIRMAN GREEN objected for the            
purpose of an explanation.                                                     
KATHLEEN STRASBAUGH explained she did draft the amendment in                   
response to an objection from SENATOR DONLEY. She reviewed it with             
risk management advisors and tort lawyers and they all affirmed it             
did address the Senator's concerns.                                            
CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if "knowingly with malice" is a high standard             
of proof and MS. STRASBAUGH said it is. She mentioned the                      
possibility of a problem when the division prints suspicious                   
material. She said this amendment is aimed at a person who would               
knowingly submit false statements. She does not believe this person            
would be defended anyway, but says this has been a gray area and a             
comprehensive bill like this one is a good place to clear it up.               
SENATOR MACKIE concurred and says the immunity remains very broad              
while allowing for the prosecution of malicious acts.                          
CHAIRMAN GREEN removed her objection and so the amendment passed.              
MS. NANCY SONAFRANK, also representing the League of Women Voters,             
testified via teleconference from Fairbanks. She agreed with the               
previous representatives for the League and added her particular               
support for changes to the manner of voting by personal                        
representative. She said this has been widely used in the Pioneers'            
Homes and has historically been difficult and time consuming. She              
appreciates the changes to this process and thinks they provide                
additional security to the procedure.                                          
CHAIRMAN GREEN referred to page 8, line 11 and asked for a                     
definition of "an agent of the voter's employer." KATHLEEN                     
STRASBAUGH said that would mean someone acting on behalf of an                 
employer. She believes the term is well defined in the common law              
and is appropriate to use. CHAIRMAN GREEN wondered if it was a                 
supervisor versus a co-worker and SENATOR MACKIE inquired if the               
idea was that employers would use their status to influence votes.             
MS. STRASBAUGH presumed so, saying the idea was both influence and             
coercion along with the assumption that a union may have a                     
political agenda. She said it is also in compliance with the                   
federal law. CHAIRMAN GREEN remarked she thought it could cause                
confusion and might be tightened up.                                           
CHAIRMAN GREEN cited page 14, line 22 and recalled SENATOR WARD's              
concern. GAIL FENUMIAI replied that it is required in statute that             
the Permanent Fund publish the balance of the fund for the two                 
years prior in the election booklet. She asserted this language is             
only creating consistency with the federal law.                                
CHAIRMAN GREEN questioned line 20 on the same page and MS.                     
FENUMIAI said the reason for the removal of the word "party" is to             
disallow the division to conduct an election by mail if there is a             
regular primary election at that time.                                         
SENATOR MACKIE asked if all the changes in the bill were technical             
and conforming changes and GAIL FENUMIAI agreed that was correct.              
She said the aim is to make corrections and improve service to                 
voters while reducing confusion for both voters and candidates.                
CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if a candidate was prevented from being a                 
personal representative and KATHLEEN STRASBAUGH said she was not               
sure. She then said under the present statute it is prevented and              
this may have been overlooked in transcription.                                
SENATOR MACKIE asked if they needed a motion to reinsert the                   
prohibition that would appear after the letter "g" and read; "a                
candidate for office at that election may not act as a personal                
representative." SENATOR MACKIE moved the reinsertion of that                  
sentance. Without objection, it was so ordered.                                
GAIL FENUMIAI added one last note that federal law currently                   
contains a specific exemption from federal unemployment tax for                
certain election workers. MS.  FENUMIAI explained this provision is            
not automatic, but must be incorporated into a state's statutes.               
She said there was a representative from the Department of Labor               
here to testify to this.                                                       
MR. DWIGHT PERKINS, Department of Labor, advocated an amendment                
adding a section to conform with the federal law and allow the                 
unemployment tax exemption. He said it does not affect anyone's                
budget and he encouraged the committee to adopt it.                            
CHAIRMAN GREEN clarified that this amendment simply excludes                   
election workers who do not make more than $1000 from paying                   
unemployment tax. MR. PERKINS agreed.                                          
SENATOR MACKIE moved this idea as a conceptual amendment and there             
was no objection. CHAIRMAN GREEN said the bill would be held and               
these changes would be incorporated into a committee substitute.               
Upon hearing that, SENATOR MACKIE withdrew his amendment. GAIL                 
FENUMIAI noted that this amendment would also require a title                  
WILDA HUDSON spoke again and said SB 183 would make things easier              
for voters and therefore the League supports it. She liked the                 
change from "questioned" to "special review" ballot and expressed              
particular support for section 19 regarding voting by personal                 
MS. HUDSON pointed out that the inclusion of "5:00 p.m." could be              
confusing to different time zones. CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if the                 
statutes assume Alaska Standard Time and KATHLEEN STRASBAUGH                   
answered yes.                                                                  
CHAIRMAN GREEN also expressed her desire for a secure, reliable                
method of voing by personal representative. She asked MS. HUDSON if            
she could review this section and give the committee her feedback.             
MS. HUDSON assured that she would and mentioned some election                  
workers had already looked at it and feel comfortable with it.                 
MS. CAROL DICKASON restated her support for both bills.                        
SENATOR MACKIE expressed his appreciation to the Division of                   
Elections for this long overdue clarification and clean-up.                    
CHAIRMAN GREEN announced, with no further business to come before              
the committee, they were adjourned.                                            

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