Legislature(1997 - 1998)
02/17/1998 03:35 PM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 legislature. 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 choice. 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 mailing. 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 bills. 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 agreed. 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 governments. 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 change. 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 representative. 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.